ADDING PRODUCTION VALUE TO YOUR PROJECTS: SOUND
JULY 20th, 2022
Welcome back to another entry in our blog series, “Adding Production Value to Your Projects,” in which we’ll be focusing on a technical aspect of production that absolutely MUST be quality if your film is going to succeed, and that’s none other than sound. Let’s get right into it!
SOUND IS THE ONE ASPECT OF PRODUCTION THAT CAN’T BE OVERLOOKED
While sound is one of four production disciplines we’ll be focusing on in this series, I would argue that it’s actually the MOST important part of the production we’ll be discussing.
Your cinematography can be subpar, the acting mediocre, the writing decent, and yet the film could still potentially succeed if the script is creative enough. But one aspect of a film that CANNOT be overlooked is its sound design.
You see, sound is usually pushed off as the red-headed stepchild of production. I’ve literally heard directors yell “F**K the microphone!” on film sets. People will say things like “we’ll fix it in post,” (which is cringe-inducing), but in reality, sound is the most important part of the cinematic experience. Audiences will usually give more attention to cinematography because shots are physically presented on-screen, and thus considered more tangible than, say, the editing and sound design. But, in both cases, the artistry is designed to be invisible. After all, your attention should focus on the story, not the ADR recording from a sound-proof studio.
Your sound MUST be well-recorded and well-mixed. There are no exceptions to this if you want your production to be considered professional. So how does one accomplish this? Let’s get into a little bit of technical talk.
A TWO-PERSON SOUND CREW IS IDEAL ON SMALLER SETS
On smaller film sets, it’s ideal that you’ll want one person handling the boom mic, and the other keeping their eyes on the mixer. A boom mic with a dedicated boom pole is your ideal choice for narrative productions. Just straddle the pole on the back of your shoulders, point your mic down over the actor that’s speaking, and let your sound partner handle the recording and mix.
If you’re shooting a documentary, I would highly recommend getting a set of Sennheiser wireless mics like the G3 system pictured above. They provide crystal clear sound and are very easy to use. They also afford your talent the ability to get up and walk around if they so desire. As a backup, I would also recommend using a camera-mounted shotgun mic while you’re shooting (just in the event your wireless mics don’t work).
Something else that’s a must when recording on-set: remember to get 10-20 seconds of room tone. This will help your sound mixer isolate the room’s natural sound and cancel it out later.
ONCE SHOOTING IS COMPLETED, IMPLEMENT YOUR MIX AND EDITING
Once shooting has been completed, the real work begins: mixing and editing. I can perhaps go into further detail on mixing in a future post, but I’ll give the basics here.
Obviously, your dialogue is top priority. Much of the dialogue recorded on set will need to be re-recorded in a studio. Film sets are VERY noisy. At any given moment, an amalgamation of work will be going on: grips are moving pipe to the next set before crew arrives. Airplanes may be flying overhead in the middle of an important exchange between two characters. Dogs in a nearby neighborhood will bark and ruin your perfect take.
For these reasons, much of your dialogue will need to be re-recorded in a soundproof studio. This is called ADR - or automatic dialogue replacement. Keep in mind that ALL film productions go through this process. If you ingest your footage and find the recorded dialogue unusable, don’t panic. Take note of every line that needs re-recording and plan a studio session to have the actors record later.
Remember: a good sound mix can make or break a film. Plan your sound design well in advance of shooting. If you hire a sound mixer during preproduction, give them as much information as you can about your sound design so they can plan accordingly.
TEST SCREEN YOUR FILM TO SEE HOW IT SOUNDS
Test screen your film for friends and family to see how it actually sounds on a screen. If your dialogue is mixed too high, it will be very obvious and stand out like a sore thumb. While the film is playing, take notes. Even better: time stamp the film so you can write down exactly where you want to make changes. Once this is done, rinse and repeat until you feel satisfied with the mix.
I hope this post has been helpful in your quest for film production greatness! We’ll see you next time!
- Jack Moffet
ADDING PRODUCTION VALUE TO YOUR PROJECTS: LIGHTING DESIGN
JULY 1ST, 2022
Welcome to another blog post from Black Fox Productions! In our new blog series “Adding Production Value to Your Projects,” we’ll be focusing on an aspect of production that I consider vitally important in terms of production value: lighting.
I’m sure this goes without saying, but the way you light your shots has a TREMENDOUS effect on the final result of your films. The director of photography (or DoP) is in charge of all lighting decisions, while the gaffer is responsible for the execution of the production’s lighting plan.
If you work in much smaller productions, odds are you’ll be your own gaffer for each project. While that might sound like an overwhelming responsibility when combined with cinematography, direction, and sound (among many other things), lighting equipment is now more mobile - and thus physically easier to carry - than ever before. You don’t need an Arri 18kW HMI lamp head on a gigantic rolling stand to make your projects pop. So let’s get right into it!
WHILE CINEMA CAMERAS HAVE CHANGED, THE BASIC RULES OF LIGHTING HAVE NOT
Long gone are the days of shooting films on celluloid film stock. The digital revolution took hold of the cinematography world a little over a decade ago, and - needless to say - it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. While there are some cinema purists that refuse to shoot digital, there’s no denying that digital film cameras have firmly planted their feet in the cinematography space. The cameras used for production now rely on sensors as opposed to exposing film stock.
While the film grain look of movies has disintegrated pixel by pixel, the lighting rules of cinema remain the same. The classic 3-point lighting system that has existed since the advent of cinema is still used on film sets, and for good reason. I’d say it’s even MORE important now that film sensors have grown and their low light performances with it. In modern filmmaking, the only thing you may need to light a scene is a candle.
The rule of 3-point lighting still stands because it simply WORKS. This dreamy, near-chiaroscuro style of lighting still looks just as good today as when Orson Welles made Citizen Kane in 1941.
As an example, let’s take a look at a film I consider a modern-day classic, shot by none other than the master himself, Roger Deakins: No Country for Old Men (2007).
At first glance, the lighting plan seems hectic, but it’s actually quite simple. Deakins is known for using as much practical light as possible, utilizing fixtures within the diegetic world of the characters to light his subjects. Here, we have a lamp being used as a key light, creating a strong highlight on the actor’s face. There’s no doubt where you should be looking. Behind him, providing a built-in rear light, is a lamp that creates a natural separation of foreground and background. But here’s where the plan gets creative: the negative fill on Bardem’s off-screen left. This detracts light from the left side of his face, giving his character a dark and spooky look. And if you’ve seen the film, there’s no doubt this was an intentional creative choice about Bardem’s sociopathic character, Chigurh. It’s almost a literal manifestation of his coin-flipping hijinks.
YES, YOU CAN ACHIEVE THE SAME LOOK IF YOU PLAN ENOUGH
“Umm, what?” you’re sitting there saying, “I don’t have a film crew and a million-dollar budget at my disposal, dude!” While you may not have studio-level support behind your project, you might be able to achieve a result that at least looks CLOSE. The key here is to plan, plan, and plan some more. If you think you’re going to just run into a room and shoot your first feature film Dogme 95-style and want to make it look like it was shot by professionals, I’m here to tell you: that’s probably not going to work out for you. On that note, I will say, however, that shooting a documentary utilizing candid footage is an exception to this rule. For all other projects, it’s absolutely necessary to plan your lighting. Map out EXACTLY where you want your lights. From there, plan out how you’ll run electrical, and you should at least have a good idea of what to expect when the cameras start rolling.
THE FILM’S LIGHTING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE CAMERA EQUIPMENT YOU USE
“WHAT? You mean to tell me that shooting on an Arri Alexa Mini doesn’t look any better than shooting on a Canon Rebel?” There are, of course, going to be differences in the look between a camera that costs $36,000 versus $900. BUT, that being said, the camera you use isn’t the most important aspect of your production - by a long shot. I tell people (almost constantly) that there are four aspects of production that you simply CANNOT skimp on: lighting, sound, acting performances, and the script. These four MUST be quality if your film is going to succeed. There are no exceptions to this. If you want proof that films can succeed while being shot on bare-bones equipment, then just take a look at these examples: Tangerine (2015, shot on the iPhone 5S), Unsane (2018, shot on the iPhone 7 Plus), The Blair With Project (1999, shot on Hi8 video cameras), 28 Days Later (2002, partially shot on the Canon XL1). These films were shot on cameras that cost virtually nothing. And yet, they all were successful. Tangerine, even though it was shot completely on an iPhone, premiered at Sundance Film Festival.
Let’s just say, hypothetically, that I threw you onto a film set and wanted you to shoot a scene from a script. And the only three things I handed you were a phone, a candle, and some matches. Do you mean to tell me you couldn’t shoot the scene? I can think of a great scene from a horror film utilizing just those three items alone.
The key to a successful film is as simple as it’s always been: you need to tell a great story. All other aspects of production are subservient to this rule. From there, your technical production needs to be at the top of its class, and lighting is one of these aspects that must be on point if you don’t want your audience to lose interest in the story.
IN CONCLUSION: LIGHTING EQUIPMENT IS NOW MORE AFFORDABLE AND LIGHT-WEIGHT THAN EVER
I have some good news for you: lighting equipment is now more affordable and lightweight than ever before. The Godox LC500R LED light stick, for example, only costs $215. Yet it has an output of 5800 Lux per square foot of space in a dark room. For a $215 light, that’s pretty impressive. If you light your scenes correctly, you could shoot your movie on a $200 camera and make it look good as long as your lighting is on point.
The other technical aspects of production that add enormous production value, such as sound and acting, we’ll be discussing in future posts on this series. In the meantime, happy shooting!
- Jack Moffet
WHY YOU SHOULD SHOT-LIST YOUR WEDDING VIDEOS
JUNE 6th, 2022
Hey there! Welcome to another blog post from Black Fox Productions. In this week’s discussion, we’ll be going over a topic often overlooked by many wedding videographers: a shot-list. Shot-listing your weddings might seem like a complete waste of time, but I’m of the opinion that it can be enormously helpful (both to yourself and everyone involved with the wedding) when your couple’s big day finally comes around. Let’s get right into it!
STEP 1: COMMUNICATE WITH THE WEDDING PLANNER ABOUT THE ITINERARY
The first step in this process should be reaching out to the wedding planner and asking for the itinerary. If it hasn’t been made yet, I would use an itinerary from a previous wedding and begin putting together a shot-list template (you can always move the schedule around later). Most weddings follow a pretty consistent template: hair and makeup for bridesmaids starts in the morning, groomsmen arrive at eleven to noon to start getting dressed, first looks at one to two before the ceremony, etc.
STEP 2: TRY YOUR BEST TO WORK AROUND THE PHOTOGRAPHERS’ SCHEDULES
When it comes to getting the shots I need, I use a method I like to call “checkerboarding.” This means that I will checkerboard my time with the photographers between photo sessions. While there are bound to be overlaps (such as during first looks or the ceremony), I will ask the photographers, “Hey, when you’re done with the couple, can I borrow them for ten or fifteen minutes?” Not only will they appreciate that you are being considerate of their schedule, but you’ll also get the couple all to yourself when pictures are over with, and you can get any poses or walking shots you want without any interference. I LOVE this method, and I’ve found it works wonders for everyone involved.
STEP 3: I LIKE MY VIDEOS TO BE DIFFERENT FROM THE PHOTOGRAPHS
When I first started shooting wedding videos, I had a tendency to follow around the photographers and get the same shots they were getting. While that might seem to be a good idea at first, it became apparent that my video was simply a moving version of the pictures the photographers were getting. I try my best to differentiate my shots from the stills. For example, I like to get the couple walking and talking before the ceremony. Just let them chit-chat with each other while holding hands and having a good time. Using this method, you can capture a lot of natural, candid emotion in your video. Not only will your shots look different from the pictures, but you’ll also capture the emotions that pictures don’t provide. Remember: stills are made to look posed and angelic, videos are made to capture raw emotion.
STEP 4: PICK OUT YOUR DREAM POSES
There’s a plethora of information on the internet about wedding poses for your videos. As you’re putting together your shot list, find some examples on the internet of your dream poses: the poses you want with your couple that just can’t missed. Typically, these will be shot between first looks and the ceremony. Of course, you can always capture more poses after the ceremony is over with and get even more editing material.
STEP 5: PUT TOGETHER THE SCHEDULE
Once you’ve got your dream shot list put together, pull up the itinerary (if it’s been made yet), and begin scheduling out the shots. Most of this process should be pretty straightforward: getting dressed shots with the groom take place at 1:30 once he’s fully dressed up, first looks at 2:30 when both bride and groom are ready to go, etc. The wedding planner will absolutely LOVE you once they see this come together! They’ll appreciate knowing what shots you need and when you need them. Share the shot list with the couple so they can provide feedback and you can get their thoughts. Even better: send the shot list to the photographers so they know exactly what you’re planning. They’ll appreciate seeing what you have in mind.
YOU’RE ALL SET!
I hope this has been helpful on your journey to becoming a master-class videographer! Once you get a few weddings under your belt, you’ll already be a pro and ready to tackle any wedding that comes your way.
Good luck shooting your weddings!
- Jack Moffet
HOW TO BE PRODUCTIVE IN THE MODERN AGE
April 4th, 2022
Welcome to another blog post from Black Fox Productions! In this blog post, we’ll be discussing how to maximize your time in our modern age. Let’s jump right into it!
PRIORITIZE YOUR TASKS, THEN STICK TO THE SCHEDULE YOU’VE ESTABLISHED
There are only so many hours in a day. By extension, there are only so many days in a year. And, in the long term, there are only so many years we will be alive. For most of us, the majority of our time is dedicated to work that yields a paycheck, which in turn pays our bills. If work takes up most of your workweek, then how many hours will you have free once you leave the office?
Deciding your priorities (outside of your day job) is the first step in maximizing your time for productive endeavors. A good way to go about this is literally writing down your goals. It doesn’t matter how silly you think the goal is - write it down, even if they sound outlandish and silly. Then put them in order of priority. If the goal is larger (let’s say, starting a small business), it’s the height of wisdom to play the long game on priorities that will realistically take years to accomplish. If the goal is smaller (for example, setting a goal to meditate daily), then you can set this as a “daily” goal that you can work toward every morning before you head to work.
Once you’ve put your priorities in order, then you can make a schedule based on the list. Lay out a schedule that you can accomplish in small, incremental amounts each day. Over time, those tiny steps will produce a large, productive result.
LIMIT YOUR TIME ON THE INTERNET AND BLOCK OUT DISTRACTIONS
In the modern age, there are more media outlets than ever competing for your attention. Social media, internet browsing, email, texts and phone calls, television, and movies - all these outlets are fighting for your screen time. The more time you spend on these channels, the more profit these companies will make.
Although it might be hard at first, do your best to limit the amount of time you spend using these outlets. Let’s say you watch 1 hour of television every day when you get home from work. Make a compromise with yourself, and cut this down to 30 minutes per day instead. If you have a goal of writing a novel, set aside an hour each day to write. Over the course of a workweek, you’ll have dedicated five hours of writing toward your first foray into the literary world.
Limiting your time on the internet will most likely be the hardest thing to do on this list. In the modern age, the internet is inescapable and ubiquitous. While quitting the internet is not a realistic option for many of us who are dependent on constant connectivity for our jobs, limiting your time dealing with it is. When you leave the office, set your phone to do not disturb; unless it’s an emergency, it can wait until tomorrow.
