The ‘so called experts’ of social media are calling it as such: whilst the Tories spent millions targeting ‘the youf’ with online ads, the stuff getting noticed was the content the youf themselves where making for each other, generally dissing the Tories.
Typically missing the point of the medium, a banner ad declaring that what the country really needs is Strong and Stable leadership is going to have an impossibly hard time competing with ANY of the following… (a worthy sample of the burst of digital creativity that made is laugh our way though this election.)
So did the Meme cause the biggest political upset since… well… last year?
You decide if the following would have swayed YOUR vote! (If it needed swaying.)
How we watch is changing
This isn’t necessarily to do with smartphone filmmaking, but smartphone film-watching. Even just a decade ago, it was relatively rare- and quite expensive indeed- to buy a ‘smartphone’ that could access and play video through the internet. It was around ten years ago that the first iPhone was released, and although it was popular, it was simply one among many phones rather than the hegemonic beast it is today.
Today, though, the ease with which we can watch movies on smartphones is changing how we consume not just film, but all media. Whereas before, we might get our news at ten o’clock from the BBC or ITV, now we find things out on the go through news apps. Similarly, sites like Netflix have changed how we watch film: it’s completely ordinary to see people on the way to work watching films or TV through either Netflix, iTunes or Hulu.
This is partly down to the fact that Wi-Fi has become far more common on trains, buses and at cafés. It’s also because data plans are cheaper and data can be downloaded faster through a 4G mobile connection. Ten years ago, it was practically infeasible to watch films of real length on smartphones without constant buffering and poor quality, but today we can watch TV and film in high resolution wherever we go (except through train tunnels; they still haven’t figured that one out).
How we film is changing
It’s not just how we consume media that’s changed, it’s how we create media, film included. If you take a quick peek around YouTube, you might get an idea of the general quality of smartphone filmmaking: shaky and unstable, poor quality audio and strange aspect ratios abound. But here’s a few smartphone filmmaking tips that take into account the way that cinema is changing for the better:
- Camera equipment for smartphones is making films shot on iPhones and Android actually look good. Tripods and stands, 35mm lenses and even editing software apps mean that you can shoot a professional film just with your phone. The first film shot on an iPhone, for instance, was called Night Fishing– a half an hour short shot through a 35mm lens. A more recent film called Tangerine used an anamorphic lens to achieve the wide-angle look of professional films, but was still captured with an iPhone 5.
- You don’t have to stick to traditional filmmaking. A recent film, STARVECROW, was billed as the world’s first ‘selfie movie’. But it wasn’t just a gimmick; it was part of the story, which was supposed to highlight the topics of surveillance, self-surveillance, narcissism and voyeurism. It was tapered down from over 70 hours of semi-scripted and improvised footage into an 85 minute feature film, which is really worth a watch.
This might sound backwards, even nonsensical or illogical. But being overly passionate about your project can make you feel like every decision you make is the right one when, to be realistic, you can’t always get everything right. It’s simply a fact of filmmaking- and if anything it’s a fact of life.
This can be a matter of technicalities, like colour, light and sound; it can also be a matter of bad choices, like filming a project at the wrong time in your career. Perhaps the script you’ve put together isn’t as good as you think it is, and could do with a few more drafts. Or, you could have picked the wrong people to play your characters. It can be surprisingly difficult to work with friends, especially when it comes to dividing any hard earned income.
Passion breeds over-ambition
If you’re overly passionate about your project, you might be biting off more than you can chew. This is because it can be surprisingly difficult to get your vision off the ground, not just because of time and effort, but because of cost. Visions can be uncompromising, especially if you’re as convinced of your own project as the person above.
But visions can also cost a lot of money. If a particular shot requires a particular lens, you might justify buying it because of your certainty that your film will be a success. Ditto a lighting setup, a bigger and more established name for your lead role, a filming location hundreds of miles away… Pretty soon, though, those costs start to add up and make it exceptionally difficult for you to make anything back from your project. There’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple, and maybe once you’ve established your career in film making, you can revisit your project with Tom Cruise and eye-popping CGI.
Passion isn’t a rare commodity that will set you apart
Believe it or not, almost everyone trying to carve out a career in filmmaking has passion. And that’s almost unique: if you work as an HR manager and you’re genuinely passionate about what you do, then you better believe that it sets you apart. But what students searching for film studies jobs often don’t realise is that putting ‘filmmaker with passion’ on your CV is akin to putting ‘filmmaker who breathes air’ or ‘filmmaker that requires food’.
