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Monthly Archives

February 2012

Dan Millican shooting Commercial

Elements for Corporate Video Production

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Corporate Video is an Art

Corporate video productions, in spite of all the technology and advancements in computers and cameras, is still first and foremost an artform and demands an artist.  The best artist is the one that can convey a message effectively through a medium, like painting, sculpture, or performance.

The corporate video production or media project is the same way– the effective ones send a message through the medium of video delivered on the canvas of a television screen or a computer screen.  So when we look around Dallas Fort Worth to build a team for any given media project or event, we look for the artists and we look for those who leave ego behind and can work as a team.

Sure, we use the most cutting edge tools and techniques– it’s what keeps us as artists at the top of our game.  And facilities– we have studios and access to whatever facilities we need.  But what we bring to the table first is an artistry and the ability to see it through to a successful completion.

We hope we can help you tell your story through video or film.  Give us a call or email us for information or for an estimate.  We look forward to working with you.

Is Screenfighting Workshop for Children Actors?

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I’ve been surprised at how many people have asked this.  For background– we’re offering a one of a kind workshop on March 24-25 where Day 1 has two classes on handling weapons as an actor and Day 2 is about how to fight and work around special effects.  4 classes– 2 days.  To register, go to the SFilms store.

Can my child attend this workshop?

For ages under pre-teen, I don’t think Day One (Weapon Handling) is a good idea.  What we’re talking about is learning skills for upcoming auditions and roles, that will give you an edge as an actor.  There just aren’t that many roles for a gun-wielding 8 year old.  (I could be wrong, but there you go.)  For teens, especially older teens, yeah maybe.  It’s a skill and you can add it to your headshot/resume.

I do think Day Two, with the fighting and SFX classes, that it’s fine for children.  It will certainly be a lot of activity and won’t be hard to keep their attention.  And learning to fight and act around special effects is a good thing for kids to know.

We’re keeping class size small so that everyone can get individualized attention, so if you plan on coming, please register as soon as possible.  We’re close to having the minimum.


Screenfighting Instructors

Pizza Mondays

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New Seminar Classes!

Starting in the spring, we’re having a series of evening seminars covering filmmaking, writing, directing, acting and more.  These will be held on Monday evenings at Serendipitous Films in Fort Worth and will include dinner.  They all start at 6pm and go to 8:30 or 9pm.  All classes are $39.  Seating is going to be limited and also there will be a 5 person minimum.  If class doesn’t make, full amount will be refunded.  Once class is full, we will stop registrations on it.  Register at the SFilms store.

Monday March 26 Greenlight Yourself

This evening session will cover some basics about how to make your own feature film.  Emphasis will be placed on exact steps to get started, fundraising and the end game– distribution.  We’ll also cover topics like how to get name talent and short cuts and insider tips from a filmmaker who’s made five feature films.

Monday April 2 Directing Film

Seminar ClassesWe’ll cover the necessary tips and techniques for people wishing to learn how to direct.  The emphasis here is on the dramatic– we’ll cover both technical info concerning camera movement, blocking and shooting for the edit, as well as working with actors to get what you need from the performance.

Monday April 9 Writing Screenplays

For the writer who already has screenplays under his or her belt to the person who would like to get that idea down into script format, we’ll cover technical, where the rubber meets the road, information to help get the most of of your screenplay.  We’ll also talk about the industry– different routes for getting your screenplay produced, and what directions you can take.

Monday April 16 Editing Dramatic

In this class, we’ll take a look at how to edit a dramatic scene.  We’ll cover the craft of storytelling through editing.  There’s a reason a wide shot is used and a reason it’s not.  Or when to cut in on the close up.  We will take a look at action raw footage and see what goes into the cutting.  This class is also perfect for the actor, writer and director– much can be improved in your performance by seeing what goes into the thought process in post production.

Monday April 23 Acting: A Director’s POV

Calling all actors– here’s a seminar that’s told Director to Actor– not just Actor to Actor.  You’ll learn information about what a director is thinking in the audition and selection phase as well as what they’re thinking on the set.  This seminar will give you some tips to send you to the front of the line for landing that role and avoiding the cutting room floor.

Monday April 30 TBA

This might be a repeat of any that sell out.  We’ll announce what we’ve got going as soon as we know.


Remember– register at the Store before the seats are all filled.

shooting corporate interviews

Editing the Corporate or Documentary-style Interview

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Telling the Corporate Story

Many corporate videos today are built around the interview.  Clients, employees, spokespeople are recorded talking about the product or service.  It’s a quick and effective way to tell your corporate story.  This usually involves the video production of shooting an interview (discussed Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3).  What we’re discussing today is the mechanics behind the editing of the corporate interview.

