Most of the time, when working with video, you’re going to be editing in 16×9 aspect ratio, which is the standard for HD video (1920×1080). But, sometime you’ll need to edit in a different aspect ratio. You can do this simply by adjusting the size of your video canvas, but there will be times where your output video file needs to be the common aspect of 16×9.
I’ve made simple overlays for some common film aspects. They are png image files that you place on top of your footage. Simple, right? Check ’em out.
Here are the included aspects: 1.50:1 – Classic 35mm. 1.85:1 – Common US widescreen cinema standard. 2.35:1 – Anamorphic. Common in cinemas. 2.40:1 – Anamorphic. Common in cinemas and Blu-Rays. 2.55:1 – Original aspect of CinemaScope. 2.75:1 – Ultra Panavision 70 3.00:1 – Super Widescreen
There are also overlays which will convert 16×9 to 4×9 and visa-versa. And even square overlays, for all you Instagram lovers.
I get asked alot how to trim a song to a desired length. Instead of just trimming the end down and fading it out, this is a tip that uses “markers” in your song to seamlessly cut sections out, or add section in.
Ah, ye ol’ handheld look. Personally, I love the handheld look in films. If you have a clip that was shot on a tripod, or motion graphics that you want to add realistic motion to, you can easily add handheld “shake” with this simple After Effects preset.
There are two adjustable effects parameters when you add the preset. One controls the “shake,” and the other controls the “rotation.” The default settings of 10 and 8, work well for most clips.
Apply the preset to a null object, then “pick whip” your footage to the null. Apply motion blur to your clip for better results.
You’ll see the difference in the two images below. The first one is the original, shot on a tripod. The second one is with the “Handheld Camera” preset applied.
Original footage, shot on a tripod.
Footage with “Handheld Camera” preset applied.
Watch this tutorial video to see how to use this preset. Let me know if you have any questions.
Let me start off by saying that “The Hunger Games” was a great movie. I loved it. It was very well done, and created by very talented people.
The goal of a cinematographer is to bring the audience INTO the story and make the viewers feel so connected, that they cry or laugh when something happens, feeling as though it’s happening to them at that very moment.
While watching “The Hunger Games” for the first time, I was completely absorbed in the story and the plot and for the most part, I LOVED the camera work, and kept finding myself complimenting certain aspects of the cinematography. There are just a couple things that I found that should be obvious no-no’s. Things that stood out to me as I watched, and did not keep me immersed in the story. Things that are basics in film class and should be taught first semester. Things that the director should do everything in his power to reshoot and fix.
I’ll explain 2 scenes with “errors” that I noticed in this film that should have been addressed.
1. The camera crossed the line of action, and broke the 180 degree rule.
The 180 degree rule is basically this: imagine a line going through your scene that the camera cannot pass. To abide by the 180 degree rule, the camera must stay on 1 side of the line and on one side of the action, keeping the character in relative position to the camera. Look at the picture below for an illustration.
The camera should not cross the “line of action”
The subject on the left should remain on the left throughout the entire scene, even with different camera placements. This is to not create confusion in the scene. Even slight, subconscious confusion will take the viewer’s emotion out of the scene.
Now, of course, rules are made to be broken. In alot of action films, or scenes with alot going on, you’ll notice that the “line of action” gets crossed quite often. That’s ok, because there is alot going on and it’s ok in that scenario to show different perspectives like that.
But, in “The Hunger Games,” that line was crossed during a very simple dialogue scene. Two characters, face-to-face, Primrose (the younger girl) on the left, and Katniss (the older girl) on the right. Then, on a close-up of their hands (at 20 seconds), they were all of a sudden flip-flopped, with Primrose on the right. WHAT!?
Watch the video below to see what I’m talking about. First, is the original, how it was shot. Second, edited to show how it SHOULD have been shot.
During the over-the-shoulder-shots, Primrose was always on the left. So, I could only assume that on the close-up of their hands, she would still be on the left. When I watched this for the first time, I was honestly puzzled for a few seconds. I wasn’t sure who’s hands I was looking at, and it is VERY important to understand what is happening in the scene at that time.
ORIGINAL ANGLE: Primrose on the left, Katniss on the right
ORIGINAL ANGLE: Primrose on the left, Katniss on the right
ORIGINAL ANGLE: Katniss on the left, Primrose on the right
In scenes like that, it is VERY important to maintain the 180 degree rule. As a director, make sure you are always thinking about where the camera should go, and how it affects the scene.
2. The camera cut from a “shaky” shot to a “steady” shot.
It was another simple dialogue scene where two characters were talking face-to-face. The angles were similar, over-the-shoulder shots going back and forth to each character. The problem was, that one character’s angle was handheld, and the other’s was completely steady, not making for a smooth cut between the two.
