Kindle Fire - What can a filmaker learn from Amazon?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Today Amazon announced their new tablet, the Kindle Fire.  Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon said on the home page:
"There are two types of companies: those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less. Both approaches can work. We are firmly in the second camp."
This new kindle fire seems to be a glorified kindle, but with a price tag of $199.00 it seems to to follow their commitment to charge customers less.  The tablets have been growing in popularity but there are still many people who don't have one.  With the price tag it has I can see more people having tablets.  
I'm also excited to see what this does to other tablets out there, especially the i-pad.  Granted it doesn't have access to the itunes app store which has the most apps on the market (about 450,000) but it still has plenty of features to make Apple worried.

-Free cloud storage for anything from amazon
-Dual Core proccesor
-Instant streaming to over 10,000 tv shows and movies (if you have amazon prime)
-One month free of Amazon Prime
-The new ultra fast (their words) web browser Amazon Silk

Ok, so Amazon just released a pretty cool tablet that is super cheap.  What does that mean for filmmaker?  Well for one thing there are still many things that a Kindle Fire can't do that an Ipad can.  Indie2zero mentions 10 ipad apps here specifically for filmmakers and FilmmakerIQ has 22 more apps for filmmakers.  My personal favorite is this one.

If anything though, Filmmakers can learn from Amazon.  They took a product that every company is making and then revamped it and made it in a way that no one else has.  They have stepped up their web browser and introduced cloud storage along - and that is all free for you.
Take a look at a genre or style of film that has been done over and over.  Now think about it and keep thinking about it.  How can you change it up to make it different and do it in a way that has never been done before.
My favorite zombie movie ever is Shaun of the Dead.  First off because I love Edgar Wright and his movies.  Secondly because Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are hilarious.  More importantly than any of those was that it was something never done before. Although we have all seen movies of people trying to out last a zombie invasion we had never seen it with an actual romantic comedy element to it.  Thus the Rom-Zom-Com was born.
Now you probably won't buy the Kindle Fire to help you with your filmmaking but you can apply the same principals that they used to make their product.
Make your films in a way that no one has done before.
Make it work better.
Make it so more people have access to it.
Now go out and make it.

P.S. If you are still interested in the Kindle Fire here was a video I saw on how they designed the new web browser - Amazon Silk.

What makes a great film?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I'm in charge of organizing the Film Festival at my school.  I'm pretty excited for it.  I got the poster done tonight and I'm already hearing about what films people are working on. Tonight we had an informational meeting.  There were a few people that came that were new to filmmaking but wanted to start.  They started to ask me about what cameras to use and what mics they should get so that they could have a good film..

I feel like many new filmmakers get stuck in this situation, focusing on equipment first.  They then let their equipment hinder what they do.  Whenever they have a project that they want to do they say they can't because they don't have the right equipment.

Now although it is important to get the best equipment you can afford, it should be a secondary thing. Before Aspiring Filmmakers focus on getting amazing equipment they need to make sure that they have something more important - a good story.

Story should always come first in any film.  There are so many Hollywood films out there that have amazing special effects and have ginormous budgets.  But they still suck. Then there are super low budget films that win Sundance.  The Blair Witch Project costed $60,000.  The movie Clerks only costed $27,000. El Mariachi (Robert Rodriguez's first films) only costed $7,000.

Now that is all more money than most of us have.  However there is one thing that those movies had that  we all can have - a good story.  Instead of working on trying to get better equipment, work on getting a better story.  Instead of focusing on production and focus on pre-production.  Work, and revise, and work, and revise again until you get an amazing story.  When you get a great story it won't matter what type of equipment you use.

Time Lapse In Your Films

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I have recently gotten addicted to the TV show "Breaking Bad."  One of the things that I love most about it is the cinematography.  The show is very raw and the camera matches it.  Rarely will you see a stable shot on a tripod.  Even the establishing shots are handheld.  It adds a great aesthetic to the show that goes with the theme of unbalance in the main character's life.

One thing that I have also noticed about their cinematography is their consistant use of time lapse.  I can't think of another TV show that uses this technique.  The thing I like about it is that it looks amazing and it conveys the passing of time a lot easier than other techniques.  For some reason not a lot of people use it.

I have started getting into time lapse video to see how well I could do.  This was my first attempt at it.

In this one I plugged my camera (Canon Vixia HF20) into the wall outlet and hit record. I filled up the 32 gb hard drive of the camcorder with about 11 hours of one continuos shot. I then imported it into Final Cut and sped it up to something about 1,000,000%. It took a lot of time to export and it wasn't worth the time I spent on it.

This was the next one that I tried doing.

It was with a Canon 60D hooked up to my computer through EOS Utility. This took a picture every 15 seconds for about 6 hours. Once again I put it into Final Cut and exported it. This was a lot easier because I didn't have to work with a 30 gb file. However the problems I faced in this one was that I left it on autofocus on so every picture the camera refocuses. Each picture then looks a bit different from the other.

The other problem with this method is that you are bound to your computer. There are many places that I would like to do a time lapse but don't want to bring my computer there. With DSLRs you can buy an intervalometer that controls how often your camera takes a picture.

Finally my latest test was with a GoPro. I set the time lapse feature on the GoPro for once every five seconds on the shots outside and once every two seconds on the shots inside.

The easiest out of all three of these methods was definitely the GoPro. A full tutorial on how to do a time lapse with a GoPro will be coming shortly. The thing I also liked about it was how tough it was. If you look at the video of the GoPro at :21 you notice that it starts leaning. What you don't see is that the camera actually fell off the roof because I didn't secure it right. Even though it fell from a two story building it still works great with no problems.

What ever way you do your time lapse make sure that it adds to your film other than a beautiful camera shot. A great Aspiring Filmmaker can properly balance camera shots that add to their films aesthetic and look amazing.

I also found this site that has a pretty good tutorial on how to do time lapses. He talks about how to improve your photography so if you want to learn more about that go check it out at www.improvephotography.com.

Patience as an Aspiring Filmmaker

I saw this video and had to share it.  If there is anything that I have learned from being an Aspiring Filmmaker, it's that it takes a lot of time and work.  Patience is a true virtue of anyone in the filmmaking industry.  I have been doing this for almost eight years now.  I plan on doing it for a lot longer.

I like what Ira Glass has to say though, stick with it and do as much work as you can.  If not you will never get better.  Instead you'll become what I call the "Nobodys".

What is a "Nobody?"  It is someone who has the skill/equipment/"how to" to do something, but they never do.  You've heard and seen them before.  They have an awesome camera but they never use it.  They have done a lot of test videos but never anything else.  Anytime anyone asks them to film something for them they say they can't do anything for free (I'm going to talk about doing things for free later on) because they are a professional.  

Listen to Ira and don't be a nobody.  Get out there, be patient as you work to improve your skills and talent.

Go out and film.

Get In Motion Tour

Monday, September 26, 2011

I just got an email about the Get In Motion Tour.  The Get In Motion Tour is a conference going to 40 different cities teaching people about doing:

-Web Commercials
-Birth Announcements
-Family Films
-Senior Music Videos

You're saying, "Wait, those almost all sound like things photographers do!"  Well you're right.  The Get In Motion Tour is geared towards photographers new to video, but the principals learned will still be useful to an Aspiring Filmmaker.  They plan on focusing on story telling, camera movement, lens selection, audio, editing, and creating emotion.  Those all feel like things I would like to learn.

So it looks pretty cool and I am going to try go.  For $49 also that is a pretty good deal.  I once was temped to go to a conference with Vincent Laforet and Phillip Bloom, but then saw the $750 price tag.  So for $49 I can't complain.

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