I really need some advice and feedback!

Ok, so I have been working on short films, videography is a huge passion of mine, however, I don't have anyone else to help me out, or even give me feedback. Normally I do everything on my own unless I get my husband to help me hold the camera or even do some acting parts. My sister helped me once but is out of state now. My tripod is my best friend. lol  I rather be shooting the video and doing all the editing but since I don't have anyone to use for actors I have to use myself. I'm not an actress. I love being on the other end of the camera. Anyway, I have showed my family my video and they don't really say much after its done. I'm not sure if that is because its so bad or because they just don't understand. I really would like to chat with someone who can appreciate my work. Someone who actually understands. Someone who can actually give me real feedback and discuss video editing and techniques. Please watch my first short film, we did not really have a story and were just goofing around. I'm the girl in the glasses. I made this for fun so I could goof around with HITFILM software. My Short film is located here: http://youtu.be/uue0UiRBo00
Please tell me what you think. I spent soooo much time on this video and I feel like it was for nothing. No one really has watched it. Let alone tell me what parts are creative and actually good. I know some if it is super cheesy and could have been better, but like I said, a lot of this was just with me my and my tripod.


  • KirstieT
    KirstieT Posts: 1,272 Staff
    edited July 2014
    OK, well the first thing I'm going to say to you is:
    If you love it, do it. 
    Simple as that :)
    It is always debilitating not to have the people we love praise something we've done, and though I've understood from what you've said that you don't enjoy the acting part, if making and directing short films is what you love doing then keep making them. 
    I've taken a look at the first few minutes and could give you some constructive criticism but I don't have time to watch the whole 20 minutes now (quite long for a short film). I can already see an issue with the autofocus which I'll be sure to mention later (a reminder to myself!) 
    I will (and I'm sure other members of our awesome community) get back to you with some detailed feedback either later today or tomorrow sometime. 
  • StormyKnight
    StormyKnight Posts: 2,618 Ambassador
    Hi Dorothy!
    I watched the whole 20 mins and I have to say, you've done quite well for having to do most of this by yourself.
    I like the camera angles you use i.e. the view from the bottom of the cup as you put in the coacoa and the different angles you cover walking through the house. Film for 20 secs- move tripod- film for 20 seconds- move the tripod- repeat.......that's quite an undertaking.
    The story was a little slow at first but I like the pacing you reached by the end. It held my attention and kept me wondering what was going to happen next.
    Did you film the time lapse stuff yourself? It's application with the sunset and later driving was really well done. I also like the effects you used for the animal chasing you.
    For critique purposes- the auto focus is a problem. It distracts from the action so if there's a way to turn it off, I would try that. If anything needs blurring later on, you can do it in post depending on where you need it. If it can't be turned off- time to ask Santa for a new camera for Christmas....one that has controllable auto focus.
    I liked the music. It seemed to set the mood toward the mysterious.
    You might consider adding a grain effect to the overall piece. It would look less video camera and more film-like.
    The sound was okay but in some spots it was a little too muddled which may have been the acoustics in the room you were filming. The scene with the news anchor was particularly difficult to hear and understand. It sounds like you may have had two audio tracks or were trying to use the sound from the tv. You may want to consider overdubbing the original video sound and syncing it with the finished video. That would eliminate the weird chorusing and reverb/feedback quality and be much easier to hear. Just a thought.
    Overall, I think you did a great job. I don't know why your family wouldn't offer anything- not even constructive criticism? I'm no pro when it comes to acting but I would give you at least an A- for the acting. I'm kind of going through a similar thing with one of my projects so I can empathise. :P
    Great job and keep up the good work!
