Hawaii Film School / Promoting Excellence In Digital Film Making

Start Your Filmmaking Career Making Games


Those wishing to become filmmakers probably do not consider the possibility that the video game sector could be the best place for them to start. After all, what do video games and film making have in common? Well, it turns out they intersect at cut scenes and at that point, film making and video games are simply different formats for story telling. This is one reason why we have started shifting our focus from traditional film making with physical cameras and equipment to the virtual world of game engines. And we would encourage aspiring filmmakers to consider doing the same thing. One big change this year was the introduction of Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN). This software now makes it possible to create sophisticated games in weeks as opposed to months and years. It brings game development (and story telling) within the reach of anyone who wants it.

DAFNSTORY recently made their first game in Fortnite---a language-immersion game. According to them, this game took about 3 weeks of full-time work to develop. Previously, this would have taken them six months to a year. What is interesting about the game, if you play it, is their use of cut scenes to move the game along and add to the story. And while these cut scenes are all less than 30 seconds and single shots, they are film making in the game universe and telling a story the same way they would have with any camera.

If you want to start a career in film making with no money and no physical cameras, you should consider getting into video game creation. And right now, with UEFN, there is no better time to get started.

Hawaii Film School on Hiatus


As a result of the pandemic, Hawaii Film School has been forced to temporarily shut down in-person instruction. We regret having to do this but see no other option at this time. We are seriously looking at moving to an online system of instruction but are just now researching what that might look like. We will update this home page once operations resume or we announce an online format. Thank you for your understanding during this time.

On-Location Audio Comedy Gold



We've all been affected by the recent COVID virus, so we thought we'd take a moment out for some humor. We recently saw this Kevin James video and found ourselves in stitches watching it. It is well produced, well conceived, and ironically, the sound is excellent. Kevin really seems to have found himself a niche with these "Sound Guy" videos. Enjoy!

Words Not Needed


When we started Hawaii Film School in 2011, we realized a basic truth about making films. You don't need words or dialogue. You need a story, acting, lighting, sound design, editing, music, and movement, and when these elements come together in just the right way, you can produce something that evokes emotion and becomes quite powerful. In March 2020, Kevin James released a short film that captures this concept beautifully. Watch it and see for yourself. No words are needed. The story is so simple, you'll wonder why you didn't think of it yourself. It is these simple moments from life that can represent all of life. A stop light can become a metaphor for your entire life, and it was all conveyed without a single spoken word.

The Micro Four Thirds Format Is Not Dead


GH5 Camera  

Since we recently acquired the Panasonic GH5 camera and now recommend it to students, we are a little late to the party with regard to the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) sensor debate. There are some people who believe the MFT format is either dead or dying, and therefore, they say it makes no sense to use a dead format. We completely disagree with the notion that the format is dead.

Why do we say this? To begin with, Panasonic has been making MFT cameras since 2009. And after more than a decade of making them, there are literally tens of thousands of these camera in circulation. Not only that, Panasonic continues to sell these cameras like hotcakes, not only because they are good cameras, but because they have lowered the prices significantly and offer a 3-year warranty, which is rarely seen in today’s market for anything electronic. But Panasonic is not alone in making MFT cameras. Olympus, Black Magic, and DJI also produce these cameras as well, so it is not as if this is a one-off situation where only one maker has created a unique format. Terry Lane has given this thoughtful response to some of the MFT critics, but we disagree with his conclusion that its future looks grim.

Even if you accept the radical notion that MFT is dead (which it clearly isn’t), extinction takes time, a lot of it. In fact, there are so many of these cameras around, you could argue that it is impossible for the format to die. There are simply too many of them in existence and hundreds of them are sold every day, day in and day out. In fact, for the cost of one Sony FS7, you could buy five GH5s ($1,300 x 5 = $6,500)!!

The critics of the MFT format like to cite two factors that make MFT inferior to the growing line of Full Frame (FF) cameras.

We will briefly respond to each.

The first is that MFT cameras can’t create as much bokeh as full frame cameras. This is true to some extent but it is not 100% true and is still not a compelling reason to get rid of the format.

First, if you take a FF and MFT camera, and use the same lens, the same camera-to-subject distance, and the same aperture, both cameras will produce exactly the same bokeh. The only difference is the MFT camera will be cropped in tighter.

In situations where you are trying to match focal lengths between an MFT and FF camera, a FF camera will produce “more” bokeh. However, we don’t really feel this is much of an argument to disband a sensor. In our entire shooting careers, we have never heard someone or anyone say they wish a background was more blurry. Blurry is blurry, so the bokeh argument is not reason enough to choose FF over MFT. For instance, with the picture of the GH5 at the top of this article, when you first saw the picture, did you tell yourself the background should be blurrier? Did you stop and say, "I wish that background had more blur. That amount of blur is just not working for me." No. Of course, you didn't. Blur is blur! And once something is blurry, the depth is gone and no one cares. Blurring something, by definition, means it is not important, and that is why it is blurred in the first place.

The second argument is that FF sensors have better low-light performance than MFT cameras. This is generally true; however, even FF sensors are not noise-free and can also struggle in low-light situations. In fact, the argument should be rephrased to say that FF cameras struggle less in low light than MFT cameras do.

For instance, even the venerable FF Sony A7S begins to show noise once ISO is increased beyond 3-4 stops. And even fantastic cameras like the Sony FS7, with its S35 sensor, are notoriously noisy in low light. So, to say that a camera or any camera is going to have issues in low light is nothing new, and given that there are many ways to address low-light problems such as using faster lenses and getting creative with available lighting, this argument too is no reason to abandon ship on MFT.

The bottom line is this. The MFT format has a proven track record, is made by at least four different major manufacturers, and is used (and loved) by tens of thousands of amateurs and professionals. Even if the format were to somehow disappear overnight, there are so many MFT cameras in existence, people would continue to use the format for the next decade. So fret not. MFT is not dead. It is not dying. And it would be be hard to kill even if you wanted to. In fact, it can be argued, as this gentleman has, that MFT could rise up and overtake the FF format.

The Panasonic GH5



We are constantly overwhelmed with the pace at which technology is changing and actually discourage students from focusing so much on gear. It is a cliche, but the camera operator is more important than the camera. When we first started Hawaii Film School, the low-budget camera we recommended was the Canon t2i. That was a great camera for its time, shot in HD, and allowed you to switch lenses and get a shallow depth of field. Not only does Canon no longer make that camera, but you can buy it used for less than $100 on eBay.

In our eyes, the next big revolution came with the Black Magic Cinema Camera, but that camera required lots of accessories and many work arounds to use successfully in the field. But still, it was an affordable cinema camera for its time. And like the Canon t2i, Black Magic no longer makes it and it can be picked up used on eBay for $500 or so.

And so here we are in 2019 and in the position of recommending a 4k camera for beginners. And though the entry price is above what we normally like to suggest, we would recommend the Panasonic GH5. There are many reasons we like this camera, but mostly we like it because it not only shoots true 4k internally, but it also allows subsampling at 10-bit 4:2:2. This means that you can get color-correctable, high quality video recorded internally with no need for external recorders or excessive add-ons. In addition, it all comes in a lightweight, unobtrusive package that is ideal for run-and-gun and documentary shooting.

So while it is a certainty that the GH5 will ultimately be replaced by better technology, for now, we believe it the best camera for the money in 2019 and even into 2020.

It is worth mentioning that the camera is priced just under $1,500 and if purchased before March 1, 2020, the warranty can be extended to three years. It is extremely rare to find a camera maker willing to offer a 3-year warranty like that. We would actually recommend purchasing an additional two years of coverage through a company like New Leaf, so then you would have 5 years of protection. It should be noted that for a fee of $25, New Leaf warranties can be transferred to another person if you should ever sell the camera.

Dealing With Negative Reviews


If you are a filmmaker, it is likely that at some point you are going to get a rejection or negative review of your work. In fact, the review might come very early in your career and be devastating. Because of this, we decided to discuss some ways to look at the situation.

First, it is completely normal if your reaction is one of anger, depression, or discouragement. No one likes being attacked, especially if it is done anonymously or viciously, so recognize that you are having a normal reaction and are not alone. And unfortunately, with the nature of the Internet, there is no shortage of reviewers and desktop warriors. 

Before you completely disregard a negative review, determine if it is constructive or destructive. If the review is destructive, it will not contain any specific examples of what is wrong. Instead it will contain general statements such as "This is trash" or "Terrible writing. Terrible acting." If the review is constructive, it should offer specific examples of what is wrong and what could have been done to make it better. In short, if it is specific and has suggestions, it has more credibility and may be of use; if it is hostile and generic, then it is of no help and says more about the reviewer than you.

Be aware that critics are only human and subject to the same flaws in thinking and behavior as everyone else. Often critics fall victim to the halo effect and say an entire movie is awful when it was only a few things that rubbed them the wrong way. For instance, if the critic doesn't like the looks of the leading actors for whatever reason, then it's likely he or she will despise the entire film. But you won't hear that anything was positive. All you will hear is that everything was horrendously awful. And sadly, once a few negative reviews roll in, others can quickly succumb to peer pressure and pile on. Don't think for a second that other critics don't factor in what others are saying. Unfortunately, among today's critics, it is rare to find a fair and balanced review. Reviews seem to be a contest about who can come up with the most creative one-liner insults. The reviews are frequently skewed at the expense of the entire cast and crew and in the eyes of the maligned critic, all is bad and nothing is good, not even one scene or line of dialogue!