SET MINI-DEADLINES FOR YOURSELF
I remember when I was in my mid-twenties, I had two goals that I wanted to achieve by the time I was thirty-five: I wanted to own a new vehicle, and I wanted to purchase my first home. Now with my thirty-fourth birthday just four months away, I’m happy to say I’m on track to finally accomplish those goals. I was able to purchase a new vehicle last December, and now my fiance and I are looking to purchase a home in a little over a year.
In the long-term, I have goals to make a feature film by the time I’m forty and publish three novels. While these are giant, lofty goals, that doesn’t mean that they’re out of reach - it just means that they will take a long time to accomplish while putting in massive amounts of work.
Setting deadlines for yourself helps put pressure on yourself to achieve milestones by certain dates. In the same way, you rush to meet a deadline at your day job, give the same sense of urgency to your goals.
CARVE OUT “NOTHING” TIME FOR YOURSELF EVERY DAY
With a set schedule every day dedicated to productive endeavors, make sure to also schedule time for yourself for relaxation. Your downtime is just as important because it refuels you, both mentally and physically. For those of you that work out regularly, you’ll know that the recovery process is when your muscles are actually made; this is when they take time to regroup and grow.
For thirty minutes each day, do something completely unproductive. Read a book, watch TV, goof around on the internet. Just make sure you don’t take this advice too far and spend hours every day on the couch. Procrastination is something we all do, just don’t let it become a habit.
CREATE A QUIET, PRIVATE SPACE FOR YOURSELF TO WORK
If you have the capability, create a space in your house that is dedicated to getting your work done. And for most people, that means creating a place that’s quiet and free from distraction. A home office is perfect for this type of thing. There are few things more relaxing to me than working in my home office with a cup of coffee nearby. Your office should be as quiet and distraction-free as humanly possible. The quieter your workspace, the easier and more productive you’ll be.
I hope this has been helpful in accomplishing your goals and becoming more productive! We’ll see you next week!
- Jack Moffet
WHICH FILM DEPARTMENT SHOULD YOU GO INTO?
March 14th, 2022
Welcome to our newest blog post from Black Fox! This week, we’ll be discussing a topic that I wish someone would’ve discussed with me when I was first getting my start in film production: which film department is the right one for you? There are many factors that can go into this decision process, but hopefully, the points below will help you decide. Let’s get right into it!
PRE-PRODUCTION: YOU WANT TO PLAN THE FILM AND SEE IT COME TO LIFE
In my opinion, pre-production is where the movie is creatively “made.” Every shot, every bit of lighting that you see on screen, every costume, every line delivered by the cast: it was all planned in pre-production, most of the time with painstaking detail. Besides post-production, pre-production is probably my favorite stage of the filmmaking process. Here is where you’ll see film crews bring together elaborate, creative ideas that may or may not be implemented on set later. Just as a small hypothetical example, what color palette does the director want to see on screen? The subconscious psychological effects of color on the brain are an extremely important decision for the director, DP, and art department to agree on. The vision of the film, guided by the director, needs to be agreed upon in this stage. Otherwise, the film could go off the rails and become a terrible movie.
If you are the type that loves making elaborate plans and seeing them come to life, you may want to consider a career in pre-production. Within the pre-production stages, there are many departments you can choose from: locations, costumes, and art direction.
PHYSICAL PRODUCTION: YOU WANT TO BE ON SET
For many, pursuing a career in film production equates to being on a movie set. I remember when I was younger, dreaming of gigantic camera cranes, powerful spotlights on riser stands, and complicated camera rigs with huge film mags attached to their backs. Many people decide to go into film for these reasons alone, and that’s because there’s something just plain magical about movies. Who doesn’t love movies? Much less being close to the action and seeing professionals at work, making the next big cinematic blockbuster, and maybe getting the chance to be a part of that process yourself. It’s a dream for many (yours included).
However, I’d like to give you some low-down on the realities of set life that I wish someone would’ve told me. For starters, the hours can be exhausting, if not all-consuming: 12- to 14-hour days are the norm on film sets. Please keep this in mind for the future, as deciding later in life to start a family or wanting a healthy work-life balance could easily come into conflict with your job. Film production isn’t for everyone, and it’s perfectly okay to admit this before making the decision to pursue it as a career.
Another thing that’s very important to note is the high-energy intensity of film sets. While some sets can be more intense than others, you must keep in mind that film sets can be very hectic places. A lot of people are fighting against the clock to accomplish a tremendous amount of work in an extremely short span of time. This means that stress levels can be high and that occasionally equates to flared tempers. I once saw two producers on set almost come to blows.
Once you’ve gotten your foot in the door as a production assistant, you can from there go into a department of your choosing. I plan to elaborate on these in a later post, but there are plenty of departments to choose from on a movie set: directors (which include the ADs, or assistant directors), makeup and hair, lighting and grip, catering, costumes, sound, stunts, camera, art, locations, and production (such as production coordinator and UPM, or unit production manager).
POST-PRODUCTION: YOU’RE OKAY WITH WORKING IN A DARK ROOM (ALL THE TIME)
My own personal favorite due to its distance from chaotic movie sets, post-production is an entire world unto its own. Even within post-production, there are a plethora of departments to choose from: primary editing work (including the assistants, PA’s, and lead editor. These positions often require being in a union), visual effects (such as rotoscoping and animation), sound editing and mixing (including foley work), and colorists.
The advantage of working in post-production is being away from the sets, allowing deep concentration on your work, free from distractions and on-set drama. For some, this style of work is too tedious and boring, but I consider editing to be the most fun of the entire film production process. After all, you finally get to see everyone’s hard work come together on screen, crafting the storyline that will ultimately end up in theaters.
THE INDEPENDENT STUDIO ROUTE: YOU WANT ALL OF THE ABOVE
All of the above sounds great to you? Welcome to independent film production! Where the crews are smaller and the roles involved require wearing many hats. For some, this could mean getting hired into an independent film production studio, and in my personal opinion, if you want a chance to really shine creatively, this is the route you should take.
You see, if you want to be a part of a gigantic blockbuster film with a $250 million dollar budget, then that’s perfectly fine - but odds are you’ll be in a role that requires a very specific, uncreative job to be done (such as a production assistant) - at least in the beginning. If you want true creative input, you’d be best suited to the pre-production department such as the art direction roles. You could also become a screenwriter. The studio route comes with many, many caveats if your end goal is creative control of a film. It can take decades to become a truly influential voice using this route.
The advantage of independent film production is there are far fewer cooks in the kitchen. The film crews are smaller and less people will be fighting for the production’s vision. For these reasons, smaller studios are a perfect place to get a taste for all three film phases: from preproduction all the way to picture lock and sound mixing. You can also make the bold, brave move of making your own independent film. I could write a book on that topic alone, but perhaps we’ll leave that for another day.
I hope this has been helpful in your decision of which film department to pursue in your career! We’ll catch you next time!
- Jack Moffet
FULL FRAME VS. MICRO 4/3’S CAMERAS: WHICH SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
March 7th, 2022
Welcome to another blog post from Black Fox Productions! In this week’s blog post we’ll be discussing something oft debated in the world of videography: which sensor is better for your footage? Full frame or micro four-thirds? Let’s get right into it!
SHORT ANSWER: IT DEPENDS ON THE LOOK YOU’RE GOING FOR
If you’re going for the traditional “film” look, full frame is the way to go. Full frame sensors perform better in low light, reducing noise in the image and capturing more light in low-light conditions. For those reasons, the dynamic range of full-frame sensors is higher and thus provides a more cinematic image.
However, with the recent release of Panasonic’s GH6, you’ll notice that it is becoming increasingly hard to tell the difference between the two. I’ve said this many times to my colleagues: the world of cinematography has been reaching a threshold in recent years, where many prosumer cameras are catching up to the likes of professional cameras such as Red and Arri. It won’t be long before a camera that costs just $2000 will look like it was shot on the Arri Alexa.
It comes down to this: if you light your shots correctly and choose the right lenses, you can make micro four-thirds footage appear almost identical to its full-frame counterparts. But if you’re, say, shooting a feature film where those extra stops of dynamic range matter to you, then go with full-frame.
MICRO FOUR-THIRDS PROVIDES BETTER FLEXIBILITY FOR RUN-AND-GUN VIDEOGRAPHERS
As many of you know from our previous posts, we’re big fans of the Panasonic GH series over here. We haven’t gotten a chance to review the GH6 ourselves yet, but from what we’ve been hearing it's a near-perfect hybrid video and still camera. The GH6 is lighter and more mobile than its big sister - the S1H - and has tons of choices as far as frame rates and resolution settings. The flexibility that the GH6 provides makes it an ideal choice for run-and-gun videographers that need to shoot quickly, potentially in small spaces where big camera rigs would take too long to set up.
If you’re a wedding videographer, I would go with the GH6 since you’ll be carrying around the camera all day, as opposed to the bulky S1H which could weigh you down and tire you out. If you’re shooting a short film, I’d pick the S1H which is more filmmaker-oriented and designed for rigs.
CONSIDER YOUR PRICE TAG
Obviously, full-frame cameras will be more expensive. If the price tag is a big factor for you, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a better deal than the Panasonic GH6 at its current price point. When purchasing a full-frame camera, it’s important to remember that it’s not just the camera body you’ll be paying for: you also have to purchase the lenses, which themselves can be quite pricey. So when deciding on full-frame vs. micro four-thirds, consider your price tag before you decide to lay down your hard-earned cash on a new camera.
We hope this has helped in you deciding whether to purchase a micro four-thirds camera or go full steam ahead with a full-frame! We’ll catch you next time!
- Jack Moffet
THE PANASONIC GH6 WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON FEBRUARY 21ST
FEBRUARY 14TH, 2022
In our short blog post for this week, we have some great news: the release of the Panasonic GH6 is finally on the horizon. The GH6 will be announced in a week - on Monday, February 21st, specifically. As many of you know, we’re big fans of the GH5 over here at Black Fox, and we’ve been waiting for the camera for quite some time now. It’s been almost five years since the GH5 was released, and we can’t wait to get our hands on the GH6 to see what it has in store.
Here are the official specs according to Panasonic:
It has a new high-speed sensor & new Venus engine that has “never been seen before on a Lumix camera”
10-bit 4:2:2: DCI 4K 60p video with unlimited record time
10-bit 4K 120p HFR/VFR recording
10-bit 5.7K 60p video
Expected price tag – $2,500
The GH5 has been wildly popular with videographers the world over (including yours truly), and many have been breathlessly awaiting the next camera in the GH line. In the previous five years, full-frame cameras have taken the videography world by storm, but I’m of the opinion that the GH6 will keep the micro four-thirds market alive and well for quite some time. I’m of the belief that the GH6 will level the playing field with full-frame cameras, but we’ll see what happens!
Are you excited about the release of the new GH6? We know we are!
- Jack Moffet
HOW TO START A BUSINESS (AND LIVE THROUGH IT)
February 7th, 2022
Welcome to another blog post from Black Fox Productions! This time, we’ll be discussing something less film production-related: starting a business in general. Let’s not waste anymore time! Let’s get right into it!
IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET MARKET AND RESEARCH THOROUGHLY
Whenever you set out to start a business, you need to think of your customers first and foremost. The most important question you should be asking yourself is “Who is my ideal customer, and what need would they satisfy if they purchased from me as opposed to anyone else?” In the modern age of the internet, it’s easier than ever for a potential customer to research your company thoroughly before deciding to buy from you. They want to make sure that their hard-earned dollars are going to a worthy cause. Your product needs to satisfy their needs. Once your ideal customer is built into your mind and their need identified, you’ll need to reverse engineer how to get your product to them as painlessly and easily as possible. In short, your primary goal should be making your customers’ lives easier. If you plan on building a business selling a new brand of fitness clothing, you would need to identify the age brackets and lifestyle of someone that typically buys those brands. That means you’ll need to research competition (such as Under Armour, for example) and why someone would decide to purchase their clothing over, say, Puma or The North Face. Someone who purchases Under Armour might be inclined toward a different lifestyle, and as such, you need to think about how these potential customers will find you on the internet.
CONSIDER THE FINANCES AND COME UP WITH A BUSINESS PLAN
For any business owner, probably the biggest consideration in deciding whether or not to pursue a business venture is the cost. Here’s the beauty of starting a side business: you don’t need to be rich to get it going. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, most microbusinesses cost around $3,000 to start, while most home-based franchises cost $2,000 to $5,000. While every business situation will be different, take the time to factor in cost and build this into your business plan. Mark Cuban famously said, “Only morons start a business on a loan.” I disagree, but within reason. If financing your business requires a loan to get it started and you factor the debt into your business plan, I consider a loan to be a reasonable option. Just make sure you factor in the business making absolutely no money for a while. If the business doesn’t bring in any revenue at first, will you be alright with the debt later? If the answer to that question is yes, then I think it’s perfectly fine to take out a loan.
MAKE YOUR PASSION YOUR BUSINESS
“Follow your passion.” No doubt, you’ve heard this advice countless times. It’s become so ubiquitous in modern culture that it’s practically become a cliche. But, I believe that’s for a reason. Following your passion is actually very sound advice. You see, many people choose a career because of the pay-grade. They want a nice car and a big, fancy house. Here’s the irony behind that mentality: you’ll actually be miserable if you choose this route. If you’re passionate about the job you’re pursuing and it happens to pay well, then by all means - go for it. But don’t make the salary your primary criteria as a career choice. The polar opposite thinking should be your guide: what am I passionate about that I can actually make money doing? If you’re passionate about photography, you can hone your craft and become a professional photographer for events like weddings or taking portraits for families. People make a living doing things like this every day, and so can you! Your passion for your business will shine through your product, and customers can sense when you enjoy what you do.
KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE, AND BE READY FOR THE LONG GAME
When you set out to start a business, you need to understand that success won’t happen overnight. Successful business owners understand that you need to be in it for the long game if you want to win and come out on top. You’ll have failures along the way, and that’s perfectly normal. The key to success is pushing through these hard times, and never taking your eyes off the prize.
No business venture is easy in the beginning, unless you have massive amounts of capital to throw at it without fear of loss. And let’s be real here - most people don’t have that kind of financial backing behind them. You’re reading a blog right now from someone that came from a working class family. I wasn’t born rich. My father was a chiropractor and my mother was a physician assistant. Anything I made from working, I had to earn on my own. Let me tell you - if I can do it, you can do it.
DON’T GIVE UP. WORK THROUGH THE HARD TIMES AND KEEP PUSHING THROUGH
I’ll leave you with this advice when it comes to starting a business: don’t give up. You’ll face hard times along this journey, but learning to face these times with a smile, knowing you’ll come out on top one day, is the mentality of a successful leader. Stay focused, work hard, make your passion your business, and the customers will find you in no time.
I hope this has been helpful in your quest to start a business of your own, and we’ll catch you next time!
- Jack Moffet
HOW TO GET YOUR START IN THE FILM INDUSTRY
January 24th, 2022
Welcome to another blog post from Black Fox! This week, we’ll be focusing on a topic that remains a mystery to many: how to get your start in the film industry. For someone with a desire to make their break into an industry that’s notorious for its nepotism, it can be incredibly frustrating to find out who you should turn to, or even where to turn for help. So let’s get right into it!
