Movie Making Manual/Education2

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This Module is part of the Movie Making Manual

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Possible Career Paths[edit]

This is a continuation of Teach Yourself Filmmaking. In this section, you learn about possible career paths. This section is still mostly imcomplete and will be expanded shortly.

Career #1 - Film Editing[edit]

The most important skill that you can learn is film editing. Anyone who plans to be a film director, film editor, and even film composer, should learn film editing. This is where filmmaking comes all together. This is where all the parts must fit perfectly.

Editing Programs[edit]

To learn film editing, you need a professional editing program. Even though iMovie comes free with the Macintosh and Windows Movie Maker 2.1 is available for free downloading along with Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), I do NOT recommend them. They are great programs but they are not for editing dramatic scenes. iMovie is designed for editing events and documentaries, not feature films. I believe the same is true for Windows Movie Maker. Also, iMovie is awkward for editing a conversation which requires L Cuts.

The next step up is Avid Free (Avid Free DV is no longer availabe on Avid website.) which is free from Avid but only works with DV movies at 29.97 frames per second. (Motion pictures are filmed at 24 fps.) The Avid Free DV forum has a lot of complaints about loading this software. So even though it is free and it is

Another option is Final Cut Express but it has the same limitation as Avid Free DV which only works on DV movies. If you want to purchase an older version, try version 2 or better.

Finally, there is Final Cut Pro which has great flexibility and is almost easy to use. Unfortunately, even with a student discount, the newest version is terribly expensive.

Special Note
Schools which teach film editing seem to prefer Final Cut Express because it costs teachers only $100 yet it has most of the features of Final Cut Pro. (To use film dailies at 24 frames per second with Final Cut Express, you will need QuickTime Pro which converts movies from one format to another (such as DV Stream).

Learning Film Editing[edit]

Film editing is not what you think it is. It is not just "slicing and dicing" digital video but rather film editing is the highest form of storytelling. Film editing is combining visual images, dialog (sound), music and sound effects. It is not just cutting picture and dialog.

Education: The only way you will learn film editing is to edit scenes from real dramatic productions. Don't use the footage that comes with iMovie (two kids washing a dog). Instead, you get inside the film studios of Hollywood and edit scenes from real motion picture and episodic television dramas shot on film. If you cannot do this, you buy film dailies on eBay, locate a good scene, digitize the scene, and add time code or frame numbers to make editing easier. If you visit Hollywood, some of the second hand video stores have film dailies purchased from estate sales and out-of-work actors and crew. These dailies are on video so you have to digitize the footage and to make the editing easier, you need to add a timecode or frame numbers. This is a lot of work so here is an alternative:

Alternative source To save time and money, you can buy unedited scenes from the Star Movie Shop. With film dailies, you see how scenes are broken down into individual shots for filming. Their most popular disk is called Hearing Voices. It is extremely short and can be edited in many different ways in a single class period. Frequently available on eBay. Or if you are interested in learning about L-Cuts, the best scene is Fireworks Display. Shows how L-Cuts can be used to emphasize one actor over another. The disks cost only about $8 but are only available to film students.

Which Version? - Final Cut Pro[edit]

If you have an old G4 or G5 Macintosh and you are just starting out in film editing, you do not need the latest and the greatest version of Final Cut Pro. On eBay, you can purchase new copies of old versions of Final Cut Pro. I recommend version 3 which should sell for about $175 for a new, unregistered, full-retail version sealed in the box. When you buy anything on eBay, only buy from someone who has 100% positive feedback.

Career #2 - Film Scoring[edit]

The majority of film scoring is creating musical sound effects that produce the proper mood or feeling. Therefore, even if you have limited musical skill, you can create musical sounds that express a mood.

To get started, all you need is a Macintosh manufactured in the last three years, the newest version of GarageBand, Jam Pack: Symphony Orchestra, and an edited scene without the film score.

Note: GarageBand comes free with all new Macintosh computers. Also, Ben Boldt has two free packages of symphonic instruments for GarageBand.
Expensive Alternative
Unfortunately, even the Star Movie Shop does NOT offer a disk of edited scenes with the film scoring missing. That is really dumb!!!! The only alternative is to buy one of their Editing Workshop disks which comes with a long edit of the scene designed for film scoring. Home Wrecker has a good example of a long edit for film scoring. (If you are a music student, ask for a huge discount since you only need the film scoring part of the disk.)
  • Update: the Star Movie Shop now has a new disk with two specially edited scenes from a motion picture which need a film score. The disks are called "Green Tea Smoothie". Has anyone tested this?
Warning
Don't be confused by programs which help you do film scoring for documentaries, corporate video, multimedia and event video. These programs are useless for motion pictures and television dramas. Programs that just cut and paste pre-recorded music are totally useless for motion pictures. Don't get suckered in!!!
No loops
Do not use loops for narrative film scores. Loops are for film scores for documentaries, event video and multimedia.
Free lessons - Wikiversity
Wikiversity now has a course on Film Scoring for Musicians. This course is free.
There is also a Film Scoring for Filmmakers course which is still under constructions.