If a review is constructive, be gracious about it and take it under advisement, but don't dwell on it and move on. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and it is a proven fact you can't please everyone, so don't try to. You can't change the past and make everyone happy. You can only strive to do better in the future. But remember, you should be consistent and only accept generic praise with the same skepticism as generic criticism. In other words, a simple "thumbs up" might feel good but without specifics it doesn't help you to improve your work. Just as you are probably not doing everything wrong, you most certainly have areas where you could do better. This is especially true given the multiple layers and complexities that go into a movie.

If a review is destructive, let it go. It is a fire with no escape. There is no path for redemption and dwelling on it can serve no purpose. Given the unhelpful nature of many reviews, it is completely understandable why some filmmakers don't read them at all. And certainly, there is some wisdom in that.

WIth all this said, negative reviews can still hurt. That's exactly their intention. If you still find the criticism bothering you, take some time to analyze why it is bothering you so much and what you might do to resolve it. Try writing about the experience. Writing, like filmmaking, can be a therapeutic process, and help you to put things in a better perspective. More than likely, you will realize the critique has more to do with the critic than with you, and is only one person's opinion at one point in time.

(You can also use this time as an opportunity to reflect on yourself as a critic and ask yourself if you have been or are being a constructive critic. If nothing else, perhaps this experience will help you to have more finesse and choose your own words more wisely when criticizing others.)

You might think of it this way. When you make a movie, it is similar to raising children. You do the best you can with what you have, but ultimately your children grow up and go their own way. And even though they haven't done anything wrong per se, some people may not like them. Is that your fault? Is that your children's fault? Or are your children blank screens upon which others project their own psychological issues? In a way, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that you know in your heart the type of children you were trying to raise and all the work that went into the process. The generic opinions of strangers are irrelevant, just as yours would probably be to them. Do you give up on your children because some people don't like them? 

And finally, art is often completely subjective. There can be standards, but there is no right or wrong. It is in the eyes of the beholder. It is quite common for people to either love or hate a piece of art. This doesn't make your work bad or wrong. Some people hate broccoli. Does this mean that broccoli is bad? Of course not.

None of this should be taken to mean that there is no such thing as a bad movie, that is, a movie you don't like, or that your work can't use improvement. The main point is that many reviews aren't helpful and aren't trying to be, so the burden is on you to decide which ones are and which ones aren't but even doing that is an unpleasant process because you've got to read them in the first place. This is why it is completely understandable why some filmmakers don't read the reviews at all---most simply aren't helpful. And with destructive reviews and those who write them, it goes beyond that---they are meant to be hurtful and say more about the personality of the reviewer than anything else. And in filmmaking, the irony of ironies is that even so-called bad movies can still be fun to watch while some so-called great movies can be too disturbing to ever see again. So, in a sense, you can say that bad is good and good is bad and again, it can all be quite subjective.

 In 1991, Steven Spielberg made what can be considered one of the worst films of his career. And despite having already established himself as a big name in Hollywood, nothing stopped the critics from piling on and trashing the film. His next two films were two of the greatest he ever made, including Schindler's List, which is considered one of the greatest films ever made. If he had let the critics get to him, and he stopped making movies, we might have never seen Schindler's List. It's a good thing he didn't get discouraged and neither should you. 

In the end, being unfairly criticized is part of the price you must pay for making films or creating any art for that matter. It comes with the territory. If you look at some of the greatest films ever made, they are not without their critics. It doesn't take any heart or skill to tear something down, but it takes a great deal of heart, if not skill, to make a film, even one that is not well received. So don't give up. Don't despair. Pursue your filmmaking passion with grace and humility. The only person you really have to make happy is yourself, and in many ways, that is also the ultimate challenge in life.

Godzilla vs King Kong (2018)


godzilla vs king kong

This month we couldn't help but notice that Godzilla vs King Kong (2020) is currently filming on the South Shore of Oahu. Pictured above is a location at Lanai Lookout, just one of many spots they have commandeered on the island. They brought in three van-sized set pieces for this location (not pictured) and those were lowered by a crane to a ledge closer to the sea. Unfortunately, the weather today was not fully cooperating as is to be expected in Hawaii. But the production came prepared with tents and everything you could possibly need to weather a passing shower. In Hawaii, rain is considered a blessing, so, for today at least, the production was blessed.

Whether you are shooting a feature film or low-budget short, shooting on location is never without issues. Usually, you want to have control over as many variables as possible, but when you are shooting on location, you tend to lose control and that is where the challenges often lie. You can't control the clouds, the wind, or the rain, but if you've got the budget, you might be able to control ground traffic; however, not even big productions can control air traffic. And so, you have to scout your locations carefully and have plans to deal with the issues that may arise.  When scouting locations, it is often advisable to check the location at both day and night, shoot test footage, and get some sample audio. This will help identify potential problem areas you might not be aware of.

Of special note is that while they are recording on-location sound, the dialogue will probably have to  be replaced (ADR) in post. The production is too close to the main road and they didn't shut down traffic. Also, depending on the surf, they would also be getting excessive ocean noise unless, of course, that's a part of the story, and they want that ambience.

The obvious advantage to shooting on location is that you often get a degree of realism and authenticity that would not be possible otherwise. In the end, it is often a trade-off or compromise. If you want total control, then  you need to get a sound stage and build a set. If you are prepared to deal with less control and want more realism, then you can shoot on location. Unfortunately, it is your or somebody else's wallet that will make the final decision.   

3D Computer Graphics Training (9-month program)


 light wave

As of March 2019, we now offer a 9-month training course in 3D computer graphics using LightWave 2019. This is a unique opportunity for Hawaii residents as there is no program on the island that comes close to ours in terms of quality and cost. You will not be able to find a more flexible, fun, and affordable option like this anywhere in the world, let alone in Hawaii. It is a 9-month program with classes held once each week on Sunday evenings in Kaneohe. The curriculum has been carefully designed to make sure you are learning the key skills necessary to become an independent or freelance 3D generalist, and upon finishing the course, you will receive a certifcate of completion. Start dates occur in March, June, September, and December of each year.

With the advent of virtual reality and other technologies, 3D graphics will be a valuable skill to know not only now but far into the future. This training program is project-based and will cover all the essential areas of 3D graphics including modeling, surfacing and texturing, lighting, 3D camera work, rigging, animation, particle and fluid dynamics, and rendering. Once you are done, you will have a comprehensive knowledge of 3D and will be able to continue on your own as a visual artist and filmmaker. 

The truth is some things simply cannot be filmed either because they don't exist in reality or would be dangerous or impossible to film; therefore, computer graphics are absolutely necessary for filmmaking and visual storytelling. They give filmmakers the tools they need to create almost anything they can imagine. Another truth is that learning 3D is not easy and requires some commitment or in this case, a 9-month one.

If you are interested in learning more about this course, please follow this link.

Movie Magic Producer Award (2018)


jason oh

Congratulations to Jason Oh for winning the 2018 Movie Magic Producer Award. The award is given to students who show talent and a strong work ethic and passion for filmmaking. In addition to the award, Jason also received $100. The award was made possible by Movie Magic.

Happy Valentine's Day 2018


This short film really caught our eye. It was filmed using a 360-degree green screen and required months of background CGI work to create the intersection. The clever use of slow-motion reversal was a stroke of pure genius. We've said this before, but notice how some of the most powerful short films use no dialogue. We have come to realize that in emotionally powerful moments words or the use of dialogue often fails and can deaden or cheapen the moment. In other words, if it can be shown, show it---don't tell it. It is also interesting how the scene is shown as a long single take, but in that take, it creates a series of questions, then answers each question as it rewinds.

You Need A Vision To Be A Good Director


This is an excellent expose about personality style as it relates to directing. Do you need to be a jerk to be a good director? Do you need to be a nice guy?

Without giving away too much, you need to have a vision and stay true to seeing that vision through. Whether you are nice or mean doesn't seem to matter as much as seeing your vision realized. And having a vision only makes sense. If you don't have a vision, then how are you going to communicate what you want if you don't know yourself?

Best Low Light Settings For The Sony FS7


Sony FS7 Low Light

If you have the Sony FS7, you may be wondering what the best low light settings are. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. A lot of it depends on your shooting preferences, your grading skills, and the project you are working on. Click image to enlarge.

To begin, no matter what camera you are shooting with, when you are shooting in low light, there are three main tips that apply. Here they are in no particular order.
1) Use the fastest lens you can find, generally F 1.8 or faster.
2) Take advantage of any available or practical light in the scene already. For instance, if there is a street light available, consider moving closer to it. If it is a dark room and there is a lamp, consider moving your subject closer to it.
3) Try to do steps 1 and 2 before increasing your ISO or gain. Increasing ISO or gain increases digital noise in the image, and generally, it is best to stay at the sensor's native or lowest ISO setting for the cleanest image.

Now, when it comes to the FS7, you can shoot in Custom or CINE EI Mode. For the purposes of this discussion, we are limiting ourselves to Custom Mode. You can figure that whatever we say about SLOG 2 or 3 in Custom Mode pretty much applies to SLOG 2 and 3 in CINE EI, although shooting in CINE EI Mode has a larger color space and other differences as well.

The main issue we are looking at here is which is the best Gamma setting for shooting in low light. It is worth noting that there is no strong consensus on this issue, though there are strong opinions. Some filmmakers have made a compelling case for shooting in Hypergamma 3 or 7 and others have argued for Slog 2 and 3. The answer really seems to be that it depends on you, your comfort level with grading, and what you are trying to accomplish. Below we discuss the pros and cons of each setting.

