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Sollthar's Filmmaking Guide 2

Posted: Wed, 3rd Jan 2007, 1:09am

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You can link to this tutorial or bookmark the page - but please don't copy it. All the material is copyrighted by ©nocontrol cinema 2007


The following posts are intended to be a guide and a help for aspiring hobby filmmakers aiming to bring their movies to the next level. Each post will cover a chapter / topic in filmmaking and will hopefully familiarize you with some rules, tricks and techniques.

Every aspect of filmmaking is a language - camera, light, costumes, acting, pacing, music, locations - similar to our spoken or written languages. It follows certain rules and it gets meaning through a certain combination of elements, and changes it's meaning if these elements are switched or changed.

Always remember: These rules are guidelines to help make your movies more "professional" and easier and more pleasant to watch for your audience. If you know why, you can break them - but you need to know them first in order to break them.

All the examples I use are from my own experience while shooting the independent feature NightCast, so I'm trying to aim at a level that can be achieved on a lowbudget basis by independent filmmakers.

Content List


Scriptwriting Tips
Technical Planning


Additional Elements


Visual Effects

Last edited Sat, 6th Jan 2007, 12:41pm; edited 15 times in total.

Posted: Wed, 3rd Jan 2007, 1:09am

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When shooting a film, obviously the first - and I'd say by far most important stage - is the preproduction. Here you decide what your film will be about, write your script, create your characters, story, assemble cast and crew, figure out how to actually pull off what you've just written, how much it will cost and where to get everything from.

This phase is absolutely vital if you want to get your film to a higher level. While the "hey let's go out and shoot something" attitude is great for fun, it'll hardly bring you anywhere when it comes to actual movies. Moviemaking is - while great fun of course - hard work when you want to do it right.
The preproduction usually already determines much of the quality of your film, even before you've had your hands on the camera or anything else.

The following steps are usually involved in a proper indie preproduction - no matter what genre your film is or how long it will be.
Posted: Wed, 3rd Jan 2007, 1:09am

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The first part of your movie is obviously your script. It is the heart of your film, it's what you want to tell.
The script is also the most important part of your preproduction, since you have to base the other aspects of preproduction entirely on the written word. To keep this easy, follow a layot similar to the one you can find in my example.

HERE (I prepared a Worddocument you can use, if you want - assuming most of you don't intend to buy actual scriptwriting software)

Every scene starts with the instruction "CUT TO", "BLEND TO" or any other transition instruction followed by the scene number. It's absolutely vital to have proper scene numbers in a script, otherwise, both planning and shooting get more difficult than they should.

Usually, a new scene begins whenever the location changes - so the next transition to a new location would be scene 36 in our case. Should scene 36 be intercut by another scene (maybe a flashback or an insert etc) the number is usually STILL changed, making the intercut scene number 37 and when we go back to our prior location it's scene 38.

The next thing following is a description of the location, "Hospital Interior" in our case. Again, the layout is quite important, as it makes it easy to hover over your script and see where a scene begins/ends and what kind of locations you need.
(It's quite common to add tags like "Interior" "Exterior" "Day" "Night" etc to your location should that be of any importance)

Usually, what follows is a short description what the location is like - in our case, describing the lack of people. Depending on what makes the location unique or what is important about it, this description is longer or shorter or even left out completely, if the location is already familiar from the movie or simply not worth describing. smile

Then characters in that location are introduced. It's quite common to write the name of a character in CAPITALS on his first appearance, so his name can easily be spotted by readers. Obviously, you write what they're doing and describe what happens in the scene.

Then the dialogue is usually written in a form similar to this, so dialogue bits can be quickly spotted and/or marked by actors (also leaves them room for possible notes). The name is BOLD followed by the actual text. The formatting is different from the rest of the text.


After you have written your script (for ideas and more general rules/suggestions have a look at the "scriptwriting tips" section) you need to prepare information sheets from it. Apart from what your story is about, you now have the following information:

- Number of scenes in your movie
- Name and number of characters / actors
- Number of locations

Ideally, you create an "overview" kind of paper where all this information is easily accessible. The one we made in NightCast looked like this:

And like this for EACH character:

Last edited Fri, 5th Jan 2007, 4:03pm; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Wed, 3rd Jan 2007, 1:09am

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All of these tips are only of a technical nature. The creative part of it is your job... wink


The most important part of your script - technically speaking - is it's structure. Always think of your story as an assembly of "moments". The better those moments are placed, the more pleasant the experience will be for your audience.
Never forget your audience when you write a screenplay. Always remember they don't know everything you know about your story; your characters, your locations etc. They want to be able to follow your story from A to Z and you need to make sure they can.
So divide your story into these moments, as many as possible, like:

main character is introduced - love interest is introduced - they meet, relationship is explained - main character's motives are introduced - major twist point is prepared - love interests motives are introduced - twist happens - relationship changed - etc. etc.


You divide your story into scenes. The basic rule is, the more scenes, the better. Instead of having 12 longer scenes, it's much better to have 36 shorter scenes. So try to chop your script into really small parts!
There's many reasons for this. The main reason is pacing: An audience adapts quite quickly to anything these days. So in order to keep the interest, don't remain on the same thing for too long.

The "average" guide is that a scene should be 1 page. Of course, there can be longer or shorter scenes, but in the average, try to have them about at that length.

Example: Instead of a long dialogue in the living room, have your actors move into the kitchen at one point, or on to the balcony. Or find a scene to cut in between, as scene in this example:

Within a short time, you have 5 very short scenes with 3 entirely different locations. This moment needed to be a bit more fast paced, that´s why we have scenes that only last for one single shot.
That way the viewers interest can be kept for a longer amount of time as there's new visual information for him to interpret. Which brings me to the next point:


Locations are where your storyelements takes place. Try to have as many different locations as you can. As mentioned above, if you have the location "house", think in smaller parts and make several locations out of that, "living room", "kitchen", "stairway", "bedroom", "balcony" - you name it. And use these consciously and often.

The more different locations you have in your list, the more visual variety you have e.g. the more interesting your film already appears on a visual level (Switching time can already help, one location on a bright day, in the golden hour, dusk or dark night already makes ONE location look very different).


You need Characters in your script, obviously. There's certain archetypes of characters you'll find in almost every film: Good guy, bad guy, sidekick, funny-man, love interest etc. You characters are what drive your film, so focus on them!
Have an exact psychological image of who your character is, how he is, how the thinks, speaks, moves, what he does etc (write it down even!).

It might be usefull for you to write a short 'biography' for your characters - what are their histories? What has happened in their lives up until the point where the film starts? The audience don't neccesarily have to learn all this information, but knowing it whilst writing the script will be useful. You will have a better understanding of who your characters 'are'.

Ideally, your characters go through different states. Interesting characters develop during a film. Develop means that they change in some ways. If your main guy was the super dooper fighter at the start and is still the super dooper fighter in the end, it's boring. (Except of course, he somehow lost his super dooper fighter position and has to get it back). Show these changes and states your character goes through.

Every character needs to drive for something. There most be something a character wants. Make sure your characters have a clear motivation and characteristics during the whole film. (And of course, to make for an interesting conflict, make those motives contradict or collide with something)


The most convenient way to give information to the audience. Many unexperienced filmmakers largely depend on dialogue, because you can literally explain everything to your audience (and be aware of that, that's all you have to do really. EXPLAIN it all to your audience!).
If your starship doesn't look like a starship, you can have someone say "oh, what a nice starship" and the audience knows. If your character doesn't feel well, you can have him say "Geee, I don't feel well." and the audience knows. Obviously though, there's better ways. Alternatively, you can use other filmic languages such as body language, camera angles, light, color, music, sound whatever you can think of to convey information.

Still dialogue is important. Basically, every sentence you write should have a meaning and a purpose. There's common things you want to do with dialogue: Explain something you think the audience wouldn't get, define a character by the way he talks, drive the story on by, define what a character know/thinks, define the relationship between two characters. Do this subtly, if Romeo says to Juliet "give me some sugar baby" it reveals different things about his character and their relationship, than if he says to her, "shall we dance, princess".

In the script example you see, we tried to keep the sentences as short as possible. "Hello, I'm a police officer. I've called you." already conveys loads of information - the character is a police offer and he has obviously already called the woman behind the desk (The reason we did it that why was basically because I didn't want him to EXPLAIN now what kind of files he wanted, because the audience already knows or just doesn't need to hear it. So the receptionist already knows and I slipped the info in why she knows: Because he called her)
Posted: Wed, 3rd Jan 2007, 1:10am

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Yes, I know. The BIIIIGGG problem with independent films or nobudget movies: There's no money.
Make no mistake though, filmmaking does cost money. I assume you have a camera? A computer? Neither of those grew on trees, did they? wink

So the important questions you need to answer now you have your script are these:

- Which elements of my story WILL cost money and how much?
- Which elements can I get for free?
- Where will I get the money from I need for those elements I can't get for free?

In your classic Lowbudget Production you'll have about 5 different aspects that might cost you money, which I'll go in details here:


It's very possible you might need new equipment for your movie. Invest in a lighting kit? A dolly maybe? New battery? Well, you'll need tapes for your camera no doubt.

Our version looked somewhat like this. It's always good to make an excel file that automatically adds things up so you have a good overview.

As you can see here, I added in the camera and the computers we needed for postproduction since we actually bought new equipment to work with. Don't hesitate to actually put those into your budget, because obviously, they need to be bought in order to use them - even though you might continue to use them for your next projects.

By going through your script, you can then decide if there's some special equipment you need - in our case, we needed pyrotechnical devices for some of the action scenes, which again cost money.


This part is very dependent on your script. The best thing is to go through the script scene by scene and write down all the special props and costumes you need and then write down a list of each scenes prop and costume needs.

As in the example scene:


- Filing cabinet with a file in it
- computer plasma screen
- keyboard
- drawers, files, pencils for background


- White shirt for doctor
- Suit for BRIAN
- Dark top for RECEPTIONIST

Now all you need to do is figure out if you need to buy any of those props or if costumes actually need to be bought.


If your locations cost money or not depends largely on what you need and what your recources are. Locations that usually cost money are either sets you build from scratch (greenscreen rooms, or actual set constructions), locations you need to rent or pay a fee to be allowed to shoot there.

Usually though, with a bit of social abilities, you can get to a lot of locations for free by simply asking people. Don't ask, don't get anything. We actually managed to get a real military base for free, including a troop transporter. It can never hurt to ask.