Career #3 - Visual Effects[edit]

When you hear the words Visual Effects, you immediately think of 3D animation. Long ago, visual effects were based on optical compositing (which is just Photoshop for 35mm movie film.) Apple's Shake is now the least expensive compositing program at $499. The much more famous compositing program Adobe AfterEffects starts at $700. One advantage of Adobe AfterEffects is you can by an older version new on eBay for learning the program. Version 5.5 is nice. Also, you can download crippled trial versions of both After Effects and Shake.

If you are not familiar with the concept of compositing, you definitely need to first get a copy of Adobe Photoshop (accept no substitute). Learning this program will give you a basic understanding of compositing images together. The good news is you can purchase new copies of old versions of Adobe Photoshop which are great for learning the concepts. Version 4 or later is a good start; Adobe Photoshop 5.5 is better because it had editable text which version 4 does not. Look on eBay for an older version which is new, sealed in the box from someone with 100% positive feedback.

Career #4 - Sound Effects[edit]

Sound effects is working with individual sounds to make them better. This means you need a program which works with individual sound samples. I found that the free version of Peak is awkward to use. However, there is a free 14-day trial version. You need to learn to record sound effects in the field (or in sound effects libraries) and then sweeten the sounds to make them big, fat, and rich sounding.

Career #5 - Sound Recording[edit]

Sound recording is like using a multi-track tape recorder. There are a huge number of programs which can do this. Originally, the industry standard was Digidesign but now music programs offer this same feature. Even GarageBand which comes free with all new Macintosh computers can do this (but you still need an interface and professional microphones with XLR connectors.) A more advanced music program is Digital Performer. (Unless you are a professional musician, never get Apple's Logic. Too awkward, confusing, and buggy for filmmakers.)

The thing that is special about sound recording is if you buy a Nagra and good boom microphone and a boom, you are in the sound recording business. While it is not quite as easy as that, this is one of the few careers that you can buy your way into. If you have the basic equipment, every student film in the country will be eager to hire you for a very low salery.

Career #6 - Storyboarding[edit]

FrameForge 3D Studio main page from a project at Wikiversity Film School.

Most directors do thumbnail storyboards which are storyboards as big as your thumbnail. A few directors will create more extensive storyboards. But anything beyond that is usually done by a specialist.

Option 1 - Basic Storyboarding
If you are artistically inclined, you can create much more advanced 2D storyboards for movie directors. 2D storyboards can be cartoon style for production boards.
Option 2 - High Priced Artwork
If you are extremely artistically inclined, you can create full artistic renderings for the financial investors and the Hollywood studio executives. There are only a few jobs doing this but the pay is excellent.
Option 3 - 3D Storyboards
If you are good with computers, you can create very accurate 3D storyboards. 3D storyboards are photo-accurate storyboards created with a program like FrameForge 3D Studio which offers a free demo version which is an ideal learning tool. The free demo version is highly recommended to anyone interested in creating storyboards.
The Wikiversity Film School offers a free course on Basic Filmmaking which centers around the free demo version of FrameForge 3D Studio.
Another option is to use the free DAZ Studio which is a 3D animation program for digital figures.
Option 4 - Animated Storyboards
For effects shots, filmmakers need an animatic which is an animated storyboard. An animatic is edited with an editing program such as Final Cut Pro.
Prerequisites
For someone who does storyboards, the most important skill you must learn is how lenses effect a scene. Before you do storyboards, you must know how a scene will appear if filmed though a 24mm, 34mm, 50mm, 85mm, 135mm lens, 200mm, and 300mm lens (35mm still photography lens equivalents). There are three ways you can learn this skill.
  • One way to learn about lenses is to get a camera which has these lenses and take a lot of pictures of people.
  • Another alternative is to learn DAZ Studio or Poser (DAZ Studio is free) and practice filming human figures with 24mm, 48mm, 85mm, and 135mm lenses (35mm still camera equivelent.)
  • And the best alternative is to use the free demo version of FrameForge 3D Studio. For the free version, you get 20 uses and only 12 characters in the scene and 20 storyboards. Even with these limitations, you will find this program to be the ideal learning tool for both cinematography and storyboarding. (Highly recommended Robert Elliott)
See the section at the bottom of the page on practicing photography.
Supplimental Education
To understand how scenes are broken down into individual shots, look at lots of film dailies from Hollywood, preferably from television dramas which are usually filmed more efficiently than motion pictures. Currently the best source of film dailies is Star Movie Shop's Disk #1 and Disk #2 which together have 25 unedited scenes for you to study and to edit. Only available to film students.
Free Lessons
Look at the free courses from Wikiversity Film School. The first course is for Pre-production for Narrative Motion Pictures (scripted dramas). The heart of the course is FrameForge 3D Studio FREE Demo Version which is free for both the Macintosh and Windows computers. In this course from Wikiversity, you learn all the steps of creating an animatic (which is a movie of the storyboards.) This is the basic introduction to narrative filmmaking.

