TSA Cracking Down on Filmmakers?

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TSA Cracking Down on Filmmakers?

Traveling for my job is, by far, one of my favorite things to do as it allows me to experience several different locations. Many that I would never have been able to experience in another industry. It kind of reminds me of my years playing college football for Florida International University. During season, I was literally in a hotel each and every week. Really nice ones, if I might add. Even for home games, we were required to remain in hotels the night before to make sure we were all getting a good night sleep and eating proper foods 24 hours before game time. So I am pretty experienced when it comes to traveling and more or less, anything that is related to travels. I’ve become at pro at packing the night before. By the way, I don’t recommend that method if you’re just starting. Lol.

So where am I going with this? Recently, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has announced that they’re going to begin conducting heavier screening through airports. They were specific in their statement that this new thorough screening process will entail removal of all electronics including cameras from your bag and taking a good look at them. Now I know that this is obviously not the end of the world. However, this does mean that things are going to get a whole lot inconvenient for filmmakers who constantly find themselves in and out of airports. Like other traveling filmmakers, I tend to keep my camera and my most valuable video equipment, with me at all times. Of course this is done to make sure that all my gear remains safe. I simply don’t feel like having thousands of dollars’ worth of gear tossed around all over the place. It just would not be a wise move on my part. That being said, there is a strategic decision-making process in how I choose what stays with me and what I have checked. It’s very simple really; in the unfortunate event that my checked bags get lost in transit, the equipment that I have with me would suffice to continue on with my job should I have to.

So how can we get around this new inconvenient TSA screening process? I’m constantly trying the find convenience in my work. This entails all aspects of my job, from recording audio as a one-man-band to traveling efficiently with my equipment. This, by no means, makes me a lazy person, I just like to get things done effectively. If going handheld most of the time to maximize my chances of retrieving every single shot I need in the amount of time that I have, then I’ll do that rather than adjusting my tripod or shoulder rig level for different shots. Removing my laptop from my bag, taking off my shoes, belt, hat, watch, is just a hassle. Rushing to put everything back on was even worse as people are waiting for me to continue moving in the line. That is why I’ve gone and obtained my TSA PreCheck membership. TSA PreCheck is an invaluable service that gives you the ability to basically walk right through airport security with minimal screening. How this works is for just $85, you receive a background check via finger print. In just a couple of weeks, you’ll receive a notice that you have qualified for the TSA PreCheck membership (assuming that your background check turns out clean). It’s that simple. I am still astonished at how this works and how great it is to not have to remove individual items from my bag. Now, I simply let my bags go through the x-ray and I simply walk through the scanner. No need to take out my laptop, shoes, etc anymore. Also, members get their own exclusive line which is empty most of the time. Honestly, only receiving an ice cream cone as you walk through security would make this better.

Perhaps I should’ve started this blog by mentioning that, in no way, am I receiving anything for mentioning this on my page. This is 100%, my honest opinion about this. I literally loved this so much that it has convicted me to write an entire blog about it even after I have already mentioned this several times on the podcast. I cannot recommend this enough. Thankfully, I have not had the misfortune of being screened with this new policy and with my TSA PreCheck membership, that should never be the case. Now I must ad that in rare occasions, there have been airports that, for one reason or another, does not have a PreCheck line. Rendering my membership useless at that time. That is quite irritating, I’ll admit. Those occasions only account for perhaps 5% of my trips. Anyways, I’m done with my rant now. Just wanted to share this with you all. Have a good one!

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Quality vs Efficiency

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Quality vs Efficiency

For the last several months I’ve been battling the temptations of upgrading some of my equipment. I know for a fact that I want to make a change, more specifically in the lens department. God knows I am all over cinema glass. They’re simply much better in quality sharpness, contrast and color. However, they’re much more expense then your typical DSLR-type lenses from Sony and Canon. Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with shooting with regular electronic lenses. But the idea of shooting with beautiful, crispier cinema glass is what has me going nuts. There’s just something about cinema hardware that just get’s me satisfied while shooting. Every time I see the price tag it automatically has me thinking about how I can make that happen. Even though I understand that I DON’T need it, I can’t help but dream of having it. This is a stigma that plagues us gear-heads. So how do we overcome this?

Truth be told, I really don’t need to buy anymore equipment for a very long time. I’m talking about expensive equipment like cameras, lenses and basically anything $1000 and higher. I have pretty much everything that I need to get my work done and then some. Cameras, lenses, lights stands, audio, accessories, software, etc. Anything I buy at this point would be for one of two reasons, higher quality or efficiency. For a while I’ve been all about the efficiency. I’ve made purchases for equipment that’ll allow me to get my work done the way I need to get it done. My gear allows me to work smoother on set. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable working this way and for the past 6 months have been pretty good working in this manner. It’s because of this that I’ve now been considering new equipment to up the quality of my work. 