Here you can find everything that doesn't fit into the former cathegories. For example: What do you use to travel to the locations? By car? Who pays for the gas? By train? Who pays for the tickets? etc.
Or one of the most important part on a shoot: The catering! (Yes! A hungry crew and cast is always a bad thing. INVEST enough money there! It'll be worth it)
We had things like phonebills, insurances, gas, hospital costs, paper etc in there. Things do add up quickly.


How the heart of your shoot: The people. Every Lowbudget production has to resort to either using friends or not paying people, or only paying certain people or only paying people partly... Whatever you decide on, it needs to be noted here.

In each case, what you need to do is a first shooting overview so you can tell, WHICH actor / crewmember you need WHEN and for HOW LONG shooting WHAT and WHERE.

Our overview sheet for the actors looked like this:

The crosses simply indicate if the character named on top has to be present that day or not. So we could extract vital information like

Actor "Fabian Ramseyer" playing "NightCast" needs to be present on 15.8, 16.8, 18.8, 19.8 and 20.8. etc so has a total shooting days of X - An information you'll need during casting anyways, even if you don't need to calculate how much you'd need to pay the actor if you were paying him or her.
Posted: Wed, 3rd Jan 2007, 1:10am

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The next step is commonly to find and assemble your cast. There's one rule that must guide you through the process:

There's always people able and willing to act in your films, you only need to find them!

If you followed the steps so far, you've already done the first step of casting; which is to have a CLEAR idea who you need. We used the character summary from the scriptwriting phase as a base:

That way, you already have an idea what the actor should be like - look like 50 - 60 years old, be able to have that wanted "worn out" look, be relatively thin and have some white hair (of course, that could also be achieved by a makeup job)

A good idea is to make a casting call in places where you might find willing people - in this first search for actors, it's not important if they're trained actors or not, you can find talent everywhere.
Find out if your town has a stage actor club, a school of actors or anything alike. Create a little advert with all necessary info (Need actors for movie, contact here: ..... - maybe some SHORT info on your project), print it out and hang it anywhere you might get peoples interest.

In our case, we solved the casting through the website and people had to email us pictures. In the end, that gave us a fortunate 200 people to chose from!

Be aware: The casting is 50% of someone's acting job. You're dealing with a visual medium here, so if you find people who LOOK the part and are well cast, you've done a lot of work in favor of the film already: Don't cast a 20 year old to play a part from someone who should be 50, don't take a chubby mate and make him play an action hero, or a not-so-attractive girl the love interest. Casting is a cruel business, you need to be "BRUTAL" in chosing the people to actually play the parts. As brutal as you can within what you got to work with.

So from all the pictures we got, we had these people to chose from for the above part of chief Willem:

You guessed it, all of the above are great actors (who actually ended up being cast for the movie). For the role in question, number 4 and 5 are obviously way too young and immediately are out of consideration - number 2 has a great look, but certainly doesn't look like a police chief. Leaving us Number 1 and 3 - both at the right age and both having the required features to even play the part.

It's common AND advisable you take more then one actor into consideration for a part. After you've first got rid of everyone who's out of question and reduced the contestants for each role down to a handful, you should do some reading with them.

Get together and go through some lines. Let them actually PLAY the part. All of them. Watch them, better, record them while doing that - then go back home and sit through that footage until you're sure that THIS is the guy for the role!

Once you've done those steps to each of your characters in the script, you're done with the casting.

Again: Take time for this step, don't take anyone who comes along just because they're close to you. Make an effort to LOOK for people, it's very worth it.
Posted: Wed, 3rd Jan 2007, 1:11am

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Scheduling your film is a part that depends on a lot of variables that are sometimes difficult to work with. Basically, what you need to do is define exactly when each scene of your film will be shot, who needs to be where at what time, what equipment, props or costumes need to be there and when will everyone be wrapped.

Our schedule plan, as simple and short as possible, was like this:

Doing a schedule for your film can be difficult depending on what you base your schedule on. In our case, some dates were fixed because of a certain location that could only be used at that particular time - other dates were fixed because certain actors could only work on a certain date and so on. Putting all that in a schedule that actually works for everyone can prove to be a real test of your organisational abilities.

What usually makes sense is this order:

1st priority - Locations

Whenever possible, schedule your shoot according to the locations. When different scenes play at the same location, it makes the most scenes to plan it accordingly. Travelling takes up time and since you're already at your location, it makes perfect sense to shoot the rest of the scenes there too.

2nd priority - People

Obviously it can be necessary to plan around people's already existing timeschedules. If that's the case, then you have two choices left: Look for someone else or plan around it. If planning around it should prove to be too difficult, I'd always advise you to look for other people.
But there's always good reasons why you might have to plan according to people, not locations.

3rd priority - chronological order

As a third priority, try to keep things in chronological order whenever it is possible. Skipping around back and forth within your script does make work more difficult for everyone involved, especially the actors. But also whoever is in charge of what has been shot already and what still needs to be shot will have quite a difficult job on set.

This filming schedule should also include details of special shots and irregular equipment needs. When you have such a schedule for each day prior to shooting and hand it to your cast and crew, everyone knows already what's going to be done and can prepare accordingly, which will always help both the mood and the working output of your cast and crew.

As with everything in preproduction, this schedule can of course be adjusted during shooting. Most likely, it will. There's always reason you can't finish in time, it starts raining, something breaks or whatever else can kill a shooting day. Make sure to plan in "empty days" the people just need to keep free for the case of a PICK-UP (continueing a scene that needed to be aborted for whatever reason).
Posted: Thu, 4th Jan 2007, 9:58am

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Locations are a vital part of your film production. Similar to your actors, the places where your story takes place are absolutely crucial to make it a believable movie.
While your own backyard is alright for fun, it's more often not the place to shoot a film

When chosing a location for your story, there are certain things to look out for:


The locations need to feel "real" and "believable" to the audience, that's not necessarily the case just because they ARE real.
You have to work with prejudices! If your scene actually plays in a backyard, don't be surprised if people don't like yours, even though it IS a backyard. Because there's more appealing backyards then others.

So when you chose a location, look for VISUAL FEATURES that make the place work.

Social context

Your location needs to fit the social context of your characters. It needs to fit the person owning it - A poor Junkie will most likely not have expensive Art on his designer table, a lawyer will hardly have a cheap desktop PC in a garage. A big mobster will hardly have his meeting in a forest and your jedi will not have his training in an average backyard.

In our example in NightCast, 4 different people had "offices". However, all the offices are destinguishably different from each other, reflecting the background of each of the characters clearly:

The colonel's office

We went for quite a tiny office featuring cold blueish colors. The size of the office reflects the fact the character is "only" a commanding officer placed in the facility, not the actual highest man in the army. The background was filled with items that would show the fact this man's a war buff: Old rifles, pictures of soldiers, generals, tanks and general war pictures. The only computer in the room is a portable laptop, because the character is more under way then actually sitting in his office.

The crimelords's office

The exact opposite of the above. His office has to convey power and money, therefore it needs to be a large space - well designed, but not filled to the top to actually give the impression of lots of empty space (leaving empty space communicates power and wealth). The office has high contrasting elements and has clearly been professionally designed - different to the office above or the one here:

Brubakers office

This office belongs to one of the underground rebels. It's actually located in a basement and this guy is kind of a geek. Hence the office needed to look entirely improvised and dirty: There's dirt on the walls, part of the plaster falling off, loads of random posters haning about and the entire place is filled with junk and notes - to convey the feeling he actually collected all of the parts from... wherever.
The computer he uses is an old model - but since the character is an underground rebel again, he uses what he finds.

The policechiefs's office

We wanted a typical working office. It has some personal items on the desk, a modern day computer and generally just looks like this guy sits there most of the day and does his job.
The picture on the wall has been placed there on purpuse to make the wall look more attractive and give it a bit of a "home" feeling, conveying again that the character actually spends a lot of time there.


This is the most important, the one many amateurs fail at. The location needs to fit your mood - If the scene is thrilling, dark and exciting, the pink flower curtains will most likely not leave the best impression. If you have a shootout between an Alien commander and a Marine, your backyard won't be the best place. Why? Because it doesn't feel right. So many aspects need to be considered to get a right feel - And your location needs to satisfy ALL of them.
Even if your scene actually plays in the middle of a street - believe it or not, there is better and worse street corners for that. If you have a pink house on your street, the whole scene will suffer, even though that house has nothing to do with it. Even if it's just in the background. If your scene needs to feel epic, go look for the ONE PLACE in your city that reflects that.

Having followed the guide, let's go back and remember the Location overview we wrote during the script phase:

Using this, it's now your job to go on the look out for places to film in. Again: TAKE YOUR TIME for this and ideally, choose more then one possible place for each location. Go there, take some pictures and then compare them. Do the same thing as in the casting: compare the images and take your pick according to the above points.

Finding locations is usually the smaller problem then actually being allowed to film them. There's a few points you need to keep in mind:

If you don't ask, you don't get anywhere!

Simple and obvious, yet most location problems in indiefilms die et exactly that point already. Ask your friends, parents, relatives, your teacher, boss, working colegeas etc if they KNOW a place matching your criteria or if they can help you get one.
When it came down to find a military base for NightCast, we simply called the actual military and imagine what, they said "Sure, come over" and that's exactly what we did.

be honest, but not too honest

Always be straight and honest with your requests. Most people will want to know what it is you're doing. Tell them about it. It's important not to try to come off as something you're not, because most people are bad liars - and it won't help you.
Especially when you go out shooting guns or something, make sure to say that.
But then again, don't be too honest: When it comes down to a film shoot, think very well what to mention and what NOT to mention.

In NightCast we had a scene where a bomb goes off at an industrial estate. Unfortunately, I mentioned the word "explosion" and the problems began - even though the explosion was going to be entirely digital. Keep in mind, you're not talking to filmmakers. They don't think like you.

Inform whoever needs to be informed

If you're shooting on a private property and you're by yourself, it's usually less of a problem then when you shoot on a public place.
If you're doing a nightshoot within a place where loads of people live, inform them of what you're doing and what will be happening.

We had a shoot right in the middle of block. So I hung out papers on each door, quickly explaining that there will be a film shoot, that we'll try to keep noise to a minimum but that there will be loads of spotlights and people carrying guns. It was no problem.

Inform local authorities if necessary. Especially whenever guns are involved. If someone sees your actors carrying guns, but doesn't know you're shooting a film, they're probably going to call the cops. Happens all the time.
Posted: Thu, 4th Jan 2007, 11:02am

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First off: Everything anyone wears in a movie is a costume. Don't think of "costumes" just as some exotic pirate clothing or an alien armor or stuff like that. Even everyday clothing is a costume and needs to be treated just the same.

