Monday, January 31, 2011

Planning a Shoot in Preproduction

Ok seriously… I can’t recommend preproduction planning enough. If you checked out my blog about the dollar trick, you may have noticed my paragraph about how much effort went into the shoot before hand. Nothing was preplanned. Sorry… from personal experience, the more planning that’s done, the smoother production goes, the easier editing goes.

Planning won’t safeguard from the random act of God that tends to happen, but will better equip you to handle a situation that comes up. It is hard to think of everything that could come up. However, there are some things you can add to your each of your productions.

Get on site. Or set, to the location of your shoot. I love taking pictures or video of the location for reference. This will help with staging or rifuring out set dressings and props. Actually seeing your location gives you a good sense of your limitations.

The next step is a pre-visualization. Technically, this is all previz… but this is where I block and start thinking about the 180 degree rule. I take a slightly more stage approach while I place my actors. I don’t think about my camera positions at all.

I like to include an over the top view of my set with the positions of my actors. I’ve made my own key, which I try to keep consistent. It also would be good to leave it fairly legible so anyone working with you can figure it out, or with little explanation to follow along.

This one is actually from the Cops and Robbers video we shot last weekend.

Storyboards generally follow. Once you know where actors will be, begin developing your shot list. I’ve talked about it here. You might make some changes to your actor’s positions or what not, but a storyboard will help figure things out for you.

And they can be elaborate with a professional artist or (my preference) stick figures that all smile. Elaborate for me generally means a small comic book sketch with the script underneath. And if I’m being fancy, a red pencil for arrows that show camera moves. Putting these on note cards is good because they can be reorganized if needed or kept on set with you. I like to hole punch them and run one of those metal rings

I apologize that it looks like the arrow is suggesting the camera point at his crotch... this is more of an elaborate version of a story board that i would do. normally i wouldn't put this kind of time or energy into it unless it was a short film/feature film project that i'm working on.

Rehearsal. Plan in some time before shooting to walk the scene, run through and hopefully, if your actors know their lines, you can actually have them do the scene while you sit back and do what a director is supposed to… which is direct. All this should help develop and prepare your scene for shooting. Hopefully this helps.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Sorry guys. There was no lesson last week and I wrote my experience but never posted it. it was a good week. I just got behind.

We shot all day Saturday. Which went pretty well. We ran into some technical issues but all in all it went pretty well. First, with Kyle in town, we filmed an episode of Ninjas Doing Mundane things. It became more of a compilation episode than a single idea. We were a little rusty and may have tried writing the episode while intoxicated. Odds are, we’ll need to rerecord the audio. Or rewrite the dialogue. Plus we didn’t finish shooting the episode. So that might get shelved until a later date.

This is the Sony EX1 that we used for the shoot.

The second video we knocked out was an action scene at Christopher’s. It was written for 5, which was a little ambitious for our first action scene. We had a couple cancellations, which meant one actor played two people (and killed himself).

We shot the whole thing using the sony EX1 which hide a wide angle lens. And other than the actor issues, all went extremely smooth.

Here's the camera towering over the scene. Chris is 6'3" (a little less than 2m tall.) if that gives you an idea for how high that tripod and some dining chairs got it.

Last weekend was pretty good. I told you Kyle was in town. He was my roommate from Central. It was awesome getting to hangout and go climbing and just chill. Great use of the English language, I know. But whatever. Pretty short post. Haha.

I found this while scrubbing footage... I don't know what's going on.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Dollar Trick

This was a fun shoot. It was really cold (well… not really. My actor’s complained). There wasn’t a lot of planning or… anything. I’m not entirely sure I told them the whole idea either.

The premise started out as the classic Dollar trick. It needed a twist. So we made the changes.

Shooting was a mess. The shots were just a guess as to what I need. We shot a lot of coverage to be safe. The same shots from different angles so I could be picky. I probably had 20 or more minutes of footage for this minute long (non-action filled) scene.

The edit was simple. After sitting and scrubbing through the footage, the video almost built itself. I didn’t use as many VFX as I planned. But I am a firm believer in less is more. Yes there are time when packing a shot full of VFX (like the next video I’m doing). But in this case simple is what I wanted.

I’ve had issues with the action essentials 2 pack from and their blood splatters working the way I want. I took a page from FreddieW and used smoke tinted red. A little masking helped shape it. simplifying everything in this video really helped give it the feel I wanted.

