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  1. How many tries does it take on average to get the perfect shot? (@the_theory_of) That is almost impossible to answer as every shot is different. Sometimes it may only take just one try along with a safety take. Other times it can take 10,15, or 50 times. It depends on how important that shot is and if it’s worth spending more time trying to get it just right.
  2. What is your favorite setup? (@diego.rvx) I don’t know that I have a “favorite” setup, but I do have preferences when it comes to different situations. For example, when I want a handheld look, I go with a monopod and a tripod head instead of a shoulder rig. Reason for this is because I am oftentimes much taller then my subjects and I’d end up with a high angle shot looking down. For other setups I’m starting to incorporate more add-ons to my rig like external monitors, audio recorders, etc. It depends what the shot calls for.
  3. What are the best things you did for practice? (@ddozier1000) The best thing I do for practice is practice. I live and die by this. When I find myself without work, I’m constantly on youtube learning new tricks and techniques and go out and practice them. Whether it’s time-lapses, camera movement, lighting, etc. Always practice as much as you can. Fortunately I’ve been busy lately and haven’t been able to practice some more, but I definitely plan to go back and continue to do so once my work slows down a bit.
  4. What is the best gear to start with? (@_davidfloroiu) For general purposes, I would say a camera, tripod, and some sort of on camera shotgun mic that can double as a regular shotgun mic if needed. For lighting you can go with clamp lights with either daylight or tungsten bulbs.
  5. What is the magic threshold of when to by vs rent? (@teddywaffles) That usually depends if you’re going to get a lot of use out of that particular item. For example, I have a job coming up with the RED Dragon that will require several hours of 6K RED footage. This is a very unique project at least for me, so because I don’t usually do these kinds of jobs, I am going to rent many more RED Mags to make sure I have enough storage along with a few more batteries for the RED. However, I will be buying the hard drives for this project. In terms of other equipment like lenses and cameras, it is the same scenario. If you don’t see yourself getting those kinds of jobs all the time, then I stick to renting the unique gear needed for those project until such a time comes when you feel it’s better to put down the investment. Only you will know when that time comes.
  6. Recommended lens for filmmaking? (@hilmanlthf) There are so many good lenses our there the today that there cannot be one good lens for filmmaking. For my situation, documentary filmmaking, I try to stick with lenses that perform well when going handheld. So I looking for IS in my lenses. That is why I love my Canon 24-105. However, my sony a7s2 takes care of that with it’s internal 5-axis stabilization that works even better. Now I can use different lenses. Focal distance is also a factor for me since I try not to change lenses when I’m shooting on the run. As for cinema filmmakers, I recommend the Rokinon cinema primes. They’re extremely sharp and are dirt cheap when compared to Canon and Ziess cinema glass.
  7. What is the best way to become a PA in LA? (@ajsteel94) I can’t tell you exactly what to do for the LA area, but I can’t imagine it being any different then any other place. Get yourself listed in as many directories as possible. Search out and seek any agencies in the area and make sure they have your resume and just let yourself be known. I have found that ProductionHUB is a great directory to be on.
  8. I am 27 its too late to start in film industry? (@tozalezy) Absolutely not. You can begin your filmmaking career at any age. Of course consider your circumstances at the time, like finances, family, etc. But if you feel this is your passion, I don’t see why age should be a factor.
  9. What’s the best thing a teenager can do to be a great filmmaker and eventually find a job as one? (@boboice) Take a look at my previous blog “A Career In Filmmaking”. (http://www.arielmartinez.co/blog/acareerinfilmmaking) That can answer this question more in-depth.
  10. What are the important aspects we should consider when shooting a low light scene? (something at night or in a very dark interior) as indi film maker we usually don’t have access to all the lenses or the best camera for the task. Facing this kind of shooting with a DSLR and some lights can be challenging because in most of the cases you get a lot of grain. You end up putting a lot of lights but then your scene no longer looks like a night scene. (@sudakastainer) Great question! So once you have considered how you want your shots to look, I would go into analyzing the room and see where I want my shadows to be placed. With that out of the way, I’ll then begin to place my lights where they’re needed. All this is done after my camera is in place with my preferred settings. I tend to light about a stop or two brighter then I need to because this allows me to make sure I have enough exposure, without clipping, to play with in post. Remember, you can always bring your exposure down in post, but brightening up your image brings in the grain. So as long as you have the shadows in place where you need them, you can add extra contrast afterwards. As far as your image not looking like a nighttime scene anymore, I would see where you’re placing your lights. Sometimes light placement and/or shadows can tell your audience your scene. I hope I was able to answer your question. This is just my own personal method and you should not take anything that I say as a proven fact or law. I would even continue to practice different techniques and perhaps you’ll find a method that works for you.