If you’re in too deep, you’ve probably just told yourself ‘That may be true, but I’m especially passionate about what I do.’ And this isn’t intended as an insult, but you’re not. We all love what we do, and would like to do it as a career. Many people before you have been there and bought the T-shirt. A good proportion of them found that after all was said and done, a career in film making wasn’t ideal or wasn’t possible for them.
In summary, no great film or career in film will run on passion alone. Passion is merely one of the essential ingredients, but there are many more on the list to succeed as a filmmaker.
Pre-production, also known as the planning stage is the point at which you think of the story you would like to tell, and how you imagine you can tell that story through the medium of film. Now, you’re welcome to your own opinion, but we think that this is by far the most important part of the process: quite simply, everything hinges on the quality of your idea and its presentation. When you conceive your idea, try to keep it simple: can you pitch it in one sentence? If not, it’s too complicated.
Once you have your idea, break it down and flesh it out with a script and storyboards. It can be surprisingly difficult to stay ‘on message’- in other words, to stay true to your original idea- but this is no bad thing, because all stories evolve. It’s also at this point that you start to think about where you might want to shoot, and who you might want to play each character (although this choice isn’t so hard if you’re at the beginning of your career- you can only really ‘hire’ your friends).
Once you know what you’re going to shoot, you have to shoot it. This is production. As part of what could be called post-pre-production, you have to make sure that your equipment is up to scratch for what you’d like to do: is each shot feasible? Do you need stands, tripods, different kinds of lenses? Consider this before getting started.
Once you’re shooting, remember that it’s better to shoot a little too much rather than a little too little. A good rule of thumb might be that when shooting a small budget film, for every one minute that makes it into your film, three minutes will be left on the cutting room floor. But for now, focus on the following key things: framing, light, focus and sound. If you get these parts right, you can’t go far wrong.
Editing your film is just as important as filming it. This is when you polish what you’ve created, so that it’s coherent in message and tone; this process is what changes a good idea, and perhaps good execution during filming, into a good film. There are different ways to approach editing, but if you’re a beginner, do try to keep it simple.
The first thing to keep in mind is continuity and pacing between shots. This means two things: first that the story is told beat by beat throughout the film, both coherently and consistently, and second that basic details like whether the main character is wearing a hat or holding it in his hands do not change between successive shots. It’s also possible to an extent to edit colour, lighting and sound in post-production, although no amount of editing can fix bad filming. That being said, follow the basic filmmaking process step by step and your film will become something that’ll tell an audience your story.!
It’s the oldest cliché in the book that a media or filmmaking degree is the epitome of a navel gazing, time wasting university education. But to take a step back and genuinely think about the importance of an education in filmmaking, it really isn’t so bad. In fact, we think that a film degree actually gives you a ticket into a growing industry, or alternatively gives you the skills to go and ply your trade elsewhere. Read on and find out some of the wider benefits of learning about understanding and creating film.
A filmmaking degree doesn’t just teach filmmaking
It’s not just learning how to shoot a film that gives a filmmaking degree importance. While we do believe there are more jobs than ever before in media and film, a filmmaking degree can help you into other careers because of the skills that it develops in you, above and beyond simply ‘creativity’.
First things first, studying the creative process gives you an eye for detail that not many other pursuits do. Shooting films requires a level of skill and attention to detail in a thousand different ways: selecting shots, backgrounds, costume, lighting and so on means making a thousand decisions and choices in every second of film.
There are also the points of persistence, because shooting films takes a whole lot of time and effort, and the fact that telling a story or sending a message to your audience can improve your wider skills of persuasion and communication. These skills are useful not just in the film industry, but in jobs from sales and advertising to working in public services. A film degree gives you these skills.
Media is becoming easier to make and easier to access
Back in the 1920’s, commercial radio broadcasting wasn’t available all day. You could only tune in at certain times of the day, and when you did, you might be treated to a light opera like the HMS Pinafore. Fast forward a few decades to the advent of television and ‘pop music’: you might only be able to hear it on pirate radio, but the three minute catchy song had arrived, as well as the all day, every day TV broadcast.
Today, media surrounds us. Music, movies and the written word envelop us, and not just on their terms but on our own. We can pick and choose what to listen to and what to watch at any hour of the day or night. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on how much of a cynic you are! What we can all agree on, however is that entertainment is more widespread and more popular than ever.
And because of the entertainment explosion we’re living through, a film degree gives you value and a chance at a career in media. We won’t lie and tell you that jobs in the industry grow on trees, but bear in mind that there only used to be two, then three, then four TV channels; at some point in the past, there was no such thing as YouTube. Opportunities are more abundant today than ever before.
