Sunday, June 21, 2015

My 5 Favorite Field Apps for iPhone

Below are my five favorite apps I like to use when working in the field. I use an iPhone 6, so sorry, Android users. Some of them are on Android, but I’m not sure which ones.

  • DSLR Filmmaker Toolkit is a app that includes a slate with shot log, a viewfinder, and a depth of field calculator. I mainly use it for the slate and shot log, as I can email the file to myself as an Excel sheet. It’s a paid app. 
  • The Magic Hour app alerts me an hour before and during the magic hour. It also gives me the angle of the sun at my exact location and a countdown to sunset. It is free. Can’t beat that.

Magic Hour
  • Dark Sky tells me almost to the minute when rain is coming my way. On the Gulf Coast, this is useful, whether you are shooting or not. You can request a weather report for a particular address and even receive UV and wind reports. I received it for free at Starbucks, but it's a paid app.

Dark Sky

  • Google Maps is a no brainer, but it just gets better and better. The app can now calculate your drive time while on route and can let you know if a faster route is available. You can also get public transit routes and bike paths if you lack a car.
  • Adobe Hue CC is the newest app in my toolbox. It only came out days ago, but I have already fallen in love with it. It allows you to make LUTs on the go with your phone’s camera. If you are an Adobe Creative Cloud user, you can sync your LUT collection to use back in Premiere Pro or After Effects. App is technically free, but is better with the Adobe CC.
Adobe Hue CC

 Happy Filmmaking!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Best Advice I Received While in Film School: Embrace Magic Hour

Natural light is amazing, especially in the summer. We cannot live without it, it illuminates the world around us, and it delights us with its color spectrum. As manipulators of light, we learn to embrace its properties while controlling its path. We tell stories with it, but often we rely on artificial providers of light, believing natural light to be insufficient or weak for our purposes.

That’s why indie filmmakers should pay homage to the beauty of natural lighting by embracing the “magic hour.” Magic Hour is roughly the minutes after sunrise and before sunset. The sun is at a flattering angle in the sky, resulting in reduced shadows over the face and beautiful natural coloring.

I consider myself a mise-en-scène filmmaker, which means I prefer to use my surroundings rather than edit a look in post. Mise-en-scène filmmakers embrace a cinéma vérité or “true-to-life” style filmmaking. Planning your shoots around magic hour makes use of the beautiful lighting with little manipulation. I took the following photographers about 4 minutes into magic hour. 

Magic hour. Actually #nofilter.
Slightly different exposure.
The following video was also taken at magic hour. Note the color in my skin tone and the vibrant greens. Skin tones tend to have either a blue or green undertone, which magic hour brings out nicely. The result is glowing skin.

Although daylight is bluer than indoor tungstens, magic hour light is usually a subtle orange. Mobile, Alabama, nearly has perpetual summer, so depending on the climate and season, your location’s magic hour may be grayer/bluer or warmer in tone.

I use the Magic Hour app which tells me an hour before magic hour occurs and when I am in the magic hour. It’s my favorite astronomic tool for field videography/filmmaking. 

Happy Filmmaking!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Release of Google Photos: Good News for Indie Filmmakers!

DISCLAIMER: This blog is hosted on, a Google product.

I love storage clouds! The files are virtually accessible everywhere, and clouds make collaboration easy. Clouds have become cheaper and larger over the years (just like physical storage), which for filmmakers is a godsend.

Online storage is not without its flaws, however. Servers can be hacked and your videos and photos leaked, which may be detrimental to your business if your clients' projects depend on confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements. Your creative work may also be stolen. While unlikely, servers COULD be wiped clean by hackers. So, even if you are backing up to the cloud, it is important to still use physical storage (such as a hard drive or data disk) for your most important files. That way, you have both.

