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Digital Filmmaking For Kids For Dummies®

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Introduction

So you want to be a filmmaker? Have you ever watched a film or a TV show and wondered how they made it and what it would be like to make your own? Well, you picked up the right book — this is where your filmmaking journey starts.

Digital filmmaking is the process of creating and telling a story or presenting information through the art of film using digital video cameras. Basically, it’s a way creative people like you can turn the ideas in your heads into films audiences can watch on movie screens, TVs, or computers. The filmmaking process can take weeks, months, and even years, depending on the length and complexity of the film being made. It involves taking an idea, turning it into a story and a script, storyboarding the script into a series of images, recording the actors performing the script using video cameras and microphones, transferring the video clips from the camera to a computer, and editing the footage into the final film for the audience to enjoy. It may sound like a complicated process, but it’s not, really — it’s fun, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy every moment.

There are thousands of filmmakers in the world, living their dreams of making films and documentaries every day. You could be one of them! Digital Filmmaking For Kids For Dummies introduces you to the magical world of filmmaking and guides you through the process of making your own films to share with your family and friends.

About This Book

There aren’t many places where you can discover and develop filmmaking knowledge and skills and then practically apply them to your own film projects. In Digital Filmmaking For Kids For Dummies, I give you all the knowledge and skills you need and guide you through the filmmaking process step by step.

They say a wise person learns from his mistakes and a clever person learns from other people’s mistakes. I’ve learned everything I know from working in different roles within the filmmaking industry, and the mistakes I made along the way helped me develop my skills and made me better at what I do. The great thing about this book is that I share with you the tips and techniques that I learned, which saves you having to make the same mistakes I did.

In this book, you

It’s better to understand the process and techniques of filmmaking before you go out and make your first film. This book helps you gain this understanding, as well as the following:

Foolish Assumptions

You may know a little bit about me (especially if you’ve read the “About the Author” section at the back of this book), but I know nothing about you. Still, to write this book I had to make a few guesses and assumptions about the things you already know about filmmaking and about the experience you may have had before reading this book. These foolish assumptions helped me to decide what to include in this book.

I assume that you’re interested in making films, which is not a difficult assumption since otherwise you wouldn’t have picked this book up in the first place. Maybe you’ve been involved in filmmaking before reading this book, or maybe you never used a video camera before. Either way, this book can help you.

Also, I assume you have access to a digital video camera, whether it be a camcorder you own, a video camera on your cellphone, or someone else’s camera you can borrow. Even if you don’t have access to a digital video camera right now, don’t worry — you’ll still find this book useful.

Finally, I assume you’re new to filmmaking and that you want to learn the whole process of making a film from start to finish. Of course, even if you’re a professional or have made films before, I’m sure you’ll find this book useful, even if only to refresh your knowledge and skills.

Icons Used in This Book

As you read through the projects in this book, you will notice a few icons as shown below:

remember The Remember icon gives you a little reminder about important things to remember when you make your films.

technicalstuff This icon will appear when I am explaining technical information and techniques.

tip I use the Tip icon when I have information or advice that could help you with your film project.

warning If there is something that could be dangerous or should be avoided, the Warning icon will appear.

Beyond the Book

I have made available a lot of extra content that you won’t find in this book. Go online to find the following:

Where to Go from Here

Digital Filmmaking For Kids For Dummies will help launch you into the filmmaking world and give you the confidence you need to get out there and turn your ideas into films. After you have read this book, you may wish to study this topic further at college or look into any film courses near you. Whatever you decide to do next, I encourage you to keep watching films to get inspiration and techniques from, and to keep making your own films as that is the best way to develop as a filmmaker.

It’s now time to start your filmmaking journey. I’m really excited to be able to introduce you to the filmmaking world and to guide you through making your own films.

This book is made up of projects, which are designed for you to be able to jump to different stages of the filmmaking process. If you already understand how your camera works, the different types of camera shots, the best way to record sound, and how to edit a film, then you can jump to Part II, Part III, or Part IV, as you like. You can always come back to Part I later.

Even if you’re an experienced filmmaker, however, I recommend starting at Project 0 and working your way through all the projects in order. If you jump ahead, you may miss something really important. In Part I, for example, I share some great ways to enhance the look and sound of your film, which you will find this information very useful in Parts II, III, and IV.

Week 1

The Basic Digital Filmmaking Process

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This week you’ll . . .

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PROJECT 0

Getting Started with Digital Filmmaking

Welcome to Digital Filmmaking for Kids For Dummies. What is digital filmmaking and how is it different from ordinary filmmaking? Good question! Many years ago, perhaps before you were born, films were captured using cameras that recorded a series of still images to a reel of film or tape that ran through the camera. These reels were then cut together by hand, which was a very long and complicated process. Back then, fewer people were able to make high-quality films due to the cost of the equipment and production.