The music SFX was probably the hardest part. This is an area I struggle with. Tim Lundy, who does most of the music and SFX has to deal with detailed descriptions like “Strolling/Ambient music” or “it sounds like Fwoosh-Thwap. But punchier or maybe more high ends.” And finally “Rolling Grumbles” for the gun shot. I think he always comes back with great stuff. The music came across as overly cheery and I think one email said “Doh-De-Doh-y.” We tried a few things to see about giving the music the simplistic feel that I wanted. Even had maybe 8 different songs for the video and a list of different cues for when the music would start.

I finally settled with a version of the original song Tim did for the video and that was tough. I liked it and it was really good for the video but there was definitely a lot of “silence” ideas running around. But I felt it was just… a little too simple.

So, to finish, I like how the video turned out. I’m not sure what I’d do differently… maybe started earlier on the edit so that I didn’t get bogged down by other stuff coming up and that way more time could have gone into working with Tim on the music. All in All, I like what I got.

Hey guys! Welcome back to this episode of recap. Since we last spoke, I’ve been busy again. Quick trip to visit some friends down south. Some editing that… will be covered next week. I filmed some stuff for the rose festival and pretty much watched all of the DollHouse series and season 1 of Mad Men.

Last Week I took a quick trip to Western Oregon University. A friend was performing (Tim Lundy, also does music and SFX for several of my videos) and another friend was growing a year older. The night was relatively low key. A few drinks at a bar, some good music and a chance to catch up with a few familiar faces.

It was nice and relaxing. But short lived. Upon arriving home I crawled into bed and slept for the better part of the day.

I spent a few hours at the spirit mountain casino filming a short “Press Conference” and luncheon to announce the change of the Grand Floral parade to the Spirit Mountain Casino Grand Floral Parade. Huge change. It wasn’t a technically difficult shoot. But I got to make pretty pictures with a Sony EX1. Two 32 gig cards. It acted like a practice shoot for a couple videos we’re shooting this weekend. I’m very excited to tell you all about it. but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Meh I’ll talk about it a little.

Alright, Mad Men season 1 wasn’t so bad. I’m kind of bored though. Great sets, costumes, acting and its an amazing look at the period. But that’s it. I’m not hooked. I don’t care about the characters. Mrs. Draper’s a hottie thought. I said I’d give it more time. Hopefully it lives up to its reputation.

Dollhouse however, did what always gets me. it started an apocalypse (Terminator 2 style). Haha sorry, Joss Whedon is my hero and I’m a little biased. That’s what got me watching the show. 3 out of 4 of his shows revolve around the end of the world. Firefly probably would have given the chance. I need to add “shaking hands with Joss” to the Bucket List.

The show takes a lot of heat and the plug was pulled after 2 seasons. I’m almost done with the show. And I’m heartbroken it’s ending with so much potential. I highly recommend you check it out. It’s instant Queable on Netflix. And check out all of Joss’ stuff. For Serious.

I may be judged strongly for the previous comments. Please let me know your opinion in the comments. And if it fuels your fire, I’ll be buying Dollhouse on Bluray.

As for this weekend, my friend Kyle is coming to town to do some climbing, filming and stuff. We’ve got an action scene to shoot Saturday evening, and possibly an episode of the Ninjas if there’s time. All in all, should be a good time. But why am I excited? We’ll still be using the EX1. I’m excited for this because t’s a much nicer camera than my canon 7d. Especially for action scenes. This weekend should be a lot of fun. And extremely productive.

Monday, January 17, 2011


ok i don't have very long to write this random post because my cat doesn't seem to want to leave me alone. i'm not sure how those are related... anyways, i'm working on the next three vids and i thought i would take a moment to let you know that i love silly t-shirts. anyways... here's a few i just saw that made me smile. :) like that.

The "i like Twertles" kid. which is a reference to this video about this kid... ehh nevermind, the vids embedded below.

