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Movies and Video For people making movies and editing video with their Mac.

Making Movies More Professional


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chris57

 
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I'm using iMovie HD 6 and my Sony dcr-tr250 Digital 8 video camera to make movies. Me and my friends just mess around and make short films and stuff like that. How can I make the movies look more professional with lighting and iMovie plug ins or anything else. Whenever we have a final project, it always looks so amature.
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lots of things you will need to do...

start shooting HD, start editing with something with more control (final cut express) and try to do some lighting (there are plenty of websites where you could learn alot about this that can be found via google)

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Sure, better camera equipment and better software can help, but I suspect lighting is the first big thing you want to look into. Remember that the pros spend hours on getting it just right. They also spend time post processing the color, but that may be beyound your budget, where as initial lighting could easily be within your available money and improve your picture greatly.
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chris57

 
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Well i meant things I could do within iMovie. Someday I'd like to upgrade all my equipment, but just a few years ago i bought that camera for $500. I'll be willing to spend $100 on something.
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jerry2090

 
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Background music, transitions between clips, and slide shows if appropriate, can all make a presentation more interesting. I filmed a squirt gun fight sequence with grandkids and young adults in my backyard. My dog was also running around in the film. When I first viewed it, it was okay but got boring fast. I then deleted the sound, speeded up the action and added a fast moving classical music piece. It was a lot more fun to watch and everybody I showed it to got a big kick out of it.
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Chris I would have to agree with Jerry. You're going to have to become more creative in both principal photography and post production. You are limited to creativity with iMovie. I suggest you save for Final Cut Express HD. And somewhere down the road look for a better used camera. They're not hard to find if you know where to look.

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iMovie 08 is supposed to have an amazing colour adjustment tool. I haven't tried it yet, but I think it should be quite helpful. Lighting and camera stability makes for some professional quality video..
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chris57

 
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Thanks for the help everyone. I actually never thought about going the used route for a camera. I'm thinking that a nice used HD camera may be my next big purchase. Thanks again!
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DoubleHigh

 
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Get a tripod if you don't already have one. Makes a heap of difference.
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musicvortex

 
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Well, music is really important, and yet so often overlooked. Making a good movie is about so much more than special effects.

Lighting- try working outdoors, because it creates a more consistent and even light. Make sure to be aware of the times of day you are shooting at and keep light levels consistent (eg. don't shoot part of one scene at 5 o'clock day 1, and then finish it on day 2 at noon).

GET IT ON PAPER- This forces you to refine your ideas and helps you to be sure of what you want.

Sound- make sure you can hear dialogue! (pay special attention when in outdoor situations because of ambient noise)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musicvortex View Post

GET IT ON PAPER
I agree 100%.
If you want it to look more professional, then working like a professional will help immensely.

Storyboard out your ideas. Get your shots figured out on paper before you ever go to a location. It will save you tons of time and make your shooting go much smoother. The more you flesh out on paper in the beginning, the better off you will be.

Work out a production schedule. It doesn't have to be to the letter perfect, but at least figure out what you plan on doing and when you plan on doing it... before you do it. If you consistently "just wing it", it starts to show in your final work.

Lighting was mentioned... very important. Be sure to white-balance your camera every time the lighting changes, too.

Tripods are a big help for most shots.


The key message here is planning. You cannot rely on "fixing it in post" or "editing that part out" every single time. The more attention to detail and planning you do ahead of time, the less "fixing" you tend to do in post.

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The only thing you need to do to make your projects professional is to edit them on a Mac. That's it! Macs "just work" and require no user intelligence whatsoever. Check out this example of a video edited on a Mac:

one BORING thursday




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Actually you don't need to storyboard to work like a professional, (many acclaimed directors and cinematographers do not use storyboards), but if using storyboards helps, then by all means use them. They are a great way to gain the experience needed to plan your shots. With experience, you may find you too will not need to storyboard. Then again, you may come to rely on storyboarding to get your films made to the best of your ability. Nothing wrong with that.

If money is a issue, hand drawing or having someone who is talented at drawing is a good way to start out storyboarding. Later, you can always purchase Gorilla Student Edition. This is a awesome software program for any filmmaker. Don't let the "student" title mislead you, it's not referring to college student discounts, it is Gorilla's version for short / indie filmmaking with limitations. Read more about the software from the link. And while you are on the Gorilla web site, be sure to check out the features of this software. It wil do everything you will need and it works great on a Mac! I have been using this software for two years now. Meanwhile, next time you are in development or pre-production of the next film you want to shoot, you can download the Gorilla Student demo. There are limitations with the demo, but you wil be amazed at what this software will do for you.

Lighting is complicated and time consuming. Btw; for both Int & Ext shots. So for now, I will add to improving sound as mentioned above. Sound doesn't have to be as complicated.