Hypergamma 3 (HG3) has a a dynamic range of 325%, a base ISO of 800, and puts middle gray at 40%. In our tests, it produced a clean but dark image and still benefited from a little grading; however, when graded, the image also became even darker. Because HG3 has a lower ISO and captures more data per stop than the others in this comparison, the image is relatively noise free. And since its base ISO is 800, you should be able to increase to 1600 with no apparent ill effects. Alister Chapman has stated that HG 3 is his preferred Hypergamma for low light.

Hypergamma 8 (HG 8) has a dynamic range of 800%, a base ISO of 1600, and puts middle gray at 40%. It has 3 stops more range than the Standard Gammas do. HG7 is a good, all-purpose setting that can be used at day or night. It captures more range than HG3, but also needs grading in post. Its image appears less bright than SLOG 2 and 3. If you had to shoot at night with less than 6-7 stops of light, then this is certainly a viable option to shoot with.

SLOG 2 has a dynamic range of up to 14 stops, a base ISO of 2000, and puts middle gray at 32%. It clips at 107 IRE and puts most of its data above middle gray. It absolutely requires grading in post and in our tests, seemed to do a better job of masking noise in the darker areas. However, that doesn't mean that SLOG 3 can't be brought down just the same in post as a SLOG 2. In fact, a LUT can be applied to both and the differences between them are subtle. It seems that SLOG 2 might not be a bad choice and offers a compromise between HG 8 and SLOG 3. There are mixed opinions about using SLOG 2 for low light but at least one FS7 power user has said it was clearly superior to the other options, that is, based on his tests.  More than likely, you will need to use noise reduction software when using SLOG 2 or 3.

SLOG 3 also has a dynamic range of up to 14 stops, a base ISO of 2000, and puts middle gray at 41%. It clips at 93 IRE and puts most of its data into the midtones and lower. From the image, you can see it produces the brightest image, but also produces the most visible noise, which needs to be corrected in post. SLOG 2 has the same signal-to-noise ratio as SLOG 3, so it doesn't produce more noise than SLOG 2; it is just that it is more visible.  There are filmmakers who acknowledged that it might be overkill at night, but argue convincingly that it can be graded into anything you want it to be. In essence, they are stating it can be made to look like any Hypergamma footage. And not only like it, but better, especially if there are bright lights in the nighttime scene.

So, as with the A7S, what's the bottom line to all this? Which is the best gamma? Well, it just depends, mostly on you. The best practical advice we can offer is to get out there and shoot some test scenes for yourself using the different gammas. Bring them back to your editing suite and see how they hold up to correction. However, as one power user has mentioned, you might get a better overall image by increasing gain in the camera rather than increasing it in post, especially with HG 3. As far as we can tell, all the gammas benefit from grading to some extent. Whether it is day or night, SLOG 2 (and 3) always require grading. For beginners, HG 7 would be a safe bet, especially if you are not comfortable with grading. For SLOG, SLOG 2 appears to mask noise better than SLOG 3 but both have the potential to be graded up and down to look nearly the same. It is really a question of contrast vs noise and how comfortable you are with grading. If you don't even want to deal with it in the first place, then HG 3 or 7 is the way to go. HG 3 = Least Visible Noise, Darkest Image while SLOG 3 = Most Visible Noise, Brightest Image. We should also mention that the still images above do not really show the noise that was apparent from the actual video and all the images had the same amount of correction applied. In low light situations, most people recommend shooting with the fastest lens, working with available light creatively, and realizing that you are dealing with a limited range of light to begin with.  And, of course, log curves were designed to capture more stops of light, not less, and benefit from overexposure, something that is difficult to do in a no or low light situation. In that case, best to bring in at least one bright light. 

It has been pointed out to us that Hypergamma 7 would actually be a better choice than Hypergamma 8 for low-light situations because its middle gray value is higher and better suited for low light. So, if you are going to use a Hypergamma for low light and were thinking about Hypergamma 8, use Hypergamma 7 instead.

The Simon Principle


the simon principle

The Simon principle is the idea that a well-composed static or locked shot is better than a moving shot that makes no sense or has no story value. The principle, to the best of our knowledge, was first articulated in a video by Joe Simon, an Austin-based filmmaker. Unfortunately, for unknown reasons, that video is no longer available, but we were fortunate enough to have watched it and took notes. In the video, which was actually discussing the benefits of using a particular brand of camera slider, Mr. Simon noted that camera movements convey certain feelings, and those feelings need to match the point of the shot. He used a hypothetical example of filming a couple arguing in a house, then cutting to another shot that was dollying out on the house. In that example, he argued that the dolly out movement made no sense because the filmmaker was introducing us to the characters in the first shot, then distancing us from them in the next. In other words, the move contradicted the scene and made no sense for the story.

We are well aware that many directors like movement because it adds interest and "looks cool," but we believe that is a short-sighted approach. If the camera is constantly moving or moving just to move, then at a certain point, all movements start losing value. It would be like someone constantly saying, "This is important" before every sentence. After a while, you'd just tune it out. And sadly, we have seen You Tube gurus advocating camera movement for the sake of movement alone. Again, if the movement has no meaning or does nothing thematically, then the movement is meaningless. Saying that movement adds interest is like saying that when you are talking to someone you need to constantly keep moving your hands to hold their interest. That's absurd, no? There are times for movement and there are times for holding still. A good filmmaker should have a reason for what the camera is doing.

With regard to camera movement and movement in general, our best advice to filmmakers is this: Compose the best image you can, and if it makes sense or adds story value to move the camera to the next shot, then move the camera. However, keeping the Simon principle very much in mind, if the move makes no sense or adds no value, then simply cut to the next shot. And make sure that next shot adds more meaning or is significantly different from the shot you are already on. Otherwise, stay where you are.

Another option is to come up with one or two words that describe the feeling you are trying to convey in the scene, then asking yourself if what you are doing is conveying that. Think before you shoot. If you don't know what you are trying to say, then how is anyone else supposed to know?  

Now That's What We Call A Green Screen


green screen

We happened to be passing by the Hawaii Film Studio and couldn't help but notice a fairly massive green screen. We drive by the studio quite a lot and in all the years we have been in Hawaii (which is over 15), we have never seen them construct a green screen on this scale. Given Hawaii's weather, we can't imagine it will be up for very long.

A couple of interesting things to note about green screens are:

1) Sunlight is actually a great way to light a green screen and can completely get rid of shadows on the screen.
2) One of the biggest things that will ruin a good green screen is green spill. That is, green-tainted light bouncing off the green screen and on to the subject. If too much green gets on the subject, it can be very difficult to get a clean key. Therefore, it is important to keep your subject as far from the screen as possible. But in limited space, sometimes this is very difficult to do.
3) Due to issues such as green spill, blue screens are actually a better choice for blonde actors. Blue spill looks better than green.

Obviously, you have to have a fair amount of resources to build something this big and on your own lot! But with creativity and planning, you can pull off some fairly impressive effects with a portable green screen and some ingenuity. Later this year, we will be working on a project involving green screen effects and will keep you posted on how to do this on a budget. A green or blue screen really lies at the heart of all special effects and obviates rotoscoping, and though rotoscoping is an essential skill, it is by no means easy and takes a lot of time and patience; hence, if you can do the effect using a screen, then that truly is the way to go.

Here's a very nice cheat sheet card, which covers almost everything you need to know about using a green screen, including chroma-keying.

A Primer on the Sony A7S Cine Gamma Curves


sony a7s cine gamma curve

If you have the Sony A7S, you may be wondering about the utility of its cine gamma curves. Well, here's a quick primer to help you.

The point of the gamma curves is to increase the dynamic range of your camera from 7 to 11-12 stops and give you an in-camera look that doesn't necessarily require grading. That's a huge improvement. One advantage of these curves is that they process the video signal before compression occurs, thus giving you image control while maintaining image quality. However, when you use a curve or picture profile, you need to make sure that the exposure or contrast you want is in the original recording as it will not be possible to bring proper exposure and contrast back in post. In other words, when you are using a gamma curve, if it clips black or white, that data is lost and can't be brought back. So, the gamma curves are great in that you can extend your dynamic range, but then you need to be careful to get a proper exposure on what you want light and dark. It is also worth noting that Cine 1 and 2 have a base ISO of 100 and Cine 3 and 4 have a base ISO of 200. By way of contrast (pun intended), S-Log has a base ISO of 3,200!

The A7S comes with four Cine gamma curves. The below information is paraphrased and excerpted directly from Sony. Each one is discussed below:

This has a dynamic range of 460% when the waveform monitor shows an 18% middle gray card is at 33% IRE. On a waveform monitor, this profile has a maximum IRE of 109% and anything above that will clip, which means it is forever white and can't be brought down in post. In practical terms, this is a good gamma curve for high contrast scenes and bright sunny days. Sony  states this gamma curve softens contrast in dark parts, emphasizes gradations in bright parts, and produces "a relaxed color movie."

Exactly the same as Cine 1 except middle gray is at 30% and the brightest parts of the image clip at 100%. Sony claims this makes it "optimized for editing" with a 100% video signal.

Middle gray is assumed to be at 33% and it clips on highlights at 109%. It has more overall contrast in light and shade than Cine 1 and 2 and places more emphasis on gradations in the darker part of the image. It is considered to be a middle of the road gamma curve between Cine 1 and 4.

Middle gray is assumed to be at 33% and this clips at 109% IRE. It has more contrast in the darker parts of the image than Cine 3. Also, when compared to the Sony Movie gamma, the contrast in dark parts is lower and the contrast in the brighter parts is higher. Overall, it is probably safe to say this curve has the greatest contrast and is good for low-light situations.

