View Full Version : Ask A Professional: Television and Film Edition

01-01-2014, 10:01 PM
Hey guys.

Ever thought about making a movie?

Interviewing some of your friends?

Editing together a montage or highlight video?

Want tips, tricks, advice?

As a professional camera operator, engineer, and producer, I'm at your disposal!

01-02-2014, 01:15 AM
No that's a fair question to ask and I probably should have mentioned something in my OP.

Here's a brief look at my résumé:

I've been doing video for roughly seven years. Graduated with honors in Radio/TV broadcasting with a concentration in Sports in Society.

I'm an award winning producer, from the National Broadcasting Society for my work on a weekly sports magazine program akin to SportsCenter on ESPN. I also won for a trailer I edited together for a short exposé I did on concussions in the NFL featuring neurologists who specialize in concussions, former NFL players and broadcasters.

I also shot several other documentaries and short films while in college.

After graduating I started my own production company which has completed several commercials for local businesses as well as helped provide video assistance for local events and private clients. I partnered with a college recruiting firm to provide video highlights, shot and edited, for parents of high school students to send to coaches.

I've been employed by several professional teams across all major sports, including the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. I've also worked for a non-profit new organization, but I highly suggest anyone thinking of that to never do it.

Currently I'm employed at one of the busiest arenas in the tri-state area as a camera operator and engineer as well at one of the area's regional sports networks as a camera operator, engineer, and audio technician. I have experience working in a studio environment as well as the field. Almost every job from Grip to Director I've done at one time or another.

QT Melon
01-02-2014, 01:24 AM
What was the costliest mistake you made in your career, that helped you learn more about your line of work?

01-02-2014, 01:37 PM
What was the costliest mistake you made in your career, that helped you learn more about your line of work?

Well I'll give you two mistakes as they both sort of deal with different things but were equally devistating to me emotionally when they happened early on in my career.

The first was at an arena. I was doing camera at the typical broadcast angle for hockey. We have a specific time we need to be out on the floor ready to shoot because our video is used for the center-hung above the ice as well as all monitors throughout the building. For personal reasons I won't get into, I did not make it out in time to man my station for Pregame warm ups. I assumed I would have enough time to do what I needed to do and get out. I was severely mistaken.

I received an earfull from my director and then from the director of event production for the arena. See, especially in the broadcasting business, a call time is sacred. I prided myself on always being early, because to be late to a call time was perhaps the greatest sin a broadcaster could ever commit. I was essentially thrown in the doghouse after that and I was relieved when I realized they hadn't fired me over the incident. I think that was only due to the fact that up until that point I had an exceptional rapport with them as a normally reliable guy.

The second mistake was when I was asked by a few parents to tape a soccer game and then use the video to make a highlight reel. I charge parents $125 per shoot and $35/hour for editing for those kinds of things. So here comes the day of the event and I get my camera equipment and head out an hour away from my home to tape this thing. I had a couple of HD Cam tapes in my car so I figured I would just use those since they hadn't been used.

So I get there and start setting up my equipment, goin through all my checks about a half hour before the game. I first realize that my battery level was only giving me an estimated 40 minutes of power. A typical soccer game lasts about 90. I look through my bags and I realize I never packed a back-up battery. Unfortunately these arent the types of batteries you just walk into your local Best Buy and just pick up off the shelf. These are professional batteries which either need to be ordered or picked up at a specialty store, which I had no idea where to find one where I was.

I convince myself that I can still do this by conserving battery where I could, between stoppages of time and during lulls in the game. So I then put in one of my tapes and record on it as one of my other tests. I then recieve an error message that the tape deck wasn't clean. But I had seen that message before and I instantly remembered what happened. Leaving tapes in your car is the worst idea in the world. Tapes are temperature sensitive, and in a car, temperatures can fluctuate between hot and cold in extreme fashion when they're just sittin out in the elements. By leaving the tapes in my car I had essentially destroyed them and I was left with no stock to tape the games.

I then had to approach the parents and inform them that I would be unable to tape the game and left. I lost out on a lot of money because I did not properly prepare myself the day before and waited until it was game time to do checks on my equipment. And that hurts my reputation among parents. Luckily I was able to make a come-back this year and got a decent amount of business during the Fall Sports cycle, but now I'm extra careful about my equipment.

01-02-2014, 02:03 PM
OK since I am really interested in studying on the film industry...when I go back to college, what kind of classes should I take in order to learn more about film? I am hoping they are available since I still have an interest in film.

01-02-2014, 02:38 PM
Ok. How exactly are vehicle scenes shot? I often notice that when both the camera and the vehicle are moving in sync, the camera almost appears off road. Just in weird spots altogether. And sky shots seem so hard to get without being shaky.

