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Tips & Tricks for People with no money


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#1 Daan Werdefroy

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Posted 05 September 2007 - 09:14 AM

Hi,

In a few months from now I have to shoot my own movie as a student.
Problem is, like all students, I practically have no budget (except what my dear parents tend to loan me).

So I was wondering If any of you guys have some tips or tricks on how to make a decent picture for little money.
Examples can be like how to create a, more or less, professionnel look with just a DV-cam. Or how to make your own steady cam for little money. Stuff like that.

This is something that is really important to me, because there is nothing that pains me more than that ugly DV-image or a shaking camera.

Thanks in advance.

Edited by Daan Werdefroy, 05 September 2007 - 09:17 AM.

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#2 Jamie Lewis

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Posted 05 September 2007 - 09:48 AM

Here's a Stradicam'esque piece. It's a take on the overpriced Figrig.
http://www.instructa...WIV29PET9K4XJ7/

I built one and it works great.
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#3 Jamie Lewis

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Posted 05 September 2007 - 09:50 AM

Also you can build a boom for a mic for $20 or so. Buy one of those light bulb changer rods. Drill a hole at the end of one of the attachments. Insert the proper screw, secure with a nut and you have one of the longest booms going and it's $400 cheaper than anything that can stretch to that length.

This is the pole I bought.
http://www.amazon.co...u...3916&sr=8-1

Edited by Jamie Lewis, 05 September 2007 - 09:52 AM.

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#4 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 05 September 2007 - 10:40 AM

Invest in a great tripod that is sturdy with a quality head for smooth pans and tilts. Practice all of your moves before rolling camera.

If you have to do any handheld work, mount the camera on some kind of shoulder mount like this: http://www.abelcine....cts/t_11076.jpg


If you want to move the camera with a dolly, first type "skateboard dolly" into Google for examples. Then the same applies. Practice all of your moves for precision.


For a better DV video image, find a camera that allows you to set the exposures manually. Avoid very low light situations if possible. Also avoid high-contrast, like having your subject in the shade against a bright background.


Also very important is having a quality soundtrack. Viewers are more forgiving of a less than perfect picture, but if the dialogue sounds as if it was recorded with a camera mic from across the room, you'll lose them. Unfortunately, on student projects, the job of Boom Operator isn't given a priority, but it could perhaps be one of the most important on that level. Find someone who is truly interested in that job so that it is done right. It doesn't matter what you record it to if the boom is not placed properly. Invest extra time into the entire soundtrack and your project will be at an entirely different level than anyone else's in your class.

Good luck and have fun!
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#5 Jorge Espinosa

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Posted 05 September 2007 - 05:33 PM

I dunno if you´re having any lamps at all, but if at times you don´t, at least give dimension to your subjects by using a few flags, a.k.a "Negative Lighting"... if that makes any sense.

Do not wait for post to make miracles, rehearse a lot.

Good luck,

Jorge Espinosa
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#6 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 06 September 2007 - 03:14 AM

Do what the Russians did with their space program, keep it simple, reliable and don't expect more of the equipment than it's capable of doing. Remember this above ALL else, if it ain't on the page it ain't on the stage! The first thing is write a GREAT script, not a decent script, not a good script, a GREAT script, but tailor that script to what is available to you. If you don't have access to a bar, don't write in a scene with a bar, if you can't afford stunt people don't put in stunts. If you have no lighting package, set it daytime, and outside, use the sun, use bead board and aluminum foil (generally dull side out works better) taped to sheets of cardboard. spray paint one side flat black and use magic hour (Most beautiful light of the day).

On interiors use ambient light or work lights turned around and bounced off bead board and foil reflectors , use Chinese lanterns for soft fill.

Make sure the camera you use has manual setting, and external mic imputs so you don't EVER have to use that CRAPPY on board mic! Get someone who knows how to frame a shot and knows the camera, who can white-balance. Rent, beg borrow steal or buy a decent shotgun mic and at least 50 foot of cable, tape (film production RUNS on gaffer's tape and morning coffee ready BEFORE the crew arrives) it to a painter's pole and wrap it with long haired faux fur, secure it with fishing line or zip ties so you can shoot outside without sounding like you're in the middle of a hurricane. Spring for a pola filter and lens hood or if necessary fabricate a mttebox style lens hood out of cardboard and tape it to the camera.