Costumes need, as locations or actors, great care. Greater care then I've seen in my indiefilms. Your costume is like an actor: It does communicate to the audience. Jedis don't wear jeans... wink

When it comes to clothing, you need to be well aware of the simple fact, people think in stereotypes. If your characters wear a "metallica" shirt, people will automatically assume certain psychological details about your character. Imagine Agent Smith from the Matrix wearing such a T shirt, it just wouldn't be the same, would it?

Again, the base for chosing costume is the characters psychological overview:

Your job is now to think, what kind of clothing could convey this psychological image best. And again, use the stereotypes: Dorks wear glasses, bad guys wear black, people wearing leather jackets and metallica t shirts are rebels, sunglasses are cool, smart guys always wear suits etc. without overdoing it.

It can always be helpful to draw some sketches of costume designs, especially when it comes to more exotic ones. In NightCast for example, the character of "Colonel Red" went through quite a range of different styles in preproduction:

All those uniforms are REAL uniforms for commanding officers, yet again, as with the locations, REAL doesn't equal "fitting"...

As you can see, the one thing those designs have in common is the fact the character smokes cigars. Again another stereotype: smoking cigar would A make the character look more relaxed and "on top of things" and B give the actor something to do and C look good on camera (I'm a vivid nonsmoker, but yes, smoking does look good on camera...)

Nr 1 - We liked the general slick appearance of this costume version, but I wasn't too fond of the tie which made him look a bit too formal. I did like the fact he's wearing a cap however.

Nr 2 - This gunhoe kinda look got dismissed quite quickly, as it made the character appear to agressive and hyperactive. I wanted someone who looks like he's a brain guy who can fight, while this costume made him look like a fighter too much.

Nr 3 - We tried using more details on his uniform, apply batches, medals and stuff but then decided against it because it we thought the character wouldn't "show off" like that. He has his men's respect without medals and having medals on his uniform just didn't sit with the character. Also, the longer top made him look less like a field officer and more like someone sitting in an office.

Nr 4 - Was an attempt to design a slicker version of Nr.3. The medals are gone and the short sleaves made him instantly look more like a "let's do it" kinda guy. We liked that approach, but decided against it because the short sleaves and lack of cap made him look less smart (heh, notice the clichee's here?).

Ultimately we ended up going for most of Nr 1, but with losing the tie and adding some details in from Nr.3

Generally, you can sum up criteria for costumes in these aspects:

psychological image

First and foremost, what a character wears in a movie most reflect his personality. Even a detail as long or short sleaves can have an impact on how the character is perceived. Think exactly about what your character should wear to convey exactly the profile you have. A good costume is when you can take one look at a character and can immediately tell something about him.
Remember, that even colors make someone appear different. A person wearing a white shirt, a blue shirt, a red shirt and a black shirt appear differently.

social background

The costume should also reflect the social background of your character. Are his clothes massproduced? Or is it an armany suit? Is it something leisure? Something bought in the store around the corner? Does the character have a taste when it comes to clothing or does it look random?

visual appearance

Ultimately, film is a visual medium so costumes also need to WORK visually. They need to have good structure, details for the camera to work with. Generally, the more details your costume has, the better. So a unicolored shirt or coat will only work if the cloth itself has some good structure or if you light it correctly - leather or any other reflective material works nicely because it does reflect light and surrounding colors.
It's always good to add accessoires to any costume too. Just think of things you could add. Afterall, a costume is something to LOOK at so make it look interesting.
Posted: Thu, 4th Jan 2007, 11:54am

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"Technical Planning" is basically preparing for the shoot. Now you have your script worked out, you got your cast, you got your locations, you know what needs to be done in your film.

It's always a good idea to plan out aspects you're not absolutely on routine with.


Always take the time to do rehearsals with your actors. Go through the lines, through the scenes. Explain how you want them delivered, what your idea of the scene is and go through them many many times. If possible, over the course of several days.

This is especially important with untrained actors. Where a trained actor can pull off a great performance from scratch, untrained actors need to rehearse what they're doing. A lot. This time won't be available on set, so they need to do it beforehand. If you take the time to talk to them, give them advice, input and direct them properly even before the shoot, the perfomances will improve noticably!

Testing new technical items

If you use any new technical item on your film, such as a new camera, a dolly, a crane etc. test it extensively until you know exactly how to handle it and where it's strengths and weaknesses are.
Every item in the world always has strengths AND weaknesses, nothing is the uber-tool from heaven. Knowing those strengths can help you put the stress on them during production, knowing the weaknesses allows you to avoid them as often as possible.


Got your attention now, ain't I? smile

First of all: There is no such thing as a film look. Films look different depending on a lot of factors. It's very important to try out different looks, both during the actual shooting and with means of postproduction.

For NightCast, we did this with the concept teasers available in the fxhome cinema:

As you can see, the look evolves in these tests. While the decision to make those kind of "tests" public is questionable really (since usually, these tests are for YOU to test out stuff. An outside audience will never quite get to that) it can still help to get some feedback - see what works and what doesn't.

And as you can see from the images and the final teaser, the look of the final film is again quite different.

How a film looks is commonly determined by these factors:

The Camera

The camera you use is obviously making a difference. Wheter you shoot with a handycam for 200 $ or a 35mm ARRI camera will get you different results, there's nothing you can do about that.

The quality of the CCD's, what kind of film stock you use, how the camera reacts to light, how it picks up the light, what lense it uses - all of that changes the look of your footage massively.

The Lens

Part of the camera, makes an utter difference though. If you have a camera with interchangeable lenses, it's a good thing to invest in those.
The famous "depth of field" as seen in the image below is largely a matter of the lens you're using.

The Lighting

How your scene is lit makes a big difference. And I'm not even yet talking about using different lighting equipment, but merely if you use light consciously or coincidentally. Lots of indiefilmers don't seem to be aware of light at all and just point and shoot. That'll always look like that.
The color of the light, the use of the light, direction, density etc has great impact on how your image looks and is received.

One single, strong spotlight placed directly above NightCast supported by some fog (to actually catch the light in the air) makes for a dramatic mood here.

The Postproduction

And of course what you do to your image in post eg, the grading. With such fantastic tools available as VisionLab or CompositeLab, you can largely influence the look and feel of your images to fit your needs.

Test a variety of different grading methods and techniques to find the one look PERFECT for your movie. Find a look that matches your story. I'm sure you've noticed that a family comedy, an 80s action movie, a fantasy epic a horror movie or your daily soap look very different - even with the sound off, you can pretty quickly tell what you're looking at.

So don't slap your standard grading on everything you do, or randomly fiddle with the controls until your image looks different to what you shot.
Posted: Thu, 4th Jan 2007, 12:35pm

Post 11 of 93


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Rating: +5

So you've succeeded preproducing your movie and finally get to the production!

Usually, the production is the shortest period, but even so definately one of the hardest. You'll be glad of every bit of work you did in the pre-phase, because it'll lay off your back during shooting and you only have to worry about all the typical problems one faces while actually crafting the movie.

The declared aim of the production phase is simply to get you all the stuff you need to make your movie in the postproduction, eg: All the footage.

Apart from all the technical problems you'll have to deal with, as a director, your main job will be one that appears to have little to do with filmmaking at first glance: Taking care of people!

A filmshoot is mostly quite an extreme situation, in which loads of different people work together to achieve a common goal. This work is often fun, but as often tedious, difficult and hard. 50% of your job on an independent feature will be to keep your crew and cast happy during shooting. You will have to fulfill needs, be a leader and best friend in one person, give everyone the time he needs and wants and still lead a whole production - Personally, I think that's the toughest job. While obviously I can't teach you how to deal with people, what I'm trying to do in the forthcoming chapters is help you with the technical side of a shoot with a few tips:

Shoot as much material as possible

Shoot all material you might be able to use in your postproduction. There's nothing worse then when some little snippet is missing in the editing room.
Shoot all your scenes, all your actions and all your lines from SEVERAL DIFFERENT angles so you can easily intercut between them and have all the liberty you need.

Declare your rules on a shoot to everyone

It's important that you declare certain rules for everyibe on a shoot and make sure everyone actually does obey them. The most important three would be:

- Be on time!
- Come prepared, know what your job is and how to do it
- Even though a film is 80% waiting, always stay focused on the task

The first one is vital on a tight shooting schedule. If you plan to start at 8, make sure people are there at 8.
The second one is especially important on an indieshoot. You need actors and crew who are prepared to do what they're supposed to do. There's little time for questions and answers on a shoot mostly and if everyone knows what they're up to, both the work and the mood will improve.
And I know from experience how annoying it can be if you have to look for certain people constantly, because they wander off as soon as they have a short break: Pauses are natural, but staying on task is important.

keep your equipment in order

Having to look for certain items during shooting is a killer. So think if somekind of order / system within your equipment. Use the green bag for the camera stuff, use the red bag for the lighting, the blue for the costumes - whatever. Just make sure your gear can be quickly grabbed and is easily recognizeable by anyone who looks for something.

ALWAYS have food and water on set

Yes, this one is a lifesaver. Don't save your production money on catering. People need food and drinks, often. A well fed cast and crew is a happy cast and crew and I can assure you, having enough catering on set is going to be worth every single penny you invest.
Even if it's just small things like bread, meat and cheese with some coffee and juice or whatever.
Posted: Fri, 5th Jan 2007, 1:36pm

Post 12 of 93


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Rating: +6

The images of your film are the most important technical aspect of production. The camera are the eyes of your audience. And you control them. You decide what your audience is supposed to see and what they're not supposed to see.

The first thing to do is familiarize oneself with certain rules and techniques of camerawork. While there's always a high matter if taste involved in what sort of image people like or dislike - technically spoken, there's quite a range of points where you can divide good and bad camerawork. GOOD camerawork always has a connection to what your current emotional state is. You need to be well aware of what exactly you want to communicate with your shot, then chose what that shoot is supposed to look like.

First, there are obviously different sorts of shots:


A wide shot that shows a very wide angle, where actors are usually small dots. These shots are commonly used to introduce a location. The viewer is able to get an overview of where he is, what is where. Emotionally, the viewer is distant. He's a spectator. Just watching what happens.


The angle is wide, your actor is full in frame, from his feet to his head. And there's a great deal of background visible, but not as much. These shots are commonly used to introduce an actor/object, but still leave details aside. The viewer sees more of the actors/objects and has an overview of them. The location becomes less important, the actor becomes more important. Emotionally, this is a bit closer, but the viewer is still a spectator that gets an overview.


This closer shot shows your actors from waist or chest upwards. This is commonly used for all kind of character situations. It's the most used type of shot. You get closer to the actor/object, and the viewer gets more and more drawn into the action/emotion of what's happening. Emotionally, you get more attached.


