Entertain or Die!

How to Shoot Video… Now in Korean & Spanish!

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How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck is now out in both Korean and Spanish versions. You can also find it in Chinese (two versions), Russian, Polish and Bahasa Indonesian. Japanese coming soon! Check out these posts for more: Do I Need to Know the Act Breaks in a Movie? “I’m from Poland. Sorry, for my English. I read your article about Arrival after seeing the movie. I was wondering about three-act structure of this movie. Could you tell me… Video is Never finished… “Video is never finished.  It’s just taken away.”  I don’t remember where I first heard this…

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Still from the Abyss

There are No Fish in “The Abyss”

By Tips and Tricks, Feature Film, For Pros Leave a comment

My writing partner and I were arguing about a scene in a new screenplay. It’s a time-travel piece, and he wanted to explain all the technical steps that lead a character to have a conversation with someone from his distant past. The reason? So the audience would believe their meeting could plausibly happen. Makes sense. If we don’t show how the machinery works, and explain exactly how the two accidentally meet over miles and eons, who will believe it? Credibility comes from detail, right? It makes sense, but it’s totally wrong. Extreme explanatory detail in a movie is death. We…

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Toy Story: Learning to Use Video Tools

By Tips and Tricks, If you’re new to video, For Pros, Your Questions Answered Leave a comment

Recently I picked up a multi-rotor drone to carry my HD camera. I’m having fun flying my drone, but now my videos feel all the same: running along a straight line, go up and take a 360, fly really low almost touching the bushes. Pretty pictures, but not really good video. Any ideas on how to script/arrange/film better videos for subjects as simple as “last weekend with friends”? –Ed Basic drones are mostly good for scene setting and beauty shots. Think fireworks from inside the blasts; an establishing montage of New York City between segments on a TV show; or…

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Better Call Saul: The Devil is in the Details

By Tips and Tricks, Better Home Video, Feature Film, For Pros Leave a comment

There is no better show on television than AMC’s Better Call Saul, from Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, ex of Breaking Bad. All four seasons are spectacular, but if you haven’t watched (or even if you have) it’s worth considering what makes it great.  Great writing and acting, sure, but for me the best part of Better Call Saul is that every shot, every sequence, every episode is about intrigue- built by lensing in to the details. Season 1, Episode 1 doesn’t start with anything as obvious as an establishing shot of a shopping mall, or a freeway sign saying “Welcome to Omaha.” Nor does…

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Vacation videos suck, unless you follow these tips.

How to Shoot Vacation Video that Won’t Bore People to Death

By Featured, Tips and Tricks, If you’re new to video, Better Home Video 13 Comments

When I was a kid, the Armbrusters had a slide projector.  Which meant that after every vacation they took, we’d troop dutifully to their house for endless carousels of badly-shot Kodachrome slides, narrated  live.  The slide show always seemed longer than the vacation itself.  Washed-out, badly composed views of Disneyland or Paris—dotted here and there with the back of the head of someone we knew.

Today people record hours and hours of vacation video on a single chip.  Instead of making you visit their living rooms, they trap you at parties, work, on the train– anywhere– and make you watch.

Who would do such a thing?  Anyone with a smartphone.  We have met the Armbrusters and they are us.

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Why Making Video “Ask for the Order” Doesn’t Work

By Video Marketing, For Pros Leave a comment

This week a post on Linked-In reminded me that all good video must “ask for the order” and contain a clear “call to action.” This concept was, as far as I can tell, invented by someone in an ad agency, maybe in the ’80s, and repeated enough that many people take it as gospel. The idea is that your marketing video must tell the customer exactly what you want them to do, and then request that they do it. Thus a TV commercial that includes the magic phrase “Buy a Toyota tomorrow and save $200!” is presumed to be way more…

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Tricks to Storify Your Travel Video

By Tips and Tricks, Better Home Video, Your Questions Answered Leave a comment

I shoot videos and landscapes when I travel overseas. Obviously, I cannot shoot to a script or have much of a plan, since this is an unplanned vacation. How would I construct a story from random scenes in Berlin, Warsaw, Vienna, Budapest, etc?  Usually I end up with a string of shots without any story. This is not what you recommend in your book. My friend Wendy will be travelling with me, but how could I include her in the video? Shots of her looking at the Danube from Buda and from Pest don’t seem to have much interest. Shooting her eating sauerkraut, etc. wouldn’t cut it either. Any ideas? –John…

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Yeah, But is it Any Good? Learning from Mediocre Video

By Teaching and Training, Feature Film, Television, For Pros Leave a comment

People hate going to the movies with me. It’s not because I talk or text during films, because I religiously don’t do either. It’s what happens after the lights come up.  “That was good” says my wife. “I enjoyed it” says my daughter. “The dialogue in the battle scene in act three sounded like it was cribbed from ‘Alien’” I say. And that’s when the conversation usually slows way down. As you get better at the film and video thing, what has happened to me may also happen to you: Your tolerance for mediocre work plummets. Terrible is terrible. Most…

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The Curse of the Inactive Hero: Lessons from “Ant-Man and the Wasp”

By Tips and Tricks, Feature Film, Television, For Pros Leave a comment

A hero is who your story is about. A mute woman rescuing a monster she loves, a lawyer facing down the bigotry of his 1930s community to save a man’s life, a woman of color who wants to do math for NASA to save a mission– all great heroes. They each take big risks and strong actions. Seeing how that action turns out for them is what pulls us through the story. Generally speaking, the stronger the hero and the tougher the odds they face, the better the story. Which is why superheroes, who are larger than life by definition, make for exciting…

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The True Story of How Tattoos Got Us a Digital Series on Comedy Central

By Video Marketing, Television, Press 3 Comments

Our new digital series for Comedy Central, Gnarnia went up on Youtube last week.  It’s about 4 guys in a heavy metal band who live together behind a used record store in Los Angeles, who’ll do just about anything to avoid growing up. We took it to several networks last year. The pitch included a very funny sizzle reel (a 4 minute demo of the project) and an explanation of our plans for the show. The quick pitch was “stoner Monkees”, which caused everyone in the room under 45 to go “Like, actual chimps?” (If you don’t know the Monkees, you…

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