Micro Budget Filmmaking
One of the reasons why I think it's great that we're able to come and teach you this course is everybody starts somewhere, right? And a lot of times you'll get people who are at the pinnacle of their career 20 years removed from when they were slumming it. And Ross and I are about--
10 minutes from--
Yeah, we're about to two years, removed from slumming it. And so because this whole filmmaking genre, DSLR filmmaking genre is so new, we started out making things, going to Home Depot and gradually acquiring gear. We've been through the ranks, very, you know, in the very near past. So we have an opportunity to show you what works and what doesn't and really, we have film examples to give you where we were using literally $750 worth of gear, additional gear, in addition to the camera of being a photographer, we had the lenses, we had the cameras. So what else did we need? Let's talk about that.
Okay, so the first video we're gonna show you is actually a trailer to a movie I did, abou...
t two and a half years ago. It was when I just started working for Jeff and Clay, before Jeff and I became business partners. And like, we told the story yesterday that I walked on my first day of the job, and they handed me the five D. And I'm used to using cameras like the ones around here, they're 20, 30 pounds, and he handed me this without the microphone on it. And I just thought he was, he had no clue. And I tried to be respectful and finish out the day. And as I was walking out, the smartest thing he ever said to me was, "Just download that footage really quick "before you leave, so I know where to look at it". And once I saw it, the movie, the trailer you're about to see is the one we started putting in pre production that day. Me and my crew. So while I was working for Jeff, I would just ask him if I can borrow some equipment on the weekends. For a little side project that I was doing. He really had no clue, but I wanna show you the trailer for this because this is all Home Depot and five Ds and very little bit little gear. And this is a feature film. This is this isn't a wedding. This isn't a one day shoot, this is like a four month epic. So if you can do this, then you obviously can do a wedding or a birth announcement or anything. So let's take a look at this trailer and see what a $750 budget gets you, with equipment.
I wish I could describe to you what's happening inside my head. (soft music) I feel, so good. (soft music)
I invented a new drug (whooshing) will give you complete euphoria and enlightenment for 24 hours, and then you will peacefully and pain free, pass on instead of suffering on the deathbed. It can be bliss.
So you're afraid of being average?
And then so you moved to New York to get away from that. And now what is it that you do here?
Since we've sat down I've been under the spotlight, That's the end of that. It's time for you to be in a situation.
So what are yo gonna do? (blonde girl voice over)
Of 100 pills already made, I was thinking about talking to a couple people, but I feel like who better to talk than you?
Everybody's telling me I need an exit. I need a way out, I need a change. Well, here it is.
Oh yeah, killing 100 people is your way out. Not exactly what I had in mind when I said you could do better at yours. (upbeat music)
How much can we make (mumbles) (seated man voice over)
Jeremy created (mumbles) But he needed somebody willing enough to sell it. You! (laughs) (upbeat music)
I told you before, I'm a ghost, I can vanish. As for you, as long as you take the money and you run, this law is not gonna stop it coming find someone and that someone is not gonna be me. I could promise you that buddy.
The girl that I love told me she wants to commit suicide.
These are murders John, not suicides. (upbeat music)
If God did exist, He would be in this room right now.
See this as a social rewiring of acceptable ethics and not to mention we are not sticking a gun to these people's heads. These people will take this drug because they know what happens and they want it to happen. (whooshing)
So change the world,
Oh yeah. (audience applauds)
So, after months of borrowing my equipment when Ross finally showed me that trailer, I was faced with a very stark choice. Do I hire this guy 'cause he's obviously a genius or do I get as far away from it as possible because he's got a dark soul? (laughing) Good thing I chose the former.
So let's show you what tools we use to do this. Again Ross wrote the movie, did the place screenplay, right?
Yeah, this actually, this script is the first thing I ever did, I wrote when I was 19, while playing poker, and then was going to sell it to an unnamed company. We'll leave them unnamed, so I don't get sued. And then the genius that I am when I was going to sell it, for a good amount of money for a 19 year old who wanted to direct the movie as well, no, not gonna happen. So they basically threw me out and I had to go get my own experience. So I made two movies before this, basically, just, you know, slumming it, as Jeff would say, to get my own experience, so I did not go to film school, I have actually no training at all whatsoever. I'm just obsessive. So when I need to learn something, I teach myself, I do it a million times. I fail and then eventually I'll get it right, which brings me here today.
So let's try to have you learn from some of our experience, what are the tools we use? Well, here are the things Ross borrowed from me. We had a camera 7D, lenses a 24 to 70 and a 70 to 200. And then we get into the $750 with a zoom H1 and H4N. Those are portable recorders, $350. We had a lav mic $30, a cheap one. We had a Manfrotto monopod 561 BVHDV at and then we had a photography tripod at $120, that is 750 bucks. Now here's what Ross provided,
Title cutter that was in dolly shots in there that was title cutters, skateboard wheels, PVC pipe and then I did make a steadicam at Home Depot--
With springs and hinges--
I showed up the first day with that thing and you had to put it on like a dress and then it was, I wish I had it because it didn't work at all. And yeah,
So Ross contributed zero dollars because he actually went to Home Depot and stole that stuff.
