Its no secret here at Quickclass, we’re a digitally saavy bunch, constantly searching for and developing tools and features to improve the lives of educators and accelerating their learners’ mastery of their subjects.
This doesn’t mean to say that we don’t recognise the importance of ‘pre-digital’ skills like writing, building sets or performing… all of which have existed for thousands of years before the advent of the digital gadgetry that’s pervaded our modern lives.
In fact filmmaking, from its earliest days, has always been a necessary marriage between the very latest technology of the day and skills that came from theatre and more traditional trades stretching to the dawn of civilisation.
One skill that can not be overstated in importance on a practical level is the ability to tie a KNOT! Yeap, that’s right, the skill to manipulate ropes in ways that can bind remote objects, support bulky weights, hold things in place or host things into the air are ESSENTIAL on any filmset of minimal sophistication.
The gurus at Premium Beat filmmaking site have taken the mystery and complexity out of 4 essential and extremely useful knot configurations for our viewing and learning pleasure. From the Bowline, to the Trucker’s Hitch, via the Clove Hitch and the Double Sheet Bend, the four knots you have to know are not only described for their individual uses, but are demonstrated for you to easily copy and learn them yourself!
So, arm yourself with millenia-old technology that can do just as much to enhance your set craft as knowing how to operate a camera or direct an actor’s performance. Solid knot skills will definitely spill from filmmaking into many unexpected other areas of your life, so learn something new on Premium Beat’s excellent tutorial below!
There are a few things you should be considering when it comes to online safety and privacy. VLE’s are great, and we know that when students use them effectively, they can achieve remarkable results (read about the correlation between VLE use and performance here). However, when yo’re thinking of using virtual learning environment software and services, you need to ensure your students’ safety. Think about the following when discovering and making full use of digital content and consider making your students aware of the issues.
There are three facets to digital citizenship; safety, literacy and responsibility.
However, this is not the case with all learning platforms. You need to know what you’re signing up to when you register your information on sites and apps. Look at the agreement you’re making and what they’re going to require from you. Read through the agreement rather than blindly clicking on the agree button. You might realise these platforms are after more of your personal information than first thought. Students need to take overall responsibility for their online safety, but to do so, they need to understand what this means, and that’s where digital citizenship in schools comes in. As their teacher, inviting them to use a particular platform they would not have known about without you also puts the onus on you to make the right choices on their behalf.
Keeping your information secure is important. Passwords come into their own when it comes to keeping information safe. Vary your passwords; don’t use the same one to access everything, as once someone gets hold of that password, they can access all of your information. Uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters should all feature in a strong password. Digital privacy in education is more important now than it ever has been, and solid passwords are an essential first step.
Don’t trust everything you see online. Be sensible and learn to recognise when you are consuming false information, or heading to an unsecure site. Be wary and vigilant when navigating through the online world. Not every site is a good site, and if you think something isn’t quite right, then it probably isn’t. Know what you’re looking for from a service and feel safe using it. But, does that mean we should only use services we have already heard of? Not necessarily – as you could be missing out on great learning opportunities. Check out our take on Considering Non-Google Education Platforms to see what we mean.
Tips on evaluating an online service in terms of student protection:
As a teacher selecting an online service for your students to use, you have the responsibility of keeping them as safe as you can. But how do you select Virtual learning environment platforms with safety in mind? Ask these questions when considering Virtual Learning Environments for schools – they’ll help you make an informed decision. If you are answering “yes” to most of these questions; you might want to consider an alternative service.
- Does it collect information that could personally identify a student?
- Does it share information with 3rd parties?
- If you discontinue use, will student information be retained?
- Are targeted advertisements served to users?
- Are they unclear about data security processes?
- Are there any reviews online that raise red flags about the service?
It is an often-shared ‘fact’ that modern smartphones have more computational power than NASA did when they landed a man on the moon. This is clear from Moore’s law: that computational density doubles every two years. This relentless, radical change has affected all aspects of society, including the role of filmmakers (we’re already seeing the slow decline in practical effects).
