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Recommend resources for improving your film-making?


kye
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I am actively trying to improve my film-making though courses, books, and other resources.  I know others here are also investing in their craft.

I thought that a thread to recommend and discuss resources would be useful..

Who can recommend things they've read / seen / done?

As many of us are effectively one-person production houses, I'm keen to hear about anything that's helped - pre / prod / post.

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EOSHD Pro Color 5 for Sony cameras EOSHD Z LOG for Nikon CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs
16 hours ago, kye said:

I am actively trying to improve my film-making though courses, books, and other resources.  I know others here are also investing in their craft.

I thought that a thread to recommend and discuss resources would be useful..

Who can recommend things they've read / seen / done?

As many of us are effectively one-person production houses, I'm keen to hear about anything that's helped - pre / prod / post.

 

Without a doubt one of my favorites is Blackmagic Design's Davinci Resolve color grading courses.  The art of color grading is excellent. 

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I am a bit hesitant to suggest these since I am not sure how applicable they are to one-man band videographers. They do inspire me a bit though and I do at least learn "something" from them. Maybe the last one (Indy Mogul) would be most relevant.

I really like watching the cinematography breakdowns on The Wandering DP's youtube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/c/wanderingdp/featured

He tends to feature higher end work, and it can be disheartening when he mentions that they probably used a whole bank of sky panels for the key. But he does at least provide alternative ideas and seems to have a good grasp of how things were actually done.

Plus he is funny.

I also spend some time on the Epic Light Media YT channel as well for some of their "How To" videos:

https://www.youtube.com/c/EpicLightMedia/featured

While they do have a fair share of product review videos, they also have a decent selection of how to videos that could work for narrative, but seem to be geared more toward commercial / corporate videos.

Tangentially, studying for my part 107 drone license allowed me to get my license and shoot drone video (and stills) commercially. I used remotepilot101 for studying, although technically, you don't have to use a paid class. I think the FAA has their own "courses" on one of their websites. (They have a "course" on their Re-Current test, which you need to take every two years to keep your license current, and only after completing the course can you take the Re-current test, which is only offered through the faa safety website).

Studio Binder on YT is a good place to kill a weekend or two if you are interested in breakdowns of how some of the bigger directors and DPs work. They talk not only about lenses and angles, but also about color pallets, music, and set design. 

And Indy Mogul did have some good stuff, but I think they aren't producing any more new videos. Some of their really good videos were covering things like how to figure out what to charge clients / how to negotiate, and how to calculate production costs. But they also have some decent lighting and audio instructional videos. Probably the Indy Mogul channel would be the best fit for one-man band or a two-man band.

Hoping this helps, or at least helps to seed the conversation.

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  • 1 month later...

I 2nd the 2 above - Wandering DP and Epic Light Media. The Aputure youtube channel have a lot of good tutorials and "Gaffer and Gear" has some fantastic info on lighting too.

Also - probably even more importantly if you're trying to make a living out of it - research SEO (particularly local SEO). Having an effective website that actually generates leads is far more important for making a living than knowing how to shoot like Daniel Schiffer, or how many Skypanels were used on the latest Audi commercial.


 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd have to give a shout out to the creative folks of CRFTSHO for their very candid and sometimes brutally honest take on the technology (disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated or associated with these folks, link posted for FYI purposes only. Mod kindly remove link if in violation of TOS.)...

CRFTSHO - YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/c/CRFTSHO/videos

..their more "hands-on" and "how to" content has proven invaluable to me in the field (with, of course, needed extrapolation for my shooting needs), YMMV. That and a local college course to learn how to use FCPX (which I had to tank at due to the pandemic killing the classroom experience back in '20...redo, hopefully next year). That and watching and learning from whatever my fellow local birding/wildlife shooters are sharing and doing and hoping my contributions add to the pool. That, and keeping that "curious little kid inside me who started chasing this whole "imaging path" thing over a half-century ago" eagerly in the game by constantly asking myself "what I'd like to be able to do next" with these "uber-neat toys" I call "my creative tools"!

