It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything and mainly that is because much has been going on lately. My wife and I found out we are expecting our fifth child, a boy. There were some scary complications for a while but everything is going well now. I have actually been doing some writing during the last 2 months, just not on here. I wrote a new short film that I hope to be putting together soon. I will try to put up a lot more info during production about the process and making-of type stuff. In addition, I have been looking into the possibility of joining a missionary trip to Africa. More on that below. Continue Reading
I took the kids to the park a few weeks ago for bluebonnet pictures took shot some video as well. Here’s the short film I made from the footage. Let me know what you think.
The other day I was in a large Christian book store and decided to browse the video section out of curiosity. One thing really stuck out as I gazed at the wall of DVDs. There were four sections of music videos, five sections of drama and one section of comedy. On closer inspection, I noticed that the entire comedy section was made up of stand-up comic videos.
No feature-length comedy films? Is that really accurate? Are there really no good comedy films made by Christians out there? And if so, why is that? Is it just that the industry has not tapped into that genre or is there actually no demand for it? Humor is an incredibly effective tool, obviously for entertaining, but also for presenting an argument and making a point. So, it would seem like Christian filmmakers would want to use the genre more than apparently is happening. I also wonder if this doesn’t help the impression many non-believers have of Christians as too serious and not much fun. And considering the lack of overall quality of the comedies coming out of secular Hollywood, not to mention the fact that they are often more vulgar and crass than movies of other genres, it would seem to me that there is plenty of room for more Christians to be successful with high-quality comedy films. As it happens, I am actually currently working on a script for a comedy feature film, though I do not intend on focusing on comedy by any means. That gives me even further curiosity into these questions as I wonder if the fact that my screenplay is a comedy will make it more difficult to get produced and/or distributed.
So what do you think is the reason for this and is this a problem that needs to be changed? Are we missing opportunities to reach more people more effectively by focusing on more serious and dramatic stories?
With the 2012 NAB show now ended, I figured I’d just give a few thoughts on the current state of filmmaking technology. And then I thought I should get something to drink first. So now that I’ve quenched my thirst, here are my quick thoughts:
Judging by all the comments on my Twitter feed from those who were actually there, I’d say that 4K was probably the unofficial sponsor of this year’s show. With Canon and Sony both anouncing 4K capable cameras even before the show began, and a host of companies showing 4K displays, projectors and other accessories, it was pretty hard to miss. I know a lot of people are saying we aren’t ready yet for 4K because of storage concerns and the lack of ability to watch 4K content, but I am actually glad to see all of this coming out now. I suspect in the more near future we’ll see it being used for re-framing in post and out putting 2K or HD. Not that any of that really matters for me as I’ll likely be stuck with my T3i for a good while longer.
BlackMagic Cinema Camera
The surprise hit of the show this year was definitely the BlackMagic Cinema Camera. I think it’s safe to say that pretty much nobody saw this coming. It will be interesting to see if many people opt for this instead of similarly priced DSLRs like the 5D Mark III for shooting video. I could see myself potentially upgrading to this for my next camera, even though I’m not crazy about the Super 16 sensor size.
The most interesting thing to come out of NAB this year for me would have to be the announcement that Lightworks will be officially released on May 28th. For those of you unfamiliar, Lightworks is a professional editing program that has been used on many feature films, including some Oscar winners, for several years. It has been in beta for the last 18 months and is now being released for free, with a pro version costing only $60 per year. I played around with the beta before I began editing my recent short film and managed to get around it okay right up until trying to actually render out a video. I ended up downloading the trial of Adobe Production Premium instead. They are saying the release will include many improvements so hopefully I will have more success when it comes out. Since I currently do not own any editing software and don’t exactly have the budget for it, I would really love to see Lightworks be a usable solution. I’ll let you know how it goes after the release.
Recently, I’ve been looking into how to get the best possible image quality out of my T3i for video and I thought I’d share my progress. This will prety much only pertain to anyone shooting with Canon DSLRs so if you’re using something else, you can probably skip this post. I’ll start by discussing different picture styles. If you are new and not familiar with custom picture styles, this section of the DSLR Cinematography Guide on NoFilmSchool.com is a good place to get up to speed.
For the short film I shot a few weeks ago, Weekend Alone, I used the Technicolor CineStyle picture style. While I thought it came out pretty well overall, it does require a lot of effort in color grading as many have pointed out. After doing some research I came a cross another custom picture style called Similaar Flaat which the creator claims is much is much easier to grade than CineStyle and also gives better skin tones. I was already thinking about doing my own comparison of the two to see which I liked more. Then, just the other day, Stu Maschwitz wrote this great article on his own version of shooting flat. The article focuses primarily on the 5D Mark III, but should pretty much translate to any other Canon DSLR. So I grabbed my camera and a glass of milk (absolutely essential for conducting a proper camera test) and got to work.
