Today we have an insightful guest post which comes from the talented Dan Bernard of the The Reel Life. TRL is a reality series that focuses on the triumphs and struggles a little production company named “The Division” enjoys and battles with.
I can’t do it unless I have… I hear that nonsense a lot in the video production world, and I couldn’t disagree more.
So you don’t have an amazing camera, lights, or money, but WHO CARES!
I know many talented people who can (and did) do a lot with very little. There is something inherently charming and rewarding in working with only what you have available to you, and doing it really well.
I’d like to share a number of tips that I’ve learned over time that will help any fledgling director with a story to tell get great results.
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE
So, you don’t have 50 cars to smash up during your epic car chase idea, so what, right? Anyone can make a chase scene intense and powerful using clever camera shots and angles.
The guys over at FilmRiot did a review of the new GoPro Hero3 camera, and shot a crazy action packed chase scene. Do you need a GoPro to do this? NO! Any kind of small inexpensive camera like a Flip Camera, or even an iPhone can be used. The chaotic, crazy shots and angles are really what sells the suspense in the scene.
Don’t try to make your scene over complicated, stick with a simple concept and story and do it really well!
2. STICK TO YOUR STRENGTHS
When working on a project, play to your strengths. Know your abilities and organize your project and team around everyone’s talents and skill sets.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a really good VFX artist. I love LEARNING about VFX and motion graphics, but my strength is in video editing.
So what does that mean? It means that when I’m working on a project, I’m going to devote my time to an area that I know I can handle comfortably, and do a quality job at.
“Water Time” (embedded below) created by Hapstance Films is a great example of a simple concept that didn’t use any fancy VFX and was edited together flawlessly to make for a great watch!
3. THE THREE F’s
Friends, Family and Free.
Use them all to your advantage, and use them wisely. Having a team of friends and family will make a world of difference when developing your video production. Get some people you know excited about your project and let them know how important they are to you.
Never, I repeat, NEVER, underestimate the power of food. Need some talent for your shoot? Look to your friends and family, buy them a delicious lunch and let them know how much you value their involvement.
Check out this short film (below) from director Slobodan Gajic entitled “The Ally”. This entire film was shot on the production managers family’s property, with only friends and family starring, and producing. This is the kind of quality one can attain by effectively utilizing the relationships one has for free!
There are some amazing DIY channels out there on YouTube that are dedicated to production. One channel in particular belongs to The Frugal Filmmaker. This guy is pretty amazing considering half of his gear was purchased from the local Dollar Store.
I also hear a number of people talking about how they can’t afford quality editing/compositing/sound design software. Yeah, you don’t have to tell me that the stuff is expensive, trust me , I know, but there are some pretty sweet alternatives if you don’t feel like dropping a mint on the newest NLE.
Speaking of NLE…Adobe has a really great offer through their Creative Cloud service. You can get a monthly subscription to ALL of the full, desktop versions of products like Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop, and Audition for a very reasonable price. Adobe also offers free monthly trials for almost all of their products.
If you’re SUPER cheap and don’t feel like going with the trial version route, you might want to check out some open source resources like Blender (3D modeling/Video editor) Gimp (Image manipulation) and Audacity (Audio editor).
4. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Don’t shortchange your locations. Nothing says “Epic” like a sweet backdrop in your scene. Yeah, it might not be Lord of the Rings, but it will add a whole new level of production value to your project if your locations are beautiful.
Locations can make or break your films atmosphere and quality. If your location doesn’t match your films feel or context, you are essentially sabotaging your production. Corridor Digital recently posted this great insight on to how to score some really sweet locations near you.
Get creative with the environment in which you show your characters. Know a friend who has some property in a rural area not too far from where you are? Have a buddy who owns a car body repair shop? Do you work at a restaurant that could hook you up with the location after hours? Consider everything when you’re tapping your script for locations!
Of course, you can always go with the alternative route of just building your own location. Use programs like Mocha by Imagineer Systems to track your footage and “paint” a new location into your shot. We use mocha all the time, AND it seamlessly integrates with After Effects, so it’s well worth the investment. Double Prizes!
There are lots of great training resources out there for techniques like this, but I’ve always gone with the tutorials done by Andrew Kramer over at Videocopilot.
The proof is in the pudding, and we all LOVE pudding!
When it was all said and done, our total financial cost to make the Tetsuji’s Shadow trailer (below) was… drum roll please… $60!
We used ALL of the tips listed above and got some results that we are all pretty darn proud of. We put this trailer together to really give an audience a conceptual idea of what we can do with very little, and hopefully convince enough people that we are good enough to get funded and give this project the quality it so rightly deserves! Please check out the trailer and contribute what you can to our IndieGoGo campaign!
We have a number of behind the scenes videos over at The Reel Life Vlog channel, so be sure to check those out too!
THE BOTTOM LINE
Your ideas and story should be kept simple so that you can really focus on the important stuff. Keep your goals reasonable, and don’t box yourself into a corner. Keep growing and expanding your ideas as you develop your skills and tools.
1) Keep it simple - Don’t over complicate your production.
2) Stick to your strengths - You know what you’re good at, don’t overload yourself.
3) The three F’s - Friends, Family, Free.
4) Location, Location, Location – Give your project the backdrop it deserves.
I hope this gives all you filmmakers, directors, and producers some encouragement and inspiration for developing your next video or film project!