Beautiful Ray Harryhause Tribute Page

Chinese Jetpilot has a great Tribute to stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen page up. You can browse and view short clips from the films he provided special effects for. I highly recommend this site to any Harryhausen fan.

"Groundbreaking visual effects designer Ray Harryhausen refined and elevated stop-motion animation to an art. His Dynamation technique of matting animated creatures into live-action settings revolutionized the use of stop-motion animation in visual effects."

"Ray was a master of his medium, applying skills as diverse as sculpture, illustration, painting, optics, history, and acting. Take any of his best-known creatures - The sword-fighting skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts, the Cyclops from The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, or Clash of the Titan's Medusa, for example. Ray conceived and designed each shot; sculpted, cast in latex around an articulated metal armature, painted and detailed the stop-motion puppet; staged and lit a miniature set of his construction; and infused it with poetic animation. Lacking any practical pre-visualization tools, he knew if a shot succeeded only after the film was developed. He executed his shots single-handedly, working months at a time, in tiny converted storefront studios."

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Avid versus Final Cut: Round 1

Entering the ring in this corner is Apple's underdog champ, Final Cut Express HD.And in the other corner, the heavyweight, Avid Xpress Pro.

Let's get ready to rumble!

Avid steps up and delivers three quick punches to Final Cut's gut.

“Work quickly and accurately”

“I wouldn’t use anything but Avid to work on a low-budget documentary. On these types of projects, I need a tool that will allow me to work quickly and accurately, not waste time rendering sequences and, most importantly, not lose my media. When dealing with so much footage and a budget that doesn’t allow me to burn time searching for clips and rebuilding sequences, using something like Final Cut Pro would have been too volatile and risky. Avid is the way to go, it manages my media, works intuitively, and allows me to focus on the story.”

Jeff Groth
Editor, So Goes the Nation

“Editing so easy”

“An Avid [system] makes editing so easy, and while it’s wonderful to have this ability to explore concepts and to have it accessible to so many people, I believe strongly that editing is not about randomly putting things together to see what will work; [rather] it’s about having a very constructed view of something. Then - what the Avid [system] does - is help you construct that story, as opposed to experimenting your way into it. I think of editing as a storytelling process conceived from a defined point of view and told in a linear way, where not one edit should be out of place and where each edit is integral to the whole.” Read Joseph’s story

Joseph Kahn
Filmmaker, Commercial and Music Video Director

“Affordable and adaptable”

“I’m a true believer in the [Avid Xpress Pro] system, especially on lower-budget projects because it’s affordable and adaptable, whether it’s Mac or PC.

I like that I can work on the Media Composer Adrenaline [system], then go home and work on my laptop [using Avid Xpress Pro software], and go back again to the higher-end systems quite easily.Read Meg’s story

Meg Reticker
Editor, Come Early Morning

If you agree or disagree with any of these statements, let us know in the comments!

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A Glossary of Film Terms

I'd like to share with you a glossary of film terms I came across while looking at different film related sites. It comes from the Foutz Studios page, but the true origin of the glossary is unkown. If you know where it originated from, please let me know.

Here are some of the defintions (it's a 45 page document):

Best Boy
Whether male or female, a best boy, or second electric, is a chief assistant lighting electrician who works with the gaffer.

The Director is responsible for interpreting and translating the shooting script, and directing the actors. The Director works closely with the DP to get the visual qualities and character for the project desired by the producer.

The Gaffer is the chief lighting electrician on a production.

Line Producer
A producer responsible for overseeing and coordinating the critical everyday functioning of a production.

Location Mixer (Location Sound Mixer, Sound Recordist)
The chief sound recordist who mixes and records sounds on location. The mixer determines optimal microphone type and placement, balances the levels from different input sources, directs the boom operator, and keeps a sound log or report.

Low-key Lighting
High contrast lighting design in which the key light provides less of the proportion of the overall illumination of a scene, allowing areas within the frame to fall into semidarkness or even total blackness, accentuating what remains visible. Low-key lighting is used for works reliant on drama, horror, mystery, intrigue, and suspense.

A reference to the arrangement of all the visual elements within the frame.