BEFORE YOU START YOUR JOURNEY INTO FILMMAKING, MAKE SURE THIS IS THE CAREER PATH YOU WANT
Like any profession, filmmaking comes with its own idiosyncratic pros and cons. When I first decided I wanted to pursue film as a career in high school, I had grand visions of elaborate film sets, gigantic lights on c-stands, and hefty cameras with mags of film stock ready to roll and create a new cinematic masterpiece. Film has an enticing allure for many, and that’s because movies are just plain magical - for lack of a better way to put it. Seeing everyone’s hard work come together on the big screen… there’s nothing quite like it. But I’ll do what many in the industry don’t do before you start your journey to cinematic glory: I’ll tell you the downsides of entering film. For starters, the hours can be incredibly long. 12-14 hour days on film sets are a standard (although, recently, there has been a lot of pushback against this being the norm with film unions going on strike for better working hours, and I don’t blame them). Set life can be very hard on the mind and body - it’s exhausting, and sometimes it can be downright hectic. Potentially millions of dollars are speeding by the clock every hour, and there’s much to be done in a very short span of time. This means that people can sometimes become stressed and tired, and this also means tempers can flare. I’ve seen producers on set almost come to blows. This isn’t every set, mind you, but it can happen. While all that sounds terrible, if you work hard and show a professional attitude, work is bound to come your way. So, if you’re ok with the downsides, and all that sounds fine to you, then keep on reading!
DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST
There are a lot of paths you can take to enter the film industry, and because no one writes about it, the various routes remain a mystery. It’s often hard to find out which route you should take in the first place. Where do you even begin? Well, here’s what’s really confusing: there are a lot of different paths to enter the film industry, and that alone creates confusion. Want to become a doctor? It’s pretty clear what route you should take: get an undergrad degree in biology/pre-med, then apply to medical school, then apply for a residency. The routes for entering film are far more elusive, and the barriers to entry are high, but I’ll do my best here. Before I lay out the routes, do some independent research on the internet of your own. See if there are other professionals out there that can give you some advice. I’m just one voice of many, and perhaps there are others out there who could provide some insight.
YOUR LOCATION DOES (IN FACT) MATTER
There are three primary hubs for filmmaking in the U.S.: Los Angeles, New York City, and Atlanta. About ten years ago, when I was just getting my start out of college, the Atlanta film scene was exploding thanks to state tax breaks. I’m sure I’ll be biased here, but I’m of the opinion that Atlanta is your best option. Not only is the film community much smaller (and therefore easier to get a foot in the door), but Atlanta is a great city to live in in general. The cost of living is much lower than LA or New York, and it’s a quiet, well-balanced city. The only thing you probably won’t like is the traffic, but that’s a problem we can discuss another day. More than likely, you’ll want to live in one of these three places to get your start in film. The majority of movies are shot in these cities, and you’ll want to be as close to the action as possible if you want to get a film-related job.
DECIDE ON AN ENTRY-LEVEL FILM JOB
Once you’ve relocated and are in place to get your start (even if that means crashing on your friend’s couch until you have some income coming in), you’re ready to begin job hunting. If you want to be on set, starting as a production assistant is a perfectly reasonable choice. You can apply for PA jobs online, or send in your resume to production’s email address and see if they can get you any leads. If there’s an office line available, give them a call and ask where you can send your resume. Even better - find out who would be receiving it so you can greet them in the email personally. If you want to work in post-production, you’ll want to apply for jobs as a post-production assistant. Through both of these routes, you’ll be able to work your way into higher roles, and eventually, you might be able to work your way into the unions. Once you get into a union, a new world of job opportunities will open up to you. The pay will increase dramatically and your network will be vast. As a side note, I’ve heard the unions in LA can be INCREDIBLY difficult to get into, so please proceed with a patient mindset if you’re an LA resident.
GROW YOUR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK AS MUCH AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN
Reach out to anyone and everyone that works in the industry. Don’t be shy - shoot them a message on LinkedIn or email them. Introduce yourself and explain that you’re looking to get your start in filmmaking and would be open to any job opportunities that come your way. The worst they can say is no. Even if they do, that’s perfectly fine - move right along and keep emailing people. Know someone personally that works in the industry? Even better. Reach out to them and see if they can help you get a job.
BE PATIENT - GETTING INTO THE INDUSTRY CAN BE HARD AT FIRST.
Remember to be patient and keep your cool when it comes to making your first cuts in film. The industry is notorious for being cutthroat, but showing an eagerness to work hard and always acting professionally is worth its weight in gold - and that goes for virtually any profession. If you have a burning desire to make movies, then hang in there and don’t give up. One day, when you see your name in the credits of a tentpole blockbuster, you’ll know that all your hard work was worth it in the end.
Hang in there and keep on working hard! We wish you the best of luck in pursuing your career dreams as a filmmaker. We hope this has been helpful, and we’ll see you next week!
- Jack Moffet
STAYING MOTIVATED THROUGHOUT THE YEAR
January 17th, 2022
Welcome to another blog post from Black Fox! This time, we’ll be focusing on a topic that I think we can all relate to: staying motivated throughout the year. Let’s get right into it!
START WITH THE DESTINATION IN MIND
As the old saying goes, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and nothing could be more true in your quest for success than when times get tough. Before you take that first step, though, you have to decide where you want to end up in the first place. What, specifically, is your goal? What are you trying to accomplish? Let’s just say your New Year’s resolution is losing 20 pounds throughout the year while getting in better shape overall. If you try to lose 20 pounds in one month, you’re bound for disappointment when you step on the weight scale on February 1st. This is why gyms are packed to the brim in January, and slowly attendance tapers off by the time March comes along. Your journey is going to take a while, and that’s okay. Keep your eyes on the destination and don’t waver from it.
WRITE DOWN A LIST OF GOALS
While this might seem overly simple, it helps tremendously when kick-starting your journey toward accomplishing what you want. Sit down and actually write down what you want to accomplish. I don’t care how silly you think it sounds - write it down. It might be something as minor as hanging up curtains over your bedroom windows, but at least you’ll have it listed so you can hold yourself accountable later. Organize your list into two categories: big, expansive goals (these typically involve career, lifestyle changes, and family) and minor, personal goals (such as saving up for something you’d like to buy, like a nice pair of sunglasses). The big goals are going to take a while to accomplish. Most likely, they’ll take years. Let’s say you have a goal to start a small business; you need to be ready to put in five years of work before all that hard work pays off.
BREAK DOWN YOUR GOALS INTO SMALL, ACTIONABLE MILESTONES, THEN KEEP TRACK OF THEM
Using the example above, let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds this year. While it’s not realistic to lose 20 pounds in a month, it’s far more realistic to lose 2 pounds per month. Weight loss takes time, and many people quit their diets because progress isn’t quick and easy. True lifestyle change is extremely hard to accomplish, and those that succeed know that they are in it for the long haul. Someone with a successful mindset will say, “It’s going to take a while, but the end result will be worth it.” The person that fails will quit when the going gets tough. Using the weight loss example, the person that chooses a sustainable, easy to keep diet will ultimately be the one that loses the weight. The key to success is finding small tasks that slowly bring you toward your goal, and sticking to it on a daily basis. If you plan to meditate daily, there are apps you can download on your phone that will allow you to track how often you sit and breathe each day. In today’s modern world of smartphone apps, it’s easier than ever to keep track of your goals and stick to them.
YOU’LL INEVITABLY GET DISCOURAGED AT SOME POINT THIS YEAR
Discouragements are inevitable. There will be times when you feel you are treading water and not making an inch of progress. Not every day will be a win for you. There are bound to be setbacks that will knock you back a few steps. I’ve got some news for you: that’s all normal. Everyone goes through it. If you’ve been eating perfectly for a month based on your new diet, and you finally give in and eat a delicious hamburger and french fries for dinner, you’ll probably be kicking yourself for having a moment of weakness. You’ll feel guilty and think all of your hard work was for nothing. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You’ve made it this far - do you really think one hamburger is going to ruin you? Who cares if you messed up just this once? All you’ve got to do is get back on the horse and try again tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is a new day.
LEARN TO ENJOY PAIN NOW, REAP THE REWARDS LATER
Doing something painful now in service of a better, more substantial reward later is something we’ve all been through. Let’s say you have an exam tomorrow morning. You could watch TV all night and not study for your test, or you could study for your test tonight, and watch TV tomorrow after your test is over and done with. There’s even a name for this in academic studies: delayed gratification. Basically, it’s the idea that we knowingly do something not-so-fun so we can have something more fun later down the road. For people trying to lose weight or start a small business, they understand this concept all too well. The journey is difficult and painful, but the destination will be worth it.
DON’T GIVE UP
This will be my parting advice when it comes to accomplishing your goals: don’t give up. There will be times when you want to throw in the towel, maybe more than anything. Work your way through the pain, and keep on pushing forward. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.” - Jack Ma
I hope this has been helpful to you in your quest to accomplish your goals! We’ll see you next time!
- Jack Moffet
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR VIDEOGRAPHY CONTRACTS
January 10TH, 2022
Welcome to another blog post from Black Fox Productions! This time, we’ll be discussing what to include in your videography contracts. As goes with almost any business transaction that requires a service (whether from business to business or business to client, etc), a contract is essential for protecting both sides of the transaction. If you’re just starting out in videography or providing services for free, you may consider going without a contract - at least in the beginning. While that’s fine for your first few projects, once payments start to come into the picture, it’s to your benefit to have a signed contract in place. So what exactly goes into a videography contract? It’s quite simple, really. Let’s get right into it!
SCOPE OF SERVICES: WHAT SERVICES WILL YOU BE PROVIDING?
Specifically, what work will you be doing for the client? Are you providing shooting/cinematography only? If so, for how many hours? Is your rate hourly, or are you providing a day rate? Does your fee include editing services? All this needs to be addressed in the “Scope of Services” section of your contract. This section should also cover delivery (how your client will actually receive the video file, whether through Dropbox, USB drive, etc) and music licensing through sites such as Musicbed or Soundstripe. Here, you’ll also want to provide an estimate for the finished length of the video (for example, 3 to 5 minutes long).
DELIVERY DATE: WHEN SHOULD YOUR CLIENT EXPECT THEIR VIDEO?
You’ll want to give yourself a cushion for post-production. For most videographers, that’s usually anywhere from 30 to 45 days from the original shoot date. If further shoot dates are required, make sure you take the last shoot date into account so your client has realistic expectations for when to expect their video for their first review.
REVISIONS: SHOULD YOU CHARGE FOR THEM?
This is a big consideration that shouldn’t be missed. After all, revisions are part of the post-production process, and they can be time-consuming. Of course, it’s a wonderful feeling if your client is happy with the first cut you send them, but it’s also to be expected that many of your clients will want changes. Ultimately, it’s up to you on how many revisions you would like to provide in your package and when you start charging extra. For example, here at Black Fox, we provide two rounds of complimentary editing revisions. Thereafter, we begin charging for any additional changes. Just make sure this is clearly stated in the contract so your client understands before production begins.
COPYRIGHT OWNERSHIP: WHO ACTUALLY OWNS THE VIDEO?
It needs to be crystal-clear who will actually own the video once delivery is complete. In our contracts, copyright ownership lies with the client when it comes to the finished video. We also provide the option to purchase rights to the raw footage, if desired. After that, we put in a simple clause stating we have the right to use their video in Black Fox’s marketing materials, such as social media posts on Facebook and Instagram.
CREATIVE CONTROL: WHO HAS ULTIMATE ARTISTIC CONTROL?
Of all the clauses in your contract, I would say this one is the most optional. After all, the video will inevitably be an artistic collaboration between your company and your client’s no matter how you slice it. If you feel the video will benefit from more creative control on your end, then feel free to put this clause in the contract - just make sure the client understands you’ll have ultimate say over the video’s creative decisions, such as shot lists and editing. Even with this clause in place, it’s still absolutely vital to listen to your client’s wants and needs as far as the finished product.
LIABILITY: PREPARING FOR THE WORST
This is a smart clause to have in your contract, in the event that something goes wrong, say, the day before a shoot begins. What happens if you become ill and need to stay home when your shoot was scheduled? You’ll need to state in this clause that their fee will be refunded if such an event occurs. Some freelancers also call this the “act of God” clause (i.e. an event outside of human control, such as catastrophic weather). Basically, liability covers yourself and the client in the event that anything outside your control goes wrong.
INDEMNIFICATION: WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT MEAN?
Indemnification protects your company from being held liable for use of any materials provided by the client that were not copywritten at the time of their submission. So what in the hell does that mean? Let me provide an example: let’s say you’ve been hired to make a commercial for a wildlife conservation fund. They send you high-quality photographs of a lion up close staring directly into the camera for use in the edited video. After the video airs on social media and television, you find out the conservation fund and your company are getting sued by a photographer for use of their photo without permission. An indemnification clause would protect your company in such an event. It would hold the conservation fund - and not your company - liable for use of the photo. Therefore, the fund would be responsible for any damages incurred in such a lawsuit. Remember: any materials provided by your client must be copyright protected. That means either A) they own the materials themselves and can prove it or B) they licensed the materials through a third-party vendor such as stock footage websites where the license is built into their use.
COMPENSATION: HOW MUCH WILL YOU BE PAID?
What everybody wants to know! How much should your client expect to pay you for your services? Obviously, this is a very important clause. It’s typically very simple, outlining the total fee and any deposits that need to be paid prior to shooting and delivery of the final video. At Black Fox, we require a percentage of the total fee at contract signing. This secures things for both parties: it secures a shoot date for the client, and it also ensures you won’t lose money if the client decides to change their mind and back out of the contract. Everybody wins when you have a contract in place!
SIGNING ON THE DOTTED LINES: THE FINISHING TOUCHES
At the bottom, you’ll want your own date and signature along with your client’s. I personally like HelloSign for this purpose. It’s completely digital, and upon signing, the finished contract is sent directly to your email address.
And that’s about it really! I hope this has been helpful in setting up your contracts for your future clients, and we wish you luck this year in getting lots of new work!
- Jack Moffet
HOW TO TURN YOUR FREELANCING INTO A BUSINESS
DECEMBER 30TH, 2021
Welcome to another blog post from Black Fox Productions! As we head into a new year, you might be aspiring to turn your freelancing into a full-time business. It’s a dream for many, but often the question people ask first is, “Where do I start?” It’s a legitimate question, as the answers are not easy or readily available. After all, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!
FOR STARTERS: WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR LIFE TO LOOK LIKE IN 10 YEARS?
This is probably the biggest point I’ll make in this blog post as everything that follows will be subservient to this question. You need to imagine what your side business will look like a decade into the future. Do you want to spend more time with your family? Be financially independent? Not owe a dime to anyone and live off of nothing but your own freelance income? I have some good news for you: these are all perfectly reasonable and realistic goals. The key to success is deciding what your goals are, then reverse-engineering the steps to get there. The bad news is that those steps are going to take a while. This leads to my next point…
YOUR BUSINESS IS GOING TO TAKE A FEW YEARS TO BUILD
If you want to be successful, you need to be in it for the long haul. As the old saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and the same goes for your side business. I always tell people to be prepared for 3 to 5 years of solid foundation building to get a business running smoothly. No one just up and decides to open a successful side business, even if seems that way from the outside. The first few years are hard. You might be straddling a full-time job while also trying to satisfy your customers’ needs. You may have to pull extra hours in the early morning or at night to make sure your business is taken care of. While I can guarantee you it will be hard, I can also guarantee you it will be worth it in the end if you hang in there and keep going.
