Introduction to video-essays

While we wait for the Videography course to become again available at Middlebury, I invite you to discover the world of video essays on your own terms through these five artists.

Video essay is a piece of video content that, much like a written essay, advances an argument. The only difference is that a video essay takes advantage of the structure and language of film to deliver its point.

  1. Kogonada

    Discover masterfully constructed video essays from the writer-director Kogonada who reveals through visual arguments the power of cinematography in your favourite. His works are STRIKINGLY beautiful and give you an amazing insight into the history of film and its artistic power to create emotional response in viewers worldwide. You can start your exploration with this piece on Italian Neo-realism:

    http://kogonada.com/portfolio/what-is-neorealism
  2. Shanespeare

    If you are looking for more casual, relaxed and chattier video-essay experience, you should definitely check out Shanespeare channel on YouTube. Shaniya explores a variety of cultural, societal and media subjects using popular films we consume to ask critical questions about our collective values. And it’s great fun, too! She manages to combine highly academic rhetoric with casual Gen-z language and jokes, making you feel like you are listening to a friend’s banter about pop culture’s latest trends. I recommend this piece on How Hollywood Demonizes Feminity.
  3. Nerdwriter

    We all sooner or later discover this channel on Youtube and inevitably fall in love with Evan Pushak’s beautiful voice, slick visuals and highly engaging philosophical reflections on a myriad of humanity subjects. Whether you want to look at the film you love from a new, unexpected perspective, learn about history, architecture, painting or like me, discover the poetry of Emily Dickinson and E.E. Cummings, you absolutely must check out this page if you haven’t already done so before. You can start with this piece Time, Tarkovsky And Pandemic.
  4. What’s So Great About That?

    Grace Lee is the queen of engaging with dense, very specific media subjects with seeming ease and relaxed attitude that you cannot stop watching whatever video you happen to click on and can find yourself down the rabbit hole of layers of complex theoretical arguments Lee proposes. Be careful with this self-reflexive, funny and piercingly smart video-essayist, because the next time you will be preparing readings for your film theory class, inevitably this question will pop into your head: “Did Grace reference this paper in one her essays?” She probably did, and let’s keep this gem between us. You can start with her piece on Video essay.
  5. Lessons from the Screenplay

    Finally, if like me, you have missed an opportunity to take a screenwriting course and find yourself in ss1/2 trying to make a short film, this is one of the helpful resources on your crash-course journey of becoming a better storyteller. Check out this piece on the structure of When Harry Met Sally.



    Bonus essay: Jessica McGoff on Mulholland Drive: http://www.thecine-files.com/on-mulholland-drive/

Feel free to talk to me about taking a video essay class – my media tutor hours: Sunday 4 pm-7pm and 8pm-12 am:)

Starting with digital art and animation

Not just a fascinating spectacle that magically brings still drawings to life, but also a booming industry elevating films to new levels by the means of visual effects, animation (as well as other forms of digital art) captivates people of all ages and aesthetic preferences. However, the craft that is, at first glance, so playful and entertaining requires strong technical skills, excellent time management, and an incredible amount of commitment. So where should one begin?

As a beginner in the vast world of animation and digital art in general I have spent hours on the Internet trying to decide what software to use. I wanted it to be powerful but yet accessible (and not too intimidating). Here I created a list of three (+ an honorable mention) incredible pieces of software that cover all the basic approaches to animation and digital art in general.

DISCLAIMER: I will not be including Photoshop here, since if you are interested in digital art, with a 99.9% chance you have already used it at least once, and probably know about it more than I do! 

Blender

First of all, it is important to decide what type of digital art you are more drawn towards. Are you more into 2D art or are you trying to create three-dimensional models? Your answer will affect your choice of software (however, some programs can handle both!). My personal journey into the world of digital art has started with 3D art and, thus, this particular program is very dear to my heart. Blender is an amazing free software that possesses an extremely vast toolkit allowing users to create hyperrealistic renders as well as a powerful automatic rigging tool. Blender is not only an exquisite modeling software but also incorporates texture editors, sculpting modes, compositing, and other intriguing extensions such as non-realistic rendering. Some of the cons may include the intimidating interface that, however, will become your best friend after a couple of tutorials that are available in abundance on YouTube.

Krita

If you, however, are more drawn towards 2D digital art and animation Krita should be able to satisfy all of your needs. Unlike Photoshop, Krita does not function as a photo editor but focuses on animation and digital painting. Krita is acclaimed for its simple yet effective layer system, a vast variety of brush tools, and the possibility to personalize user interface for further convenience. A recognized professional program that is vastly used in the filmmaking and video-game development industry and is also free? Sounds like the perfect choice for beginning illustrators and digital artists looking to enter the industry. 

