Amateurs: no excuse! Advices to do it better. Not about effects.

I see sometimes very bad looking videos. Being an amateur is not a cause for let films looks bad. Before compositing, learn composing image with your camera/camcorder! There is some film making tutorials about doing this.
Just some basic, minimal things to watch for:
1, let there be light, enough lights, room lights are not enough.
2, look at your cameras image, does it look ok? watch for details!
use the rules of thirds.
3, Recording stabel, non shaky images is important. Use stativ, or some kind of stabilizerz.
4, watch back immediately your record, and/or use control monitor attached to the camcorder. Some PC monitors can be attached to the camera too, so inner
5, use your brain to think, use your wiseness, to amek things better.
I'm sure you can tell us more. I'm curious.


  • DanielMorgan
    DanielMorgan Posts: 324 Just Starting Out
    "Being an amateur is not a cause for let films look bad" Well I think that depends really. A film school student, well being one my self, I would agreed with that. But if I'm watching a film made by a first time film maker, well I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't have enough lights. Also, room lights can sometimes be enough. I think what we look for in amateur films are potential. Are they thinking about the sequences, have they thought about the story etc.
  • Agree. Nice to get some other point of view :)
  • And of course, the newbies are happy with their first steps, and nobody wants to take their happiness. Just ... let's make things better.
  • Interesting topic we have here ;)
  • KahvehRobinett
    KahvehRobinett Posts: 443
    edited August 2011
    I think you need to understand that I’m not a pro I might be some day
    but not right now. You have to let people be beginners or else they will never be pro’s.
  • DanielMorgan
    DanielMorgan Posts: 324 Just Starting Out
    Some brilliant films have been made by people who aren't processionals, enthusiasm and passion are what's important.
  • guitar74
    guitar74 Posts: 506
    I'm not a film student and know a lot about it lighting and the do's and donts! People when they got no experiece are not going to make a star wars or Harry Potter movie right off. Takes time to learn all of this, just like playing a guitar! Lighting is a big factor and camera angles are another big factor. It all depends on what you want. The only thing I dont agree with, some people want to make a movie holding the camera and running and that is why there are programs like Pfhoe and etc, so take your cameras off of the tripods and go crazy. Movies are neat when it is not so stationary all of the time. A lot of people dont have the thousands of dollars to buy stablizing equipment. So amatures keep the good work coming!
  • DanielGWood
    DanielGWood Posts: 1,018 Just Starting Out
    edited August 2011
    My experience in film has been pretty limited so far - crewing on a few Lightmill Films productions, and a few others before that, so my advice here comes from that point of view.
    I agree with the idea - improve small things that are within your reach to change, and you will end up with a better film overall. That will also mean you develop as a filmmaker, and start on the path towards "pro". As Daniboy says though, you don't have to be a pro to make a great film. If you stick to short films there's really nothing holding you back from producing something that looks good and is entertaining. If you try to make a feature length film however, it's a little more tricky - the longer the production, the more it costs in time and money, and only pro's can really afford that.
    All that said, here are some pointers I've picked up from films I've worked on so far:
    [*]Have a coherent story. If you make a really nice-looking film with great production values it can still flop when the audience just doesn't get it. If you aren't much of a writer, find someone who is.
    [*]Play to the strengths of your actors. This came up somewhere else recently, and its a very good point. If the actors you have are you and your friends, find roles that suit them and get shooting. When you have a few good-looking films under your belt, perhaps you'll be able to convince other actors to join you.
    [*]Listen to feedback. Common responses to feedback are "This was just an effects test" and "We're going to do this better next time so it doesn't matter". If you're given feedback, consider it. If an effects test gets feedback, perhaps you can use it to improve the test.. that is surely the point after all.
    [*]Beg and borrow. If you don't have a budget, see what you can borrow instead. If you're polite about it, and have a responsible team, all sorts of stuff can be borrowed. For example, in our short film The Profit, we borrowed most of the electronic junk in the background of shots from a nearby University, and spent 3 weeks collecting broken electronics from friends and fly-tipping sites to build the main prop.
  • Prospero
    Prospero Posts: 127
    edited February 2012
    Would add a few things.
    1] Don't worry if something doesn't work. You use Hitfilm and are creative, the trick is to use that creativity to get it to work the way you want.
    2] Revel in those happy little incidental moments you get on film where genius shines through and it all comes together.
    3] You'll never have enough money for your film :)
    4] A mix of cg effects and manual effects can keep it real.
    5] Stuck in the editing process. Remove your favourite scene and see if the film is better without it. Sometimes that scene gives you tunnel vision about the rest of your film.
    6] Feed you actors and crew during the shoot or they could get cranky. Especially if you're not paying them. Also remember if you aren't paying them, you can't expect the same type of performance you'd get from a pro.
    7] Learn how to light a scene properly, there are plenty of tutorials out there that explain how to very well.
    8] Use the best sound recording gear you can and test all your equipment before you start shooting. Make sure all your batteries are charged and you have back-ups.
    9] Try and rehearse the scene you are filming before you shoot it. Makes it easier for the actors to feel comfortable and to hit their marks.
    9a] You'll never have enough money for your film. Can anyone spare $20 grand? :)
    10] Remember to have fun.
  • SimonKJones
    SimonKJones Posts: 4,448 Enthusiast
    Bear in mind that 'amateur' and 'professional' don't inherently have any direct association with actual quality. All those terms determine is whether you're being paid and making a living from doing something or not. Which is why amateur films can be great and professional films can still be rubbish.
