Wednesday, March 28, 2007

People Just Like the Sound of Movies

If you are making an independent film on a miniscule budget it is inevitable that some aspect of your movie will be compromised due to your lack of funds. The ultimate challenge for an independent filmmaker working with a shoestring budget is to some how make their movie look and sound like it deserves to be with the big boys on the film festival circuit.

While certain things have to be eliminated or kept to a minimum with a low budget film production such as special effects, makeup and lighting it is important to understand that the sound aspect of a low budget movie should never be compromised. Try sitting through a two hour movie that has a constant hum in the soundtrack and you will know what I mean. People will watch just about anything on the screen, but they will not listen to anything that assaults their sense of hearing.

The film industry began as a visual medium in which artists could be seen acting out stories on the silver screen, but in recent decades it would seem that the general movie going public is more interested in the way a movie sounds than the way it looks. Advances in sound technology have moved forward as fast as the advances in film and video technology have, but in the race for which aspect of a film people enjoy the most, sound is in the lead. Here is the proof: if you shoot a film with poor lighting, no costumes, no makeup and no special effects it is considered to be an artistic style of independent filmmaking called cinema verite. You can even scratch up the negative in the name of artistic license and people will still watch your movie. On the other hand, if you add some static noise to the soundtrack of a movie, mess up the lip sync of the dialogue or add errant sounds with no explanation then people will just think you are not an accomplished filmmaker technically. They will shun your movie.

Ever since the first sound movie, The Jazz Singer was made in 1929 on Stage 5 of the Warner Bros. lot in Hollywood the movie going public has been spoiled. They have come to expect that when they see a movie they will not only see life up on the screen but they will also hear it too. There is a certain level of technical quality they expect when they see movie. However, when it comes to hearing a movie, things are quite different: their standards for sound quality are much higher than their standards for visual quality. The eyes have a higher threshold for pain than the ears do, and the brain of a typical human being cannot handle uncomfortable noises for very long.

The sound of a movie can be either real or surreal, but it cannot be bad. A film audience will not reject flaws in the visual esthetics of a movie as easily as they will reject a film for its poor sound quality. For instance, if the dialogue tracks of actors voices are too low it brings to the attention of the audience the fact that the actors voices were recorded. This can negatively affect their suspension of disbelief which reminds them that they are watching a movie, and not experiencing real life. It will ultimately affect their opinion of the film for certain.

The sound of a movie can determine whether or not it will be a success. The Star Wars movies owe much of their success to the sound designers and technicians who worked very hard to create alien sounds that complimented the visuals perfectly. They made those movies sound believable, literally, and that is a very hard thing to do in general when it comes to science fiction films.

The tools that are necessary to record, design and mix sound for movies have made great strides in terms of advancements. Only two decades ago there were only a handful of skilled sound recorders, designers, and mixers that provided the sound for movies. This was because the equipment was very expensive to purchase. A person who wanted to do this kind of work for a living would have to invest a large amount of money to buy a vast amount of equipment that filled up a lot of space. You would usually have to rent or buy a place to set up shop. On top of that you would probably have to take classes to learn the skills of sound for films. Nowadays, things are much different.

Advances in sound technology have made everything smaller, easier to learn and definitely more affordable. A small, inexpensive digital sound recorder and microphone can now be used to record sound that is indistinguishable from sound that was recorded on a much bigger and much more expensive Nagra reel to reel sound recorder. A good digital sound recording package can be purchased for less than $1500. Also, a person can buy a home computer setup with a sound design/mixing program for under $1000. Twenty years ago you would have to spend about $20,000 to buy comparable equipment. You can even learn the necessary skills using computer program tutorials on your home computer. The best part about is the fact that you can literally do all the sound work on an independent film production entirely by yourself.

If you are planning to make an independent film and enter it in film festivals you should make sure that the sound quality is as good as the best films on the festival circuit. You cannot settle for sub-par when it comes to sound quality. If you do, your audience will notice it immediately and this will cause them to no longer suspend their disbelief. When this happens you can be sure that they will become annoyed and head for the exits.

Michael P. Connelly is an Author, Artist and award-winning Filmmaker who writes on a variety of topics that effect people in their every day lives.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

My Filmmaking Lens on Squidoo

Readers of DFB aka Digital Filmmaking Blog, I'm not sure how many of you have heard or are aware of what a squidoo lens is...

Before I say anything, check out my squidoo lens on Digital Filmmaking

After seeing the lens. you must be wondering..."what the hell was that!!" Well, its difficult to say in my own words what a squidoo lens is, so I'l quote from Wiki:

Squidoo is a network of user-generated lenses --single pages that highlights one person's point of view, recommendations, or expertise. Lenses can be about anything, such as ideas, people or places, hobbies and sports, pets or products, philosophy, and politics. Lenses aren't primarily intended to hold content; more emphasis is placed on recommending and then pointing to content on the web. Annotation and organization and personalization delivers context and meaning.

