Monthly Archives: October 2015

Editing Your Home Movies A Basic Workflow

Editing Your Home Movies A Basic Workflow

With the advent of cheap consumer camcorders and cheap (or even free) video editing software, it is now very easy for anyone to put together the sort of home movie that was virtually impossible only a couple of years ago.

The top of the range editing programs are now the same ones that professionals use to produce films such as ‘O Brother where Art Though’ and other similar ones.

But if it all seems too much for you and you want to just put together some simple footage from your holiday, what do you need to do?

There are three steps to creating a video (assuming you have actually gone out and shot the footage using your camcorder)

1) Get the footage onto a PC

2) Sequence the footage together to form a movie

3) Output the movie to a format it can be viewed

The following does not rely on any particular piece of software but hopefully will indicate steps that can be taken on any software

1) Get the footage on your PC.

This is otherwise known as ‘capturing’ the footage. In years gone by this meant attaching your camera to your PC through a Firewire card and playing the footage onto the computer hard drive. However there are now cameras that capture the footage onto solid state cards which can be read by a PC directly, as well as cameras that record directly onto DVD. Regardless of what method you use to capture the footage it will need to end up as a set of files on your PC for editing. Some systems allow you to name your files to make it easier to identify them later, others assign a sequential number to each clip. If at all possible make sure you gather similar clips together , say in a folder, so they can easily be identified “Family at Sea World”, “Jimmy playing on the beach” etc.

2) Sequence the footage together to form a movie.

This is the heart and soul of movie editing. Taking your raw footage and massaging it into a format that people will want to watch. This is done through the creation of a project.

Here are a few tips to help you make better videos

  1. a) Watch ALL your footage before you start editing. This will give you an idea of what you have and what you don’t have. It’s easy when filming footage to forget that sometimes you need some little shots to help your edit. For example when you went to Sea World and shot footage of Shamu did you remember to get a shot of the main entrance with the “Sea World” logo? I bet you didn’t. Make a note of stuff you missed.
  2. b) Identify shots that will NOT appear in your video. These are the ones where the camera whips around quickly, where the focus is wrong, where there is nothing but zooms and pans. These will make your audience sick. Also identify the ones where there is lots and lots of repetition: Jimmy running into the waves and back is interesting once or twice, but not 8 or 10 times. identify the best shot from the sequence and use that
  3. c) Look for ‘reaction shots’ – ie shots that show people looking at things or discussing things or being candid. These are useful for bridging gaps in the action later on
  4. d) Cut in late and out early. By this I mean only use that part of a shot that shows JUST the bit your interested in and once that interesting piece has finished, cut out. So if you’ve got footage of Jimmy on the beach throwing a frisbee, show him throwing the frisbee. Don’t show him shouting at you to move back towards the left and ‘to go deep’. Don’t show him making a couple of practice throws or stopping to watch the dog play in a tidal pool. Just show the throw. Once he’s thrown the frisbee and it’s out of shot, cut away.

Once you have your footage identified – along with a list of shots you don’t have but do need – get in to your editing tool and bring all your footage in. Working through in a logical sequence start to drop the shots into the timeline. Don’t worry about titles, transitions and effects, just get the story working. Remember, ideally you should have something that tells a complete story from start to finish. For longer shots that are boring (or contain things you don’t want in your movie), use your editors trim’ function to cut bits out from the start or end of the footage. In some editors you may have to drag the same clip into the timeline several times to allow you to take chunks of it.

Now watch your movie. Does it tell a story? Does it flow? Does each shot cut in late and out early? Is there repetition. Remember that although you might find it interesting to watch jimmy throw a frisbee 15 times on a beach, everyone else will probably get bored after a short while.

Now you can go back to your footage and do a couple of things.

  1. a) Add in the titles Many editors have titling tools as part of their features. Use what you have. If your editing system doesn’t have a titler, make your own titles. Use a word processor, print the pages out, film them and add them in
  2. b) Add transitions. Sometime a good transition can be very useful. Generally I find there are only 2 types of transitions that make sense A dissolve and a fade. A dissolve is where one picture become another over a period of time and a fade is where one picture disappears (usually to black) and the other then appears out of the black. If you use too many transitions it will distract your audience (Unless your making a groovy pop video!).
  3. c) Add in reaction shots. If you have those shots that show Aunt Nelly laughing at something, or the whole family watching the fireworks display, add those shots in between a couple of other shots. This breaks up the flow and allows you to make an edit that otherwise would look wrong – say, for example, you have a shot of Shamu in close up and you want to move to a shot of the whole of Shamu’s tank, if you add a reaction shot of people watching the show in between the two shots it will make the edit work! This is also the tie to add in those shots you didn’t take at the time. If you need a shot of the logo of Sea World, look on the internet. Check out Flickr and search for Creative Commons images you can use to insert into your footage.
  4. d) Sound is an important part of a good video. I’ve had films where I have basically just added music underneath the whole video to cover up some awful camcorder audio. This works. Try it and see