Pencil2D Animation

If these professional industry-standard ‘monsters’ seem too intimidating, Pencil2D Animation might be an optimal choice for you! Its minimalist design is very user-friendly and not as intimidating as one of the digital art giants I mentioned above. Pencil2D is the perfect tool for someone who is just starting exploring the world of hand-drawn animation or is pursuing 2D animation as a hobby. As a beginner myself, I use Pencil 2D to improve my practical skills in hand-drawn motion design. Completely free and compatible with various operating systems, Pencil2D animation is a great starting point for amateur animators like me. 

Honorable mention:

Pixel art is another intriguing genre of digital art that allows for the creation of weirdly appealing low-resolution images that have a very special nostalgic vibe of indie video games. Composed of visible pixels, such images seem simple, however, require a special skill of color blocking as well as an ability to prioritize basic elements to make an image recognizable even in a very low resolution. While you can still use popular digital art editors such as Adobe Photoshop or GIMP for pixel art, the software that I have used in the past and that has proven to be simple and efficient for this particular style is iDraw. This program provides all the necessary tools for pixel art production as well as features a nostalgic flair of the 90-s RPG games. The software is practically free, however, unlocking some additional pro features requires an upgrade that only costs 5$. 

I hope this list managed to persuade you that digital art can be accessible and fun for anyone. Can’t wait to see your first digital painting, GIF, or animation!

Creating Your Perfect Run&Gun Rig for Documentary Filmmaking

Recently I’ve come across this issue where I am going out to shoot b-roll for a documentary and once I’m out on location I realize my shoot would have been much better if I just had one piece of equipment. It’s tough because I have this aversion to taking much with me since I want to keep my rig highly portable, but oftentimes I find myself needing more than I brought. So with that in mind here is a rundown on the equipment available in the FMMC production hub that I recommend you consider next time you are shooting a documentary.

The most important decision to make with your rig is your camera choice. The type of camera you have will inform what other equipment is compatible with your rig and will start to parse down the amount of choices you need to make. The go to choice for me is the Sony FS5. It is kind of the standard for FMMC and with good reason: it’s light and versatile but high quality. The only thing in the production hub significantly better than the FS5 is the FS7, but it’s significantly heavier weight makes it unwieldy. Additionally, if you have a personal compact SLR that shoots in 4K, it might be worth choosing that over the FS5. The FS5 is light, clocking in at just under ten pounds in weight, but after a full day of shooting, ten pounds can feel like a lot.

The next big decision to be made is what lenses to use and my advice for this is less clear cut. It depends on the circumstances on your shoot and what tradeoffs you are willing to make. You may balk at the factory lens on the FS5 and say you want something more “artistic”, but these factory lens work well in a variety of situations. Additionally, you will not have autofocus or image stabilization if you use non-Sony lenses. Ideally you do not want to use autofocus, but some circumstances in your doc may make movement so fast paced that autofocus is necessary. Image stabilization is a great feature that will help steady the shot in camera and reduce the natural wobble you get on a shoulder mount in many shots. Additionally you need to ask yourself whether or not you want a Zoom lens. Are there circumstances in which you might be far away from your subject? The Fujinon MKs are a good option if that is the case, but beware their size makes them cumbersome in tight interiors. If you do choose to shoot with prime lens, you may get a “cleaner” shot but you will also have to move more to get your desired framing. If you do want to use prime lens I would recommend either the Zeiss Loxias for the best look and the Rokinons for versatility. In most circumstances, I would advise using a zoom lens, especially if you are not a seasoned camera operator.

When thinking about microphones it is highly important to think about expected conditions. Remember that the FS5 has four audio tracks. If you wanted to clip a lavalier microphone to your subject’s lapel, run with a second mic on your rig, and have a boom if you’re lucky enough to have some crew you can do that. My best luck has come with the Sony UWP-D11. For your on-board mic, you will want to decide between a shotgun mic or a hyper-cardioid. Shotguns mics have a much smaller range in which audio is clearly picked up, whereas hyper-cardioid can pick up sound even in the opposite direction that you have the mic facing. If you want to capture all the noises in a given environment to enhance your setting, use a hyper-cardioid mic. If you want to limit sound pollution and hear your subject better, a shotgun mic will help. For hyper-cardioid, I recommend the Audio Technica and for shotgun mics, I recommend the Sennheiser MKH60.