Motion Capture
A method of recording the movement of an actor or object and automatically reapplying that movement to a 3D model for computer animation. There are two methods: 1) Magnetic: The use of magnetic "markers" on various points of an object so that its movement can be recorded magnetically. 2) Optical: The use of optical "markers" (usually ping pong balls) on various points of an object so that its movement can be recorded optically.

A sequence of brief scenes or still shots juxtaposed to quickly establish a mood, narrative, or setting.

Post-Production (Post)
The phase of a projects completion which ensues after the principal photography is finished – including sound and picture editing, addition of effects, foley work, transfers, printing, etc.
Here is the direct link to download the glossary.

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Thank You Fuel My Blog

I'd like to take the time to welcome readers from Fuel My Blog. Kevin has chosen this blog for blog of the day today.

For those of you who haven't added your blog to the "great wall of blogs", now is the time to do it. Spots are filling up fast and nothing beats free traffic.

Thanks again Kevin and everyone involved with making Fuel My Blog a success.

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What's a long tail movie?

The phrase "The Long Tail" was first coined by Chris Anderson. In a post on his blog, Long Tail 101, he explains this theory.

"The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of "hits" (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-target goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare."
Certain independent films are becoming increasingly popular among the specific demographics they appeal to. These are sometimes referred to as special interest or niche films (think gay/lesbian films or documentaries that would interest a small group of people). A more recent post explains How to make a Long Tail movie.
"Long Tail markets emerge when the cost of production and distribution fall dramatically. Digital production and distribution did that for music five years ago and they're doing it for amateur video now, thanks to camcorders and YouTube. But what about classic filmed drama, from the TV serial to movies? . . . Combined with the new low-cost distribution channels, from DVD to digital downloads, all you now need to be a filmmaker is talent."
The post includes samples from "The DV Rebel's Guide" by Stu Maschwitz. Rent a smoke machine or use dry ice to achieve a stylized look.
"What's amazing about filling a room with smoke is that in person it seems so stupid and obvious. But look through your viewfinder and something magical happens. Through your camera, you don't see smoke. You just see a scene that looks more like a movie. Smoke is one of those dirty tricks that really works. It makes things seem larger than life. It gives your images depth. It gives light a physical presence in your film. And perhaps surprisingly, smoke can actually light your scene for you."
Many amateur film makers want to know how to make their digital video look like analog film. The first thing to do is shoot you film in 24p. The second thing to do is work on getting the lighting right. Extra smoke in a room can really change the look of the video you shoot.
The DV Rebel cannot pass a glass elevator, or an open-air escalator, or a tire swing, without pondering how it might be used to create a smooth establishing shot. I once made a dolly shot in an airport by resting my camera on the rail of a moving pedestrian walkway. If you can ride it, it's a dolly. If you can ride it up and down, it's a crane.
Shaky video is usually always considered amateur video. Films are shot using dollys, cranes, and steady cams (See the poor man's steady cam post). Keep the motion in your video smooth and avoid using zooms.
Time is your greatest advantage over the Hollywood big boys. If they want it to rain, they rent rain towers at hundreds of dollars per day and make it rain on the day they need it to. A week later it rains for real and they lose a day or move to a cover set. You just wait for the rain and shoot on that day -- and your free rain looks way better than their million-dollar rain! The DV Rebel melts down time and re-forms it into production value.

Your father might have said "time is money." When it comes to guerrilla filmmaking, you'll need to give up your time to save money. It's going to take longer to complete a film when you are still learning how to best make a film. By reading books like The DV Rebel's Guide and filmmaking blogs like this one, you'll have an advantage when it comes time to shoot your film.

Anderson mentiones that Kevin Kelly reviewed "The DV Rebels Guide" in his latest Cool Tools. The samples from the book came from a Cool Tools e-mail and should appear on the CT site soon.

UPDATE: Kevin has updated his page to include his review of DV Rebels Guide.

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Is Shyamalan a microbudget filmmaker?

Could The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs all be made under a microbudget? They could if they didn't feature big name stars and cut down on post production costs. The locations in the films could have been moved elsewhere. The strength of the story comes primarily from a strong script. The second scene of Unbreakable is a horrific train wreck. An accident that we never actually see.

