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For the Crew

The Technique for Slating on a Corporate Video Production

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Today, our guest instructor is Alicia Pascual who provides tips and techniques for the proper way to slate.  For many that are trying to break in to filmmaking, especially in the camera department, this is must-have information.  Your first job on the set could very well be slating.

It’s broken into two parts below.  Enjoy!  For more info from the SFilms165 lessons, click here.

Using Hedge for File Management

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Hedge Software for File Management

file management hedgeHedge is a great tool for video production file management.  The biggest advantage is that the file transfer from your card to the harddrive is faster through Hedge versus file manager.  Because Hedge bypasses the bus on your computer.  It also is able to verify the transfer, whereas File Manager doesn’t do that.

This short blog is to show you how to use the software.  For learning about file management, visit our other instructionals:

Step 1

To begin, open Hedge.  You will have the Connected Discs window, which shows you which hard drives you have connected.  Make sure your primary and secondary harddrives are connected and show up in the center.  Then connect the card you want to transfer.  It will show up in this window as well.

Step 2

file managementWhen the card shows up, drag it over to the left, the Sources column.  Then drag your primary harddrive over to the right, the Destinations column.  Drag the secondary drive over to destinations as well.

Hover the mouse over the primary harddrive in Destinations—you will see a green eject arrow but also, when you hover, you will see a grey down arrow above and to the right of the drive icon.  Click that grey down arrow and Destination Folder and then Browse.  You can navigate to your project folder, camera subfolder, and name the camera and card number.  Then repeat the same procedure for the secondary drive.  Note that when you change the destination, the drives switch on the right column.  Make sure you get both drives pointing to the right folder. 

One nice time-saving feature Hedge offers is the ability to create file paths on the second drive. After you point to the destination on the primary drive, when you select the secondary drive, you can do the most recent folder and Hedge will ask you if you want to create the path.  Click yes and you don’t have to create folders in Finder or File Manager.

Also, it’s important to name the folder exactly the same on both drives.  If you want to do this in Finder before copying over, that’s fine—just navigate to the correct folder through the grey down arrow.

Step 3

Once folder destinations have been done, click “Start Transfers.”  Your camera card will be copied over.  The next dialogue window will ask you if you want the incrementer to be adjusted.  If this is the first card, have it start back at 001, then the next time, just let it increment.  When Hedge finishes the transfer, it will say completed.  If there were any problems, Hedge will inform you.  Also, a text file is generated at your destination.  You can check it over to see if there are any discrepancies.  You’re ready to eject the card and start in on the next card.

The key to File Management is creating a system and following it.  Trouble happens when you take shortcuts or don’t follow the system.  It gets repetitive– don’t fall into the trap of complacency.  Lost footage is a killer for the production.

File Management for Large Video Production Crews

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Large Video Production Crew File Management

We started this SFilms165 series on File Management for video production crews to do our part to stamp out horror stories of lost/missing footage from the video and film sets.  Yes, it’s happened to us.  In several different ways with different results.  Make sure you watch/read the Intro to File Management before watching this one.  Also, you can read Small Crew File Management here.  

The Large Video Production Crews

First let’s define large crew: Greater than 4 crew people.  This is a set that has many moving pieces and many crew people doing very specific tasked jobs.  In corporate video, it’s a little more rare to see large crews, but in commercial production, feature film making, and television, you can very easily have large crews.  Commercials can have 30 or more depending on the scope.  Feature films can easily have over a hundred, again depending on the scope.  Even a low budget feature film might have 30 or more crew people.

With a crew of 5 or more, chances are, File Management is your single duty.  And this is a good thing.. You can’t afford to get distracted and mess up your transfers.  On one of our feature films (the first one that wasn’t shot on film and was shot on digital), we actually had two file management crew people.  You might even be given the tile, duties and responsibilities of the DIT.  This means you not only do file management, but you’re responsible for the images on the set.  Dailies, one pass looks, etc.

The File Management System

file management video eventWe put forward the following system– you don’t have to do it at your shop, but have a system.  Cards, files and footage get lost and destroyed because a system isn’t in place or doesn’t get followed.