MISCONCEPTIONS

In a recent Indie Film Force Episode (Attached Below), I ran a comparison between the Red Epic Dragon and the Sony a7s2. Now before this test even began I already knew that the Red Epic Dragon was going to look much better and sharper. However, I simply wanted to see just how good the Sony a7s2 actually looked when compared to a camera that’s almost 20x the price. Not only did I want to see the difference side by side, but I also wanted to show beginning filmmakers that you don’t need to have the most expensive gear to make good-looking material. This is a terrible misconception that plagues the filmmaking community. The idea that you need more money to be a better filmmaker is lie. And anyone that ever tells you that is sadly mistaken. Another misguided idea that is commonly spread is that you need film school to be a successful filmmaker. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been looked down upon because I never went to film school. I received my degree in Criminal Justice from FIU. My love for film and video production began towards the end of my college years. As I have always said, this has never stopped me from learning all that I need so that I can continue to pursue what makes me happy. One thing is true though, you can NEVER stop learning in this industry. The moment you decide that you have learned all that you need to, that is when you have committed what I call “career-suicide.” The film industry is constantly and rapidly changing every year. There’s always some new technology that comes out that is an improvement to a previous one.

BECOMING A GOOD FILMMAKER

So what begs the question “How do I become good filmmaker?”. Would you believe me if I told you that you do not need to spend a penny to become a good filmmaker? When I first started my business, many people thought I was way in over my head. I had a background in sports and a degree in criminal justice and so “To make money by making videos?” “Are you serious?”. To be honest, sometimes I’d let those ideas linger in my head. Besides God, I believe there’s one aspect I had that has allowed me to keep bettering myself as a filmmaker. PASSION. Ugh so cliche!! You hear this all the time, but there’s a reason for that. Just ask yourself, “If currency had no existence in this world, would you still be making films?”. If the answer is “HELL YEAH!”, then you have the PASSION. However, as passion is a great quality to have in the industry, it also comes with many other characteristics that help take your career to the next level.

BECOMING A SUCCESSFUL FILMMAKER

So you have the passion, and although that’ll bring you to becoming a “good” filmmaker”, that does not quite make you a “successful” filmmaker. What about DRIVE? So even now that my business is getting extremely busy and I barely have time to take a 20min coffee break often times, I still try and make time for my passion projects. These are projects that I do on the side for my own personal satisfaction. For me they’re my short documentaries. I love documentary shooting and that is what I see myself doing for a very long time. Whether I am getting paid or not, I just love telling real stories. My DRIVE and desire to see the outcome of a current passion project keeps me motivated to continue forward with it. I also apply this same DRIVE to my business attitude. I am constantly disciplining myself to do what is needed to get my work seen by as many eyes as possible. Even if it takes a long time for that particular technique to kick in. For example, writing blogs is not something I ever that I would find myself doing. But here I am reaching out to the film community because I came to understand the importance of establishing yourself in the industry.

FINALLY

Just about everyday when I get home from a long day of shooting or editing, I am extremely exhausted and all I want to do is lie on my bed and close my eyes. Most days I can’t even do that because I have passion projects that I want to get completed. But despite all this exhaustion and lack of sleep, I have the biggest smile on my face. This is simply because I am doing something that I am legitimately passionate about. I LOVE my job. If you’re pursuing a career in filmmaking, my suggestion to you is to analyze if this industry is your true desire. If you can honestly say that filmmaking is your true PASSION and you have that DRIVE for this stuff, then the rest will fall in it’s place. You won’t let anything get in the way of you achieving your dreams. Learn as much as you can whether you go to film school or not. Learn it all. Ask questions and practice practice practice.


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Post Production Workflow

Post production workflow, it’s a love/hate relationship. It can start off really smooth and exciting when you first begin editing your project. However, it does not always stay that way. Post production can become one of the biggest pains in this industry. Opening a project that you have been working on and finding that your video clips have been unlinked from it’s source. Then you cannot go back and locate that video clip because it is not where you had it before. You cannot seem to find your audio files that you usually use for music or sound effects. In my experience, I have found that organization is key for a smooth post production workflow experience. It doesn’t take a scholar to realize this. However, as simple as this principle is to realize, it is just as simple to ignore it. Therefore, I want to show you my post production workflow that I have found to keep my projects running smoothly.