Then there's the "lady Leg Lamp" shirt which reminds me of my coach from Clark College. Easily one of the funniest people i've ever met.

the fresh prince reference. they never get old.

this one rang a bell, but i couldn't remember why. so i looked it up. Zoolander is a terribly funny movie.

if someone wanted to get something awesome for my birthday... (it's coming up btw) i would love a nuclear fallout shelter sign... or either of these shirts (1) (2)

this is a reference to the mobile alabama leprechaun posted below. i had gone a really long time without seeing that video... the first time i did was in australia, where i then had to explain that not all american's are like that. btw... typing in mobile into youtube's search brings up the video. that's all you need. haha

this last one is a terrible thing for someone barely able to afford his gear as it is... If only the sixth sense dealt with tragedies like this.

I hear ya man, i hear ya...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Break Up

This was really an informal shoot. It involved me showing up at 89 Caxton in Australia with my gear and some pizza coupons. Joel, Renn, and I walked to the Pizza Capers across town and enjoyed a Pepperoni with Roasted Capsicum (red peppers) and pineapple. We saved a few pieces for the shoot.

The script was really just some ideas for Joe to work with and he ad-libbed the rest. I had no idea how I would edit the piece. I just hoped I’d find something.

We didn’t have lights, or a good mic. I think we just used a tripod and my 7d with my 50mm 1.8 lens. I left the iris open as much as possible to hide the background more.

Post-production was about 2 hours of editing, making sense of the mess I made because I didn’t do any planning. I decided instead of color grading like normal, I would do a double vignette. The first being the red haze. I made it fairly faint, trying to warm up the scene. It needed more so I dialed it up. The second vignette was black and more traditional. I used it to try and hide the background more while drawing the eye to the subject.

Ok, now, why did I do this piece? I spent 6 months on the other side of the world feeling that the pizza didn’t stack up. Joel felt passionate about this as well. So we wanted to make fun of it.

Don’t get me wrong, Pizza Capers is amazing. Try it if you’re down there. You won’t be disappointed. But that’s why we made this video.

Anything I would change?

No. There’s always stuff to improve. But I’m satisfied with this project.

Davis and Sanford ProVista Airlift Tripod Review

If you read my genus loupe review, you may have noticed that I like saving money. Well, I did the same with my new Davis & Sanford ProVista Airlift Tripod with Pneumatic Centerpost with FM18 Fluid Head.

It was a nice package deal. The tripod came with a case and a dolly. Setting up the tripod, it feels very sturdy and well built. It’s a bit on the heavy side, but manageable. Personally, I think that adds to that secure feeling I get when using it. At least I feel more secure about this tripod then my old one. I only use a canon 7d on this right now. But I’m sure a camera weighing up to 10-12lbs would work great on here.

The head is surprisingly smooth. Pan/Tilts are great. However, I didn’t feel like I could change the speed of the pan/tilt. It’s either locked or it’s not. There’s a pneumatic airlifting center column that raises the center post. Total height with the legs and center post, probably 7’ the biggest problem I’ve found is the plate lock sits in a bad spot. It’s really difficult to balance the 7d and tighten the plate because the camera body is in the way. I ended up pushing the camera forward but it made me a little nervous. It seems secure, but I’m not sure how it will work for larger cameras. Be careful.

The bag seems nice and durable. Should last a while. The dolly seems ok. I’ve used a model very similar to this one, and it was great as long as the floor was perfectly smooth. This dolly may have similar issues. But, being that it was free, I’m not terribly disappointed. It had a built in handle.

So far, I’m really happy with this purchase. And at $220 from B&H Photo, it’s hard to pass up. It’s not Manfrotto, but for something comparable at half the price, who cares? Definitely consider checking this one out.

I’ve been putting off writing a recap of my trip to Australia. I think I’m avoiding it because that means it’s over. I’ve noticed the whole thing feels less and less like a memory and more like a dream now.

As you may have noticed on the news, Queensland is being battered by torrential rains causing flash floods and a lot of people are put out by this. Homes are filling with mud and water.

I watched videos of cars being tossed around like toys. Debris is everywhere. I saw pictures of the place I lived under water (courtesy of my friend Ming over at One friend said the lobby and laundry room of my apartment complex were a lagoon.

Something about these pictures really drove it home for me. I walked all of this. Played on a beach that’s going under water. Went to a school that’s closed because of flood warnings. Some of my good friends said the only things they had in the grocery store was canned beans and beer. I can’t even really comprehend it all. If I went back, would I recognize my other home?