This brings me to the back and forth with the lenses and an example to all that guides these kinds of choices. For the most part, I work as a documentary filmmaker. At least it’s how I maneuver. 85% of the time I am working by myself. Although cinema glass is obviously ridiculously gorgeous. However, it’ll not only make a big dent in my wallet, it’ll slow me down significantly. I love my Tilta follow focus. It’s so buttery smooth. But it is really big and heavy and requires my rig to have a baseplate and 15mm rods attached. This weight will continue to accumulate and eventually my back will start feeling the effects when shooting handheld as I most often am. All this for a better lens. I’ve always preferred to be able to capture what’s needed, even if it is slightly lower glass quality, then to have small amounts of amazingly good footage. Make sense?

I hope I was able to shed some light into this battle of quality over efficiency. To know when it’s appropriate to acquire yourself certain camera gear for your work. And of course I have to mention this at some point because I know someone will mention it for me; this is all subject to my work. It is my personal way of going about my productions. Everyone is subject to their own opinions on this matter. That being said, I hope this information helped some of you. See you on the next one!

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Buying Film Gear: When, Why & How

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Buying Film Gear: When, Why & How

When it comes to gear-heads, I don’t know that there is a bigger one then myself. I'm constantly on the lookout for the latest and greatest piece of tech out there for filmmakers. Whether it’s the new lenses from Sigma, or the new OSMOS camera gimbal from DJI. I’d say it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the fancy new gear and how companies put them on display for us to drool over. I have been known to make spontaneous purchases from time to time. More often then not, those spontaneous purchases end up being equipment that I end up using maybe once in a professional production. This is what I call “dead investments”, and they can really bring your business to the ground. As professional filmmakers, it’s important that you make purchases that will contribute to your business and not waste your money. I’m talking about tangible acquirements that will allow you to push your work to the next level, either visually and/or by convenience. If you sit and monitor any big reputable business, they’re being governed by the same concept. Buying equipment just because it seems amazing in it’s abilities to capture great video is not always the best reason to have it. So here are a few tips to consider when making future “business investment”. 

  1. ESTABLISH YOUR IDENTITY - It took me quite a few years to realize that my niche or preferred work involves a lot of documentary-style filmmaking. This includes many interviews and b-roll. From corporate to narrative documentaries. I have my personal “style” of capturing my shots and, as such, need the equipment to help me do so. For example, I am 6’3 in height, therefore I know I’m taller then the average person. A shoulder rig in my hands will make my shot look awkward as it’ll always be angled down to frame up someone if that is what I am trying to catch. So I invest in a monopod to help me capture those “handheld” shots that I love so much. With my rig getting slightly heavier as I continue to add elements for my work, going 100% handheld can get extremely tiresome fairly quick. Heavier tripods help with heavier camera rigs and lighter ones allow for easier transport and travel. Low light cameras help with dim-lit scenes in which you have no control over. Establishing my niche or preferred filmmaking route was essential to my knowing the kind of gear I needed to use. 
  2. STAY IN YOUR LANE - Now that you’ve established your identity as a filmmaker, you need to purchase the equipment that will allow you to get that specific job done the way you like. But do you go for a $30 tripod or $2,500 tripod? Let’s make this simple, don’t go and buy the tripod that’s most expensive. You need to find a balance in all your equipment. When I first began I had nothing but a Canon t3i that was on loan to me from a friend that barely used it. Simply put, I did not have a single shred of production equipment. I made it work with loaned items. As I continued to grow and gain a little more money, I was able to make small purchases here and there. $100 slider, $50 monopod, etc. Things that were essential to my work. You shouldn't have a $300 camera and a $ $1,200 tripod. It just doesn't make sense. As you continue to grow in your business, so does your rate. Only you can make that informed decision as to what you'll be purchasing. 
  3. BE PATIENT - It can get pretty exciting when a new piece of gear comes out. I cannot wait to get my hands on it as soon as it does. But there's a certain discipline that I need to practice in order to make smart purchases. Do I absolutely need it? Do I see myself using it a lot in my current PAID work? Is it worth the price tag? How much value can this piece of equipment add to my work? What are other filmmakers saying about this? These, along with many more, are questions that you should consider. You'll find that more often then not, you won't need that particular piece of gear. It's frustrating at times because I cannot justify buying something that I'd really love to have. For example, I still do not own my own drone. I've been wanting to get one for a couple years now, however, I'm constantly on the move. A DJI Phantom 4, or anything else out would've been a great inconvenience for the way that I need to move. Now, with the release of the Mavic Pro and it's price tag and small form factor, I can greatly justify that purchase. With that being said I have yet to pull the trigger because it's currently 3rd on my list for "Big Purchases" that I need to make.
  4. CONSIDER YOUR CREW - Up until recently, I've been a 1-man crew for just about all of my shoots. I required the ability to set up all my cameras and camera settings, lights, and audio by myself. It's actually not that easy considering the meticulosity of each task. I simply don't like to do a bad job. In order to make this easier, I make sure that I purchase equipment that is easy to operate as such. For lighting, I use battery-powered lights. Looking for an outlet and pulling out extension cables takes time. Also, they're always easily repositioned when needed. For audio, I prefer to simply place a lav on my subject. Placing boom poles and running XLR cables also take time. My audio is also recorded directly into the camera. I cannot afford to have a separate field mixer on its own with no one to monitor it. The new Sennhieser wireless lav system are small and extremely convenient. No cables traveling through my rig anymore. The receiver itself is the XLR. Now lately I've been hiring production assistants to help make my job easier. It takes a little time to train them on how I prefer to shoot, but the longer my guy works with me the easier it gets. I can now get stronger, AC-powered lights. I can setup stationary boom poles for a secondary audio source from my shotgun mic, and so on.