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Career #7 - Script Writing[edit]

Script writing is two parts. The first is to write a story. The second is to format the script. Both are equally important.

You do not need any software to rough out a script. However, formatting, editing and polishing a script requires script formatting software. So if you are going to make a motion picture, you need to learn to use script formatting software such as Final Draft. They offer free trial version of the program.

Recommended Training
Wikiversity has a filmmaking section has a script formatting section. You are asked to format a script which is 60 second long using Final Draft's Free demonstration version. You can start on this project now. Go to Lesson #001 - Formatting the script.

Career #8 DVD-Video Authoring[edit]

Authoring DVDs can be an interesting career. Start by learning the free DVD-Video authoring program which comes with your computer such as iDVD. Then get a professional version of a DVD authoring program. It does not have to be the current version. An old version of DVD Studio Pro (version 2 or better) is fine which can be purchased unopened on eBay. (Get the retail version, not the educational version which cannot be upgraded later.)

Career #9 Acting[edit]

If you want to be an actor, you must learn one thing. Do everything with confidence. When you are sad in a movie, be sad with confidence. When you are afraid in a movie, be afraid with confidence.

Most of the background of the business of acting can be learned from a one year subscription to BackStage West.

Career #10 Lighting[edit]

The rule of lighting for motion pictures is never point a light at an actor (with the exception of back lighting). Light must always be bounced or there must be something in front of the light to diffuse the light. Never use a lighting kit for still photography because they are designed to point the lights at actors.

The secret to lighting is to turn off all the lights and slowly turn them back on, one by one. Stop when you like what you see. Finally, add a very gentle fill light so you can barely see the darkest spot of the scene.

Remember that you are painting with color. Gel everything... then slowly pull back until you find a happy medium.

When possible, show the light. Fog allows you to actually see the light.

Most of the skills of lighting are learned on the movie set. Few people have access to the HUGE lights used in filmmaking. Still you can learn a lot by getting DAZ Studio or Poser (DAZ Studio is free) and practice lighting human figures. You should also be able to do this with Maya Personal Edition which is free. While the effect of lighting in a 3D animation program is never the same as lighting with real lights, it give you a good idea of what is possible. Painting with color is one of the things you can do with lights.

Other Skills Needed For Filmmaking[edit]

In addition, you need to learn some simple skills:

Practice Still Photography[edit]

If you plan to become a film director, cinematographer or storyboard artist, you need to learn the correct way to film actors and scenery. To do this, you need to understand lenses. The lens of the camera distorts the image which is extremely desirable.

  • Wide angle lenses make the scene seem cold and majestic.
  • Telephoto lenses make the scene seem close and warm.
  • A plain lens (about 48mm) has no distortion and the image always looks boring.

With certain lenses, you can control the depth of field. Depth of field can focus the audiences attention so it is a very useful tool for filmmakers.

Camcorders come with the wrong wide angle lens and they have no control of depth of field. Working with a still SLR camera teaches you this.

Recommended Education
To learn how to use the distortion of lenses, buy a still camera which has the 35mm equivalent of a 24mm lens and a 85mm to 200mm zoom lens. 24mm is a wide angle lens. If you film scenery with a 28mm or 32mm lens, the landscape will never be as impressive as with a 24mm lens. (20mm is also good but too expensive and too big to be practical for filmmaking.) (Note: These are 35mm still camera equivalents.)
When you work with these lenses, you will see that portraits are normally shot with a telephoto lens and westerns are filmed with a wide angle lens. Try doing the opposite. Try creating portraits with a 24mm lens. How to you place the subject in his surroundings to get an impressive picture with a full wide-angle lens? If you want the answer, watch Citizen Kane!!!

Photoshop[edit]

You need to learn how compositing works. Mastering Photoshop will teach you this.

Recommended Education
Get a copy of Photoshop 4 or later and teach yourself the basics of Photoshop. Back in the stone ages (before personal computers), high schools required that all girls learn to type so they can work in an office. Typing was the universal application. Now the universal application is Adobe Photoshop. No one should leave high school (or even elementary school) without learning Photoshop. To understand light, channels and selection methods, you need experience using Photoshop. Note: Programs which cannot access channels are useless for learning compositing. That includes Photoshop Lite.