Vehicle scene shots can be done in any number of ways depending on the specific shot you're looking for. But generally it can all be done with some simple rigging.

Today, with the advent of DSLRs coming as far along as they have, many very practical and affordable options have been created to help mount and stabilize cameras onto cars and other vehicles. Among them are simple suction cup mechanisms which attach a camera to the hood or windshield of a car or boat.


Other options include the use of aluminum or carbon fiber boom polls which can be mounted inside the car and allow the camera to be placed at different angles to shoot whatever is behind, in front of, or beside them.

Other times directors can get very creative and create their own custom rigs. In Hollywood, this can be accomplished by building a "Side car" of sorts onto an existing vehicle that you can sit a camera operator on, or mount an arm underneath a vehicle that stretches out with a camera pointed back at the car.

Or if you're Alfonso Curano, you build the most awesome car rig ever.


This was for the famous car scene from Children of Men BTW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zkb0SecL-9I

The rest can be handled through clever editing. Many programs today have stabilization software that can help steady shots in post-production if the rig just wasn't enough. The point of all this isn't that there's any one solution to vehicle shots, sometimes you need to get creative based on need.

OK since I am really interested in studying on the film industry...when I go back to college, what kind of classes should I take in order to learn more about film? I am hoping they are available since I still have an interest in film.

I would suggest taking anything that's a film studies class. It's always good to have a general background in being able to critique film when you go on to make your own.

But aside from that the best advice when in college is to just go out and do it. Go to your TV studio, rent out a camera, and start filming stuff. Get people to critique you. Post it up on You Tube and judge yourself. If there's a practical class like "Field Production" or "Television Practicum" that you can take where the entire point of the class is to make a movie or TV show, then by all means take those. But the best way you'll learn is by actually doing, and if you're not sure what something is or does, ask you fellow classmates, or whoever is working in the studio. Most collegiate studios employ student workers who are there specifically to help you with any of your questions.

Also you can embed videos in your Weasyl gallery! So take advantage of that for showing off your work and a chance to get critique.

01-02-2014, 03:06 PM
Oh! One last thing today.

What are those new fancy camera's Sony is making with that innovative stabilization tech? I can't remember the Nate Burr video or the name of them, but they have this funky lens sensitive apparatus where they move in the opposite direction of where the camera is shaking...I think that's how they work. To keep the picture overall steady while moving.

I saw that the tech is used in special spoons for people with tremors and will also be put in smartphones.

Well Optical Image Stabilization has been around for a few years now. Canon EF lenses have the option for the most part, but that has to do with how the four lens group in the camera is adjusted to compensate for camera shake using gyro sensors. Sony's version would be the Super Steady Shot.

I believe I've seen what you're talking about in a few smartphone commercials where it appears the lens itself is moving in a circular motion inside the camera based on how the camera itself is being maneuvered in 3D space. Essentially it makes the lens act like a biological eye with a vestibulo-ocular reflex that stabilizes images on the retina during head movement in a similar fashion as you're describing. Aside from that though I don't think I know nearly enough about that particular bit of technology.

01-02-2014, 08:35 PM
thanks so much for the tips, term! I actually took a film studies class in my senior year of high school and it was a really good class, I learned a lot from it. I will keep your advice in mind for when I re-apply for college.

QT Melon
01-03-2014, 01:58 AM
While you mostly do sports, are you interested in cinematography and the effects of color palettes? Are there any movies that had particular palettes or shots you were inspired by?

01-04-2014, 02:21 AM
While you mostly do sports, are you interested in cinematography and the effects of color palettes? Are there any movies that had particular palettes or shots you were inspired by?

Wooo! Sorry meant to answer this sooner but work got the better of me today, haha.

Well when you start talking cinematography and color palettes, you'd be remiss not to mention Stanley Kubrick. Dude had vision and knew how to play with colors to help emphasize the tone of his films. The deep reds and blacks in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the gold and silver of decadence for Eyes Wide Shut, I could go on haha. The Coen Brothers I feel also have a great sense of color in their films, particularly Fargo and No Country for Old Men. Color also played a huge role in the movie Buried which has Ryan Reynolds spend the entire film in a coffin six feet underground and the various light sources change the color of the film playing on the emotions of both the main character and the audience. Extremely well done.

As far as shots, I've always been a fan of long drawn out tracking shots. One of the best accomplished shots like this was actually in the comedy Waiting where the camera flys around the restaurant looking into a typical dinner service and we get to listen in on the conversations of the staff and customers alike (that movie holds a special place in my heart because I used to work at a bar and grill and it pretty much hit the nail on the head of what it's like in that world).