FILE MANAGMENT

Upon wrapping up a shoot, I am one of those filmmakers that just cannot wait to see the footage of what I shot, and even more to see it already graded. That sometimes causes problems for me simply because I often end up importing the clips directly from my media cards and leave things as they are. My process has changed. I have learned to be a tad patient and make sure that I first create all my labeled folders to keep all my media organized in them. I need to create new folders for every single element that I know I’m going to use in my project and maintain the appropriate media in them. For example, I will have a separate folder for the Premiere Pro project files, footage, audio, visual effects, images, etc. Within each of those folders I will need to create sub folders. My “footage” folder needs subfolders to be separated by the different cameras that were used and I often label those folders by the name of the camera. Within the audio folder ill have a separate subfolder for basically anything that has to do with the audio of my project like music, voiceovers, sound effects, etc. I’ll continue to create new folders and subfolders as I need to. I don’t always have the same folders in every project. Sometimes I don’t use still images or music in my project, so I won’t have those folders. Once all of my media files have been sorted out and organized like this, I’ll go ahead and make one large import into my project. Just like my files are in separate folders and subfolders, they get imported into premiere pro in folders and subfolders as well. This just makes life much easier.

ADOBE PREMIERE PRO CC

As you may already know by now, Adobe Premiere Pro CC is my editing software of choice. Why? It makes my post production workflow run extremely smooth. It has all of the essential tools that I need for any job, but what I like most about it is that it offers dynamic-linking into other editing softwares, like After Effects, Audition and SpeedGrade, when I need to go more in-depth in visual effects, audio, or color correcting/grading. Like I mentioned before, when bringing all my footage into Premiere Pro, I maintain them in the same folders in which I sorted them out in my drive. This allows me to locate all of my media files effortlessly when I need to. As you can also see in the pictured screenshot, I also go ahead and color-code all of my clips when needed. This allows me to distinguish each clip without actually having to play them back to see what that particular clip contains. One of the many features I love about Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It is no secret that when projects are kept organized, it makes life just so much easier. This is apparent in the filmmaking industry. If you begin a new project unorganized, you’re going to find yourself frustrated quite often. One rule of thumb that I like to maintain is to never have anything on my desktop. That’s right, there should be a folder for every single media file that I bring into my computer. Whether it’s for a video project, or simply a personal picture, you should always find a designated place for it. I am also extra careful when labeling all of my files as well. Maintaining this consistent workflow allows me to not only have a productive post production workflow experience, but more importantly, it allows me to delivery my finished products on time. I have found that sticking to this format of organization has helped me be much more efficient in all my jobs.

So I was in the market for a good sturdy slider. Not just any slider, I wanted it dynamic, sturdy and light. A slider that can help me, as a documentary filmmaker, travel as I needed, yet be able to withstand a heavy payload when necessary. I went all over B&H and YouTube looking at technical specs for size, weight, and video reviews for each slider that I came across looking for the perfect one. It was quite frustrating not being able to find what I was looking for. As soon as I found a potential one, it ended up being a let down because of some of the reviews that I saw. After all my research, the edelkrone slider seemed to be a good choice. Some of the features that jumped out at me were it’s parallax feature, it’s small, compact and actually slides for twice it’s size and can also withstand payloads of about 30lbs, which is not too bad.

 

THE RHINO SLIDER

I was pretty much set in making my purchase when I am contacted by Rhino company, who specialize in manufacturing professional film gear. They wanted to hook me up with one of their famous carbon fiber sliders. Of course I was all over that. We struck a deal and about a week later I was receiving the slider with the Rhino Motion controller along with it. It was love at first sight. I could not believe how light, yet ridged this slider was. I began to analyze the build and ergonomics of this product and found that it was extremely well-made. Every single little piece has a significant purpose and rightfully placed. Not to mention the smoothness of the slider itself. It maneuvers on 5 wheels counter to each other. Although I is not as compact at the Edelkrone slider that I was originally going to purchase, I found that this 24” slider is actually not that bad for traveling. I am completely dumbfounded by how good this product is. Oh, and did I mention it has a 100lbs load capacity? I doubt I’ll ever have a 100 pound rig at hand, but it’s good to know that I never have to worry about that aspect.

