• Here's what your camera can and can't do

    Posted by Tara Wall on 8/8/2019

    The basics

    Not all cameras are created equal. Even with far more affordable options available for budding filmmakers than in days of old, understanding a camera's strengths and weaknesses is an essential step before yelling 'action.'

    The first question to consider is: what are you shooting? If the answer is an occasional short YouTube explainer video, then a smartphone on a tripod in a place with good lighting and an external mic, is all you need. Really, it doesn't have to be anymore complicated than that. Totally DIY. Today's smartphone quality is so superb, and underestimated, it gives some professional cameras a run for the money. One obvious drawback, aside from framing limitations, is storage of course. But again, if it's just a hobby and an occasional short presenter style video, it's all you need.

    If you're wanting to shoot a a regular series, something that requires various types of shots and broll/cover, you'll want to take it up a notch with a camera that has more storage, stability, and variable focal lengths. For this, you'll want to swap out the smartphone with a DSLR camera (there are many brands to select from), a good stabilizer, three-point lighting setup and external audio source. It may sound a little intimidating for some of you, but it's really not. DSLR's have a price point range, from low to high, to fit just about every budget. They're essentially point-and-shoot out of the box, light-weight, compact enough to carry around your neck, and take up very little space, even when mounted on a tripod. They give you the functionality to take pictures as well as video, and the option to swap out lenses as needed, for greater focal versatility.

    DSLR's also work well for short (even full length) films but they shouldn't be the only source if a film is your end goal. As your budget allows, consider buying or renting a professional HD camcorder and/or cinematic camera. These come with a lot of additional features, not found with DSLR's, that are built right into the camera (i.e. multiple XLR audio ports, cinematic settings, servo zoom, tilt/pan, wide-angle, etc.). In addition, they provide longer battery life, backup power adapters, and extended SD card storage, that are a essential when shooting for hours at a time.

    Not every project needs a pro. The scope will determine whether to DIY or call in an expert. Whatever the scale or budget there is a camera for it. Just make sure it's a fit for what you really need.


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  • Simple scriptwriting essentials

    Posted by Tara Wall on 8/2/2019


    Having an idea isn't enough. If it were, we'd all be Oscar-winning screenwriters. Not to mention, more often than not, your first idea isn't always your best idea. Getting that idea from concept, to script to screen is a process. These tips can help to get you pointed in the write direction:

    • Brainstorming your way through the script development process is an essential key to unlocking the storyline playing out in your head. Elevate what comes to mind, map it out, add to it, then eliminate what's not feasible.
    • Storyboarding can put those thoughts into pictures and helps you to "see" what you're thinking. It's also a great opportunity to share your ideas with someone you trust who can help evaluate your plan-of-action.
    • Structure the plot, theme, character arc, climax, rising/falling action, and resolution into a story that speaks to your specific target audience.
    • Rewriting your first draft is a must. Even if you think its "perfect" (its highly likely you won't) you will need to revise it. But also know when to stop, or you'll never get it shot.

    Most of the best scriptwriters continue to incorporate these and other strategic practices into their craft, no matter their level of expertise. Having a process that works for you, combined with these basic essentials, is a great starting point to get your script where you want it to go and tell a story your audience can embrace.

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  • How film geeks use G-Drive

    Posted by Tara Wall on 8/1/2019

    The cloud

    Cloud-based computing can be a beautiful thing. Whether you're setting up a chat session for a table read or organizing digital files for short clips, Google offers a suite of apps - from calendars and forms, to websites and meet ups - that just about anyone can use. Once you do, you'll never want to go back to the conventional ways of communicating, storing and sharing critical information.

    There are several G-suite apps, but for this post I'm focusing on Google Drive (I'll cover other apps in subsequent posts) and how I incorporate it into teaching television and film production. The same methods can be applied to any field or course.

    Better known as that blue, green and yellow triangle icon, Google Drive is where every document, slide, and spreadsheet resides. As soon as you create it, G-Drive saves it automatically. The more you create, the more you should get into the habit of also compiling folders for categorized items to reside, otherwise your G-Drive will become another cluttered mess you won't want to look at. Staying organized not only saves time and energy but keeps you focused on the task at hand. You can even take it a step further by color-coding your folders, which makes it super easy to access files quickly. Even more, the search bar is a fantastic shortcut when you just need to get what you want - fast.

    When first opening Drive, your last, most recent four items worked on automatically appear at the top. Use the 'most recent' tab on the left side navigation bar to see additional documents you may have just been working on. You can automatically share any document, file or spreadsheet with anyone or team, by simply "adding" them using their email address, and allowing them to edit, comment or simply view it. You can also use the 'shareable link' option to distribute to additional users.

    Checkout the 'shared with me' and 'shared drives' tabs on the left navigation bar to also collaborate with teams who provide you access to their files and folders. This is one of the ways I encourage my student production teams to share scripts, concepts and other work they're collaborating on. 

    It also integrates well with other filmmaking and software and apps we use, such as StudioBinder.

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