The A7S also comes with Color Modes that can be paired with each Gamma Curve. Sony has designed a Cinema Color Mode specifically for use with the Cine gamma curves. In addition to that, there is a Pro mode, which tends to emphasize skin tones and make them punchier. And finally, there is an S-Gamut mode, which is a proprietary Sony color space. This color space is meant specifically for being graded. This means that if you apply that mode, you are expected to grade the image in post and not leave as is.

So what's the bottom line to all this? Which curve and mode should you choose? Sony says that if you are working on a project with lots of time for post-production or a short piece, then you should probably use the S-Gamut mode and thereby have the greatest creative latitude in post. However, if you are working on a long project or have a tight deadline and don't want to spend the summer sitting in front of your computer, then you should consider using the Cinema color mode. Any of the Cine curves and color modes can be graded, but only lightly. If you are shooting with the AVC internal codec, which is good for what it is, it still breaks down fairly quickly once effects are added in post.

The bottom line is to try and get the look you want in-camera as much as possible because even with S-gamut, the 8-bit AVC codec does not hold up well to extensive grading. And fortunately, with these curves and modes, you can get pretty close to the image you want in-camera, that's why the curves and modes are there in the first place.

Think of it this way.  When you are planning a party, what factors into your decisions? Well, usually that's what the party is for, how much money you have, and how much time you have to prepare, right?

S-LOG MODE: Master Chef prepares the meal, time and money not an issue.
CINE MODES: Event is catered, but still very nice. Time and money are a concern.
MOVIE MODE / REC 709: Pizza is delivered. Time and money are everything. Just get it done.

In the end, the decision you make depends on time and purpose.

Click here for a visual reference.

Kino Flo Lamps Are A Cheap Kino Flo Alternative


kino flo lights

With the low-light spy camera known  as the Sony A7S,  it is easy to forgot about the importance of lighting. But what type of lighting do you use if you don't have that camera? And why are lights  so expensive?

In terms of lighting options, you have the sun, which is great because it is free, but it is bad because it is unpredictable and hard to control. You have LEDs, which are cool to the touch and low power, but they tend to be expensive and the quality of the light varies depending on the manufacturer. Full spectrum LEDs are even more expensive. You have incandescent lights, which are affordable, but they get hot and are warm in color, which may or may not work for your scene. You can apply CTB gels to cool the color off, but that greatly reduces their efficiency. And, of course, you have HMI Par lights, which are still the standard in most of the industry, but they are expensive, get very hot, and usually require portable generators. And this leads us to our last option, which is fluorescent lights. These lights are not full spectrum and are similiar to LEDs in that they stay cool, but they can cast green light and also cause an issue with flickering.

One company that has addressed the shortcomings of fluorescents lights is Kino Flo, which has a very good reputation in the industry. Kino Flo lights are flicker free and have a near perfect spectrum of light. However, like LEDs, Kino Flo lights are not cheap either, so it seems you are back to square one. Or are you?

One alternative to the more expensive Kino Flo lights is...well...Kino Flo lights! That's right. You can actually get Kino Flo lights with a screw-in base and turn ordinary lamps and fixtures into Kino Flo lights.

These lights, which cost about $25 each, have the output equivalent of a standard 100 watt lightbulb, so just a handful of them could provide plenty of quality light for any given scene. The advantages are these lights are cool, flicker free, and provide a nearly perfect spectrum of light. And since you are only paying for the lamps and they can fit in any standard lamp fixture, they are an affordable way to light your scene. At the current price point, the truth is you can get up to 800 watts of cool quality light for $200 and still honestly say that you use Kino Flos with a wink. All you really need is a carrying case and some padding and you can use existing light fixtures to light your scene or just get a cheap multi-socket fixture and light stand. 

The Case for Zebras


This is one of the best tutorials we have ever seen on using zebras to get a proper exposure. Getting consistent exposure among your shots means that your shots should generally match each other in post production. In other words, inconsistent exposure is the biggest reason why shots are often mismatched. Using zebra patterns can help ensure consistency. 

And speaking of skin tones, it is worth noting that the color temperature of light also makes a difference depending on skin color. If someone is light skinned, then warmer lights around 3,200 K are flattering and give a warmer glow to the skin. Daylight colors around 5,600 K can make light skinned people look pale and washed out. Interestingly, the opposite is true for dark skin. For darker skin, daylight temps around 5,600 K (aka sunlight) provide nice facial highlights while warmer colors (aka 3,200 K or incandescent lighting) will appear yellow and unnatural.

4k Is Coming, But High Definition Isn't Dead Yet


Technology is changing faster than many of us can keep up with, not only for digital filmmakers, who tend to be on the front edge of many changes, but for everyday consumers. One question that comes up a lot is the necessity of shooting in 4K (Ultra High Definition, 3840 x 2160) versus High Definition (1920 x 1080).  Note : Ultra high definition is double the  resolution of high definition, that is, 1920 x 2 = 3840, and 1080 x 2 = 2160. There is no question that 4k televisions are here and soon those will be the only type of TV sets you can buy.  But the real question is: If you shoot in 4k, will you be able to deliver it in 4k and have it be seen in 4k?

For now, 4k is primarily delivered by way of streaming services. There are virtually no 4k DVD players and no 4k discs. So, if you shoot in 4k, the content will have to be streamed or played directly into the TV from the camera itself or through a hard or flash drive.

Ostensibly, the primary reason to shoot in 4k or ultra high-definition is for greater detail and the ability to crop in on a shot without losing resolution. If you film a project in 4k and it is destined for Blu-Ray or the Internet, then it will have to be downconverted to 1920 x 1080 any way. Some filmmakers swear by 4k and others are continuing to get good results shooting in high definition alone. Interestingly, Vegas Pro now has an upscaling function that allows you to convert high definition footage into 4k. We haven't tested it yet, but we suspect more and more video editing programs will allow that capability. If upscaling looks good, then that is just another reason to stay in the high-definition world for now.

There is no question that 4k is coming and the TVs are already here now. However, outside of streaming services, there are no discs to play 4k and only a couple of players capable of playing 4k content. There is certainly no harm in shooting in ultra high-definition and downconverting to high definition, but it does not necessarily give you any tremendous advantage over shooting in high definition as it exists now.

If we had to look into our crystal ball, we would say that by 2025, 4k will probably take over Blu-Ray as the next standard in digital playback. However, we are definitely in a transition right now and there is no reason to abandon high definition just yet, especially if upscaling delivers satisfactory results.  It is also interesting that some filmmakers say that they don't like look of true 4k and complain that it looks too clear and real, but we suspect this feeling will change as more and more films display at a higher resolution.

KICKSTARTER As A Funding Source


If you are looking to fund an independent film or project, then you should take a look at crowd-sourcing the project through a site like KICKSTARTER. However, if you are requesting funding for shooting a film, then there are two things you must keep in mind.

First, you must do a promotional video. Prospective backers want to see a video of your proposal and statistically, promotions without a video do not get funded. It is as simple as that.

And second, your video must be well done, authentic, and convey a sense of your passion. Especially for a film project, if you can't shoot a halfway decent video, then how are you going to expect backers to think your film will be any better?

There are a couple of downsides to all this. One is that you must reach 100% of your goal or you don't get anything. For this reason, many consider INDIE GO-GO as an alternative because you don't have to reach 100% of your goal to get the funding. The other issue is the disappointment that can come with not reaching your goal and getting funded. Just remember that doesn't mean your project is not great; it just means, that for whatever, the stars didn't align for you, so don't take it personally and keep pursuing your passion.

On a side note, we recently stumbled across a KICKSTARTER promotion for DARKFALL and thought it was quite well done. However, it doesn't look like the creator, R. Paul Wilson, is going to meet his goal. Again, that does not mean his project is not a good one.

Muvizu For Previsualization



As the world turns it seems that more studios are turning to previsualization (previs) as a way of saving time and money. How so? Well, instead of shooting a film first and doing test screenings on the back end to see what's wrong, they are doing previs screenings on the front end and then shooting the movie. In short, they are trying to get it right straight out of the gate. Of course, the quality of the previs screenings is nowhere close to the final product, but it is close enough to let an audience weigh in on the story essentials.

Previs has earned its place as a legitimate tool in filmmaking as it allows you to test shots without the hassle and expense of shooting them, and it allows you to find problems you might not have considered. However, some previs software is expensive, and storyboard artists don't come cheap either. One option that we recently stumbled upon is Muvizu. And get this: It's free. And the unlocked version only costs $30, which you can install on up to three computers. The main drawback is that the scenes and props are limited and the characters have exaggerated features and  limited movements, but for what it does, there is not much to really criticize. And on the upside, it allows you to place up to four cameras in 3-D space and move the cameras and characters in any direction. It is an amazing package for what it does and what it costs.

We have only recently been playing around with it, but so far, we like it a lot and are planning on using it for previs and teaching basic camera and lighting concepts. So far, here are a couple of tips on using it.

1. If you get the unlocked version, be sure to install the program as the administrator. Right click on the installation and click Run As Administrator; if you don't, it won't accept the license key.

2. Learn the keyboard shortcuts for moving around in the workspace; it is much faster and easier than using the mouse.

3. Render your footage as a .png sequence. So far, we haven't had any luck in rendering .avi uncompressed video, but the image sequences work fine and provide the highest quality. We are still experimenting with some of the codec options, but so far, the quality is not anywhere close to the .png sequences.

We really like this software program and feel it has tremendous potential as a teaching and previs tool.

