by Graham Sheldon | 11th October 2016
Film school is expensive, stressful and lasts for years. Is it worth it? Yes. Here are five concrete reasons why: The marketing, maybe even the promise surrounding film school goes something like this: you get in, you make a student film, you’re “discovered” and you make the next instalment in Marvel’s Avengers franchise. Sounds simple, right? In reality, it looks more like this: you get in, you spend $100,000 on tuition, you get out and then, burdened with heavy loans, you work as a Production Assistant for three years before slowly moving up the ladder. At that point you might ask yourself: “Why did I even go to film school?” After all, rarely in the entertainment industry does anyone care where you graduated from. I can’t remember the last time anyone asked me. For the most part, what really defines you is your credit list, attitude and reel. So what is the purpose of going to all those classes? Fear not. If you are focused, there are many things you can gain from a film school education. Here are just a few of them: The Freedom to Fail. If you stop reading right here and only take one tip away from this article, this is the one to remember: film school gives you a safe environment in which to fall completely and totally flat on your face. Embrace it. Embrace the potential for failure that those production classes provide. Take risks, huge enormous risks, not only with your story, but also with your camera moves and your entire approach to production. If you are ever going to do it, film school’s the time. When you enter the professional work force where hundreds of thousands to millions are on the line, failure is not as easy a pill to swallow. Define your style in school if only because that’s where you are given the chance. Find out what kind of filmmaker you want to be, or more importantly, what kind you don’t want to be. Skills. Having a skill set when you come out of school is key. Producers and other hiring managers will look at your resume with an eye towards your knowledge of software and complicated camera systems. Gain that knowledge. Spend time with all the Avid, Adobe and Apple creative software you can get your hands on in school, and right out of the gate you’ll have something competitive to bring to the table. School is also the time to program yourself for the fast-paced deadline-driven environment of television and film because it sure doesn’t change when you leave. The stakes just get much higher. Time with Equipment. Gear is expensive and students usually can’t buy it or even rent it without help. All film-schools have access to equipment with varying degrees of quality and they all have rules about checking that gear out. Find out what those rules are and push them to the limit. Check out cameras, lenses, audio and grip equipment as often as you can and use them as much as possible in the field – not from your couch. When you graduate, your access to this gear goes away, so soaking up as much hands-on training as possible is pivotal. Networking. You’ve probably heard that this industry is all about who you know, but when you graduate, the only people you know are your classmates. My advice is to do everything you can to keep in touch and foster those relationships. In doing so, remember it’s important to be humble and generous. Did you just get a great gig right out of school? Fantastic. Don’t ignore your former classmates once you are in that new position. Talent is the only thing that matters, not ego. Bring the best people together for every job and everyone will benefit. Film Theory. Does watching and analyzing D.W. Griffith’s epic (though admittedly racist) historical film Birth of a Nation on a Friday afternoon sound like a dream come true to you? It should. School will probably be one of your last opportunities to watch the seminal films that have defined our craft and to participate in deep discussions regarding their influence. Sure, maybe you can find a film club when you are a professional, but life tends to get in the way. School is perhaps your last chance to dive into complicated German expressionist films and to really dissect the Italian master filmmakers in a structured environment. During those precious moments, make it your goal to absorb the pacing of each edit and then to understand how the choice of different shots contributed to the telling of the story. I often hear that theory is somehow a lesser pursuit than physical production. I couldn’t disagree more. Theory and the study of classic films give you a chance to watch other filmmakers succeed and fail on a large scale. Learn from that. When you sit in class, keep in mind you are moving into a challenging field and many, perhaps most, of your classmates will not succeed in making it their career. It’s a bleak fact, but one that should challenge you to be the best you can be. Fight every single day to find ways to improve yourself and your work. Film school can be a great start. What did you take from film school? Comment below!Read more
by Fabian Chaundy | 18th July 2016