This focuses on a detail, a face, an object. This is commonly used to draw the attention to something very important. The one ring, the fist of the angry boy, the eyes of the loving woman, the wound of the hurt soldier etc. Emotionally, this is very close. This can be both pleasant or unpleasant, but as a viewer, you're forced to watch a specific detail.


This is the closest you can get. Focus on an eye, a mouth, whatever. This is so close, it's very uncommon for the human eye and therefore should be used only in a short sequence where a detail is either very small or you want to attach your audience very close to a character or emotional reaction.

Then we have different types of motion of the camera itself. Theoretically, there's only 3 different sorts of motion you can achieve with your camera:


Obviously, you pan from A to B in one shot. Which is your basic tool to show your viewer something, then give him another information later on, by panning to something else/additional. This is different to having both A and B be visible from the beginning. It's a more dosed information control. Control your viewer!

In the example shot, the camera follows the running actor, revealing the mercenaries firing on him in the very last second. This way, the feeling of "running into a trap" has been enforced by the camerawork.


If you change your zoom throughout a shot, you want your viewer to change his focus. For example, you start in a SUPERCLOSE of an eye, then zoom back up to a CLOSE. You want to start with full emotion, then giving a bit of distance to see what's happening (Could be a shock effect, or whatever). Or the other way round, you start in a TOTAL, then zoom into a CLOSE or even a SUPERCLOSE, you want your viewer to get an overview, then suddenly focus on the eye.

The example video is a scene, where a very slight zoom has been used to draw the viewer closer to the bad guy talking about revenge - this way, we want to make the viewer feel unpleasant by bringing the mencae "closer" to him.


If you move your camera while filming. This gives a different result to just pan or zoom to something else. You force your viewer to change his position. For example in a horror movie, if you move your cam slowly towards the evil creature, you communicate to your viewer, then he can't escape, he's in fact coming closer! Always good in actionsequences too, as it enhances the feeling of "energy".

In the example video, the rolling shot was used to force upon the feeling of threat - as well as enhance the motion of the earlier shot, where the two protagonists are running towards the camera.

The rule of thirds

There's a number of different sets of rules on how to frame a shot. The most commonly referred to is the so called "rule of thirds".
Why exactly the human brain seems to divide images into thirds isn't yet fully clear, but it has been scientifically proven that images that follow those rules are generelly much more pleasantly received.

What you basically do, is divide your shot - no matter what format - into a grid of thirds, like this:

Now you use that grid to place all your objects. The example shot is a close up of police chief willem, looking like this:

And now with the grid of thirds applied:

Now I'll explain why this is - according to the rule of thirds - a pretty much perfectly framed shot:

The matter of attention is the chiefs face. Points of interest in a face are eyes and mouth. As you can see indicated by the yellowish grids, the important part of the frame lies EXACTLY within those two squares. (An other option would be, to have the eyes EXACTLY on the upper horizontal line and the mouth EXACTLY on the lower horizontal line, resulting in a bit closer framed shot).
The middle of the face runs exactly through the first vertical line, again immedieately drawing intereset to it and therefore placing the object "policechief" exactly on that first thirds line.

The blueish grids are left empty (again: 1/3rd of the whole image is left empty for the background. Notice the thirds pattern?). The fact they're on the right side enforces the line of sight of the chief - he's looking to the right of the screen.

Knowing where your actors look is absolutely vital when it comes to the next rule that is often violated in amateur movies:

The "Crossing the Line" rule

This rule is technically very easy, but it's the one that can cause the most headaches. Simply put, the rule goes like this:

In each scene, you have to establish a line of sight for each character (or sometimes even motion of objects) that is NOT ALLOWED TO CHANGE during the scene.

Let's start with the easiest situation: Two people talking to each other:

In the example, you have my character JACK talking to his father, the CRIMELORD. It's the simplest setup. As you can see from the video and the screenshot below, JACK and the CRIMELORD are talking to each other. The line of sight has been established in the first shot: My character Jack is looking to the RIGHT, the crimelord is looking to the left.

So when you combine two shots into one, you see - indicated by the arrows, that these characters are looking at each other. In ALL shots where JACK is visible, he MUST be facing in the same direction whenever he talks to the crimelord. He always has to be facing right and the crimelord always has to be facing left - IF they are supposed to be looking at each other.

This version has the characters NOT looking at each other. Jack is looking at the crimelords back and the crimelord is looking away from his son.

The rules is then broken, when those imaginative arrows don't match to what is supposed to be happening in the scene.

Clever as you are though, you noticed that the line of sight changes in the video above. You can always change the "line", but you need to do it visually. In one shot, my character gets up and walks a few step. In that process, he visibly CROSSES the crimelord and goes to the other side of the image. Now, those eylines are reversed, but must again remain the same in all following shots - until the scene is over or someone crosses someone else.

The rule gets increasingly more difficult with the number of eyelines you have. In the above shot, we have 3 people talking to each other. This shot has the eyelines set to this:

NightCast is looking to the right, whoever he's talking to.

Lynn is looking to the left when talking to NightCast, but to the right when talking to Jerry.

Jerry is looking to the left, whoever he's talking to.

Now, wherever you set up the camera for other shots of the conversation, those line of sights must remain exacty that. So you can't set up any closeup where NightCast would look to the left, or Lynn would be looking to the right talking to him.

As a guide, when setting up shots, you can use this basic idea:

Imagine your actors from the top and draw lines right through them. The camera then can only stay on ONE side of this line. Indicated withe blue area. Both the black camera shots would be valid and remain with the same line of sight. If the camera was placed anywhere in the yellow area, the line would be crossed and the shot invalid.

With three actors however, the placement of the camera is even forther reduced. Placing the camera anywhere in the yellow area would break the rule (because it would change the line of sight of actor number 2).

Now imagine doing a scene with 10 people sitting on a round table... wink

Another handy piece of advice is is that when you have two characters having a telephone/radio conversation in two different locations and you're cutting between them, it's a good idea to use the same rules as if they were in the same room - this is because it helps the scene flow better, as it establishes the relationship between the two characters.


Shoot lots of material!

The best idea is to divide your scenes into sequences, then shoot each sequence numerous times using different angles and shot layouts.
Shoot a wide shot from two angles, shoot a closeup from 2 or more angles, shoot a medium shot from 2 or more angles - all through. That way, you are free to do whatever you want in the editing room, because shooting a film and editing it go together.

Only shooting those shots you think you might need is a bad idea, because there can be a whole set of reasons why they might end up not working: Continuity errors, one shot is not usable because you crossed the line, you decide later to change the visual mood of your scene etc.

Make your foreground and background seperable!

Film is a 2D media, so you need to make it easy for the viewer to decode a 3D information of it. Make sure your foreground (usually an actor / actress) is easily seperabla from the background. Either use depth of field (foreground in focus, background not) or make sure the background is noticably darker or brighter then the foreground or has a different color.

Shoot the whole Framing Range!

To make your movie interesting visually, make sure your scenes contain different framing sets. Make sure to actually have Wide shots, closeups, medium shots - the more variety, the better!
Posted: Fri, 5th Jan 2007, 3:55pm

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Rating: +6

Light defines the mood of your scene. Use it wisely, then you'll get there with no problems.
There's many different light setups if you work with a lighting-kit, which you SHOULD! Even if it's just a bunch of 10 $ do it yourself spotlights. But even if you have to work with Daylight, use it to your advantage, don't just accept it...

Generally, it's light and shadows that make your images interesting. Have you ever noticed how certain objects just look a lot more 3D when the shadows are all over them? Shadows lets us determine the surface / structure of an object. Suddenly, an uninteresting looking object can look fantastic, just because you can make out structure. The whole image will suddenly look much more "real" and "3D".

A very good example is the NightCast suit in the movie:

The left picture is the suit from an on set picture taken with a stills camera with flashlight. The light is coming from the exact point where the camera is, resulting in almost no visible shadows. While the structure of the suit is still visible, it looks flat, washed out and quite frankly, very uninteresting.

The picture to the right is the same suit from a movie still with a 2 point lighting setup. As you can easily see, the surfice looks very 3 dimensional, features loads of structure and is just generally a heck of a lot more interesting to look at.

That basic principle works the same way with pretty much everything. Your aim when lighting a scene is to have a good mix of light and shadow to give depth to your images. The most commonly used lighting setup is the 3-point light here:

A lighting setup can be everything from 1 to 100 lights. This is the basic setup to light an actor or object: The 3-Point Lighting setup.

The 3 lights are setup relative to actor and cameraposition as indicated with the lightblue lines and angles. Keylight and floodlight come from the same side as the camera, but stand in 45 degree angle relative to it. The outline light is placed on the line from keylight through actor. Keylight and Outline should always point at each other.

Now lets have a look at what these lights actually do and what they're here for:

Number 1 - flatlight

A flatlight is the light that cames from the exact same direction as the camera, which is what you normally get when you take pictures with a flashlight. The fact it's coming from the same point the camera does makes shadows impossible and the whole object is evenly lit.

Number 2 - keylight

The Keylight is there to make the object appear more 3D. Since it's coming from the 45 degree angle from the camera, it still lights most of the object but also casts shadows - already resulting in a more vivid representation of your object. However, there's certain problems when only using a keylight:
For once, the shadows are really dark and harsh. This can be a desired effect, but in most cases, this is really unwanted and unnatural.
The second problem is the fact, there's whole parts that have no light on them. In our case even worse, since the background is black. So the left side of the actor disappears into the background.

Number 3 - Outline

This is what the outline is for, it's the strongest of all the three lights. Coming from behind the actor from the opposite direction, the actor now has an "outline", a brighter line defining his silhouette. This is especially recommended whenever the background is darker then the foreground to make them easily seperable.
The Problem with the harsh shadows is still not solved yet though:

Number 4 - Floodlight

The Floodlight is the weakest of the three lights. Coming from the front again, but from the other side then the keylight, it's job is to get rid of nasty shadowing by "flooding" the object with light.

Additional lights would then come in to light the background in an interesting way. In reality, all this can come together to look like that:

What's always a brilliant addition to any light setup is to use colored lights (Or simply buy colored film to put over the spotlights, like we did). With using different colors for different lights, you can make an image even more interesting and make foreground and background even more seperatable.

In the case above, the background was light with 2 lights with blue film on them, while the foreground is a classic 3 point light setup with a warmer, slightly orange film. Foreground and background are easily seperatable.

When working with daylight, you don't have the ability to move around the sun. That doesn't mean you have to take everything as it comes - because there's still several things you can do:

Move around camera and actors

You can always change the angle of a shot so that the sun acts as the KEYLIGHT or the OUTLINE. Floodlight you'll have automatically since each ground reflects light. So look through the camera and test out different positions for the optimal lighting condition.