3) Output the movie to a format you can use:

When you are completely happy with what you have (having added in the transitions, titles and sound) you are then ready to create a film from your project. Remember that saving the project in a tool will not actually create a film, just a record of what is in the project. Creating the film (or rendering) involves identifying how you want the project transferred into a format that you can watch.

Different tools deal with this in different ways but all of them will allow you to create a finished film in a specific format. This might be a Quicktime movie, or an AVI or even an MPEG. Regardless of the end product, most tools will ask you to specify things such as bit-rate or file size. Don’t be concerned about this. As video files generally are huge, playing them anywhere will require them to be compressed into something that can be processed by your computer. All movie files created from editing software will be compressed to reduce their size. Just remember a couple of golden rules

1) A high bit rate will result in a bigger file but will need a faster computer to play it without juddering

2) A smaller file will create compression artefacts (ie those square blocks you see when playing back videos)

So usually the creation of a movie is a trade off between large file sizes needing powerful computers and smaller files that have compression artefacts. The correct decision to make on this depends on where you want your final movie to be shown. If it is destined for YouTube then a smaller file size is acceptable. If it is going onto a DVD then you need as big a file as possible to keep the compression down to a minimum because the creation of the DVD will compress the file again and therefore reduce quality further.

The process of video file compression is something of a black art, with people trying to get the maximum quality from the minimum file size. All you need to know is that with most of the tools available today, especially free tools, you will always have a trade off between file size and quality.

If you want to make a DVD of your movie you will need to take the movie created from the editing software (which should be as high quality as possible) and pass it through a DVD creation tool (Something like DVD-Flick) and this will design and create your DVD for you. Obviously you will need a DVD player capable of writing disks as well as reading them.

How to Pick the Right Movie Every Time

How to Pick the Right Movie Every Time

Reward yourself: If you think of your movie going experience as a reward, your choice of movies will change drastically, they will become more rewarding and fulfilling. Your reward can be anything, from a long work week, completing an overdue project, meeting someone new, treating a family member or friend to a special occasion. So with all these technical issues to consider, how do you choose the right movie for the right occasion? Easier said than done; but really, it is very easy. Here’s how:

It always helps to do a little research about any movie before going to see it; that way, you won’t be disappointed for shelling out a few bucks. Decide on the location first because that could mean driving for forty minutes to an hour, or just enjoying the luxury of in home entertainment. You may want to look up where the movie is playing, then call the theater to confirm and even book your ticket over the phone or internet, hassle free. For those movies not in theaters, you may choose to rent a DVD or borrow one from a friend.

If you decide to go the extra mile, the mall or distant theater, make it worth your while. When making your movie decision, never choose a movie that is liked by everyone, try something new unless you are convinced this is the one. Avoid the in-crowd opinion; the everybody-loves-it mentality. Look for a movie that stimulates you intellectually, solves a problem or one that meets a need, whether emotional, psychological, adventure, escapism, triumph or just for added knowledge and self improvement. You should always learn something at the end of your movie.

Here is an example: After watching The Cinderella Man, I learned that men are by design, made to be the strength of their family; and that courage is more than just word of mouth, it takes sacrificial actions and willingness to risk everything. In “Glory” with Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, I also learned that one man can make a difference in the lives of others, and that doing the not-so-popular things and going against the grain can be more rewarding than never challenging the powers that be. Therefore, if we all just stay in our little corners, a change will never come. There are risks in the establishment of greatness, and an even greater reward in ceasing each given moment.

Also, I remembered how I felt after seeing “A Beautiful Mind” with Russell Crowe, and “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner” or “Life” with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, King of the Kick Boxers, with Billy Blanks, and “Everyone’s Fine” with Robert De Niro…just to name a few examples of great moments I have come to cherish over time. Some were filled with laughter, tears, triumph, courage, hopes and dreams; nevertheless, they were time well spent.