Scott Spears says:

"What I love about Night's movies is that he is basically making dramas and then dropping a high concept on them. Here's a breakdown of the high concept vs. the low concept:

"The Sixth Sense": A kids sees dead people. No, that's not the real story. It's about grief and accepting death.
"Unbreakable": A guy finds out he's a superhero. Nope. It's about realizing that surpressing your abilities to please somebody else will ultimately destroy that relationship and upon re-finding your strength, you become whole again.
"Signs": A family reacts to an alien invasion. Not really. It's about a minister re-finding his faith."
Focus on the drama and interaction between characters. Use tension to capture the audience's attention. Don't try to be overly flashy unless the story absolutely requires you to be. If that's the case, save the story until you have a bigger budget.

Scott Spears is an Emmy Award winning Director of Photography with 14 features under his belt.

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IMDb's Ask a Filmmaker

"Welcome to 'Ask a Filmmaker,' a column devoted to your questions and concerns about the filmmaking process."

This is an unbelievable goldmine of information. Ask a Filmmaker started as a column on the Indie section of IMDb in June of 2000. With an answer posting every couple of days for the last 7 years, well, I'll let you do the math. I'm too busy mining the archive for useful information.

The contributors are writer John August, director Penelope Spheeris, and cinematographer Oliver Stapleton.

"Submit your questions to Ask a Writer, Ask a Director, or Ask a Cinematographer, then tune in daily to see what the pros have to say."

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Adobe Premiere Elements Trial

"Adobe® Premiere® Elements 3.0 software makes creating and sharing impressive home videos a snap."

You can Order an Adobe Premiere Elements tryout DVD by mail. After filling out the form, it'll take six weeks for delivery of your tryout DVD. The DVD also contains a trial for Adobe Photoshop Elements.

If you can't wait six weeks, you can download a 30-day Premiere Trial.

To download software trials, you will need to register to become a member of the Adobe website. "As a member, you will have access to trial downloads, hundreds of free product extensions, and special community areas."

Supported import/export formats include:

  • MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 (import only), H.264, DV, AVI, Windows Media, QuickTime, JVC Everio MOD (import only), 3GP, ASF (import only), WAV, WMA (import only), Dolby Digital Stereo, PSD (import only), JPEG, PNG (import only), DVD
System requirements (Windows® only)
  • Intel® Pentium® 4 or Intel Celeron® 1.3GHz processor (or compatible processor with SSE2 support); dual-core processors and those with Hyper-Threading Technology supported; Pentium 4 3GHz processor required for HDV
  • Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional, Home Edition, or Media Center Edition with Service Pack 2
  • 512MB of RAM; 1GB required for HDV
  • 4GB of available hard-disk space
  • Color monitor with 16-bit color video card
  • 1,024x768 monitor resolution
  • Microsoft DirectX 9 compatible sound and display driver
  • DVD-ROM drive (compatible DVD burner required to burn DVDs)
  • DV/i.LINK/FireWire/IEEE 1394 interface to connect a Digital 8 or DV camcorder, or a USB2 interface to connect a DV-via-USB-compatible DV camcorder (other video devices supported via the Media Downloader)

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Download Avid Free DV for Editing

Avid Free DV is feature-streamlined, standalone software designed to give a user the opportunity to explore the Avid editing application.

Windows XP OS, 933 MHz Pentium III or any Pentium 4 or any Pentium M processor, 1 GB system memory (1.5 GB recommended).
Mac OS X 10.3.4 or OS X 10.3.5 667 MHz or faster G4, 1 GB system memory (1.5 GB recommended)

* Please Note: Newer versions of Mac OS X 10.4.x not supported with AvidFreeDV (until further notice)
These requirements are the same as those for Xpress Pro so that upgrading is made "easy". You may or may not have success running Free DV on slower machines.

Avid Free DV software is provided "as is." This means Avid does not guarantee this software's compatibility with any particular computer system, or various components installed on it. Avid Free DV should not be installed on a system with an Avid product already on it. Doing so could cause issues with the performance of both.

Here are the features:

2 Video Tracks / 2 Audio Tracks
2 Video/2 Audio Layers

Editing Tools
Drag-and-drop Editing
Insert, Overwrite
Superimpose, Fit-to-fill
3-Point editing
Roll, Ripple, Blade

Real-time architecture
16 Customizable Real-Time Effects
2 Real-Time Streams

Compositing & Effects
Basic compositing
Basic Keyframeable Filters & Effects
Avid Title Tool

Input Output Options
DV FireWire Capture
DV Scene Extraction
Timecode Display
QuickTime (MOV) encoding

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Download Open Office 2

I have been using Open Office applications for at least 3 years and am most impressed with Open Office 2. This is a full featured office application suite with many potential uses for independent filmmakers. You do not need to buy any software and the same suite can be installed on all of your crew's computers. It will open any Microsoft Office document and can save files in PDF format.