Now that we’ve got the big decisions out of the way, it’s time to dive into the little things that will improve your shoot and are compatible with most camera/lens combinations. The first and most important thing you should obtain is a rain cover. If you think there’s going to be even the slightest chance of rain, get a cover. Although not listed on the production hub website, the gear room has rain covers for the FS5. Another highly individual component of this rig is how you hope to carry it. Handheld is possible with the FS5 or an SLR, but if you use a RedRock shoulder mount, you’ll get a much more stable shot. You could theoretically pair a gimbel with a steadicam arm for an extremely stable shot, but I would caution against it since it does limit your speed/mobility. The steadicam arm will also make you pretty visible and subjects may become self conscious of themselves. If you are shooting in dark conditions and would like the grainy image quality that comes with a higher ISO, you can screw either the Litepanels Micro or MicroPro onto most rigs. Be careful though since this will create flat head-on lighting that is not flattering to your subject. If you have your subject address the camera at any point, it might be wise to add a red sticker just above your lens. I find that subjects tend to struggle with looking into the lens and providing a clear point helps them focus.

In general, I would recommend you getting creative with your rig as long as it does not hinder its performance or risk damaging the equipment. Talk to myself, other TAs, Ethan, and Fayza about other resources the department has to help you make your best rig. There are some items not listed on the production hub and it’s always worth asking.

Lilliput 24″ 4K Studio Monitor

Introducing the new 24″ 4K Studio Monitor. The best part about this new toy/tool is that it will live in the production studio and will be all set up and ready to use complete with wheeled stand, sandbag, HDMI and 12G-SDI cables, and power cable.

Who can use it?

Anyone working in the studio

How do I use it?

Plug either the HDMI or SDI cable into the back of your camera, make sure your camera is ready to output via that cable (Menu -> Arrow Up/Arrow Down Icon -> Rec Set -> Output -> HDMI or SDI), Confirm that the cable is plugged into the studio monitor (SDI input 1 and/or HDMI input 1), make sure the studio monitor is plugged in to power (V-mount or wall), make sure the power switch is toggled appropriately (V-mount/Off/DC Power), select the corresponding input button on the front of the studio monitor.

How do I use it Safely?

Always have a sandbag(s) on the wheeled stand so it doesn’t tip over. Always hold the monitor before repositioning the monitor mount by either panning it or tilting it to a new position. Always protect the beautiful 4K screen by facing it toward the wall when not in use and by keeping your grubby fingers off of it (it is not a touchscreen). Make sure that there’s no tension on the cables (HDMI, SDI, and Power) and that they are clean and are not tripping hazards.

WEB SERIES BY MIDD students

Folks, we are in for a treat. This eight-episode comedy series created by the recent Midd grads is a great showcase for all the talent, creativity and originality you can find on our campus and in our theatre and film departments. It is also an excellent example how you can make the most of the CCI funding grants and create an opportunity for yourself instead of waiting for a big break in the future.

Be careful when you start watching it because I could not avoid binging it despite my essay assignment that was due on same day. It’s that good!

And if you have an idea for a film or a TV pilot in the making, hopefully this inspires you to go ahead and make it happen (TIP: watch out for those credits for potential collaborators!).

All 8 episodes are out now.

Career Conversation with James Farrell ’99

Please join us for a Career Conversation and a Media Industry Discussion with James Farrell ’99, Head of Local Originals, Amazon Studios . He will discuss his career journey and current trends in the industry.

As Head of Local Originals, James is in charge of all Original TV and film developed and produced by Amazon Studios outside the US. James joined Amazon in April 2015 to lead content for Prime Video in Japan before moving on to other roles encompassing India, Latin America, and ultimately the rest of international in 2018. Local content has been a key driver for Prime Video’s success, and James now manages more than 20 teams based around the world including across Europe, Latin America, Asia, Canada, Australia, India and Africa. Prior to Amazon, James spent 10 years at Sony Pictures Television with executive roles in Los Angeles, Toronto, and Tokyo during that time. He has an MBA from Columbia Business School, a BA from Middlebury College, and currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

Date: Wednesday, November 17

Time: 4:30pm-5:30pm

Click here to register in handshake!

Regards,

Alicia

Alicia Gomez

Associate Director, Career Advising (Arts, Media, and Communications)

Center for Careers and Internships

Middlebury College | Middlebury, VT 05753

agomez@middlebury.edu

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Visit go/careerpaths for info about events, top resources, internships/jobs, and advisors.

Join Midd2Midd or learn more about alumni-student mentoring at Middlebury College.

Best Youtube accounts to get comfortable with Adobe Premiere

What is the best way to learn Adobe Premiere? A common answer is ‘the best way to learn is by doing’. Although this is true, it is helpful to have guidance when you are playing around. Watching specific youtube videos that show you how to use the exact feature you are looking for has been helpful to me. The Youtubers below give concise and clear explanations about many different features in Adobe Premiere!

