Resource

Websites for FMMC Majors

Filmmaking and getting acquainted with film can be intimidating in a variety of different ways, but luckily we now have the internet to answer the questions we’re too afraid to ask. I’ve compiled a short list of websites that I have used over the years that have helped me in one way or the other helped me better my understanding of filmmaking. There’s a wide range of sites here, so even if you are not much of a shooter, there are still numerous resources for you.

Vimeo

Alright, you definitely know this one, but if you haven’t created an account already, I would highly recommend doing so. If you are a filmmaker, this is the cheapest way to allow future employers or clients to view your work in a high quality. And even if you aren’t a shooter, there is a wide array of films here for your viewing pleasure. Check out “Staff Picks” tab to discover what has been catching people’s attention recently. Some films on here tend to straddle that line between amateur and professional, making it interesting to see what other filmmakers are achieving with limited resources.

No Film School

The premise is in the title, this website should give you enough information so that you will need “no film school”. The articles here are range on everything from equipment reviews to film history essays. If you are at all interested in film, there is something here for you. The tone and style of these articles also tends to be much more digestible and friendly towards beginners. I was intimidated by film theory for some time because of the dense academic language, but articles on this website helped me get a better grasp of the subject matter.

Letterboxd

Letterboxd is an open source film/TV review site and tracker that helps viewers catalog the media they’ve watched. This allows you to track what movies you have seen, create lists of similar movies, and leave reviews. These reviews are all available to other users. This means that you can search for others lists, so if you are looking for movies similar to a niche title or want movies in a sub-genre that isn’t easily google-able, then you will likely find something on Letterboxd. Users can also leave ratings on a five star scale, and all scores are compiled from users for each film. I enjoy these ratings because Letterboxd users tend to be film geeks, but not as pretentious as critics. Oftentimes if there is a large discrepancy between a critic score and an audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, I check Letterboxd for clarity. If the score is high, it’s likely an under appreciated gem, but if not then it is likely something critics are hyping up.

FilmFreeway

If you want to submit any of your work to a festival, this is pretty much your one stop shop. Festivals as big as Sundance and as small as new regional fests use FilmFreeway to collect submissions. If you are considering submitting work in the future, you might want to create your account now to save yourself some time.

Free Sound

Free Sound is an open source and free to use database for sound effects. If you want to heighten your film’s overall production value by adding in authentic sound effects, this is a good place to begin your search. The site has numerous regular contributors with varying levels of experience in audio production, so there is some variation in quality. However, with a little effort, you can find some real gems that will help bring your film to life. Most importantly, all sounds here are in the public domain without attribution, making it very attractive for films without much of a budget.

Keh.com

Keh.com is a used camera exchange where amateur and professional videographers sell their used gear at discounted prices. This is the most widely used of a genre of websites. If you search “video gear exchange website” you will find many just like it. If you are looking to beef up your personal equipment to work on your own productions during the summer or after college, this is a good place to hunt for affordable gear.

Ukrainian animation

In my previous post, I was talking about the mysterious and crude Ukrainian cinema. This time, I decided to give you a short insight into the history of Ukrainian animation. 

Animation as a separate art appeared in Ukraine in the early 20-s. The first animators draw substantial inspiration from folk culture. No surprise that the first reported cartoon (1927) revolved around the plot of a very well-known Ukrainian folk tale, “The Tale of The Straw Bull.” Unfortunately, the film didn’t survive, but judging by the surviving sketches, this masterpiece by Viacheslav Lewandowski was a vivid and expressive iteration of the traditional narrative. 

Despite the initial advancements of the media, it was abandoned due to WWII and Holodomor, a mass famine in Ukraine. After the tragic events, during the time of relative stability, in 1934, Ukrainian animators produced the first fully graphic animated film. Around the same time, the first attempts to make an animated show with numerous episodes were made. The artists’ efforts culminated in the show titled “Tuk Tuk and Zhuk”. 

Most of these early cartoons were created in studios based in Kyivnauchfilm, a studio specializing in making animations for science films and other educational materials. Even though Ukrainian animation was developing fast, it could not compete with the Moscow school of animators, also known as Soyuzmultfilm. Understanding their technical and financial scrutinies, the Ukrainian animators invested more time and thought in developing cartoons’ aesthetics and concept, rendering them more conceptual and experimental, playing with style and various modes of representation. Meanwhile, Soyuzmultfilm focused on realism and the ‘industry standard’ defined by Disney decades before. Parting with the Disney canon, Ukrainian animators learned from Avant-Garde European animation schools which culminated in the production of numerous animated masterpieces incorporating approaches like combining live-action and animation, transfer technique, as well as conceptually innovative works criticizing religion, and even satirizing the Soviet society.

The true rebirth of the art form happened in 1950 when the renowned Ukrainian animator, Ipolyt Lazarchuk, created his most famous animated show titled “The Cossacks.” A show with a cult following among children, as well as adults, “The Cossacks” depicts the adventures of three cossacks named Grai, Tur, and Oko. They partake in numerous ventures when among many others they enter a football championship, trade salt, and even cook borsht. 