As a Mac user, I also use iCloud and Photos for many of my personal photos and videos. While Google Photos appears to be a direct competitor, I see the advantage of both systems and will plan to use both. Google Photos will be able to store unlimited videos in 1080p, which should make every indie filmmaker rejoice. If your files are bigger than that (such as 4k), then physical storage may still be the answer. However, I would recommend using Google Photos to make an archival copy of your final projects.

Happy Filmmaking.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

"Indies suck," Says Iron Man

Thus enters the love-hate relationship with Robert Downey, Jr. On one hand, he is a great example of someone who works hard and beat an addiction that plagues some many creative people. On the other hand, he performed in blackface and used the “R-word,” even though the film is a satire on Oscar-winning roles.

During an interview with Entertainment Weekly Radio, Downey calls indie films “exhausting and sometimes they suck.” As an indie filmmaker and advocate, I find myself on the defensive of Downey’s comments. Upon further consideration, I have to admit Downey is somewhat right in his comments. Not entirely, but somewhat.

How Downey is right:
Indie films are exhausting: compared to big budget films, they are. Crews are smaller, which means more responsibilities bestowed on an already stressed out crew. Departments may share PAs, or even Heads. Indie films crews work long hours for little pay. Why do indie crews do it? Short answer: Because they love film.

Inexperience: I’ll concede this point because usually an indie film is the first film for many Hollywood actors and directors. However, inexperience is not a bad thing. Sometimes it’s a lesson in what works and doesn’t work. Most entrepreneurs are not experienced, either. You are not selling the skills set. You are selling the concept.

Low pay: Compared to a Hollywood film, indie films may have defferred payment or little-to-no payment. While I wouldn’t consider low pay a strength of indie films, indie films can be considered start-ups, as opposed to major corporations. The opportunities may offset the pay.

How Downey is wrong:
Indie film budgets: Here’s where Downey’s Hollywood beer googles kick in. $500k is a “Hollywood” indie film. When Downey hears “indie film,” he is probably thinking in the realm of $300K-10M budget. Most REAL indie films are done for much less.

Indie films scheduling: While the shooting days are long, the actual production schedules for indie films are usually short, maybe a month or two on average. This is practical as the longer you shoot something, the more expensive it becomes. Working on your birthday is normal in the adult world. Sports stars play games on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Comes with the job description. My birthday is Christmas Eve and I've worked on it most of my adult life.

Indie films are disorganized: It depends on the set. If an indie film made it to Sundance, odds are the set was run like a well-oiled (yet cheaply built) machine.

The actor’s roles in indie films: Yes, it is partially the actor’s responsibility to champion an indie film. Most indie film actors know this and willingly participate in the Q&As. It’s called marketing and branding.

Inexperience: Downey is wrong and right! Some filmmakers stay independent, but I would not call them inexperienced. Alexander Payne, Spike Lee, Robert Rodriguez, and P.T. Anderson, for example. Some actors like J.K. Simmons are known for their prolific indie film work.

The problems Downey cites about indie film are not exclusive to indie films, or to filmmaking. I think the larger problem is the apathy Downey may feel with the state of cinema today, which is a sentiment shared with other filmmakers, such as Steven Spielberg, Steven Soderbergh, or Spike Lee. Personally, I feel that indie films will save Hollywood from itself.

Happy Filmmaking!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"Midnight Rider" Videos

I don't have words today. This video is moments before the train ran into this crew. Director Randall Miller recently accepted a plea deal to serve 2 years in prison and 8 on probation. Executive Producer Jay Sedrish and 1st AD Hillary Schwartz received 10 years of probation each. Charges were dropped against Jody Savin.

This is the scene on the bridge.

Happy Filmmaking, and RIP, Sarah.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Moment of Silence for Sarah Jones

Tomorrow, the parents of Sarah Jones ask those in the film industry to have a moment of silence before the first shoot of the day.  Jones died on-set a year ago while filming in Georgia. If you are affiliated with the film industry, please honor this moment of silence. If you are on-set and you see something dangerous, report it, possibly with this app.

Be safe and happy filmmaking!