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE WORD OF MOUTH
In the world of freelancing, there are few things as valuable as recommendations from your past clients and colleagues. You’ll want to make sure you build a reputation as a professional that’s easy to work with and produces excellent results. You aren’t just another listing on Google - you’re THE listing that everyone lines up to work with thanks to a friendly demeanor and kickass deliverables. As the years go by, your reputation will build and begin to carry itself - just bear in mind that building up word of mouth can take a long time. Again, you need to be in it for the long haul. It’s going to take a while, and that’s okay. Once you’re fully on your own and in control of your own destiny, all that hard work will be worth it in the end.
BUT WHAT IF I’M NOT THE BEST FREELANCER IN MY REGION?
Let me go ahead and say this right off the bat: no one starts as the best in their field when they start freelancing. And even when you do become a top-tier videographer or photographer (or whatever freelancing you might be doing), there’s always going to be someone that does it a little bit better than you do. That’s okay! See these pros as an opportunity to learn from the best, and see them as a challenge to better your own work. I’ve been working in production for over a decade, and I still learn something new every day. When I started shooting films in college, we shot them on Sony Handcams in 480P. They looked like hell compared to today’s cinema-grade full-frame powerhouses. But I had to start somewhere, right? I never would’ve made the jump to filmmaker had I not taken the leap and started shooting my own projects. Remember: your work in the beginning probably won’t look very good, but that’s okay. Your talent and skillset will increase with time and experience. In ten years, you’ll be the pro that everyone aspires to be.
YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE LEAP AT SOME POINT
I realize the prospect of starting a side business might be terrifying to you (trust me, nothing put the fear of God into me more than purchasing a full set of production equipment to start shooting videos and opening up Black Fox Productions), but at some point, you’re going to have to rip off the band-aid and get started. It’s never too late to start a side business and pursue your dreams. Why not start today? Or even next week? The sky is the limit on your potential if you make a plan and stick to it. Set fear aside, and think of the amazing, carefree lifestyle you could potentially have in the next ten years if you start freelancing now and building up your client base.
SO WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE?
I would leave you with this advice: there will be bumps in the road. They happen to everyone. But never lose sight of your goal, and keep your eyes on the prize. Keep pushing through, always show up to your clients’ meetings with a smile on your face, and the work will come to you. I wish you the best of luck in the New Year with your side business!
- Jack Moffet
HOW VIDEO MARKETING HELPS BUSINESSES
DECEMBER 14TH, 2021
Welcome to another blog post from Black Fox! This week, we’ll be discussing why video is absolutely essential in your marketing campaign, from large business strategies to small one-man bands. Let’s get right into it!
VIDEO DRIVES CONVERSION RATES
The numbers don’t lie: after watching a product video, consumers are up to 85% more likely to buy it. With statistics like that, it absolutely stands to reason that video MUST be included in your marketing. Period. While the old style of marketing was simple (you put ads in the newspaper, recorded radio spots, and bought ads for television) the modern era is far more complicated. The internet has changed things for all of us, permanently, and businesses that don’t adapt to the times will get left behind. So if you’re not utilizing video yet, there’s no better time than the present.
DEMAND FOR VIDEO IS ONLY GOING TO INCREASE
While many businesses are already using video in their marketing strategies, the consumption of video on the internet is only going to increase as the years go by, and that trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. On average, people watch a staggering 16 hours of video per week. According to Wyzowl, 66% of consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. This might sound obvious, but modern economics and the internet are practically inseparable in this day and age. Again, if you want to be ahead of the game, you must include video in your marketing strategy. According to the website Hubspot, 54% of consumers want to see more video content this year.
CALLS TO ACTION GET 380% MORE CLICKS WHEN PLACED IN VIDEO
Yes, you read that right. Baking an action card into your video is almost 4x as likely to get clicked on. Video makes it that much easier and more accessible for a customer to buy your product, and as goes for any marketing strategy, you’ll have to break down as many barriers in the customer journey as you can. And one of those ways, obviously, is to use video when it comes to the content you produce. So let’s say your business is selling Christmas trees. You could create a fun poll that asks whether or not people prefer multi-colored Christmas tree lights or regular white ones. Not only is this fun for your potential customers, but it could drive engagement to your Instagram page, which in turn could send them to your website. There, they could purchase a tree online and check out all from the comfort of their own home. See the difference a simple video poll made to the business owner? You could potentially be doing the same with your own business.
VIDEO CAN CONTRIBUTE AN 157% INCREASE IN ORGANIC TRAFFIC TO YOUR LANDING PAGE
Yet again, wow. You’ll drive even more traffic to your website if you include video on the landing page itself. Video tends to hold people’s attention longer than, say, a detailed description of the product you’re selling. While you’ll want this below in the description box just in case your customer wants to read it, nothing screams professionalism more than a video review of the product. And even better! If you made the video yourself. The modern consumer is much more discerning than in years past, and if they want to ensure that what they’re buying is the real deal, a video review is a perfect path to reassurance. They’ll research reviews from other customers solely to see if the product is bogus or not. Video creates authenticity and further breaks down trust barriers between business owners and prospects.
USER-GENERATED VIDEOS AND PROFESSIONAL CONTENT INCREASES BRAND ENGAGEMENT BY AN AVERAGE OF 28%
No matter how you slice it, creating video content to boost brand awareness will give you an edge over competitors. Video is the perfect medium for introducing yourself to prospects who aren’t even aware you exist yet. Remember: you want to establish your brand as trustworthy while delivering an exceptional customer experience. If you post a video on your website introducing yourself and your role at the company, your future customers will feel that much more likely to trust your expertise. Over time, your brand will build an audience, and eventually, that audience could become a band of loyal followers. Why would they ever think of switching to another company when they have you at the helm? This is what you want your customers to think when evaluating their buying decisions.
OVERALL: USE VIDEO! YOU’LL BE LEFT BEHIND IN THE MODERN MARKETPLACE IF YOU GO WITHOUT IT
As you can tell, video isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Business owners need to understand that video is as vital to a marketing strategy as is fuel to the running of a vehicle: without out, the whole machine shuts down. Don’t get left behind - develop a marketing strategy involving video today. Old marketing strategies such as radio ads have gone the way of the dinosaur, and the future of marketing is video (I know, it’s an oversimplification since many other aspects of marketing are involved, but you get my point). Looking for some advice on what video types might work well for your business? You can always have a conversation with us to help you get started!
- Jack Moffet
HOW TO START WRITING YOUR FIRST SCREENPLAY
DECEMBER 6TH, 2021
Writing a screenplay can be a daunting task for just about anyone, but it’s arguably the most important part of the filmmaking process. The screenplay will make or break the film, dependent on its overall structure and dialogue. While it’s actually easier to write in a long-form storytelling format (such as a novel), your job is to pack a story into 120 concise pages - complete with plot points and a satisfying conclusion. So let’s not waste any more time; let’s get right into it!
BEFORE WE GET INTO THE NUTS AND BOLTS
This is probably the best advice I can give you: come up with an idea for a story that speaks to your heart. Every human being on planet earth has something sensitive in their personal lives that they consider dramatic. As with anything creative in general, fiction is often a reflection of ourselves. Every time you write something, you’ll see a little bit of yourself in the text, and that’s perfectly normal. The screenplay you plan to write might be made up, but often you’ll end up dramatizing something you’ve experienced for real. Let’s just say, for example, you got beat up on the playground as a kid, but you grew up to become an MMA fighter. That’s quite a personal story you’ve got there! Might make for a good movie… All you need to do is add in the drama.
THERE NEEDS TO BE SOME TYPE OF DRAMATIC CONFLICT IN THE SCRIPT
Before we get into technicalities like plot points, bear in mind before you start writing that some type of dramatic conflict needs to take place in the story. Every successful film in existence (and any fictional writing in general, since the beginning of civilization) has had drama at its core. Even “quiet” films where main characters meditate on the meaning of life feature some type of existential struggle. Let’s just say your main character is going through a midlife crisis. His marriage is going down the tubes. His wife and daughter hate him. His job is meaningless. And one day he decides to turn it all around and begin life anew. Well, you’d have the central conflict in a little movie called American Beauty (1999). Remember: you need to make your characters fully developed enough to give them room to change and learn something new. You need to ask yourself: what does my main character want? If you can answer that question, all the other technicalities of the writing will fall into place.
HOW LONG DOES IT NEED TO BE?
It depends on the genre you’re writing in, but generally, a screenplay is expected to be anywhere from 90 to 120 pages long. Horror and comedy films are expected to be 90 pages. Dramatic films are expected to be 120. If it’s an epic film, you should shoot for 150. Since the beginning of screenwriting as an art form, it’s a general rule that 1 page of screenplay equals one minute of edited screentime. If you want to be a rebel and write 180 pages, go for it… but I should warn you it will be extremely hard to get it produced. Justifying a 3-hour runtime is hard enough for any film, in general, these days, and it’s to your benefit to stay within the standard writing lengths.
PLOT POINTS. WHAT THE HECK ARE THOSE?
Plot points are points in the screenplay that dramatically change the outcome of the story for your main characters. Generally, these come on pages 30 and 90 (if you’re writing a 120-pager). Why those exact points in the screenplay? The first plot point in the screenplay is what pushes the story into action. It’s the moment when your main character’s world has just been upended, and he or she must work through the rest of the story to resolve the problem. The second plot point is when things change yet again, setting the stage for a 30-minute conclusion. Typically this is the moment when your main character feels all hope is lost, only to bravely push forward anyway and face their demons. Although you don’t have to write plot points on exactly pages 30 and 90, this is the traditional format you’ll want to follow.
BUT WAIT! I WANT TO BREAK THE RULES AND BE CREATIVE!
Nothing wrong with that. The sky’s the limit on how creative you want your screenplay to be. Just bear in mind that if a screenplay isn’t in the standard format, it can get thrown into the rejected pile very quickly. If you want to get your screenplay produced, I would advise following the traditional format and sticking to the rules. It’s a common saying that you need to learn the rules before you break them, and screenwriting is no exception. After that’s established, you can be creative as you want when it comes to the actual subject material of the screenplay. I don’t care if you want to write a movie about zombie pirates - as long as you format it correctly. Writing software such as Final Draft is great for this purpose.
IT ALL STARTS WITH AN IDEA
Like any famous work of art throughout history, it all began with an idea in someone’s head. Your screenplay is no exception. Ask yourself: what would I like to see happen on-screen? All you’ve got to do is write it down. When I wanted to write my first screenplay, I started by writing out the major story points on notepad paper. And that’s how it all starts! You have to get the ideas down somewhere right? Even if it’s just a sentence, write down what you see. Then you’ll already be on your way to cinematic greatness.
We hope this has been hopeful for writing your first screenplay! Good luck in your writing your next big blockbuster!
- Jack Moffet
HOW TO GET CERTIFIED AS A DRONE PILOT
November 22nd, 2021
As I can personally attest, obtaining your FAA Certified Part 107 Drone License can be quite confusing. In this short blog post, I hope you can find this information useful in your quest to become a certified drone pilot. Let’s get right into it!
FOR STARTERS, DO I EVEN NEED TO BE CERTIFIED TO FLY A DRONE?
Short answer: it depends on how you plan to use your drone and what state you are flying in. Each state has its own UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) laws, and it’s absolutely worth your while to research the laws in your own state before proceeding. But since here at Black Fox we’re operating in the state of Georgia, I’ll use the Peach State as an example.
Under Georgia law: If you are planning to use your drone for professional or business purposes, then YES, you will need to follow the rules of FAA’s Part 107 Small UAS Rule, which includes passing the FAA’s Aeronautical Knowledge Test to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate.
If you are planning to fly your drone solely for recreation (just for fun as a hobbyist), then you are required to take the Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). You are NOT required to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate at this level.
If your drone weighs .55 pounds or less, you are required by law to register the aircraft with the FAA via the FAA Drone Zone website.
If you are planning to operate your drone for business purposes, you owe it to yourself and your customers to obtain a Remote Pilot Certification. If you get caught flying in, say, Class B airspace near an airport without a license - not only could you cause harm to other aircraft flying in and out of the airport, but your fine could well be in the thousands of dollars for such a violation. In general, it’s to your benefit to make sure you understand the rules and laws surrounding your UAS or drone. You’ll feel much more at ease when you go out to fly and capture footage for a client with your license in your pocket. It’s also much, much safer. No amount of pretty drone footage is worth an accident or putting other people in harm’s way.
OKAY, GOT IT. SO WHERE DO I START?
For starters, you’ll need to obtain what’s called an FTN (or FAA Tracking Number) by putting in an application through the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA).
I myself start doing research on the internet about where I needed to go in order to educate myself about the FAA Part 107 Exam. There are quite a few websites out there, and - at first - I started downloading all kinds of materials from FAA’s Document Library and beginning to read. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of information is daunting and confusing. It’s not very clear what information will end up on the actual exam and what won’t. So I found this website, which was absolutely fantastic: Drone Pilot Ground School. The course is taught in easy-to-understand language in video format for each lesson, and transcripts are provided for each one. They even provide practice tests once you feel you’ve mastered the course. Drone Pilot Ground School boasts a 99% pass rate amongst its students. I would highly recommend them! The course costs $299 (I know, it’s a tad pricey), but you’ll have access to the courses for life - and that’s crucial when you’re going to get re-certified after 3 years when you need to re-up your license.
HOW MUCH DOES THE EXAM COST?
The Remote Pilot Certification Exam costs $175. You’ll need to take the test in-person at an FAA-certified testing facility, signing up for the Unmanned Aircraft General - Small (UAG) knowledge test.
I hope this post has been useful! Good luck in obtaining your Remote Pilot Certificate! I have provided links below for reference.
LINKS FOR REFERENCE
FAA Website Info for Becoming a Drone Pilot: https://www.faa.gov/uas/commercial_operators/become_a_drone_pilot/
Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) for obtaining an FTN: https://iacra.faa.gov/IACRA/Default.aspx
FAA Drone Zone Registration Website: https://faadronezone.faa.gov/#/
Drone Pilot Ground School: https://www.dronepilotgroundschool.com/
FAA PSI Exam Registration to schedule your test: https://faa.psiexams.com/faa/login
THE FUTURE OF FILMMAKING
November 15th, 2021
In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the future of filmmaking, and what films might look like long after we’re gone. Could other, more nuanced art forms branch off from film? Will films be made by AI completely one day? These are questions I often ponder, and we’ll be exploring them in this post.
STREAMING IS HERE TO STAY
While this might sound obvious, I think it’s without doubt that streaming is going to be around for a very, very long time. In fact, I would say that streaming is a permanent, natural endpoint to the potential of filmmaking. Some cinema purists such as Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan have stuck to their guns in avoiding streaming platforms, but I think even they are beginning to realize that streaming isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I like to argue that streaming has always been an inevitable evolution of the filmmaking process. You still get to enjoy a film - you’re just enjoying it at home instead of the big screen. That being said, I also have to say that seeing a movie in a theater is quite enjoyable. I saw Dune in IMAX recently, and that’s one of the better theater experiences I’ve had in quite some time. It all comes down to personal preference in how you would like to view the film. But for filmmakers to say that the two can’t exist in tandem, and are mutually exclusive, is just pure nonsense. Back when sound first made its way into movies, people said it would be the end of cinema - and look where we are now. Film is now more alive than ever before.
WILL ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE BE MAKING FILMS FOR US?