:)

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Depends on what kind of filmmaker you want to be.  Most advice from these places will suggest technical skills development.  If your deposition is to play with the tools and make great images, then that's perfectly fine and fun.  

But, FWIW, I help run a small film festival. Almost every indy film I see now-a-days looks half way decent.  Getting the tech to do it's thing is pretty easy.  I honestly don't know what sort of advantage an IQ specialist is going to have moving forward in the business when literally everyone can make decent IQ.  

"All hat, no cowboy."  (Love that expression)

OTOH, only about 10% of the films I have to watch/endure throughout the submission season have the ability to hold my attention.

Story is key... Can you write?  Failing that, can you recognize a good story when you see it?  Can you develop the skill to elevate the words on a page?  It's freakin' tough.  Being a person that can do that is really remarkable.

I've taken to watching successful films that are 50-100 years old. If the story works without the spectacle of modern tech, then all you gotta do is pay attention to those sort of storytelling and acting fundamentals ...and figure out if you can develop the skills to facilitate them as well.

I find myself re-watching David Lean's early work at the moment.  That sort of inspiration is very valuable.

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I highly recommend browsing this site for Andrews blog articles and for the posts in this forum.

I wished some of the posts were not buried in the subforums or that there was a way from the user interface to get more people such as me to read them when they are posted not months later be coincidence or browsing.

The anamorphic forum is a treasure. Would be lovely, if people posted more material without having it hidden in the footage section.

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On 12/27/2021 at 1:59 AM, fuzzynormal said:

"All hat, no cowboy."  (Love that expression)

Haha..  nice one.

Another one I like is "more plate than steak" 🙂 

On 12/27/2021 at 1:59 AM, fuzzynormal said:

Depends on what kind of filmmaker you want to be.  Most advice from these places will suggest technical skills development.  If your deposition is to play with the tools and make great images, then that's perfectly fine and fun.  

But, FWIW, I help run a small film festival. Almost every indy film I see now-a-days looks half way decent.  Getting the tech to do it's thing is pretty easy.  I honestly don't know what sort of advantage an IQ specialist is going to have moving forward in the business when literally everyone can make decent IQ.  

"All hat, no cowboy."  (Love that expression)

OTOH, only about 10% of the films I have to watch/endure throughout the submission season have the ability to hold my attention.

Story is key... Can you write?  Failing that, can you recognize a good story when you see it?  Can you develop the skill to elevate the words on a page?  It's freakin' tough.  Being a person that can do that is really remarkable.

I've taken to watching successful films that are 50-100 years old. If the story works without the spectacle of modern tech, then all you gotta do is pay attention to those sort of storytelling and acting fundamentals ...and figure out if you can develop the skills to facilitate them as well.

I find myself re-watching David Lean's early work at the moment.  That sort of inspiration is very valuable.

I completely agree - hold my attention and make me feel something.

One challenge I've been having as a one-person shooter is finding information about the overall process, considering that the knowledge is split up between lots of roles on a "real" set and so not only do you have to learn everyones job, but you have to put together information that is presented in pieces, and wade through all the "working with the X" content that is simply dripping with "this person comes from a completely parallel universe and wants different things and you're going to have to fight with them and treat them like a toddler because they don't know the first thing about anything despite the fact that you're all trying to make a thing".
Also, sadly, lots of the content is simply people pointing fingers at each other.  Take shot composition and coverage for example - lots of cinematography content says that you just do what the director says and then lots of director content says that you take advice from the cinematographer.  It's like walking into a room full of kids and when you ask who broke the cup they all just point at each other and no-one is responsible for anything.  Maybe a film set is just people hanging around while some mysterious force unknown to science is the actual thing that makes the movie lol.

My latest strategy is to start at the end, with the editor, and binge that content trying to glean their insights into the what the upstream people do.  After all, the editor is the one who is the final editor of the script, final arbiter of coverage, creator of timing and pace, etc.

Walter Murch has lots of talks on YT, so that's my current source of "binge huge amounts and digest over time".