  • Cinecom 
    • We make tutorial videos about VFX, Editing & Filmmaking using Adobe Premiere Pro / Adobe After Effects
  • Tutvid
    • Tutvid tries to make the best Adobe Photoshop tutorials, Film editing videos, Premiere Pro tutorial, Adobe Illustrator tutorials, Adobe After Effects tutorials, Adobe Lightroom tutorials, Adobe Audition tutorials, Adobe XD tutorials, and Da Vinci Resolve videos. Grab some popcorn and stick around awhile!

Another week – another Hirschfield screening

This week, the Hirschfield International Film Series presents A SON, the debut feature film by a Tunisian director Mehdi Barsaoui.

In this drama, 11 year old Aziz needs a liver transplant after being seriously injured during a terrorist ambush while on holiday in 2011. At the hospital a long-buried family secret will be revealed in the backdrop of the political instability and tension in Tunisia and Libya. 


You can watch the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/557267742

In-person screenings will be held at 3pm and 8pm on Saturday in Axinn 232.

For online screenings, register using this form before Friday, November 5th at 5pm. You’ll receive a confirmation email with additional details for viewing.
Screening Window: Saturday, November 6th – Monday, November 8th.

Have an amazing week!

Film Festivals Available to Undergraduate Students

This past summer I had the pleasure of working for the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival here in Middlebury. In talking to my coworkers I learned about the festival industry and was quite surprised by how much there was that I did not know. I thought of festivals as these extraordinarily elite institutions that I could only ever get into if I had a film with an absurdly high budget. However the truth is that there are film festivals out there for films made on every budget and some specifically geared towards first time filmmakers as well as students. Having been in the film department for four years now, I can confidently say that I have seen dozens of festival-worthy student films that were never submitted anywhere. Winning entry into these festivals won’t win you a chance at stardom or suddenly lay out a path towards lucrative careers in production, but it will allow you to get your work out there. So with that in mind here are a few highly regarded film festivals with cheap entry fees and an eye for young talent.

Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival

No this is not sponsored content. Like I said above, I did work here this past summer, but the festival is genuinely accessible for Middlebury students. The festival coordinators have a close connection with the college and appreciate the talent that the FMMC department can produce. In fact this past year, Matteo Moretti ’21, won an award for his senior thesis Just Being Here. The festival focuses exclusively on first and second time filmmakers, so you can be assured that you will feel at home. Short submissions sent in before the regular deadline cost $35. The festival also almost always takes place the weekend before move-in at the college, so your chances of being able to attend are quite high.

Trinity Film Festival

Hosted by our fellow NESCAC, Trinity College, Trinity Film Festival is a showcase made exclusively for undergraduates and graduates. The festival is going into its 11th year and has received glowing reviews from young filmmakers. The application fee is not easily available since the fest has not begun to accept its next round of applicants, but considering they exclusively accept college students, I cannot imagine it is ludicrously high.

Reality Bytes

Reality Bytes is an independent student film festival sponsored by Northern Illinois University’s Department of Communication. The festival offers cash prizes with each major reward and has an entrance fee of only $25. Your entry must be under 30 minutes in length and have been made in the past year.

Ivy Film Festival

The Ivy Film Festival is going into its 21st year, making it the oldest entirely student run film festival. The festival also uses Brown’s connections to draw star-studded speakers as well as industry professionals. Winners are provided accommodations on Brown’s campus, making attending the festival pretty feasible. Entry fees are as low as $10 if done before the early bird deadline.

Rhode Island International Film Festival

Now this one is a little more prestigious. Rhode Island International Film Festival is an Oscar Qualifying, BAFTA Qualifying, and Canadian Screen Award Qualifying Festival. You might think this is a little too extravagant for your, but the festival actually has a student submission process and student pricing ($40). That’s not to say that this is an easy festival to get into, but they are actively on the hunt for student talent. As someone who grew up in the Rhode Island area, I can also tell you that the event is extremely well attended. Even if you open in an early morning slot you will likely still have a sizable crowd.

There are dozens of other festivals I debated putting on this list, but I believe this is a good starting place. I tried my best to limit the range geographically to what is close to Middlebury, but there are tons of other festivals closer to where you may live. All of the festivals listed above and the vast majority of professional festivals use FilmFreeway, a free submission that allows you to search for and submit to a variety of festivals. Have a look and use the advanced search preference to see what festivals meet your criteria. Festivals provide an avenue for young filmmakers to gain recognition for the hard work they’ve put in, earn money towards their next films, and make meaningful connections in the industry that can help their careers later. It’s not a path often talked about amongst film majors here, but it is absolutely one worth exploring.