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Film Gear: Gel Frames

by on Jun.25, 2012, under Gear

I don't recommend stacking gel frames this way unless you're taking a photo.

One of the tricks for making the most of your lights is to use gels.  The typical way to use gels on smaller shoots is to just clip them to the barn doors.  This works fine for color gels, but not for diffusion gels.  Diffusion gels soften light, scattering the rays so that it seems to wrap around objects.  However, to really get this effect, you need to not only scatter the rays by punching the light through diffusion, but also enlarge the apparent size of the light source.  To do this right, you really need a gel frame.

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Promoting Your Film—and Yourself—at Film Festivals: Tips You Only Learn After Your 20th Film Festival.

by on Jun.19, 2012, under Distribution, Filmmaking

Some things you don't learn at your first film festival.

The other day I was attending a film panel at SIFF, moderated by filmmaker, attorney, and all-around-great-guy Steve Edmiston.  After the panel, Steve and I were talking with a few filmmakers who were newer at festivals when Steve started busting out with all these great tips for how to navigate a festival your first few times.  I realized that there were a lot of things that I just took for granted about festivals after having attended way more than I care to remember.  But I can still recall that feeling I had in my first few film festivals that I probably could have done a lot more, better, and had more fun doing it if I’d just known a little more going in.

So, until someone comes up with a definitive film festival attendee’s playbook, I’ve asked Steve to join me in listing some of our favorite tips for getting the most out of a film festival. (continue reading…)

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Film Gear: Little Lights

by on Jun.18, 2012, under Filmmaking, Gear

A little pepper can really spice things up.

I don’t own any big film lights—my biggest lights are a couple of 1,000-watt Fresnels.  With today’s fast film stocks and digital sensors, you can easily illuminate a medium sized set with a couple of 1,000- and 650-watt lights.  Often on a location you can’t go above about 2,000 watts total without blowing a circuit, anyway.  So, like me,  many smaller producers keep their personal lighting packages constrained and rent bigger lights like HMIs only when they need them and know there will be plenty of power to run them.  (And enough man-power to haul them around and set them up.  Big lights can be a lot of work!)  So the ‘big’ lights I carry are pretty standard (boring) stuff.  What I really dig are the little lights.

I own—and highly recommend—a complement of little Fresnel lights in the 100 to 300-watt range.  These are miniature little Fresnels, with barn doors and scrims that can flood or spot like any other Fresnel, but rather than keying or filling a scene, these add texture, style, and focus.  In my mind I think about the big lights as the ones that light the scene, and the little lights as the ones that make it look cool. (continue reading…)

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Film Gear: Blackwrap

by on Jun.16, 2012, under Filmmaking, Gear

The world's most expensive tin foil

Blackwrap is invaluable when you’re lighting a scene—and the cheaper your lighting gear, the more you probably need it.  It’s sort of a Swiss Army knife of lighting—filling a lot of jobs.  Just about any time that you’re working with a hot light, and you don’t have the right tool in your kit, blackwrap is what’s gonna save your butt.

For something so useful, it’s surprising that it’s often missing from very low-budget shoots.  (But never missing from a pro shoot.)  Blackwrap is basically aluminum foil that’s been sprayed with a matte black paint to keep it from bouncing weird reflections all over the set.  You can bend it to any shape and put it right on a light without worrying about it catching fire.  It’s a great way to block off any stray light that slips through.   But it’s crazy expensive for tin foil—it costs 30 bucks a roll  So, a lot of people skimp.  But you should bite the bullet, buy a roll, and use it—and re-use it—judiciously. Because it’s awesome.

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Film Gear: Fire Extinguishers

by on Jun.11, 2012, under Gear

The first thing off the truck...

Here’s a piece of equipment that I bring to every film shoot and yet hope I’ll never need to use: the fire extinguisher.  This is usually one of the first things I pull off the truck when I’m unloading my gear (and conversely, the last thing I put away at the end of the day).  If you’re going to plug in lights—or plug in anything for that matter—you really must have a fire extinguisher.  With you.  On the set.  Film lights get hot enough to set curtains or other things on fire very quickly.  And you really don’t want to burn someone’s house down to make your film or series.

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