Know Your Pick-Up Patterns


This video does an excellent job of explaining why a cardioid pick-up pattern is probably your best bet for an on-camera microphone. There is a world of audio knowledge in this short video, and it is well worth watching if you are a one-person crew or doing run-and-gun style shooting. And speaking of worthwhile, Juiced Link also has a great little e-book on recording quality sound. Recording professional quality sound is what separates the amateurs from the professionals and usually we can tell within seconds of watching a film if the sound was recorded professionally or not.

Four Tips for Making a Short Film     



Making a short film or any film for that matter can be a lot of amazing fun, but it can also be stressful and filled with problems. I recently made a short film, Hungry, which was based on the idea of consumerism and greed during the holiday season. The script took about three months to write and iron out the kinks. I was able to shoot it in early February 2015, and I have to say even though I had prepared for everything, or thought I had, the shoot was rough. Here are the major issues that came up and how I worked through them.

Location needs to be your first consideration when shooting a film. My film took place in a used clothing store, and I wanted the store to seem like it had been there for decades. I went location scouting because I knew beforehand that my budget was NOT going to allow me to build a set on a soundstage or even rent a soundstage, so I set out to find the perfect location. It took me a week of driving around Los Angeles and looking at close to 15 shops. There were two that I thought might do but nothing that reached out and grabbed me until I happened upon the shop I ultimately shot in. It was an amazing location. I knew immediately it was the one. The takeaway is to take your time and really look for the location that you want. Do not settle for less unless you absolutely have no choice.

This is where my shoot became a nightmare, and ironically, I didn’t know it until I got into editing. There were some shots I wanted to film that my director of photography (DP) felt would be perfect for the Ronin, a smaller electronic version of a Steadicam. Unfortunately my DP was not experienced with this piece of equipment and because there was no way to hook it up to a monitor, there was no way for me to catch any mistakes that might have made it into the frame. As a result, almost a quarter of the shots were severely compromised because there were lights, stands, and all sorts of equipment in them. And no matter what I tried to do in editing, I just could not clean up the footage. This forced me to do a reshoot in other locations, including my own garage! The moral of the story is two-fold. First, always make sure that your crew knows what they are doing with the equipment. And second, always have a second set of eyes looking at the frame. Do not rely on just one person to make sure it’s right.

Another major thing that happened was a lack of communication with my hair/makeup artist beforehand to let him know exactly what I had envisioned for my leading lady. After I was done setting up the first shot on the first day, I went in the dressing room and saw my leading lady in a wig and make-up style that was  clearly not what I had in mind. I felt as if I had been sucker punched, so now I was two hours behind and hadn’t gotten my first shot in the can yet. Instead of panicking, I just let them finish and went outside and calmed down. I tried to think of a way out of this. Using the situation to my advantage, I ended up adding a scene that showed her removing the wig and make-up and worked it into the story. And it totally worked! If you see the film, you will see what I mean. And I have to say that this was the magic that occurred on this shoot. I don’t mean to sound silly or superstitious but there has been a little magic that has happened on every one of my films, so now I actually look forward to seeing what will come my way during each project.

After all is said and done, there were some major things that really messed with my head during the making of this film, but I have to say that by trying to relax and not go berserk in the face of these challenges, I was able to get through all the problems. And it ultimately worked out because even though it took me almost four months to edit the film, I was able to create something that I am really proud of and love. And the best part of it all is that the film has been well received at festivals and has won two awards so far.

No matter how much planning you put into your film, nothing will completely prepare you for all the challenges that are bound to arise. But with patience and staying calm you can come up with solutions to these problems when they come up. And often the solution will be so much better than the initial idea. Just trust in the magic that always seems to come to those who create.

John Montana is a professional actor and filmmaker living with his wife in Los Angeles. His award-winning film Hungry has been shown at numerous film festivals internationally. Check out more of his work at No Title Production Films.

Filmmaking Books


Tom Antos shares some of his recommendations for filmmaking books. In case you don't subscribe to his You Tube channel, we highly recommend it. He produces solid tutorials on almost every aspect of filmmaking. We especially like that he is sensitive to cost and often creates affordable and practical solutions to shooting on a low or limited budget. In the past, he has built dollies, aerial drones, and car-mounted rigs. His philosophy is simple: Work with what you have. You don't need expensive gear to succeed. He really is the MacGyver of filmmaking. It is nice to hear from a professional filmmaker that books are still relevant in today's digital age.

Codec Confusion


Of all the technical marvels, probably one of the most underrated and misunderstood of all time is the science of video compression and decompression. If you know anything about video compression and decompression or CODECS, you know that it is extremely complicated. And the fact that humans figured out how to do it is nothing short of amazing.

But on a practical level, most people probably don't take the time to understand it as fully as they should. This can really hit a beginning filmmaker hard when he or she goes to render footage that they shot and are presented with a long list of possible options and don't have the slightest clue about which one to use.

We were recently reminded of this when a student went to render footage out of Da Vinci Resolve 12 on a Windows-based PC. As it turns out, Resolve isn't licensed to output Pro Res 422 HQ on a PC, so even though the footage was shot and encoded as Pro Res, it cannot be rendered out in that format, and so, another format has to be chosen. But then the question is which one do you choose?

Just under the Quick Time option in the Render settings, there are 29 choices, 19 of which are flavors of DNxHD. Well, as it turns out, if you make your way through the choices selectively, the list of 29 soon gets smaller and smaller until you are only left with perhaps 3-4 choices.

In this case, the search for a Pro Res 422 equivalent landed us on three possibilities:

DNxHD 220 1080 p (the winner for PC Users)

H.264 (good considering the small file size)

Cineform YUV 10 bit (very large file size)

And since we believe in experiencing things versus reading about them, we rendered out the Pro Res 422 HQ in each one of the three formats, burned them to a Blu-Ray disc, got some popcorn, watched the footage, and took an informal poll. 

Our findings were as follows:

1) For casual viewing, all the codecs produced acceptable results.

2) DNxHD 220 was the crowd favorite and deemed as providing the best results.

3) Cineform YUV was not appreciably different from DNxHD 220 and had an extremely large file size by way of comparison, almost one-third larger than the file size of the original source video!  It uses different frequency domains.

4) H.264 looked good considering it had the smallest file, nearly half the size of the Cineform file.

5) If you are using Da Vinci Resolve on a PC and need a ProRes 422 equivalent for rendering, DNxHD 220 1080p is probably your best bet.

6) If you want to try Cineform YUV, you must download Go Pro Studio, then restart your computer; otherwise, it won't be a render option. But be warned, the files are huge.

A Soft Source From The Side


Occasionally we are asked the following question: If you could only use one lighting source, what would it be and where would you put it? Now this question is a bit a of set-up because lighting really should be based on the needs of the story you are telling, and as we have said many times before, if you are not thinking about lighting, then you are not thinking about your story. In fact, if there is one thing that concerns us about new low-light, high ISO cameras is that there is less of a need to think about lighting. In some cases, this is good, but in others, it is most certainly bad.

Any way, with regard to the question of how to light a shot with only one light, we would suggest a soft source to the side. This type of light is diffuse and will not only provide key lighting, but will gently wrap on the shadow side and provide some fill lighting as well. This is the standard way we typically light interviews and depending on the type of lighting you use, it can convey either a warming and inviting mood or a cooler, commercial mood. Again, hopefully you match the lighting to the subject of your story, and put some thought into your productions.

Christopher Nolan On No-Budget Filmmaking


Christopher Nolan discusses his first film, Following, which was made on a very low budget. He notes that he learned to quickly light a scene and made use of available light as much as possible. The style of working he developed early on stayed with him, even as he moved into making full-length feature films.

Sharing Knowledge


shane hurlbut

Learning filmmaking is a bit like learning to be a magician. There is skill and practice involved, but also, and perhaps most important, is knowledge. Much of that knowledge can be acquired from experience, but it can also be acquired from others who already have the experience. The problem is not everyone freely gives you the depth of their knowledge. Like magicians, it seems some hold secret what they know. Maybe they could be thinking that since they had to work hard to learn what they know, it seems wrong to give it away for free. And so, you often have to start from scratch, figuring things out for yourself and learning the hard way. Maybe you intern somewhere, attend classes, read books, or even pay to go to film school. And so, it is always refreshing for us to see professionals in the field who give openly of their knowledge. We have three notable examples of this. Two are cinematographers in the ASC: Shane Hurlbut and  Ron Dexter. Both of these individuals are approachable, accessible, and share what they know through their websites. The third is Tom Antos, a filmmaker who produces thoughtful and informative You Tube videos on all aspects of filmmaking. We appreciate their passion and openness about sharing their knowledge, and they should all  be commended for it.

We encourage you to visit their sites. See our Links section on this page.

The Model Life


The Importance Of Staging


Steven Soderbergh has posted a thought-provoking exercise on the importance of staging as it relates to filmmaking and storytelling. To help you focus on the staging and shot composition alone, he removed the dialogue and made the film black and white. Doing this forces you to focus on what you can see and not what you are told or made to feel through color. It is an innovative way to make a really great point on the importance of carefully choreographing your actors' movements and using creative composition. It is worth noting that one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Alfred Hitchcock, started out by making silent films---this improved his storytelling skills on a purely visual level.

Cinematic Color Correction


Here is an excellent tutorial on how color is used to focus your attention on the actors, contrast them with the background, and bring them to life, quite literally. Once you become aware of this color style, you will start becoming more and more aware of just how prevalent it is. This color grading style does make sense on many levels, but eventually, a different style will no doubt come into vogue. In the meantime, it is good to be aware of color theory and how colors can be used in combination to create contrast and direct a viewer's attention. It is worth mentioning that DaVinci Resolve Lite is available for free. Another excellent tutorial is available here.