There is a little maxim that goes “talking about music is like dancing about architecture”. Similarly, one could say that a medium inherently visual such as filmmaking is best discussed in a visual channel, and not in the spoken word, audio-only format of podcasts. Nevertheless, there is a healthy dose of filmmaking podcasts out there, dealing from everything from gear talk, to technique, and the more abstract concepts behind this art form we have chosen to pursue. Here is a list of a few notable examples of filmmaking podcasts we have found not only entertaining but also very inspiring. I hope you find something that sparks your interest too. To subscribe to each individual podcast on iTunes, simply click on the podcast logos. The Digital Convergence Podcast These days, there is undoubtedly a necessity to know in depth aspects of audio, video, photography, podcasting and the web, which has, in a way, turned us into the 21st century equivalents of Renaissance women and men. The in-depth discussions between “Mediapreneur” Carl Olson and a wide spectrum of guests highlights the ever increasing demand of digital content creation in all its forms. With close to 200 episodes, most of them over an hour long, this podcast alone is enough to last you for enough gym or dog-walking sessions for a long time to come. Subscribe here, and be sure to also check out creativemethod.tv for more from Carl, as well as his educational programmes. Indie Film Hustle Podcast Just about to turn 1 year old, the Indie Film Hustle Podcast has amassed an enormous following. Alex Ferrari is a veteran of the Hollywood filmmaking industry, with countless credits over a 20 year career as a writer, director, producer and post-production and VFX supervisor. The bi-weekly filmmaking podcasts are usually structured around a quick and short 10-15 minute episode, and a longer 60+ min interview episode. This means that no matter the time of the week, there is some more Indie Film Hustle content around the corner. Alex also curates a collection of the best educational resources found across the web on the Indie Film Hustle website. Radio Film School This one is a little different, and if you enjoy podcasts such as This American Life, then you’ll feel right at home with Radio Film School as Ron Dawson explores the journey of what it means to be a filmmaker. Touching on many different issues such as history or culture, he chooses personal experiences as starting points to conversations with different people in the industry, which he delivers as little snippets here and there, always punctuated by great music. Episodes are divided and mixed across several topics and themes — playlists, almost — which I first found a little confusing to keep track of. Best thing to do is just let it play and enjoy the ride. A very relaxing listen. The Wandering DP Podcast Patrick O’Sullivan hosts interviews with top working cinematographers and directors of photography, as well as analysing inspiring work found across the web. He also gives us a glimpse into his commercial work in advertisement. Long interviews and sections such as Inspiration Corner and Style Uncovered guarantee an in-depth treatment of topics. Be warned, though: as the episodes often deal with very visual aspects of existing work, it is highly recommended to take the time to watch the videos discussed in order to follow along. cinema5D On the Couch Last but not least, our very own cinema5D On the Couch filmmaking podcast! Throughout the past years we have aimed to bring you interviews with top industry professionals, from manufacturers to directors, in the relaxed atmosphere of the cinema5D couch. Join Nino and the cinema5D editorial team in both the audio and video version of On the Couch. Are you a “podcast” kind of person? Are there any other filmmaking podcasts you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!Read more
by Dallas Taylor | 27th October 2015
This is a guest article by Dallas Taylor from defactosound.com If you’ve spent any time on Vimeo recently, you might think sound design has gone out of style. I’m talking about traditional sound design: environmental sounds, movement sounds, emotional tones, natural and non-literal sounds — aural elements that build worlds outside of music. Many filmmakers tend to be eschewing sound design entirely in favor of visuals and music alone. These films are often gorgeous and moving, but they also leave me feeling incomplete. And that’s because they’re missing one of the crucial elements of both the world we live in and the whole film experience: sound. I believe filmmakers opt for soundless films because incorporating good sound can be intimidating and hard to pull off. You might think it’s better to cut out the sound entirely, rather than release a piece with bad audio. I get that. But while I’d like you to believe that great sound design should be left to professional sound designers (that is, after all, how I make my living), the truth is there are some simple tricks you can use to drastically improve the audio of your films on your own. Here are 5 things I’ve learned over the years that will immediately improve your audio. 