Technological advances ranging from Machine Learning to Computational Photography, are poised to revolutionise filmmaking. We’ve already witnessed this in past revolutions spawned from new technology in the film industry, ranging from 3D cameras to CGI. Currently, the future points to Computational Photography (CP) (creating a single photo by integrating multiple images) and to machine learning techniques called “Generative Adversarial Networks” (GAN). Perhaps we will soon discover a new form of filmmaking that equally balances photography and digital image creation, which some are labelling “Computational Filmmaking”.
How does this differ from ‘ordinary’ filmmaking? Simply put, in ordinary filmmaking there’s always one phase for live-action photographed and another distinct phase for digital effects. In the Computational Filmmaking all of this happens at once, on the fly as it were.
So over time how has technology changed the film industry and where are we…
The iPhone has been able to do CP with its HDR camera function for a while now. With the iPhone 7, Apple also added a second camera that can be used for optical zoom and for a Computational Photography technique called “Portrait Mode”. This simulates, in some way, having a larger sensor and a bigger, more expensive lens, hence allowing the iPhone to do what your DSLR does, but with much less hardware!
In the foreseeable future:
At Adobe MAX 2016, they unveiled ‘SkyReplace’ – in a technology demonstration that showed just how many post-production jobs could be replaced by AI. Sky replacement is nothing particularly new, it’s been done by artists on every single print ad, film, commercial and TV show you’ve ever seen, and for a long time, frame by frame, by hand. SkyReplace is poised to automate this usually manual job through Machine Learning.
In the unforeseeable future:
GAN (Generative Adversarial Networks) is a statistical probability model that can generate realistic looking images – sounds amazing right?
This means you show a neural network millions of images of a tree, and then it can recognize a tree when it sees one, but more interestingly, it can generate original tree images all on its own – let that sink in – original images. This is still in early days, so the images are small, but as Moore’s law has shown, it’s only a matter of time before this becomes powerful new software and widely available. How long until a photorealistic image can be generated just by typing a sentence, or by writing a script?
Adobe’s ‘Voco’ and DeepMind’s ‘WaveNet’ are both ‘neural network’ systems that use text and audio samples (just like GAN uses images) to produce speech indistinguishable from actual human voices. One possible application to filmmakers might be that the software could compose its own, original music!
Dubbed ‘Photoshop for audio’, whilst this is still a demo, it will likely be available to consumers soon. Maybe you’ll be able to use Morgan Freeman or David Attenborough to narrate your own movies.
In the near future, filmmakers might be able to tell their computers what they want their movie to look like, what mood it seeks to portray, and the plot. The computer, using all the newest CP and GAN technology, will generate a watchable result.
The real world that cameras are capturing will begin to be merely a starting point – soon computational filmmaking could really revolutionise the way we think about and approach film and the whole creative process.
Virtual learning environments are becoming more widely used. They are excellent at combatting a huge number of challenges faced in the sphere of learning; such as larger student populations and reduced budgets. But, learners sometimes find it easy to lose motivation in a Virtual Learning Environment. It’s not difficult to lose motivation in a traditional classroom if you aren’t interested in the subject, and even easier to let your motivation slip when no one is standing over your shoulder ensuring you do the work.
So, how do you motivate students to keep engaging with the subject, when they’re behind a screen? Students can be excellent at hiding their lack of motivation and engagement, and you need to be on top of your game to recognise when things are slipping. It’s far less trouble to keep them engaged in the first place than it is to try and motivate them once they’ve lost their drive. So, how do we ensure they’re getting the most from their learning, and you’re getting the most from them?
Engagement equals motivation
It’s human nature to be lazy, why waste energy? People want to do things using as little energy as possible, so if we can get away with not attending something, not paying attention or letting others do the work for us, often we will. This behaviour becomes extremely noticeable in a VLE for students. Teachers will see that some students will slow down their use of the Virtual Learning Environment software as time goes on; this is them losing motivation and their engagement levels slipping. There’s a direct correlation between the success of students and their VLE use (which you can read about here) so we know it’s imperative that we keep students engaged with their learning. However, we also know, that accessing a VLE for learners 100 times or 100,000 times, doesn’t necessarily make for greater success. Surprising eh? Take a look at our article to read more about this.