Now, of course this is by no means a scientific test, just my own subjective opinion, and I am by no means an expert. I should also note that there are actually several versions of Similaar Flaat, with the goal of being able to optimize for many different situations. While being able to optimize is nice, for the most part I am just to lazy to try and go through all of them. For the purpose of this test, I stuck with the ones based on the Neutral picture style and since the website says Flaat_10 is the same dynamic range as CineStyle, I decided to go with that one. So what did I find? For one thing, I can confirm that Similaar Flaat as well as Prolost Flat are indeed much easier to grade than CineStyle. I was suprised at just how similar Prolost and Similaar were. I actually think the Similaar style gives just a little bit more latitude than Prolost, however Stu does make an excellent point about Prolost Flat being very quick and easy to set up on any Canon camera without requiring you to connect the camera to a computer and install a custom picture style. I think what I will probably end up doing is using the Similaar Flaat on my camera but keep Prolost Flat settings in mind if I need to use another camera. The two should play very nice together if necessary.
A Word About Sharpening
In the Prolost article, Stu mentioned using Unsharp Mask with an Amount of 120 and a Radius of 1.1, however in my own test I only seemed to be able to go as high as 80 on the Amount with a Radius of 1.2 before seeing some artifacts. I’m not sure if that’s a result of the different cameras (my T3i vs. his 5D III), but there you go.
Since film school wasn’t really an option for me, I turned to the internet and the book store to try and learn as much as I could about the craft of filmmaking. So, in case anyone ever stumbles across this website wanting themselves to know more about making movies, I thought I’d give a quick rundown of the best places I have found for learning. For those of you who already know everything about filmmaking, feel free to skip the rest of this post.
Philip Bloom (philipbloom.net)
I started reading Philip Bloom’s blog back before there were DSLRs shooting HD video, back when he was showing how to shoot beautiful images on HD video cameras with 35mm lens adapters. He has been one of the pioneers of DSLR filmmaking and you will find a wealth of advice and information on how to make gorgeous looking films, especially around what gear to use. His website also now has a forum that looks to be another great place to get advice and meet other filmmakers.
Stu Maschwitz (prolost.com)
Here is another great source of learning, I’ve found. Stu is a very interesting character with extensive experience in movies, particularly in Special Effects. There’s plenty of great stuff on here covering everything from general photography and filmmaking (this is one of my favorite articles from Stu about what makes a great photo) to gear to color grading. You can also find some great video tutorials from Stu and others at redgiantsoftware.com, the post-production software company that Stu also works for and that makes some really awesome color grading and effects tools.
Three really great sites covering almost all aspects of filmmaking. The DSLR Cinematography Guide at Nofilmschool.com is probably the place to start if you are just getting into filmmaking.
These are both very popular forums that can be good places to go when you have a specific question.
If you prefer not to stare at the computer screen all day, there are plenty of great books out there as well. Check out the book section of my Amazon Store for some suggestions on where to get started.
Youtube and Vimeo
There are literally thousands of video tutorials on Youtube and Vimeo on just about every subject under the sun and filmmaking is no exception. Not only that, but a great way to learn is to study the works of others and you will find plenty of that as well.
This Photo Simulator is a neat little tool to be able to play around with different camera settings when you don’t have the real thing in front of you.
So that’s it. I follow NFS, LearningDSLRvideo, PVC, Prolost, and Philip Bloom regularly and then when I have a specific question or problem, or just want to go deeper on a particular subject, I will go to the forum sites next and then Vimeo and Youtube, and finally Google. Of course you can always ask me as well. I may not quite be an expert yet but I have been studying for a while now. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll do my best to help you find it.
This is absolutely brilliant. And it makes for an interesting follow-up to my post from last week.
Fair warning, it is kind of long at just over half an hour. But it is totally worth it. A few highlights:
“I tried to think of a single art form that more totally involves the audience than cinema does, and the only one I could come up with was paintball.”“Imagination is the single most powerful force in the human soul.”“You can’t put God into your work, because He is already there.”“Cinema has the most power, the most potential for good or evil of all art forms in our culture.”“Screenwriting seems to be the most unjustly neglected, unheralded and unrewarded aspect of a movie today.”
I actually got to meet Dr. Kreeft and hear him speak when I was in high school many years ago. I’ve also read a few of his books, including Between Heaven and Hell, which he talks about in the speech. He is incredibly smart and a talented author and speaker. This is actually quite timely, for me at least, as I am getting ready to start increasing my efforts on the screenplay I’ve been working on recently.
Enjoy. And let me know your thoughts in the comments.