How We Shoot Interviews in Dallas

First, we like to shoot interviews with two cameras.  Lately, the majority of these interviews are with DSLR’s– they give a very nice, rich look, shallow depth of field and with the speed of the lenses, we don’t need a lot of light to make it beautiful.

So after shooting, I will have two different sets of clips and a totally separated audio file.  I use Final Cut Pro to edit and I build a timeline with one camera on video layer 1 and the other camera on video layer 2.  I also separate out the audio tracks so that the clips all keep their audio.  Then I lay down the discreet audio recorded on set separately.  The program Plural Eyes is a neat little software fix for syncing audio.  I tell it to sync the sequence I have open and within a few moments, it has analyzed the waveforms of all the clips and brought them together.  If my camera sound is really bad, I might have to manually sync it, but generally pluraeyes is great.

After that, I go through the sequence, cutting and pasting good sound bites onto a “selects” sequence.  Then from those selects, I can pick just the great ones, all depending on the length of the video the client is wanting.  I have one Dallas Fort Worth client that it’s not unusual to have over 60 minutes in selects and we need to get it to about 8 minutes.

In video productions, it’s critical to be able to shoot and edit corporate interviews.  Talking heads don’t have to be boring but can be done in an exciting way that engages the viewer in to your product or services.

Business Plan

How To Start A Feature Film

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First Steps to Making Your Own Feature Film

How do I get started?

One of the questions I get asked by new filmmakers is exactly how to get started.  They want to know what their next step is.  Here is an extremely practical, where the rubber meets the road answer to that question.

What’s my First Step towards making my feature film?

I usually start the answer by asking a couple of clarifying questions.  Do you have a screenplay written?  (If no, then that’s your next step).  It doesn’t have to be polished and locked for production, but needs to be complete.  Do you have any funding?  Usually the answer is no.  Have you set up the entity?  Usually, the answer is a look of confusion.

So here goes.  First,you need to have some development money ready and able to be spent.  $5K would be good, $10K would be better, and $20K would be great.  Now here’s where one of many Catch-22’s are encountered– you need money to go to the second step, and you need the second step to get the money.

Starting a Feature FilmSecondly, you need to set up a legal entity.  Maybe this is a Limited Partnership or an LLC, or even an S Corp.  If this is your first time, it’s a really good idea to hire an entertainment lawyer to help you with this first step.  One way to beat this Catch-22 is to do some sort of agreement with your investor that they will front you the development money so that you can get your entity and the crucial paperwork that comes with it ready.

Third, you need the Big Four Documents: Entity Papers (for an LP, it would be the LP Agreement), Offering Memorandum (this is the risk factors), Subscription Booklet, and the last one is the Business Plan.  Again, the lawyer will assist you here on the paperwork.

Once these ducks are lined up, you can now approach investors about your film.  Make sure you also consult with a securities attorney in case your entertainment attorney doesn’t do that.

These are yo

dallas video production company

Screenfighting Workshop now March 24-25

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Due to several factors, we’ve moved the Screenfighting Workshop to March 24-25 (after spring break for most people).  Doug Williams will be teaching weapons on Saturday March 24 and Steve Krieger will be teaching the fighting and special effects on Sunday March 25.

If you’d like to register, go to the SFilms store by clicking here.  If you plan on coming, please do register as soon as possible.  At this workshop, you will learn how to handle weapons like a professional, adding value to your performance on the set.  You’ll also learn some fight basics and learn to perform in the midst of special effects– what can be costly and how to be safe.

You can take one class or all four over the two days.  And if you’d like to experience a squib hit at the end of the SFX class Sunday afternoon, you can add that for $35.  Each class is $49 and all four is a discounted $155.  Hope to see you there!

Music Video Production

Music Video Production

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I Want a Music Video Shot

One of the services we provide is music video production.  Artists will contact us looking for production services.  The problem comes in trying to determine a quick cost estimate, because music videos can cost as little or as much as you want, depending on how much production value you want.  It’s like asking…

How long is a piece of string?

Well it depends.  For music videos, how many locations?  How many days of shooting will be required?  What about other performers?  Dancers, extras?  If you want it to look like a concert setting for some of it, now we’re talking about staging and lighting and potentially hundreds of extras.  (Like in this music video from “Rising Stars”)


Production Value Matters

Or it’s a concept video, with a variety of locations and actors.  So the price can vary greatly.  As a general rule, most professional music videos out of Nashville start in the $15K range and move up from there.  Because we own all our own equipment, our prices start significantly lower.  We use steadicams, jibs and sliders to give everything a high production value.

Again, it will all depend.  So each one is different and the best thing is to call or contact us through the website form to get an accurate estimate.  Here’s a rap music video that we did with one primary location  in Dallas.