So let's, let's talk about the one man army package. Here's what we recommend now, and this is still $750, one DSLR camera, which you gotta have,
Which we're assuming you own.
Already, yes, absolutely, a 24 to 70 or 24 to 105 lens, If you have a full frame camera, we recommend the 24 to 105. If you have a crop factor camera, we recommend the 24 to 70, they just came out with a brand new 24 to 70 mark two, which is super sharp.
The reason we do that is because of the crop sensor, as we explained yesterday, the 24 to 105 on the full frame will get you a telephoto look at 105. And then the 24 to 70 on a crop sensor is going to almost be close to 105 when you zoom in all the way to because of the crop. So that's why we recommend those on those bodies.
And then as a photographer, you have those things. So let's start spending money specifically for filmmaking. $220 for a Rode Video mic Pro, we're gonna go over all these in detail in a minute. A 561 BDHV monopod from Manfrotto at $250, a zoom H4N at $ and one cheap lav mic at $30. So $750 tax and shipping not included. Let's talk about a little bit why we call this the one man army package. You know, there's a misconception that to do things at a high level have great production quality and you know, to Create a compelling, interesting film for your audience that you need a lot of gear, you need a crew, you need assistance, and you really don't.
They make it easier and better.
Absolutely, they do--
Can be done without it,
But it can't be done without it and of everything that we've shown you with the exception of Ross's movies, it's been just Ross or just Ross and myself or Ross and an assistant,
And even the movie was just me and Scott, who we talked about yesterday, so it wasn't like a big crew for that either.
Really the key to starting out and doing it effectively on a budget, even, hold that for a second, please, even if you're not on a budget, this is the first thing you should buy. This is what we told 5000 people 8000 people between two years for the tours.
This is the very first purchase you should make.
And we have all this gear is ours. And I still use that for 70% of every shot I do in a live event. It's not just because I have a slider doesn't mean I'm abusing it, you know, and that's one thing when we get to the cameraman section, I'll explain psychologically, why you use certain camera movements as opposed to--
Oh, this looks cool.
And like that's something you should probably never utter, ever, so,
Here is why this thing is so effective. Have you ever tried to move a photography tripod on the run? Right, you have three legs that are bumping into things and into people and you have three things that you have to adjust if you wanna adjust your height. And normally these things are spread out a lot more. So you're like, excuse me, excuse me, right? This thing becomes a weapon. As Ross has shown you, being mobile is super important because what you're gonna do is wide shot, medium, close up, wide shot, medium, close up. And in order to do that, you have to be able to move your camera. So wide shot, medium shot, close up, just like that. And then of course, if you need to adjust height, it's as simple as adjusting only one clamp. You can go up and down, you can move quickly. And that mobility is what gives you the ability to put together your shot sequences with wide medium close up in an effective way.
And one thing, show them the feet. One thing I really wanna say, because a lot of people have photographers of their own monopod already that obvious but if it doesn't have these three feet on the bottom, don't, all of you at home, don't be thinking that you can get away with it, without these feet. This is what makes the monopod the monopod. No, there's no attachment that goes on the bottom of yours, you do have to get this monopod. And the reason those feet are so important here, why don't we switch? The reason why the feet are so important as Jeff's showing you how, he's faster with this in his hand as opposed to real life, which was very impressive. So if I'm doing a wide shot here, and I wanna come in close, let's say I just wanna add a little camera movement to it, I can just slowly move in like that, and I'm just adding a little bit of movement. So what this gives you the ability to do is simulate movement, I can keep it still, and that'll work, I can do, when we get in to the camera we'll see I can give it a little shake, and that'll give it a good nice look and feel and you have control over it. And then I can add the dolly movements to it, I have the ability to tilt, I have the ability to pan which we're gonna go over all that movement in a little bit.
Let's talk about what the monopod does. It makes you mobile, I hope you understand from the demonstrations and seeing here in the film how important that is. Mobility often times truck trump's production value, think about that.
You why then it always trump's production, always.
Yep. The ability to get more shots and a wide, medium, close up shot sequences is gonna give you a more effective film than having the most perfect footage in the entire world. You can simulate camera movement as Ross talked about because of the feet, you get the ability to tilt and to pan--
And to tilt and you can simulate dollying into or out of something, with this movement. You can perform stable shots, make sure it's not a windy day, this thing actually will stand on its own.
Seriously, this is an act of faith, you may wanna put an embrace around it just in case.
Don't walk away from it.
And it's still, even today, when we're on a DSLR used in 70% of every shot that we do.
On a live event, It's a must I don't really use a tripod even if I'm shooting with a second shooter, I have either, if I trust the second shooter, to give good cinematography, I'll give them that setup. If I don't, I'll put a slider somewhere and I'll say just walk around and get slider shots and I'll just use that for, you know, basically B roll essentially and I'll be responsible for the main camera.
And when Ross said, do not use a normal monopod, if you have one, we can speak from experience because when we started this process, Clay had a normal monopod--
The family movie that we showed the first video, that was a normal monopod.