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13 hours ago, kye said:

Maybe a film set is just people hanging around while some mysterious force unknown to science is the actual thing that makes the movie lol.

It's a bit of that.  There's something intangible...and having wisdom to recognize skill sets and utilize the dynamics of interpersonal relationships is one of the marks of a GOOD director, among so many other things.

From my limited experiences on set, I believe that the best way forward is to get other people around you that are not only much better than you are, but also kind.

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I think trying to be a good filmmaker and a good writer both at the same time is a pipe dream. Few can ever achieve that goal. Video is hard as hell. Coming up with creative things to film that is almost a God Given Gift. Something not really learned just something you were given at birth. You can learn to operate a camera, do lighting, even editing, hell that is hard also but writing, heh  not so much. 

I think a person needs to team up with someone. Heck it could be your wife, one of your kids has a knack for one or the other. I have found women are a lot more creative than men on the writing end of it. I have a daughter that writes books left and right. She has 10 to 20 short ones backlogged to be edited all the time. She can create them faster than she can bring them to print. Hell I can't write a two page story board!

So pick a camera you can live with and afford, learn the damn thing inside and out, shoot till you eyeballs fall out with it and then, and Only then you can do justice to a decent script of your doing or someone else's.

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12 hours ago, fuzzynormal said:

It's a bit of that.  There's something intangible...and having wisdom to recognize skill sets and utilize the dynamics of interpersonal relationships is one of the marks of a GOOD director, among so many other things.

From my limited experiences on set, I believe that the best way forward is to get other people around you that are not only much better than you are, but also kind.

Well, "on set" is basically me with a camera in hand and a few lenses and spare batteries in a backpack, and happens when I'm out doing something interesting pretty much from the moment I put my shoes on till I take them off at night.  

The challenge is that I am completely responsible for the film that gets made, from choosing when to film, what to film, how to film it, how to edit it, how to colour it, how to do sound design, and how to ship it (and if I will ship it at all).  I'm not responsible for what happens, as I'm videoing what happens on our adventures, but the film part is all me.  

So there's no anything that isn't me.  Which is why I want to understand the whole, which seems to be much more than the sum of the parts.

The challenge is in the tangible things that make up the intangible.  When I choose to shoot and when I don't has huge impacts to my options in the edit.  How I compose a shot will have aesthetic consequences - the use of movement or not and what type and what speed and in what direction will all have an impact on the final edit.  How do you hold a camera in a way that says "happy"?  How do you move a camera to create serenity?  How do you compose in a way that shows chaos?

I have some ideas about these questions, but really, I need the answers to about 1000 combinations of these things.  There are resources that discuss concepts like this "The Filmmaker's Eye: The Language of the Lens: The Power of Lenses and the Expressive Cinematic Image" by Gustavo Mercado is one such book, literally showing frames from movies under headings such as "Vastness" "Awkwardness" "Suspense" "Shock" "Impairment" "Anxiety" "Wistfulness" etc.  But it's a book about lenses and composition, not movement, nor timing, nor editing, nor coverage, nor sound design, etc etc... 

https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/0415821312/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

4 hours ago, webrunner5 said:

I think trying to be a good filmmaker and a good writer both at the same time is a pipe dream. Few can ever achieve that goal. Video is hard as hell. Coming up with creative things to film that is almost a God Given Gift. Something not really learned just something you were given at birth. You can learn to operate a camera, do lighting, even editing, hell that is hard also but writing, heh  not so much. 

I think a person needs to team up with someone. Heck it could be your wife, one of your kids has a knack for one or the other. I have found women are a lot more creative than men on the writing end of it. I have a daughter that writes books left and right. She has 10 to 20 short ones backlogged to be edited all the time. She can create them faster than she can bring them to print. Hell I can't write a two page story board!

So pick a camera you can live with and afford, learn the damn thing inside and out, shoot till you eyeballs fall out with it and then, and Only then you can do justice to a decent script of your doing or someone else's.