As always, my methods are not universal. This is simply what works for me. Just remember to take everything I say with a grain of salt. With that being said, I hope this helps you as you continue to move forward in your respective industry and making good, wise purchases in your career. Thank you for stopping by!  

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Traveling Gear for Filmmaking

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Traveling Gear for Filmmaking

One thing that I absolutely must do before every trip is ask myself, "What do I absolutely need to get this project done?" Now I know it's pretty cliche, but seriously, we always try to take more then what is needed. It's not a bad thing to be over-prepared, however when it comes down to the bare minimum, it's essential to know exactly what you have, and what you need with you. Batteries, and memory cards are just a few small examples of things that are regularly overlooked. So this is how I travel. Enjoy! 

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Filmmaking Q&A LIVE!

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Filmmaking Q&A LIVE!

Live chat sessions with you all would be a great tool to get us all connected again. I know that I've been relatively quiet around these neck of the woods but that's only because work has been hectic. I seriously do not know how the greats like Philip Bloom do it all. They're quite the inspiration. Hopefully we can at least keep these up. Currently I'm in the process of finding a new place to call home. My current living situation is getting a little cramped with all my equipment. So I'll need find a place with more space and my own office space as well. Once that's done we'll definitely getting linked up again with these live chat sessions. Cheers!

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Do I Need Film School?

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Do I Need Film School?

“Do I Need Film School?” This is by far one of the most-asked questions I receive. It is hardly an easy one to answer. So I want to take a few moments to explain why it’s never a simple yes or no. First thing that you would need to do is decide what area of this industry would you like to really be a part of. There’s directing, producing, assisting, and other very general areas. The more specific jobs would be operating a particular piece of equipment like jibs, cameras, steadicams, which are more freelance-based jobs. Then there’s also animation, motion graphics, and visual effects, but for those specific fields of work you might want to look for an agency that specializes in offering that sort of work to their clients, or you can freelance with that trade also. However, I have found that it’s much harder to freelance when your area of expertise is specialized as those kinds of clients are harder to come by. For the kind of work that I do, which is still pretty general at this point, I’ve decided to take the freelance route. Many of these agencies require some sort of film school background to even consider you. Others want to see if your work is good enough. I have yet to be asked for some sort of background in film school. This is because my clients are never production agencies. If they are, you're contacting me to be involved in one particular project, not for full-time employment. So therefore in my case, my resume would simply be my demo reel. So do YOU need film school?

 

Film School

On one hand, attending a Film School can be of great benefit because you’re already learning all the basics that is need to become a filmmaker. Not to say that you can learn absolutely everything in film school, but you’ll definitely have a big head start. No need to search around for video tutorials trying to find the information and hoping that the information being provided is accurate. A professor would go in-depth and teach you, not only the shots needed for a certain scene, but the history behind those shots, who discovered them, and how it has evolved throughout the years. That is something that would be difficult to find otherwise. And yes, I believe that history of this industry is important to know to better understand where this industry is heading. Networking is also a great benefit of attending film school. By the time you graduate, you will already know and be in communication with other filmmakers. I wish I had that starting off. Then there are program-specific classes such as animation, producing, etc., for those of you looking for that specific field in your career.