Begin Again


We thoroughly enjoyed this local production featuring surfing phenom, John John Florence, who is really showing himself to be a renaissance man, that is, he has more skills than just surfing. We were equally taken by the quality camera work (filming surfing isn't easy!) and the sharp editing by Blake Vincent Kueny, who appears to have a promising future. Notice how the music and tempo in the beginning creates a nice contrast with the bulk of the video that follows. It sets the stage for a high energy piece. If you want to emphasize something such as the excitement of riding waves, then precede it with something of the opposite nature, e.g., to emphasize hardcore precede it with light and playful. That is what is done in this piece and it works perfectly.  And of course, a little slow motion here and there never hurts. 

Internal Prospection


This short film shows that an interesting thought can be conveyed in a simple, yet elegant, manner. Along with the right color palette, composition, and music, the final result is surprisingly moving. Also, notice how the framing accentuates the theme, especially how placing the subject above the horizon line creates a sense of freedom of thought. And how this stands in juxtaposition to the sense of isolation and loneliness by using a single subject and wider long shot. The result creates a real sense of contemplation.

The Importance of Fill Light


Hawaii News Now

We were reminded again today about something we take for granted and that seems counterintuitive for most students learning about lighting and that is the importance of always having a fill light available. As you can see from this picture, even though the sun is setting and there is plenty of light, once the weatherman, Guy Hagi, turns his back to the sun and the camera operator gets a proper exposure for the background, Guy will be underexposed and darkened by his own shadow. And as you can see from the photo, there is a high-powered light standing by to fill in that shadow. With today's digital cameras, it is easy to shoot in available light and not bring any additional lights, but if you do that, you run the risk of either getting a proper exposure on your subject AND blowing out the background OR getting a proper exposure on your background AND underexposing your subject. This problem is  solved with a fill light. The rule of thumb is to get a proper exposure on your background, then bring in a fill light to get a proper exposure on your subject. There is an old joke about a cinematographer who said he shoots with available light. He said, "I shoot with available light. Whatever is available in the truck."  We are also reminded of another filmmaker who said, "If you are not thinking about lighting, you are not thinking about your film."

 Journey Jolley


Hidden Costs of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera


cinema camera

You might have heard the news about Blackmagic Design dropping the cost of their Cinema Camera from $2,995 to $1,995. And while that is exciting news, you should know that you still need to turn around and spend all the money you saved, plus $500 to $1,000 more for additional and required equipment. We don't really like to focus on gear that much, but since this is such a remarkable camera, we felt it necessary to go over some hidden and not-so-hidden costs for the benefit of our students.

First of all, you are going to need SSD cards to store your footage. These cards are not exactly cheap. Blackmagic Design (BD) has a list of recommended cards. Your best bet is probably the SanDisk Extreme SSD 480 GB , which is currently selling for around $329. And since you probably don’t want that to be your only storage unit, you can expect to spend $329 x 2 or get a smaller unit as an emergency back-up, the 240 GB one, for $200. Either way, plan on spending at least $500 on your SSD drives.

If you are working with raw files, you are going to need a faster way to transfer your SSD files to one of your computer’s hard drives. This will necessitate getting a USB 3.0 connection. These are not that expensive and are easily installed. However, it is an additional cost. This is not the same as a Thunderbolt connection, which is about two times faster. However, Thunderbolt has not really taken hold in the PC world and is more of an Apple or Mac solution. If you own a PC, you will probably have to go the USB 3.0 route.

You are going to need a way to plug your SSD card into your computer and more than likely, you are going to need a SSD Port for that. These are not terribly expensive, but it is an added cost.

One of the selling points of getting the Cinema Camera is that it comes with DaVinci Resolve, a color correction program, and that’s a great added bonus. However, be advised that DaVinci Resolve requires a CUDA card and in particular, you are going to need an NVIDIA card.

For the cost of the camera and all the accessories you are going to need, you are looking at a $4,000 to $5.000 investment. You will definitely want to protect your investment with an extended warranty. These can cost $100 to $200 but it is definitely worth it.

The battery that operates the camera is internal and only lasts for approximately 90 minutes. Chances are you are going to need more juice than that. Plan on getting the Switronix system that can increase your running time up to four hours. However, be sure to get the kit because the battery by itself does not include a charger.

Unfortunately, you cannot see the LCD screen in daylight due to reflection and glare. This requires the use of a hood screen. There is a hood included with the camera, but it does not work. This requires that you purchase a screen hood. Fortunately, Hoodman now makes a screen hood specifically for the camera, but it will set you back $100. It is available at Adorama or B & H Photo, Model # HBM1. Some recommend getting an electronic viewfinder, but seriously, the cost is almost as much as the camera. Another possible option is to consider getting the Hoodman Loupe Kit and the 4" riser. This would let you look directly at the back of the lcd screen in broad daylight through an eye piece. However, you would not be seeing the entire frame, so you would have to double check the lcd screen periodically to make sure you were getting what you wanted. You will also have to get a straight shoe bracket in order to attach the Loupe Kit to the back of the camera. This solution would be around $200.

The camera has an internal fan with vents on the bottom. It is not advisable to block these vents; therefore you are also going to need a specialized base plate designed for the camera so you can accommodate the ventilation system. Fortunately, IKAN makes a base plate for the camera for $99 and has a couple affordable rigs. Also you might need to make additional adjustments to your shoulder rig as the camera is bulky and rather hefty.

One of the selling points of the camera is that it has an EF mount that allows you to use your existing lenses. However, please note the sensor has a huge crop factor of 2.5. This means that your 50 mm lens is now a 125 mm lens and that your 85 mm lens is 212 mm. If you want to shoot with a wider angle, perhaps 20-40 mm, then you might actually need to buy a new lens or two. For instance, the Tamron AF 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 lens, which sells for $499, would put you in the range from 25 mm to 60 mm. This is definitely a consideration as many of your lenses might work great for telephoto purposes, but not for wide angle. The Tamron lens also comes with a six-year warranty.

Is the Cinema Camera a technological breakthrough? Yes

Is it a poor man’s RED camera? Yes

Does it have many limitations? Yes

Is it a good deal? Probably, but be prepared to pay almost as much for accessories as the camera costs. Or in other words, the camera is not a cheap date.

(conservative estimates)
Camera: $1995
Warranty: $100
SSD Cards: $500
SSD Port: $40
USB 3.0 Card: $30
NVIDIA Graphics Card: $200
Battery: $350
Base Plate / Shoulder Rig Modifications: $100-$300
Lens: $500
Screen Hood: $100

Approximate Total: $3,800 - $4,000

The Power Of Combining Shots


CSI Miami

It seems strange to be speaking about the power of combining shots when we just finished posting about the power of the cut. We still believe in the power of the cut but are also pragmatic in how we approach filming.

While cutting from one shot to another allows the audience to connect the dots themselves, the reality is that every “cut” requires a “new shot,” and a new shot requires its own set-up, which means more work and interruptions for everyone, not to mention more time in post production. In addition, if you are thinking in terms of shots, you might be missing interesting angles and movements that could actually combine two or more single shots into one continuously staged, well-executed shot.

Thinking in terms of a continuous sequence of shots versus a series of single shots also allows actors the chance to work with less interruption and allows the crew to work smarter instead of harder.

So how do you do this? How do you change your mindset from a series of single shots to a continuous sequence of shots?

Some suggestions are:

When you are mapping out your story initially and have identified your key shots, ask yourself if there is any way to connect the shots by either smoothly moving the actors or the camera. If the move makes sense, then combine the two shots into one. And keep doing that until it makes no sense or is not practical to keep combining shots, for example, a complete change of location.

Another trick is to start at the end, that is, start with the last shot in the sequence, then work backward connecting shots from that end point. This seems like an unnatural way to think, but the end result is that when you start shooting, your camera and actors will now have a clear destination and everything will flow purposefully toward the last key shot.

And finally, as a general rule, you should not switch to any new shot of the same subject unless the new camera position is at least 45 degrees different AND the subject changes in size, either pulling out or pushing in. (We should note that pushing in is not the same as punching in---punching in is getting closer to the character by using a longer lens.)

Thinking in terms of single shots might be helpful initially when you are drafting out your story, but in the end, it is not an efficient or natural way of working. Think in single shots if you must, but then get creative and figure out how you can combine them without having to cut to the next position. Cutting from shot to shot definitely has its place but so does creatively connecting shots to one another.

The Power Of The Cut



The sign of true genius is not in complicated explanations about how the world works but in taking the complicated and making it understandable. David Mamet's book, On Directing Film, is only 107 pages but in it he explains an important dynamic on making a good film---one that engages you, keeps you on the edge of your seat, and leaves you wanting more. Mamet's take (no pun intended) on movie making is different from what most seem to preach and very different from the way Hollywood likes to make movies today. It also doesn't sit well with some Steadicam operators.

What he does is take the most basic storytelling premise of all time, SHOW, NOT TELL and adds a critical twist, which is to SHOW THE STORY AS YOU WOULD TELL IT. This twist, in our view, is extremely important to understand.

According to Mamet, you create a good movie by intelligently sequencing seemingly unrelated, concise images and by doing that, you are not only respecting the intelligence of the audience, you are allowing them to put the pieces together in their own minds, and as such, they will participate with the story in a much deeper and gratifying way.