Reflect sunlight using a reflector

You have the strongest stronglight of the world for free. You can use it to reflect it's light from any other place. Any large white objects can be used as reflector. Simply catch the sunlight and reflect it back to your actors from any point - So you have Keylight and floodlight as you want.
Reflectors are cheap to make with a bit of imagination, which I assume you have. smile


The sun moves. During the course of a day, the sun will change it's position dramatically. Positions that are perfectly light at 9 AM can look dire at 4 pm because the sun's position has changed dramatically.
Use that to your advantage, not to your disadvantage. When shooting an outside scene with daylight, you'll have to go to the location and take notes of how the sun moves. Then decide what shots to shoot at what time.
Sounds tedious? Yeah, but that's proper filmmaking for you. wink

We had a scene where we actually could only shoot one direction in the morning and had to come back to the location in the afternoon to shoot the shots in the other direction - simply because the sun made it impossible to do otherwise.
Posted: Fri, 5th Jan 2007, 4:23pm

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Rating: +6

The acting is the part that makes your characters believable. It is often the case, that indiefilms can't afford casting professional actors to do all the roles in the movie and often have to refer to family and friends to play certain parts - it was no different in NightCast.

However, good direction on set can still improve on the acting a lot and take a performance to a next level. When it comes down to acting, there's certain things that can help you - both as an actor and a director:


The first thing you do on a shoot with your actors is "blocking". Basically, you define who is going to stand where during the scene. Make sure to incorporate actual motion in your scene as often as possible. While it's obviously way easiert to shoot if you have a dialogue sequence and neither of your actors is moving too much, it is actually far more interesting if you have your actors move.

Not move constantly of course, but you can always have them say a couple of lines in position 1, then move to position 2, then have just one actor move to position 3, then the other to position 4 etc etc.


Every dialogue has a two layers. The text and the subtext. As an actor, you usually have to focus on the subtext. You can say every single line in 1000 different ways, but the subtext is what defines how you have to say it. For example: Your text is "Hello, I'm John.". Be aware of what the subtext ist. Is it "Damn, I don't wanna see you here", or "I'm so friggin tired" or "why do I have to introduce myself now?" your intonation will change completely. A good trick is, to act out your subtext, then take that intonation, and now apply it to your actual text.

Body language

Same as unexperienced filmmakers, unexperienced actors fully rely on dialogue. They say their lines and thats it. Unfortunately, you still have a body. And when that one's in shot, it'll keep talking and talking, if you want it or not. So always make sure you're aware of your body language. If you stand up all tall, no one will believe your "I feel intimidated" line, no matter how well you say your subtext. If you're the strongest fighter ever, move like one. Always!

Give an actor something to work with!

The worst you can have an actor do is being in the scene, but not having anything to do. Always make sure, you're busy with something. Don't expose yourself to the "Damn, what should I do moment", keep yourself busy. For example, change your position, scratch yourself, play around with that jacket of yours, try finding that little piece of breakfast that's been sitting between your teeth since this morning, have a look at that beautiful bird that's sitting on that tree. Basically: Always busy yourself with something, you'll have it much easier. As a director: Always see that your actors have something to do. Fill the scene with details!
Of course, you can also have the occasional just stand there and do nothing moment, if the situation calls for it.

But the situation needs to call for it!
Posted: Fri, 5th Jan 2007, 4:37pm

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Urm yeah... As soon as I can think of something to put here... I will. smile
Posted: Fri, 5th Jan 2007, 4:45pm

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Rating: +7

You've survived both preproduction and production when you've made it to this step. I salute you! smile

The Postproduction is the part of production where your film actually comes together. Arguably, it's the "part where you now MAKE your film" from everything you've planned and executed to work with.

Depending the style and genre of your movie, the postproduction can be so or so long, but commonly it's about the same length as the preproduction or even longer, when done right. A proper postproduction consists of much more then just "edit the movie", this is the part where a lot of the actual storytelling happens and where a lot of quality can still be lost or added to your movie - so don't take it on the light shoulder.

Similar to preproduction, the postproduction sums up a lot of different aspects that can hardly be put into a chronological order. Most of these parts depend on each other and go hand in hand. Still I have tried to bring them in an order that makes more or less sense in the following posts, explaining different aspects of each and again - filling you up with tricks, tips, theory and rules.
Posted: Fri, 5th Jan 2007, 5:56pm

Post 17 of 93


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Rating: +5

The process of editing is similar to the process of writing. Every cut is a full stop, and each shot you chose to edit in your movie must have a reason to be there and add a new information.

In todays popculture, editing has become a bit of a life of it's own with random cuts everywhere - upsetting a lot of more classic editors. While this can be achieved for stylish reasons, narrative editing serves a clear purpuse.

Let's first have a lot at the actual cut's you have at your disposal:

Straight cut

The most common one. You just cut from one shot to another. Try to cut to completely different shots when editing. For example from a Close-Up to a Medium Shot. Or in a 2 person dialoge from one person to the other. Ideally, your camera is standing somewhere different then before.

In the example, you see a long shot cutting to a closeup, then cutting to something in between. All cuts are straigt cuts and the angles are entirely different on all of them.


Cut to the same or a similar angle with just some slight differences is called a jumpcut. For example, a shot where the camera was at the exact same point, just the zoom was slightly higher. Or where the camera just moved a slight bit to the left. This cut feels awkward and you should use it rarely and wisely. You CAN do jumpcuts if you want to, but be aware of the slightly weird effect they have, because of the unnatural nature of cuts.

In the example, you see a jumpcut because the angle is virtually the same, just cutting slightly closer.


An interesting blend of two shots. Some elements of shot A and B match. For example, you have your living room in daylight, then cut the the exact same shot at night. Or you pan to a mountain, then cut to someones curtain that has the same silhoutte. Or look at the War of the Worlds trailer, the traffic light and the sun. This connects scenes in a conscious and special way. Matchcuts are always cool.

Heh, unfortunately we don't have any matchcuts. But I'm sure you see the point. smile


A common transition. (the only transition really, try not to use iMovie wipes or funny A jumps on B's head stuff). It takes some time, which means you want to lead the audience to another place, calmly. Usually this is used at the end of a scene to cut to a new scene. Because this takes some time, you'll most likely communicate that these scenes are not happening at the same time, but have some space between them. Or simply that a long time has passed.


As already said, every cut happens for a reason. There can't be any other way this cut could be, it's there because it needs to be there, at that very frame. Simply put: You cut to another shot when this shot contains a NEW information/moment, the other shot can't deliver as well. That's the only reason to cut to another shot.

in reality, some shots might just stop being usable after a few seconds for whatever reason, that's a good reason too.
But you need to get a new information after every cut as a viewer, even if it just changes the framing, because the film wants me to feel different about the same thing (cutting from a TOTAL to a SUPERCLOSE for example).

Let's have a look at the following sequence:

The first shot is a long shot revealing the car that arrives.

- The first cut at 0:03 moves the sequence to a closeup of the weel when the car stops. This was used because we wanted the audience to "feel threatened" by the arrival of those troops. That intent was supported by cuttung to a closeup instead of just having the car stop on the long shot (remeber, the emotional distance with the shots)

- The next cut already at 0:04 happens so soon because we intended to put the stress on the "speed" they operate. This shot is also interesting because - as you can see on the number plate - it has been mirrored. Why? You guessed it, the shot violated the "crossing the line" rule because the soldiers ran away to the right - but in all following shots the arrive from the right and run to the left. So I had no choice but mirroring one of them. The moment were "Jack" arrives is important, which is why the camera remains on him for a while.

- The cut at 0:13 starts as an extreme long shot, but the soldiers again run towards the camera changing it into a medium shot.

- The next shot at 0:15 shows the soldiers stoping. That's why we did cut to a separate shot.

- The cut to one of the soldiers face at 0:19 was a dramatic decision: We wanted to show that they feel unpleasant with what they see - which is also why the camera does a slightly odd rolling movement in that shot to support the feeling of "loosing ground".

- The shot at 0:21 is a so called POV shot - the audience finally gets to see what the soldiers actually are so worried about.

- And at last at 0:23, another extreme long shot showing Jack's arrival between his soldiers who are still in position. We cut to an extreme long shot because the audience needed to have an overview to who is standing who for what's going to happen next...


Hell for every editor. The shots actually need to have a good flow and need to match. If your actor is walking to a chair, and then suddenly you cut to a shot where he's already sitting, it'll look wrong (except of course, you deliberately want this moment to feel awkward, but this has to be very very thought through). Or if he runs, where is the weight of his legs? Where is the glass on the table? Is it full? Empty? All this needs to be taken into consideration.

A good solution to continuity problems is cutting to a completely different shot. Continuity often forces certain cuts, because the actors moved differently on each take or the sunlight changed color or whatever else. Another reason why it proves invaluable to have shot more takes from more angles then you are planning to use.

The above example was a forced cut. I didn't originally intend to cut to the corpse lying on the ground, but unfortunately I was forced into doing it for continuity reasons:

The actors perfomances were different on those takes. BRIAN turned his head at different moments, so I couldn't cut from shot 1 to shot 3. I had to find something to cut in between where he had time to turn his head and isn't in the shot. Fortunately, I had a shot of the corspe on the ground, so I could cut that in - making the scene work perfectly.
Posted: Fri, 5th Jan 2007, 7:04pm

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"Sound is half of your image" is a common saying amongst soundengineers and sounddesigners. And they're spot on. Proper sounddesign is probably one of the most lacking aspects of amateur filmmaking.
Film is an audio-visual media, in which we combine sound and visuals into a whole. So do everything you can to make your sound GOOD!

A soundset of a movie consists basically of 4 elements:


The dialogue is the most important one. No one wants to see a film where you can't hear a word of what's been said. So the dialogue part of your sound most be crisp and clear (and in terms of volume, is usually the loudest).
Using an EXTERNAL microphone is inevitable to achieve that. Using your camera mike will not give good results. Even a cheap 10 $ mike will do a better job.
Alternatively, you can resort to ADR, which will be covered later...


Another part is your ambient sound. Every location has his own ambience. Be it a city, a park, a living room, a hospital or a park late at night. They all have their ambience - such as these examples:

And the according AMBIENCE SOUNDFILE

And the according AMBIENCE SOUNDFILE

And the according AMBIENCE SOUNDFILE

The ambience is important to sell a location and make it feel right. 99% of all amateurfilms lack that kind of ambient sound and that's one of the things that has a large subconscious impact - something just doesn't feel quite right...


