Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Taking Care of Your Camcorder

Your camcorder is one of your most important weapons in the competitive war of digital filmmaking. Its also one of the more expensive weapons that you cannot afford to lose too soon - and hence, its always better to take good care of your DV Camera. However, you don't need to go to a film school to learn camcorder hygiene. Here are a few tips:

A camcorder can be irreparable if damaged with water. Protect it from rain and wipe off moisture from the casing. Salt water is especially harmful, and can do damage to the outer casing as well as the inner workings.

Some camcorders warn you if condensation is building up inside the camera and many will switch off automatically. To remedy this, take out the cassette, if the camera will let you. If it is not possible, switch off and wait 2 or 3 hours. Once you have removed the cassette, leave the cassette compartment open for 2 or 3 hours, to dry, in a non-dusty room at average temperature. Condensation is particularly problematic if you film in extremely cold places and the water freezes. If this happens, let the camera thaw naturally at room temperature and then go through the same process as for condensation.

Magnetized equipment
Any magnetic field can adversely affect recording. Television monitors, video games and loud speakers generate fields which distort picture quality. No lasting damage id done to the camera itself, but your footage could be ruined. Test how the camera performs if you are in any doubt and play back the results on a monitor. Occasionally, the actual mechanism of the camera can be affected, temporarily, but this is often solved by unplugging your power supply or removing the battery and then reconnecting.

Pointing the viewfinder at sunlight can do great damage to inner working parts. Worse, it can permanently damage your eyesight too.

Radio transmitters and power lines
If you have ever listened to radio near an overhead power line you will have heard an amount of interference. This noise badly affects your video recording, so avoid shooting near pylons or other high voltage lines. Radio transmitters will have a similar affect on the sound and image. Mobile phones also cause problems with sound interference while recording.

Excessive use
Many camcorders are not designed to be used for excessively long periods. as for example in surveillance filming; the inside temperature of the camera can cause malfunctions.

Dust and Sand
Take care when inserting the cassette that no fine dust or sand inters the camera. If you are using the camera in a potentially dusty environment, use a protective cover. If you don’t have a cover, you can improvise with a black bin-liner, wrapped around the casing. But beware that the camera could overheat over a period of time.

We shall continue with this topic in the next post.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Latin American Films Top Sundance Film Festival

Two Latin American films have swept awards at this year's Sundance independent film festival.

Padre Nuestro (Our Father) tells the story of an illegal immigrant from Mexico seeking his father in New York and was given the Grand Jury Prize.

Manda Bala (Send A Bullet), a film portraying the violence of modern Brazilian society, also won an award.

An Irish film has won The World Cinema Audience Award at the prestigious Film Festival.
The award was given to 'ONCE', directed by John Carney. ONCE is described as a modern day musical set on the streets of Dublin.

More than 120 films have been screened during the 10-day festival which takes place in Park City, Utah. The director of the 2007 edition of the competition, Geoffrey Gilmore, said it has been a "landmark year" for the festival.

Manda Bala, which examines corruption and crime in Brazil, was given the documentary jury's top honour.

An Israeli film entitled Sweet Mud which explores the relationship between a young boy and his mentally ill mother won the World Cinema prize.

The Audience Award for best drama was given to a film which portrays a father who must tell his children that their mother has been killed in Iraq.

The director of Grace is Gone, starring John Cusak, said he wanted to "show what really happened to bring us to this horrific state".

Charles Ferguson's film is one of which several influenced by the Iraq conflict at this year's Sundance festival.

Thanks to BBC for the above news bite

Related Posts: Film Festivals as Markets

Friday, January 19, 2007

Filmmaking and the Internet

Short films are too big for the internet and need to be squashed right down to make the process of watching more practical. Until both connections and cables for the majority of users have improved, this is the only viable way of using the internet for video.

What’s a codec?

Codecs are all designed to work on two fronts: temporal and spatial y of using the internet for vidcompression.the only viable way of using the internet Tjay TtTta That means they both compress the picture in terms of the amount of information used, but do this in different ways. Beyond this, there are other ways to compress further, by reducing colour quality, audio, pixel rate or frame rate.

Within these two formats, codecs are found in either hardware or software form. Hardware codecs are fast and more efficient but more expensive, and require that the receiver of the images has the same codec device. Software codecs do not have the same quality as hardware versions but most are available free on the Internet, and are more widely used on editing programs.

There are two ways of compressing a film. Here’s how it works:

  1. Temporal compression: Temporal compression takes out lots of information that you don’t miss by comparing the individual pixels in a frame-for example, if a frame looks almost the same as the last, perhaps with the same background colour, it recognizes this and hangs on to only those bits of information that differ from what was in the first frame, called the key frame. All other frames after the key frame it names "delta frames" and only starts a new key frame when the scene changes significantly. In this way, it manages to remove much information and reduce the overall file size.
  2. Spatial compression: Spatial compression works differently: it still looks for data that appears more than once but instead of studying each pixel, it divides up the whole picture into blocks of pixels. It looks for patterns of repetition within these blocks, enabling it to map them using much less data. Pushed too far this can result in blocky, jagged looking images but it remains a powerful, if unsophisticated, compression solution.
Related Posts: Shooting for the Web


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Film Festivals as Markets

The main film festivals are also markets, helping the acquisitions executive spot unsigned films that could be picked up. This is the place where you and your sales agent can start to cash in on the buzz that you have worked hard to create through screenings at smaller festivals.