OnSite Editing

On Site Editing

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Old Days of Onsite Video Editing

I remember in 1997, we offered our big client the ability to do live onsite editing for playback right then at their closing event in the hotel ballroom.  Sure, we had done some betacam editing, linear style in a few rare instances, but this time, we’d be playing back on our relatively new non-linear editing computer.  We had a crew of 8 or so and felt we could do it.  It was scary– the computer had a propensity to crash or to fail and we would not have time to output to tape.  But it all worked that night.

In 2000, it had become even more simple.  I took a laptop to a clients event and ingested the tape footage and played back a video– all as a one man crew.

On Site Video Editing Today

onsite video editingToday, on site editing has become a mainstay for many corporate clients who hold tradeshows, conferences, or sales meetings.  Technology has made it quick and reliable.  I’m on the floor at the Heli Expo 2012 editing live for one of the large helicopter makers.  Footage comes in on P2 cards, CF cards and memory sticks, all are flying back and forth.

The interesting thing about the videos, destined for daily facebook updates for the international client, is that wide variety of footage.  It used to be different sizes and frame rates would crash systems faster than anything.  But today, I’ve got footage shot in 1080 50i from our European friends, 720p 24 frames from one camera unit… and then 1080 24p from a DSLR.  And it all meshes together well.

Technology has come a long way.  The next big improvement for on site editing will be faster processors– the biggest setback on site is the speed of ingesting the footage and converting or compressing the footage.  The actual editing is pretty quick.

Serendipitous Films

Screenfighting Workshop – Saving Time on the Set

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(We’ve got a workshop for screenfighting coming March 24-25.  Register at the SFilms Store).

Experienced & Trained Actors Save Time & Money

Early in my directing career, I was casting a day player speaking role on one of my films.  I auditioned the part with some sides that included her lines.  I looked at whether she could pull off the part as an actor.  But I made a mistake.  On the day of the shoot, it was required that she get roughed up a bit– not really a stunt situation– but needed to move a bit and the actor I cast was extremely stiff.  It showed.  It was not pretty.

The lesson I took moving forward was not to be so tunneled-vision in the audition. If the part requires the person to take a punch, I might want to see how they move in the audition room.  It matters.

This is one reason we’re teaching screenfighting basics on Sunday morning.  It’s not about becoming a stunt person, but about being a better actor for film and tv.  For instance, on Striking Range, the Yancy Butler character sucker punches the Lou Diamond Phillips character.  All I had to say to Yancy was, “do an uppercut” and like the pros the two were, it was done.  Yancy punched and Lou sold it.  Saved me tons of time.  And time is money.

Lou and Yancy have done this before.  Again and again.  The experience is what helps them.  To all our local actors, get experience.  If you don’t come to the workshop, get training from somewhere.  As a director, I want someone who won’t cost me on the set.

Movement Towards Realism in Acting – Weapons

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This is one of the topics we’ll cover in the Screenfighting Workshop on March 24-25.  This material will be covered in class 1 on Feb 18 “Weapons 1.”  If you want to register, go to the store.

Bad Guys From Above

The Hollywood cliche of the cop turning the corner with the pistol pointed up in the air is disappearing.  The “tea-cup” grip is rightfully becoming rare.  Not as rare are the bottomless magazines, but many filmmakers are spending more time to make their weapons sequence more closely resemble real life.  The Hollywood types are hiring real life consultants to make sure it’s done the way it really would be done.

Real Law Enforcement officers and military don’t point their weapon in the air unless there’s a threat from up there.  Why?  Because it has been proven (many years ago) that you can bring your weapon on target faster by moving up, not moving down.  Your vision isn’t obscured.  Your fine motor skills react more efficiently.  So a real Law Enforcement type has been trained to hold that pistol down when moving– both hands in the correct grip, ready to bring that weapon up to engage the moment it’s needed.  Watch the cop dramas– you’ll see that they’re pointing their handguns down instead of straight in there air.  Watch an older one or a movie that doesn’t care, you’ll see the cop holding the gun straight up in the air.  Go ahead an laugh at them now.  You know better.

Tea-Cupping Anyone?

Another classic amateur mistake is the “Tea Cup” grip.  This is where the person grips the pistol with their strong hand and then puts the support hand under the handle palm up.  The support hand looks like a saucer for the tea cup that is the gun.  People who depend on weapons in their line of business know and have been trained that this grip does not provide the most effective support.  And when your life depends on it, you want to have the most effective grip.  Yet you see this in the movies and the tv shows.  The proper grip is a two handed grip where the strong hand grips the handle, high up, and the support hand overlays it, with both thumbs ended up pointing down range and on the support side of the pistol.  The strong hand or firing hand, has the index finger pointed towards the target.  The finger does NOT touch the trigger until you are prepared to dispatch a threat.

These are just a couple of the things you’ll learn at the workshop.  Hope you can make it!