How to evade a shaky camera (2)

Monday, September 08th, 2008 | Author: michielv

Hi again, and good to have you reading my second post on how you evade a shaking camera. In the last post I did, you learned how to make a very cheap tool for making static shots. Today’s tool is used for making dynamic ones. You can easily make it for less than $2.

Tool #2:

Shopping list:

  • A bolt, 1/4 inch with coarse threads, about 2-3 cm (1-2 inch) long.
  • Some string that wont stretch, and is approximately as long as your height
  • A small weight, like a washer

How you make it:

  • Tie one end of the string to the washer, you can do this with an easy granny knot.
  • Tie the string to the washer or other weight
  • Clip the lose ends, and if you want to, seal the knots with a match

How you use it:

  • Screw the bolt into the camera, just like you do with a tripod
  • Put the washer on the ground, and step on it
  • Pull up with the camera against the tension of the string
  • This eliminates vertical camera shake, and greatly reduces horizontal shake

When you’re done, simply put the ‘tripod’ in your pocket

Have fun!

Thijs Vandenbussche

Source: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1041948/1_image_stabilizer_for_any_camera_lose_the_tripod/

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Film review: “Cashback” (2006)

Sunday, September 07th, 2008 | Author: michielv

A long time ago I discovered a wonderful trailer to Cashback, an adaption of an 18 minute short film to a feature film. Yesterday I got time to buy this film and it is one of the most artistic films I’ve ever seen.

The story tells us about Ben Willis, a guy who’s suffering from insomnia due to a recent break-up with his girlfriend. That’s why he takes a job at a supermarket and works the night shift. There, with no sleep for two weeks, he discovers a tremendous gift: the ability to stop time and to draw and unclothe women, for he is an artist drawing still life. This may sound pornographic, but the R-rated imagery in the film is incredibly artistic.

The film is mostly about love and how love is “sometimes hiding between the seconds of your life”. It is a very poetic and charming film. The shortfilm was made two years earlier and was nominated for an Oscar. Later the same team tried to develop a feature film, and with succes. A little known fact that the 18-minute shortfilm has been put in the feature film itself, making it a sort of extended cut. If you want to see a beautifully photgraphed, lyrical and poetical film, this is the one you are looking for.

9/10!

More info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0460740/

Cashback

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The Box wins at Ray Biddle’s Filmfestival!

Thursday, September 04th, 2008 | Author: easternlights

Our first short film, The Box, has won in Ray Biddle’s Filmfestival!

The film won in the 9+ minute category with 80 participants for the whole festival.

Thanks, Ray Biddle!

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How to evade a shaky camera (1)

Wednesday, September 03rd, 2008 | Author: easternlights

Have you ever had footage completely ruined by a shaking camera?

After this series of lessons, you’ll no longer have problems with one of the main reasons why a lot of amateur movies don’t look good.

You can take your shots in two different ways: the static and the dynamic one, as i call them.

To make a static shot, you don’t need to be behind the camera. You just aim your camera at the scene, and do the acting while your camera is recording. For example, if you want to film a pursuit scene, you place the camera somewhere and just run past it. This technique is used a lot in michiel’s shortfilm ‘The Box’. I’ll show you a ‘tool’ you can make to more easily aim your camera, without buying a tripod.

To make a dynamic shot, you move your camera so that your lens follows your actors. For this you can use a tripod, or a dolly (see part 4!)

Tool #1:

Let’s start with the easy one.

Shopping list:

  • A plastic bag (If possible with a press-to-close zipper)
  • Flour or sand
  • Duct tape or double sided tape

Fill a plastic bag 3/4 with the flour or the sand. Then, stick double sided tape on the inside of the bag and close it, fold the open side around and stick some duct tape on it or if you’ve got a bag with a press-to-close zipper, seal it and stick some duct tape on it, for double protection. If you now want to film those running feet without having to place your camera in the mud, just put your bag on the ground, place the camera on it, press it in the sand/flour and aim it to your scene.