Soundeffects are all the layers of sound that an audience can pick up consciously. Not just explosions, lasers or stuff that isn't there, but also simpler things as: Footsteps, a moving coat, a doorbell, etc etc.
Where the ambience is not really connected to the moving images directly, the soundeffects are. Whatever happens on the screen must have an accompanying sound.


I'll talk about the music in the next topic in a more detailed way...


While it's always cool to download soundeffects off the internet, I have to be the one to break it to you: 99% of those are simply unusable because they're recorded either in Mono or less then 48 KHZ (which is the sample rate most MiniDV camera record their sound in).
I've heard LOADS of movies where soundeffects were used that were 24 Khz or even 11 Khz ones. Not only does that sound terrible, it also makes it painfully obvious that the sound doesn't actually belong to the video, because experienced listeners can easily seperate it from the rest of the sounds, which defies the purpuse of Soundediting.

Check your soundfiles and if they're any lower then 41.000 Khz an MONO, throw them away, they're useless. And NO, converting them to 41 Khz or 48 Khz doesn't make the slightest difference.

Quicktime is a good way of making sure your sound has the right Quality:

Reality is, you'll have to record your own soundeffects or find a highquality source. Recording your own sound effects is the best way, and it's also loads of FUN. A process that is commonly referred to as:


Foley work (named after mister Foley - not Axel) is the process of recreating soundeffects in postproduction, record them and then apply them to your image.
Since you have a camera and a microphone (If you don't, get one... Now!) it's simple to do.

In NightCast, we didn't use one single bit of original audio! Yes, you read right. Every single crack, swoosh, bend, bark and cough you hear during the whole movie has been recorded in a seperate process to ensure the highest possible soundquality:

As you can see, recording each soundeffect seperatly takes time, but it's worth it - simply because you have absolute creative control over all your sound and can edit and downmix them all together easily. If something is too loud or needs to be inforced, you can simply select each sound seperately.


Same as with images, the editing of sound is a process involving several rules and needs to be done precisly in order to work flawlessly for an audience.

What you see above is an example of soundediting of a scene. Your job as a soundeditor is now to blend all those different layers - dialogue, ambience, soundeffects and music and all those tiny snippets of individual soundfiles together into one fluent piece of soundwork accompanying your movie.


Apart from all the technical issues with sound comes the actual Sounddesign. Sounddesign means the process of using sound consciously to add something to your scene or tell something to the audience. Just slapping soundeffects on it doesn't cut it.

Does that punch really sound hard enough? When he opens that door, should it go smoothly or have a slight squeeky sound to it? how does that computer sound when it acknoledges an order, does it sound at all? Should I decrease the volume of the ambience to put the stress on the sad moment - because the cars driving by were cool before, but really distract from this emotional moment now?

Similar to costumes and makeup and the like, you also need proper sounddesign to make a loaction sound believable. Let's take the example from that script outtake:

We used pretty much every sound clichee to make the location work as a hospital: You can hear sirens, an EEG beep , an ambulance driving by and the famous "Dr Taggard, please report to..." over the speakers - all of this had been added in post to help sell the location.

Because there were such few people in there, we tried to still make it sound a tad busy by adding a very faint hint of a chat between a doctor and a patient into the background.

Together with the music and the soundeffects of walking, the computer running, the printer responding, the files she lifts etc. you have a fine blend of an interesting sounddesign.

ADR - Additional Dialogue Recording

ADR is commonly used on big movies. Basically it means this: Actors come back after the shoot and re-record their lines in a clean soundenvironment matching to the visual information. Those files are then added to the movie.

Getting proper sound direct on a shoot can be a pain, especially for small crew independent movies. We tried to do it, but quickly decided to do it all in post, because there was always something destroying a clean sound plate: Wind, Birds, Airplanes, People shouting, The Power generator... you name it, we had it.

Referring to ADR can be a lifesaver when you have bad sound. All the dialogue you hear in NightCast was ADR'ed:

Think about if ADR is an option for you. Because honestly, on a shoestring budget, it might be the only way you can actually get a crisp and clear sound...

Last edited Mon, 8th Jan 2007, 3:10pm; edited 2 times in total.

Posted: Fri, 5th Jan 2007, 9:01pm

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My favorite part of sound, being the big filmmusic geek I am. smile

The basic rule is this: Music is something, everyone can relate to. Consciously AND subconscioulsly. So music can decide if your dramatic climax is really dramatic, or if your horror thriller moment really is thrilling. Don't just settle for your favorite song because you like it. Find the time to look for a music that fits the mood perfectly.


Chose a style that matches your narration / genre. Don't just use hip hop in your love story because you like hip hop, don't just used techno music in your star wars fanfilm because you like it. Think about the feelings you want to get across, then think about what style fits the scene. And as a general rule, try to remain instrumental. If you have a singer singing a text, you'll have the audience be distracted to what he's singing about. And if they do that, which they will, prey the text has something to do with the scene. Especially don't use a singer in dialogue sequences. You don't want to have several people talking at the same time.

As you can hear in the example video, composer Robin Hoffmann and myself decided on an orchestral approach for NightCasts main theme. NightCast is a very powerful and emotional epic kind of film, going for an orchestral score was a simple choice in our case:

But not all the music in the film is orchestral. In one of the dialogue sequences that takes places in a restaurant, we decided there needed to be music as well - but just slight background music. It was provided by a friend of mine who plays the guitar and sings:

Using an entirely different sort of music also helped to divide the "score" and this "background music" because obviously, the 2nd track is part of the ambienec. However, it needed to be chosen carefully not to bother or distract the audience.


Find a piece that fits the mood of your scene. Is it a fast paced action scene? Use music that is fast. Is your hero winning? Then use a music that sounds heroic. Is your action scene absolutely hopeless? Then find a music that sounds hopeless, don't remain at the fast paced technosong. Basic rules are these: Always be aware of what the momentaneos mood of the scene is. And don't forget, moods change! You need to keep your audience interested, so don't settle for a 3 minute all action. Find out moments, where to mood changes.

For example, there's different kind of action: The hero has the upper hand, the bad guy has the upper hand, the climax is near, the fight has just begun, the hero is threatened to die, the evil guy almost loses etc. A GOOD scene switched back and forth between these moods and keeps the audience interested. Make sure your music does the same! At the right time.

Don't have a scene that is "exciting" for 4 minutes, because the excitement won't hold that long. But if you change the mood regularly, your audience has to adapt.
Compare it with a roller coaster, you need to have both up and downs, all the time. If you'd always be going down, it would lose any appeal very quickly and you'd adapt. But if it keeps changing, it'll stay interesting.

Original Music or Not

The question of having an "original soundtrack" or not always comes up in a lowbudget movie... The same rules applies here as with the casting:

There is composeres out there who will love to help you with your movie you just need to find them!

Having said that, how easy it will be to find someone depends on two things:

1. How good your movie looks

Obviously, composers don't want to waste their time and work for days and weeks on something that looks pants. Plus a good film might has some commercial value - even if it isn't sold. But it might lead you to a job that IS.

2. How resourceful you are

Sitting at home looking at the ceiling won't get you any composers. Same as with the actors, you need to go out look for them. Look in forums, search the internet, go to a school for musicians, ask your friends, try it yourself - everything you can think of, try it.

And never forget: Music tells it's own story. Make sure the story your music tells is the same that your visuals tell.
Posted: Fri, 5th Jan 2007, 10:12pm

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Something to make clear from the start: Grading helps a lot, but it doesn't do miracles.

If your original footage isn't worth anything, your best go at grading a shot won't help much. Having said that however, there is a lot you can do with proper grading - but also a lot you can destroy with wrong grading and just randomly fiddle with colors.

You should also try to avoid having an "overly dominant" color - Always see that you have areas in your image that have a different color information and not everything is "green" or "blue" or "red".


Once again, the famous film look. Video isn't film and will never look like film. But there are a few things you can do to it to make it come closer to actual film. I'll explain the steps we did with the following

Yeah, this is the original shot. The white balance is utterly screwed and the shot is typically video: Hardly any contrast and the colors are pretty comicy looking. The first step in making our shoots look better was always the contrast:

Changing the contrast meant in this case that the NightCast suit needed to have more structure. The whole shot is slightly brighter now too.
The next step now is the actual color correction. In this case mainly: To reduce the reds and give the image a natural color back:

Having done that, the next step is adding a slight "glow" to the image. That is being achieved by creating a 2nd layer of the same image / clip. This clip is then turned black and white and reduced in it's brightness (how bright the image is affects how strong the glow will be, in our case, I want the glow to be hardly noticeable). Then the image is blurred a bit:

This "Glow Layer" is then added to the colorcorrected image with the "add" or "screen" key (easily doable in VisionLab or CompositeLab). Which results in this:

The image again wins some important contrast and loses a bit of it's color. Film is slightly less colorheavy then video, so reducing colors will most likely help you to make your video look closer to film.

This last step then adds a bit of artificial depth of field (only really doable in static shots, unless you want to mask out an actor in every shot) and sime detail grading to bring out important elements (such as they eys of both actors and the details on the right shoulder of BRIAN.

Different mood sets

Applying different grading can affect the mood of a scene very heavily. If you use cold colors (cold colors are colors like blue and green) you can make you scene look darker and gritty. Use the grading to support the mood that is currently in your scene. If you're doing a romance, then don't use cold colors. If you're doing something exciting and coldhearted, giving your image a slightly blueish tint will support that.

This is a very distant emotional and pretty dark scene in the movie, so the look had to represent that. The grading therefore needed to reflect that coldness and darkness with the chosen grading:

Grading gone wrong!

Grading is - in most cases - something that should be picked up subconsciously. If you look at an image and immedieately spot it's been tempered with, you've most likely overdone it.

What you need to look out for most is the shadow colors. They should remain BLACK. I've seen images roughly looking like this:

One or more color were all over the place, which is just shouting "I've no idea what I'm doing" out loud.
Grading can be done extremely, of course - and let's face it, the above examples are quite a difference from their original - but you still need to be carefuly not to slap on random colors.

Skin tones are the easiest way to spot bad grading: Ever seen someone with a green face? Or a yellow cheek? A blue ear? Most likely, this is resulting because the grading has been done way too heavily.

Hot Spots

Something to generally avoid, not only in your grading process, but also during shooting, is to have a "hotspot" anywhere but in your outline caused by the outline light.

A hotspot is a part of the image that has lost all it's detailes due to being overexposed to light.

This ungraded image already has a big mistake: It contains hot area that are far too bright and have lost it's color and structure information. Look at my forehead - it's way too brightly lit:

Having a closer look at the area you can see that there are pixels that are entirely white - eg have no more color information. There's nothing you can do to fix this. Grading will just result in this pixel having another color information then white, but it'll still just remain an area lacking the information needed to be properly graded.

