Monday, January 30, 2012

Canon Feature Filmmaking, About Ed Burns

            Canon Digital Film Making, About Ed Burns

    Ed Burns did the morning talk show circuit today and managed to do a pretty good job of promoting micro budget filmmaking.  Ed Burns talked about how his very first movie cost twenty five thousand to make and it looked like a student film and now thanks to digital technology he was able to shoot his latest movie for 9,000 dollars.  That’s right, nine grand and his movie is in theaters and on demand.  He said that he could go to a camera store and spend three thousand and be ready to shoot a professional quality film.

    Questions anyone?
    What kind of camera was he talking about?
    I can not prove it, but after hearing the price and seeing a clip of the movie I am pretty sure that he is referring to a Canon D5 mark II.  A great camera for every level of movie making.  If you can afford it then by all means go for it.  This camera is the gold standard of DSLRs and it will be that for years to come.

    Hey, I am not Ed Burns or even Ken Burns, I can not afford to spend that much for a camera.  That is the budget that I had in mind for my whole movie.
    Like on Jeopardy, could you make that in the form of a question?
    Is there a less expensive camera available?
    Yes there are many and I will list them all while keeping in mind that you are trying to make a professional quality movie. 
    We have talked about the Mark II so we will let that go and move on to the Canon d7.  You can get this great DSLR for about 1,200 dollars and under most conditions shoots as well as the Mark II.  Next is the Canon T2I and T3I, they are almost the same camera and under controlled conditions they can match up with their big brothers Mark and D7.  They retail for around seven hundred dollars.  Next are the pro-sumer camcorders.  The Canon HV series.  With the addition of a quality depth of field adapter these cameras can play along side the DSLRs.  Footage shoot with a Canon HV 40 that has the dof adapter attached is close to identical of that shot with the T2I.  The price range on these cameras are from 699 dollars new down to 250 used.        In the end go with the camera that your budget will allow.  Ed Burns has his budget and you have yours.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Canon Digital Film Making, Basic Lighting

Canon Digital Filmmaking, Basic Lighting

    I started out with the assumption that everyone knew the basics of film making and all that I had to do was to look at cameras and suggest the best one for the job. Well after fielding almost a hundred questions on a stack of different subjects I thought that I would go back to the basics and review it all.  And post links where and when needed.
    First you will need a script.  A script is like a road map and when going on a long journey you must have a road map. If you do not think so then watch the amazing race and multiply that by ten.  Then go online and do a free read of your favorite movie in script form.  I am not going to teach you how to write a script here.  I have a blog dedicated to that subject, just visited 
and you will get the basics along with list of free and or low cost software that you can use.
    Let’s talk about lights next.  This subject is at least equal and perhaps more important than the camera.
    Hey isn’t this whole site about making movies using a Canon camera?
    Yes and no.  It is about making quality movies using the Canon Hv and Vixia cameras and to do this you need quality lighting.  Let’s get the lights and we will go over how to use them later.  First if you can afford it get yourself a softbox lighting kit.  A kit that comes with 3 separate lights for the classic 3 point lighting set up.  It will probably cost in the two hundred dollar range.  There are even some kits in this price range that come with a boom stand.  Another type of kit in this range is a set of two lights with barn doors.  I like the sets with the barn doors because you can attach color gels and control the look of each scene better.

    Now lets drop down below a hundred dollars in budget.  Many movie makers like to use work lights.  Heavy duty work lights.  They have them at home depot, usually on sale for fifty to ninety dollars.  With these monsters you are looking at two thousand watts of light.  If you choose to go this route do not use them for direct light.  Some people have and like it.  I do not like the look that it gives to a shot.  Use them and bounce the light off of poster boards and or reflectors to soften the light.  If not that then use gels or parchment paper to soften the light.  They are my last lighting option. But if you are just starting out and you got a few gathering dust in the garage or basement then go ahead and use them.  We learn by doing things.
    Let’s drop below sixty dollars.  Let’s go to home depot and get some clamp lights.  They sell for 7 - 10 dollars each.  Get three of them.  Next get some energy saver bulbs, 200 watts equivalent if you can find them.  Pick up some S clamps while you are there to steady these guys and we are all but ready to light our set.  Since this is the ultra low budget way of lighting, get yourself some C47s (clothespins) and a box of parchment paper.  Clip the paper over the clap lights to soften the light and we are ready to light our digital feature film.
    Below you will find a basic low budget lighting tutorial.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Canon Digital Feature Film Making, Found Footage Part 1

Canon Digital Film making, Found Footage Part 1

    I got a question after the last post and I thought that I would try to answer it a best I could in one post.
    Question; Can I use one of these Canon cameras to shoot a professional quality Found Footage movie.
    Answer; Yes.
    I have read about the making of Paranormal Activity and I thing that he spend too much on equipment.  These Canon camcorders with a few extra could have shot that film with no problem.  The good thing about Found footage movies is that people expect them to look like video.  So in the case of a Found Footage film you do not need to add a depth of field adapter for that complete film look.  While at the same time you can shoot in 24p and give it a film feel.  All you really need to do is add a quality lense (I am a fan of the Raynox 6600) and attach a quality microphone and you are ready to shoot.  
    I would suggest something portable to stabilize the camera, a monopod is a great little item to have in this regard. It can double for a pistol grip and fully extended it functions as a tripod.
    As far as lighting goes, they do make portable and or attachable lights for these cameras.  Plan your lighting set up well ahead.  Put down marks and make sure the lighting is as good as possible.  Even though it is suppose to look like a bunch of people running around, lighting is very important.  Cloverfield is a well lit movie.  You want a class in this check out the movie Rec 2. 