No more cameras filled with mud.

Thijs Vandenbussche

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Film review: Wall-E (2008)

Friday, August 29th, 2008 | Author: easternlights

Me and Thijs Vandenbussche went to see Wall-E yesterday afternoon. We both looked forward to this moment (seeing the film, that is!) and were not disappointed. The film opened with a funny short film by Pixar about a cute little rabbit, a carrot and a mean magician. This was just a starter for what was yet to come.

Wall-E is without a doubt Pixars best creation and the film is no exception. Wall-E is better than Finding Nemo with terrific music with some oldies like Michael Crawford and Louis Armstrong, and the film score composed by Thomas Newman (Finding Nemo, The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption). Wall-E is the story of a wonderfully curious little robot and the tremendously beautiful searchrobot EVE (a nice hint to the Apple products). Wall-E quickly falls in love and they have a wonderful time, until EVE discovers a secret plant that her people need and she goes back to where she belongs with Wall-E holding onto the spaceship! The story is magnificent and I think I never laughed so much at an animation film like I did at Wall-E.

I thought with The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and recently Ratatouille, Pixar must take a break from the succes. But this is absolutely not true. Wall-E is the best Pixar movie to date and is a real homage to well-known comedians like Charlie Chaplin and brings new life to the science-fiction genre (a great homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey!) If you have the time, GO and SEE this film! It will entertain you immensely. I recently said The Dark Knight was the best film of 2008 so far… but now I begin to doubt. (edit: but even a genius can change his opinion…Wall-e’s proven that it’s always possible to make an even better film than the best one at the moment)

9/10 !

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On animation

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 | Author: easternlights

Hi my name is Stijn Heirstrate. I make brickfilms and in this post I’m going to tell you more about animation.

What do you need?

- lamps, 2 will do

- a camera with decent quality (webcams can be used for animations and you can get a pretty good one      (5 MP) for less than 50 dollar)

- a good computer

- lots of space next to your desk

-material you want to animate with, for example: plasticine, or what I personally use, LEGO (which is called brickfilming)

- and most important: patience

If you have your story and set ready you first:

- put on some dark clothes (helps against flickers)

- set up your lamps before your set

-make sure that your room is totally dark and that the only light in the room is coming from your 2 lamps

Then you start animating.

You either take photo’s directly from a webcam, and load the frames onto your computer, or youconnect your camera to your computer (driver needed!) and open up your frame capture. (there exists free software for this, there’ll be a post on this soon)

Then you can take frames directly from your camera. When done animating, the software makes all the frames into 1 video file.
This is the best and easiest way to animate.

Yes and if you want to have a decent frame rate, then just animate at 15 frames per second

It’s pretty easy and looks good.

Want to see some of my animations?

Go to www.youtube.com/darkman13forever

Want to find a bit out about brickfilming? (LEGO animations)

Go to www.brickfilms.com/resources.php

Want to talk and communicate, help or be helped by brickfilmers?

Go to http://www.bricksinmotion.com/refugeecamp/

Post written by: Stijn Heirstrate
Many thanks!

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Preparing Your Shoot

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008 | Author: easternlights

Hi and welcome to the Eastern Lights Blog. Today I’m going to tell you how to prepare for your shoot, because lots of things can go wrong when you get at the location. Avoid Murphy’s Law, that means everything that CAN go wrong, WILL go wrong. These tricks will take care of all your problems.

Before shooting your scenes, do a lot of pre-production! This includes checking your script three times, in case you forget something. Also, to keep track of and don’t forget about shots, make a shotlist and storyboards. Keep an eye out for our storyboard post in the following days! Having a shotlist and storyboards will make sure you don’t forget shots. Having to comeback to the location for two seconds you forgot is a pain!