 

No Film School

I’ve said it before, I never attended a film school. I never sat in a classroom where a professor taught me all the basics of filmmaking. Everything that I know about this industry is more or less 30% internet and 70% hands-on experience. Whether it’s with my own personal practices, or on set working with experienced professionals. I tend to ask a lot of questions when I work with veterans in my field. Perhaps it's a good thing that I didn’t attend film school. Too many people get too caught up in the “rules” of filmmaking that they lose sight of what it’s all about. For example, the 180 degree rule is a very good and appropriate rule that makes a lot of sense just about all the time. However, I have found myself with a couple of instances where I purposely broke the rule because my shot called for it. My friends and/or clients loved how that particular scene or shot unfolded despite the broken rule. There are many other instances just like that in which this can apply. Here’s a side-note, I learned the 180 degree rule right out of YouTube. This, just like 80% of everything else that I know, I've learned the same way. I’ll never use “no film school”  as an excuse for not finding answers to my own questions. I’ve made many friends in filmmaking throughout the years, most of which did attend film school. They all say the same thing, they learned more on YouTube then they ever did in film school. This is not to say you should not attend film school, it’s just not absolutely needed to pursue a career in this field. Again, going back to what I said earlier, depends on the career path you choose in this industry.

 

Final Thoughts

I think film school would’ve been a great tool for me to have back when I was in college. If I could do it over again, I would definitely have that as my major. So therefore if you have the means to attend a film school and you already know that this is the industry you see yourself in for your career, I would absolutely recommend anyone to go for it. But if you don't have the means and you’re in some sort of mindset that is telling you that you cannot move forward without film school, I suggest you get rid of that mindset RIGHT NOW and do your homework! It is not impossible and you can definitely make it happen. If you love it, you will find a way. Our generation has basically had everything handed to us. Ridiculously cheap video equipment, and an endless supply of knowledge all online for free. The rest is up to you.

 

I hope this article helped you. God bless! 

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Production Equipment

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Production Equipment

If you follow me on social media (@arielmartinezjr), you probably have already noticed that I love posting my camera gear. Im definitely a gear fanatic. From cameras and lighting down to memory cards and batteries. Im constantly on the lookout for the latest film tech. Quite often you’ll find me working with the RED Epic Dragon on certain projects and other times I’ll use the Sony a7s2. So I could not help but notice some of the comments that I receive on my posts when people see the combinations that I choose to use with the RED camera. For some reason it rubs them the wrong way when I combine Canon or Rokinon lenses ($400-$1,200) with the RED Epic Dragon camera ($35,000). I won’t be sharing those comments with you here because that is not what I am here to do. I would never trash anyone for stating their opinions. If you want to go about your work with a certain mindset that is absolutely your right to do so. If you work by “laws” and “guidelines” that you would never dare to break, I guess one could do nothing but respect your decision. With that being said, I simply want to share my opinion on this matter.

 

YOUR EQUIPMENT

Creativity has no price. If you think that having the most expensive equipment is really what takes your work to the next level, you’re already putting limits on yourself. “If I had that camera I would be a better filmmaker”. Granted, better lenses do give you a cleaner and shaper image, but when have you ever heard a critic say “no that image is not sharp enough, this film is no good”. In my opinion, $10,000 cinema glass is beautiful, however way too overpriced for what I need. I cannot justify that price tag for a slightly sharper image. Same concept goes for audio and lighting. I’ve seen professional hollywood DP’s working on professional movie sets using $10 clamp lights. Your work should not be determined by your gear. Some people can put out better work shot on a canon rebel camera then what others can do with a RED or Alexa.

 

BUYNG MY EQUIPMENT

I definitely cannot tell you how to buy your gear. Only you would know that. However, there are several ways that I go about purchasing my equipment. Sometimes they're impulse buys where I simply buy a piece of gear that I am just drooling over but don't really need it at the time. I don't do too many of these. An example of this would be the DJI Osmos. I've been loving all over it since it was released. The only reason I haven't gone ahead and purchased it yet is because lately being been buying other equipment that I have actually been needing for coming projects. But if it had not been for those purchases, you would have been seeing me all over your feeds playing with that delicious piece of goodness. On the other hand, when I absolutely need something for my projects, I then do my research thoroughly before buying. For example, I needed a good lens to use with my Sony a6300. After careful research, I concluded that instead of buying a sony lens, I just went ahead and got the Metabones Speed Booster Ultra. What this did was allow me to use many of my currently EF mount lenses on the a6300. Not only that, I was able to increase the functionally of those lenses and the camera along with it. The adaptor alone cost about $700, but for what I was able to get from it, it was well worth the price. Remember, these are just my methods on how I decide what to buy next.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

What I am basically trying to say is to stop concerning yourselves so much about the gear you have or don't have. At the end of the day, your clients will not be judging your working by the gear that you use, but by the final product. This is not to say to only maintain yourselves by using DIY and low-cost equipment. That is not what I am saying at all. It’s quite the opposite, If you have the budget for it, you should definitely upgrade to the next piece of gear that your work requires. I am just saying get your mindset fixed on how you can make great work with what you have in front of you. On that note, I hope this was able to help you all on this matter. Remember, your work is your work no matter what it was shot with. I love to hear about those passionate filmmakers that continue to hustle not matter what they’re using to make their dreams come true. Keep pushing forward guys! 