Digital filmmaking is simpler and less expensive than traditional filmmaking because digital cameras are able to capture images digitally through electronic chips, which send the images to media cards or hard drives and not to reels of film, which are expensive to buy and can’t be reused. The importing and editing process is also simpler because each section or clip of recorded video is imported and edited as separate files, making the editing process quicker and more efficient.

Some filmmakers still prefer traditional filmmaking to digital filmmaking because they prefer the look of the images captured with old, traditional film cameras. That look used to be hard to replicate with digital cameras, but things are changing. Some of the latest digital cinema cameras produce unbelievably beautiful footage.

The introduction of digital cameras has opened up opportunities for future filmmakers like you to get your films made and get them seen. It’s never been easier or cheaper to turn ideas and stories into films. Just look at the number of short films on YouTube and Vimeo — we live in a creative world!

With the skills and tips you learn in this book, you will be turning your ideas and stories into films to share with your family and friends.

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The Filmmaking Process

The filmmaking process can be divided up into five main stages:

If you imagine the filmmaking process as a journey, these five main stages are stops on the way. You can’t get to your final destination unless you stop at each of these places along the way. Each of these stages are discussed in the next few sections.

Development

This is one of the most important areas of the filmmaking process, and it can be one of the hardest. too. It’s usually the longest part of filmmaking, because it’s important to get the concept and the story right before moving into the production phase. Development can be rushed, however, and is sometimes skipped altogether, although this leaves the story undeveloped, which can cause problems for the filmmaker later in the pre-production stage. The development stage involves creating ideas and building the story so that it’s ready to take into pre-production.

In the development stage, the filmmaker comes up with themes and ideas in order to create a story with a good beginning, middle, and end. This story is then used to create a script for the actors to work from and a storyboard for the director and crew to work from.

Pre-production

This stage uses the idea, story, script, and storyboard created in the development stage to prepare for the production stage. In pre-production, everything is planned for as much as possible. If this stage is rushed or skipped, something may go wrong during the production stage, and it could take longer to film.

In the pre-production stage, actors are cast for the characters in the film, locations are found and sets are built for each scene, each filming day is planned and scheduled, and rehearsals for the actors are organized. The time and attention spent at this stage saves time in the production and post-production stages.

Production

The production stage is where the story and characters come to life through film. This stage relies heavily on the previous stages: If the story and script aren’t finalized or if no actors have been cast or no locations chosen, filming can’t begin.

The production stage starts with running rehearsals for the actors to learn their lines and to develop their characters. During production, camera equipment is set up on location, and the planned scenes are filmed. The final stage of production is to review the filmed footage to make sure all scenes and necessary shots have been captured, and that the footage looks good enough to pass on to the post-production stage.

Post-production

The post-production stage is where the footage captured during production is pieced together to tell the story through editing. This stage is exciting: The filmmaker gets to see the results of all the hard work put into the previous stages and to watch the film come together in the editing tool.

The post-production stage starts with importing and editing the footage captured during filming in an editing program, such as iMovie, on a computer. When all footage is imported and edited together, music and sound effects can be added and the footage can be enhanced with color and effects ready to be distributed.

technicalstuff Traditional forms of film editing are linear, meaning that they involve searching through reels of tape to edit film in sequence. Video-editing programs, such as iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Final Cut, and Adobe Premiere, are known as non-linear editors (NLE) because they are freer; with them, you can view and edit video footage in a timeline in any order you like.

Distribution

Distribution is the final stage in the filmmaking journey. At this point, the film has been produced and edited, and it’s ready for the audience to enjoy. This can be a worrying time for the filmmaker because the film will be viewed by an audience who will supply comments and reviews. This is the first point at which the filmmaker will get to see an audience’s response to the film.

Most mainstream films are first distributed to cinemas and then released on DVD, online streaming services, and television later. Low-budget films, on the other hand, don’t always get a cinema release. Instead, they first appear at film festivals and are then released to online video-hosting sites (and sometimes DVD) later.

Lights, Camera, What?

As you read through this book there will be some words that are new to you. Here I’ve created a list of filmmaking-related terms and their meanings. If you’re ever unclear about a word I’ve used in this book, you can refer to this list.

A Filmmaker’s Tools

A filmmaker can spend a fortune on all the different tools available to make films. However, to get started, a filmmaker needs only a few basic tools, most of which are relatively inexpensive:

Life as a Filmmaker

Ever since I was a young boy I’ve enjoyed being creative. I used to write my own plays and sketches and perform them in front of my family and friends. My sister and I would record our own radio shows. I would even turn the act of making cheese on toast into a TV show. Later, when it came to deciding what I would choose as a career, I was unsure which path to take, and because it seemed sensible to try to fit in, I decided to work with computers. Back then, I thought that being an actor or filmmaker wasn’t a real job. In the first five years of my career, however, I changed jobs more than ten times — something was wrong! Those so-called “sensible and normal” jobs didn’t make me happy. It occurred to me that I wouldn’t be happy until I was using the creative brain I was born with. I then made the decision to follow my dream to be involved in the TV and film industry. Now filmmaking is my life, my job, and my hobby — I love it!