 

RHINO MOTION

Along with the sider came the Rhino Motion controller. It literally took me 2 minutes, from the time I unpacked the controller to the time I had the slider moving remotely. That’s what I love about this the most, the simplicity. The motion controller also gives you other options, which are simple to navigate through as well, such as the time-lapse feature, looping, and parallax motion (Rhino Arc needed).

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Needless to say, I am extremely happy with the way things turned out. Not just because I received a free slider, but because I ended up getting the exact type of slider that I was initially looking for. I’m really appreciative with my new friends over at the Rhino Camera Gear company. They are truly great people producing amazing, and not to mention affordable, film gear. I completely, 110%, endorse their product.

Here are a couple of timelapse tests I shot with the Rhino Slider.


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I’ve been using the Red Epic Dragon Camera for a good time now and I’m ecstatic every single time I see that ridiculous resolution that it gives me. This past year I found myself shooting a lot of commercials for cooperate companies and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to work with great prestigious powerhouses. However, the work that I’m most attracted to is documentary, and this year I will be dedicating a lot more of my down time to shooting more of those. With that being said, the Red Epic Dragon camera will most likely not be my camera of choice. I have not made this decision lightly mainly because I cannot ignore the incredible imagery that I have been able to pull from that camera. With that being said, here are my main reasons as to why I wouldn’t be using my RED to shoot documentary work.

LIGHTING

When shooting documentaries, more often then not, find myself using only what available light I can find, which means a lot of low-light shooting. RED cameras are not good unless used with good production lights. I’ve come across some real nasty footage due to poor lighting or lack of proper setting adjustments. Nonetheless, the bottom line is that when there isn’t enough light hitting that RED sensor, your image is going to come out really poor. You will get some real ugly grain in your shadows. Granted, when downscaling from 6K to 1080p you will loose a lot of that grain, but I like to have that option to maintain my full image available. Im just getting started…..

STORAGE

Shooting documentaries requires shooting an enormous amount of footage most of which you will not be using in your final product. Can you imagine capturing that much 6K footage? You’re looking at hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of storage space. Just to give you a little more perspective on this, a single 256GB RedMag(Red Memory Card) gives me approximately 35min of 6K footage at a 8:1 compression. Lowering the quality, which I hate to do, I can extend that to about 1.5 hours of footage. Can you see how this all adds up? I am all for shooting more then what you need, but I am not okay with spending that much money on a “just in case” scenario. Not to mention the amount of time it will take to dump all my footage to the master and backup drive. In my opinion, that is time and money down that drain.

CONVENIENCE

It takes some time to fully assemble the Red Epic Dragon for a shoot. Every single piece needs to be attached independently and with separate tools. This creates a big problem when you want to run-and-gun. When you need to capture certain events, this is definitely not the ideal scenario to have. In addition, the RED body alone weighs approximately 5lbs. Add only the basic essentials needed to even shoot the camera like the lens, top handle, side handle, RedMag, LCD monitor, and RED brick, you’re looking at about 12-15lbs minimum to lug around. If you’re looking to follow a subject around all day, this is definitely not the ideal setup for you.

I cannot emphasize enough how much I absolutely adore that RED image. When Shooting with the right lighting I’m RED all day. With that being said, I have actually seen instances where even RED footage looks really really bad. This is a result of poor RED usage which hurts my soul. However, at the end of the day, it does not matter what camera setup you have or the equipment you are using; the way you use it is what makes all the difference. With all that being said, the views expressed in this piece are mine and mine alone. Im sure many would disagree and just simply do not mind spending the extra time and money to shoot on a RED. As for me, I simply choose what works for me.

Slow motion, when used correctly, is an essential tool for creating beautiful films. One thing that I have found is extremely beautiful in certain videos is the use of slow motion shots. We have always seen them all over the place but often times we do not realize how effective they are at creating a completely different vide for your films. Even if you’re slowing down your shots by just 10%. A slight tough of slow motion in your videos will give your viewers a completely different feel when watching your films.

Keep in mind that proper audio use is also effective when using slow motion. It’d be sorta disturbing if you have a fast-paced song going on and your shots are running in slow motion. Perhaps in some rare occasion, depending on the type of feel that the director is going for, this might be acceptable. For example, a shot of a man walking down the street in slow motion with a sense of accomplishment to signify success, a good, fast-paced motivational piece might be used in that instance. That is just one of a few examples I can think of. Im sure there are many out there. But for the most part, slow and slow usually go well together.