It’s all well and good appreciating this challenge, but even better knowing how to combat this as a teacher. Here are some pointers.
- Communicate with your students. Keep in touch, however that may be. Talk to them through a messaging centre, arrange 1-to-1 time or ask direct questions in a group discussion. The second students feel forgotten about, they start to disengage.
- Set expectations. If we know what is expected of us, it’s a lot easier to apply yourself to those expectations. The flexibility a VLE can provide is one of the top benefits, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. Letting your students know what you need from them in terms of participation from the get-go, will help you down the line.
- Set goals. Working with each individual to set goals for progress gives your students the opportunity to take ownership of their learning. If they’re accountable for their progress, you will start to notice them sticking to their goals more rigidly.
- Monitor progress. Don’t stop monitoring and reviewing your students. There is always room for improvement, and reviewing results on a regular basis will help you recognise when things are slipping.
- Peer collaboration. Set tasks where your students need to evaluate content from a group discussion. This reduces the temptation to log in to the VLE, show your face and then stop paying attention.
As Brian Tyler says, “your best work is only your best work, if works with the film”. Filmmaking is a collaborative creative process and the end goal can only be achieved when everyone works together. The creative process never stops, and for Brian, a project never finishes, it simply comes to an end when they run out of time. This is a lesson for us all; Brian is constantly building on what he has and striving to improve his pieces of music. For him, the work that goes out to the public is just a “snapshot” of the idea at the point he ran out of time. Don’t be afraid to change things as you go along as a director, don’t be afraid to allow your work to evolve. A piece of music can catch you off guard, and a piece that was meant to be drumming along in the background, can soon become the title music for the opening sequence. Allow your creativity to run free.
We know a musical score can make a film, but the film also makes the musical score. The film leads the way and influences composers work. As with any creative, they go through a process, just like if you’re directing a film or designing a set. Beginning by coming up with the central themes of the music he’s setting out to write, Brian normally starts at the piano. He maps out the themes of the piece he’s going to create; taking influence from the film. Brian discusses the relevance of knowing about the filmmaking process (take a look at our article on the 3 phases of filmmaking). Filmmaking tips and techniques are not just for the camera man. The more you know about the filming process, camera angles, lighting and editing, the easier it is to capture the essence of the film in the music.
As a director, if you’re asking someone to create a piece of music for your film – you need to involve them in your creative process and allow them to be part of your vision. Leaving them in the dark isn’t going to help them shed light on your film with a beautiful musical score. One of our top filmmaking tips for students has got to be to communicate. Communicating with the team around you will make your vision many times easier to achieve.
The director is the main man (or woman), and every director is going to enjoy different types of music. A film composer has to understand the different genres because all the filmmaking tips in the world won’t help someone who doesn’t know their genres. But equally, remember that your favourite piece of music might not be the best piece of music for your film. A composer needs to be central to the creative process and understand the director’s wants and needs, before they can really engage with the piece of music they’re creating. As a director, think about what a composer might need to know. Every composer will be different, just like every director will be different. You need to become a collaborative force, so together you can create something meaningful. With the right team around you, turning your filmmaking dreams into a reality is one step closer. Give this article about turning filmmaking dreams into reality a read to see what else goes into it.
To see Brian Tyler describing and explaining the above philosphy and approaches in his own words, check out this micro-documentary.
Winter’s making its move. There was FROST on the ground yesterday morning… Frost! To help counter darkening and cooling days and nights, let’s remember that the cinema and sofa are 2 great places to spend more time over the winter.
Tim Dirk’s Filmsite.org offers us an inspired list of some of the funniest film quotes from the last 50 years. Here’s a selection to wet your appetite for more:
“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.”
Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
“I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”
– “Is there someone else up there we could talk to?”
– “No, now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time.”
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
“What? Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”
Animal House (1978)
“…My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin’ on the porch with my family, singin’ and dancin’ down in Mississippi…”
The Jerk (1979)
“Surely you can’t be serious.”
– “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”
“They’re not gonna catch us. We’re on a mission from God.”
The Blues Brothers (1980)
“Thank you for a memorable afternoon. Usually one must go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature.”
“Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?”
– “These go to eleven.”
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
“Ned, I would love to stand here and talk with you – but I’m not going to.”
Groundhog Day (1993)
“…Nobody calls me Lebowski. You got the wrong guy. I’m the Dude, man.”
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Check out the rest (with a few potentially not-safe-for-school entries, be warned!) on filmsite.org – and let’s embrace the season with catching up on and rewatching some old favorites to help us laugh our way through to Spring!
We know music can make a movie. You can hear a piece of music and instantly link it to a film. Those iconic pieces of music make a film memorable, but how do you get that music into your film? There are lots of things to be considered when it comes to music licensing for film, and selecting your music is the tip of the iceberg.
There are some really important things you need to know when you’re choosing your film’s soundtrack. You need to be aware there are two rights for every song. There are “publisher rights” and these are held by the person who wrote the song. There are also “master rights” and these are held by the person who recorded the song. For instance, Justin Bieber sang Love Yourself, but did you know it was written by Ed Sheeran? In this case, Ed Sheeran holds the publisher rights and Justin Bieber holds the master rights.
If you’ve found a song or a piece of music you want to use, you need to figure out who owns the publishing and master rights. Once you have found out who they are, you need to contact each of them and ask for permission to use the song in your film. The more people you have involved at this point, the longer it will take and the more difficult it can be. If you’ve selected a song which has four publishers, you’ll need approval from all four writers and the musician.
You can’t use the music until everyone has said yes, if one person says no, or if they don’t respond, you can’t use the song. One of our top filmmaking tips is to select a piece of music where the publishing and master rights are held by the same person. This not only saves you a load of time, but saves you a load of money too.
That brings us nicely on to the monetary aspect of music licensing for film. How much do music rights cost? Excellent question, and a hard one to answer! It depends on the kind of music you’re after and what you are going to be doing with it. Some songs used in advertisements can cost well in excess of $200,000, but there are also times where music is free to use. If you have music in a scene – let’s say you are in a coffee shop and a tune is playing in the background and no one is paying it any attention – this could cost you nothing.
As a standard, you can purchase the rights for a song for around $1500; that’s $750 for the master and $750 for the publishing rights. It’s worth remembering that these fees can be negotiated. If the artist you are talking to likes your film, or wants their music to be in it, you might be able to negotiate a better rate (and you know we love to cost-save).
Now you’re well on your way to securing music rights for your film, it’s time to start thinking about sound mixing and editing. Take a look at our article on Sound Mixing Vs Sound Editing to brush up your skills, and remind yourself of Filmmaking Trends of 2017 whilst you’re there too.
So, what’s is a micro documentary anyway? It’s a short film in documentary style, which is anything from a couple of minutes in length, up to ten minutes. They get to the point quickly and are impactful, making them a great way for documentary filmmakers to quickly and effectively communicate with their audience.
How are they changing the face of digital documentary filmmaking?
Gone are the days where consumers have time to sit and watch hours of documentary on one subject. Granted, feature length documentaries still have their place, but watching one is a big investment of time, and people don’t have that time anymore. Micro docs are taking over when it comes to information delivery; they give you what you want in five minutes. People have five minutes – they don’t have an hour. They are used to consuming information in short, snappy packages. They can be watched over a tea break, on a train or on the toilet. In this day and age, where we are so time poor, being able to get the information you need in your five minutes of dead time, is important and critical to understand if you have a story to tell.