    Oh- "hubby love" and wedding ring? ;) 
  • Thank u so much for watching and giving feedback!!! I use my Nikon d5200 for the video, it's actually for my photography...Im a photographer, and am getting into video now to. .lol but i love my 35mm lens. The focus is terrible for video. As u can see. And I agree with everything u said about some audio being to loud or muffled. I am trying to find a different way to record the audio separate and dubb it in. Part 3 will be way better! :) now I know some things I need to improve on!!! Thank you!!!! And the time lapse clips were from a stock video website i signed up to :)
  • AxelWilkinson
    AxelWilkinson Posts: 5,255 Staff
    There were quite a few points I appreciated about this film.  Many of them were covered by Stormy, but I also frequently end up filming things by myself, with a tripod, so I can relate to how annoying the process is, and to the desire to stay behind the camera. The difference is that most of me are quick shots to use in tutorials, rather than extended narratives.  Considering the solo nature of the project, its quite decent.  Get into the habit of throwing your D5200 into Manual Focus, and setting the focus before you start the shot, and it will eliminate the biggest technical issue you are having. I frequently use another tripod, or a light stand, as a placeholder.  Set it up right where I will be standing in the shot, at an appropriate height, and then I can focus on that.  Then move the tripod out of shot, hit record and go for it.  Closing down the aperture a little bit, to get a deeper field of focus, can also help to ensure that you don't go out of focus if you move, when the camera is on manual.
    Quite a bit of this was nicely edited, with good shot selection that gave a natural flow from one shot to the next, so well done there.  I did notice a few sections that felt like the edit could have been tightened up a bit more - the initial establishing shot outside the house, for example, used 4 different shots, when 1 would probably have sufficed to convey that you were in a suburban home.  I noticed a number of cuts that were accompanied by an audible click - try cross-fading the audio at each cut, to eliminate this.  Any change in audio that happens at the same time as a cut will draw attention to the cut, and distract the viewer.  In the scene where the envelope is opened, there are several instances of this happening.  There are also a number of jump-cuts in that scene, where you cut a chunk out without changing the camera angle. It seems like you have good coverage of that scene, with a variety of camera angles to choose from, and if possible, it will work better in a narrative context to cut to a completely different angle.
    Mid-film titles, like the ones you use to indicate the passage of time, usually work best if they simply fade in and out, as they draw less attention to themselves, and let the audience stay 'in' the story. Also, if key pieces of the plot, like solving the riddle, can possibly be shown, that will always work better than using a title.  A rule you will often hear regarding filmmaking is "show, don't tell", and following it will improve your films. For the "4 hours later" title, if you were to add in a line of dialog, like one of the girls saying "Its getting dark out, how long are we going to keep looking for this thing?" or the like, you could completely eliminate the need for a title, and keep the narrative moving, while still indicating the passage of time.
    You mention that you didn't really have a story - I've worked like that before, and at least some of the points I have brought up can be attributed to that, I'm sure.  There were several continuity issues as well, which also are likely to the nature of the project, and it not having a lot of pre-production.  I noticed several with the phone, in the scene right after you watch the news report, and in that scene you also get up from the couch, and immediately sit in the chair to make a phone call, which could have been done from the couch, and would have added to the urgency of the scene - I suspect that these are largely due to a shooting-on-the-fly approach as well?  I'm also guessing that you are already well aware of those issues, and have an idea how to fix them if you were to shoot it again.  Having the entire scene in mind, in advance, is the key.
    So all in all, I congratulate you on how well this is put together for an early project in your video career.  Nearly all of the shots looked nice, were well-composed, and were well-exposed.  Most of the lighting was good, even in the night-time shots, which can be tricky.  Work on using manual focus, and spending a little more time with the audio, and you will be well on your way.  I tried to mention a number of things that could be improved, and be specific, but hopefully its clear that my intent was to be helpful, and not simply to be critical.
  • ESPictures
    ESPictures Posts: 521 Just Starting Out
    Hi Dorothy!
      Don't get discouraged by feeling like no one is paying attention.  Everyone goes through that.  Everyone starts out with an old camera, no equipment, and no one other than a tripod and family to help out.  It's totally normal.
    I have the same issues.  My solution has been to add animated CGI characters into my videos, rather than live actors.
    First, as others have said, the focus and and the reverb on the audio are big distractions.