And yeah, I don't know if y'all got a little seasick watching that one, but that's 'cause that was a normal monopod. The first time in fact that Ross ever had one of these, was the wedding film that you just saw. I handed it to him right before he got on the plane because we got the last one in the country, just before they went on back order, for seven solid months. We got really lucky.
Aka there's no real learning curve with that.
Yeah, so all right, you don't be afraid to move around.
Yeah, and the one thing we're gonna get in the sound in a little bit, but this is a zoom H4N and how especially, when we showed that wedding yesterday where we were showing Shannon and Amy's wedding with the five words. The reason why we're able to move around and grab so many different shots. And we're not worried about a consistent video source from our camera, so a video DSLR is only going to record for 12 minutes anyway. You should never hit that limit ever. If you've hit that limit, you're on videography mode. So you need to get off that, you wanna be, you know, shooting in like 15 second clips, you know, move around and keep moving. And I always tell people, if you don't know, somebody asked, how long is you know, or the average recording times? If you don't know the answer to that question, challenge yourself to move around every 10 to 15 seconds and go to places where you aren't so obvious, like try to put the camera in places where it wouldn't normally go. And this is your saving grace because you can walk into any event that has a soundboard, a DJ, any sort of, you know, mixer, walk up to them and say Can I get a feed off of your house sound they'll plug it either quarter inch or XLR into here, and you can record the entire thing and just get a constant audio source. So that way you have all of the audio in case you wanted to use some sort of narrative that you missed with the film, and we use polar eyes to line up all that audio clip.
Yeah, I'm gonna give a more in depth explanation about this at the end of the segment. But suffice it to say having a portable recorder is a must and why it's part of our one man army $750 setup. Right here, When the father of the groom was speaking, Ross was able to take advantage of that great sound coming right off of that microphone because of that. And if you think about this, whenever you're at an event, and there's any kind of audio visual, how much money have those people invested in their equipment? Wow, tens of thousands, sometimes if you're at an event like Expedia or Skype, you have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment in the room. And it's just little old me and little old Ross, what are we gonna do? Are we going to spend money to try to compete with that? No, we're gonna take advantage of what they have done. And just ask them to give it to us.
And then the best thing is, they're monitoring it for you. You don't have to like you know, you don't have to even monitor it. Most times, I'll say we're on a film shoot like when we're gonna be shooting later. Someone's gonna be wearing headphones monitoring the audio. When you plug into house sound you know they have that covered. So you just plug it in, set it and forget it.
Any reception you go to, the band is gonna have some sort of mixer, And they're gonna be able to give you a feed and they're gonna have to provide all those microphones and everything. It's also a good way to get music, because you can actually record from the band's mixer, their live music and you can mix that into the--
Yeah, if you wanna get really like Scorsese, like with your weddings and you can open a wedding with a shot of a band and it's the music they're actually playing live, and then you can always justify the light, justify the sound, justify the existence of the music that's like super high in production value.
The great thing about the zoom H4N and it can record for mixer output, it has XLR and quarter inch inputs, we'll talk about that later for Channel recording the ability to monitor audio with headphones which we'll talk about later. And you can record using a shotgun mic or a lav, either one.
Okay, so basically with this, there's a couple of these. So this one is more of a mono signal, the video mic pro, and then there's the stereo mic pro, which is this one right here the little ball. So the mono, this is more of a mono signal. And basically it's directional. So if I'm pointing it at you and they're talking over there, it's gonna be very faint in the background. Whereas if I had that mic, it would probably have a more a wide range of picking up. So if you're talking and I'm here I could probably be about here and get acceptable dialogue audio of you talking.
Great family audio and auto gain. What does auto gain mean? Well, auto gain is like auto exposure, right? If you are in a pinch, or if you don't really have a lot of technical expertise, you take your camera and you put it on p for program p for perfect right? or you put on that little green mode. What that does is it makes its best guess for you and adjusts on the fly. And it does a fairly good job of giving you a usable photograph in most situations. That's exactly what auto gain is. It's a setting on the camera, because just like with digital photography, you can, I'm putting this in quotes, "overexpose" sound, you can record it in such a sensitive way that all you get is garbled, jumbled mess. Or you can record it in an insensitive or uncensored way, in such a way that you can barely hear anything, just the way you would adjust exposure. Auto gain, kind of monitors the environment for you in real time and adjusts that and gets it right 99% of the time.
Yeah, if you're plugging that mic into your camera, the reason you're doing that is to make life easier on yourself and not think about audio. You wanna rely on the auto gain. When we're gonna do our shoot later and you have a shotgun mic or you have a lavalier mic or something where you want really crispy audio then you wanna stay away from the auto again, you can have all the control but when you're in this situation, trying to create a film with all the elements under your responsibility, just let the camera take care of the audio because it will do a good job of it. And you'll see a lot of examples of that in a second.
Okay, so I think since we've started to talk about our $750 setup, and a lot of it was audio related, let's get into audio. But let's make this point first.
Back to story telling.
Here's a $750 storytelling, "Priceless".