Hope you understood :). Anyways, its very easy to create a squidoo lens. Just visit my filmmaking lens, get a hang of what it is like, and then click on the "make your own page like this" button. A very helpful interface will help you build you very own lens - making you a lensmaster instantly!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Film Schools and Film Training

For those looking to create exciting visual works, film schools can provide the basic education, training and specialized skills needed for filmmaking and video production. Film students learn how to produce radio and television news, studio programs, documentaries, sporting events, music videos, and especially feature films. The training will include classroom lectures and hands-on coaching to develop an understanding of the various media production processes.

Film schools offer a broad array of classes and specialties for students looking into occupations in the media and film production industry. They can prepare students for careers in animation, broadcasting, television production, and filmmaking with educational courses in media arts.

Film Schools can help students develop a sense of which role they might choose to pursue: production, performing artist or support. The industries of film, television, video, and radio generate literally thousands of jobs, both behind the camera and in view. Vocational, technical, and trade schools often provide courses in visual communications and media communications, as well as computer animation, writing, casting, acting, directing, and producing. They also provide courses in the technical aspects of filmmaking for positions such as gaffer, key grip, editor, and many others.

All skills for the film industry can be gained in film school for entry-level employment in the more than 250,000 jobs in the filmmaking industry. With the right education and background, a film production job may be found just about anywhere.

Filmmaking - What To Do Until The Money Arrives

If you are not busy making your movie, you should get busy making your movie.

“How can I start,” you whine, “when I don’t have any financing?” I know it seems you can’t roll film or tape until you have some money, but your lack of funding isn’t permanent, is it? You will have money at some future time, won’t you? You must have faith that things will get better, or they won’t.

So that’s a good place to start. Generate a little faith, and step out on it. Actively visualize how your film will look, and sound, and how it will be financially successful.

Visualization is key here. It literally costs nothing, but makes the real movie possible. I recommend the book, “Creative Visualization” by Shakti Gawain.

Ignore any negative people in your life, and drive yourself on faith that your movie will get done. Visualizing your movie may seem like a waste of time, but is one of the best uses of your time. Visualizing your movie is working on it.

A present lack of money should never keep you from working on your independent feature. Besides visualization, there are many things you can do until the money arrives.

Work on your script. Read it, then read it again, and rewrite it. Punch up the dialogue, fix the scenes, weed out weak characters, get to the point of each scene.

Your script is never perfect, it needs work. Working on it a terrific use of your time before financing arrives. Have parties, where you and your friends read it aloud, just like doing a radio play. Take note of audience response, and revise accordingly. After each revision, read it again, and again.

When funding comes through, you will know your script inside and out and upside down. You’ll know the scene numbers, without looking at the script.

Once your script is polished, start planning. Now you need to be as artistic as possible. Read your script again, with your Director hat on. Imagine what the players look and sound like. Make notes in the margins of your script, and figure out how you’re going to do it. For now, don’t even think about the money.

Once you’re sure how the movie will go together, start breaking the script down. Make lists of all the cast and crew and props and costumes and locations that you will need. Assemble your ideal team, on paper. Figure out how many special effects shots there are.

Then make up your preliminary schedule. Think through the shots and get a real understanding of how long setups and shots will take. Just because a shot only takes two sentences in the script, doesn’t mean it will only take twenty minutes to shoot.

Obviously, after you’ve broken down the script, and know what you’ll need to buy, then you make up your budget, last of all. Really think about each line item and do some research to determine realistic costs for crew and equipment. Call labs and rental houses and get rate sheets.

The good news is a practical budget and schedule and artwork will help you get financing. When you show Investor Prospects you’ve really put some thought into how the money will be spent, they’re much more likely to see it your way, and give you the money.

You might read “Secrets Of Raising Money For Your Movie,” by Sam Longoria, to learn how to gather and approach investor prospects.

You should be using your TBF (time before financing) to network. When you call those labs and rental houses, get to know the people who work there.

Ask for names, and write them down. They’ll be good resources when the time comes, to get things at a discount. Not only can they help you on rates, but they’ll know crew wanting to break into features, who will also work at lower rates.

Join a filmmaking group. A good one is IndieTalk, It’s online, and you can reach it from anywhere. Networking with other positive filmmakers gets you moral support, and you can learn from the mistakes of others. Be selective, don’t hang with people unless they have a “can do” attitude. If you let them, individuals and whole groups can waste your time! If all they want to do is argue or debate, move along.

Pitch in! Help out on other filmmakers’ shoots, to get a better idea of how a set runs, and how long setups and shots take. This helps scheduling your own film.

By lending a hand to other filmmakers, you also make deposits at the favor bank. You will need to visit the favor bank repeatedly as you make your film, so it’s best to have an account there. If you help on their projects, it will be hard for your new filmmaker friends to deny you assistance, when you call.

Put your face before the industry. Filmmaking associations have events where industry professionals speak. Go to these. Be bold, and push through the minions and introduce yourself. Go to film festivals and be sure to attend the mixers and panels. Go to film markets, and sit in the lobby and talk to everyone.

When your financing comes through, and you have a green light to start pre-production on your film, you will already have done most of the work, just about everything but casting. Your schedule and budget will be done, you will have leads on crew and equipment, and your script will be in top form.

About the Author:

Angela Taylor is a Hollywood producer, and a seven-time Telly Award winner. She teaches Independent Producing at