I wish I could do something. Go back and help with flood relief. I know the economy isn’t doing so hot, but if you can contribute something, I’m sure they’d all appreciate that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Genus Loupe Review

I’ve been looking for a loupe for a few months and I was stuck on the Zacuto Z-finder as that’s what I’d used in the past. It’s also decently affordable and well built for $375. I was certain that the z-finder would be purchased. But at that price… it would be purchased sometime later.

A couple weeks ago, did a post about this Loupe. The cheapest of these was the Genus Loupe running about $150. The review seemed brief but gave me what I needed/wanted to hear. Some hope for a decent loupe I could afford. I checked B&H photo and got lucky again. The Loupe was marked down to $80.

When the loupe arrived, my expectations were pretty low. There was a part of me that was ready to ship it back without even trying it. The fear of the purchase being to good to be true made me worry that the loupe wouldn’t work, or that I got scammed. A few minutes and deep breathes later, I attached the mount to my 7d.

My impressions were (before actually using it): Good build quality. The finish is a nice matte black with the Genus logo placed prominently on the left side. The black box can be replaced with a clear one to let in light if you’re viewing slides or film (like an actual loupe would be used for.). The box has a couple extra adhesive strips in case the mount comes off. The one I have on there feels really sturdy. I’m not going to see how “durable” it is. I’ll leave that alone.

I thought I read that it had an adjustable diopter. I guess not.

The eye cup is comfortable and can be used on either eye. And the LCD is crystal clear through the loupe. I have no problems with light leaking in, or fuzziness around the outside. It does fog pretty well. Removing my eye from the cup solved that quickly. And that’s really my only complaint: that it fogged on me.

All in all, I’m extremely pleased with my $80 purchase. You wont find a lot of info on Genus’ page about this product. And the reviews I’ve seen weren’t very thorough. However, it is a loupe, and therefore the reviews will be short and sweet. Other than the fogging, this is an excellent piece of equipment that should be considered over the z-finder or more expensive loupes. If this can do the job, buy it instead and put the money you saved towards other equipment.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The 180 Degree Rule

This is a simple principle. A lot of people don’t know what it is, but they recognize when it’s wrong. So, how to explain this…

The 180 degree rule is a line of action drawn through our scene. Now, pick one side of this line and stay on it. At least for the basics, try to stay on one side until you do it without thinking about it.

Imagine a table with a person sitting at each end. Their eye line is your 180 degree line. During a dialogue between these two characters the camera angles will generally be places over the shoulder of a character to face the person talking.

B is talking, the camera is placed over A’s shoulder.

When A reacts/responds, we place the camera over B’s Shoulder.

Bam. Done. The way to do it right in the most simple way. Now, how to do it wrong…

Now, if you go and shoot it this way, crossing the line like in the diagram, you’ll notice the person the camera is focusing on will end up on the right side of the screen facing towards the left. Follow the diagram and they’ll end up with the same framing. This will actually also make the characters appear to be on the same side of the table.

Now this is the basics of the 180. But it is still useful when developing an action scene. I’ll try to film a short sequence implementing the rule this coming week.

There are ways to break this rule and make it acceptable (as is the case with all rules.). To do so, the camera needs to move towards the line. This either needs to be a cut and the camera changes or be a physical move during the shot. If going with a cut, move the camera from the over the shoulder position (abbreviated OTS) to just on the line. If doing a physical move (like a dolly) then just approach the line and continue past it while still keeping the camera on the subject.

Now I want to talk about Psychological Mapping. The whole reason we do this whole 180-degree rule thing is to keep the audiences brain happy. Like I stated before, you notice when it’s wrong, not when it’s right.

What’s happening is your brain is building a mental map of the location and the people/objects within it. Filmmaking gives selective details that force the filmmaker to careful build his scene and shots. The better this is done, the happier the viewer.

Not only does disrupting the mental map jar your audience, it removes them from the experience of the story and makes them aware they’re watching a film.

I highly recommend planning every scene around this rule. Sketch it out if you need to. Just make it clear in your head before you begin shooting.

Seattle, and On Set.

Wow this week seemed a little crazy. Not so busy I couldn’t handle it. I don’t know. It wanted to hit the ground running and I have. A 1am trip to Seattle to take a friend home, being dehydrated and exhausted and finally sick, ending up on the set of a studio in Portland and helping (though I felt unsuccessful) with the production of a few commercials for a kids show that is trying to go national.