KEEP YOU FINGERS OFF THE DAMN ZOOM, set the shot and leave the zoom alone. NOTHING says rookie like a bunch unmotivated zooms. Steal grandma's wheelchair (manual, not electric) for the afternoon and use that as a dolly. DON'T do any hand-held or steadicam work because quite frankly unless it's done well, it look amateurish. Get the BEST actors you can and go with talent over looks unless they ABSOLUTELY have both. Set the action in the here and now. Do NOT do action/adventure, sci/fi or a period piece, you don't have the money to make them look good. Keep you cuts and camera angles simple but non-repetitive, shoot with editing ALWAYS on your mind. Set a tone of professionalism on set RIGHT off the bat and keep your people moving, when one shot is done, immediately move onto the next one, don't give them time to start f*cking around, ESPECIALLY with an unpaid crew.

Do your homework, take time to scout locations and pick your camera angles, don't just settle. Take time to create concepts for your production design and remember if it's not in the frame it doesn't exist so if what the camera sees looks like the Taj Mahal and 2 feet outside of the frame it still looks like your parent's messy basement, to US it's the Taj Mahal. Also remember lighting is 80% of what's in your frame. Take a look at Mario Bava's films and look how gorgeous these low-budget Italian horror film looks, a few gels, an interesting well placed splash or slash of light and BAM, instant style.

Also low cost / no cost special effects check out Pepper's Ghost effect:

www.phantasmechanics.com/pepper.html

Bava used this brilliantly on Black Sabbath (Tre Volti Della Paura, I -1963) where he put a woman in fire.

forced perspective used correctly can make a model house look real

matte paintings (or matte photographs on glass) put your own personal castle on a hilltop.
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#7 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 06 September 2007 - 03:22 AM

Oh, also, Sam Raimi used a board with the camera mounted in the middle and a guy at either end to run side by side carrying the camera with them, lifting it over stumps and brush in Evil Dead as the evil dead's POV. He called it a Shaky-cam, I tried this and it worked like a charm! I got some VERY cool shots with it. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 06 September 2007 - 03:23 AM.

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#8 Daan Werdefroy

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Posted 06 September 2007 - 07:37 AM

Wow, thans a bunch everyone. This is why I love this site! ;)

I still have a number of questions:

@ Jamie Lewis: I took me a while to understand it, but now I get the overall concept.
Did you (or somebody else) test this one? So its possible to get a nice shot while ,say, walking up and down a stairs?

@ Brian Dzyak: About the shoulder mount: Do you now a way how a could make my own (but cheaper)?

@ Jorge Espinoza: Could you explain the "negative lightning"?

@ James Steven Beverly: Thanks man, your advice was clear and pretty much summed up what I learned from watching other students film.
1.Could you give me an example of Mario Bava's work? Not a movie, but a shot with lightning ste-up. Only a matter of having an example.
2. Could you explain the "matte paintings"?

Thanks everyone for posting, thanks in advance to those who I asked a question and to the rest: keep 'em coming.
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#9 Jamie Lewis

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Posted 06 September 2007 - 08:17 AM

Wow, thans a bunch everyone. This is why I love this site! ;)

I still have a number of questions:

@ Jamie Lewis: I took me a while to understand it, but now I get the overall concept.
Did you (or somebody else) test this one? So its possible to get a nice shot while ,say, walking up and down a stairs?



It's not meant for very uneven surfaces, stairs and such. If you added more weight to it it would definitely lessen the shakyness going up the stairs. I've built it and used it in walking shots and it produced nothing that was unacceptable by a long shot. The follows were centered and nice. I would be one of the first to notice too much shakyness.
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#10 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 06 September 2007 - 08:51 AM

@ Brian Dzyak: About the shoulder mount: Do you now a way how a could make my own (but cheaper)?


Sure. Get a 2x4 and cut it so you have a piece about 2 feet long or so. It should be long enough that it reaches from the camera back to your shoulder so that you can view the image (eyepiece or flipout LCD screen) comfortably. Attach a cross piece near the front of the camera as hand holds. The trick is finding a bolt long enough to go through your 2x4 that is the proper threading for the camera. You'll also benefit greatly by adding some counter weight to the back of the 2x4 over your shoulder.

