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The Director's Chair Issue #50 – Jan. 18, 2005 (Don't Let Budget Choose Your Format(Pt. 3)

Free Monthly Ezine for Film and Television Directors

January 18, 2005          Scene 6 – Take 1

Published once a month.

Publisher: Peter D. Marshall
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1.  Introduction
2.  Action-Cut-Print!
3.  Filmmaking Tips Forum
4.  Feature Article – Don’t Let Budget Choose Your Format(Part 3)
5.  33 Ways to Break Into Hollywood
6.  Back Issues of The Director’s Chair
7.  Share This Ezine
8.  Suggestions & Comments
9.  Subscribe & Unsubscribe Information
10. Copyright Information


Welcome to Issue #50 of The Director’s Chair (January 18, 2005)

1) This month’s Feature Article is the last of a 3-part series
exploring the tips A.J. Wedding put into practice in order to
make his 35mm short for the same cost as DV. This month’s article
is on post-production.

2) VOLUNTEERS NEEDED – If you would like to contribute articles,
tips, links of interest, industry news, interviews, special event
dates or other resources to The Director’s Chair please email:



Peter D. Marshall

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3. FILMMAKING TIPS FORUM – http://filmmakingtips.blogspot.com

Share Your Production Experience!
Ask Filmmaking Questions!

I have personally worked in the film and TV industry for over
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aching to share this knowledge with others!

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I have created the Filmmaking Tips Forum at
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like you who can contribute filmmaking tips and also help
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=> What little tricks and tips have you learned over the years
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=> What special production knowledge do you have that the rest
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question. The Filmmaking Tips Forum is for you.

4. FEATURE ARTICLE – DV or Film? Don’t let cost be a deciding factor.

“DV or Film?  Don’t let Budget be a Deciding Factor”
By A.J. Wedding

Part 3: Post Production

It is no secret to any person who has worked on film…post
production is expensive!  The best thing you can do is plan the
entire process down to the last print, and make sure you know
what you’re getting into.

Having never worked on film prior to my short film, “Causality,”
I was as blind as a bat when it came to the ‘post’ discussion.
All I had to go by was the rundown that my D.P. ran past me on
several occasions before it finally sank in.  This section of
the article will explain the film post process, as well as give
you some more money saving tips.

Before you get into the details, ask yourself what you want.
Is this project going to be distributed?  Are you going to film
festivals?  These questions are important because you want to
know what your final format will be.  If you want to have a
film print of your movie, your path is a bit more expensive
than if your master will be digital (D5 or Digi-Beta.)

There are several labs that can do a great deal of your work,
but there are no one-stop-shops.  Make use of all of the
services that your chosen lab provides, as you will get a
discount.  When you are comparing lab prices, don’t use the
rate cards.  Speak with a sales representative and let them
know that this is your first film project.  Everyone wants to
help new artists that believe in the “dying medium” of film.
The sales reps will give you rates that are anywhere from 15 to
35 percent off of their published rates.  Crest Labs in Los
Angeles is known for their great rates, as is Fotokem.  Fotokem
offers many more services, and has top rated facilities.  Ask
about their developing rates per foot, and tell them you want
to use them as your lab from beginning to end.  They will want
to know if you are finishing digitally or on film, as it
impacts the services that they give you quotes for.  Call
around and really do the footwork and you will save in the long

Once the film is in the can, your first step is to get it
processed and screen your circle-takes in a theater.  This will
show you if there are any problems with the film that wouldn’t
be noticed on a monitor such as a hair in the gate or unwanted
reflections.  Don’t skip this process, because it is very
important.  Besides that, most labs will allow you to do it for

Now it’s time for that mysterious word, TELECINE.  This is the
process by which your actual film is transferred into tape so
that you can edit it digitally.  If you are planning to finish
on film, you want to make sure that you tell the lab you want a
time code window burn.  This will allow the negative cutter to
use your tape to find all of the cuts you have made digitally
…but we’ll get to that later.  Make sure that you are laying
down your film onto a decent format.  If you are doing a film
print, the lowest quality tape that you want to use is DVCAM.
If you don’t, the negative cutter may end up missing a few
frames which could hurt you when you try to line up your final
soundtrack.  If you are finishing the movie digitally, I
suggest laying it down on the highest possible quality tape.
This is the Digibeta D-5, and will allow you to move to any
format including HD.

The telecine operator, or colorist, will ask if you want them
to line up the sound with the picture.  In trying to save time
and money you might be thinking you can do it on your own later
on during editing.  Don’t kid yourself.  It is an arduous
process for you, whereas your operator can do it fairly
quickly.  The extra $100 it may end up costing you will save
you weeks in your editing process.

Now that you have your digital tape, you are ready for editing.

The development of digital non-linear editing makes this
process very easy for you.  There are many editing houses that
will charge you hundreds of dollars per hour to use their
equipment, when you can accomplish the same goals for a lot
less.  Here’s a few tips:

1:    If you are familiar with editing and can do it yourself,
invest in a Mac.  Get a mid-range G-5 with Final Cut Pro and
you will be able to do everything, including output to DVD.  If
you are finishing digitally, this is a great thing to have.
While the computer will not have the capability to support HD,
it will record your edits which can then be taken back to the
lab and rebuilt on their high end computers in less than a half

2.    If you are finishing on film, don’t worry about the
output quality.  As long as the time code is readable, the
negative cutter will have all that they need.