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Q&A

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Q&A

  1. How many tries does it take on average to get the perfect shot? (@the_theory_of) That is almost impossible to answer as every shot is different. Sometimes it may only take just one try along with a safety take. Other times it can take 10,15, or 50 times. It depends on how important that shot is and if it's worth spending more time trying to get it just right.

  2. What is your favorite setup? (@diego.rvx) I don’t know that I have a “favorite” setup, but I do have preferences when it comes to different situations. For example, when I want a handheld look, I go with a monopod and a tripod head instead of a shoulder rig. Reason for this is because I am oftentimes much taller then my subjects and I’d end up with a high angle shot looking down. For other setups I’m starting to incorporate more add-ons to my rig like external monitors, audio recorders, etc. It depends what the shot calls for.
  3. What are the best things you did for practice? (@ddozier1000) The best thing I do for practice is practice. I live and die by this. When I find myself without work, I’m constantly on youtube learning new tricks and techniques and go out and practice them. Whether it’s time-lapses, camera movement, lighting, etc. Always practice as much as you can. Fortunately I’ve been busy lately and haven’t been able to practice some more, but I definitely plan to go back and continue to do so once my work slows down a bit.
  4. What is the best gear to start with? (@_davidfloroiu) For general purposes, I would say a camera, tripod, and some sort of on camera shotgun mic that can double as a regular shotgun mic if needed. For lighting you can go with clamp lights with either daylight or tungsten bulbs.
  5. What is the magic threshold of when to by vs rent? (@teddywaffles) That usually depends if you’re going to get a lot of use out of that particular item. For example, I have a job coming up with the RED Dragon that will require several hours of 6K RED footage. This is a very unique project at least for me, so because I don’t usually do these kinds of jobs, I am going to rent many more RED Mags to make sure I have enough storage along with a few more batteries for the RED. However, I will be buying the hard drives for this project. In terms of other equipment like lenses and cameras, it is the same scenario. If you don’t see yourself getting those kinds of jobs all the time, then I stick to renting the unique gear needed for those project until such a time comes when you feel it’s better to put down the investment. Only you will know when that time comes.
  6. Recommended lens for filmmaking? (@hilmanlthf) There are so many good lenses our there the today that there cannot be one good lens for filmmaking. For my situation, documentary filmmaking, I try to stick with lenses that perform well when going handheld. So I looking for IS in my lenses. That is why I love my Canon 24-105. However, my sony a7s2 takes care of that with it’s internal 5-axis stabilization that works even better. Now I can use different lenses. Focal distance is also a factor for me since I try not to change lenses when I’m shooting on the run. As for cinema filmmakers, I recommend the Rokinon cinema primes. They’re extremely sharp and are dirt cheap when compared to Canon and Ziess cinema glass.
  7. What is the best way to become a PA in LA? (@ajsteel94) I can’t tell you exactly what to do for the LA area, but I can’t imagine it being any different then any other place. Get yourself listed in as many directories as possible. Search out and seek any agencies in the area and make sure they have your resume and just let yourself be known. I have found that ProductionHUB is a great directory to be on.
  8. I am 27 its too late to start in film industry? (@tozalezy) Absolutely not. You can begin your filmmaking career at any age. Of course consider your circumstances at the time, like finances, family, etc. But if you feel this is your passion, I don’t see why age should be a factor.
  9. What's the best thing a teenager can do to be a great filmmaker and eventually find a job as one? (@boboice) Take a look at my previous blog “A Career In Filmmaking”. (http://www.arielmartinez.co/blog/acareerinfilmmaking) That can answer this question more in-depth. 
  10. What are the important aspects we should consider when shooting a low light scene? (something at night or in a very dark interior) as indi film maker we usually don't have access to all the lenses or the best camera for the task. Facing this kind of shooting with a DSLR and some lights can be challenging because in most of the cases you get a lot of grain. You end up putting a lot of lights but then your scene no longer looks like a night scene. (@sudakastainer) Great question! So once you have considered how you want your shots to look, I would go into analyzing the room and see where I want my shadows to be placed. With that out of the way, I’ll then begin to place my lights where they're needed. All this is done after my camera is in place with my preferred settings. I tend to light about a stop or two brighter then I need to because this allows me to make sure I have enough exposure, without clipping, to play with in post. Remember, you can always bring your exposure down in post, but brightening up your image brings in the grain. So as long as you have the shadows in place where you need them, you can add extra contrast afterwards. As far as your image not looking like a nighttime scene anymore, I would see where you’re placing your lights. Sometimes light placement and/or shadows can tell your audience your scene. I hope I was able to answer your question. This is just my own personal method and you should not take anything that I say as a proven fact or law. I would even continue to practice different techniques and perhaps you’ll find a method that works for you.