Writer can read all your old Microsoft Word documents and save your work in Microsoft Word format for sending to people who are still locked into Microsoft products.

All the individual programs are installed in one single installation of the suite.

Writer Writer
A full featured word processor. [Replaces MS Word]

Spreadsheet Calc
A powerful spreadsheet with all the tools you need to calculate, analyse, and present your data numerically or graphically. [Replaces MS Excel]

Presentation Impress
A way to create effective multimedia presentations. You can export your presentation as a Flash file which will allow you to post it on the web.
[Replaces MS PowerPoint]

Vector drawing tool Draw
Lets you produce everything from simple diagrams to dynamic 3D illustrations.

Database Base
Lets you manipulate databases seamlessly. This could be used to keep track of props, actors, budgets, locations, or any other detailed information required for production. [Replaces MS Access]

Mathematical function creator Math
Lets you create mathematical equations with a graphic user interface or by directly typing your formulas into the equation editor.

Mac OSX users can try Neo Office which is based on Open Office.

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Film Independent for those in CA

Film Makers. Film Leaders. Film Lovers.

A few days ago I posted the link to IFP. For those of you in California, this is the IFP for you. In May 2005, Film Independent became the new name for the organization formerly known as IFP/Los Angeles.

Film Independent produces the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Independent Spirit Awards (which take place on Feb. 24th, 2007).

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Free Documentary Filmmaking Comic

"A documentary is being filmed. A cell phone rings, playing the “Rocky” theme song. The filmmaker is told she must pay $10,000 to clear the rights to the song. Can this be true? “Eyes on the Prize,” the great civil rights documentary, was pulled from circulation because the filmmakers’ rights to music and footage had expired. What’s going on here? It’s the collision of documentary filmmaking and intellectual property law, and it’s the inspiration for this new comic book."
Bound By Law is a project of Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain. This comic helps readers to understand the idea of "fair use" and ownership of intellectual property. Even if you don't plan on shooting a documentary, the information is critical for any guerrilla filmmaker to understand .

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Independent Feature Project

"IFP is a 28-year old, not-for-profit membership and advocacy organization that supports and serves the independent film community by connecting creative talent and the film industry. Wide-reaching programs provide invaluable information, resources, networking and support to filmmakers while promoting film as a vital and influential public art form."


Independent Feature Project is the leading resource of the American independent film movement today. Its 9,000 filmmaker and film industry members participate year-round in activities ranging from popular screenings to cutting-edge workshops and seminars.

Offering invaluable assistance, information and access to the world of independent film, IFP programs help members make connections, and find out the latest on who's who, who's buying, who's financing and who's making what features, shorts and documentaries.

All IFP chapters offer similar benefits:
  1. Built-in Networking Opportunities at all events
  2. Multiple Funding and Grant Programs
  3. Hundreds of Preview and Premeire Screenings
  4. Career Advancement Seminars and Workshops
  5. Significant Production Discounts and Savings
  6. Complimentarty Subscription to FILMMAKER Magazine
  7. Corporate Visibility (for corporate members)
To join your local IFP chapter, you can register online here .

About is the home page for the independent film community - an indispensable tool for both the aspiring and veteran filmmaker. The site's frequently updated combination of news, feature articles, interviews, information resources and networking opportunities ensure that there's always something you haven't seen. A growing archive of educational and resource items make up the "Filmmaker's Library."

To join the and participate in the forums and read exclusive articles, you can register here.

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Free Screenwriting Program Celtx

The developers pronounce it "Kel-tix" with a hard C and derived the name from what the software would organize (Crew, Equipment, Locations, Talent, XML).

Celtx offers several unique features to screenwriters and anyone involved in pre-production. These include:

Writing Tools
Celtx includes two editors - one for writing properly formatted scripts and another for writing plain text documents. Celtx includes all the essential features that writers need, like auto save, intuitive formatting, plain text formatting, pagination, title page generation, scene management, printing, spellchecker, embedded notes, keyboard shortcuts, find and replace, importing and exporting, PDF and HTML script reports, and collaboration.