There are big benefits in choosing the right movie versus going the popularity route. And after watching this year’s Academy, you too will also realize that Hurt Locker was not the most talked about movie, but it sure took the spotlight over Avatar when all was said and done.

Some people choose movies based on their favorite actor/actress, but however you decide, a great movie makes for an even greater conversation with people you meet. Some movies will help to bridge the gap between people of varying nations, solve misunderstandings, and makes for great ice-breakers in uncomfortable settings.

I could go on and on, but here’s what I really want you to get from reading this article, your movie going should be a great experience that lifts your spirits, encourage you, make you cry at times and move you emotionally, open your eyes to new ideas, hidden truths and wildly adventures, bring people together, tear down barriers and build up new walls of hope and trust, and inspire people to dream, if only for a moment.

I love movies because they are in many ways, the untold stories of every human that ever walked planet earth and are a real world phenomenon of memories gone by. There is a hidden reality and realism in every movie or stories ever told via motion pictures. However, while not all are good for the soul, movie going is a experience that can be enjoyed even from the comforts of your bed room. But whatever your choice of location, let it be a memorable one. Here’s to your next experience! Lights…Camera…Action…Life!

Andrew Guy is a well sought out Motivational Speaker, known for his humorous approach to breaking down the myths of Leadership, advocacy for health & wellness, and empowering message for youth and others.

How Can I Invest in a Movie and Make Money With a Movie

How Can I Invest in a Movie and Make Money With a Movie

You may have heard that movie investments, especially low budget movie investments, can be very lucrative. This can be true, and you may be excited about investing in a movie, but not know how to find a movie project to invest in. You may also be wondering about what to look for in a low budget movie project, and what to watch out for. This article will explain how to find a movie project to invest in, and how to determine if it has a good chance of being a successful movie that will produce a good profit.

In your search for a movie project to invest in, you can simply search the internet using the key words “how to invest in a movie” and you will get a good start in your search. You will find a myriad of different articles, relating to this topic and associated topics. If you keep searching, you will find some movie projects with budgets that are within the realm of what you want to invest, and which have a story line that appeals to you. The term small budget in this article means movies costing under $300,000.

You will also find investment opportunities for bigger budget movies, where someone sets up a company which is funded by a pool of small investors. The budget for the movie may be 10 to 50 million dollars, and you can invest only $50,000 to $100,000 if you wish.

It is most important to know that movies with budgets under $300,000 actually have a chance of earning a much higher return than budgets costing in the multi millions. For instance, with a budget of 30 million dollars, the movie will most likely have to get a theatrical release to make a profit. Because of the limited number of movie screens available, getting a theatrical release is difficult, with strong competition from large Hollywood studios for those limited screens. On the other hand, a movie that costs $300,000, can break even if it is shown on TV only once. With TV networks worldwide on the constant lookout for new movies to broadcast, it can be relatively easy to double or triple your investment with relative ease. Some movies costing under $300,000 have made over a hundred million dollars. This type of return is rare of course, but it is possible.

For any movie to make money, the story must be interesting and captivating, and have something unique and special about it. Movies that are based on a true story have a higher chance of success. And here is smoothing very important to know. A good story is more important than big name stars, or special effects. You can verify this by checking the movie listings on TV. You will see movies you never heard of, yet they have big name stars. It is because they were actually box office flops. Yes, they are good enough to get on TV, but they may never break even.

A low budget movie on the other hand, can make good money if it is only shown on TV. If it turns out to be exceptional, it can get a theatrical release, and make really big money.

One thing to look for in a low budget movie investment, is to see if the writer/director is putting their own money into it. The writer/director should have some past successes, such as some awards, and TV sales, even if they are just with short films. Most low budget movies are made by writer/directors who are moving up from short films to feature films. If they have already made some feature films, they are also likely to now be working on bigger budget films. The key is to find someone who looks to be a rising star, and to capitalize on their strong commitment to their movie.

I am making a feature length movie, and I am looking for investors. The budget is only $100,000, and you can invest as little as $5000. I am investing my own money in the movie. I have won some awards and sold my short films to TV. I have what may be the most complete movie investment website ever made, with all the details, including details that some people try to hide. Just looking at my website is an education in itself, and if you look, you will be entertained as well.