Luckily I'm not the writer!  Life is the writer, and my wife (and the kids to a lesser extent) is the director as she is normally the one that chooses what we'll do and what we'll see.  I therefore don't have many issues with writing, continuity, story structure, or other such things, as those are taken care of by reality.

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2 minutes ago, kye said:

The challenge is in the tangible things that make up the intangible.  When I choose to shoot and when I don't has huge impacts to my options in the edit.  How I compose a shot will have aesthetic consequences - the use of movement or not and what type and what speed and in what direction will all have an impact on the final edit.

Actually, to elaborate on this a bit more, I only get one chance to shoot something.  So it's the shot I got, or nothing.  In a way this means that I need to be more knowledgeable than a "competent" DP.  On a narrative shoot you can just get coverage and sort it out in the edit later, so a DP just shooting coverage doesn't have to know which will be the best angle, they just have to know how to film a range of them.  Obviously as time and budget reduce, so does the ability to shoot full coverage and therefore choices need to be made about which angles will be kept and which will be cut from the production schedule, so there's definite judgement in that.
Also, as I am shooting my work essentially in POV, I also have less options that are possible, but also less that make sense for what I am trying to achieve, so I'm not having to be everything to everyone in every genre, but I still have one chance to get it right and know how to make these decisions.  I also have no notice, much of the time, although my street photography experience of anticipating moments definitely comes in handy here.

If anyone knows of resources that talk about the whole end-to-end and talk specifics then I'm super interested in that.  You can't learn to bake bread by learning how to grind flour, how to make an oven, how to raise chickens and cows, how to make crockery and cutlery, how to self-publish a cookbook, and how to design a menu for a modestly-priced restaurant.  All of these are specialities, no doubt, but when you add them up you're missing the bit in the middle that actually makes the bread.

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10 hours ago, kye said:

I need the answers to about 1000 combinations of these things.

FWIW, I don't tend to look at a need for answers, but rather what the options are for the compromises.  It's never really turns out how I see it in my head, but mitigating the circumstances can sometimes get it close.

It's kinda, basically, sorta the "serenity prayer"...

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10 hours ago, kye said:

Actually, to elaborate on this a bit more, I only get one chance to shoot something.  So it's the shot I got, or nothing.  In a way this means that I need to be more knowledgeable than a "competent" DP.  On a narrative shoot you can just get coverage and sort it out in the edit later, so a DP just shooting coverage doesn't have to know which will be the best angle, they just have to know how to film a range of them.  Obviously as time and budget reduce, so does the ability to shoot full coverage and therefore choices need to be made about which angles will be kept and which will be cut from the production schedule, so there's definite judgement in that.
Also, as I am shooting my work essentially in POV, I also have less options that are possible, but also less that make sense for what I am trying to achieve, so I'm not having to be everything to everyone in every genre, but I still have one chance to get it right and know how to make these decisions.  I also have no notice, much of the time, although my street photography experience of anticipating moments definitely comes in handy here.

If anyone knows of resources that talk about the whole end-to-end and talk specifics then I'm super interested in that.  You can't learn to bake bread by learning how to grind flour, how to make an oven, how to raise chickens and cows, how to make crockery and cutlery, how to self-publish a cookbook, and how to design a menu for a modestly-priced restaurant.  All of these are specialities, no doubt, but when you add them up you're missing the bit in the middle that actually makes the bread.

I don't know if this will work with your workflow because it is all for big budgets and well planned out sets and lighting, but I find Studio Binder to be good at explaining different looks, from the cinematography to lighting to sound design to blocking, to costumes, to set design and I think also to the script / dialogue. 

They have a lot of videos, so it might be a bit overwhelming deciding where to begin. Maybe just look for a video covering your favorite director first

In particular, maybe start with the series of "The Directing Style of ..." videos at this playlist:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEzQZpmbzckUl3P1gqpM5Awa9U-CxdhVy

However...

If I understand a lot of the shooting you are doing, it is mostly run and gun / one man band / capture the moment / document the place, right?

Or am I misunderstanding what you are mostly shooting?