The whole idea is to even the weight out. Those little cameras may make a semi decent picture, but they are not ergonomic or designed to be "operated" as is. Holding it out in front of you is no way to achieve a stable, steady shot. Smaller and lighter is not always better.
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#11 Daan Werdefroy

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Posted 06 September 2007 - 10:13 AM

It's not meant for very uneven surfaces, stairs and such. If you added more weight to it it would definitely lessen the shakyness going up the stairs. I've built it and used it in walking shots and it produced nothing that was unacceptable by a long shot. The follows were centered and nice. I would be one of the first to notice too much shakyness.

Ok, thanks for the trouble.


Sure. Get a 2x4 and cut it so you have a piece about 2 feet long or so. It should be long enough that it reaches from the camera back to your shoulder so that you can view the image (eyepiece or flipout LCD screen) comfortably. Attach a cross piece near the front of the camera as hand holds. The trick is finding a bolt long enough to go through your 2x4 that is the proper threading for the camera. You'll also benefit greatly by adding some counter weight to the back of the 2x4 over your shoulder.

The whole idea is to even the weight out. Those little cameras may make a semi decent picture, but they are not ergonomic or designed to be "operated" as is. Holding it out in front of you is no way to achieve a stable, steady shot. Smaller and lighter is not always better.

Excuse me for asking, but what's a "2x4"? (I'm guessing measurements?(I'm from europe))
So this thing would be useable for going up and down stairs?
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#12 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 06 September 2007 - 12:17 PM

Excuse me for asking, but what's a "2x4"? (I'm guessing measurements?(I'm from europe))
So this thing would be useable for going up and down stairs?



Yes, it is a measurement for wood. http://en.wikipedia....umber#Softwoods



The goal is this: to balance out the weight of the camera so that you can have steadier shots. Look at this: http://www.shop.texa.....tacam 005.jpg

The shoulder pad is placed under the camera so that when you put the camera on your shoulder, the weight is more evenly distributed forward and back.

Now look at this: http://images.digita...y_chazzside.jpg

The camera is being "stabilized" only with the guy's one hand, hardly a recipe for a steady shot.

So if you attach something like this: http://www.markertek...I...arch=0&off=

...then you can add stability by bracing the camera on your shoulder. The downside to these kinds of contraptions with these little cameras is that all the weight is still forward of your body. To help alleviate that, you should add weight of some kind to the rear of the shoulder brace.


When using the Sony Z1U, I've attached the RF mic receiver to the brace with velcro. It's still not enough, but it helps. I've attached a picture of one of my previous setups to illustrate this.


Here are some very recent pictures of the new RED camera. The first is in handheld mode. Note how the rails are pushed back so that weight from the battery evens out the weight in the front: http://picasaweb.goo...970862796558226

And in this shot of the Steadicam, he has the battery and downconverter pushed back to help balance the weight from the lens in front: http://picasaweb.goo...970437594795634

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#13 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 05:32 AM

Wow, thans a bunch everyone. This is why I love this site! ;)

I still have a number of questions:

@ James Steven Beverly: Thanks man, your advice was clear and pretty much summed up what I learned from watching other students film.
1.Could you give me an example of Mario Bava's work? Not a movie, but a shot with lightning ste-up. Only a matter of having an example.
2. Could you explain the "matte paintings"?

Thanks everyone for posting, thanks in advance to those who I asked a question and to the rest: keep 'em coming.


Why don't I give you an example of one of Picasso's brush strokes instead? Just watch a few of his films and LEARN, then when you're done with that, go to Google and copy and paste matte painting into the space provided and hit enter. :rolleyes:

I'm gonna give the MOST important piece of advice there is on film-making, kid, you want to become a film maker? Well NO ONE is gonna hand it to you. YOU gotta do the work yourself, capiche'? If you get stuck on a HARD question, THEN come and ask me, I'll be happy to help ya. B)
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#14 Jorge Espinosa

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 01:23 PM

@ Jorge Espinoza: Could you explain the "negative lightning"?


Well, JSB summed it all up! What I meant was that if you go with natural light only, that´s no reason to not give any dimension to your subjects, just use a few flags to achieve it.

Stll, JSB´s advice is all you need. Good luck, man.

Jorge Espinosa
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