The File Manager will work with the Camera Assistant.. Make sure he or she is using a paper tape system—when a card goes into the camera, a piece of tape is marked with the letter of the camera and the card number. For instance, the first camera of the production gets “A” and the first card is zero one.. If a second camera is used, it becomes B and it’s first card is zero one, even if several cards have already gone through A camera.

Set up two open boxes for incoming and outgoing cards.. Go over the system with the camera assistant so that she’ll know where to drop off cards and where to pick up cards.. Make sure she tapes over the card contacts with the tape indicating the camera and card number before bringing it to you.

Hedge Your Bets

Use Hedge to transfer the card to your two hard drives.  If you don’t use Hedge, use another file management app.  Keep a good log of the cards you transfer.  When finished with the card, and verified that the data was completely copied, you can put the tape back onto the card, but not over the contacts and place it in your outgoing box.  The camera assistant can pick up cards to go back to camera from this box.  Make sure she knows that the tape back on the card, but not over the contacts is free to reformat.

The System

Make your system—use your system.  Problems that occur are almost always because the File Manager did NOT follow the system.  And problems at this level are cataclysmic.  Don’t be that guy.  Follow your system and you’ll do fine.

File Management for Small Video Production Crew

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File Management Part 2

This continues our campaign to squash file mis-management once and for all.  In this part 2, we cover file management for the small video production crew.  As long as there’s been digital acquisition on the film and video sets, there’s been the need to ensure that digital content makes it back safe and sound to the edit room.  One time of losing a camera card is one time too many.  For Part 1, click here.

Small Video Production Crew

Okay, so first let’s define what we mean by a “small crew” for video production.  Sometimes, one person goes out with a camera and shoots all he or she can for the client.  Then maybe a second person is there to help carry the gear.  For interviews, a third person might be added to cover sound.  Or back to one person who does it all.  A small crew is one to three people.  So maybe you’re a one man band, or you’re the grip slash PA, but here’s our system for file management.

video production file managementThe Small Video Crew System

When you place the card into the camera, tear off a piece of paper tape that you keep with the camera bag, and with a sharpie, mark the camera letter and the card number.  The first one would be A zero one.  Place this tape over the card bay on the camera.  When you’re ready to pull the card, take the tape off, wrap the card contacts with the tape, and set the card aside in a safe place.  A card with the contacts taped means that card has NOT been transferred.  The new card gets placed in the slot with a new piece of tape on the outside of the camera, over the card bay. 

Off Loading

Then, when you get to the computer, take the card that has the tape covering the contacts out and insert into the computer.. Open Hedge and copy the card over to your two sources (we’ll explain Hedge in a future chapter).  If you’re not using Hedge, then use file manager or whatever software you’re using to copy over to your hard drives.  Once the card is transferred, and the footage is confirmed on the hard drive, remove the card.  Place the card backwards in the card wallet—it’s best practice to not use the card again on this shoot, unless you absolutely need it.  Stack the piece of tape on the card reader or computer.  As you go through cards, keep stacking the tape—you never know when you might need to go back through and see which cards got transferred and in which order.

The paper tape is a great way to keep everything straight.  Buy a couple of different rolls and keep them in the camera bag with a sharpie.  It should become part of your kit.  Think this is overkill?  You’ll wish you’d spent a few dollars on tape and markers the first time you accidentally delete footage.

 

Look for part 3 soon!

File Management for Production Companies

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On Set File Management

Production Companies Problems

One of the biggest “gotchas” that production companies can encounter is lost or corrupted footage.  It sounds simple: “Copy camera cards over to hard drive.”  But it’s the most critical job on the set.  You mess this up, and you can lose that great performance, that wonderful camera work, those awesome sets.  So to avoid this pitfall, let’s look at the tools you need.

File Management Tools

First of all you need a computer and hard drives.  Preferably two (or more).  Industry best practice is to take the camera card, copy it over to two different hard drives.  And make sure you copy to each hard drive from the card—don’t copy to a hard drive, eject the card, and copy from the first hard drive over to your back up hard drive.  If you have anything corrupt, you just copied that over.  Always copy from the camera card to your primary hard drive and your backup hard drive.

Software and Apps to Use

production companies on set file managementNow when you copy, you can use Finder (if you’re using Mac OS) or windows file manager and just copy the contents of the card over to the hard drive.  But how do you know there was nothing corrupted in the transfer?  There are several apps that will copy for you, and run verifications (check sums) to make sure every single 1 and 0 was copied over.  We use Hedge for the Mac—it allows you to copy straight through from card to hard drives, which speeds the transfer up a bit, instead of going through your computer bus.