If it is the former, I wonder if maybe trying to learn from event videographers (like wedding videographers) might not be helpful? They usually have to work in scenes that look nice but they can't control, with lighting they can't control. Maybe some documentary filmmakers as well? (I think wedding photographers might be chasing a lot of the latest trends in their shooting as well, so maybe not a good fit for you.) Anyway, I love White in Revery , although they haven't released much lately.

The other thing I would recommend are look at classic street photographers, as they will give you an eye for working in environments they can't control as well. A lot of them just made the best of whatever opportunity presented itself.

Hope this helps.

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6 hours ago, Mark Romero 2 said:

I don't know if this will work with your workflow because it is all for big budgets and well planned out sets and lighting, but I find Studio Binder to be good at explaining different looks, from the cinematography to lighting to sound design to blocking, to costumes, to set design and I think also to the script / dialogue. 

They have a lot of videos, so it might be a bit overwhelming deciding where to begin. Maybe just look for a video covering your favorite director first

In particular, maybe start with the series of "The Directing Style of ..." videos at this playlist:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEzQZpmbzckUl3P1gqpM5Awa9U-CxdhVy

However...

If I understand a lot of the shooting you are doing, it is mostly run and gun / one man band / capture the moment / document the place, right?

Or am I misunderstanding what you are mostly shooting?

If it is the former, I wonder if maybe trying to learn from event videographers (like wedding videographers) might not be helpful? They usually have to work in scenes that look nice but they can't control, with lighting they can't control. Maybe some documentary filmmakers as well? (I think wedding photographers might be chasing a lot of the latest trends in their shooting as well, so maybe not a good fit for you.) Anyway, I love White in Revery , although they haven't released much lately.

The other thing I would recommend are look at classic street photographers, as they will give you an eye for working in environments they can't control as well. A lot of them just made the best of whatever opportunity presented itself.

Hope this helps.

Yes, that's the kind of work I do and yes, I watch many many YT channels including StudioBinder.  

The real challenge is that film tends to attract people who are visually acute and can learn things by just watching other people's work.  Unfortunately I am not at that level of understanding yet.  When I watch something that I like I know I like it but I don't know why.  I can't even break it down because for me to really notice a scene they must have done a bunch of things I like so it's not just one thing I can see and pay attention to.
(I am aware of what it's like to be able to do that as I am able to do that in a different field, one that I have been doing for more than 25 years, so am a lot more developed and experienced in than film.)

I've watched enough interviews with the best performing DoPs and Directors etc to know that they all just learned by watching, so I suspect that the information that I'm chasing may not actually be written down in any organised way - it might simply be that if you've got the eye then with practice you can do great things and if you don't have it then you'll learn over time but won't attain that level of performance.  I also suspect that there is a reasonable amount of knowledge just floating around that isn't written down.  After all, the people who know the most are probably out there doing it rather than trying to work out how to teach it.

If I was more affluent then I'd probably just hire someone to mentor me.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've been binging editing videos lately and have discovered that the good stuff doesn't even have the words "editing" in the title of the video.  Often the titles are just "<person> at <venue>" and have no references to film-making or anything.

This might be of interest to someone - Walter Murch actually doing some live editing:

My approach now is to just pick a production, find out who worked on it, and googling their names.  It's hit and miss but sometimes you get good stuff.

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Film making is a broad term. There are two main flows and sources of material to learn from
- fellow one man or small company video maker
- cinema - both fictional and documentary

In cinema there is a pool of people specialized in different areas and having different roles.
In one man / small companies roles from cinema are done by one person or fewer persons. There are also examples in cinema when one person was working in different roles but those are rather exceptions.

IMHO the best educational material comes from people working for cinema. Here is a list of  those roles, it is for sure not complete:

producer
director
actor
DP, camera man
Editor
Color Correction / Grading
screenplay, writer
composer
audio
special effects and graphics

Which one you are interested in and want resources for ? Walter Murch is an editor. Are you looking for resources related to editing and cutting ?

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