    Your tripod work with the camera is very good.  I thought you framed everything really nicely.  And when you move the camera around it generally seems very stable.  But sometimes, I think there is too much camera movement.  For example, right around the 0:19-0:24 second mark is a good example.  It feels like the camera has been swung around a lot.  I always try to think of the camera as an actor in the movie.  When an actor makes a huge body movement (milking the giant cow, as actors call it) it changes the tone of the sequence from setting up the story and character to an action sequence.  Try a more subtle camera motion.  A small, slow dolly.  A short, slow pan.  Try to move the camera so subtly that the person watching the movie can hardly notice it.  Save the wild, fast camera movements for action scenes, rather than the setup of the story and introduction of characters.
    I would also advise you to work on jump cuts when you edit.  A good example of that is 4:17 - 4:27.  It feels really awkward trying to follow the story when there are a constant stream of cuts.  Try and disguise the jump cuts a bit more.  Be aware, before you shoot, of exactly where you want to cut by storyboarding them out ahead of time and make sure each cut is pulling the audience into the story, rather than taking them out of the story.
    I think you did a good job directing the actors.  They seemed committed to the story and convincing in their portrayal of characters.  That always elevates the film to a higher level. 
    The text seems a little overused.  For example, you showed the audience the passage of time with the time lapse of the setting sun.  I thought that was a great shot.  Something more along those lines, whether it be showing a clock ticking by, water dripping into a sink, a character drumming their fingers, or something else would be much more effective than text saying, "8 hours later" on the screen.  You don't want to give your audience an information dump, if you can avoid it.  And that's generally what people do with text.  Part of the fun of storytelling is being able to mentally screw with your audience.  Leave them wondering exactly how much time has passed.  Decide what you want the audience to know and exactly when you want them to know it.  Make the audience work a little bit to figure out the characters and what their motivations are.  That goes into some of your dialogue too, for example 7:20-7:40.  Your characters should show their feelings through actions rather than just announcing their feelings.  You don't want a character to just say, "I feel jealous".
    And the movie is only 15 minutes, but there's an extra 5 minutes of blank on the end.  What happened there?
    But overall the story has an interesting hook and if you can overcome those technical problems, you'll be on your way to a much stronger movie.
  • SimonKJones
    SimonKJones Posts: 4,370 Enthusiast
    The others have already covered a lot of great points and areas to look at for improving. Your aim now should be to make sure that each project is improving something - you don't need to improve everything, but maybe focus on a specific aspect. For example, the autofocus is clearly an issue, so maybe for your next project focus specifically on the visuals and fixing those issues?
    My main comment would be that 'less is more'. This goes for all aspects of filmmaking: music, editing, dialogue, duration, visual effects, grading, etc. The temptation, especially when you're starting out, is to throw EVERYTHING at the film, when you'll actually create something more effective by pulling back and restricting yourself. Be strict. When you're editing, with every single shot think to yourself: what is the point of this shot? What is it contributing to the story? Is the shot necessary to tell the story? If it isn't: remove it.
    Maybe as an exercise give yourself some restriction challenges. eg, make a 60 second film in which you only have 5 cuts. Or maybe have a rule that you won't move the camera during a shot, making the placement of the camera is super important. Give yourself tight running times - 30 seconds, or 60 seconds, and see if you can tell a story in that time.
    By focusing in on specific aspects you'll find it easier and faster to improve. Working on short projects (no more than 5 minutes) will also enable you to make MORE films, with each one improving. When you work on 20 minute+ projects like this one, it's a huge amount of work and doesn't give you as many opportunities to get feedback and try new things.
  • JoeyVFX
    JoeyVFX Posts: 38 Enthusiast
    The only advice I can give is to never stop. If you want to make movies, you need to keep making them, no matter how long they are or what they are about. As far as this movie goes, there really isn't much wrong with it! It has a good story, and the shots were framed very well (having a photography background is obviously very helpful for good cinematography.) This movie is a lot better than my first movies!
    One thing I would work on is the editing. For example, the first sequence of the outside of the house is made up of too many shots. Typically for those you just want 1 shot of the whole house, rather than cutting closer into the house with 4 different camera angles.