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A Career in Filmmaking

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A Career in Filmmaking

MISCONCEPTIONS

In a recent Indie Film Force Episode (Attached Below), I ran a comparison between the Red Epic Dragon and the Sony a7s2. Now before this test even began I already knew that the Red Epic Dragon was going to look much better and sharper. However, I simply wanted to see just how good the Sony a7s2 actually looked when compared to a camera that's almost 20x the price. Not only did I want to see the difference side by side, but I also wanted to show beginning filmmakers that you don’t need to have the most expensive gear to make good-looking material. This is a terrible misconception that plagues the filmmaking community. The idea that you need more money to be a better filmmaker is lie. And anyone that ever tells you that is sadly mistaken. Another misguided idea that is commonly spread is that you need film school to be a successful filmmaker. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been looked down upon because I never went to film school. I received my degree in Criminal Justice from FIU. My love for film and video production began towards the end of my college years. As I have always said, this has never stopped me from learning all that I need so that I can continue to pursue what makes me happy. One thing is true though, you can NEVER stop learning in this industry. The moment you decide that you have learned all that you need to, that is when you have committed what I call "career-suicide.” The film industry is constantly and rapidly changing every year. There’s always some new technology that comes out that is an improvement to a previous one.

 

BECOMING A GOOD FILMMAKER

So what begs the question “How do I become good filmmaker?”. Would you believe me if I told you that you do not need to spend a penny to become a good filmmaker? When I first started my business, many people thought I was way in over my head. I had a background in sports and a degree in criminal justice and so "To make money by making videos?" "Are you serious?". To be honest, sometimes I'd let those ideas linger in my head. Besides God, I believe there's one aspect I had that has allowed me to keep bettering myself as a filmmaker. PASSION. Ugh so cliche!! You hear this all the time, but there’s a reason for that. Just ask yourself, “If currency had no existence in this world, would you still be making films?”. If the answer is “HELL YEAH!”, then you have the PASSION. However, as passion is a great quality to have in the industry, it also comes with many other characteristics that help take your career to the next level.

 

BECOMING A SUCCESSFUL FILMMAKER

So you have the passion, and although that'll bring you to becoming a "good" filmmaker", that does not quite make you a "successful" filmmaker. What about DRIVE? So even now that my business is getting extremely busy and I barely have time to take a 20min coffee break often times, I still try and make time for my passion projects. These are projects that I do on the side for my own personal satisfaction. For me they’re my short documentaries. I love documentary shooting and that is what I see myself doing for a very long time. Whether I am getting paid or not, I just love telling real stories. My DRIVE and desire to see the outcome of a current passion project keeps me motivated to continue forward with it. I also apply this same DRIVE to my business attitude. I am constantly disciplining myself to do what is needed to get my work seen by as many eyes as possible. Even if it takes a long time for that particular technique to kick in. For example, writing blogs is not something I ever that I would find myself doing. But here I am reaching out to the film community because I came to understand the importance of establishing yourself in the industry. 

 

FINALLY

Just about everyday when I get home from a long day of shooting or editing, I am extremely exhausted and all I want to do is lie on my bed and close my eyes. Most days I can't even do that because I have passion projects that I want to get completed. But despite all this exhaustion and lack of sleep, I have the biggest smile on my face. This is simply because I am doing something that I am legitimately passionate about. I LOVE my job. If you’re pursuing a career in filmmaking, my suggestion to you is to analyze if this industry is your true desire. If you can honestly say that filmmaking is your true PASSION and you have that DRIVE for this stuff, then the rest will fall in it’s place. You won’t let anything get in the way of you achieving your dreams. Learn as much as you can whether you go to film school or not. Learn it all. Ask questions and practice practice practice.