The US midTerm elections are 18 months away, and as long as nuclear war doesn’t break out before then, then just like you, we’ll continue biting nails and praying that the Donald continues to be at least partially contained…
In the meantime, we can highly recommend healthy doses of cinematic diversions to relieve the tension…. As if by perfectly-timed magic (or the fact that some gems take longer to come to our notice) the Guardian newspaper went and and quizzed some of the UK’s funniest and finest living comedians for THEIR nominations of great comedic masterpieces.
Luckily, the inclusion of Borat, Best in Show and Life of Brian make up for a noticeable lack of Withnail and I. Any Best Of List worth reading wouldn’t be complete without someone feeling unrecognised and ending up having an argument about it.
There are almost too many gems here to count. So, let’s laugh ourselves to November 2018, it’ll beat crying.
Smartphones make snapping quick pictures and shooting quick films easy. But what about shooting good films? How is it possible to get the very best out of the relatively limited software on offer by Apple and Android phones? We’ve put together this brief overview of some smartphone filmmaking tips to help you shoot the best films you possibly can.
Specialist apps can give you far more control over your pictures and videos
The camera on an iPhone isn’t half bad considering the phone’s small size. But the app that comes included with iPhones that determine the control you have over your shot isn’t so great. You can’t manually adjust focus or contrast, for a start. This really puts a damper on your efforts if you want to make beautiful films with just an iPhone.
But with a whole host of professional grade apps, you can completely transform your film to the point where people might not even realise it was filmed on a smartphone. Cinescope, for instance, can be used to shoot in any aspect ratio you like. Adobe Premiere Clip gives you the ability to edit films on your phone. And Filmic Pro can adjust lighting, contrast, and colour. With apps like these, smartphone filmmaking is easier than ever.
Tripods and mounts can help you get a steady shot
Hardware is just as important as software, and not much more expensive either. With a cheap, basic tripod or handheld mount you can turn your smartphone films into steady shots. It’s almost a tradition now that anything filmed on a smartphone is 1) in portrait, and 2) filmed so shakily that it’s reminiscent of Blair Witch Project-style found footage. Even if you do your best to keep your camera still, you can always tell it was filmed by hand.
Some full height tripods are designed to fit both cameras and smartphones, and the very basic entries can be found on eBay or Amazon for two or three pounds- so you won’t be breaking into the piggy bank. But for such a small investment, they can help your filmmaking come on leaps and bounds.
All the rules of composition still apply
Just because you’re filming on a smartphone, that doesn’t change what makes a good shot good, and a bad shot bad. Even when using the smartphone filmmaking tips above, bear in mind that fancy equipment and some cheap apps can’t replace the basic skills and knowledge of filmmaking.
The rule of thirds, for instance still applies whether you’re filmmaking on a £10,000 camcorder or a smartphone. The 180 degree rule still applies, and lighting and angle are still just as important as they always have been. It’s these skills in combination with the equipment above that can help you make standout films on just an iPhone or Android.
Google aren’t satisfied with owning (and monitoring!) half the world. Google Classroom is one of their latest ventures, and it’s their first stab at e-learning and mobile learning software. It’s a decent first attempt, but we think there’s a really important thing they get wrong. The basis of any amazing VLE has to be education, education, education: but true to form, Google’s Classroom is designed with advertisers in mind just as much as students. Read on to find out exactly what we mean.
What do Google get right?
The very many tools that Google offer are popular for a reason. Typically, they bring out the best of new technological advances, and add their own twist. Take Google Drive: it was introduced in 2012, right at the beginning of the cloud revolution, and it cemented its place in the market both because of the omnipresence of Google- everyone has a Gmail account- and because of its genuine functionality. As of 2017, Google Drive holds over two trillion files and has 800 million active users.
Google’s Classroom is their attempt to force their way into the emerging VLE market. It has many of the features commonly found in virtual learning environment software, and offers the same sorts of benefits: it saves time and paper, organises classwork in one place, and enables quick and easy communication with students. The other Google Classroom pros are its simplicity- it’s very easy to navigate- and its compatibility with Google’s other apps. Apart from that, it’s all par for the course for e-learning software.
Google Classroom vs other VLEs is therefore not much more than a personal choice. Perhaps you like the idea of your students finding it easy to use because of its compatibility with many of Google’s apps for Android and iPhone. Perhaps that doesn’t appeal to you. But where Google’s Classroom succeeds as an effective VLE, it fails because of Google’s insistence on pandering to its advertisers.
What do Google get wrong?