3.    If you are unfamiliar with editing, put an ad on one of
the crew websites:  http://www.usacrew.com,
http://www.craigslist.org, http://www.nowcrewing.com etc.

You will get a wide range of responses and eventually work
their price quotes down to something you can manage.
Go through and put in all of your transitions, if any, and
titles.  Final Cut Pro gives you many effect possibilities that
can be re-created on film, so make sure you go for your exact

While you are editing, pay close attention to the sound.  Make
notes on all of the sound effects that you need to add.  Also
note pieces of dialogue that may need to be re-recorded.
Another trick is to try and pick up some of the dialogue from
other takes.  It can work very well, and save you an extra day
of dialogue recording.  Remember, every movement requires sound
to give it depth.  Footsteps are the most commonly forgotten
foley.  Even if the feet aren’t in frame, put in the sound!

The more depth and color your sound has, the more engaging your
film will be.  Final Cut Pro has a pretty decent set of sound
editing tools that you can do most of your work in.  When you
get your edit and sound together, listen to it as loud as it
would be in a theater.  Make sure the mix sounds right and that
no sound is peaking.  Monitor the amount of background noise,
or room tone and decide if it is distracting.  Once you have
all of your edits locked and your sound mixed tweaked, it’s
time for music.

Cheap music is a dead giveaway for a cheap movie.  Licensing
popular artists and their music will cost you roughly $8000 per
use of a 30 second clip of music.  But here’s a few things you
can do to have great music for a budget price:

1.    Go see local bands play and buy their CDs.  You might
find something that really fits your movie!  Local groups are
eager to get their music out there, and might let you use it
for free.  If not, a few hundred bucks is usually good enough
to make a deal.

2.    Look for composers on crew websites.  Make sure you
listen to their work, and make sure that they have the
capability to record it at no extra cost.  With the modern
world of digital sampling, some of these composers can create
full orchestral scores that sound fantastic…at a huge
discount.  One of those amazing composers who I stand by is
Gordy Haab.  Gordyhaab@aol.com

3.    Think simplicity.  Many movies have entire scores that
contain a single instrument, such as “The Firm.”  Music
students are a great source for monophonic scores.  A cello,
piano, zamphir, bongo drum, you name it, it’s been done!

4.    If all else fails, plug in a microphone and sing your
background music.  It works wonders with comedic pieces.

Okay, those of you who are finishing digitally,
congratulations.  You are done.  Take your computer batch list
in to the lab and have them reassemble your film on their
high-powered computer to get your master copy.  Now you can
make DVD’s Digi-Beta copies, miniDV, whatever you want.  Film
finishers, read on.

Look at all of those titles, fades, and effects that you put
into your film, and make sure you absolutely need them.  Why?
Because optical and digital effects are pretty expensive when
finishing on film.  If you can do without them, do it.  My
nine-minute short had 3 minutes worth of titles and effects for
a grand total of $6000.  Ouch.  But if you need it, you need
it.  There are many optical and title houses out there, and you
will need to do some dealing.  This process will take a little
longer, as you will need to meet with each company in order to
get an accurate quote.  This effect and titling process has to
be completed before you go to the negative cutter.  When the
effects are complete, the effect house will give you digital
versions of the FINAL versions of the titles and effects that
you need to re-edit into your master.  The reason for this is
that the final effects will have a new time code for the
negative cutter to read.  Otherwise, they will cut together
your originals without the effects and titles.

Finding a negative cutter seems to be much more difficult than
paying for one.  There are very few companies that do it, but
there are many individuals that have the capability if you ask
around.  Digital film making has weakened the demand for such a
business since the major studios do their own cutting.  When
negotiating with the cutter, they will want to know how many
edits you have.  Count your cuts.  The fewer the cuts, the less
the cost.  And since there isn’t a lot of demand for cutters,
you should be able to get a pretty sweet deal.

Alright.  The negative is cut and pasted together…and your
sound mix is good.  Take the sound mix to the lab and get an
optical track printed.  This is the thin line that will attach
to your film to match the sound with the picture.  Make sure
everything lines up correctly and you are ready to make answer

With a low budget, you will probably only make one print to
screen at festivals.  But if you have a little extra money,
it’s always good to have a back up.  Most labs will keep your
prints and your originals stored in a safe, temperate vault at
no charge to you, for as long as you want.  Keep your extra
print there, and only use it when absolutely necessary.  The
more a film is run through a projector, the faster it degrades.

Much of this article will sound like Greek the first time you
read it.  I never thought I would get through it, and at times
wished I had shot digitally.  But when you throw a film up on
the screen that you created, it’s worth the extra effort to see
something so dazzling and professional….and little did you
know that you could do it so cheap.

A.J. Wedding

A.J. Wedding is a writer/director who recently completed his
first 35mm short film that hopes to premiere at the Sundance
Film Festival. His past writing and directing work includes a
back-door TV pilot called “OB-1” and a mock-umentary digital
feature titled “Pop-Fiction”, which won an honorable mention at
the Canadian International Film Festival.


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