Have a system.  Use one color box or colored tape for cards that need to be transferred, and another for cards ready to go back to the camera team (they’ve been verified).

In addition to the physical system, make sure you have a good file management system on the computer.  A master folder should be created for the Production.

Smaller Shoots

On smaller shoots, it might be that you have other jobs on the set—make sure you don’t get confused on file management.  For our video on the small video crew file management system, click here.  What good is it to help craft a well shot scene, only to mess up the transfer and that scene get deleted?  I’d say your file management duties are more important than any other job you might have on the set.  If you mess up, everyone’s work was practice for the re-shoot.  Yes it’s pressure—that’s why you have to have a system and follow it religiously.

One last word—I used the term File Management instead of DIT.  A true DIT also does first pass coloring and is responsible for the image being created on the set.  In corporate video, it’s mainly just managing the data from the cameras.  Remember—keep it straight!

History of the Camera Part 2

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History of the Camera Part 2

For part 1, click here.  The importance of this information is in giving you, the new camera production person, background into why things are the way that they are.  We discussed progressive film rate and interlace film rate in part 1.

The 1990’s

camera production companiesThe call was out for quality.  For decades, the television signals and standards stayed exactly the same.  But technology was starting to improve and though the television industry resisted change, eventually it to caved.  Why did they resist?  They have millions of dollars invested in equipment.  You change to HD and all that expensive gear would become garage sale material.

But eventually, the call for quality started to overcome the call for everything to stay the same.  Everyone agreed it would be called “High Definition” or HD, compared to Standard Definition or SD.  Again, just like the RCA/Philco battles of the 1930’s, Sony and Panasonic squared off, each pushing their own standard.  Sony wanted to double the NTSC quality– instead of 525 lines, they picked 1080.  Panasonic chose 720 scan lines across.  However, they claimed theirs wasn’t a quality loss compared to the Sony because they were doing “progressive” images like film.  But Sony stuck to their guns on 1080 interlaced.  Well today, the winner of the HD battle has been 1080.

And when HD was created, everyone wanted a wider screen, to closer match more the cinema ratios people were used to watching in the theaters, so instead of the SD square (ish), a wider rectangle was created, by making it 1920 columns by 1080 rows.  The 1920 was almost 2,000 (or 2K).  So now you can understand what 4K is.  6K.  now 8K.  It’s that column number.

Is DVD up to HD Quality?

So when a client asks for their video that you’ve shot and edited on DVD, is that HD if you shot it at 1920×1080?  No.  The DVD format is a Standard Definition format.  The best it can do is 720×480.  That’s it.  Doesn’t matter if you shot on a Red camera at 8K resolution.  To output your file for the DVD authoring, it will be at best, 720×480. You can play High Def from Blu-ray discs.  But most clients today need delivery of their video as a file, whether uploaded to a service like weTransfer, Dropbox or Box, or placed on YouTube or Vimeo, or copied onto a thumbdrive.  They just need the file.  We’ll discuss the compression/decompression factors in a future lesson.

4K and Beyond

But the difference today in the adoption of new standards, is that today’s televisions can display different standards.  So multiple choices are being offered.  And cameras have continued to get better.  Cameras have been shooting 4K for some time (so roughly 4,000 columns across by roughly 2,000 rows).  Why not go ahead and create televisions that can view this jump in quality?  So 4K televisions are for sale right now at Best Buy.

Why is this history lesson relevant?  Today’s production cameras have all sorts for settings for file size and frame rates.  It’s important to know what each of them does.

History of the Camera, Part 1

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Intro to the Camera

For incoming interns and new students of corporate film and video, we cover the basics of the camera and answer questions such as “what is progressive scanning?” and “what’s the difference between component and composite video?” and more.

Brief History of the Camera

Cameras were created in the 19th Century by utilizing glass to focus light onto a chemically treated surface.  As technology improved, glass got better and the chemically treated surfaces were improved.  By the early 20th Century, the cameras had become somewhat standardized.    Then motion picture cameras came along.  Same principle- but instead of taking one frame or picture, now a motor was created to speed the chemically treated surface (film) through the housing to enable taking many pictures each second.  This started by hand cranking the film through (resulting in variable speed– notice in those old movies all the action is sped up).  But motors eventually were added which led to a standard of 24 frames per second.  Each image was exposed in it’s entirety, creating a “progressive” order in the images.  And these cameras were all mechanical.