Now this concept is interesting. There’s been lots of discussion as of late about automation in the socio-economic space. In particular, it looks like manufacturing will be the first industry to become fully automated. But other, newer industries are cropping up simultaneously - such as renewable energy. Naturally, this has led people in virtually every industry to question whether or not a robot will soon be doing their job. Which leads us to filmmaking. Could AI soon be making films for us? It’s a complex question, and worth exploring. Short answer: I think AI will play a part in helping us with certain logistics of filmmaking, such as scheduling and casting. How much time would be saved for the pre-production crew if AI could schedule a casting call with actors based on certain parameters like age and gender? AI sends a notification to your phone telling you when and where to show up to see potential actors read their lines. And just like now, I think AI will help us digitally create sets and make post-production much easier and less time-consuming. But will humans go away completely from behind the cameras? I doubt it. Call me egocentric, but I believe that the human element of filmmaking is something only us humans can create. So, much in the same way that AI will help us inform and streamline infrastructure in modern society, I think AI and humanity will work together to create movies we can all enjoy.
WHAT ABOUT VIRTUAL REALITY?
I think in the distant future, when virtual reality becomes fully immersive (yes, just like in the movie “The Matrix”), a new art form will branch off and emerge from film. I believe that video games and VR film will fuse into a completely new medium. We don’t even have a name for it yet, but maybe we could call these new projects “movie-games” or something thereof. Imagine instead of watching “Star Trek” that you’re not only a character in the film, but you get to experience the film just like a theme park ride. You make decisions in the movie that directly affect the course of the plot. You get to be a hero in your own movie. Pretty cool, right? I think that this too will become a natural branch-off from filmmaking. Will it replace movies as a whole? Absolutely not. It will simply become another option for movie enthusiasts who want to take their movie-going experiences to the next level and want a true thrill ride.
AND WHAT ABOUT TECHNICALITIES? WILL WE BE SHOOTING IN 36K SOMEDAY?
This is just my personal opinion, but I think there is a threshold for resolution count when it comes to picture quality, when the human eye can’t discern 12K from, say, 18K or above. For starters: no one needs an 18K camera. You can take a camera that shoots in 4K, light it perfectly, and still get fantastic footage. It all depends on your ISO settings and how you light the shots. I think that we’re reaching a point in digital cinematography when many cameras are beginning to look the same because the threshold for sensors and resolution counts are beginning to plateau. Soon, a $1500 camera is going to look like it was shot on the Arri Alexa. It’s both a wonderful time to be a filmmaker, but simultaneously the most competitive because filmmaking technology is now more available than ever before. Film has become a truly democratized art form. Anyone with a decent computer and a DSLR can potentially make a movie. There’s an upside to this though: with so many films being released, your film will stand out that much more if it’s well-made.
ONE THING WON’T CHANGE: THE NEED TO TELL A GOOD STORY
There’s one thing that will never change, and that’s the ability to tell a good story. Ever since man has been able to read and write, we enjoy telling each other stories that take us to another place. This is the one element that will always be around. Whether we’re making films in virtual reality or writing a good ole’ novel, writing from human fingertips is going to be around, probably forever.
That’s it for this blog post! We’ll catch you next time!
- Jack Moffet
THE DJI MAVIC 3 IS HERE
November 8th, 2021
At long last, DJI releases its newest flagship drone.
Last Friday, November 5th, DJI finally released the newest in its flagship line of drones after a three-year gap between the last iteration: the Mavic 3. So, how does it stack up against its predecessors? Let’s see what the reviews are saying.
ACTUALLY, DJI RELEASED TWO DRONES
Two drone models were released last Friday. One is the standard Mavic 3 model, priced at $2199 (and for the Pro Combo: $2999), while the higher end Cine model is priced at a hefty $4999.
Let’s start with the Cine model, which is obviously aimed at professional cinematographers. It's capable of filming in Apple ProRes 422 HQ at 5.1K and up to 50 FPS. It even has a built-in 1 TB SSD storage unit. The real standout here is the 4/3 CMOS sensor installed into both models of the drone, allowing for even better picture quality and dynamic range. Bear in mind: this is a similar sensor used in many DSLR cameras such as the Panasonic GH5. Not bad for a camera on a drone.
The major differences between the Standard and Cine models are the ability to record natively in ProRes 422 HQ and the SSD, both of which the standard model lacks. However, the 4/3 CMOS sensor is installed on both. Both of the drones are capable of recording 4K at 120 FPS and capturing 20 MP photos. There is also a hybrid zoom lens capable of 28X zoom on both models.
In terms of flight time, both drones are capable of 45 minutes, which is a major plus for many drones pilots like myself who like to avoid changing out batteries unless absolutely necessary. Another upgrade is its omnidirectional object sensing. Where the Mavic 2 detected objects 65 feet out, the new Mavic 3 will detect objects at a whopping 650 feet. I’m not sure if I’ll end up buying the drone or not (I’m still using a Mavic Air), but this is a feature I would be curious to see in action. My only concern here would be over-sensitivity, with the sensors giving alerts even with objects being very far away. But, at the same time, I’d rather the sensors be over-sensitive than under-sensitive.
Both drones also boast new transmission technology, called OcuSync 3+, which allows for up to 15 KM (or 9.3 miles) of flying distance. I personally wouldn’t want to fly my drone ten miles away from my take-off point, but it’s nice to know transmission won’t be lost if you decide to venture out over, say, a mountain range.
The Fly More Combo gets you two additional batteries, a charging hub, four sets of propellers, a carrying case that also transforms into a backpack, and a set of ND filters (ND4, ND8, ND16 and ND32). The combo is priced at $2999.
Both models are now on sale! What do you think of the new DJI Mavic 3?
- Jack Moffet
YOU'LL HAVE TO WAIT A LITTLE LONGER FOR THE PANASONIC GH6
NOVEMBER 1st, 2021
Welcome to another blog post from Black Fox Productions! In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the Panasonic GH6 and when you (might) expect the camera to finally see the light of day. Let’s get right into it!
A LONG-AWAITED SEQUEL
The Panasonic GH6 has been hotly anticipated for years, thanks to the enormous success of the GH5. I myself have been a big fan of the camera, and still use it to shoot video even nearly five years after its original announcement. The 4/3 sensor provides run-and-gun videographers like myself the perfect blend of picture quality and mobility. Not only that, but they’re more affordable than their full-frame counterparts. The GH6 is a camera that many (myself included) have been looking forward to for a long time, but - from the sounds of Panasonic’s recent announcement - it looks like we’re going to have a little while longer to get our hands on the camera.
PANASONIC’S RECENT ANNOUNCEMENT
Originally, Panasonic made a statement that the GH6 would be released by the end of the year, but, on the 27th of this past week (the 20-year anniversary of the original launch of the Lumix camera line), Panasonic announced that the camera was still “under development.” This was a disappointment for many that expected to see the camera finally launched on that date. Or, at the minimum, professionals couldn’t wait to hear an official shelving date so they could put in pre-orders. But, unfortunately, the announcement essentially equates to “you’re gonna have to wait a bit.” And that means we may not see the camera released this year.
OUR GUESS? AN OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT AT THE END OF THE YEAR
Since the camera needs a few more months to wrap things up before an official release, we’re hypothesizing that Panasonic will give an official announcement on a release date before the year is out, with a bonafide launch early next year. Although we’ll need to wait a little bit longer to finally see the camera, we’re of the opinion that the GH6 will absolutely be worth a few more months of development time. In other words: take your time, Panasonic. We’d rather you release a camera you think is worth its salt in the Lumix line than release a half-baked product. If the specs are any indication, we believe the new GH6 is going to deliver fantastic results for filmmakers.
- Jack Moffet
OUR TOP 10 FAVORITE HALLOWEEN FILMS
October 27th, 2021
In the spirit of the season, we broke down our favorite Halloween films. There’s nothing better than enjoying a spooky flick on Halloween weekend, and we can't get enough of them. Some will make you laugh, others will make you want to watch between your fingers, others will make your skin crawl. But, we have to say… each one of these is thoroughly enjoyable in its own right. Here are our top 10 favorite movies to scare the pants off of you this upcoming Halloween weekend.
#10 - Addams Family Values (1993)
From director Barry Sonnenfeld, who also brought his wacky style of humor to Men in Black (1997) and Wild Wild West (1999), Addams Family Values delivered one of the most memorable (and funny) family dramas in modern cinema. The cast’s chemistry is palpable, the script is hilarious, and it features a particularly memorable Thanksgiving play scene featuring Wednesday and Pugsley pitted against happy-go-lucky camp directors. Equally entertaining is Joan Cusack’s Debbie, who only heightens the laughs with her acid wit in a mean-spirited performance so bonkers it has to be seen to be experienced. This movie is a perfect Halloween film with lots of laughs, not to mention fun for the whole family.
#9 - The Babadook (2014)
The Babadook’s exploration of grief in the face of parenthood was not only memorable - it was equally terrifying thanks to assured direction and a bravura performance from Essie Davis. Jennifer Kent taught us that horror needn’t be shallow in order to be scary, and boy did The Babadook deliver on the subtext. Amelia’s life raveling out of control is nearly as hard to watch (or worse) as the supernatural dread creeping into her bedroom to crawl on the ceiling. If you’ve seen The Babadook, you won’t forget it - and we think that’s what good horror is all about.
#8 - The Guest (2014)
Adam Wingard’s The Guest deftly blends genre satire with mystery thriller in this 2014 thrill ride of a movie. Featuring Dan Stevens and Maika Monroe, the movie is appropriately set during the Halloween season. While the real fun of The Guest is guessing what in the world is going to happen next, Wingard constantly teases his audience with joyful glee, as if to say, “Something terrible is gonna happen, just you wait,” forcing you to keep your eyes glued to the screen. The result is a fun Halloween flick that never takes itself too seriously while keeping you entertained, and boy are we here for it.
#7 - The Descent (2005)
This Scottish import was a sleeper hit back in 2005, and - at the time of its release - featured an all-female cast (which was a first for a horror film). Neil Marshall’s claustrophobic direction latches onto you throughout the movie, clamping down hard and never letting go. Things go from bad… to worse… to beyond worse. All the while, you’ll squirm in your seat as characters climb through impossibly tiny crevices, attempting to escape from a never-ending spelunking nightmare. When you’re done with The Descent, you’ll probably be gasping for air - a reaction well-earned from the movie’s unrelenting tone.
#6 - The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Back when everyone thought The Blair Witch Project was an actual documentary, this incredibly creative film caused a sensation upon release. Thanks to ingenious marketing and extremely unconventional filmmaking techniques, the movie still sits in people’s minds as a scary film even two decades later. The Blair Witch Project takes the idea that anything in the imagination is as scary as anything on screen… and takes this philosophy to the absolute hilt. The acting here among the cast is superb and believable, and the barebones doc-style filming gives the entire movie a hyper-realistic touch. If you’re looking to scare yourself over a campfire at night, then look no further than The Blair Witch Project.
#5 - Scream (1996)
Now iconic thanks to Ghost Face, horror master Wes Craven’s Scream functions as both a satire of slasher horror while working smoothly as a great horror film in its own right. It manages to be scary while maintaining a subtle tongue-in-cheek tone. Breakout star Neve Campbell straddles sensitive and tough-as-nails in equal measure, while the plot keeps you guessing as to who’s behind the mask. Scream is both fun and scary, even as it never fails to entertain while it giggles behind the scenes.
#4 - The Evil Dead (1981)
Nestled snuggly in the grand pantheon of legendary horror films, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is a triumph of micro-budget filmmaking (apparently he made the film for just under half a million). The Evil Dead is a funhouse thrill ride that never disappoints on scares, all the while injecting Raimi’s signature humor into the tonal framework. We can’t get enough of this movie, not just for its perfect Halloween vibes but for the unforgettable fun along the way. If you haven’t seen the original The Evil Dead, then we recommend you watch it immediately.
#3 - Mandy (2018)
Mandy is a film that defies genre, and we mean that in the best way possible. Straddling horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and revenge thriller in equal measure, Mandy is probably the most artistically eclectic film on this list. The design of sets and costumes are gonzo. Cage’s performance is appropriately explosive and bizarre. The story itself is heartbreaking. But just when you think Mandy can’t get any more insane, it goes over the top - and then some. This roller coaster of a film will have you falling down a hallucinogenic rabbit hole to a land of LSD-laced, neon-soaked fever dream goodness… all the while delivering bucket loads of gore. You wanted to see Nicolas Cage having a rage-fueled chainsaw fight? Look no further than Mandy.
#2 - Alien (1979)
Alien, now inseparable from mainstream horror cinema as a genre, is as beautifully poetic as it is horrifying. The film’s realism is backed by Ridley Scott’s iron grip on unease, further bolstered by Sigourney Weaver’s flawless performance. The design of the actual alien creature is unsettling enough, not to mention that the original film was pitched as a “slasher film in space.” Though space horror is now almost cliche as a genre, at the time, the idea of space crew members being picked off one by one was new and fresh. Alien is not just a must-see film - it’s a film that deserves its place amongst the best films of all time in general.
#1 - Halloween (1978)
Could there be any other? Halloween’s The Shape (commonly known as Michael Myers) stalked the screen over four decades ago, and yet he’s still scaring the pants off of audiences. So what makes Michael so scary? His iconic mask, expressionless and stoic, allows Michael to be just about anyone, and his sociopathic pathology just makes things scarier. Haddonfield, Illinois could a suburban neighborhood right in our own backyard. The victims, unknowingly going about their lives in their own homes, could be any of us. One minute we’re preparing dinner, the next Michael is walking into our kitchens to murder us all with a large kitchen knife. That’s what makes Halloween so terrifying: the fact that these things could happen virtually anywhere. And yet… they happen every day. Halloween is still scary even though it was released over forty years ago, and that speaks for itself. If there’s any Halloween movie we recommend you watch this upcoming weekend to have you jumping under the covers, it’s this one.
Happy Halloween from all of us at Black Fox!
- Jack Moffet
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU CHARGE FOR VIDEO WORK?
OCTOBER 14th, 2021
A common question among many starting videographers is “how much should I charge for my video work?” It’s a very valid question, and if you’re planning to make a career out of videography, it’s wise to consider your fee before taking on clients. Often, when a client approaches you, their first question is, “how much do you charge?” Instead of guessing in a ballpark, consider these questions before you answer.
HOW MUCH DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR TIME TO BE WORTH?
If there is any one question I would implore you to answer, it’s this one. Regardless of any other technicalities, I want you to consider a figure in your head that seems reasonable based on the client’s requests. If the job is something you think you can finish in an hour, obviously your fee would be based on an hour’s worth of work. But if you’ve been hired to produce a feature-length documentary that could take up to a year to finish, I urge you to research VERY carefully before negotiating your pay. The pay involving video and film work can vary widely in non-union jobs, so it’s best to consider how much time you think you’ll be putting in before you sign on.
HOW MANY MAN HOURS WOULD THE JOB REQUIRE?
Although it’s hard to pinpoint the exact number of hours you’ll be putting into a single project (this is film and video production, after all), estimate how long you believe it will take to complete the project. It’s important here to consider every aspect of the production process, from writing a script to equipment prep to post-production. Calculate those hours, then do some simple math to create an estimate on the cost. Then, when you’re comfortable with the number, quote the client.
HOW MUCH IS YOUR EQUIPMENT WORTH?