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Post Production Workflow

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Post Production Workflow

Post production workflow, it’s a love/hate relationship. It can start off really smooth and exciting when you first begin editing your project. However, it does not always stay that way. Post production can become one of the biggest pains in this industry. Opening a project that you have been working on and finding that your video clips have been unlinked from it’s source. Then you cannot go back and locate that video clip because it is not where you had it before. You cannot seem to find your audio files that you usually use for music or sound effects. In my experience, I have found that organization is key for a smooth post production workflow experience. It doesn’t take a scholar to realize this. However, as simple as this principle is to realize, it is just as simple to ignore it. Therefore, I want to show you my post production workflow that I have found to keep my projects running smoothly.

 

FILE MANAGMENT

Upon wrapping up a shoot, I am one of those filmmakers that just cannot wait to see the footage of what I shot, and even more to see it already graded. That sometimes causes problems for me simply because I often end up importing the clips directly from my media cards and leave things as they are. My process has changed. I have learned to be a tad patient and make sure that I first create all my labeled folders to keep all my media organized in them. I need to create new folders for every single element that I know I’m going to use in my project and maintain the appropriate media in them. For example, I will have a separate folder for the Premiere Pro project files, footage, audio, visual effects, images, etc. Within each of those folders I will need to create sub folders. My “footage” folder needs subfolders to be separated by the different cameras that were used and I often label those folders by the name of the camera. Within the audio folder ill have a separate subfolder for basically anything that has to do with the audio of my project like music, voiceovers, sound effects, etc. I’ll continue to create new folders and subfolders as I need to. I don’t always have the same folders in every project. Sometimes I don’t use still images or music in my project, so I won’t have those folders. Once all of my media files have been sorted out and organized like this, I'll go ahead and make one large import into my project. Just like my files are in separate folders and subfolders, they get imported into premiere pro in folders and subfolders as well. This just makes life much easier.

 

ADOBE PREMIERE PRO CC

As you may already know by now, Adobe Premiere Pro CC is my editing software of choice. Why? It makes my post production workflow run extremely smooth. It has all of the essential tools that I need for any job, but what I like most about it is that it offers dynamic-linking into other editing softwares, like After Effects, Audition and SpeedGrade, when I need to go more in-depth in visual effects, audio, or color correcting/grading. Like I mentioned before, when bringing all my footage into Premiere Pro, I maintain them in the same folders in which I sorted them out in my drive. This allows me to locate all of my media files effortlessly when I need to. As you can also see in the pictured screenshot, I also go ahead and color-code all of my clips when needed. This allows me to distinguish each clip without actually having to play them back to see what that particular clip contains. One of the many features I love about Adobe Premiere Pro CC. 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

It is no secret that when projects are kept organized, it makes life just so much easier. This is apparent in the filmmaking industry. If you begin a new project unorganized, you’re going to find yourself frustrated quite often. One rule of thumb that I like to maintain is to never have anything on my desktop. That’s right, there should be a folder for every single media file that I bring into my computer. Whether it’s for a video project, or simply a personal picture, you should always find a designated place for it. I am also extra careful when labeling all of my files as well. Maintaining this consistent workflow allows me to not only have a productive post production workflow experience, but more importantly, it allows me to delivery my finished products on time. I have found that sticking to this format of organization has helped me be much more efficient in all my jobs. 

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The Rhino Slider

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The Rhino Slider

So I was in the market for a good sturdy slider. Not just any slider, I wanted it dynamic, sturdy and light. A slider that can help me, as a documentary filmmaker, travel as I needed, yet be able to withstand a heavy payload when necessary. I went all over B&H and YouTube looking at technical specs for size, weight, and video reviews for each slider that I came across looking for the perfect one. It was quite frustrating not being able to find what I was looking for. As soon as I found a potential one, it ended up being a let down because of some of the reviews that I saw. After all my research, the edelkrone slider seemed to be a good choice. Some of the features that jumped out at me were it’s parallax feature, it’s small, compact and actually slides for twice it’s size and can also withstand payloads of about 30lbs, which is not too bad. 

 

THE RHINO SLIDER

I was pretty much set in making my purchase when I am contacted by Rhino company, who specialize in manufacturing professional film gear. They wanted to hook me up with one of their famous carbon fiber sliders. Of course I was all over that. We struck a deal and about a week later I was receiving the slider with the Rhino Motion controller along with it. It was love at first sight. I could not believe how light, yet ridged this slider was. I began to analyze the build and ergonomics of this product and found that it was extremely well-made. Every single little piece has a significant purpose and rightfully placed. Not to mention the smoothness of the slider itself. It maneuvers on 5 wheels counter to each other. Although I is not as compact at the Edelkrone slider that I was originally going to purchase, I found that this 24” slider is actually not that bad for traveling. I am completely dumbfounded by how good this product is. Oh, and did I mention it has a 100lbs load capacity? I doubt I’ll ever have a 100 pound rig at hand, but it’s good to know that I never have to worry about that aspect. 