Now for Television

Then television was invented.  Now, images were created electronically, not mechanically.  Since the United States was leading the world in the new technology of television, a group of bureaucrats and engineers sat down (actually mandated by the FCC) to create standards so that everyone who bought a tv could see the same programming.  Up to this point, you had RCA making television signals with 400 or so scan lines across, and Philco making theirs with over 600 scan lines across– the signals weren’t compatible, so the government stepped in.  This group called themselves the National Television System Committee (nice name).

In 1941, this group, with the acronym NTSC created the television standard of 525 scan lines at 30 frames per second.  (Important note: the television would “draw” the odd lines by skipping every other one on it’s way down to the bottom and then go up and fill in the even lines.  It would do this every second, so each pass was called a “field.”  This procedure is referred to as “interlace.”  So technically, the NTSC standard was 60 images a second).

Creation of Color TV

When color was brought into the industry in the 50’s, the NTSC mandated that it must be compatible with everyone’s black and white set.  So the three signals of info that create a color picture had to be composited into one signal.  Thus “composite” was born.  Meanwhile, the rest of the world took what the US had done and improved on it.  The PAL standard was created much closer to the film rate and had 25 frames per second.  The scan lines were an improved 625 lines across.  And when color came around, PAL redid it to keep the three color signals separate or “component.”

And this was the way it stayed for decades.  Watch Camera History part 2 for more (coming soon)!

Top 4 Tips for Freelancers in Video Production

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The Top 4 things every Freelancer needs to know about Video Production

History of the Freelancer

The word freelancer comes from medieval times– when a fiefdom needed an extra lance or two for the defense of their city or for the attack on someone else’s city, the would hire an extra knight or two to bring their sword and lance along.  A “free lancer” did not belong to anyone or any fiefdom.  Today, a freelancer is usually not employed, but works job to job, gig to gig.  And they usually make more money for working less days than someone employed.

And it’s easy to start a freelancing career in corporate video.  You can begin at the entry level– a production assistant.  And this goes all the way up to directors and producers.  How you set yourself apart will determine how often you get called and what rate you’ll get paid.

Corporate Video Freelancer Tips

corporate video studioWhen you start working as a freelancer in video production, it’s a great opportunity to work for several companies and hopefully catch the attention of those video production companies,  by showing them just how professional you are, so that they continue to want to ask you to come back to work for them.

  1. COMMUNICATE.  When you are contacted to work for a production company as a freelancer,  it is important to respond to phone calls, emails or texts  from the production coordinator of that company as soon as possible.   Sometimes the person who contacts you has plenty of time to schedule crew for a shoot, but often times,  productions pop up fast and scheduling crew can be tedious.  If you do not respond in a timely manner, the coordinator may need to start looking for another freelancer to book for the job.
  2. BE ON TIME – Honestly, “On time” usually means “Be Early” in this business.  Being consistently late to set,  can result in not being asked back to work for that production company. Go ahead and map out the directions to the shoot and check to see how long GPS expects it will take for you to arrive and allow for extra  driving time to get there.  Always plan for bad traffic, because that can pop up at any moment.
  3. Dress Appropriately.  Remember you are representing a production company when arriving on set, and more importantly,  yourself.  Wearing something casual is often appropriate, but you could also be asked to dress in “Business Casual”…something a little nicer for certain clients or business locations, or Dress Blacks for more formal occasions.    If you aren’t sure what you should wear, then you should ask.
  4. ATTITUDE. Always have a friendly and professional behavior on set.  Keeping a good attitude is always appreciated , even if the shoot becomes fast paced or a little intense.   Talking with your peers  is fine, but don’t let it interfere with getting the job done.  Respect the client’s time by doing your job efficiently.  And… It is the Director’s place to talk with the client and discuss thoughts or suggestions about the shoot.  Unless you are directly asked for your opinion, you should let the director and client make the decisions.   Listen to your instructions from the director, follow through on your tasks, and always be open to new ideas and suggestions.