Plan out! Make sure everyone is at the right place at the right time. A friend of mine did a night shoot, had to wait two hours for 4 friends, of which three of them forgot the shoot. Avoid this! Have good relationships with your friends and people you work with, because you’ll have to rely on them!

Also, a rather little thing but it can make a huge difference, make sure you have PERMISSION from the location owner to film at the location. Someone coming to tell you to get the hell out of there, is the least thing you would want. In the middle of your shoot you will have to start back from zero and find a new location. Thorough pre-production is EVERYTHING!

So, what do you bring to your shoot?
Of course, you bring your camera. DON’T FORGET extra batteries, tripod (costs about $20 for a professional one, but keep an eye out for a special post on making a $1 tripod thats fits into our budget!)
And certainly bring a shot list, your storyboards and a copy of the script.
Also don’t forget to take a microphone if your camera has a mike input. (a reserve microphone is very handy, and costs about nothing these days, about 15 bucks, but that’s out of range for our $10 budget)

And wherever you are, always bring duct tape that will help you out in case of rain, broken things or isolation problems.

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow!

Michiel

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Film review: The Dark Knight (2008)

Thursday, August 21st, 2008 | Author: easternlights

First my apologies for saying today’s film review would be the Pixar animation film Wall-E, but a slight change in plans..I went to see The Dark Knight…and I can say I’m not disappointed.

As always with my reviews I give my opinion about the film, but not an analysis. I try to avoid spoilers but just let people know if the film’s worth seeing. No doubt about it. Batman Begins was already teriffic but they’ proved they can do even better by making the sequel, The Dark Knight. The film is awe-inspiring and the cinematography is really superb. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart and the wonderful Maggie Gyllenhaal (that blows Katie Holmes’ performance of the character to hell) are sublime actors.

If this film doesn’t get the late Heath Ledger an Academy Award nomination for his performance as The Joker, then Speed 2 is the best sequel ever made. His performance is truly amazing and psychopathic. He’s just simply amazing. The action sequences are the best I’ve ever seen and the story is solid. But however there are some bad things about it, but nothing to worry about. I felt like Bruce Wayne didn’t have much to do in this film, though it was in the center of Batman Begins. Ok it may not have been necessary, but I would like to have had a bit more Wayne. Apart from that some minor storylines were not really necessary the script was fantastic and very believable.

This is without a doubt the best film of 2008 with terrific music, good story and a superb cast. But does this film earn the number three spot in the IMDb Top 250? I think not. The film should be in the top 250 for sure, but third is overrated. This film is a must see so what are you waiting for? Go see it now!

Greetings,

Michiel

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Auditioning actors

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008 | Author: easternlights

Hi and good to have you reading my blogpost. It’s been a few days, but we worked really hard on the website and the blog. Apart from that, we have a some new filmmaking advice for you!

Now that you’ve got your script it’s time to find out more about your characters. Try to sketch them out, draw them, write down details and characterisations to make them more believable, and you should incorporate that in your story and scenes. Then, after shaping your characters, the time has come to find actors to play them out.

Most people, so do we sometimes, prefer to cast friends in your $10 masterpiece to make it ‘easier’ to find actors. This, however, is WRONG!

  • We had the experience many times. Try not to work with friends or people you know, because working under supervision by the director, your friends can get upset and lose interest and respect. All in all it’s not a very good idea to cast your girlfriend for a love scene, and even when you work with people you know, this can be dangerous. MOVIES CAN DESTROY RELATIONSHIPS! For example, making your girlfriend kiss a complete stranger, or even well-known friend(!), can really create a foul mood, jealousy and trouble on set, leaving problems in the relationship, even between friends.
  • And please, do remember that you do not work with professional actors. They are your friends and want to help you out, but with limits. Forcing them to do things only professionals would can make them lose interest which will result in a failure of your film.

But how do you find a good actor for no budget? The answer is: Auditioning! When you want the right girl for your Coyote Ugly-remake or the right guy to play a wealthy businessman longing for money and a woman he can’t get, you have to organize auditions.