The problem is that like many of Google’s offerings, their focus isn’t always on providing a great service to you, but providing a great service to their advertisers. Remember, everything that you Google search is collected, collated and sold to advertisers so that they can better market their products. The websites you find through Google search, or visit on Google Chrome, are similarly analysed.
This is where Google’s Classroom falls down. Google make almost all of their profits from their Google Adsense service, so it’s no surprise that they want to monetise as many of their offerings as possible. But this really is fundamentally incompatible with e-learning software, which should always be for- well, learning, not marketing. Put simply, the monetisation of Google’s Classroom is a step in the wrong direction.
No, brand isn’t a dirty word in many authentic artists minds, and to create branded content isn’t selling out. Well, maybe strictly speaking it can be, but it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your dearly-held creativity on an altar of cold hard cash. If you have some skills and you know how to make short films, it’s perfectly possible to create branded content that genuinely reaches out and connects with your audience, and provides much-needed funds throughout your career.
Filming branded content with genuine creativity is possible
First things first, just because you’re filming branded content, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be creatively honest and even deserve artistic merit. Take Prada’s Castello Cavalcanti for example. This particular short film was written by none other than Wes Anderson and produced by Roman Coppola. It’s eight minutes long, but doesn’t contain a single reference to Prada, apart from the jacket worn by the main character. Other than that, the film is a typical Wes Anderson story about an Italian racing driver who crashes by coincidence in the hometown of his ancestors. It’s a story, not an advert.
And believe it or not, but 2017 marked the second year of the Brand Film Festival, which was held in New York on May the 4th. Its purpose is to showcase the very best of the year’s branded content films. They even hold open discussion groups on topics like: ‘Ways to Deliver Compelling Content within Your Branded Film’, and ‘Providing the Perfect Pitch for Your Branded Film’. These questions are at the heart of real concerns for professional and amateur filmmakers, so the Brand Film Festival isn’t a cynical marketing gimmick.
So, take it from us, you aren’t the only one out there wondering if branded content can be anything more than subtle advertising. But if you’re to believe the Brand Film Festival, it certainly can.
Using branded content eases money worries
Filmmaking is a difficult industry to break into. Not only is there not a clear career path to the ‘top’- whatever the ‘top’ of filmmaking is anyway- but amateur and student filmmakers are ten a penny. In such a crowded competitive atmosphere, there’s not much room to turn down a paid opportunity to further your creative career, and earn money doing it.
Making branded content, however, can be a great exercise in how to make short films on a low budget. It gives you the opportunity to do what you love. And if you approach it with an open mind, it’s even possible to put your heart and soul into it just like you would with your own content. But best of all, it beats working as a cameraman by far, and can be a fantastic addition to your CV. What’s not to love about that?
If anything, during the past twenty years, teachers have tried and failed to stop pupils bringing their phones to school, but the tech tide is turning. Even early years classrooms are kitted out with laptops and tablets for toddlers. Not long ago, schools started providing pupils with laptops and tablets they could take home; now pupils can bring their own to school. So how can we maximise the benefits of Bring Your Own Device’ education?
Reduce distraction, improve focus
The risk of using laptops or tablets in class- whether they were brought in by the student or provided by the school- is how much of a distraction they can prove to be. The internet is full of wonders like YouTube, Facebook and Reddit that are time-sinks for students and professionals alike. Before you introduce BYOD in classrooms, make sure that you’re prepared for this by blocking access to certain websites or Apps that are more trouble in the classroom than they’re worth. Yes- even if it means that you can’t go on Facebook during class! We know full well that you do…
Make your classes interactive and media-driven
If your school is truly intent on making BYOD a success, one way of taking advantage of this is to move away from old fashioned lectures and tests. BYOD in schools gives you the opportunity to tailor your classes to every student by making them interactive and media driven, so that they can follow along and learn at their own pace. For younger children, media in class can help their imaginations run riot, and it keeps older children engaged through self-managed learning too. Using a VLE, Prezi or similar is a great way to achieve this and avoid a ‘one speed fits all’ approach.
Encourage pupils to do their own research
With the whole Web at their fingertips, you can set your pupils assignments in class that they can research for themselves. Not only does this teach learners to study and research on their own, which is great preparation for higher education, but it gives them the opportunity to personalise their learning. Let’s say that as a History teacher, you ask each pupil to research something interesting about the Roman Empire: maybe one thinks that gladiators were cool (and they were!), but maybe another is more interested in the frankly excessive Roman pantheon of gods. BYOD can let each pupil learn about what they want individually and then share with rest of the group.