Sound is just as important as the image, here are a couple of tips (when money is tight and a sound mixer is out of the question) to aid you -

Always have on the camera a longish cable, either attached to the camera mic and taped to the side of the camera or plugged in the rear and taped to the back. This way if you need to use the camera mic as a hand held one you will have a long enough cable. If you are using a radio microphone receiver, connect it to the camera by using a long cable tucked and taped under the battery. In an emergency you can use that cable to convert the camera mic into a hand held one.

As camera operators, we use a viewfinder to see what we are doing, we should also use headphones to listen to what we are doing. Normal walkman headphones work well (the ones without head holders). Plug them in the jack-out of the camera, fold them and secure them somewhere on the camera (if you are using a Camera Shoulder Cover this is easily done with a Velcro strap) and whenever you need to monitor the sound, plug them into your ears.

Along with some of the things other's have mentioned, I hope this gave you ( or anyone ) a few ideas to help you think out that next movie.

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Daddy Elmis

 
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First of all, I think iMovie HD6 is more than enough for your purposes. I would NOT upgrade to iMovie 08 -- all the indy film sites I've read say it is very much "dumbed down" from iMovie HD6, and will not do as well as HD6 (see iMovie 08 Review)

There are lots of plug-ins out there for iMovie HD6. Check out www.geethree.com for theirs.

Tripod mounting the camera almost always improves the final product. Unless you are deliberately after the "shaky camera" effect, stabilizing the shot improves the final product a ton.

Lighting is also crucial as mentioned above, and this can often be greatly improved by using simple floodlights from Home Depot. Try different lighting angles, use indirect lighting by bouncing the floods off the ceiling or other reflective surfaces.

Also, sound recording makes a huge difference. Most "on camera" mics pick up everything in world, and also pick up the natural reverberation in all but acoustically neutral rooms which is always there but you don't notice when listening live -- however in playback it has that definite "home movie" echo-y sound. If your camera allows use of an external mic, do so and use a boom mic arrangement (one of your pals can be boom-man). If it doesn't, you could try recording sound separately using a digital recorder and lay that in the film during post (easy to do with iMovie) -- however, be aware that time synchronizing will be an issue, not only at the start (although using a clapper board or some other sharp audio cue is helpful), but as the film progresses the audio and video can fall out of synch because of the timing of each (that is, you could be synch'd during the first 5 minutes then slowly drop out to where the audio and video are many frames apart -- which becomes noticeable to the viewer, like one of those english-dubbed martial arts films).

Unless you're going to step up to a 3-ccd camera, most all single-ccd cameras produce roughly the same quality images. I just bought a used Canon XL1 3-ccd camera and the quality of image compared to my other single-ccd camera is utterly astounding. Three-CCD cameras have three separate charge-coupled devices (CCDs), each one taking a separate measurement of red, green, and blue light. These are expensive compared to conventional camcorders (the lowest priced 3 ccd cameras I've seen are $500-700 at Circuit City, and the "pro-sumer" type are 3 grand and up new, 1500 and up used). The size of the ccd's also matters, but that's getting more detailed than we need.

And, of course, as mentioned above pre-planning the shots is really where you get quality. Thinking through how the shots will look, angles, cuts, etc., in advance will give you a better product.

You're actually miles and miles ahead already. My first movies were shot with friends using an 16mm home movie camera, and we could only edit by splicing film.
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thedood

 
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I have to ask, which "indy film sites" are actually discussing the utilization of iMovie?


Back to the topic at hand -- I should have added (or made clear) the following with my original post to Chris57 -- Anyone else who relates to chris57's original question, when you are shooting with a digital 8, mini dv or other consumer camera you need to realize, it is what it is. (In chris57's case, he obviously realizes this). The same can be said for iMovie, lighting, and sound equipment. As I posted above, (and some of what Daddy Elmis mentioned as well), you can acheive sound, that works, with these idea's / tips. If you want to learn more on lighting and sound, there are some good books on the subject. Amazon sells many of these books. Do a book search for the subject you're interested in, find a title(s) that interests you, and then buy a used copy from someone. Also, there are some great instructional DVD's on filmmaking. If you really want to hone your skills, consider both of these options. They're a lot cheaper than film school.

Anyway, you can make a good movie using the simplest equipment if you know how to do it. Just remember, what you have at your disposal is what it is. Take what you have, go out, and make as many movies, video's, whatever, that you can. It doesn't matter if the last movie you shot stinks -- Trust me, learning from mistakes and positives after each production will make the next movie even better.

On the subject of used camera's, do a Google search for camera rental houses in a film production friendly city near you. All camera rental houses sell used equipment, and sometimes you can find killer deals.

Finally, for anyone really, if you are not aware of a technique called "gorilla filmmaking", buy a book on the subject. It will be both an educational and enjoyable read.

NABET - CWA <the union label.
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