Taking excerpts from page two of his book, Mamet states it this way:

"This method has nothing to do with following the protagonist around but rather is a succession of images juxtaposed so that the contrast between those images moves the story forward in the mind of the audience....You always want to tell the story in cuts. Which is to say, through a juxtapostion of images that are basically uninflected. Mr. Einsentein tells us that the best image is an uninflected image. A shot of a teacup. A shot of a spoon. A shot of a fork. A shot of a door. Let the cut tell the story. Because otherwise you have not got dramatic action, you have narration....If you listen to the way people tell stories, you hear that they tell them cinematically. They jump from one thing to the next, and the story is moved along by the juxtaposition of images---which is to say, by the cut."

It is for this reason he later states that Steadicams were not necessarily the best thing to happen to filmmaking because they often follow a chain of actions and deprive the audience of making those internal connections. We don't believe that Mamet is against intelligently planned Steadicam shots, just against those that roll too long and  force continuous imagery.

We translate Mamet's thinking into two basic rules:


As with all things, there might be some who do not perceive Mamet as a genius and might find fault with his thinking, but at the very least, his approach forces you to really think about what you are doing and how all the pieces fit together.  His approach is respectful, thoughtful.

When creating stories, we believe that too many times we tell instead of show because we want to make sure we get our point across but that can come at the cost of losing metaphors and symbolic visuals. And at other times, it simply might be too difficult to visually represent an idea, a feeling, or an abstraction. And finally, much too often, we also put more in a shot than is necessary.

Mamet might be wrong about some things, but he is absolutely correct in respecting an audience's ability to connect the dots; as filmmakers, we make the dots, and the audience should connect them. By creating gaps and cutting from image to image, we actually invite the audience into our story as creators themselves.  And that's the power of the cut.

The Best Books On Filmmaking


cinematographer at work with RED CAMERA

We were looking over our growing library of books on filmmaking the other day, and someone asked the question, "Which books do I really need to read?" Our immediate reaction was: "All of them!"

But then, we asked ourselves later, if we really had to narrow the list of books down to what we consider to be the best of the best, the books we would grab if the building were on fire, we looked again and picked out what we consider to be the top ones. We were only going to pick ten, but ended up going with the top twenty.

We realize this is only our opinion and not everyone might agree but such is life! You might notice that many of the books feature interviews with the professionals themselves and that's no coincidence. We find the most compelling books have interviews with the cinematographers and directors themselves---who better to learn from?

The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video (second Edition, revised)
Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions Every Filmmaker Must Know
Cinematographer Style - The Complete Interviews, Volume I
Cinematographer Style- The Complete Interviews, Vol. II
Cinematography (Screencraft)
Cinematography: Theory and Practice: Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors
Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics
Directing the Film: Film Directors on Their Art
The DSLR Filmmaker's Handbook: Real-World Production Techniques
Film: A Critical Introduction (3rd Edition)
Grammar of the Edit, Second Edition
Making Movies
Make Film History: Rewrite, Reshoot, and Recut the World's Greatest Films
On Directing Film
Moviemakers' Master Class: Private Lessons from the World's Foremost Directors
Shot Psychology: The Filmmaker's Guide For Enhancing Emotion and Meaning
The Art Of The Cut
The Filmmaker's Eye: Learning (and Breaking) the Rules of Cinematic Composition
The Steadicam® Operator's Handbook, Second Edition
The Visual Story, Second Edition: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media

The Filmmaking Wisdom Of Alfred Hitchcock


We recently reviewed the book, Hitchcock (Revised Edition)  by Francois Truffaut, published in 1985. The book contains what has come to be known as the Hitchcock rule, which posits that the size of an image in any given frame should be equal to its emotional importance or story value. We didn't want to put words in Hitchcock's mouth, so we decided to post his "rule"  and some of his best advice from the book exactly as it is written.

We always found it more than disturbing that Hitchcock never won an Oscar for best director and feel this reflects quite negatively on the Academy; however, in 1967, he was awarded a "memorial" award, but that, unfortunately, seemed like too little, too late. Perhaps that is why Hitchcock didn't have much to say after receiving it, or it might have simply been an elegant understatement.



1. The ability to shorten or lengthen time is a primary requirement in film-making. As you know, there’s no relation whatever between real time and filmic time.
2. A film cannot be compared to a play or a novel. It is closer to a short story, which, as a rule, sustains one idea that culiminates when the action has reached the highest point of the dramatic curve.
3. And never to embark on a project unless there’s an inner feeling of comfort about it, a conviction that something good will come of it.
4. Understatement is important to me.
5. Our primary function is to create an emotion and our second job is to sustain that emotion.
6. By the way, Young and Innocent contains an illustration of that suspense rule by which the audience is provided with information the characters in the picture don’t know about. Because of this knowledge, the tension is heightened as the audience tries to figure out what’s going to happen next.
7. The only answer to that is that a film-maker isn’t supposed to say things; his job is to show them.
8. I’ve learned from experience that whenever the hero isn’t portrayed by a star, the whole picture suffers, you see, because audiences are far less concerned about the predicament of a character who’s played by someone they don’t know.
The mobility of the camera and the movement of the players closely followed my usual cutting practice. In other words, I maintained the rule of varying the size of the image in relation to its emotional importance within a given episode. (page 180)

10. No doubt about it; films must be cut.
11. You’ve got to use an approach you’re completely sure of. I mean literally, that whenever there is confusion or doubt in your mind, the first thing to do is to recover your bearings.
12. We’ve already mentioned that total plausibility and authenticity merely add up to a documentary.
13. People don’t always express their inner thoughts to one another; a conversation may be quite trivial, but often the eyes will reveal what a person really thinks or feels.
14. Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.
15. I’ve always been interested in establishing a contrast, in going against the traditional and in breaking away from clichés.
16. Thank you…very much indeed. (Acceptance "speech" after receiving the lifetime achievement award in 1967.)

Te Vai Ura Nui


Special thanks to Charles and Cathy Temanaha for letting us film their group while they were practicing at Ala Moana Beach Park in late October 2012. The group can usually be found there on Tuesday and Thursday evenings after 7 p.m..

The Addictive Charm of Gangman Style


gangman stylePonderlicious.com recently posted a brief analysis of the viral music video, Gangman Style, that we thought was informative and enlightening. The article touches on some of the key elements needed to create dynamic visuals. As of today, Gangman Style has more than 220 million views on You Tube and has no doubt helped launch the artist's career.

Telling A Great Story: 1 + 1 = 3


TTThe Atlantic recently posted this short video on what makes a great story. It features an interview with Ken Burns who is known for making documentaries with still photos. We thought Mr. Burns advice was definitely worth five minutes of our time.

Ka'iwi Shoreline


In the first part of this year, we had a lot of much needed rain in Hawaii, and like a lot of things in life, there was a good and bad side to it. First, the good news was we got rain and that helped to resupply the aquifers, water plants and trees, and rinse everything off. The bad news was it caused flooding and some damage here and there. But overall it was a great thing! One of the really neat things is how green certain areas of the island are now. On Oahu, the western and southern sides of the island are normally parched and dead. On the eastern and northern sides, the opposite is true. We were recently down by Koko Head and the Ka'iwi Shoreline and were struck by how amazingly green most everything was. It makes the island really feel tropical for a change. And we know from experience, it is only a matter of time before it changes back to normal, so...we went out and shot some footage of what Ka'iwi looks like after it gets a lot of rain! Hope you enjoy it.

kaiwi from Hawaii Film School on Vimeo.



We laughed so hard filming this that we had to do a couple of extra takes. But the point of this video is to actually illustrate the use of the close push or what some might call pushing in. When done correctly, a close push is meant to signify that what the actor is doing or saying is important and meaningful. If done without any motivation, a close push can just be absurd or silly. That's the point we were trying to make. Thanks to Alex Denny and Janette Nielson for doing a great job with their parts.

Dazzling Time-Lapse Video With Motion


Just when we think we've seen the best of the best, someone is doing something even better. In a way, you can say that DSLR photography is being pushed to new heights everyday because everyone now has a shot at creating something spectacular. This video really caught our eye. It manages to use creative movement, color, editing, and time lapse in a way that really brings Moscow to life. This is a joy and an experience to watch. It exudes life and energy.

Hawaii Five-O


hawaii 5-0
We were excited to see Hawaii Five-0 filming right down the street from us today. They literally took over the entire neighborhood with no less than six trucks packed with every kind of gear imaginable. It could best be described as a military operation fueled by Starbucks. From what we could gather, it looked like they were setting up to film an interior day scene that could go into the night. Initially they had the diffusion screen up (as pictured above), but when we went by later, it was down, and they just had a diffusion gel directly in front of the light. We see Hawaii Five-0 filming all over the island and realize it is a nice gig if you can get it. They don't seem to appreciate the production being photographed or filmed, even if it is taking place in public, and you happen to be across the street on public property. In our case, we had planned to take more photos, but we were politely asked not to. It is a small island, so we always try to be respectful. It is interesting how much attention a little t2i can draw once you put a matte box on and place it on a tripod.

The Seven Layers Of Filmmaking


Filmmaking is probably one of the most complicated art forms there is, and it is one of the few art forms that relies so heavily on technology. But even beyond that, being a filmmaker is a little like being the conductor of a street orchestra. And what this means is that you have a lot to focus on with a lot of background distractions too. With so many things going on at once, it is a wonder great films get made at all, and no wonder so many bad ones do. There is no comprehensive text tying everything together yet, but generally speaking you can say that a film has at least seven layers to it with each layer taking years of practice and study to master. Before listing the seven layers, we would like to clarify that this is just our perception of things. These layers are by no means the only way of seeing the filmmaking process; it is just how we see it. After listing each layer, we will briefly discuss each one.