  • KirstieT
    KirstieT Posts: 1,272 Staff
    To expand on my original comment, 
    The auto focus is really your biggest problem here. The camera is constantly trying to auto focus (bless it) which means it's focusing in and out of the actors face and making those annoying little whirry sounds. You will need to learn how to manually set up your focus so that this doesn't happen. It's much more difficult when you're filming yourself as you can't focus on the fly, but as long as your subject doesn't move around too much, you should be alright. As a photographer you'll have some understanding about manual focus anyway so I don't need to go into any more detail :)
    You said you didn't really have a story and that's cool, although sometimes it's best to try to flesh out a script a little so that you have less of the filler coming from the actresses e.g. 'yea, so, um'. It adds realism to the movie but usually it's best to get straight to the lines and leave out the human race's natural urge to fill the silences :) Considering you had only yourself to film and as a result many of your shots had to be handheld and first person, you did really well. Again there's a focusing issue but this will get better with time. 
    I think your best scene is the face-off in the garage with the two characters with the guns. The filming is really good here - the focus is right and the set up and editing of the clips is really smooth. I assume you were behind the camera for this one, which would explain why it's the best in my eyes - you didn't have to worry about being in front or behind the camera at once, and can just focus on directing. It really shows. 
    The driving scene where she's falling asleep is really interesting too - what kind of post did you do to achieve that look?
    I think really it's like Simon said - less is more. You could cut this down drastically to something much shorter and make it more dynamic - and it would also take some of the burden off yourself to have to film every scene all the time. If you plan in advance exactly which shots you want and which limitations there might be (for example, when you had to go outside to collect the letter and the light changed - how can you accommodate for that?) then you'll be in a really good position to be ruthless with the filming. It also means that you can spend more time on any one shot to make it as good as possible, and maybe do it over a few times if it doesn't work immediately. 
    In terms of you not being able to find people to help out with your films - have you tried a drama club or society - some people who would enjoy just being in front of the camera and be willing to do that for free? Sometimes there are a number of options when it comes to getting a small crew - namely, that people just want to be in a movie ;)
    Good luck - I'm looking forward to seeing the continuation. 
  • StormyKnight
    StormyKnight Posts: 2,618 Ambassador
    edited July 2014
    Kirstie brings up a good point about the availability of actors. Any nearby college or high school (if you need kids) with drama departments and community theaters too. I got involved with a community theater a few years back and there's always an abundance of actors. Working around schedules is usually the biggest challenge.
    You can also find technical people at theaters to help with sound and running the camera if you are recording yourself again.
    Zoom makes a great portable digital recorder and it's reasonably priced. Just make sure you have a clap or finger snap to mark when the action starts so you can sync it up with the video in post. Works great. This is what it looks like- you can check ebay too for best price. They've actually come down about $100 since I bought mine a few years back. With this unit you have a full range of audio effects i.e. reverb, EQ, compression, noise reduction etc. Well worth the price!
  • Triem23
    Triem23 Posts: 20,288 Power User
    Ok, many good comments here, so let's get the repeated comments out of the way first.
    Autofocus issues: Axel covered that the best with the note to lock focus and use a dummy object when setting focus. That said, the "hunting" look is, at times, interesting, and, if you're going to continue with horror/thrillers, there may be some shots where you leave the autofocus on--understand that this will continue to give random focus hunting, but, for certain scenes that's actually very effective (and easier than theying to do rapid focus adjustments manually). For example, at 9:22--The auto focus snapped into a focus lock right as you put the glasses on--that was actually a nice "lucky accident." since the scene came into focus concurrent with Alex's eyesight. So the autofocus hunting, while distracting when it's constant, can also be a tool you use on certain shots. Also, I'm assuming this was autofocus, but at 13:45--again, nice focus rack as the glasses go on.