Without going into a long list, I'll leave with one of the movies that's touched me the most as something which is inspiring on multiple levels and that's 12 Angry Men. The movie for almost the entire run time takes place in a single room. Yet the angles the camera shoots at as well as the few actual moves the camera makes just helps build the tension you feel as these men decide the fate of a young man accused of murder. And it's in black and white!

01-04-2014, 02:32 AM
12 Angry Men! now that was a good watch!

oh, and video editing. what software is recommended besides the ones that come with a computer?
I have used Adobe AfterEffects before but perhaps I want to learn more about it.

01-04-2014, 02:47 AM
12 Angry Men! now that was a good watch!

oh, and video editing. what software is recommended besides the ones that come with a computer?
I have used Adobe AfterEffects before but perhaps I want to learn more about it.

If you have access to Final Cut Pro 7, I highly recommend that. I'm not a fan of Final Cut Pro X but at the time I was kind of strapped for cash, had a Mac, and just went that route. It's certainly usable and isn't -that- bad these days, but it's still clear that they made it more for a prosumer userbase as opposed to professionals.

AVID is solid. Adobe Premier is great given that its built to use After Effects, Photoshop, and Illustrator in a near seemless fashion. If you're going to professional work on video, I'd suggest those three.

But things like Sony Vegas can also get the job done. At the end of the day, all editing programs are very similar to each other so switching between them isn't that great of a leap. It's more about learning shortcuts and where all your tools are.

01-05-2014, 03:22 AM

How do people plan this sort of thing exactly? Multiple VSauce videos, Michael is filmed in various settings but it's seamlessly done. In the latest video it was snowing in one area and then it wasn't in another, but the transition was so smooth it's as if it was filmed in a day. I know for a fact it took WAY longer than that.

It appears that Michael already has a script and storyboard laid out before he creates these videos. He knows exactly what topic he wants to talk about, what shots he wants, and knows enough to leave himself significant padding room before and after a take so that he can cut the video to frame-perfect times. He also clearly knows how to mix his audio.

Amazing what a little planning and some general editing knowledge can do. :D

01-10-2014, 02:22 AM
Oh man! I will definitely keep eyes on this thread.. Thank you for sharing your insights!

1: What films do you like that display artful skill in the way the scenes are set up? (composition, lighting, that sort of thing)

(Brain is fried at this hour, I'm sure I will come back with another question later haha. )

01-12-2014, 03:23 PM
Oh man! I will definitely keep eyes on this thread.. Thank you for sharing your insights!

1: What films do you like that display artful skill in the way the scenes are set up? (composition, lighting, that sort of thing)

(Brain is fried at this hour, I'm sure I will come back with another question later haha. )

Wooooo, thanks for being patient with me Blarm. Really been getting my butt-whooped the past couple of weeks with work haha.

As far as specific scenes its a hard question to answer off the top of my head. I'd have to go back to those I mentioned before to QT, but if you want like a director who's got a body of work with excellent lighting, composition, etc., really don't look further than Stanley Kubrick. The man had a gift with his subtle use of color and angles to help effectively tell a story. Not to mention he was innovative. The Shining which he directed was the first movie to ever use the modern Steadicam for the tricycle scene.

This might be stupid, but in scenes where there are a TON of people in a city just casually going about their daily lives, are those people paid to do that or would you just film among common people?

It depends on the movie.

In The Dark Knight, the people who attended James Gordon's funeral were all extras, as are usually anyone in big period pieces where there are a ton of people in a marketplace or restaurant. Fun fact, when a scene in a restaurant with extras there to fill up tables and space are featured, these people are usually just "mouthing" conversations and not actually saying anything. This is because the microphones need to pick up sound from the actors. The crowd noise is then inserted in post-production along with music.

In Elf, when Buddy first makes it to NYC and there's a shot of him walking down the street, that was filmed with him just walking through a group of people on the street. So it really depends on the scene, what the character(s) are doing, and what you need those extras to do.

01-12-2014, 04:36 PM
That answered more than I was expecting actually.
I never thought that people talking in crowds was faked, but it makes sense. Movie magic. @w@

As a fun little experiment, try watching an old James Bond movie when Bond is at a casino or a prize fight or what have you. Then mute the audio and you'll see how silly people must feel when they have to act like they're having the times of their lives but be completely silent.

03-16-2014, 11:49 PM
Holy flipnuts, you've got some experience behind you. Much respect to you, sir.

Hope these following questions make sense.