But how?
Use a room in your house if necessary, but it would be wonderful to have a place with more space and effectiveness. Inviting people to your house may scare them off (certainly the female ones) and just looks inprofessional. Try to rent a place or, well, borrow it. It might not be easy to find a place for auditioning, but with some creativity, you’ll certainly find one. For example, think about local schools. Schools are the perfect places for auditioning: they mostly have at least one big room, which they don’t use on times people are not at work or at school.

Things I should think about
In just three words, I can describe what you should look out for: Pre-production, pre-production, pre-production! If you don’t plan everything out, like what scenes to do and who’s going to come on stage when, you’ll find yourself drowned in problems (try to maintain a tight schedule, keep attention to even minutes of elapsed time!). All problems start with a lack of pre-production. Make your actor comfortable by offering them something to drink (this doesn’t have to be more than coffee, water or maybe tea). Try to comfort them and let them do the scene. Be very professional. When people have to wait their turn outside, try to install some small facilities to look a little more professional (you’re serious about project, and you want your actor to be so too!)

Tips:

  • It’s a very good idea to actually capture each actor’s performance on tape. Also take notes! Don’t think you’ll remember when you start filming, thoughts struck at the first moment so they have to be written down immediately!
  • Always bring a copy from the script. It’s amazing how quickly actors can forget their lines and even their script itself.
  • Be kind, make him or her comfortable! This is not only to comfort the actor so their performances might be better, but they’re probably people you will have to work with for months!

So that’s it for today. An extra long post for all the previous days, sorry about that!
Don’t forget you can get updates by submitting to our RSS Feed on the right.

Please also find some time to view our projects on the project page, we would appreciate it!
www.easternlights.be is our official (Dutch) website, views are appreciated, you’ll be glad you looked.

Well, see you tomorrow and also don’t forget that every Friday there is a brand new filmreview…this time, te review will be about…Wall-E. See you tomorrow, for total awesomeness

Michiel

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Film review: The Godfather (1972)

Friday, August 15th, 2008 | Author: easternlights

The Godfather (1972)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writers: Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola
With: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, James Caan…

The Godfather is without a doubt the best gangster movie ever made. It starts with the aging Don, Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) on the day of his daughters wedding, Connie Corleone (Talia Shire). Her brother, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), has just come back from World War II to come to the wedding. The Corleone family is in the Mafia business, but Michael just wants to lead a normal life. Sollozo is a drugs dealer who tries to get protection from the Corleone family in exchange for money, but Don Corleone turns the offer down, not wanting to have any business with narcotics and drugs. After the denial of this offer the not so pleased Solozzo guns Don Corleone down, nearly killing him, and son Michael has to take over and fight against Solozzo.

This film has an uniqueness to it, and so does the Corleone family. When all Mafia families are all plotting against each other in their own families, the Corleone family has an important difference: loyalty. That’s why we love these characters so much and ultimately care about them. This film is a must see. For long it has been on IMDb’s number one in the top 250, but has now been surpassed by The Shawshank Redemption. Marlon Brando, who received an Oscar for his role, is terrific and brings a wonderful performance. Along with the films great cinematography, cast, editing and fantastic music by Nino Rota this is a classic.

Along with the recognizable image (and voice!) of Marlon Brando and some very memorable lines (I’ll make him an offer he cannot refuse) this Best Picture Oscar winner is worth it.

    9/10

Want to decide for yourself whether this film is good or not?
After a bit of searching we came across this film on dvd for just $9.99 at amazon:

We also found the blu-ray version, which was cheapest on amazon too:

This version isn’t cheap, at 79.99 $ , but you get 4 discs for that price ( 2 sequels and 1 bonus disc). It’s been completely restorated, and is definitely of better quality than the DVD version.

(More in-depth reviews coming later!)

Michiel

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