 

RHINO MOTION

Along with the sider came the Rhino Motion controller. It literally took me 2 minutes, from the time I unpacked the controller to the time I had the slider moving remotely. That’s what I love about this the most, the simplicity. The motion controller also gives you other options, which are simple to navigate through as well, such as the time-lapse feature, looping, and parallax motion (Rhino Arc needed). 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Needless to say, I am extremely happy with the way things turned out. Not just because I received a free slider, but because I ended up getting the exact type of slider that I was initially looking for. I'm really appreciative with my new friends over at the Rhino Camera Gear company. They are truly great people producing amazing, and not to mention affordable, film gear. I completely, 110%, endorse their product. 

 

Here are a couple of timelapse tests I shot with the Rhino Slider. 

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Why I Don't Need a RED

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Why I Don't Need a RED

I've been using the Red Epic Dragon Camera for a good time now and I'm ecstatic every single time I see that ridiculous resolution that it gives me. This past year I found myself shooting a lot of commercials for cooperate companies and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to work with great prestigious powerhouses. However, the work that I'm most attracted to is documentary, and this year I will be dedicating a lot more of my down time to shooting more of those. With that being said, the Red Epic Dragon camera will most likely not be my camera of choice. I have not made this decision lightly mainly because I cannot ignore the incredible imagery that I have been able to pull from that camera. With that being said, here are my main reasons as to why I wouldn't be using my RED to shoot documentary work. 

LIGHTING

When shooting documentaries, more often then not, find myself using only what available light I can find, which means a lot of low-light shooting. RED cameras are not good unless used with good production lights. I’ve come across some real nasty footage due to poor lighting or lack of proper setting adjustments. Nonetheless, the bottom line is that when there isn’t enough light hitting that RED sensor, your image is going to come out really poor. You will get some real ugly grain in your shadows. Granted, when downscaling from 6K to 1080p you will loose a lot of that grain, but I like to have that option to maintain my full image available. Im just getting started.....

STORAGE

Shooting documentaries requires shooting an enormous amount of footage most of which you will not be using in your final product. Can you imagine capturing that much 6K footage? You're looking at hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of storage space. Just to give you a little more perspective on this, a single 256GB RedMag(Red Memory Card) gives me approximately 35min of 6K footage at a 8:1 compression. Lowering the quality, which I hate to do, I can extend that to about 1.5 hours of footage. Can you see how this all adds up? I am all for shooting more then what you need, but I am not okay with spending that much money on a “just in case” scenario. Not to mention the amount of time it will take to dump all my footage to the master and backup drive. In my opinion, that is time and money down that drain. 

CONVENIENCE

It takes some time to fully assemble the Red Epic Dragon for a shoot. Every single piece needs to be attached independently and with separate tools. This creates a big problem when you want to run-and-gun. When you need to capture certain events, this is definitely not the ideal scenario to have. In addition, the RED body alone weighs approximately 5lbs. Add only the basic essentials needed to even shoot the camera like the lens, top handle, side handle, RedMag, LCD monitor, and RED brick, you're looking at about 12-15lbs minimum to lug around. If you're looking to follow a subject around all day, this is definitely not the ideal setup for you.

I cannot emphasize enough how much I absolutely adore that RED image. When Shooting with the right lighting I'm RED all day. With that being said, I have actually seen instances where even RED footage looks really really bad. This is a result of poor RED usage which hurts my soul. However, at the end of the day, it does not matter what camera setup you have or the equipment you are using; the way you use it is what makes all the difference. With all that being said, the views expressed in this piece are mine and mine alone. Im sure many would disagree and just simply do not mind spending the extra time and money to shoot on a RED. As for me, I simply choose what works for me.

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Using Slow Motion

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Using Slow Motion

Slow motion, when used correctly, is an essential tool for creating beautiful films. One thing that I have found is extremely beautiful in certain videos is the use of slow motion shots. We have always seen them all over the place but often times we do not realize how effective they are at creating a completely different vide for your films. Even if you're slowing down your shots by just 10%. A slight tough of slow motion in your videos will give your viewers a completely different feel when watching your films.

Keep in mind that proper audio use is also effective when using slow motion. It'd be sorta disturbing if you have a fast-paced song going on and your shots are running in slow motion. Perhaps in some rare occasion, depending on the type of feel that the director is going for, this might be acceptable. For example, a shot of a man walking down the street in slow motion with a sense of accomplishment to signify success, a good, fast-paced motivational piece might be used in that instance. That is just one of a few examples I can think of. Im sure there are many out there. But for the most part, slow and slow usually go well together.

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