Project Management Kung Fu Theater

Project Management Kung Fu Theater

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Growing up in New York during the 1980s, I enjoyed watching what was called “The Sunday Afternoon Kung Fu Theater” on television. This meant four hours straight of Kung Fu movies, dueling techniques, avenging deaths, dubbed voice-overs, and wonderful noises for punches and kicks. There was also the additional two hours after the movies ended when my brother and I would re-enact the movies on each other (and destroy our house in the process). This article ponders these similarities of these movies to project management to see if it can help Project Managers attain their “black belt” in managing projects.

For those people reading this article who are not familiar with this genre of movies, I will give a brief overview. Each movie was about two hours long and they all had very distinct characteristics:

Each had a similar story in that a martial arts student has some wrong done to them (e.g. the killing of a master/brother/father, ransacking of the town/temple by thugs, etc.), then they go away to the mountains to train in some particular technique and would come back and avenge the wrong done to them.

The techniques that each student practiced made them super-human by having the ability to fly, smash walls with their fists, take arrows without being hurt, climb trees without using their hands, etc. (Do you begin to see the similarities with Project Managers yet?).

The styles of kung fu practiced were unique in that they mirrored specific movements and strengths of different animals (e.g. Tiger, Dragon, and Snake) and elements (e.g. Water, Fire, and Earth).
They were all filmed in Chinese and then translated with English voice-overs. This resulted in the actors’ lips moving (in Chinese) but the words being said in English did not match.

DIFFERENT STYLES

A common occurrence in the Kung Fu movies was when the combatants would yell out the next ‘style’ that they were going to use against one another during a fight sequence. These were usually based on animals (e.g. Tiger, Crane, Dragon, and Monkey) and had distinct movements to them. While (most) Project Managers don’t shout out their styles or techniques during action in the project, I have noticed that some of the Project Management styles mirror the styles used by the Kung Fu warriors. That is, there are several distinct ways that PMs manage their projects and resources.

Dragon style

The Dragon style is an aggressive style and is used by a PM who manages by shouting out orders (like breathing out fire). They often use the “just do it and don’t complain” approach. Fear may be used as a motivator for the Dragon because they believe that people should obey them because of their power or title. I rarely see the Dragon ‘on the floor’ interacting with the team members but rather in the tower looking down and ready to attack. My experience is that Dragons may get the work done in the short term, but they rarely have the motivation or dedication of their team members if this style is over-used. People start resenting the approach and see it as a lack of support and will not be as motivated or productive after some time.

Crane style

The Crane style requires Project Managers to stick out their necks. Cranes are risk takers who say that anything is possible (often before considering any consequences). These people tend to be more academic and enjoy the challenge of doing something that has not been done before (even if that is not what the project is asking for). I get nervous around Cranes because their ability to deliver on time is often diminished by their unrealistic expectations of what they want to deliver. However, there is value in being a Crane on projects where new thinking is required.

Snake style

The Snake style of Project Management involves being sneaky around the way in which the project is managed. These are the Project Managers who have major issues but always report their status upwards as green. They sneak their way around dates or deliverables by talking their way out of them. These people are very good talkers so they tend to look good in front of Senior Management. I have seen the Snakes have trouble because by the time they admit real problems the problems are usually enormous. They also lose credibility with their team members if the team does not feel that their problems are being heard or addressed.

Monkey style

The Monkey style entails being everyone’s friend. These are the social managers who make it a point to have a relationship which each team member. This results in great camaraderie on the team but it also has its faults. For one, the work may not get done because the PM doesn’t want to ruin any friendships by being too tough. There is another level to this style – the “Drunken monkey”, which speaks for itself and usually causes the water cooler talk the following day and results in what may be known as a CLM (Career Limiting Move). Monkeys are fun to be around but may not have the respect from the team when it comes to crunch time.

Cat style

The Cat is cautious and reluctant to act quickly. They like knowing all the available (and sometimes unavailable) information before making a decision. They take their time in analyzing all of the information. This style can work well for PMs provided that they are careful to make decisions in a timely manner.

WHEN TO USE EACH STYLE

There were always two types of Kung Fu Masters – those that were experts in one specific style or technique and those who had a fundamental understanding of several techniques. I think the Project Management master must be an expert in all techniques and know when to use them. All of these styles can work, if used in the appropriate way. Some techniques work better in certain situations than others. The PM must be nimble enough to change their style based on the project team and environment.

