Archives for July 2011

Final Cut Software Tutorial

Israel Hyman of Izzy Video provides a great tutorial on Final Cut Express – for free. If you are new to Final Cut, I highly recommend Izzy’s walk through. He provides well-made, step-by-step video tutorials that will get you up and running quickly. Izzy doesn’t claim to provide an exhaustive treatment of the software, but if my experience is any indication, within a few hours you can create short videos incorporating audio, video and still images. His style is to-the-point, and he has a very engaging personality that keeps the technical patter interesting.

Creative; Fun; Enjoy

Here’s an unusual (and creative) storyline treatment.

Some background information from the creator Ben Crowell:

Q: Where did the idea come from?

Crowell: The idea came very randomly when Joel Marsh (co-director) and I were talking about ideas for the festival. The idea started out as something totally different; it was about a man trying to see his newborn child and then through chatting, it evolved into a reversal film and then into the romantic piece that it is now. It just emphasizes the cliche that no idea is a bad idea. The most banal idea has potential to turn into something really beautiful.

Q: How did you go about producing it? (all within 48 hrs?, formality – eg., storyboarding or more freeform? stuff like that)

Crowell: In terms of the film’s creation, we really didn’t have much time, so we made an idea list and then from that a loose shot list and then we ran out to get it done! It was a ton of fun, very small crew–everyone on camera also worked behind the camera. Our friend Luke Bradford wrote the music after I told him the general feel we were looking for. We were so happy with what he came up with.

Q: You did this on the 5d, correct? What other equipment are you using with that? (audio recorder/mics? camera rigs?)

Crowell: Yes, we used the 5d. Other than that, just a tripod and a paint can tied to a stick for a steady cam. We had some nice sound equipment too, although we ended up taking almost all of the sound out. The music was actually just recorded on a laptop microphone.

Q: You’re using the 5d – did you start out as a still guy and move into motion?

Crowell: Honestly, Joel and I have always been movie people. Joel is actually just adding photography to his repertoire now. It’s his 5d and he got it specifically for movie making.

Q: How are you finding using a DSLR to make short films?

Crowell: DSLRs are excellent in my opinion. Definitely no complaints, so far. Really good quality and beautiful colors. The microphone could be better, but that’s far from a deal-breaker.

Q: What would you regard as “the perfect gear” for making films?

Crowell: Perfect gear would be some lovely 70mm cameras with big lights and the works. More realistically, a Canon DSLR with some solid lenses and good sound equipment are ideal.

Q: The “48 hour Project”: How often have you participated? What was the experience like?

Crowell: This is our 4th 48 film. I found out about it from my neighbor and fellow filmmaker Scott Palmer. He had won the Boston 48 and thought it would be something I would enjoy. He was definitely right. It’s a great incentive to get people together to make a film without a daunting commitment. It was an excellent experience. Stress-free, fun and exciting. The stunts were tons of fun, although it was a very, very cold day. We finished with about 10 hours to spare as well. We simply had fun, and very talented people all together and that’s really the key ingredient to making a decent film. If it’s too tense, no one’s going to be on their game, so I try to keep it as loose and enjoyable as possible on set. We came out with some fairly wild stories from a really magnificent experience.

“Habanero” by Justin Baez

Here’s a well-told story that pulls us along with some creative and entertaining visual cues and underlying questions.


In his book “Directing the Story”, Francis Glebas makes a big point about dramatization through questions. “We direct the audience’s attention to ask narrative questions by providing stories in which they wish to know what will happen next,” Glebas says. Sparking questions like “Will the main character get the girl?” “Will he reach his goal?” “Why isn’t she telling the cops about that part of her evening?” get the audience involved and caring about the outcome. Good films tell stories about characters who we, the audience, care about. Those characters live through challenging experiences that we can experience vicariously, and because we care about the characters we want to know what will happen. We have a vested interest in the outcome because we care about the character.

Who is Glebas? He is a filmmaker and storyboard artist for Walt Disney Studios. He’s also taught and consulted on storytelling and storyboarding. Glebas knows something about crafting good stories.

In this short “Habanero,” Baez introduces his main character in a barroom setting, talking with his buddies. The barroom set-up provides enough backstory to bring the characters to life. We learn that the main character is a married guy who, when he was unemployed for a spell, wanted to help take the load off of his working wife by cooking some chile for her. She gives him precise instructions and – right at that point – I started to formulate some questions that pulled me into the story. What is this guy going to do to the recipe? What is going to go wrong?

The film progresses and I realize my initial questions and line of thought were off-base. Without giving too much away, I find myself replacing my original set of questions with alternatives — and now I’m really hooked. I definitely want to see this guy work out of the situation he’s in. I just don’t know where this is going to lead. What a great place to be as a storyteller: you’ve hooked your audience with an interesting character, someone the audience can relate to and care about, and you’ve placed your character in a challenging situation that he’s got to work his way out of. Keep the character’s actions true to his personality, and like Baez you can lead us wherever you want to go.