The three Cossack characters: Our, Grai, and Oko

The rapid development of the art alarmed the Soviet authorities. Fearing the progressive originality and collaboration with ‘disgraced’ artists and dissidents (such as Tagan’ka Theater, whose actors voiced characters in Ukrainian cartoons), the Soviet censors began banning Ukrainian projects from being financed. They only chose so-called ‘grey’ works that aligned with the interests of the party. Some particularly revolutionary films doomed their artists to home arrests and even internal displacement. Even the legendary “Cossacks” were targeted by the Communist Party, who wanted to portray them as Red Army soldiers instead of cossacks (name the social para-military quasi-state entity on the territory of Ukraine in XIV-XIX c.

After the collapse of the USSR in the 1990-s, many of the Kyivnauchfilm’s archives were destroyed, and many of the complete films were lost surviving only through scarce frames or sketches. 

Contemporary Ukrainian animation is experiencing a steady development. Even though severely underfunded, contemporary animators produce rare but high-quality work echoing the strive of early Ukrainian animators for experimentation and originality. Experimenting with animation has been a powerful voice of the Ukrainian people expressing its rich culture and creative originality.

Useful links and resources:

  • to watch “The Cossacks” franchise: https://popkult.org/cossacks/
  • a detailed article on the history of Ukrainian animation and why it should be celebrated: https://animationobsessive.substack.com/p/ukrainian-animation-is-worth-celebrating?s=r
  • an IMDb list of popular Ukrainian animations worth watching: https://www.imdb.com/search/title/?genres=animation&countries=UA

Handy Effects in Premiere

Premiere Pro is a daunting program at first, there’s no two ways about it. Just looking at the number of buttons, switches, and sliders made my head spin when I first started using the program. Many beginners quickly pick up the basics of cutting but often avoid the Effects panel altogether because it is full of complex-sounding names for tools. While many of these effects are highly situational, there are some that are extremely multifaceted and I would recommend all beginners learn to help bump up the overall quality of their videos.

Audio Transitions–>Crossfade–>Exponential Fade

This is a small detail that is so simple, but goes so far. If you drag and drop this onto to conjoining clips, the sound of the first one will gradually fade out while the sound of the second one fades in. This may sound really simple and a little unnecessary, but you will quickly learn that all locations have a unique room tone. What this means is that when you switch back and forth between scenes or dialogue shot under different conditions, your cuts will be extremely jarring. Even if no sound is actively being created in the two environments you are switching between, viewers will consciously and unconsciously pick up on the change. Adding in Exponential Fade makes this transition less harsh.

Audio Effects–>Filter and EQ–>Parametric Equalizer

Parametric Equalizer is a great tool to bring out your actors’ or subjects’ voice in a noisy environment. There is a preset that heightens sound within the sonic range that the human voice is within and reduces all other sound. This is great if you forgot to unplug a refrigerator onset that left a low-grade noise throughout the entirety of your clips. It’s also just a great tool to use regularly even when you don’t have a noisy background since it creates crisp and clear dialogue. To use it simply drag and drop Parametric Equalizer onto your clip, go to the effects panel, find Parametric Equalizer, click “Edit” under “Bypass”, click on the dropdown menu that reads “Default” on the pop up window, and select “Vocal Enhancer”. Note that you can also manually fool around with the vocal range to achieve even clearer dialogue. It’s not as complicated as you might think, but you will still want to watch a tutorial like the one below before attempting it on your own.

Video Effects–>Distort–>Warp Stabilizer

Your professor has probably told you to not rely on fixing things in the edit, and they are right. Do things to the best of your ability onset. However, if time or resources are limited and you walk away with a shakier shot than you had planned, do not panic. Warp Stabilizer smooths out the shakiness in your shots, but the trade off is that it crops the shot by a few dozen pixels on all sides. This allows Premiere Pro to move the shot digitally to counter your own movements, creating a smooth shot. You can even change just how much you stabilize the shot by moving the “Smoothness” slider under Warp Stabilizer in the effects panel. This effect does work with pans, tilts, and some movement, but can get incredibly janky with more complex movements. If you try to use Warp Stabilizer on some footage that looks like it could have been in the Blair Witch Project, then Premiere Pro will spit you out a pile of hot garbage.

Video Effects–>Blur&Sharpen–>Gaussian Blur

This combined with the pen tool is a great way to blur out faces and objects. If you were shooting on a location and realized you accidentally got the sign of a gas station in the background then Gaussian Blur is a great way to blur that sign out. This is especially handy for anyone here looking to do documentaries.

There are tons of other effects out there than can and hopefully will be of help to many of you in the future, but if you are starting out these are some good effects to master early on.

What to do when files go missing in premiere?

One of the worst feelings you can get when editing is premiere crashing. Obviously you forgot to save your project while you’ve been working, and in an instant it’s all gone. But an arguably more enraging feeling is that of missing files. Everything was working, you saved it all correctly, and now it’s gone! Worry not, and let’s go over some of the ways to solve this issue.

First, organization is key. This goes for every aspect of editing, but especially keep this in mind for your files. Naming your files with recognizable names, both in premiere and in your file explorer, can solve some of the hassle. And it’ll keep you from accidentally deleting files that you need later. After all, preventing a problem is better than fixing it.