Hot spots are a common problem with videocamera. If you look through the fxhome cinema, you'll find them everywhere. This is because most amateur filmmakers don't look out for those (even if you do, it'll still be tough to avoid them)

The one trick is to use the manual shutter speed, or manual lens setting on your camera (most cameras have an option to do that) and match it to the lighting conditions. Always make sure to avoid WHITE in any image you shoot. Shoot your original images a bit darker then you want them if necessary, but avoid hotspots whenever possible.
Posted: Fri, 5th Jan 2007, 11:31pm

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Rating: +5

Visual Effects are a big aspect of filmmaking, on a site called "fxhome", I don't need to tell you that. However, there is certain things to say about the use of vfx in general.

Most people think of the wrong things when they hear "visual effects". To them, a visual effect is something WOWing like a starship, a T Rex, a CG character or something else that is wicked and can only be achieved by a VFX wizard. However, a visual effect can also be something small that most people probably don't even see.

Using VFX to add objects to your story

Visual effects come in where practical effects on set fail. There is something you want to do in your film you can't afford to do for real or that is simply impossible.

For example, we could not afford a real military truck. So we ended up shooting a plate like this:

Since the empty plate was filmed in a random garage and was a handheld shot, the shot had first to be motiontracked. Motiontracking means extracting 3D information from that shot to import in any 3D application, so your composited objects follow the motion of the camera.

The objects were then modelled and textured and placed into the shot. The truck that is coming down, a jeep on the left and a poster on the right to make the garage look more "military". The most difficult part is to match the lighting of the original plate.

The finally rendered shot looks like this. When compositing 3D into a lifeaction shot, what you need to be careful of is to match light and shadows. Match the contrast of the shot - first examine your shot and look for the DARKEST spot of a material that has roughly the same color as the material you're rendering. Your render mustn't be darker nor brighter then that in order not to look out of place.

As you can see, the GRADING part of the shot is the last step you do - as well as some final touches (lost the pedestrian sign). Never grade your shots before you've done visual effects work on them. Grading happens LAST. Because otherwise you'll have a terrible time to do proper compositing. Plus the right grading can help you sell a compositing a lot better.

Using VFX to add locations to your story

Apart from adding objects like the truck above to your movie, visual effects can also be a solution when you're missing a location or not to enhance one you have. This is where bluescreen / greenscreen comes in.

Since we needed an operationroom for about 4 shots in the movie and couldn't find one, we decided to go with the VFX approach and do it greenscreen.

When you do a greenscreen shot, there's a few things you need to look out for: First of all, try to have your screen as evenly lit as possible. With the power of Visionlab, a simple green piece of cloth will do (The scene is shot in the garage). Make sure your actors are fully covered by the greenscreen and don't overlap - In our case there was a bit of a problem zone on the arm of the older surgeon, which could have been fixed using masks easily. In our case though, that wasn't necessary because that area was going to be obscured.

Now the background plate, which was again modelled in Cinema4D - As you can see, quite quickly with some simple shade and textures stitched together in Photoshop for some structure.

This element was an additional lighting element added to support the bright spotlight in an operation room. Having slight beams of light can do incredible things, try it on your shots. And it's quite quick to do as well: You can draw some white lines in Photoshop and then blur them: Viola.

The final composite looked like this, with having two additional greenscreen elements added and blurred to give the shot a feeling of depth and hide even more of the background and the problem zones in the shot. Finding creative ways of hiding problemativ areas can save your shots.

And the grading to give it that cold OP look we wanted.


Every VFX artists best friend is stock footage of effects. Because they save you a lot of time.
Stock footage are basically pre-recorded elements of various things... dust, smoke, fire, explosions, blood, sparks, debris, muzzle flashes or whatever else you can think of.

Numerous FX shots in NightCast were only possible because of the large amount of Stock Footage we have shot for it. Especially elements like smoke and dust can help sell shots immensly. But also different fire elements need to enhance or in one point fix certain shot's that were never intended to be an FX shot.

This sequence for example need to be enhanced with sparks and smoke to look as menacing and exciting as we imagined it:

So called "light based" effects are easily compositable. Smoke, blood, sparks, fire recorded against black result in something you can pretty quickly add to your footage using the "add" or "screen" key, which can be done even in EffectsLab.
So a vivid selection of different sparkey and smokey footage plus a little play with the lights of the scene and the added grading made it look like this:

In another example, a visual effect was needed to hide something of the original footage.
When you look at this picture, you can see the rebel in the background holding up his arm. I just couldn't stand the way he fell, it looked absolutely ridicolous.

So the explosion, which was a practical effect done on set, need to be digitally enhanced to obscure his weird wheel move in the background. Another change of stock footage to prove to be an invaluable asset to have. I could simply take a standalone recorded large flame and add it to the real explosions. The two together combine to a large mix in which the mistake could be corrected.

There's a lot of different visual effect techniques and while I'd love to explain all of them - at least the ones I know - I hope the above examples can help you to a certain extent.

That's it. Sollthar's filmmaking guide 2 ends right here for the moment... Now go out and shoot a proper film! wink
Posted: Sat, 6th Jan 2007, 12:00am

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And the new Filmmaking Guide is officially online! DONE! cool
Posted: Sat, 6th Jan 2007, 12:23am

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Fantastic Sollthar!! Well Done, and Thanks for Sharing!
Posted: Sat, 6th Jan 2007, 12:13pm

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You're welcome! Hopefully it is helpful to the one or the other here.
Posted: Sat, 6th Jan 2007, 12:29pm

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Awesome stuff! *downloads all the clips biggrin
Posted: Sat, 6th Jan 2007, 1:24pm

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Very great post... A pdf version with all the clip in a zip file could be wonderfull.

Posted: Sat, 6th Jan 2007, 3:54pm

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Posted: Sat, 6th Jan 2007, 5:56pm

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SOLLTHAR, WE LOVE YOU. This is the best Filmmaking FAQ I've ever seen. It also makes me want Nightcast. Now.

This image induced nervous laughter.
Posted: Sat, 6th Jan 2007, 6:31pm

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Heh, looking at that FCP sound design screenshot, it makes me think my 99 audio track FCE won't cut it if I ever go feature-length...
Posted: Sat, 6th Jan 2007, 10:21pm

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wahwahweewah. it nice... very nice jagsemash
Posted: Sun, 7th Jan 2007, 1:30am

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Sollthar, you've done it again.
Posted: Sun, 7th Jan 2007, 11:33am

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Mind-blowing mate! eek

Great work!
Posted: Sun, 7th Jan 2007, 8:09pm

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Thanks guys!
Posted: Mon, 8th Jan 2007, 4:40am

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I love it. My only gripe is that, and perhaps its my end, all the audio for all the clips lags a .002 second, which is a little tricky when watching foley composition and such. Meh, maybe it's just my connection.

A great, nay, the greatest Filmmaking guide ever, and with awesome NightCast examples at every corner. +10
Posted: Mon, 8th Jan 2007, 11:08am

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Thanks atom!

all the audio for all the clips lags a .002 second, which is a little tricky when watching foley composition and such.
That's weird.... Works fine for me. Does anyone else have this problem? crazy
Posted: Mon, 8th Jan 2007, 11:24am

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Amazing stuff Sollthar, I'm sure everyone here really appreciates the amount of time and effort you put into helping the community - I know all of us on the team certainly do.
Posted: Mon, 8th Jan 2007, 2:56pm

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This is awesome! I looked through some soundfiles on my HDD, and they were Mono. So thanks for the tip! I will use this guide whenever I make a movie, from now on.

+a billion.
Posted: Mon, 8th Jan 2007, 3:04pm

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I looked through some soundfiles on my HDD, and they were Mono
Mono Sound isn't half as bad as when the soundquality is lower then 16 bit or lower then 41 KHZ.

If you have a 16 bit mono 48 KHZ sample you can mix it into a stereo audie no problem.
Posted: Mon, 8th Jan 2007, 7:26pm

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vilhelm nielsen

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Unfortunatly, They were under 48 KHZ. I actually had some 22 KHZ. Any good advice of getting good sound effects for Guns or anything other? I would record them myself but I have no idea how to record gunshots.
Posted: Mon, 8th Jan 2007, 7:29pm

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You could try buying some crackers and record that, then put some postfilter on it all to enhance the lower frequencies etc. That also works for explosions etc.
Or maybe there's a shooting range near you? let's you adjust the settings of the soundeffects you look for. Even though your results will be extensively shorter, you can still find some usable samples there.
Posted: Mon, 8th Jan 2007, 8:55pm

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vilhelm nielsen

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Thank you so much for the help. I'll look into recording sound effects myself.
Posted: Tue, 9th Jan 2007, 2:54pm

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This was a great read man. I'll be using this very soon...
Posted: Tue, 9th Jan 2007, 3:20pm

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eek Awesome!!! I'm already taking notes for my next project.

Fantastic stuff.
Posted: Tue, 9th Jan 2007, 5:46pm

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Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. I cannot stress enough how much this will help me and everyone else here. Thank you so much, and good luck on NightCast!
Posted: Tue, 9th Jan 2007, 6:12pm

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Just finish it... Very good.

A chapter/part about file format and so can be of some help.

Posted: Tue, 9th Jan 2007, 7:05pm

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Man what a fantastic well write guide to film making. Thanks for sharing Sollthar!! biggrin

Regards, JT9
Posted: Tue, 9th Jan 2007, 7:12pm

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Brilliant, better than the first, easier to read as more pictures in it. Good job, it has helped me a lot wink

Posted: Tue, 9th Jan 2007, 7:41pm

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Very good, nice to see you making an effort to help others learn from their experiences. As I'm just finishing up a long project of my own (not action, so I can't submit anything here, but still quite a bit of vfx and grading), it's nice to see agreement in what I've been doing.
A few notes:
-In 3-point lighting, the lights may also be called Key, Fill, and Back (rather than keylight, floodlight, and outline)
-In still photography the light is a "flash", not a "flashlight" smile
-Always record 60 seconds of ambient/room tone on location, even if you plan to do ADR (you never know what might come in handy)
-Shotgun mics are the best for recording dialogue, and you'd be surprised how close you have to hold them to your actors; a few feet away at most!
-When grading, do what you think looks good, then tone it down a bit. Then tone it down again. There you go smile

Sollthar–what software did you use for 3D tracking? I use AE all the time and use its 2D tracking in almost everything I do, but have yet to find a good/cheap 3D tracker.

Also, do you use soundtrack pro for your sound design, or just stick with FCP for mixing/noise reduction/etc?