Micro-docs probably feature more in your life than you’ve realised. If you scroll through your feeds on Facebook and Instagram, I guarantee you will come across one. They are becoming more and more prevalent as a tool for marketing as well. Consumers in 2017 don’t respond to direct and aggressive marketing. We no longer want to be told to buy something. We want to be given information; to be informed and excited about a product, so we can make our own decisions. Micro documentaries are an excellent way of marketing products, marketing brands and marketing lifestyles, and more and more organisations are using them as a tool. They give you the information, and you make the decisions.
How do they grab our attention?
How many times have you started watching a video on Facebook and then scrolled past it because it didn’t get to the point quickly enough? Yeah, we do it all the time too. If you’re going to dedicate minutes of your life watching a video, you need to suspect it’s going to be worth it. Micro-docs grab our attention right away. Within the first few moments, they’ve given us enough information to decide whether we want to keep watching. They pump you with information right from the get go, so you are hooked and you carry on viewing. They pique our interest. Because of their nature, they make excellent learning materials. Take a look at our post on Introducing Documentaries In The Classroom.
What does this mean for documentary filmmakers?
This new way of digital documentary filmmaking gives greater freedom to filmmakers. It means a film can be as long as it needs to be. There is no need to flesh out a short documentary to make it up to feature film length, and this new way is giving the green light to filmmakers to produce films at their natural length. It also means documentary filmmakers need to think more carefully about their content. It needs to be engaging, it needs to move fast and it needs to deliver. Just as much thought will go into producing a six-minute documentary, as goes into a sixty minute documentary. Remind yourself of our top Documentary Tips if you are feeling a bit rusty, or are thinking about your next documentary project.
Loglines are born simply from the necessity to be economic. They are how you sell your film, to friends, viewers and producers – think of it as an elevator pitch, but you’re only going up one floor!
We normally think of just movie loglines when discussing the subject, however loglines for short films and documentaries play just as vital a role!
It should essentially be a one-to-two sentence summary of the plot of your film first, and if possible, the main characters and themes second.
Let’s take a look at some great examples from famous films and TV shows:
Nine noble families fight for control over the mythical lands of Westeros, while a forgotten race returns after being dormant for thousands of years.
Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown.
These are two fantastic examples in two very different styles, showing the variety with which you can write a logline, the former being plot focussed, and the latter being character focussed.
We’ll share one more example which we find particularly potent and interesting, from the film In the Mood for Love;
Two neighbors, a woman and a man, form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs.
This is dramatically different from the other two in that, whilst it essentially explains the plot, it is theme-focussed.
Also check out Five Modern Filmmaking Techniques To Use With Your Students?
Making just any logline is easy; however making a great logline is very hard. So let us dissect how to best approach it in these 10 easy tips for writing loglines:
- The protagonist, their goal, and the antagonist.
A logline doesn’t need have these things; however starting with them can make it easier for you to progress with writing,
- Consider carefully if you want to use a character’s name!
Few films can really pull off this: Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Back to the Future (as mentioned earlier), Die Hard.
However if your film really just follows one character’s journey, and you believe their name helps cement the tone of your film with the reader, then why not try?
- Descriptors that add to the story!
Using a strong, specific adjective to describe the main character can help show their wants and desires, and how it fits in the plot.
- Make sure you show your character’s goals early on.
This drives your story and it will drive your logline too.
- Describe the Antagonist
Using the antagonist and (more importantly) their place in stopping the main character’s journey to their goal adds substance to your logline and script, making readers want to find out how it ends!
- Active protagonists
As the centre of your plot, a protagonist should be pro-active, as their actions are ultimately what drives the films.
Some films interestingly make the protagonist reactive, in order to explore a particular problem, place or theme (however this is really just a different means of being active).
- Include the stakes at hand and/or the “ticking time-bomb” restraints on the story.
This is a very useful narrative device that adds urgency and drive to your film, without which, why does this story exist and how is it worth telling?
Depending on your script, you may need a brief setup in order to explain how the world operates and whether it has different rules to our own, for example, in most science-fiction stories.