As an amateur (someone who's only done one or two media/IT/sound courses and mucked around with some screen/short film projects for college), how would you go about:

- presenting a professional image in the industry?
- stepping up your game and losing that "newbiness" to your image?
- in the case of independent production, how would you go about collaboration with other/bigger companies?
- crowd funding?

Thanks, your advice would be much appreciated.

03-17-2014, 01:51 PM
Hey there Black Static. Thanks for the questions!

- presenting a professional image in the industry?

I'm not sure what you mean by this question. Are you referring to how you can give yourself a professional image amongst peers and potential clients/employers? In that case I'd say it's really all about the 2 "P's": Be Postive and Be Prepared. I'll refer to a story with a client of mine.

I did a 2-minute commercial for a mom and pop business that sells honey and honey products as wedding favors. When I first started talking to them to plan out the commercial, I came dressed in my company's polo shirt an khakis, with a beard but trimmed and tight, and I had a messenger bag with a small binder I started that was specifically devoted to this project. Inside I had a full layout of the expected costs, potential ideas for shots we'd use, and a short agreement I wrote up outlining certain things such as that once we came to an agreement that I would shoot the commercial they'd need to put a down payment on the service as well as that once we agreed that the commercial was done, I would not edit it further unless they were to pay me for editing and uploading the commercial again.

They were surprised that I came so prepared and was very receptive to their questions, concerns, and suggestions. I remained positive the entire time and made them feel comfortable that me and my crew would do a great job at a reasonable price. And it came out great!

The worst thing you can do in my business is be late or be unprepared or sour. Saying you can't or won't do something is usually a quick way to get yourself canned, or being combative in the creative process of a production can often lead to people feeling uncomfortable putting their brand in your hands. You need to be confident and willing to do the best job you can.

- stepping up your game and losing that "newbiness" to your image?

The short answer is to just do something. Make a show, short film, or music video. Build a demo reel, much like how an artist or writer would put together a portfolio of samples of their work. Go on You Tube and watch tutorials/how to videos and behind the scenes footage. FreddieW's company Rocket Jump is great at that by not only providing great entertainment on You Tube but also giving and inside look of how to do special effects or what goes on behind the scenes.

Burnie Burns of Rooster Teeth I think said it best when people come up to him and say they want to work for Rooster Teeth or Achievement Hunter, he responds essentially with "prove it." Don't just say you want to do something, do it. If people wanted to make videos for Achievement Hunter then they should start uploading community videos and honing their craft. If they want to work for Rooster Teeth, start making shorts, get creative, and upload them to You Tube. You're not going to get experience and get a more "veteran" status by sitting around and waiting. You have to be active. Now I'm not going to lie to you and say that's easy. It helps to have a group of people who want to work with you and will take time out of their lives to work on something you believe in, and hopefully they believe in too. Don't put off improving yourself.

- in the case of independent production, how would you go about collaboration with other/bigger companies?

Well that's really all producing really. As I mentioned above, if you approach a company/location/band/etc. about collaborating on a project you should come prepared and be positive. Have a clear idea of what you want to do, how you're going to accomplish it, have an estimated timeline, and what the other guy will get out of providing their time/resources. Because most people won't do something for free, and frankly getting a credit doesn't put food on the table or a roof over one's head. If they happen to want to provide their services for just a credit, then great! But you should always expect that you're going to incur some cost, be it paying someone for services, buying a meal/catering, and in some cases transport.

- crowd funding?.

I'm not usually a fan of this primarily because most people who consider it don't have much experience in producing and what crowd funding means or how to work with a budget. With crowd funding you really do have to answer to a large potential group of people and usually have to provide incentives in order to get funding, including things like physical copies of a production and other miscellaneous swag which all costs money to create on their own, let alone actually funding the project itself.

Not saying it can't work. Two fan productions called Grayson (Nightwing fan film) and Casey Jones (TMNT fan film) were crowd funded and came out. Both were of good quality and were successful in their own right. But these films were created by people with some decent experience in both production and producing and were able to craft a budget that worked. Now while this next example is not a film, there was recently a story of a guy who crowd funded a comic he created and didn't budget properly to where he was only able to send out about 75% of the physical comics he promised to backers. He then had a breakdown and threatened to film himself burning copies of his comic for every person who e-mailed him about when they'd get their comic and said something to the effect of people should fund him to live his life his way instead of funding him just to get a comic.

In short, I wouldn't crowd fund unless you have a clear strategy and budget you're aiming for to cover not just the project but how you plan on rewarding your backers. Because while people shouldn't view sites like Kickstarter as a store, they often do and you risk undermining all your hard work due to logistical issues that will give you a very bad reputation.

If you have any more questions please feel free to ask!