Posted: Wed, 10th Jan 2007, 2:28am

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Captain Amazingly Incredible

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I am soooo glad you mentioned that sound is equally as important as vision. As a professional soundie, it really pisses me off when a movie has terrible sound. Ruins the entire experience. It is one of the most important aspects!

Cheers smile
Posted: Wed, 10th Jan 2007, 8:54pm

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Remco Gerritsen

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Sollthar.. You know I love you, right ? smile
Posted: Wed, 10th Jan 2007, 8:56pm

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Posted: Wed, 10th Jan 2007, 10:27pm

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I've read several filmmaking guides and never really understood what a jump cut was exactly. Thanks for clearing that up, and for the rest of the helpful information. The fxhome community is really lucky to have someone willing to dedicate their free time to help others improve themselves.

Thanks again.
Posted: Thu, 11th Jan 2007, 7:33am

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Thank you so much Sollthar, you could be really big some day, I thiught I just have to make lame home movies but with you i am now on my way to making a film for a contest with your advice.
Posted: Thu, 11th Jan 2007, 6:00pm

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Nice tut. Sollthar ...

and its also an excellent marketing strategy...incase you were also meaning to promote "nightcast" ^^, but I suppose...nice clips too...

good work...cant wait to see it !!!

How much will the DVD approx. cost ? I suppose you are only going to showcase it to the public, by selling the product or?

Posted: Thu, 11th Jan 2007, 7:45pm

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We can't say yet how much the DVD will cost. We're not deciding the price, the distributors will.

But I assume that there will be a limited special premiere edition with the full two disc set in march sold from our page made by ourselves - which will most likely be around 25 / 30 $ with worldwide shipping.
Posted: Thu, 11th Jan 2007, 7:47pm

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Master Sollthar, would you be so kind as to answer these questions?

What software did you use for 3D tracking? I use AE all the time and use its 2D tracking in almost everything I do, but have yet to find a good/cheap 3D tracker.

Also, do you use soundtrack pro for your sound design, or just stick with FCP for mixing/noise reduction/etc?

Posted: Thu, 11th Jan 2007, 8:09pm

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Most 3D shots I tracked by hand directly in Cinema4D. The few I didn't track manually I used Icarus. (there was a free version around a couple of years ago and I still got that - not sure it's still available)

And all the Sounddesign was done directly using Final Cut and Audacity for some of the "cleaning up" where necessary. All other filters were directly applied in the editing app in a second project. The Audiofilters of FCE are pretty cool already and so far I've not yet come across something I couldn't do. However, I do plan on investing in a proper Sounddesign tool. smile
Posted: Fri, 12th Jan 2007, 8:29pm

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This is the BEST Filmmaking Guide I've ever seen!biggrin

Thanks Sollthar for an absolutely fantastic guide for beginners and more advanced filmmakers too! Really superb work! wink

Thanks a million for this guide, it is really nice that you care to give your knowlegde and information to us younger filmmakers! biggrin

Brilliant! biggrin
Posted: Mon, 22nd Jan 2007, 11:08pm

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This is wonderful. Thank you sooo much Sollthar. This has answered many questions for me. Now i can't wait to start working on my movies. Once again, thank you. smile .
Posted: Mon, 22nd Jan 2007, 11:36pm

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You're most welcome!

Good to hear it's helpful to people. Then it was all worth it. smile
Posted: Tue, 23rd Jan 2007, 6:39am

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Looks great.

Could you put it in Adobe or a Word doc?

Obviously you would lose the clips, but then we'd be able to print it.
Posted: Mon, 29th Jan 2007, 12:30pm

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Hi. Long time since I posted here. I found this guide, and my NEED to create movies, which I had suppressed due to lack of camera and good editing software, BURST FORTH.

A good suggestion to you, Sollthar, would be a PDF. Adobe Reader is free, and PDFs are simple to make. Google a free PDF creator, and do make up one for us.

Enjoy! And if you do, I'll certainly enjoy toting a copy of this fabulous guide about in front of all my friends.
Posted: Tue, 30th Jan 2007, 6:40pm

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what software can produce Visual effects !!!!
Posted: Tue, 30th Jan 2007, 11:07pm

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Don't you mean to have question marks!!!

But check out the Ultimate Filmmaker's FAQ for some links.
And, obviously, fxhome's software is really nice stuff for visual effects.
Posted: Mon, 19th Mar 2007, 4:19am

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Publish a booklet dude this is some excellent stuff!
Posted: Wed, 2nd May 2007, 8:45pm

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Wow!!!! On a scale of one to ten this is definately a 19! I pity those filmmakers who invest their time and energy into a film without reading this. I'm going to be linking to it on my site.
Posted: Wed, 9th May 2007, 8:24pm

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I can't believe I've been on this site for almost a year and never read this.

Wow. biggrin
Posted: Wed, 9th May 2007, 8:30pm

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tiz a good read...

+ about 107 in ratings to sollthar over the posts.... lol damn....! good stuff!

Posted: Wed, 13th Jun 2007, 8:58pm

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Publish a booklet dude this is some excellent stuff!
Just abooklet, Why not a whole book? Really, you can make a lot of money off a book like this! smile
Posted: Tue, 18th Sep 2007, 9:03pm

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Can we get both film guides as PDF files for us to download off your site Sollthar?

Posted: Tue, 18th Sep 2007, 11:07pm

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Having had my tutorials copied numerous times and sold as someone elses, I'd rather keep track of this guide and have it remain bound to the forum. So I would rather not have a PDF of it floating about if possible.

But it'll stay here of course for everyone to look at. And you can easily print it off the forums too if you need it "on set" or something.
Posted: Wed, 26th Sep 2007, 4:42pm

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I've said it before. You really should put this in eBook format Marco and make a little money off of the wealth of knowledge you continually share with the community.

Posted: Fri, 19th Oct 2007, 1:08am

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Heh, I began reading this from the beginning and I was up until about 3:30 AM. Really nice work. Though the first film I'm intending to work on wont need to be this uber organised, this has really helped me. Im gonna refer it to a friend of mine who is also really into filmaking.
Posted: Fri, 22nd Feb 2008, 8:11pm

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Dude. Nothing short than amazing.

You summed up a whole film school in a few pages. smile

Posted: Tue, 4th Mar 2008, 8:47pm

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You're topic is very helpful, but i would suggest putting in a part about credits. Who to credit, formating, ect.
Posted: Wed, 30th Apr 2008, 9:12pm

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Wow. That was amazing. Great post. Very helpful. As others have said, you should defintely sell it. You could make a lot of money off of it. I won't speak for everyone else, but I would definately buy it.

Keep up the great work!! cool
Posted: Tue, 23rd Sep 2008, 1:02am

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Great, but can you give a little more detailed description on how to make and add Visual effects?
Posted: Wed, 24th Sep 2008, 12:13am

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Check the tutorials on this site. Everything you need to know will be there!
Posted: Wed, 24th Sep 2008, 11:15pm

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Yeah i know i have effectslab pro. Im just wondering about how to do the animation that he descibes. If you look at the visual effects section, he says that animating is easy, but i do not know where to buy the software to animate. PLEASE reply.
Posted: Thu, 25th Sep 2008, 10:24pm

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can you give a little more detailed description on how to make and add Visual effects?
The very question suggests a lack of understanding what visual effects are really. The field of visual effects is utterly complex, has 100 different techniques, cathegories, ways of achieving, tricks and methods that it absolutely can't be explained in detail.
A SPECIFIC visual effect might be explained in detail, but "visual effects" in general... That's like if someone says "please explain the world to me".

And I never said animating is "easy", because it surely isn't. When it comes to visual effects, the word "easy" will most likely apply almost nowhere. smile
Posted: Thu, 2nd Oct 2008, 4:58am

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Im sorry. I guess my question has less to do with "VFX", and more to do with animation. I'm just wondering how one creates 3D animation that can then be used in a film. Would you know of some kind of standard animation program that I could use to create a 3D image? I'm an 11yr old film-maker...just trying to learn how to create VFX for my films. Thank you for your advice.
Posted: Thu, 2nd Oct 2008, 5:14am

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I'd suggest starting out with anim8or, which is available free at and is a relatively easy introduction to the basic principles of animation. There are a bunch of tutorials available on their site as well, to help you learn how to use the software. Once you get familiar with the fundamentals of modeling, rigging, and animating, you might want to look into some other, more powerful (and more expensive) software.
Posted: Thu, 2nd Oct 2008, 11:23pm

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Thank you very much. I will try it, but if it doesn't work on a mac, would you mind giving me another adress?
Posted: Thu, 2nd Oct 2008, 11:29pm

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Yeah, it looks like a very good way to learn the basics of animating. The only problem is that it doesn't work on an apple computer(mac). If you wouldn't mind, could you notify me of another animating program that would be compatible on a mac? Thank you!
Posted: Mon, 1st Dec 2008, 7:44pm

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It is good to find all the information about filmmaking in this site.Apart from that we can provide you some more information about filmmaking where you can learn everything.We also provide you all the information about the media.
Posted: Tue, 6th Jan 2009, 10:01am

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What about Solthar's Filmmaking Guide 1 :p

Honestly Solthar you are a legend:

You made an amazing action film that made it in cinemas!

You made the best guide!

And you discounted my Nightcast DVD!

Well not the last part :p

Darn it I haven't seen you for ages Solthar surprised
Posted: Thu, 12th Feb 2009, 5:41am

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Freaking Amazing Brother. You are my new Hero.
I just now read the whole thing... it's so freaking awesome, it made my eyes hurt.
It hurts so good I'm gonna read it again and again. biggrin
And thank you for sharing what you know.
Freaking Amazing I tell you!
Posted: Mon, 23rd Mar 2009, 1:42am

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Terminal Velocity

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Amazing! I'm a noob to filming and have a low budget, so you really helped. Thnx bud!
Posted: Thu, 26th Mar 2009, 5:31am

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Posted: Thu, 4th Jun 2009, 3:10pm

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Thank you!! You are absolutely awesome!!!! I reallllllllllyyyy needed c\this and you helped because after all you are AWESOME!!!!!!!! I am a noob and you helped me out especially with the audio! Thank YOU!!!!!
Posted: Sat, 1st Aug 2009, 7:00pm

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Although the grading section was good, there are many movies that utilize one color shots, but they still look natural and they flow with the emotion of the scene.
Posted: Tue, 30th Mar 2010, 6:46am

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Will start another film project this spring. Thank you Sollthar for sharing your knowledge - found this guide extremly helpful biggrin
Posted: Mon, 22nd Nov 2010, 9:39am

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this is one of the best i have fun on your forum. .