    Filmmaking is a ridiculously difficult endeavour. What a lot of newcomers don't realise is that there are a small number of very basic rules which will vastly enhance any movie. The complete beginner movies don't suffer because of a lack of lights, or cheap cameras, or a lack of costumes and props, they suffer because the basic rules aren't followed: stuff like effective continuity editing, how to frame shots efficiently to tell a story.
    Even the simplest backyard gunfight will benefit from following proper film language. Once you've got that sorted, then you can start looking at props, and sets, and costumes, and VFX, and actors etc.
  • I've never gone to film school in my life. I have not had any professional training what so ever when it comes to film making. Not a single class. 90% of what I know about film making has come from watching special features and directors commentaries on DVDs. Add to that maybe a half dozen books on film making, and looking up anything I don't know on the internet.
    So I am by no means an expert film maker. I'm still learning.
    I think my main advantage as a film maker is that I was an artist first. Much of what I know about tradition still art translates over to film very well. The same skills I use for composing and lighting a still image can be applied to film as well.
    My advice to new film makers. Learn some basic art skills. You don't need to be a master painter, just know the basics of composition, lighting, color etc. Take some art and or photography classes. And lastly, watch a ton of movies. Watch films from all eras and genres. And take copious amounts of notes, don't just watch, really study the films you are watching. I have stacks of big fat notebooks filled with notes on films i have watched. Some times you can download scripts for movies, watch the film with the script and make notes. Pay attention to camera angles and cutting. Just engross your self in every film you watch. In Stephen King's On Writing he says if you don't have time to read then you don't have time to be a writer. Well if you don't have time to watch films, you don't have time to be a film maker.
    My last bit of advice, know your camera. You don't have to have the best camera on the market, but you need to know your camera. Get out and film something with it every day, know everything it can and can't do. I don't care if you spend 5 minutes filming a rock or a tree ( yes I have done this ) just film something. Seriously, if you don't have anything scheduled to film that day, just get the camera out and experiment, even if you only have 5 or 10 minutes. When I first started this I was working in a factory 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. When I got home it was like 2 am. I still got my camera out and filmed stuff. That first year I learned a lot about filming in really crappy low light conditions.
  • Oops, one last thing, don't forget the importance of sound. Something I figured out from watching Planet Terror and Death Proof. They degraded those films to look bad, they are all grainy and jittery, bad splices, you name it, they ran em through the ringer. But the thing that got me was as bad as those films looked visually, they were not that hard to watch. Then it hit me, if a film was really damaged that bad, it should sound like the old biology films we watched in school, but they didn't, the sound was spot on perfect, beautifully mastered. If your film sounds good you can get away with a lot of flaws visually. Home movies of Billy's birthday party look crappy mostly because the people shooting them use those lousy on camera mics, that and bad editing. If you just improved the sound quality, those home movies look so much better.
  • budwzr
    budwzr Posts: 655
    edited February 2012
    And don't expect to "buy in" to this craft. All the money in the world won't help you one darn bit. And quit cryin' about your petty issues and learn how to swim. Bwa[size="3"]ha[/size][size="4"]hahahaha[/size][size="5"]hahahaha[/size].
  • buy in? in truth I like not spending money as much as possible. I try to think of creative solutions for things. If you can't afford to do what you really want to do, how can you creatively solve the problem so you can still tell the story you want to tell. That makes you a better film maker in my opinion. You will always have a budget, the more you can get out of less the better.
  • budwzr
    budwzr Posts: 655
    edited February 2012
    Yeah, me too. I'm super cheap. I use $39 software a lot too.
    By "buy in", I mean some people think they can buy these expensive systems like Adobe CS and FCP, and somehow they think they shouldn't need to convert files or swap containers or whatnot.
    I don't care how much anyone spends, you're still gonna have to use utilities and paint programs.
  • Prospero
    Prospero Posts: 127
    Shoe string budget fx. Sometimes cheap doesn't have to look it.Plus if you can make a low budget manual effect look good, think what you can do with Hitfilm. A lot of times it can boil down to the right lighting or camera angle. Experiment, take notes and once you get what you're hoping for see if you can make it better.
  • guitar74
    guitar74 Posts: 506
    Ive seen movies that had millons of dollars for a budget and the FX look horrible, I could do a better job than they did! Simon said it best in the above reply!
  • MasterWolf
    MasterWolf Posts: 369
    edited March 2012
    one of the creepiest effects in Jurassic Park was when you see the ripples in the water glass before the T-rex shows up. They attached a bass guitar string to the bottom of the glass, drilled a hole in the dashboard and anchored the string on the floor of the car, when ever you wanted ripples just pluck the string. Its a cheap dirty practical effect that really sold the idea that a big massive dinosaur was coming to eat you. That effect was so kool it made the trailer.
    Now I can't think of why i need a million dollar fx budget to come up with stuff like that.
    The truth is, no matter how big the movie is, the FX budget is never what people think. Hollywood does marketing tricks. I remember when Hancock came out, it was advertised as a $40 million dollar special effects movie starring Will Smith. You get the impression they spent $40 million on the effects. Nope, that was the total cost of making the movie, and $20 million of that was just to get Will Smith in the movie. Half the budget on one guy, and there are some other name actors in that movie, they all get paid too. Then there is costumes, lights, camera crews, grips, insurance, when you finally get down to the FX budget you find out it was the same as what they spent on catering.
    I always try to accomplish FX for the least amount of money, but still make them look good. If I can make a $5 effect look like a $50,000 effect, awesome. If you always work that way no matter what the budget is, then imagine how kool it will look when they finally give you a million dollars to do the effects on a film.
    its funny, they never market a film by bragging about how much they spent on the catering.