The worth of your production equipment is another consideration in assessing your fee. If you’re shooting on a Red Komodo, that’s worth something. If your post-production equipment consists of an iMac and a subscription to Adobe Premiere Pro, that’s worth something. Every piece of equipment you own is worth considering when your client signs on for your services. Because, when you think about it, they aren’t just asking for your manual labor - they’re also asking for the equipment that comes with it. Everything from lighting to sound to the gaff tape you use needs to be taken into account. You can think of the client as “renting” this equipment along with your services.
CONSIDER PUTTING TOGETHER PACKAGE SERVICES
A smart business model for virtually anyone, package services are a great way for small businesses to put control in the hands of clients. Using this model, your customer will be choosing the services you provide, instead of the other way around. For example, let’s say your basic package consists of a 2-3 minute brand video, but you provide the video only. In the next level up, you could offer the brand video along with social media cuts of the same video: timed at 30, 15, and 7 seconds long. Then in a premium package, you provide all of the above in addition to basic marketing services such as social media advertising. The benefits of using this method with your clients are many, as they will feel in control of what they’re ultimately buying.
ARE THERE ANY PROJECT EXPENSES?
If there are any additional expenses such as insurance, paying actors, hiring additional crew - it’s important that these are added to your fee. I would add a note here: make sure the client is aware of these additional expenses before you quote them (just so there are no surprises when they see your price tag).
HOW MUCH EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE?
Another very big consideration in assessing your fee, take into account how long you’ve been working in the industry as a whole. If you consider your work to be upper-tier quality and definitely better than average, that’s worth something. As the old saying goes, “you’re only as good as your last video.” If your last video looks like it was shot in 2010 in 480P, your client probably won’t be willing to pay you much money. Your experience is valuable, and the client must understand that your price tag comes in the form of valuable work.
That’s it for today’s blog post! We have hope you’ve found these tips useful, and good luck negotiating with your next clients, and thus your next payday!
- Jack Moffet
DJI MAVIC 3 SPECS HAVE BEEN LEAKED
OCTOBER 5th, 2021
When DJI released the original Mavic series, even the fledgling company (at the time) didn’t anticipate its meteoric rise in popularity. DJI’s flagship drones suddenly allowed prosumer filmmakers to capture cinema-level footage at a fraction of the cost when just a decade before it would’ve costed a fortune. As a customer of DJI’s products myself (including the DJI RS2 and the Mavic Air), I can tell you firsthand that their products deliver great results. I’m a big fan of using the RS2, in particular - especially for weddings.
The Mavic series has been the flagship of DJI’s products since its inception in 2016, with a stranglehold on the consumer drone market. The Mavic Pro 2 was released in 2018, and professionals have been speculating about the next iteration of the Mavic ever since. After a long wait, it looks like the Mavic Pro 3 is right around the corner, with a pending release date supposedly not too far off.
A note on the release date: I have been reading release dates that seem to be all over the place on various websites. Some say definitively the release date is October 20th (just three weeks away), while others place the release for November 15th. Either way, I’ll wait until an official DJI announcement before I speculate any further.
So, without further a due, here at the specs associated with the upcoming Mavic 3:
Weight—2 pounds (920 grams)
Flight time—46 minutes
Flight range—up to 9.3 miles
Speed—15.5 mph (with no wind)
Obstacle avoidance—angled forward obstacle avoidance sensors to provide a greater field of view
Camera details—5.2K video / 20MP photos
Camera types—both a wide-angle and a telephoto camera
Supposedly, the drone will be equipped with two cameras, as noted above. It’s also worth noting that there will be two models: a standard model and a cine model.
The Mavic 3 is speculated to also include the following features:
Intelligent Flight Modes
Advanced Pilot Assistance
As for the price, this is another area where I’m getting some conflicting information. Again, I would take this information with a grain of salt.
The Mavic 3: $2,049 USD ($50 higher)
The Mavic 3 Fly Higher Combo: $2,799 USD ($50 higher)
The Mavic 3 Cine Premium Combo: $4,649 USD ($150 higher)
I’m of the opinion that these figures could very well be accurate, as I’ve read many rumors that the new Mavic 3 would be more expensive than its predecessors. Although these prices might not be spot on, I would fully expect the Fly Higher Combo to be in the $2500-$3000 range.
As for the controller, the Cine Combo will feature a new controller called the RC Pro. However, this will be available for that package only.
Okay! So this was a short blog post today, but this is very exciting for drone users! Are you looking forward to the DJI Mavic 3? We know we are!
- Jack Moffet
HOW TO GET STARTED AS A FILMMAKER
September 29th, 2021
So you’ve made the decision to become a filmmaker. Welcome! You’ve made a very brave and daunting decision. No doubt, you’ve seen countless behind-the-scenes videos of film crews working diligently on gigantic, expensive sets. And you thought: “Boy, I want to do that one day.”
I’ve got some good news for you: it’s perfectly realistic to become a filmmaker - just in ways you might not expect. If your goal is to direct a Marvel film with a multi-million dollar budget, I’m here to tell you that it’s possible, but I would also make you aware that you’re going to have to work VERY hard to get there. As the old saying goes, I can tell you that "it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it." Here are some tips for getting your start as a filmmaker.
TIP #1: TRY SHOOTING ON YOUR PHONE FIRST
Ten years ago, I would’ve told you to borrow a Sony Handycam from someone you knew and start shooting. Now, in 2021, phone cameras have become so advanced that professionals are shooting entire MOVIES on them. If I were just starting out in filmmaking in the current era, I would no doubt take advantage of shooting videos on phones. Grab yourself a cheap phone tripod on Amazon and start shooting. It costs absolutely nothing and provides great practice for angles, lighting, and (after your shoot) editing.
TIP #2: RENT A CAMERA AND SHOOT WITH IT
Another advantage of living in our current digital era is being able to affordably rent a DSLR video camera and shooting your project over the course of a weekend for virtually nothing out of pocket. If you’re looking to get experience shooting video, I can’t recommend this option enough. Websites such as aperturent.com give filmmakers a perfect opportunity to hone their skillsets with a variety of cameras and lenses. What do you have to lose?
TIP #3: SHOOT, SHOOT, AND SHOOT SOME MORE
While this might sound obvious, this is probably the best piece of advice I can give you: shoot and shoot and then shoot some more. There is no better teacher for filmmaking than experience. And when I say shoot something, I mean shooting literally ANYTHING. Go outside and shoot a video of your dog in the backyard, your little cousins playing tag, or your mother making dinner. It doesn’t matter what you shoot, I would just encourage you to shoot A LOT. Get as much experience shooting as you possibly can. As the years go by, you’ll get a better eye for how to frame and light your shots, and you’ll steadily improve your cinematography.
TIP #4: IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT, GO AHEAD AND BUY A CAMERA
Some of the pros in filmmaking will tell you to rent your cameras, while I would advise buying a starter camera. It doesn’t need to be an advanced one - just a camera that shoots halfway decent video. The advantage of owning your camera is that you can have access to it anytime you want, and if you’re a run-and-gun videographer, that’s ESSENTIAL. Having to rent your camera every time you want to shoot something can be quite the hassle. Unless you’re working on a full-fledged film production with an established budget, I’d highly suggest buying a starter camera and getting to work on your shooting. Have you noticed a trend with my advice on shooting yet?
TIP #5: CONSIDER GOING TO FILM SCHOOL
As noted in our previous blog post, it would be worth your while considering film school if you have a passion for filmmaking. Many professionals in the industry decide to pursue an education in film before they step into the real world, and it’s a perfectly reasonable choice. Film school will provide you a solid foundation for what you need to know in the working world of filmmaking, not to mention surrounding you with like-minded colleagues. While you can certainly learn a lot from shooting on your own, film school gives you an extra edge when someone is deciding whether or not to hire you. If you can walk onto a film set and the best boy asks you to get a roll of 1/4 CTB and some black gaffer’s tape from the grip truck, you’ll know exactly what they’re talking about.
TIP #6: SEEK OUT PROFESSIONAL ADVICE
Still on the fence? Reach out to someone who works in film production professionally. And while they’ll be able to tell you the pros and cons of their trade, they already share one thing in common with you: they love what they do. Many in the industry decided to pursue filmmaking because they’re fans themselves, and nothing is more addictive than the magical allure of movies. There’s quite a bit you can learn from someone who’s been in the trade for years… or even decades.
Okay! That’s it for today’s blog post. We hope you’ve found these tips useful! Good luck on your journey to becoming a filmmaker!
- Jack Moffet
IS FILM SCHOOL WORTH IT?
September 22nd, 2021
It’s time for another post from Black Fox! This time, we’ll be discussing a topic often mulled over by aspiring filmmakers: is film school worth your time and money?
This can be quite a hard one to judge, especially seeing as film school is a gigantic investment for anyone (some undergraduate programs cost $40K/year or more in tuition fees alone). There are some famous directors throughout Hollywood that have notoriously quit film school... only to become successful anyway.
So the question becomes: why even go to film school? Can’t I just perfect my craft on my own? While that’s partially true, there can be major upsides and downsides to whether or not film school is for you. Let’s start by asking some very simple questions that might help you.
DO YOU THINK IT WOULD BE WORTH IT TO YOU?
This is an incredibly simple question, but probably the most important one. There are many pros and cons to going to film school, but it’s important that you ask yourself if it would be worth your time and money to go in the first place.
Going to film school is a big decision. You may wonder whether it’s worth the tuition fees and expenditure of your time. If you feel a burning desire to learn from professionals who work in the industry while perfecting your craft, it’s probably a good decision to go.
DO YOU WANT TO HONE YOUR CRAFT?
There’s no better place to learn filmmaking craft and experiment with your creative style than film school. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded professors and students that all have a passion for committing scripts to camera just as you are. I myself went to the University of Georgia (which didn’t have a dedicated film school, per se), but I received a quality education in the technicalities of filmmaking nonetheless. Had I never attended school and learned my own filmmaking style (which tends to lean toward darker material), I might have never found my voice when it came to creative endeavors.
The overall point is: film school is where you can find your creative voice.
DO YOU WANT TO MAKE CONNECTIONS IN THE INDUSTRY?
It’s often a joke among professionals that people go to film school for the connections, and this is partially true. If you attend film school at, say, Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, then you’ll immediately be connected to major film professionals on both sides of the coast. There’s even a nickname for Tisch graduates (Tischy’s) and they can be hired based on the name association alone.
I have a personal opinion on this: while connections in the industry are great and undeniably valuable, I believe you should focus on developing your own creative, technical, and written skills before you decide to enter the industry. And if an opportunity presents itself when you graduate, then you’ll be that much more prepared to handle being on a film set or working in post-production. You’ll already know set lingo, how to spike tape on an actor’s marks, and how to ingest footage from solid state drives for transcoding. I went to film school and have been working in the industry for over a decade, and I STILL learn something new all the time from my colleagues. I believe it’s worth your time to prepare yourself for entry into the industry, and film school is a great place to cultivate those skill sets. Your superiors will be impressed at your comfort level when you finally step onto set and know what they mean when they say "flying in with number one" or "we're shooting the martini."
DO YOU WANT TO TURN FILMMAKING INTO A CAREER? OR A HOBBY?
I’ll make this very short and sweet: if you want to turn filmmaking into a lifelong career, then film school is probably a good decision. If you want filmmaking as a hobby, then I would advise against it.
Filmmaking can be somewhat of an enigmatic trade. Those who work in it slave away for 12-hour workdays (if they’re on set), and yet they can’t imagine doing anything else. Some want to be rich and famous directors, but most are happily hammering away at their craft so they can be part of an exciting and fun industry.
If you have a burning desire to make movies, then it’s my advice that you apply to film school and learn the craft so you can begin your journey in filmmaking.
ARE YOU OKAY WITH COMING OUT OF SCHOOL IN DEBT?
I feel this is worth mentioning, as student loan debt is a harsh reality for many of us (I remember coming out of college with $20K in student loan debts, and I considered myself LUCKY). You need to ask yourself if you’re okay with some pretty hefty student loan payments, depending on which college you attend. Unless your parents are filthy rich and willing to pay your tuition and fees, make sure you consider the cost of film school before applying. It’s a risky decision for many, as it’s not a guarantee of employment once you’re accepted to a college or university. This is just something to keep in mind when it comes to factoring in your ultimate decision.
OVERALL: IF YOU HAVE A BURNING PASSION FOR MAKING MOVIES, IT’S PROBABLY A GOOD DECISION TO GO
My overarching argument would be this: if you want a career in filmmaking and can’t imagine doing anything else, I would advise attending film school. Many of my colleagues went, and have had successful careers gaining employment in film production as a result.
Okay! That’s it for today’s blog post. I hope you’ve found these tips useful!
- Jack Moffet
THE BEST DSLR CAMERAS FOR VIDEO IN 2021
Sept 15th, 2021
It’s time for another blog post from Black Fox! In this post, we’ll be discussing what we consider the top DSLR video cameras of 2021 (or, at least, the cameras that have been released thus far). There are many models and brands out there, so which one do you pick? Let’s not waste any more time and get right into it! Here are our picks for the best DSLR video cameras of the year.
Panasonic GH5 II
Sensor: Four Thirds
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Continuous shooting speed: 12fps (6k 30fps, 4k 60fps)
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Professional
In this “refresh” of the classic Panasonic GH5 (which, as many of you know, is a personal favorite of mine), the idea behind the GH5 II seemed to update the original GH5 for modern professionals. At a price tag of $1697.99, I think this camera is a perfect mid-ground for professional video shooters looking to work their way up to more powerful cameras. Not to mention, you can shoot grade-A video while also being mobile and compact.
There is also a big catch that we must note if you’re considering buying this camera: the GH6 is right around the corner in Panasonic’s release calendar. With the camera due for release by the end of the year, it may be worth your wait to see what the GH6 will be capable of doing. Until then, we recommend the GH5 II if you’re looking for an in-between upgrade.
Best Low-Light Performer
Sony A7S III
Sensor: Full frame
Lens mount: Sony FE
Max continuous shooting speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Professional
Although the Sony A7S III is more expensive, you’ll know where that money went: the camera is a low-light powerhouse. We could consider the camera a natural upgrade from the popular Panasonic GH5S, which - at the time of its release - was the king of low light.
The camera also boasts a full-frame sensor and a feature that no other camera in its class currently offers: 4K 60P video with no crop. Pretty impressive for a compact DSLR body.
Best for Filmmakers
Sensor: Full frame
Sensor resolution: 24.2MP
Lens mount: L-mount
4K frame rates: 60, 50, 30, 25, 24p
Standard ISO range: Dual Native ISO, 100-51,200
Memory cards: 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS II)
The big sister of the GH series and also one of the pricer cameras on this list, the powerful S1H sports 6K video resolution and official accreditation from steaming giant Netflix. Considered a “bridge” from professional videographers to outright filmmakers, we consider this the best filmmaking 4K DSLR camera at its price point. We would also argue that the upcoming GH6 is the GH line’s response to the S1H: a nearly as powerful camera body aimed at filmmakers in search of a more affordable option. The color science, low light performance, and in-between camera body size of the S1H make this an ideal choice if you’re considering a career in filmmaking.