Watch the video below. First, is the original, how it was shot. Second, edited to show how it SHOULD have been shot.
It’s a subtle difference between the two cameras, but it’s enough to bug the viewer and take their attention from the emotion. It makes much more sense to just run both cameras handheld. There is no justifiable reason to switch it up in a scene like that. Most of the shots in this scene were handheld, I think that’s why the sudden “tripod” shot was so distracting. Sometimes, it’s not a problem going from a handheld, “shaky” shot to a locked-off, “steady” shot, but in this case, it was.
Fixed (added shake to 2nd shot)
Everything has to serve a purpose to help tell the story. If the “steady” shot would have helped to convey an emotion, such as the character feeling calm and steady, or coming to a certain intelectual realization, that would have been ok. But, that was not the case. As the director or cinematographer, try to keep that in mind when shooting a scene with multiple, similar angles. Make sure your cameras don’t distract your audience from the story.
I’m not sure why they decided to shoot the two over-the-shoulder shots differently, but it could have been very easily avoided.
Overall, “The Hunger Games” was an amazing movie, even with these small cinematography blunders. If you haven’t seen it, I strongly encourage you to change that. As a cinematographer, we’re always meticulously dissecting scenes and camera moves during movies. It’ll let you see what good shots look like and get some ideas of your own, but it’ll also help distract you during the movie. A beautiful disease, if I do say so myself.
Have you ever wondered what exactly a polarizing filter does and how it effects your footage? Here is a great article by Shane and his team describing the many uses for pola filters. He includes examples and tests that really show the difference a pola filter adds.
Polarizing filters are filters that you can rotate to block out certain light. This can achieve things like blocking reflections, or bringing up saturation for certain colors.
Here’s one test showing the difference it makes with the reflections on skin.
In Shane’s tests, he used a pretty expensive rota pola filter from Tiffen that requires a matte box. You can find some cheaper ones on Amazon, and some really cheap ones eBay.
When honing your skills and becoming better at something, it’s always fun to see how the pros do things; whether that’s seeing how a DP lights a certain scene, seeing an editor’s workflow, or reading over a professionally written script.
Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” is an absolute masterpiece, and thanks to Anton Volkov, you can download the entire screenplay. It’s 165 pages, so I hope you like to read.
“Vintage FX” is a color grading preset pack containing 33 professional presets. Each custom preset color corrects your footage, making it look vintage and retro. I made these using native effects that are built into Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro, so there’s no need to purchase high-end plugins or 3rd party programs. Each preset is uniquely crafted and made with different purposes in mind to suite various styles. Some are warm and faded, others are dark and contrasty.
These presets work with Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro 7, and Davinci Resolve.
In each preset, skin tone is made a priority to preserve the natural colors of skin. So, even with the most drastic presets, the skin-tones are still accurate.
Skin tones are preserved and accurate
Look at those skin tones!
Click to enlarge
The cool thing about using these kinds of effects, is that every preset reacts differently to each piece of footage. A bright clip with lots of highlights will react differently than a darker clip with more shadows. So you can play with all the presets to find the exact “look” that you’re wanting.
There are also some “extras” in the preset pack as well:
a lomofi slider, to fine-tune the lomo effect and get the perfect amount of “retro” in your footage. (AE only)
add dirt and grime to your footage. (AE only)
add flicker and grain to mimic old film. (AE only)
easy and adjustable vignettes.
light leaks using built in effects! (AE only)
The “Basic Fade” preset is a great starting effect
There is also an extra preset called “Basic Fade,” which gives your footage that nice basic “faded” look. This is a great start to build on and create your own custom effects.
Vintage FX will instantly add style to your film with a click of the mouse. Once you purchase, you will receive your download immediately so you can start producing that vintage film look.
Below are ALL of the presets applied to a sample image.
*Please note: Vintage FX is used with Final Cut Pro 7 and Davinci Resolve via the included LUT’s. To use LUT’s in FCP7, you will need to download the free LUT plugin, Magic Bullet LUT Buddy.
I few weeks ago, I ran into a couple of guys here in Austin talking about their new product, the “Stabil-i.” It’s basically an iPhone stabilizer, that doubles as a case. The creators, Nathan and Brent (don’t get him confused with me), were in the process of filming their Kickstarter video, and let me play with the prototype for a bit. And let me tell you, this thing is awesome! Seriously, it felt like I was using a professional Glidecam in a tiny package, balanced perfectly with the phone.
Like you see in the video, it’s a case that transforms within seconds into a stabilizer. Pretty stinkin’ ingenious. They’ll also have a few colors to choose from once they hit production.
Photo from Kickstarter
You can grab yourself a Stabil-I by donating to their Kickstarter campaign. Their goal is $80K.
Below is a video from them shot entirely with the iPhone and the Stabil-i.
Here’s another fancy video from them.