This can be physical laws of the world or a personal or psychological history of the driving character, depending on whether it is crucial to the story.
- The End
Obviously don’t include the ending or any surprise twists. Any surprise should be a lovely bonus to the reader.
Note: Plot twists should be explained in the treatment.
- Don’t tell. Sell.
All selling is about creating a desire. In this case it is to see the script or watch the film. Loglines are like poetry in that every word counts and that there aren’t any rules. There are many ways to do it, it’s just about taking your time and trying lots of different things until you find what works best for you and your film.
Over the last few decades we have seen our world and our human experience rapidly transform thanks to technology. This unstoppable shift to ‘digital’ comes with some threats, from hacking to data security. Whilst increasing technology in the classroom comes with many benefits, from online teaching software to virtual learning environments for teachers, just like any change, it also brings some risks.
There is little we can do to completely stop the downsides, as they simply come inherently with many of the benefits, However, we can work to better understand them as teachers, and hence minimise their negative effects.
Here are just a few ways that teachers can better understand and adapt to the importance of technology in education:
- Keeping up with new tech and new skills:
Rapid technological change increases the need for consistent professional development, as new skills need to be learnt and new jobs need to be filled. However, the inertia of many institutions (especially large and traditional colleges and universities) against change keeps them from being able to keep up.
Many of the measures taken (such as ‘technology policies’, ‘teacher growth plans’, and ‘department restructuring’) are ineffective and don’t create the rate of change necessary. This means the change must really start on a classroom-to-classroom basis, with each teacher personally adjusting the way they teach. This takes a lot of effort on each teachers’ part, because they have to be educated in new skills before passing that knowledge on. This is why true top-down professional development is the way forward for many institutions.
- Finding the perfect balance:
All change creates a false dichotomy between traditionalists, who stick to tried-and-tested ways, and progressives, who pick up on new methods despite a lack of proof of their efficacy. This is never more so than with technology.
Both sides have their fair arguments, however as society progresses so too must the way we teach. So surely the best way of moving forward in education is by having a clever balance between tradition and progress. In these situations is it pertinent to ask ourselves ‘How can we use technology in the classroom in a planned and consistent way?’
- Technology costs, so how can we make it affordable?
With changing classrooms comes increasing overhead costs – both financial and intellectual.
From a financial point of view, the only way that educational institutions will be able to afford the capital investment that technology requires is through ongoing planning and preparation for it. This can either come from cutting back from other areas, although why risk being understaffed, or reaching out to external means, through part privatisation or ‘academisation’ (turning into academies), which is also something many schools and parents don’t really want.
From the intellectual point of view, educators are increasingly required to be many things: experts in teaching, technology experts, pioneering early adopters, and finally, master managers of the entire process. Surely that is too much for one teacher!
Ultimately the only thing that can help alleviate both these costs will be increased funding and support from the government.
- Function > Form
Technology is always aging and fragmenting across hardware generations (for example, iPhone 7 vs. 8 vs. X). Whilst this can be frustrating, it isn’t always a bad thing either.
If technology were the same across the board, just as notepads and pens are, then they’d become just as ubiquitous as notepads and pens are. But technology remains first a consumer industry, so its evolution isn’t going to slow down or homogenise anytime soon – at least not whilst there are crowds of people queuing to buy the latest version!
However this ever-changing landscape, whilst disorientating, should encourage a re-focus on the learner: such rapid progress and change can have the effect of de-emphasizing technology entirely, so instead of focusing on ‘what’ and ‘which’, we can focus more on ‘why’ and ‘how’.
- Change requires our best thinking
Just like all times of change, this one requires a clever approach and collective good thinking. This involves avoiding jumping to conclusions, or drawing erratic extrapolations on too little data, or expanding biases, or refusing to consider alternative solutions.
Rapid change, and in particular rapid technological change, creates constantly new circumstances – which require a smart approach to ensure that the technology is serving us and not the other way around.
Also check out our article: Is Digital Technology Changing Learning And Teaching?