Multi and External Document Support
Add any document from any application to your Celtx Project.

Story Development Tools
Celtx comes with six pre-loaded forms for keeping track of details on backgrounds for characters and expanded scene details, track details on Locations, Props, Wardrobes and Actor Profiles.

Media Rich Breakdowns
Celtx allows you to create media rich breakdowns (including sound files, video clips, digital photos, scanned documents) in order to help pre-visualize and plan your project.

Element tagging
Celtx allows directors and writers to easily tag elements in thirty-five different categories, such as "wardrobe" and "greenery". These tagged elements can then be automatically transferred to a script breakdown, which allows production staffers to easily know what elements the script calls for. You can tag elements where they appear in the script and click on for more information like a webpage.

Calendar and Scheduling
Use the built in Calendar and Reports features to keep your Project organized.

Production Reports
Create lists of your props, dialogue, characters or needed wardrobe for you film project. You can also generate detailed breakdown reports by scene or department.

Celtx lets you share project information with other team member using the secure built in Celtx server.

Project Central
If you want to show your stuff to the world… upload your project to Project Central where the Others can provide feedback. You can also use Project Central to contact potential collaborators.

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Internet Movie Script Database

Internet Movie Script DatabasePerhaps trying to latch onto the success of IMdB, the Internet Movie Script Database contains many scripts to popular films and television shows. All of the scripts are html webpages. I'd much prefer to be able to download them in a PDF format like the other scripts I've linked to in past posts, but free is fine with me.

The site's disclaimer claims fair use rights for posting these scripts. For more information you can read the "Fair Use" section from U.S. Copyright law.

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Download John August's Scripts

This page contains .pdf versions of various projects I’ve written over the years. The best way to learn screenwriting is read a bunch of scripts, so these are intended for educational purposes only.
Reading screenplays written by seasoned professionals can really help a amateur out. From my own experience, one of the hardest things a beginning screenwriter faces is finding a way to accurately describe what he sees in his mind on paper.

John August has generously uploaded the final shooting scripts for Go and Big Fish. There are also film story outlines and television pilot scripts.

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Spielberg and Burnett want You

Think American Idol for aspiring filmmakers.

Spielberg and Burnett want You
Filmmakers (over age 13) from around the world can apply online from now until February 16th for a chance to appear on Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett's new reality show "On The Lot".

After narrowing down the applicants to sixteen contestants, the filmmakers will be split into four teams and provided with the necessary resources to produce a short film. Each week will focus on a different genre.

On The Lot will air two episodes a week, a one-hour “Film Premiere” episode and a half-hour “Box Office” episode.

In the “Film Premiere” episodes, the teams will show their short films to a live audience and panel of three judges (a motion picture executive, a prominent film critic, and a guest judge).

On the half-hour “Box Office” results show, the director of the losing feature will be sent home, leaving that team with fewer contestants to help produce the next week’s film.

“All through my career I’ve done what I can to discover new talent and give them a start,” Spielberg said. “This opportunity with Mark Burnett, DreamWorks and Fox allows all of us to reach out directly to open a much wider door.”

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The Poor Man's Steadycam

The Poor Man's SteadycamJohnny Chung Lee is a Ph.D. Graduate Student in Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon Univerisity, but most people know him as the guy who designed the $14 Steadycam.

He'll show you how you can build your own, or for $39.95, you can buy one pre-assembled. This is a invaluable tool to the student filmmaker. Professional units cost upwards of $1500. Most of us are blessed to use a camera that costs that much.

If you aren't convinced, just view his demo videos.

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The Last Mimzy Trailer

"Two siblings begin to develop special talents after they find a mysterious box of toys. Soon the kids, their parents, and even their teacher are drawn into a strange and sometimes terrifying world."
The Last Mimzy TrailerThis trailer reminds me of movies like E.T and Contact. I love that it's rated PG. This is director Robert Shaye's first directing job in 16 years (he last directed Book of Love in 1990). New child star Chris O'Neil might just be cinema's next Elliot. Rainn Wilson from (Dwight, from The Office) looks to be playing a more serious, fatherly role.

The Last Mimzy has caught my attention and I look forward to hearing more about it.

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