Go help them reach their goal! And, as a bonus, if you’re an earlybird donator, you can snag the Stabil-I with a t-shirt for pretty cheap. Hurry!
I love free stuff. Everyone knows that. Here’s something from Luke, over at Planet5d, that might be useful to some.
DSLR LCD Overlays
Luke made a free pack of overlays that you place over your footage to make it seem like you’re looking through the viewfinder of a DSLR. Pretty sweet, huh? The overlays are just images, so there isn’t much customization as far as adjusting the on-screen settings, such as aperture, iso, battery life, etc. But, he’s got alot of neat stuff in the download, such as the sound effects from a DSLR, a shutter clip, focused points, etc.
Definitely worth it to grab these little overlays. You never know when you’ll need to use them. Check out his walkthrough video.
I shot this wedding last weekend with Cody Nitcher for Stringer Productions. All editing was done by Clayton Stringer. We used a few DSLR’s and a Sony FS-100. Great little camera.
I flew it on the Glidecam most of the night, and switched it to the monopod a few times with longer lenses. It balanced REALLY well with the Glidecam 2000 Pro. The 4000 would probably be a better match for that heavy of a camera, but the 2000 worked fine. My forearm was killing me by the end of the night.
Here’s the trailer below.
And here’s the final movie.
I used mostly manual iris lenses, (Rokinon, Bower, Nikkor, Zeiss) so I had control over the aperture. The FS-100 does not have electronic iris control, so you either need manual iris lenses, or an electronic adapter like the Metabones.
Overall, the FS-100 is an awesome camera. Super good in low light. It’s like shooting with a MUCH sharper DSLR, with audio controls, and better low-light performance. I loved it.
Over the past 3 years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with an amazing media team at First Baptist Church in Lubbock, Tx. Working there has given me tons of experience. It’s definitely a place I’ll never forget.
Below, are some of the videos that I have made, while being the Video Producer there. Some are good; some, not so much. But take a look either way.
For Memorial Day weekend, we played this video during our service at church. Jan’s son was killed in action in Afghanistan, and this is her story of how the church helped her get through this tough time in her life.
Here’s a simple poster that I designed, with a unique view of the kelvin color temperatures.
At the top, the tungsten bulb is very warm, with an amber color, usually coming in at 3200K. Then it fades down into a CFL bulb, which usually clocks in at around 4000K. Then, at the bottom, the sun is very blue in relation, which is 5600K.
Every editor has their own unique setup and style. But some stuff, you just can’t live without. Here’s a quick list of gadgets that I have found that every editor absolutely needs.
NOTE: This is NOT a software list. Sorry Charlie.
I use Apple computers to get my stuff done. They’ve never done me wrong. MacBook Pro’s are very good at editing on the cheap, but don’t offer alot of expandability. If you want to keep expanding your machine and make it better and better as the years progress, then get a desktop Mac Pro.
Ok, this is the most essential on the list. Well, besides a computer. But, as an editor, you’re going to need at least 1 terabyte of external media. I would get 2 terabytes, just to be safe. 2 TB’s should last you a year or so, depending on what format you shoot, and how extensive your projects are. And that’s not even including your archive drives. Being an editor takes alot of media storage. That’s just part of the job.
I use Western Digital, and I’ve never had any issues with them. You’ll need something fast enough, 7200 RPM.
You’re going to need flash drives to easily take footage to another machine, or to deliver files somewhere. I have a 32 GB that I NEVER leave the house without it in my pocket. I also have a 2 GB that I have for small things, or to let people borrow. It’s smart to put things on your flash drive that you always use, in case you go to another editing machine; like your company’s logo, and your custom keyboard setup file.
I have used a wireless Logitech mouse with my Mac since 2007. I absolutely love it. It has a scroll weel that also goes horizontal. And there are customizable buttons on the side, so I’ve programmed them to do basic and common editing functions; like “undo” and “redo” and “zoom.”
Large Mouse Pad
Maybe it’s just me, but I love using a larger-then-normal mouse pad. I have more room to move the mouse.
FCP Custom Keyboard
It is not essential, but custom keyboards can be convenient for some editors. I’m typing on one right now. I glance down at it occasionally during edits. But, again, it may not be for you.
If you don’t want to spend alot on a new keyboard, you could get the key covers.
NOTE: Make sure you get the correct keyboard for your NLE. (FCP7, FCPX, PP, AVID, etc.)
You NEED good headphones.
Blank CD’s and DVD’s
You’ll need these. Get the blank white printable kind. They look much more professional.
You need some swag for your editing cave, don’t you?
There you go! That’s a list of gadgets to get any editor started. As you progress and figure out your own workflow, you’ll eventually want more things, like a better graphics card, another monitor, better speakers, etc.
Do you have a gadget that you think is essential? Post it in the comments below.