Story dynamics is about what roles the actors are playing. What are they saying and doing and why? This is a subject in its own right. Robert McKee has already written about this in great detail, so there is no need for us to go over that again. But we will say that story is about the increasingly difficult choices a character makes as increasingly difficult obstacles surprise and prevent him from getting what he wants. Stories that sell put someone we can relate to against an opponent we don't like, and in the end, the good guy wins, but at a higher cost than anyone expected. And all of this plays out against political and social backgrounds too. For our purposes, you might think of story as the CONTENT of your film and the other six layers as the FORM. The story layer is what your film is about. It is the message. The other six layers are the FORM or how that message is conveyed.

As a filmmaker, you have to understand spatial relationships and what these mean. Are things close or far apart? Are things big or small? In every scene, the choice is yours to make. The relationships between objects in three-dimensional space should, in general, match the content of the scene. However, you can add complexity and depth by misaligning CONTENT and FORM, but you should know why you are doing this. For instance, if you have a married man flirting with another woman, and he is doing it from a distance, what are you saying? If he is genuinely attracted to her, then he should be close, but if something else is going on, maybe you want him farther away. Another example might be a person who is depressed and is feeling like his world is collapsing on him. Do you put him in a wide open field of flowers or do you compress him into a tiny apartment? The answer seems clear, unless you are trying to make another point. Lens choice is one of your tools for controlling this dimension.

This is a big one. You have to be aware of what certain movements mean. Are you pulling in or out? Up or down? Sideways or at a Dutch angle? Fast or slow? Left to right or right to left? There is a whole psychology of movement, but the body of knowledge on this subject is sparse. Some books on cinematography have touched on this, but it is largely a subjective feeling you learn over time. Generally, moving in conveys intensity and drama. Moving out has a distancing or good-bye effect. Your tools for managing motion are dollies, tripods, cranes, sliders, hand-held rigs, and Steadicams. Of late, we have seen so many people using slider shots for no reason other than they must have just bought a slider and think it brings production value. The general rule is not to move your cameras unless there is some reasoning or purpose behind it.

This could almost be a sub-section under spatial relations, but we feel it is important to warrant its own. By geometry we are really referring the shapes of objects in your film and to how multiple objects, taken together, might form a shape. Shapes, as do motion and spatial relations, carry emotional connotations. A triangle might show conflict, dominance, or aggression; a circle, harmony and union; a square, stability or foundation. The psychology of shape is again an arcane art not well understood. Again, many of these are subjective feelings that are not easily put into words. But again, it is something to be aware of as a filmmaker.

When we talk about lighting, we are also talking about shade. Lighting creates shade, and of course, lighting conveys a wealth of information and is also a way of directing a viewer’s attention. We light what we want you to see and put in the shade what we don’t. The psychology of light and shade is a little easier to grasp than that of space, motion, and geometry. Light connotes purity, cleanliness, and good. Dark connotes mystery and the unknown. In Star Wars, evil is straight out “the dark side.” The fear of the dark is visceral and no doubt embedded deep in our psyches. Your choice of lighting is huge because it will convey the mood, what is important and what is not, what is a mystery and what is not.

If you can only buy one book on color, it should be Color - Messages & Meanings. This book will give you a general idea of what colors mean and the emotional tones they convey. Some of these are fairly obvious. Red means blood, passion, provocation. Blue means oceanic, calm, peaceful. Green is growth, renewal, hope. What is even nicer about this book is that it goes over what certain color combinations mean. As a filmmaker, you need to be aware of colors and what they mean. Do the meanings support your characters and the theme of your film? Unless you have some understanding of what colors mean, you will never really know for sure. The point is to learn the rules, then break them if you want. But know that you are breaking the rule for an artistic reason. Again, you might deliberately choose to give a contradiction in color. For instance, you could have a happy character always wearing black, but then again, this is still saying something about the character, isn’t it? Is the character not who he pretends to be? He says he is happy, but wears black. That’s a contradiction. It just depends on your story and what you are trying to say.

If you must know one thing about filmmaking, you must know that sound is incredibly important to your film. We used to think of sound as simply an audio track, a flat line recording what people were saying and doing and what was going on in the background. It was only after years of study did we learn that sound is at least 51% of your film and should not exist as a flat line. In your story or film, you should be using sound to reinforce what is important, what is not, and what the message of the scene or sequence is. Sound can help get your audience into the mind of your character or the theme of your movie. For instance, we know that certain sounds bother certain people (think fingernails on a chalkboard!) while that same sound might not bother someone else. Let’s say you have a character who is a walking time bomb. Is everything he hears the same volume in his mind? Probably not. Maybe he hears water dripping and it irritates him. Maybe the dog barking next door is really loud and annoying to him but not really that loud in reality. But how would we know that, as an audience member, if all the sounds in your movie are the same volume and tonal quality and you don’t accentuate them? Sound does not exist on a flat line and you, as the filmmaker, need to figure out which sounds are important and which are not. For the sounds that are important and significant to your story or character, then you need to record them well and emphasize them in post-production, giving them the attention they deserve.

living room
So let's say that you are going to film a conversation between two friends in this living room. The story dynamic is that one of them feels neglected by the other and is going to bring this issue up. Now considering what we have been talking about, how would you proceed if this room is all you had to work with? What about the space? It is cluttered. Is that what you want? How will the characters enter and exit? Where will they sit? Do you see any shapes or use of shapes? What about the lighting and colors? Would this scene work better at night? And the main thing---sound. What sounds would you want to emphasize? What about using no sound and silence? You can see, from this example, that there are countless possibilities and no one that is necessarily right over the others. It just depends on the story and what you want to convey. How can "the layers" of this room be used as a supporting cast? 

The truth is most of the items in this room will have absolutely no relationship to your story. It is just a random room with random things in it. What are the odds that this random space would support the theme of your story?  Slim.

What you will have to do is creatively focus on the 10% or less of those things in this room that might be helpful. Your job is to figure out what those are. The reality is that you might not even be able to create what you need from this room, all of it might just be one big distraction. The easiest solution might be to simply move in close on your actors with a shallow depth of field and blur everything else out. But as the filmmaker, you have to have the artistic confidence to know to make that call. 

Another solution might be to remove the clutter to make the room feel barren, take the items off the top of the book case, get rid of the covers and pillows on the chair and couch to emphasize black, and take the center panel out of painting on the wall, so you have two panels oddly separated from each other (supportive of theme, yes!). You could black out the windows with a blanket, turn on a lamp, and with shadows create a more dramatic tone. You could also use a wide angle lens to create more of a sense of distance between the actors. For sound, you could have pauses between the dialogue and perhaps record ambient sound with a cricket chirping or just the sound of a fan.  

This has just been a quick overview of the layers involved in the filmmaking process. If you can begin to see the complexity and the interplay between the layers and dimensions, you will be on your way toward becoming a great filmmaker. Think of it this way. Nothing exists as a flat line or inert object. When you are looking at a scene, you are looking at a potential supporting cast of characters. Space, motion, shapes, colors, lighting, and sound exist in every scene. The challenge is that 90% or more of what you are looking at has no bearing at all on your story. Your job, as a master filmmaker, is to figure out what supports the story and what doesn’t and to draw attention to those things that are truly important to your theme. That’s the challenge, and the true mark of a master. In short, you have to cut out 90% of what you see and hear, and with the remaining 10%, you have to showcase and accentuate it, with the tools you have, in a way that supports your message. It is as if everything you see through the camera lens or monitor should go through an audition. You can imagine the chair showing up to a casting call and saying, "Hey, I want to be in your movie?" And you, again, would have to ask yourself, "But why do I need this chair? What does this specific chair add to the story?" Or the sun shows up to the casting call and says, "Hey, I want to bounce some light through the window in your movie?" And you, again, ask why do I need sunlight for this? Maybe you need shadows, not sunlight! A lot of what you see matters very little but a little of what you can hear matters a lot! More than anything else, your job is to figure that out.

Best of luck with your filming!

Poetic Three-Minute Short


Again, quite by chance, we came across this short. It immediately impressed us with its beauty, style, and grace. And again, without ANY dialogue, notice how it reels you in and takes you on an emotional journey. And it is no one thing. It is a combination of lighting, story, focus, color, pacing, camera movement, editing, and music. When all of these elements are pulled together in the right combination, you can draw people into another world and make them feel emotion, and that's what people are looking for. Something emotionally meaningful, something that reaches in and makes them realize more fully the life we are all living. According to the filmmaker, this short took six days of filming, but the end result sure paid off.

This is it.


We recently stumbled across this video quite by chance, but it quickly reminded us of why we love making movies, especially shorts. This one, A Thousand Words, is about as good as it gets. It has all the ingredients perfectly balanced and blended. We don't know Ted Chung, but we know good work when we see it and this is it.

A Thousand Words from Ted Chung on Vimeo.

What is Hawaii Film School?


Established in 2011, the Hawaii Film School is based in Kaneohe, Hawaii and offers individualized and group-based filmmaking and CGI instruction.

Our two primary programs are an affordable 3-day crash course in independent filmmaking and a 9-month course in 3D computer graphics. Due to the design of our programs, we are able to keep tuition extremely reasonable while providing high-quality, face-to-face instruction. We like to think of ourselves as a film and visual arts program without the usual constraints associated with the vast majority of other programs. We are beholden to no one but our students. 

If you are interested in filmmaking or CGI and want to get up to speed as quickly as possible, you will not be able to find a better option than this in Hawaii or almost anywhere in the world. And that's not hyperbole. It's the truth.