    More about sound.  Get a quality mic and if your can afford to look into getting a Juicedlink Audio Mixer/Preamplifier.  It will give you pro audio when connected to a good mic.  If you can not afford this maybe you can afford a Zoom H4 audio recorder.  They are mostly used with DSLR, but can be used with the camcorders. 
Even though you are doing Found Footage does not mean that underneath there should not be great production value involved.
    It takes a lot of work to make a movie look as if every shot was by accident.  In some ways you may find that the Found Footage film is harder to execute than a narrative film.  The lack of structure may present more problems that you realize.
    I am right now in the pre-production stages of one of these movies and we are storyboarding this thing to death.  You got to know every shot ahead of time if you are doing a horror movie.  You have to know exactly when and where you are going to foreshadow and then deliver the big fright. 
    It is easy to do this badly and hard to do it well.
    Now have a look at the trailer for an upcoming Found Footage movie that I am interested in seeing,Tape 407.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Canon HV20 and movie making

    Canon HV20 Digital Features

    DSLRs were not designed to shoot video.  Video is an add on.  It started out as a sort of Easter egg given to photographers and has grown into something more.  If you choose to shoot your feature using a DSLR you will be limited by the fact that video is its second language.  It can only shoot video for a limited amount of time, it can only use a select few ad ons.
    While a camcorder was born to shoot long form.  It was designed to do what you are doing and with a few attachments it can be done very well.  Let’s first look at the camera that changed how the game is being played.
    The Canon hv 20 is a magnificent little consumer camcorder that once retailed for over seven hundred dollars.  Now you can pick them up on Ebay used for under two hundred and fifty dollars.  This camcorder has native 24p. The truth is most of the Canon Vixia Series shot have the native 24p option, but I believe that the hv series gives you the most cinematic look.  With each post I am going to try to include a video and a note or two about some of the film makers who are using these cameras and the rigs that they have put together.  For this one post I have decided to include two videos to jump start the learning curve.  First the camcorder itself.

    Now a few words about rigs.  A rig is the camera along with all the ad on that the film maker has decided to attach to their camera.  Some rigs are Spartan and others are massive.  There are so many lenses and depth of field adapters to choose from.  Microphone and audio equipment that can be attached.  My idea of the perfect rig for ultra low budget movie making leans toward the Spartan side, but we will get into that at a later date.  Let me give you a sample of someone’s work with the Canon hv 20.  Work that was done with a bare hv20, no depth of field adapter added. The dof adapters will give you an richer and fuller film look that seen here, but the quality of this trailer is pretty good.
    A trailer for the movie Kodie.  Written and directed by the person who via Youtube introduced me to the cameras.  If I have not said it yet, thank you Abel Berry, you have taught me a great deal about movie making.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Canon Digital Feature Film Making

Canon Digital Feature Film Making

Thanks to The Canon Company and the digital camcorders and DSLRs there is an underground digital film revolution happening. This revolution began a few years ago when Canon decided to add the 24 frames per second option into most of its mid range consumer camcorders. Later it would at this as a video option in its DSLR and the revolution has caught fire world wide.
There are so many sites and blogs dedicated to DSLR cameras such has the Canon D7, Mark II and the T2I that I thought that I would go old school and focus on the cameras that started the revolution and with a few add ons can offer nearly the picture quality at a low price point. I will focus largely on the Canon HV series and the feature films that have been made with these little monsters and when the moment demands it I will get into some of the great work being done with the DSLRs.
Let’s begin with why should a low budget film maker consider these cameras. I would say in response that a low budget film maker should not and by low budget I mean if you have fifty thousand dollars or more to spend then you should consider using the Canon Mark II or the Red or a number of the Panasonic pro-sumer camcorders if you want to make a feature film. If you have fifty thousand or more why not go 16mm film. The film cameras are cheap and if you know what you are doing with them then go right ahead. The truth is that I am not here for the low budget film maker. I am here for those who are called ultra low budget or no budget film makers. You fall into this category if you have less than ten thousand dollars to spend on your first feature.
Allow me to describe you. You or a close friend have written the screenplay for your movie. You will be doing this project with the help of friends and family who will work behind the scenes for no pay. You will be shooting on nights and weekends and at locations that you can get for free or get in and out of without being caught filming there. Your actors will be paid little to nothing up front. You will be looking to get the best production value out of the least amount of money spent possible.
In other words you are a lot like me.
You are only willing to pay for what is absolutely unavoidable. The three area where you are going to have to spend money are:
Sound, if your audience can not hear the movie then you are doomed. Viewers will give up on your project the third or forth time they have to mutter what did he just say? Huh, What was that?
Editing, you may be able to use a free program, but you will need a computer strong enough and quick enough to edit and hopefully do some sound mixing on. If you have such a computer cool, you just saved money.
Camera, you need something that shoots in HD digital and shoots at 24p. Why 24p? That is the industry standard. This is the frame rate that gives you that motion picture look. You are going to have to spend some money on your camera. Money on the lenses and in most cases on a depth of field adapter.
The cameras are why we are here and let us talk about what to do and not to do. Get the best camera at the lowest possible price that will get the job done. Do not blow half of your production budget on your awesome new camera. It will feel wonderful to have that expensive camera and muse about all the things that it is able to do until it is day 12 of shooting and you have no money to feed your cast and crew. You have no money left for transportation, (gas money) and you have just realized that you should have set aside at least a third of your budget for post production cost. Treat your camera like the tool that it is.
A camera is not jewelry. It is not a diamond ring. It is a tool. You could consider it a hammer or a shovel. I think of mine as my axe. Like a good guitar it can make beautiful music if I tune it just right. Let’s talk about the tool you will buy and look at how others have used theirs.