1. Get the Right Gear To record good audio, you need good gear. Just as it has with camera equipment, over the past decade the quality of recording equipment has gone up and the prices have come down. Here’s a list of some baseline tools that can make a world of difference. Recorder: Zoom makes a wide range of quality, budget-conscious recorders. I recommend anything from their Zoom H4n to the Zoom F8. Boom Mic: RØDE NTG3 or Sennheiser MKH 416 Lav Mic: I like the Tram TR50, but RØDE and Sennheiser make companion lavs with many of their transmitter and receivers. Transmitter/Receiver: Sennheiser makes a wide range and RØDE recently launched RodeLink which looks very exciting. Post-Production Software: Most video editing software manufacturers offer companion audio software (Avid: Pro Tools; Adobe Premiere: Audition; Final Cut Pro: Logic Pro). If you’re doing sound yourself, it might be best to stick with the companion tool of your favorite editing software. Other Software: iZotope RX (for noise reduction) and VocALign (for ADR conforming) 2. Control Your Environment Isolating the sound you’re recording on set is the single most important thing you can do to improve your indie film audio. Turn off the air conditioner or heater. Unplug the fridge. (Pro Tip: leave your car keys inside the fridge so you don’t leave before you turn the fridge back on.) Now hush everyone on set and listen for any other offensive and easy-to-reduce noises. Can you block off the street during takes so you don’t hear the cars going by? Can you turn off the automatic sprinklers outside? Reduce room and extraneous noise as much as possible. Then, when you start rolling, keep extras silent except for the main subjects. Everything in the background should be mimed and silent. Isolate what you’re recording. Noisy audio is bad audio. The more noise you can control, the better your audio is going to be. 3. Create Your Own Sound Library on the Go If you’ve successfully isolated the audio in your shots, you’re going to have to go back in and fill out the aural world later. One way to do this is with sound libraries, but those can be expensive, and they might not match your project. That café full of 15 college students shouldn’t sound like a stock SFX pull of a country club full of 75 retirees. A great habit you can incorporate into your filmmaking is to build up your own sound library for each project. For that café scene, do an audio-only take of background chatter. Capture the extras having genuine conversations. Oftentimes in Hollywood, this background walla is recorded by studio actors known as a “loop group”. But obviously that can be pricey. Why not do it yourself on the set? Not only is it free, but it will sound far more authentic than anything you’re going to find online. More than just capturing background noise, consider capturing audio-only takes of everything. If you’re shooting an artist drawing, do a take with the mic right up on the pencil. If a mechanic is working in his shop, capture the sounds of his tools. If you need a door slam, slam a door! Since it’s audio-only, you don’t have to worry about the boom being in the shot. Snuggle up to these sounds and capture them as clearly as you can. You can always lay it nice and subtle into the mix, but having the clean, isolated audio will come in very handy later. 4. Do Your Own Foley Foley is the process of performing sounds, like footsteps or doors opening, and syncing them to video. At my studio, we do this on nearly all of our projects. Footsteps, chair squeaks, opening a bag of chips, turning the pages of a book, the list goes on. We obsess over Foley because Foley is how you bring the world you’ve created to life. It immerses your audience in your alternate reality. It connects the viewer to the film experience. Capturing Foley doesn’t have to be hard. Just use the same boom mic you used for dialogue and make sure you’re in an isolated environment (i.e., build yourself a blanket fort, turn off that fridge, silence the heat/air). Watch through your final cut and take note of every action that should produce a sound. And I mean every action. Would you hear clothes rubbing while someone runs? Would you hear those high-heeled shoes on that wood floor? Record these sounds while watching the picture. Make the world real. Your audience might not even consciously notice these Foley effects, but subconsciously they’re being absorbed into your universe. Trust me, it makes a drastic difference. 5. Plan Ahead for Sound To me, this is the most important point of all. Think about sound up front. It might sound reductionistic, but the first step to improving your audio is to think about it more. What should you be thinking about? Try this: Figure out how you’d tell your story with nothing but audio. What sounds would people need to hear in order to understand where the story is taking place? What sounds would they need to hear in order to understand what’s going on? What are the sounds saying, and what is the music saying? If you can figure out how to tell your story through nothing but audio, your shooting and editing decisions will be so much more powerful. I’m not passionate about sound just because I’m a sound designer. I’m passionate about sound because I love films. Sound is a huge part of the experience. It’s what makes the story real and the world immersive. Sound literally moves and shakes the audience. I am constantly blown away by the visuals I see from filmmakers today. Hopefully a few of the tips above will give you the confidence to take a crack at adding sound. If you have questions or would like some tips on a specific audio situation, shoot me an email: dallas (at) defactosound.com. I’ll be standing by.Read more
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