“They’re all part of the artistic palette of filmmaking.”
Recently, I ran across an article about how Seamus McGarvey, the cinematographer for “The Avengers,” used DSLR’s in some of the action shots. Now, I’m not going to talk about exactly how he used them and all the technical stuff about using DSLR’s in the movie, you can read that in the original article; but what I am going to talk about, is how it doesn’t matter which camera shot the Hulk smashing bad guys or Black Widow smashing balls, what matters is the content that we watched on the big screen.
“I don’t see a difference in terms of storytelling value between the scale and size of the Canon digital SLR cameras and the main digital cinematography and film cameras we used,” McGarvey confided. “They’re all part of the artistic palette of filmmaking.”
There you have it. I couldn’t have said it better myself. “They’re all part of the artistic palette of filmmaking.” He took cheap DSLR footage and mixed it with super-high-end Alexa footage and 35mm film, and you know what? No one noticed. It didn’t matter. What mattered was the content; the superheroes, the villains, the plot, the action, the humor.
Filmmaking is not about the gear!!!!! It’s about the story. I understand, you have to have a balance between the technicality and storytelling in there somewhere. But, if a movie has a crappy story, it doesn’t matter how well it’s shot, it’s still a crappy movie.
NOTE: This contest has expired. There is no use reading this post. Try this one instead.
The new RØDE VideoMic Pro is the most popular on camera mic for DSLR users. I’ve used it in the past, and I love it. Now’s your chance to get one for free. You know I’m all about FREE. Now’s your chance.
Mitch, over at Planet5D, is giving 2 mics away. And all you have to do, is enter with a few clicks. There’s multiple way to enter, and you can get alot of entries, up to 1,000! Go ahead, try it. He even provides a nifty little video explaining how to enter the giveaway.
A few months ago, I did a video series for Gibraltar, an insurance/risk management company here in town. They launched a new rebranding of the company. It was an awesome team to work with.
I did most of the videos on a green screen. As you can see below, the room that I had to deal with was very small. I used 4 lights for everything, had an assistant to roll the teleprompter, and I held the boom-mic and watched the camera. Simple setup. That’s how I like it.
A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of, once again, shooting with Clayton Stringer from Stringer Productions. He’s based out of Austin, Tx, and does wedding films full-time. Everything he produces is top-notch.
This shoot went really well. At only 5 hours, it was a short shooting day for a wedding. Short shoots usually mean that there is not going to be much good footage to choose from in the editing room, but as you can see in the trailer, Clayton didn’t have a hard time finding good stuff.
We shot on all DSLR. We had a Glidecam, slider, shoulder rig, monopods, tripods, and even a jib (although we never took it out of the bag.)
During the ceremony, the sun was starting to set and hit the couple just right and made for some good backstage shots.
A storm just passed over my house. I figured I would get some B-roll audio of the rain and thunder and such. You never know when you’ll need some background audio of a storm for a future project.
I recorded this simply with a Zoom H2. The storm died down as soon as I started recording, but I got a few good minutes of audio.
The 1st track is 41 seconds long, and was recorded in 4-channel surround sound mode. So there are 2 files; one file contains the 2 front audio tracks, and the other file contains the 2 rear tracks. If you don’t want to use all 4 tracks, just use the 2 rear tracks.
The other file that I recorded was simply stereo. It’s a long one; over 6 minutes.
This month’s featured short, “BOY,” is brought to us by British Airways. It was written by British Airways Great Britons winner Prasanna Puwanarajah, and directed by Justin Chadwick(The Other Boleyn Girl, This is Spinal Tap, Redemption, The Karate Kid). Just like last month’s featured short film, there is absolutely no dialogue, but it is still able to tell a very clear story.
I love the flashback sequences. Flashbacks are hard to do, and keep a straight story at the same time. The editor, Rick Russell, did a phenomenal job keeping everything in line.
Also, with the absence of dialogue, music is key. The composer, Alex Heffes, did a perfect job of keeping the emotion where it needed to be.
You may notice that the main character, Timothy Spall, resembles Wormtail, from Harry Potter. I think they might be cousins.
In our college ministry at First Lubbock, we have done alot of baptism testimony videos. Students would decide that they wanted to be baptized, and we would record a short testimony about how they got to this decision. Very powerful videos.
Last year, I started a new setup. Basically, 2 people having a conversation in a black/dark room with emotional lighting. Not too dramatic, but still emotional. We usually used 3 cameras, sometimes 4. A couple of Sony EX3’s and a Canon 5D mkII.
I usually set up 4 lights on the 2 subjects. One overhead, 2 in front, and 1 behind (which is visible and creates cool looking flares in the camera). There is a rough sketch-up of the setup below.
Sketch of lighting setup. Click the image to enlarge.
Here are the videos.
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