I had been planning to write a post about what type of films I plan to make. As I mentioned previously, while I am a Christian, I do not desire to make “Christian movies”. And now, I just came across this video on Vimeo that makes a lot of the points about how I feel on the subject.
I especially liked when they mentioned the faith aspect of Signs because that was one of the reasons I loved that movie and yet, not many seemed to talk about that at the time.
Now, I really like what Sherwood Pictures is doing. As a father myself, I loved Courageous and it really convicted and motivated me to be a better dad. The quality of writing and production have continued to improve with each film and is getting pretty good. I also think that Sherwood’s success has made it easier in many ways for other Christians to break into filmmaking and has helped the Church to be more supportive of film and other art. These are both very important things. That said, I would not expect very many non-Christians to ever sit through any of their films. Even Courageous, as much as I enjoyed it, felt still like sitting through a sermon in the form of a movie.
I think it’s safe to say that Sherwood’s target audience is the Church, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There is a growing number of talented Christian filmmakers that are targeting other Christians. That’s great. However, what I haven’t really seen yet is a similar surge in Christians making films primarily aimed at non-Christians. Why is that? And even when those movies do get made, often they are just like the ones talked about in this video. When talking about writing, C.S. Lewis once said:
What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent.
It stands to reason that if more Christians made films, their faith ought to naturally weave itself into their art. I am not likely to write anything that clearly conflicts with my own beliefs. In fact, everything we do gets filtered through our worldviews, why would this be any different? It’s been said many times that story is the most important part of a film. Maybe we should focus on story, knowing that our faith will naturally influence the way we tell the story, rather than trying to force the story to fit some preset goal or agenda.
But can there be a place for films to be effectively used in reaching non-believers? In fact, I have, but not with “Christian films”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referenced movies like The Matrix in spiritual conversations with non-Christians. The funny thing is I got the impression the Wachowskis were surprised and even a bit annoyed that people saw so much Christian theology in the movie. So, if they could make a movie that is so helpful as analogy for faith in Christ, shouldn’t Christian filmmakers be able to do it even more so? If you think about it, movies are a lot like modern-day versions of the parables that Jesus often used in his own teaching.
A non-Christian is not going to go to a movie and walk out a Christian. There are always exceptions to every rule, and it is certainly possible for God to reach someone that way if he so chose, but I think for the most part, history shows that God reaches people through relationships with other people. However, a movie can be a great way to bring people together, and break the ice and start conversations. Movies can raise questions in the minds of the audience. It is in these ways that I see film can be most effective as a tool for reaching people. They can provide opportunities to talk to people. They can motivate people to question previously held positions and to seek answers. Those are the types of films that, unfortunately, I don’t see being made. And I intend to change that.
Ok, so this is a bit late, but the video took a lot longer to finish than I thought.
Recently, my wife took the kids to her parents’ house for a few days while I stayed home. I figured it would be a great chance to get some things done around the house that I never seem to get to with the kids around. As you’ll see from the video, it didn’t go exactly as I imagined. I really shouldn’t be left alone for that long.
Now, of course, that’s not what really happened because, well, what I really did was shoot this short film. I just thought this would be a great way to practice and learn more about shooting, editing, color grading, and such. Learning by doing, and all that. I hope you enjoyed it. All feedback is welcomed so feel free to let me know what you thought.
So I thought I’d do a quick post just to go over what gear I’ve acquired so far. With a large family to take care of, I don’t have much extra income to put towards gear, so I’ve had to make every penny count. As I mentioned previously, I just recently purchased a Canon T3i camera. I went back and forth between several cameras for which one I wanted to eventually buy, the Canon 60D, the Panasonic GH2 and even the Canon 7d. But an opportunity came up and the T3i was suddenly within reach. I actually bought it with the kit lens, which is currently the only lens I have. I also bought an extra battery and a 32 GB memory card. Now of course, in order to be able to shoot any kind of decent video, I need some sort of support rig. As it happens, most support rigs are very expensive, but fortunately I found the CowboyStudio Shoulder Rig. Don’t let the price throw you, it works great and is very comfortable. I also bought a rail system from Express35. Next up, I bought a Digi Finder Pro. A viewfinder is almost essential for being able to focus and while the Digi Finder may not be as well built as the others, it gets the job done for a lot less money. For audio, I use the Olympus WS-600S Digital Recorder, which I already had and I bought an Audio-Technica ATR-6550 shotgun mic to go with it. Lastly, I got an Ape Case camera bag to store it all in. So that’s about it. Next on my list will probably be some better lenses.
