How to Get Started Making Movies
How to Get Started Making Movies
1. Buy a camera and a lens. This is the absolute best time to get into film. The equipment is the cheapest it’s ever been, the knowledge the most plentiful, and the audience the most accessible. Nikon and Canon have, in recent years, produced a series of cameras, mid-level dslr’s, targeted at the novice photographer. They are cheap and easy to learn, but best of all they produce beautiful video images. The days of cutting up film in a darkroom and walking around with a bulky camcorder on your shoulder are over. I have seen the future of making movies. It’s digital. It’s portable. And it’s extremely cheap. So the next question to answer is: which camera should I buy? I’m going to go ahead and save you a lot of time and energy. Buy this camera: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004M170YC/ref=twister_B005MKINUW. Don’t buy the lens that comes with it. Instead buy this one: http://www.amazon.com/Canon-50mm-1-8-Camera-Lens/dp/B00007E7JU/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1398483138&sr=1-1&keywords=50mm+1.8. $600 that’s all you need. I am a professional filmmaker. I have been to film school and I have had this camera + lens combination for years and I have no plans to upgrade.
2. Download and learn some editing software. Just as video cameras have become incredibly accessible so too has editing software. In fact, it’s probably on your computer right now. Those beautiful images you’re getting from your new dslr won’t do the world much good, if you don’t have any way to put it together. If you have a mac, just open up iMovie. If you have Windows, Movie Maker. The only things you need to know are how to import footage, how to cut it, how to put it together, how to make titles, and how to export it. Stick to these functions. Stay away from everything else. Just master these basics. Please don’t throw a star wipe transition into any of your films. Once you’ve mastered one of these two softwares, you can move on to some professional software. You’ll be using the same software the pro’s are using to edit “real” films. Right now, the two most popular programs are Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut. Those are really the only ones worth mentioning. Learn one of these and you will have a marketable, employable skill. They have the same basic principles as Movie Maker and iMove. They are just more powerful and have a lot more tools. It can be daunting when you first open them up, but take heart. The majority of what you’re looking at, you won’t be using for a long time. Just watch some tutorials on youtube. Start messing around with them and you’ll figure it out sooner than you think.
3. Learn about cinematography by learning photography. Another great thing about that dslr you just purchased is that it can take amazing photos. It IS after all what they were made for. Photography is the art of creating photographs. Cinematography is the art of creating moving images. Video is simply moving photos. Learn photography and you’ll learn video. They have the same basic principles. Start by learning the settings for photos and then apply that to your films. By settings, I mean f-stop, which is how open the lens is. The more open it is, the more light will enter. This means you will have a shallower depth of field. Depth of field is what is in focus in relation to distance from the camera (i.e. wider, lower f-stop = shallower depth of field, blurrier background and vice versa). You also need to understand ISO and shutter speed. ISO is the camera’s sensitivity to light so a higher ISO will result in a brighter image. However the higher the ISO, the noisier the image. Noise is basically like grain (or tiny specks) in the image. Noise is your enemy, you don’t want noise. Shutter speed is the amount of time that the shutter is open. The shutter is what blocks light from hitting the sensor. When a shutter opens and then closes, then that creates an image. In photography, you would use a lower shutter speed to let more light in (i.e. for shooting at night) and to introduce motion blur (things move in between the opening and closing of the shutter so they are blurry in the image because they didn’t stay in one place while the image was being created). In video, the typical shutter speed is 1/50th of a second. I would just leave it on that setting. You need to understand how to incorporate all of these setting to create the image that you want, while it is neither under or over-exposed (too bright or too dark). I suggest you understand this by first learning photography because photography is much faster. You can take a hundred pictures and immediately see the result of your efforts. Video takes a little more time after you capture the image. Also, photography will teach you about composition (i.e. rule of thirds, golden spiral, look room, head room, etc.), camera angles (high shot, low shot, eye-level, POV, etc.), and camera shots (long shot, medium shot, two shot, closeup, etc.). Look all these up and memorize them to a point where you don’t have to actively be thinking of what they are or mean.
4. Watch other movies. The cool thing about film is that most likely one of your favorite things to do anyway, watch movies, is actually helping you improve your skills. When I say “watch movies” I don’t really mean watch movies, I mean analyze them, tear them apart, understand what really into creating them. For most people, when they are watching a movie, they relax, turn their brain off, and live vicariously through a character. Not for me, and hopefully not for you. When you watch movies, you should no longer zone out. Your brain should be running at 100. Why did they pick those shots? There’s usually a formula to it. (Long shot to present the setting, mid shot to show the character in relation to the setting and the other characters, closeup to showcase the character’s emotions). Why did the flow of the editing speed up? When you are watching a good film, take the best of what they are doing and try to add it your own work. If you are watching a bad film, realize what is bad and make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes. When I was first getting into film, I would just sit in front of the tv and watch movies on mute so I could concentrate on the cinematography – without being distracted by the sound or story or whatnot. Vimeo is a great place for this too. It’s like YouTube for filmmakers by filmmakers. You can see the various levels of talent there – from professional feature films to short films created by people around your own skill level.
5. Write a story you care about and bring it to life. It doesn’t matter if you understand all of this and are a master filmmaker, if you don’t tell a story people care about then no one will watch your movies. There are tons of filmmakers on YouTube that are making work and getting millions of views. They are not technically great, they aren’t shooting on expensive cameras. The only thing they have going for them is that they are putting their hearts into it and they are telling stories people care about. Don’t worry about getting everything perfect, don’t ever think that you have to get better before you start making movies. That is a toxic mindset and the only way to get better is to constantly make things. You learn something new with everything project. Simply start writing, write about what you know, be honest, and tell stories people that are important to you because that’s what people want to see. Make things, keep making things, look at what works and what doesn’t in your films, and then move on. Don’t linger on your failures or your successes. Get criticisms from people you trust. Don’t listen to yes men. Your mom is going say you are great, no matter what you are doing.