Best for the Price
Sensor: Full frame
Sensor resolution: 24.2MP
Lens mount: L-mount
4K frame rates: 60, 50, 30, 25, 24p
4K sensor crop factor: 1x
Standard ISO range: Dual Native ISO, 100-51,200
Memory cards: 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC (1 UHS II, 1UHS I)
A perfect DSLR for beginners looking for an introduction to the world of 4K video, the affordable S5 packs an impressive full-frame sensor into a compact body. For run-and-gun shooters, it also sports a weather-resistant body. If you travel frequently and want to travel light while not sacrificing quality, this camera is a great option. The S5 is considered to have some of the best video shooting performance for a camera in its class. So if you’re considering, say, the S1H, but not ready for that much camera yet, we recommend the S5 at its unbeatable price point.
Best for Hybrid Video/Stills
Type: MirrorlessSensor: APS-C
Lens mount: Fujifilm X
Max continuous shooting speed: 30/15fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Expert/professional
Everyone seems to be losing their minds over full-frame cameras these days, but let’s not ignore the DSLRs that boast excellent 4K video capability at very affordable pricing, such as the Fujifilm X-T4. The camera also features a major plus for run-and-gun shooters: new in-camera stabilization that virtually eliminates the need for a gimbal. An almost direct competitor to the GH5 II, the X-T4 is capable of internal 10-bit 4:2:2 video recording. If you’re looking for a hybrid in terms of size, performance, and an affordable price tag, the X-T4 is hard to beat.
Okay! That’s it for this week’s post. We hope you’ve found these tips useful, and good luck in purchasing your camera!
- Jack Moffet
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR BEGINNER VIDEO CAMERA
Sept 7th, 2021
Choosing your first video camera can be an intimidating task for any aspiring filmmaker. Out of all the equipment in your kit, the camera body is likely to be your most expensive purchase. There are so many brands, so many price tags, and oh so many specs to sort through. So where do you start? Before you click your dream camera into the online cart for checkout, there are some very important questions you should ask yourself before you decide which camera is right for you. The answers to these questions will help you determine the grade of the camera you need, and therefore, the amount you’re likely to spend. So let’s get right to it!
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Before setting out on your quest for the ultimate dream camera, it’s very normal for many aspiring filmmakers to begin shooting with a lower-grade camera. But which one do you choose? Some simple Googling can provide many of the answers you need. I plan to write another blog post about this in the future, but there are lots of articles on the internet detailing the top DSLR choices among video shooters. Seeing as cameras are being constantly updated to newer versions, it will be worth your time to research the models that are the most up-to-date. Before purchasing a camera, I like to watch video test footage shot by other professional videographers. This will give you a first-hand demo of what the camera is capable of. For example, what resolution does the camera shoot in? How's the camera’s low-light performance? What about battery life? These are all things to consider before spending your hard-earned cash on a new camera.
WHERE DO YOU WANT YOUR VIDEOS TO BE SEEN?
This is probably the most important question you can ask yourself when considering the camera you should buy. Are you planning to make a feature film? Are you intending to distribute video to social media sites such as Instagram only? Every camera - from the phone in your pocket to the big, heavy cameras used on film sets - was designed with an intended consumer base in mind. And in the modern world of digital production, there are now more options than ever for getting your content in front of an audience. It’s both the most exciting time for filmmakers and video shooters, but also the most competitive, and that won’t change anytime soon. It’s extremely important for you to decide from the outset how you want to position yourself in the ever-growing world of online video content. The good news is there are many affordable cameras on the market for producing cinema-level video. If you want to be a full-fledged filmmaker, DSLRs are a perfect blend of affordable and compact. As I’ve noted on this blog many times, a camera in the mid-range (such as the Panasonic GH series) is great for run-and-gun videographers such as myself. Decide which distribution channel you want to target, and base the class of the camera from this point onward.
WHAT’S YOUR BUDGET?
If you’re on a budget, there’s no shame in purchasing a camera you can afford. I remember the first project I ever made was shot on a tiny Sony Handycam (and this was when digital cameras were still shooting on videotapes). I couldn’t afford my own camera, so I borrowed one from my roommate. You’d probably laugh at the video quality now, compared to the ubiquitous 4K standard of the modern era. And if you can’t afford a camera yet, start shooting video on your phone and editing it together. Keep in mind: there are entire feature films that have been shot on phones (Unsane and Tangerine are just a couple of major films that come to mind). I can tell you from experience that a more expensive camera does not necessarily equate to a higher quality video. If you light your shot just right, you can make a $500 video camera look like you shot on a camera that costs ten times as much. Do not fret over purchasing a cheaper starter camera. Unless you’re filthy rich, no one starts shooting on the Red Komodo on their first try. If you have years of shooting experience under your belt, you could potentially beat out the guy with a camera that costs as much as a new car - if you’re script is strong, your lighting and sound are on-point, and your actors give it everything they’ve got. The overall point is this: there’s MUCH MORE to production value than an expensive camera. Practice your shooting, and keep on shooting, and shoot some more, and eventually, your video will look cinema-worthy from sheer experience alone.
HOW MOBILE WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
This is probably one of the minor considerations when deciding on a camera, but it’s definitely worth mentioning: the weight of the camera you’re going to be carrying around should weigh into your decision. If you’re planning to be a run-and-gun videographer, DSLRs are probably your best choice for fast-paced movement. If you’re planning to make a feature film, cameras in the higher grades (such as the Sony FX series or Red cameras) might be the right pick for you. If you’re a wedding videographer, it’s absolutely worth your while to consider how much weight you’ll be lugging around all day (anything but a lightweight DSLR will probably tire out your arms). You also need to consider the payload limit of your gimbal. Obviously, a Ronin RS2 will not be able to handle a fully-rigged Arri Alexa; you would damage the motors and ruin the gimbal. Make sure to do some research on the weight and dimensions of the camera. That way, you’ll know what kind of camera support will be needed before you head out into the field (whether that’s a heavy-duty tripod or full-fledged Steadicam).
CONSIDER RENTING THE CAMERA FIRST
A perfectly reasonable decision is to rent the camera before you buy it. There’s no better test of the camera than renting it out for a few days, shooting some footage over the course of a weekend, and evaluating the results. This will not only help you get oriented with the nuances of the camera, but it will also introduce you to the settings available in the firmware. Seeing as each camera is a little bit different (especially in the settings and menu department), this will give you a head start in shooting with each particular model. Companies such as Aperturent.com will allow you to rent a camera and lenses for several days - or even a whole week - for very reasonable prices. What do you have to lose? If you don’t like the camera, you can always try out another until you find the right fit for you.
SEEK OUT ADVICE FROM PROFESSIONAL FILMMAKERS
Everyone needs some advice every once in a while. This might be more in line with “doing your research,” mentioned above, but watch tutorials on the internet from professional filmmakers who have used the camera you’re thinking of buying. A lot of videographers post reviews of brand new cameras that hit the market, breaking down the pros and cons they’ve found with each. They will often post test footage to give you an idea of the camera's capabilities. These are extremely helpful: not just knowing the positives and negatives of the camera, but also seeing what an experienced filmmaker thinks from his professional standpoint. You can bet money that when the Panasonic GH6 is released later this year, I’ll be posting a video review after shooting with it for a while!
Okay! That’s it for today’s blog post. I hope you’ve found these tips useful, and good luck in purchasing your first starter camera! I’ll be posting another blog post soon detailing specifics on digital cameras for filmmakers and videographers. See you soon!
- Jack Moffet
7 TIPS FOR PICKING A WEDDING VIDEOGRAPHER
JULY 30TH, 2021
It’s time for another blog post from Black Fox! Up until this point in our blog posts, we’ve been discussing a lot of the ins and outs of video production from the perspective of professionals.
But this time, we’ll be going in the reverse: this post is for couples out there looking for a wedding videographer, not professional videographers themselves. Some people opt to forego a wedding videographer altogether and stick strictly with photography, but I believe that video can capture moments all-too-often missed on your special day. Your video will be an artifact from your wedding that you’ll be able to enjoy for years to come, so you want to make sure you find the right videographer for you! Here are some tips on how to pick the right one.
TIP #1: LOOK AT OTHER EXAMPLES OF WEDDING VIDEOS
There are lots of wedding videos all over YouTube! A good practice is to look for a video that fits you and your fiance’s personal style. You’ll want to find a wedding video that makes you say, “Oh, I like that a lot. I want a video just like it.” The prevailing style among wedding videos in the modern era is cinematic and epic in scope. It’s also extremely helpful when you approach a videographer with an example in hand. This will give the videographer a good sense of what you would like to achieve with your video.
TIP#2: DECIDE ON A BUDGET
This is probably your biggest consideration. The price tag of wedding videographers can vary wildly: some charge $500, others charge $10,000… and that’s just for the base package. As a general rule of thumb when it comes to wedding videographers, their services are like any other professional when you go shopping: you get what you pay for. The quality of your video is often directly proportional to the amount you’re willing to pay. I’ve seen some wedding videos that look like Hollywood productions, and I’ve seen others that look like they were shot on iPhones. It all depends on how much you’re willing to spend, and that often correlates strongly with the quality of the video you’ll receive.
TIP #3: RESEARCH YOUR WEDDING VIDEOGRAPHER THOROUGHLY
Once you’ve decided on a budget, it’s time to start searching for your wedding videographer. Some companies specialize in producing wedding videos only, but often you’ll be speaking directly with the videographer themselves. Wedding vendor search engines like Wedding Wire and The Knot are excellent places to start. You can search through a variety of videographers using this method, and it will even narrow down your search results based on region. Check out some of the reviews from other clients and look at some of their other videos. Often, one will stick out to you, and you’ll say, “That looks just right.”
TIP #4: SCHEDULE AN INITIAL PHONE CALL OR VIDEO MEETING
After you’ve decided on a videographer that you like, reach out to them and ask for any further details you might be looking for: information on packages, availability, and anything else, in general, you might want to ask. When you have an initial phone call with them, see if your personality matches up. If you’re looking for a bold new wedding video that breaks many rules, you’ll want to find videographers who aren’t afraid to take risks. They can be hard to find, but they’re out there! Make sure you take the time to find the right match in your videography team.
TIP #5: TELL THE VIDEOGRAPHERS AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE WANTING (OR NOT WANTING)
During the initial video meeting or afterward, it will help your videography team enormously to tell them as many details as possible about what you want. If you want first looks with Dad, or any other can’t-miss moments, be sure to voice this to your videography team. The more details you give them, the better. Big bonus points if you send them examples of other videos you hope to emulate. Conversely, you might simply tell them, “Everything is up to you! Go crazy! Just make it look good.” And that’s perfectly fine - just make sure you communicate this early on. If the videographer starts raising objections to your every request, then they probably aren’t the right team for you. You’ll want a team that can say “This is realistic and we can get that done for you,” or, if it isn’t technically possible, “I’m really sorry, but that’s outside of the scope of our services.” A good sign of a professional videographer is their ability to be completely transparent with you at all times by communicating what’s realistic and what isn’t.
TIP #6: PROVIDE LOGISTICAL DETAILS TO YOUR VIDEOGRAPHY TEAM
Your videographer will want to know, first and foremost, where your venue is located. And, of course, the wedding date itself. Something that will help them tremendously is by giving them contact info for your wedding planner. Your videographer will want to communicate with them about any logistical details such as the itinerary (and that’s huge as far as planning out a shooting schedule).
TIP #7: BE READY TO SIGN A CONTRACT AND PUT DOWN A DEPOSIT
So you’ve got a videographer picked out, you’ve communicated all the above details to them, and now you’re ready to sign with them. Typically, a wedding videographer will request a signed contract and a deposit before agreeing to shoot your wedding. This is pretty standard in the industry. Just make sure you read it thoroughly! While it’s unlikely you’d be signing your life away, you’ll want to make sure you understand all the details involving payment, the scope of their services, and other details you might’ve missed.
Alright! That’s it for this blog post. We hope you found these tips useful, and good luck in picking your wedding videographer for your big day!
- Jack Moffet
10 TIPS FOR HOW TO SHOOT A WEDDING VIDEO (PART 3 - AFTER THE SHOOT)
July 20th, 2021
In our conclusion to the “How to Shoot a Wedding Video” series, we’ll be discussing what to do after you’ve gotten the hardest part out of the way: actually having shot the video. We’ll be diving into this lengthiest part of the video production process, lightly talking about post-production (although this won’t be the primary focus of the post. I could spend several posts discussing color correction alone!). So let’s dive right in.
TIP #1: GET SOME REST
The hardest part of the video production process (actually shooting the wedding) is now out of the way. No doubt, you will feel exhausted and tired once the shoot is over, and it’s important that you rest for at least a day or two. The day after the wedding, don’t touch or review the footage. In fact, it’s advisable that you do anything else besides work on the video. Lay around and watch movies, get outside and go for a hike, take some time to exercise - do literally anything that will decompress your mind and body from the intense amount of work you did the day before. I usually make an effort to do virtually nothing the day after the wedding.
TIP #2: RE-CHECK YOUR EQUIPMENT
Once you’ve had a day or two or rest, it’s time to check over your equipment. I treat myself as my own rental house, as though I had rented the equipment from someone else. If you were checking in your equipment to a real rental house after a shoot, you would no doubt want to make sure that everything is accounted for and in proper working condition. I have a checklist of my gear that I check off one piece at a time to make sure that I haven’t lost anything. In film school, I actually had three different columns for equipment check: before, during, and after the shoot. You can’t check your equipment too many times! There’s no worse feeling than discovering you’ve left a piece of equipment at the shooting location.
TIP #3: FOLLOW-UP WITH THE COUPLE
Be sure to thank your couple for being a part of their special day, while also getting the opportunity to help them create a video artifact that they’ll cherish for years to come. Let them know you had a great time, and you can’t wait to show them some footage!
TIP #4: BEGIN THE POST-PRODUCTION PROCESS
I won’t spend an elaborate amount of time getting into the minutiae of the editing process here. I could easily spend an entire post talking about transcoding your footage alone. But there is an important note here that I think is worth highlighting:
Remember that this process is going to take a while. The editing phase of production is often the lengthiest and most time consuming part of making a video.
Be patient. Crafting the storyline of your video can be intimidating from the sheer amount of footage involved. Take your time to think through this couple’s story, and how you generally want to put it together.
My timeline will usually go something like this:
Day 1: Ingest, backing up footage, transcoding, and setting up project files.
Day 2: Folder organization within project, begin reviewing footage, and music selection
Day 3: Actual editing begins
End of Week 1: Teaser provided to couple
End of Week 2: Rough cut provided to couple
End of Week 3: Tweaks, revisions implemented
End of Week 4: Release on social media
End of Week 5: Follow-up and ordering external media drives (such as USB)
Notice that the entire process takes about a month. This is an extremely generalized timeline, but it will give you a good idea of the process I usually go through to the get the video edited and completed. There are some videographers that spend MONTHS editing a single video, making sure that every cut is perfect. There’s nothing wrong with perfectionism (I’m definitely in that camp), but I try to deliver a couple’s video within a timely manner. I make it clear to them, from the beginning, that it will probably be about a month or more before they see a finished product.
TIP #5: PROVIDE A SOCIAL MEDIA TEASER TO THE COUPLE
I typically provide a social media teaser about a week after the shoot. This accomplishes several things all in one: your couple gets a snapshot of what they can expect in their video, it builds excitement for the video’s release on social media, and it lets the couple know you are actively working to get it finished. In other words, you won’t leave them hanging throughout the editing process.
TIP #6: COMMUNICATE WITH THE COUPLE THROUGHOUT
Once again, communication! Make sure you are keeping the couple updated through the entire editing process. An update once a week is usually a pretty good average. You can say that they’re footage is looking great, you can’t wait for them to see the finished cut, or anything that will let them know you’re working hard to get them a quality edit.
