Youtube Saturday: Getting later

Yep, it's THAT time of the week again!

Once again, we bring a late edition of the weekend specials, and for that I can only apologise. So there you are.

But anyway, I am inspired to post some videos of a more technical nature.

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Details in storyboards

the storyboard for Idle Hands - the attention to detail is actually very good

Storyboards can be very useful. They’re not always needed, but when they are, it’s useful. But I hear you ask “What are they for?”. They’re basically for mapping out what will be filmed. It’s easier to do this if you have a location already down and drawn out.

Overall, there’s a clear difference between a floor plan and a storyboard. The floor plan lays out the technical details – where actors should stand, where the lighting rigs must be set up, where the camera needs to be/to go, etc… It goes hand in hand with the storyboard – showing what’s possible, what you need to do to get the creative elements of your shots, etc…

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Getting high production values

The Zombie of War DVD cover may look like it'd be good, but the film has mixed production values, which stop this film from being enjoyed properly. Shame.

There’s lots of ways that you can increase the production values of your projects. But what does it mean? Well, according to Wisegeek:

In the movie industry, the quality of a film is referred to as “production value.” Generally, films with a higher budget will have a high production value, because of the greater investment of resources. It is the goal of most movie makers to make films which are stylish, attractive, and use high quality special effects in combination with exotic locations. These high production value films can be quite costly to make, representing a major gamble on the part of potential investors.

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Keeping an eye on your budget – expect the unexpected even when you’re dealing with zero budget film making

You'll probably not need a dentist on set, but still...

I was reading a copy of i today and came across a short piece on “10 Harry Potter Film Facts”, which they’d nabbed from the Hollywood Reporter. One particular fact interested me:

A dentist was on standby for many of the young crowd scenes, replacing teeth which wobbled and fell out in case of continuity issues.

With the kind of budget that the likes of Warner Brothers have thrown at the franchise, keeping a dentist on the books is obviously very doable. Yet when you’re thinking about how the budget for something as big as one of the Harry Potter films is being put together, making sure everyone’s teeth are on set is probably the last thing you would think about. Read the rest of this entry »

The Ballad of the Amateur filmmaker Part 1

The cast for the Victoriana trailer. From left to right, Hannah Brewis, Tim Hart, Arthur Spear and Vicki Stone

I never knew what I was letting myself in for.

First you start writing a comic, seems easy (it isn’t) then proceed to find an artist (surprisingly difficult) and a publisher (God smiles and shows you your Dad’s friends).

Okay, all done?

No, no you’re not. This my dear reader is only the beginning. So one Sunday afternoon in a meeting dressed like a Victorian serial killer you’re in discussions with your editor at one of the biggest comic conventions in the UK. As you talk, the seed of an idea starts to evolve about promotion. And the Victoriana live action trailer was born.

Tim adorns his steampunk costume and prepares to invade a comic convention

Well the start at least, first you need these things (in no particular order).

1) Props and costume: Victorian/Steampunk era. Not massively available, but have a guy who makes this stuff for hobby (or me as he’s better known) and you’re well away. Goggles are essential to the era. Let no one tell you different. Otherwise you’re just eccentric.

2) Crew: Have people who you trust to work with you as part of a team. Friends are good for this as you will all tend to think alike. Especially when Cthulhu crotch is involved. Trust is essential.

3) Gear: Befriend people who have this. It makes life a lot easier. Especially being friends with film students.

4) Admin: You want to film in a town or city? Then you get permission and deal with the paperwork.

5) Script: This is handy, otherwise you’re on improvisation, and that doesn’t always end well. Oh yes, and prepare for it to go through many drafts. As the old adage goes ‘You end up losing the bit you love’. Thankfully is was not the case this time…

So after Gathering costumes, confirming filming dates and gathering cast & crew, you can start. Well nearly, first you have to confirm the locations. You can go far in life with polite communication and an offer of a donation to charity.

Tim, Kristian, Demelza and Emily scout out for potential locations (this one was unfortunately not used)

Sadly I had to work on the day of shooting. But the first section of shooting I wasn’t required as it was two of the ‘Eyewitnesses’ scenes. From the footage, messages and photo evidence it was a massive success. I arrived at 2pm quickly adorned my costume and heading to the second location.

What happened next? That my friends, is still to come…

Click here to visit the Victoriana Group on Facebook!

Location: A brief guide

The primary filming location for Consolidating - it was a nightmare for continuity!