Keeping  these tips in mind next time you step on a set , will ensure that the director sees you as someone who is giving 100%, and wanting to be a team player.

Corporate Video Production Dallas

Building a Freelance Career in Corporate Video Production

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Corporate Video Versus Movie Making

corporate video puppetFor all those film students who are graduating from different colleges and some film schools, one of the first choices you have to make is money or art?  (It’s a trick question we’ll address below).  You’ve just spent two or four (or six) years studying film and video.  You’ve learned to shoot and you’ve learned to edit.  You might have learned how to work with a crew.  You’ve problem-solved and you are now looking for that job (career) you’ve invested so heavily in both time and money.

If you’re driving goal, you’re burning obsession is to make narrative feature films, then really this article is not for you.   This is for the film and video professional who enjoys shooting or editing one person corporate stuff, or working with a three to five person crew in the corporate buildings of America.  I graduated from a University with a BA degree in Radio/Television (technically a degree in Communications with a major in RTV).  I wanted to be a filmmaker, but didn’t understand the difference at that time.  My first job after college was as a “field producer” (a catch all term meaning I was that one man band traveling all over the country shooting).  But more often than not, I found myself shooting in company offices, making marketing videos for corporations, or doing training videos.

About five years in, I still wanted to make a movie.  So after a few more years of getting ready, I left my corporate video production job and made the leap to feature films, which I did for over ten years (and five movies).  BTW, those were ten hard years as I starved myself and my family to chase it.  I returned to corporate video with a new found passion (where I could combine the “art” of movie making, with the projects my corporate clients were looking for).

BTW– I’m not as keen on hiring freelancers who are frustrated filmmaker wanabee’s.  If the corporate video job I’m hiring for you is a “bummer” or something that you”have” to do, I’m not as interested.  That lack of passion will permeate your work.

So this brings us to you.  How do you get started making a living in video/film production?  You’re still reading, so I’m assuming that you’re not the one saying “feature films or nothing!”  Here are some tips to getting started.

Freelancing in the Corporate Video World

When I graduated and started fulltime with a company, I didn’t know you could freelance.  I accidentally fell into freelancing and before long was making pretty good money.  My biggest client (production company) realized they could save money by bringing on someone, offered me the fulltime job.  If I said no, they’d find another person and I’d lose that significant freelance work.  So I said yes and took a huge “pay cut” and increased my hours.  So today, there are many production companies looking for freelance people.  We hire PA’s, Audio, Camera Operators and DP’s.  Occasionally make-up artist and other specialists.

Corporate Video Freelancing Tips

  • corporate video production attitudePut yourself out there.  To get started freelancing, you need to get known.  Go to networking opportunities.  In Dallas, there is a Dallas Producer’s Association– the perfect place to shale some hands.
  • Volunteer if need be.  The whole point is to get yourself known.  Volunteer.  Get on the set.
  • Shine.  Here’s the most important part.  When you do get on the set, you need to shine.  You need to have a great “can do” attitude, whether it’s getting coffee for the client or lugging that equipment up two flights of stairs.  I can tell you about three or four out of ten get my attention on the set.  And when they do, I can promise you it’s not necessarily ability, but attitude.
  • Appearance.  You’re working in corporate USA.  You don’t need to wear a business suit (it will get snagged and dirty).  But your clothes need to be nice business casual and clean.  (Visit our Facebook page here and scroll down for the “Dear Freelancer Article).  If you’ve have a lot of tats and body piercings, just know it might be a little harder to get established in corporate video.  That image is great for the feature film work, not so good for the boardrooms of the corporate video world.
  • Don’t Say No Too Often.  If we call you and you’re not available, that’s okay.  By the third or fourth time in a row, we will probably stop calling you.  When corporate video production companies are crewing up a shoot or project, we usually call people that come to mind first.  So be on our minds.  Which brings us to…
  • Followup.  It’s okay to send emails out to production companies reminding them that you’re available.  Once a month is fine. Once a week is overdoing it.
  • Lots of Baskets.  It’s always a good idea to not put all your eggs in one basket.  Have several production companies giving you business.

The corporate video freelancing world can be highly enjoyable.  You can actually earn more money than a staff job and work less hours.  You have freedom and flexibility in your schedule.  It can be very rewarding.