03-17-2014, 11:28 PM
This was a huge motivational boost, thank you. Must admit, I teared up a little.

03-18-2014, 02:25 AM
Kinda ties in with one of my first questions.
In action flicks/shows, when we see explosions, buildings being ripped up, cars flipping down the road, and RPG's being fired, what's really going on to make those effects? It seems way more than just basic CGI...or maybe it is. 'u`

Well it really depends on the particular effect you're talking about and what kind of budget a production is working with.

Explosions can easily be done in CGI. But most medium-big budget films can afford a pyrotechnic who can set up certain controlled explosions to add a level of realism with practical effects.

A lot of practical effects with buildings being blown up and cars flipping is usually done as miniatures. A studio like Industrial Light and Magic will build a replica of say New York City or Los Angeles and then blow it up extreme close-ups and wide-shots giving the feel that it's a big city but actually more the size of a big picnic table. A couple of examples of this would be the nukes blowing up LA in Terminator 2 and the alien motherships blowing up various cities in Independence Day.

Other times when it comes to flipping cars they'll just forgo miniatures and flip an actual vehicle and fake buildings if it's a blockbuster. Terminator 3's much revered opening chase scene featuring a mobile crane was mostly done using practical effects and actually driving the crane through buildings.


Much like how there's guns that fire blanks, there's also rocket launchers that appear to fire but actually fire nothing or just propel a dummy warhead.

Nowadays people tend to rely on CG either because something costs too much to do it practically or it's a liability. Gone are the days where James Cameron would have a 18-wheeler spin out, then go on its side while it's dragged by several tractors down a roadway into a steel mill, all while a stuntman rides it like a surf board.

But CG is usually a cheap and effective way for budding new producers to achieve a reasonably believable effect without breaking the bank or dealing with the financial burden of having to re-shoot something involving explosions, blood squibs (the small explosions you see on someone's body when they get shot and blood spews everywhere), and flipping cars. And while everyone would love to have limitless potential to do something crazy like the famous (and real) barrel roll from The Man With the Golden Gun, not everyone can afford to do multiple takes if something goes wrong or want to be held liable in case of injury.



This was a huge motivational boost, thank you. Must admit, I teared up a little.

Haha, well I don't know if my words are worthy of tears, but I'm glad I could help.

04-13-2014, 11:10 PM
Oh man. It's pretty cool just how realistic some 3D renderings are in movies. I can't imagine how much time that takes to get it that convincing. Imagine video games with constant in game graphics like that.

Anyway, got another one for you. I was watching this AVGN episode (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfnSqLzUzfM&list=PLbQ-gSLYQEc5zsOcYcKbnQYM2DQbEGC0x) and he got to a part where he briefly went over his equipment. The camera USED was 3 grand. And that's just for AVGN (I'm not sure what else he uses it for). He puts a lot of effort into it, yeah, but it's not as high budget as a huge feature film or TV show. So what's some of the most expensive equipment someone could use?

Honestly if James is using a $3,000 camera for the work he does then he overpaid. His work isn't exactly an example of a technical powerhouse. Not trying to diss his work, just that he could achieve the same or better quality out of a DSLR camera he could pay $800 or less for.

As far as the cost of cameras, it all depends. RED cameras which are often used for cinematic films can run anywhere from 20-25 thousand. Phantom high speed cameras, the kind used by Rooster Teeth's "The Slow-Mo Guys" and can record upwards of 22,000 frames per second can get up to 150k.

Of course these are just for the cameras themselves, not including extra lenses, tripods, and other accessories. High-end video equipment ain't cheap. You'd need to take our several mortgages to pay off some of these things.

11-25-2014, 10:39 PM
I don't think I've ever seen you talk about your preferred "loadout" when filming. What's YOUR favorite and most reliable equipment? I'm going to assume different equipment is for different jobs. So just of the tasks you feel you're often given what are your preferred?

Oh hey! Sorry for not getting back to you on this earlier.

Well for camera equipment I've been using Canon DSLRs. What I used for a long time was a T3i for commercials and some music videos. Audio-wise I have a rig that works for me using a H4N digital audio recorder hooked up a Sennheiser lav mic and stick mic backup. I have an optional shotgun mic but the H4N usually picks up ambient sound pretty well on its own so I don't use it often unless I need to conceal a mic somewhere. Lighting wise I have a couple of Limo studio dimmable LEDs that work just fine for me. Plus I have some friends who lend me lights if I need them.

At one of my jobs in the city we use Ikegami shoulder cams on our peds and our Triangle jib uses an Ikegami box cam which makes it easy to use with the Dutch that's on the jib. Our mics are Sony wireless lavs, at least the ones that aren't hard lined.