Finding the right location for a shot is important. Often you will need to make new contacts or find out details about ownership and ask permission for filming at a location. Sometimes you’ll need to fork out a little for the use of the location, other times just a promise of a credit at the end of your film and to tidy up after yourselves.

Either way, you should really have a contract of sorts drawn up. Something that says that you can use the location not just in the film, but any promotional materials as well as the right to move furniture and equipment and turn off sounds on the speakers and such. But after all that, there’s still so much to do! So here’s a brief guide to what you should look to do once you’ve found your location.

The location for Dominic McWater on the trailer of Victoriana

1. Don’t just take photos of the shot. Take photos of around the area. You’ll need to work out how much room there is around to actually set up your equipment. Also, the shots around the location will also give you an idea of space so you can draw up a floor plan.

2. See the facilities. That’s not just the lavatory, but when inside, you may need to draw power from sockets. If you know where these are, you can plan on whether you need an extension, and also for what you can put in the sockets.

3. Plan for external sounds. If the location is near a road, you may get vehicle sounds in shot. This may factor in to certain things, like what day or time of day you shoot, whether there’s any way of minimising the noise (say for example, closing double glazing windows and doors). Likewise, if the location is near a church or town hall or something, how likely is it that there will be a bell sounding on the hour.

4. Control of an area. Sometimes you can get away with people randomly coming by, other times you can’t. It can be very difficult to completely lock off an area so that the public cannot use it. It’s therefore a necessity that you know how likely people are going to disturb you. You want to be able to minimise this as much as possible. Which brings me onto my next point.

5. Look official. The best thing you can do when filmmaking is look official. If you’re wearing high visibility jackets, the likelihood of people complaining decreases. People assume (either rightly or wrongly – but I cannot stress enough the importance of getting permission) you’re authorised to be where you are, and control the location. You will sometimes get somebody asking what you’re doing, but they’ll usually be satisfied with “making a film” or something to that effect. In fact, one thing I may try next time, just to emphasise the point, is putting up signs around the area – doors, windows etc… saying that filming is in progress and to please keep quiet. This coupled with the high visibility jackets, you’ll probably get the cooperation you’re after.

Yellow jackets make it look like we're important people - basically: Respect my authoritah!

So, in short, controlling a location is very important. Do everything in your power to make sure you can do whatever you need to in order to get what you want. Oh, and in this respect, while filming, the larger the group the better – people might be willing to disrupt filming of a few people, but probably not for a larger group.

Welcome, to the world of tomorrow!

The Victoriana logo (drawn by Georgina Greves)

So, having our biggest project to date filmed last Saturday (in terms of cast and crew), we’re even more revved up than before about filmmaking.

Preliminary credits for Victoriana are as follows:


Arthur Spear as Stanley O’Finney

Vicki Stone as Alexis Stone

Hannah Brewis as Maisy Tregew

and Tim Hart as Dominic McWater


Kristian Greet – Director/Assistant Editor

Paul Blewitt – Cameraman/Editor

Emily King – Continuity Keeper/Producer/Assistant Editor

Patrick Blewitt – Clapperboard guy/Miscellaneous

The shoot was quite successful, although it has become apparent that a load of ADR work is needed (Automatic Dialogue Replacement).

But as I said, we’re all pumped for future projects at the moment, so watch this space. But I’ll let you know of a few future investments that I intend on making very soon:

First is a monitor. Being small budget, virtually any one would do. Why do we need one? A monitor helps the director (and other cast and crew) see what the image will turn out like while on set.

A Director's monitor - because good acting can be ruined with bad camerawork!

Second is a copy of Pro Tools 9, though I may have to wait a little longer for that. I’m also not that musically inclined, so I may have to get people to do the music production for me.

The Pro Tools 9 logo. Similar to AVID's other logos.

Third is the Chroma key kit. Again, I’ll have to wait longer.

Chromakey kit - We've already got the lighting though...

Then there’s the field recorder. This will actually enable us to go out and create a library of Foley sounds, which may mean another resource for you guys (we may decide to put them up on the site for free downloads, we’ll see).

The R44 Field Recorder by Edirol. I've settled on this one for sound capture - although it will be a while before I can acquire it

I’ll also be after a few radio mics.

Lavalier mics for wireless sound - good for when you can't get the mic close enough to the actor!

After all those (or possibly somewhere in the middle of them), I will also be acquiring some camera movement devices (A working dolly, a jib, etc).

Then I will be seeking to upgrade equipment, such as the need for a better camera.

Filmmaking can sure be expensive, although so rewarding!