Folders and bins can help you organize your workflows more efficiently, and if you end up missing something it should be easy enough to find. Permanently deleting footage you’ve shot can’t really be fixed, but a little extra time when arranging files can greatly reduce your odds of doing so. But even when you’ve done all this, premiere can still choose to act difficult, so what can you do to fix it?

How to read it

This screen can be very intimidating, but you should be able to navigate it easily once we’re done here.
First, the top portion tells you exactly which files are missing. You get the name of the clip, the name of the file in your computer, and the file path. These three are the most useful pieces of information. By looking at the clip name, if you see it isn’t essential to your editing for now, you can simply decide to keep editing and find the clip later. If the clip is important, you can use the file name to locate it and simply move it to the file path shown here. That’s the quickest way of solving a missing file problem. By using these three features you can start by figuring out your course of action.
Once you’ve done this, and figured out whether this clip is important right now or not, you can take a look at the lower portion of the screen. You shouldn’t need to tick any boxes, since premiere sets those automatically to be most useful for you. If you need some more advanced tweaking, they’re there for you though.
The four buttons at the bottom right will be the most important buttons on this whole screen. If you’ve previously realized you don’t need the clip right now, you can click “offline all” or “offline” to keep editing with the other files you have. On the other hand, if you want to edit with those files but don’t want to move them to the file path shown above, click locate. It’ll allow you to go through your files and manually find the right file. If you’ve made the conscious decision to move files around, for example after doing some more organizing, this button is essential. You don’t want to move everything back to their previous unorganized state.

A blessing as well

But this screen shouldn’t just be something to be wary of. In fact, it can be especially helpful when working on computers with other people. File names can be pretty predictable (for example, “scene 1”), and when working on a computer with many different projects, your clips may end up referring to the wrong media. What this’ll look like is that you’ll open up premiere, and end up with a timeline that has all your edits, and looks identical to where you left off, but with all of the clips being replaced by other shots. You don’t want to re-edit everything, since it’s right there, and you know where your shots are on the computer. In that case, you can manually send them offline.

By right-clicking the clip in your timeline, you’ll see a “make offline” button appear. By clicking on this, you’re telling premiere that it should forget where it was previously referencing that file. Using the locate button on the same screen as previously, you can now manually find the folder where your clips are located. Doing this for all the clips in your timeline being referenced to some other file, you can solve your problem without re-starting your editing.


Seeing that files are missing is never an enjoyable feeling, but it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle for you to deal with it now. The only problem you can’t solve this way is a deleted file, so make sure to stay organized!

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.

New Software – Red Giant Universe

Did you know that we added Red Giant Universe to our software offerings just for you? We did.

Red Giant Universe is a subscription service that provides 74 GPU-accelerated video transitions and effects that can be accessed directly within adobe premiere. It is currently installed on the two iMac computers in Axinn 014. To try it out, open any project in Premiere and browse to the effects tab and browse or search for rgu to find all of the Red Giant Universe transitions and effects.

To learn how to use some of these effects, check out these tutorials and filter by Type:Product Quick Tips and by Product:Universe.

To learn more about the Red Giant Universe Offerings check out the Tools.

Are these tools useful? Are they easy to use? Your feedback is always welcome.

Enjoy!

-Ethan

CASTING CALL – Actor Slates

Calling any and all actors. Or calling any and all people that don’t consider themselves actors but want to try it out anyway.

The Film and Media Culture Department is holding an open call for anyone interested in acting in student films. Simply prepare a short short monologue, sign up, show up, stand in front of a camera, recite said monologue, and leave. Easy enough. If this sounds like fun, read the specifics below and sign up for a short ten minute slot.

Sign Up: http://doodle.com/poll/n6999zg7kxghmiz9

When: Wednesday October 26, 3:00-5:00pm or 8:00-10:00pm

Where: Axinn Production Studio 001 (enter through the back doors by the Admissions building and go down one flight of stairs, follow the signs to the right)

What to Prepare: A very short (15-30 seconds) monologue. It can be from a TV show, movie, play, or anything else.

Senior Tutorial Funding – Deadlines

Seniors interested in getting funding for their tutorial projects in the spring should check out the link below. There is an October 1st deadline for projects looking for funding requests over $350. For funding requests under $350 there is a rolling deadline until the academic funds run out.

Check it out and apply for your projects. It can help a lot with production!

http://sites.middlebury.edu/announcements/2015/09/23/senior-work-funding-deadline-is-oct-1/

Lynda knows way more than I do

In case you haven’t seen the new black and yellow posters or haven’t been pestered by me personally yet, I’d like to introduce you to a great new technical resource at Middlebury.  Lynda.com is an online database of software tutorials that is available to the Middlebury community.  While the wiki is still a great resource for information specific to our labs, I’m sad to admit that Lynda blows my tutorials out of the water.

The tutorials range from basic software introductions to advanced topics such as color correction.  Most of the software that we have in our labs are covered in detail and even if you consider yourself an expert I guarantee that you will learn something.

go/lynda

-Ethan