Anyways, I’m a little better rested and ready to catch up and make good on the promises I made last week. But lets recount a bit...

The trip to Seattle was fun. We headed out around 1am, had some music playing and the roads were clear except for some fog. Bryan and I ate food and caught up. The ride was uneventful. We hit Seattle about 4am and Safeco and Qwest fields were lit and peaceful. The space needle towered over the city. It looked kind of lonely out there by itself.

This was our travel companion. I drew him, upside down with my non-writing hand while pumping gas. Honestly I think it's better than what I draw right side up with my right hand and not doing something else. Weird.

I’ve been asked to do a blog about night photography, so as I was driving I looked for opportunities to shoot and Seattle provided. Being so late, and having had so little sleep the previous week I decided it was better to just keep moving… but some shooting in the future will happen.

As for ending up in a studio, I didn’t really know what was happening. I got a call asking me to come help out on a shoot so I went. We met at KOIN 6 in Portland and watched the taping of a show called “Studio 6.” It’s weird being in a studio and seeing how other companies do it. It was interesting and obviously more expensive. The floor director doubled as a camera operator, and I’m pretty certain the talent had earpieces, receiving info directly from the director. I saw the control room briefly. It was EPIC. I was too awed by it to take a picture. My bad.

Check out these lights! Holy crap, I'm glad I don't pay their electric bill...

Lastly, some new equipment arrived and I’ll be playing with that this weekend. Expect reviews by Friday next week.

Sorry this post is so short. I figured more time in my lesson posts would be better appreciated. Take Care.

James C.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

1/1/11 The New Year and Future of Intense Entertainment

Hey guys, welcome to 2011. It’s going to be a bright and beautiful year. And with this new year, I have a few things I would like to inform you about. Basically, I’m talking about the future of Intense Entertainment.

So, where to begin? Well, if you’ll recall in a previous post, my friend Joel challenged me to (creating a bucket list). Which I have for you here…

Explore Europe.

Convert a Warehouse to a studio.

Time lapse the Milky Way.

See Fireflies (The Bug, I’ve already seen the show numerous times.)

Photograph on every continent.

Make a Feature Length Documentary.

Make a Feature Length Zombie Film.

Zombie Proof dream house and car.

Have a cabin (which will also be zombie proofed.)

Tour the country and film our adventures. Preferably in an RV.

Get a bike and use it as often as possible.

Shake Hands With Joss Whedon

Now, Don’t assume it’s complete. I feel things should continuously be added along with checking stuff off. This list will grow and I’ll update it as I can.

Next thing I’ll be doing in the upcoming year will be reviews of equipment I purchase. My equipment that I own is relatively limited. I borrow/request the use of/obtain what I need however I can. And so I’d like to do reviews. I spend a lot of time researching before I purchase something. I do my best tech I can at the best price I can afford. Each new piece of gear will be used heavily for a week by itself (as much as possible) so I can familiarize myself with it and report back how I feel about that gear. And I am brutally honest.

Every week I want to do a lesson for my readers. I feel it’s difficult to get past photography/filmmaking basics for a lot of people because the classes only go so far, and the professionals are so far beyond that. My hope with this blog is to narrow that gap.

My lessons will be for beginner to intermediate level filmmakers to start, and build from there. Hopefully over the course of a year, I’ll have built up enough of a pool of information that this blog acts much like a textbook would (albeit more entertaining I hope.).

So please, if there’s something that you’re struggling with shoot me an email and I’ll try to do a lesson on that.

And also, I hope to do a blog each week about some experience/project/whatever that I have that may not be related to a lesson or fall specifically into another category.

I feel it’s important to practice filmmaking. Not just simply talk about it, but work on projects and put it out for the world to critique. Places like this blog and (YouTube) seem perfect for that.

So for all of 2011, I will produce 1 short video every 2nd and 4th week of the month. Generally, they will be 2-3 minutes in length, and focus on a technique (practical or digital) that I want to work on, and get practiced in. They will also be accompanied with a blog going over what I wanted to accomplish, how the shoot went, what I learned and possibly tutorials for you.

These will be in addition to the tutorials I’ll do for a lesson.

So, feel free to leave comments or better yet: Email me @ with your questions, or tutorial/lesson ideas.

Happy New Year,