PRACTICE

Like Kung Fu students, Project Managers must practice their skills in order to attain mastery. Understanding the technical aspects of project management (e.g., issues logs, project plans) will not alone make a good project manager. It is the experience that a PM attains over many years of working on projects that lets them know what works and what doesn’t work. None of the movies I watched on those Sunday afternoons ever showed a student just reading a book of Kung Fu and then becoming an expert. They all took a few punches before learning how to block. It is the taking of these punches and kicks that make a Project Manager experienced to know when to punch, when to block and when to duck! It is the difficult project that instructs the most. You can’t learn martial arts very well by sparring with a wooden dummy – you want it to strike back at you.

DISCIPLINE

One of the most memorable movies was the one where the students had to perform several difficult activities within different chambers to attain mastery. They could only move on to the next chamber once the current one was completed. One of these activities required students to hold a scalding hot cauldron filled with boiling water between their forearms for a period of time to test their discipline and skill. Another activity required holding plates of water on their body as they stood in a particular position and not moving for hours. While I would hope that PMI doesn’t require any of these activities to get the PMP certification, the metaphor can be used here as well. Because projects usually involve a lot of moving and inter-related parts, Project Managers need a lot of discipline to be successful. There are several frameworks and methodologies for managing projects but it is the PM who must apply the appropriate rigor to using these. It is very easy to skip steps in a process or push things off until later. These are often shortsighted decisions that result in pain later (maybe not as much as the burning cauldron, but it does sometimes feels that way). For example, not having the discipline to plan for all activities on a project will result in rework or missed steps later.

UNEXPECTED PUNCHES

In Kung Fu Theater, no matter how good the master was they always took a few beatings during the big fights before they would make the comeback and eventually win the battle. Having discipline and practice helps to refine the Project Manager’s skills, but there are always those unexpected punches and kicks that they must absorb along the way to success. This is where your training will come in handy. Hopefully, you have learned how to take the punches and keep standing. It doesn’t make any sense just to train to avoid punches since it is inevitable that a few will be landed on you. Therefore, you should train yourself to take them and keep moving. PMs call this technique risk management.

BREAKING WALLS

Another favorite episode of mine features a Kung Fu master who had the ability to punch through brick walls. Today’s kung fu students use wooden boards. The technique for breaking anything is to strike through it and not at it. A martial arts student myself, I was taught to look six inches beyond the target and aim for that point. This metaphor can be extended to project management. The PM must ‘look beyond’ the problems of the day to be planful of what is to come rather than just striking at each problem. Once they make the plan, they should execute it with all of their focus, striking through the little problems that may stand between them and a successful project outcome. I have found in my experience that a lot of Managers tend to spend their days “putting out the fires” and not looking beyond them at the end goal. This is short-sighted and usually results in more fires and the endless cycle of firefighting (see my soccer metaphor article).

PROJECT MANAGEMENT VOICE-OVERS

For anyone who watched these moves, they know that the most entertaining part of Kung Fu Theater was the voice-overs. Since all of these movies were made in Hong Kong or China, they were in native Chinese. When shown in the U.S., English was dubbed over the dialogue. The result was lips moving in Chinese but words being played in English.

Oftentimes, a team member will report a major problem on the team. When this gets ‘dubbed’ for Management reporting, there is usually a voice-over that changes the meaning of what the team member said. Here are some examples.

Native Statement———-Voice-Over Statement
The work is half done———-The work is complete for all intents
We pray that we can meet the date———-We have a plan
The project is going well———-The project is going great
The project is having problems———-The project is going great
The project is really having problems———-The project is going great
The project is now in real trouble———-The project has some risks, but will come in on time
The project will never succeed———-We need more time than usual to complete it
The team is posting on Monster.com———-We have some potential show stoppers

It is very important to state information accurately so that expectations can be managed. I have found that it is better to state problems early (with proposed solutions) than to try to put off the information until later. Usually what happens is that the problem then snowballs into something gigantic and then no one understands how it got to be so big and unmanageable.

CONCLUSION

Project Managers resemble the Kung Fu masters of those golden days of Sunday afternoon television. They are super-human warriors who need to understand the different styles of Project Management and when it is appropriate to use each one. They need to practice their skills and focus on proper discipline. Even so, there will always be a kick or two that gets through and they need to have the stamina to absorb it. They also need to make sure that when their lips move their words match them.

One of my martial arts instructors once told me “To be the best that one can be, one must always dream of being better.” This means that the journey to mastery will never end and that there will always be battles to fight, new styles to learn, and punches to take.

Don’t forget to keep the cauldrons hot!