    Audio: yes, there are audio issues-- You're obviously using the onboard camera mic (hearing the autofocus motor is a giveaway). There are options for this. Now, before you go out and buy an external recorder for audio, which just adds a whole annoying level of audio synch work, consider starting with an external mic for the camera. If you get a lav mic with an "omnidirectional" pickup pattern and a nice long cord, this can be very useful: You can attach it to the camera if the camera is moving, or, if the camera is static you could (for example) hide the lav on the couch in between your characters. An "Omnidirectional" mic is going to pick up sound from all around, equally, so there are disadvantages to this, but, you can get a good corded onmi lav for under $50. It's a good starter mic. You might also look at "Hypercardioid/unidirectional" microphones--those are designed to pick up sound from a specific direction. This makes it easier to isolate sound, but, if you're still doing "set up tripod and shoot." it can be harder to get the mic in the right place. Otherwise, as others have noted, you do have clicks on some of your cuts--but Hitfilm isn't the easiest to edit audio in. Great choices of music, BTW. Very moody.
    Cinematography and editing: Your photo background shows here. Shots are well composed--especially during the garage scene and the woods scene (VERY nice cuts between the high-angles in the woods and the monster-pov shots!) A couple of other people have noted some jump cuts--where you've either cut lines from the middle of a take or spliced together two takes from the same angle. At times this can be effective--usually in high tension scenes; perhaps maybe in the garage--but not as well in calm scenes, like, say, the opening couch conversation. If you need to film multiple takes of a scene, move the camera between shots--either tighten/loosen the zoom a bit, or move the camera to a new location. Oddly enough, the more you move a camera in between shots, the smoother the action reads. I will agree with those who've said "less is more." There are still more things that can be cut down. The trick is, if you have three/four shots covering a single action, lose half of them. Using the opening pans as an example--leave one pan of the house, leave that really cool shot where you zoom in on the window net (that's really a cool shot) and cut the other two. Some people would say you only need ONE shot of the house, but that zoom-to-window was unusual enough and cool enough to warrant being used.
    I agree with all comments about your inter-scene text.
    The garage, driving montage and woods sequences are particularly well cut.
    Plot/Story/Action: Again, repeating the "less is more" others have brought out. That said, as a largely improvised film it's pretty compelling. I didn't see the "Cassie" character's evil psychosis coming, so that was a nice twist. You're blending dream/reality sequences nicely, and I'm not certain at this point if most of the film is a chloroform hallucination, or not, but, to bottom line it--I'm waiting for part 3 to see how it all resolves.
    Actors/support: Good suggestions have already been given here--approaching local theater groups, any college theater departments around, etc... Getting actors (and then scheduling them, then getting them to learn their damn lines) is always the biggest pain in the buttocks of any indy film project. Hell, the last short I did, my actors were paid (only people who were), and I STILL had to reschedule twice around them, and then they hadn't memorized lines by shoot day, despite having the script for three weeks and having two rehearsal days! So I can certainly understand why you just tossed a camera on sticks and made yourself the protagonist! (Come to think of it, I did a short once where the lead actor cancelled on me on the shoot day. I ended up putting myself in that role, since I at least already knew what I wanted from the character. But I DO have an extensive acting background.)
    I am sorry you feel you're not getting support from family and friends, but, again. This is a common problem. As the risk of sounding arrogant, consider the possibility that said family and friends aren't of an artistic bent, or lack the terminology and vocabulary to give detailed critiques. Or, being friends and family, they feel they don't HAVE to say anything. My parents, friends, fiancee all give minimal feedback on my own work: Usually I'll get a "pretty good" or just finger pointing at anything I've done wrong... The best feedback I get comes from video forums like this one. So--HI!
    So two more quick thoughts: First--you should repost your "Fire and Ice" video from June here. You did some nice compositing work in that particularly in the shot where you pull the shades over your "Ice" eyes and the shades are reflecting the fire!
    Second: OMG, the camera is in love with your cheekbones!
  • KirstieT
    KirstieT Posts: 1,272 Staff
    Second: OMG, the camera is in love with your cheekbones!

    Best. comment. ever. 
    I could just hear this in Valley Girl accent :)