But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
I feel like the man who hid the talent in the ground. And it has to stop. Despite the fact that I’ve only just recently began purchasing gear and writing the this blog, I’ve actually been planning to pursue filmmaking for more than a few years now. When production stopped on the TV show I had been volunteering on, I knew I wanted to continue doing something similar. Not only was it a lot of fun, but it seemed perfectly suited to the set of talents that God had given to me. I knew God had given me abilities in and love for visual arts, but also for music and even a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit. Up until now, I hadn’t seen many ways that combined all my talents and interests as well as filmmaking. One could say, it’s almost as if God had made me for this. I also knew that film production was very expensive, and I wasn’t exactly swimming in money at the time. Then I had an idea. What if the Church could fund the production? It really wouldn’t be that difficult to set up a website with a donation link to a Paypal account. Of course, since then, some very interesting developments have come about, such as Kickstarter and the DSLR revolution which greatly reduced the cost of entry.
So my next thoughts were that I needed to learn more about filmmaking and I needed to actually write a screenplay. So I did what every other aspiring filmmaker does, I started following Philip Bloom’s blog, nofilmschool.com, learningdslrvideo.com and other similar sites. I read a few books on filmmaking and writing. But that was about it. I did manage to write a short film, but since it was for animation, I never got far on producing it. You see, there have been more than a few distractions that have slowed things down a bit. Since that time several years ago, I have welcomed a fourth child, been laid off and looking for work for six months, twice, and house and almost everything we owned in the big Bastrop, TX wildfire last year, among other things. And over and over again, I made the excuse that there was too much going on and I let these things stop me from making any progress. But no more. These distractions are never going to stop. So I have to find ways to move forward anyway. I cannot let myself be distracted any more. If God has given me unique talents and abilities, then surely he expects me to use them. I am tired of hiding them in the ground. Just a few months ago, I finally managed to buy my own camera, a Canon T3i and some other gear (more on that in Part 2). Then I started this website. I meant it when I said that I want others to find this site helpful or at least mildly entertaining, but I am also hoping it will help to provide more accountability for me. So now here I am, ready to move forward, for the glory of God.
Almost daily for over a month now, my afternoon commute home from work has been accompanied by some amazing sunsets. It has made the drive so much more enjoyable. A few times, I’ve been able to make it home soon enough to grab some pictures from the back of my house.
Have you ever noticed that pretty much everyone finds beauty in this world somewhere, and people universally react negatively when they sense a lack of it? We may differ on what we think of as beautiful, some find beauty in nature, some in math or science, and others (God knows why) in modern art, but at a deeper level there seems to be a more basic concept of beauty that I think we all share. for instance, I’ve never met a person that thinks sunsets are ugly.
This does not seem to fit in a strictly Darwinian view of the world, to me. If we all have this concept that transcends our basic survival needs and even transcends culture, then it must come from something greater. Not only does there seem to be an intelligent design to the universe, but that design is also beautiful. That suggests to me that there is not only a Designer who merely got things started and then leaves it alone, but rather one that actually cares about His creation. Otherwise, why bother with giving us all this sense of beauty? He did it because He wants us to know Him. In other words:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
While my interest in filmmaking has been growing for a few years now, I only just recently got my own camera and equipment. Naturally, I was unbelievably excited and couldn’t wait to start shooting stuff with it. So believe it or not, as I was getting ready to take my kids to the zoo a few weeks ago, I really wasn’t thinking about getting to use my new camera so much. I just wanted to take some pictures of the kids.
It wasn’t until we were there that I fully realized that this is a great place to practice photography. Not only that, but the time really flew by. If you’ve ever walked around anywhere with kids for several hours, then you know it can take a lot out of you. Getting the opportunity to practice with my new camera and get some really great photos in the process made it all the more enjoyable. The kids had a blast, too. So, you’re wanting to find something a little more interesting to practice shooting on then maybe a trip to the zoo is in store.
Okay, so I want to make movies. And I want to make a career of it. Alright, you say, but why? Why now? Why movies? What kind of movies? Who am I anyway and why should you even care? Yes, I know you’re not really asking yourself these questions but I’m going to answer anyway. So here goes.
Who am I?
Hi there. Welcome to my new site. This is where I’ll be spending all the free time that I don’t have to talk about why I don’t have any free time. Specifically, I am preparing to begin pursuing my goal of launching a filmmaking career and I’ll be writing on this site about my journey and all the triumphs and challenges I face along the way. I expect this to be an interesting (at least for me) adventure not just academically and logistically (I have a pretty full life already with a full-time job and a wife and 4 kids), but also spiritually. Yes, I did just say spiritually. I am a Christian and, while I don’t plan to make specifically “Christian movies” for a primarily Christian audience, it is my goal to make films that glorify God and hopefully bring people closer to Him. So for anyone interested in art, film, following a dream and especially while juggling a family and a full-time job, or glorifying God, I hope that you will find something on this site that encourages you, challenges you, helps you, or at least entertains you.