Sunday, November 15, 2015

Filmmaking Dialogue Tip - Basic Filmmaker Ep 163

     Most basic filmmakers are creating videos usually on a zero budget and using themselves, friends, family and inexperienced actors.

     To spend all that time writing and shooting and planning and editing, only to end up with badly acted scenes, is really a shame.

     Sure, bad acting and writing can be the culprit. But a lot of times, it just a simple matter or practice.

     Best VFX ever with an alien spaceship landing, doors open with a hiss and great sound effects, the two actors walk out of the spaceship, they start talking and CRINGE.

     It's not their fault really - it's yours. Either your script and their lines suck, or they are "acting". Actor one gives his line, Actor 2 sees he's done. Actor 2 gives her line. Actor 1 sees she's done, and so on.

     These people need to practice those lines. They should be able to do it slowly, fast, and everything in between.

     Once they have that, then it's time to do the same thing with each other. Now the game is can they do the lines to each other slowly, really, really fast, and everything in between.

     Great. Let's shoot it!

     Well, not yet.

     Now they need to put some life into it. Now they practice the lines until they look and sound like real people who are in that situation.

     These "pregnant pauses" in between dialog aren't usually normal. Just go listen to two people talk some time.

     If you are unfortunate enough to have to edit this dialogue, be happy if these are over the shoulder or cut shots. That way you can control the speed of the dialogue.

     If not, you'd be better off just re-shooting it.

     The best is taking the time with your novice actors and practicing with them until they sound like the real people they are representing in your video or short film.

                         My Best,

                         The Basic Filmmaker

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cameraman Boot Camp

     In case you haven't seen these, here's a collection of four great videos about the camerman bootcamp.


                         The Basic Filmmaker

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Write Better Using Hemingway - Basic Filmmaker Ep 161

     The best advice to writing I've ever been given by famous writers is, "Writers write."

     In other words, writers write - a lot.

     This applies to people who write copy for ads, web blogs, press, novels, short stories, and in our case, scripts, screenplays, videos, films and more.


     Copy, ads, blogs, press, novels, short stories, scripts, screenplays, videos, films, and so on, are not the same. Each has it's own writing style and audience.

     The real trick to writing is knowing which style of writing to use, and not pretending you are the best in every style of writing just because you are really good in one of them.

     That opens the door to learning.


     Most of you don't have the luxury of having skilled, experienced writers on hand. That can make it really hard. You have to guess or hope that what you are writing will be simple and understandable.

     Worse, you have to be the person who takes a critical eye at what you write.

     Or you don't do that and say, "Yep - that's awesome!" Or hammer the hell out of what you wrote (and yourself), and never really finish what you are doing. Or you ask some "expert" who is not an expert, and get misled.

     It would be nice to have someone on hand who doesn't have an attitude about what you write, isn't try to prove to you they are better than you, and let you decide whether their advice is warranted or not.


     That's where this app can really help.

     It's like having another person look at what you wrote, yet they have nothing to gain.

     It's just, "Here's the facts as I see them, you decide if you want to do something about it."


     The main use of this is making things simpler.

     If you want the really "smart" people to understand what you wrote (and will eventually shoot), that's fine.

     I'd rather try and write something everyone can understand, including the "smart people."

                         My Best,

                         The Basic Filmmaker

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Teleprompter (Autocue) Basics - Basic Filmmaker Ep 160

     Most people think that the teleprompter is for television prompter, as in scrolling text on a television screen. Teleprompter actually comes from TELE-vision actor PROMPTER.


     Jump to the year 1950. Television was live, meaning everything was telecast live as it happened. So, you mess up, the world gets to see it. Well, maybe not the world, but anyone watching the TV program.

     TV actors were quite the professionals, many having moved over from radio. They had to memorize huge scripts and pull them off in front of the live audience. This was especially difficult when the programs aired every week, or worse, every day. Remember, there's no "cut", no recording, no nothing other than "oops" and trying to recover. Forgetting your lines frequently could be a death sentence for you as an actor.

     In 1951 an actor by the name of Fred Barton Jr. suggested the "idea" of a teleprompter to an engineer by the name of Hubert Schlafly. Hubert got to work and built the first teleprompter which was simply a roll of paper with large printed text that was rolled with a crank. Even the typewriter was special - it had to type one-inch high letters on these large rolls of paper.

     So actor Fred, engineer Hubert, and a company guy named Irving Berlin Khan started a company called the TelePrompTer Corporation. In Europe, the AutoCue corporation was started making similar devices.

     These worked so well, even the mechanical devices were still used up to 1992 on certain TV shows, despite them now being recorded.

     Even today, these devices, mechanical or electronic, are called teleprompters or autocues.


Some refer to them as "idiot boxes." Apparently these people never had to stand in front of a camera, having just been handed a script the night before, and expected to perform it the next day.

     Or maybe they're just that good.


     Some brilliant person discovered taking a piece of glass (called a beam splitter), and mounting it at a 45 degree angle over the lens. The scrolling text is mounted below the glass. The glass reflects the scrolling text to the person in front of the camera. The lens doesn't see the scrolling text or the glass at 45 degrees. The performer can read the text and look directly into the lens.

     Here's a diagram that sums up how this works.

"Teleprompter schematic". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

     The cover, or shroud, keeps light from creating unwanted reflections on the glass which the camera would see.


     The idea is to make it look like the person talking has memorized what they are going to say or is just doing it off the cuff. Someone reading off cue cards, or using a teleprompter off to the side, leaves the viewer with this feeling that the person isn't quite talking to them.


     These telepromters have gone through a lot of iterations. TV screens, mounted monitors, computer programs, and many more. There's even teleprompters that "listen" to the person talking and scroll accordingly. These are NOT cheap.

     For the Basic Filmmakers out there, the solution is cheap and simple, with the introduction of smart phones and devices, and software manufacturers creating apps for these that work pretty well.


     I said it in the video, and I'll say it again.

     Unless you practice with a teleprompter, it just won't look good. You'll have the "deer in the headlights" thing going on.

     Obviously, people like news reporters and others have done this so much that no matter what you throw up on the screen, they can do it pretty naturally all the time.

     Well, that's your clue. Just keep doing it until you can do it naturally.

     Practice doesn't necessarily means you are wasting a lot of time not making videos. Just the opposite. Go make A LOT of videos. That IS your practice.

     Sure, like me, you'll look back at your videos from years ago and go "eeeecccchhh!" That's unbelievably terrible.

     AND THAT'S GOOD, because you're getting better.

                         My Best,

                         The Basic Filmmaker

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