There are five major markets, spaced throughout the year:

European Film Market in Berlin in February.

American Film Market (AFM) in Santa Monica in February.

Marche International du Film in Cannes, France in May.

Film Festival, in October.

Mercato International Filme e Documentario, in Milan, Italy, also in October.

Finished product vs short clip

If you are trying to sell a movie to potential distributors, it helps if you have a finished product; surprisingly, up to 80 per cent of films submitted to Sundance are incomplete. However, incomplete projects are bought in special forums at most of the main film markets. For example, the Independent Feature Film Market each autumn in New York attracts buyers who are able to see special screenings of partially completed work. Incomplete movies are inevitably less attractive because the producer usually asks for completion funds, but distributors are well versed in deciding whether to buy based on just a small section of a film; even in full screenings, potential buyers make up their minds from just short sections of a movie and may leave midway through in order to attend other screenings.

Digital Filmmaking

Monday, January 15, 2007

More Artificial Sound Effects for Filmmaking

Other artificial sound effects that you can yourself create for filmmaking are as follows:

Rain: Put some dried peas in a sieve and roll them from one side to the other.

Thunder: Get a sheet of thin metal and shake it violently a few feet away from the microphone.

Crashing waves: Rub two hard brushes against a fairly large sheet of metal.

Walking in the woods: Make a ball with some old recording tape and squeeze it rhythmically.

Hoofbeats: Either drum your fingers on a table or clap together two halves of an empty coconut in the appropriate “diddlley-da” rhythm.
Voice on the telephone: Simply speak through a tube.

Don’t overdo effects
Once you get the sound-effects bug, it can have disastrous results. You can even get the impression that sound effects can cover up defects in the film. The temptation to regard them as an end rather than a means is always present. This is understandable, but must be firmly resisted. Effects must be used only where the film needs them.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Artificial Sound Effects - Water

As stated in the earlier post, we will continue with the creation of artificial sound effects for filmmaking. Today, I have some water related sound effects for you:

  • Waves: Flap your hand slowly back and forth in a container full of water. Watch you dont wet the mike!
  • Falling into Water: Submerge an empty kam-jar upside down in a container of water. Then quickly lift it out.
  • Rowing Boat: A couple of little pieces of wood splashed into the water in the right rhythm give a good effect. An unoiled door hinge will effectively imitate the squeaking of the rowlocks.
  • Sea Waves: Put some rice in a cardboard box and slide it from one side to the other with the right sort of timing.
More artificial sound effects creation in the next post. Ciao!

Digital Filmmaking

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Creating Artificial Sound Effects

You can always produce artificial sound effects for filmmaking if you cant record them on location or transfer them from a disc. For winter sports for example, you can get some realisitc effects as follows:
  • Skiing: The sounds of passing skiers can be quite adequately imitated by sliding a small polished table across a carpet close to the microphone.
  • Walking on the Snow: Press your hand hard and in the required rhythm into a large shallow dish full of flour or starch
I'll continue with the creation of artificial sound effects in the next few posts. Till then, ciao and good luck with your filmmaking.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Filming from a Car

Never film from a moving vehicle without supporting the camcorder. You can get specially designed mountings for doing this, or you can use a unipod. If you're shooting on celluloid, its better to use a higher film speed to iron out any bumps that may occur.

Alternatively, you can use a conventional tripod set on the floor of a car, so long as you make sure it doesn't move during filming. Working with your zoom lens in the wide angle position, you can film the driver from the rear seat. It is always best to use a cable release. Also, to prevent over exposure, you will have to override the automatic controls and set the aperture manually.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Why Polarizing Filters are important to Filmmaking

Wishing all my readers a very happy and prosperous new year 007.

The polarizing filter has great possibilities. Its main feature is its ability to eliminate reflections from non-metallic surfaces, which makes it almost indispensable for filming water, glass (including mirrors), enamels, jewels, plastics, etc. The filter factor is about one stop. In digital camcorders with through the lens light meters, there is no need to make any correction.

By turning the filter in front of one eye, you will be able to decide the angle at which it has its best effect, and place the filter on the lens at this angle. Best results will be obtained with lateral or frontal-lateral lighting.

Other advantages of polarizing filters
  1. They make blue sky look darker.
  2. They make white clouds stand out against it.
  3. They reduce the effect of distance haze.
  4. They reproduce green tones exactly as in nature.
  5. They reduce the effect of ultra-violet which occurs at high altitudes and which causes considerable blueness in the film.
  6. They create moonlight effects in films taken during the day with sunlight at 90 degree to the camera if you close the diaphragm by half, or perhaps full stop.
Related Posts: Camcorder Lens Filters

Digital Filmmaking