TIP #7: PROVIDE A ROUGH CUT FOR REVISIONS
Once you’ve edited the video, send a rough cut of the video to the couple for any revisions. Be open minded and accommodating during this process. In my experience, any revisions requested by the couple are minor. Implement the revisions, then rinse and repeat until the couple is happy.
TIP #8: SCHEDULE A RELEASE DATE
The couple has signed off on the final cut of the video; it’s polished and ready for the world to see. Build up excitement on social media by scheduling a premiere date.
TIP #9: ACTUAL RELEASE. SIT BACK AND RELAX!
The moment you’ve been waiting for. Sit back and let those sweet view counts and shares roll in!
TIP #10: FOLLOW-UP AFTER RELEASE
After the video has been released, follow up with the couple once again and thank them for being so awesome to work with! Export their deliverables onto a USB drive and send it their way. Later down the line, you can even repost their video on their anniversary to congratulate them and see how their newlywed life is going. They’ll appreciate that you had their special day in mind!
Okay! That concludes our “How to Shoot a Wedding Video” series. At some point I hope to make a full-fledged vlog highlighting the process I go through to shoot weddings on actual wedding day, but we hope all these tips have been useful. Good luck shooting your weddings!
- Jack Moffet
10 TIPS FOR HOW TO SHOOT A WEDDING VIDEO (PART 2 - DURING THE SHOOT)
July 13th, 2021
Welcome to Part 2 of our “How to Shoot a Wedding Video” series! In this post, we’ll be discussing the phase of production that’s often the most stressful and labor intensive: actually shooting the wedding. At some point, I may create a vlog taking you through an actual day of filming, but for now we can go over some of the basics. Let’s get goin’!
TIP #1: ARRIVE AT THE VENUE EARLY
In the same way you’d arrive for a job interview 30 minutes prior to the actual interview, you want to build in a solid half an hour of getting your bearings once you arrive. You’re not worried about shooting just yet. You’ll want to have a look around simply to see how things are laid out (and if you visited the venue beforehand, as discussed in Part 1, you’ll be that much more prepared). For example, where is the groomsmen parlor located? Where will the wedding ceremony be taking place?
After you’ve had a look around and gotten your bearings, touch base with the couple and wedding planner. Typically, the bride and bridesmaids arrive in the morning because their makeup and hair takes much longer than the groomsmen. Here you can go over your plan for the day, tell them any specific shots you’ve got planned, and after that, you’ll probably want to leave them alone for a while. Their day is going to be very busy and hectic all the way into the evening.
TIP #2: GEAR CHECK
Make any last minute adjustments to your gear. Dust off your lenses, check your battery levels, and make sure everything is in proper working condition. If you would like to set up a “base camp.” so to speak, you can typically find a spot somewhere at the venue to house all your gear. You’ll want this spot to be out of the way and out of sight. Please be careful where you keep your gear (if it’s not in your car). You don’t want any equipment walking off while you’re shooting.
Okay! So it’s time to start shooting! For these next tips, I’m going to use my own personal methodology, but feel free to modify this schedule if it suits the shots you want.
TIP #3: BEGIN AERIAL AND ESTABLISHING PHOTOGRAPHY
Before I begin shooting, I always check over my shot list to remind myself of the shots I’d like to get. I typically start with drone/aerial videography first. For the FAA certified remote pilots out there, you’ll want to check if any airspace authorization is required to fly at the venue. More than likely, you won’t need authorization, but it never hurts to check! Especially if you’re in a densely populated area.
Once your aerial videography is complete, I begin shooting b-roll shots. This could include shots of the venue, reception area, ceremony space, greenery and decoration, signage, and pretty much anything on your shot list that doesn’t involve actual people.
TIP#4: SHOOT THE BRIDE GETTING READY (MAKEUP AND HAIR)
Once your bride enters the makeup chair, the clock is now ticking all the way to the ceremony. It's go time. You’ll want to get any b-roll shots that involve her getting ready: shots of makeup being applied, putting on any jewelry such as earrings, slipping on her slippers, and (of course!) showing off that shiny wedding ring. If there is anything the bride would like to say to camera (such as reading a letter from her fiance), then now is typically a good time. You can also wait until she is fully dressed in her wedding gown if she prefers. As an overall note: it’s always a good idea for the bride and groom to talk as much as possible, whether separately or together. This will make your edit much, much easier to handle later.
TIP #5: OVERALL NOTE - COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR COUPLE, THE WEDDING PLANNER, AND THE PHOTOGRAPHER THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Always keep these three informed of what your plans are. If you have an interview with the bride scheduled at a certain time, make sure the wedding planner is made aware of this. The photographer(s) typically arrive about noon or so, depending on their contact. It’s extremely important that you are respectful of the photographers. They’re trying to get certain shots in a very limited amount of time just as you are. If I want to take the bride and groom aside for 10 minutes for some shots, I let the photographer know so that they can take a breather while I get them. Typically, they’ll be cool with this and will appreciate the communication.
TIP #6: OVERALL NOTE - KEEP YOUR COOL AT ALL TIMES
A wedding day can be stressful and hectic for all parties involved. There is a great deal of pressure to make sure everything is pitch perfect within the span of just a few hours. The bride and groom have been looking forward to this day for a very long time. It’s your job to make them feel as comfortable and relaxed as humanly possible. If things get crazy, always keep your cool. Remember: your role isn’t that of a photographer, which requires certain poses and formalities. Your job is to capture all the feeling and natural emotion that represent this couple’s special day. I typically tell the couple to almost act as if my camera isn’t there at all, and just do what comes naturally to them. You’d be shocked at the amazing candid footage you capture just by letting the bride relax while makeup is being applied and she looks in a mirror. No fancy poses, no cheesy grins, just a relaxed subject happy to be getting married in a few hours.
TIP #7: SHOOT THE GROOM GETTING READY
The groom has arrived! Make sure you get some establishing shots of him getting dressed, putting on shoes, tightening his bowtie, etc. The more footage you shoot of this process, the better. And remember to ask if he wants to say anything to his future bride! This is a moment that they may rewatch after decades of being married; now is your chance to capture it.
TIP #8: OVERALL NOTE - NATURAL LIGHTING IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
If there are any lights on in the grooms parlor or bridesmaid parlors, shut them all off and put your subjects up next to a window. These naturally lighted shots are going to be what makes your video shine in the edit. It took me a long time to understand that lighting fixtures in domestic interiors aren’t designed with photography in mind - they’re designed to simply illuminate a space. It may seem counter-intuitive, but they will actually hamper your photography. Shut those puppies off, keep your ISO as low as possible, and your footage will look great!
TIP #9: OVERALL NOTE - BE AS LIGHT AND AS MOBILE AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE
Throughout the course of the wedding day, you’re going to be moving around A LOT. You’ll want to be as compact and light as you can with the gear that you walk around with. I typically walk around with my gimbal ready to shoot just about anything. I’ll also strap a small pouch to my belt for batteries, lens cloths, ND filters, etc.
TIP #10: FROM HERE, FOLLOW YOUR SHOOTING SCHEDULE
At any moment of the day, be ready to whip out your shooting schedule and shot list. As the day goes along, check off each of your shots. There are plenty of wedding “must-have” shot lists out there on the internet, but here are the basics:
MUST-HAVE WEDDING SHOTS
Groom waiting at altar
Processional with bride's entrance
First kiss as married couple
Bride and bridesmaids getting ready
Exterior shot of the church or venue
Interior wide shot of the church or venue
Groom and ushers hanging out
Pinning boutonniere on groom
Guests being escorted down the aisle.
Guests sitting, reading programs and talking.
Family members entering the venue or church.
Father kissing the bride and handing off to groom.
The ceremony. Record it all if you have the space and edit later.
The must-have shots mentioned previously of the groom at the altar, the processional and bride's entrance, the first kiss and the recessional.
Exterior shot of reception site
Guests signing guest book
Guests enjoying cocktail hour
Servers passing food
Wide shot of reception room
Close up of place settings
First dance of couple
Last dance of the evening
The newlyweds as they exit the reception
BONUS TIP: KEEP THE WEDDING VENDORS IN MIND
If you really want to do the wedding vendors a solid, you can capture footage of them in action at the wedding. For example, you may want to capture the florist setting up bouquets on the reception area dining tables before the ceremony. Other vendor shots will be more obvious, such as the reception band. Your vendors will be very appreciative of the free advertising! And who knows - they might recommend you to some other couples!
PHEW! This was a big blog post, but we hope you found this information useful! We’ll see you on the next blog post, where we’ll be discussing what to do after the shoot is over.
HOW TO SHOOT A WEDDING VIDEO (PART 1 - BEFORE THE SHOOT)
July 6th, 2021
Welcome to another blog post from Black Fox Productions! In this series of blog posts, we’ll be discussing how to shoot a wedding video, broken down into three parts: before, during, and after the shoot.
Before we get started, I’m going to assume a few things: you’ve signed on with a couple, you've negotiated your rate, and you've nailed the date into your calendar.
So what comes next? You just wait until the day before the wedding, check over your gear, and hope for the best on wedding day, right?
If only it were that simple! My experience with weddings has been that the more that you plan, the better (and easier) your shoot will go. Not only that, but your video will look remarkably better than average.
So let’s dive right in!
COMMUNICATE WITH THE COUPLE ABOUT WHAT KIND OF VIDEO THEY WANT
Every wedding video you shoot will be a bit different from all the ones you’ve shot before. This isn’t to say you can’t have a style of your own, but each wedding venue - and every couple - will bring something new to their video.
The first question you should ask your couple is what they are looking to get out of their wedding video. Do they just want the ceremony filmed? Are they wanting an epic wedding film that captures the entire scope of the weekend? Which parts of the day are unmissable as far as filming is concerned? These are all questions that need to be asked right out of the gate.
From there, it’s your responsibility to creatively meld your vision with that of the couple’s. If they requested a specific style of music, if they plan to have speaking roles, whether or not they want first looks with Dad captured - these are all things to keep in mind before you ever start shooting on wedding day.
RESEARCH THE VENUE
This one should go without saying, but you'll want to research the venue beforehand. Nowadays, doing a virtual tour of the grounds is only a Google search away. You can go ahead and start getting shot ideas from the pictures on their website. And if you can schedule a personal tour of the venue - even better.
COMMUNICATE WITH THE WEDDING DIRECTOR (OR WEDDING PLANNER)
A wedding planner’s job entails a great deal of responsibility. They must ensure that the day goes smoothly and according to plan, almost without a hitch. Every hour they are on site - from the moment the bridesmaids go into the makeup chairs to the fake leave - matters. You want to make sure that your shooting schedule (we’ll get to that in a minute) fits seamlessly into their wedding day itinerary. Wedding day can be hectic, and every minute on wedding day counts - even if it’s for a 15-minute block of time.
Let’s just say, for example, that the bride has requested a specific shot of herself and her husband walking hand in hand through the forest. So you go to the wedding planner and tell them: “I’ll need the bride and groom for 15 minutes after they’ve taken their formal photos with the family.” The wedding planner can plug this specific shot right into their itinerary. When wedding day rolls around and formal photography ends, the wedding planner can pull the couple aside and give you some privacy while you get the shots you need. No stress, no hassle, no getting in the way of the photographers. Everybody wins.
COMMUNICATE WITH THE PHOTOGRAPHER(S)
One of the biggest challenges for many wedding videographers, in the beginning, can be a battle for time amongst the wedding planner, photographers, and yourself. But I have some good news for you - it doesn’t need to be a battle! Something that I struggled with for my first few weddings was how not to step on the photographer’s toes in trying to get the shots I needed. You don’t want to be rude, but at the same time you want to get the shots you need, right?
It’s very important that you get along with the wedding photographers. Find out from the wedding planner who they are, and email them. Introduce yourself, and better yet, give them some compliments on their work! You’ll be starting off on the right foot before you ever physically meet each other. And here’s a pro-level tip: send them your shooting schedule. They’ll know every shot you want before ever setting foot at the venue on wedding day.
And speaking of shooting schedules…
MAKE A SHOOTING SCHEDULE
On the last wedding I shot, I sent a shot list to the wedding planner a couple of weeks before the wedding date. They were absolutely amazed that a videographer had documented the shots they wanted in an easy-to-understand list.
“No other videographer has done that with you before?” I asked, astonished.
“No - not one!” she said.
This is the tip that’s going to take you from just another wedding videographer to pro-level. If you make a shooting schedule, you’ll be saving everyone massive amounts of time on wedding day. Everyone - from the couple, to the wedding planner, to the photographer - will benefit from this practice.
While you won’t be able to plan every single shot on wedding day, it will pay massive dividends to have a shot listed schedule on your phone that you can reference at any moment.
As an example, below is a mock shooting schedule that I created for myself and sent to the wedding planner. She knew everything I needed and was able to fit in blocks of time for the specific shots requested.
VIDEOGRAPHY SCHEDULE FOR MR. AND MRS. SMITH
10 - Arrive. Shoot establishing shots of venue. Aerial photography. Shoot bridesmaids in parlor getting makeup put on.
11 - Bride Arrives. Shoot her interview. Shoot bride with dress over her arm. Shoot her opening her gift from Luke.
12 - Videographer #2 arrives.
12-1 - More establishing videography
1:30-1:45 - Shoot groom’s interview. Shoot him opening his gift from bride.
2 - Bride in makeup chair shots. Shoot rings, wedding dress, etc.
2:40 - First Look with Dad
2:45 - Shoot groom getting dressed into tux.
3:15 - First Looks with groom
4-5:30 - Formal Photography
5:30-5:45 - Walking videography. Shot of bride silhouette against window.
5:45-6:30 - Set up camera equipment for ceremony. Shoot cars coming into parking lot, ppl walking up to pavilion.
6:30-6:45 - Shoot ceremony
7-7:15 - Glory poses
7:15 - Introduction of new couple and first dances
8:45 - Fake leave
9 - Both videographers dismissed
10 - Music ends
Notice that the schedule works in tandem with the wedding planner’s itinerary. You’re working around the schedule that’s been established already.
When you’re scrambling on wedding day, wondering where you’re supposed to be next, all you’ve got to do is whip out your phone and reference the schedule. You’ll want to kiss yourself for having done the ground work in advance. And so will the couple! Maybe not the kissing part - that would be awkward (but you get the point).
BONUS TIP: PRE-RIG YOUR EQUIPMENT THE DAY BEFORE THE SHOOT
This will save you massive amounts of time on wedding day. All you'll have to do is show up, whip out your camera rig, and you're ready to go!
As an overall note, I’ve found that the best wedding videos I’ve made have been a result of using these practices. The more you plan, the better your video will be. Everyone will win from having a good plan that is communicated to everyone.
We hope this comes in handy for your wedding shoots!
- Jack Moffet
HOW TO START YOUR OWN VIDEO PRODUCTION COMPANY
June 28th, 2021
ARE YOU CONSIDERING STARTING YOUR OWN VIDEO PRODUCTION COMPANY? HERE’S A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO GET THE BALL ROLLING
DECIDE ON A COMPANY NAME/ESTABLISH AN LLC
Before you get into the minutiae of establishing a business, brainstorm some ideas for a company name. Bear in mind: your company’s name will say a lot about you (even in a subconscious sense) to your future customers. Do you want the name to sound edgy and cool? Or warm and inviting? A drone videography company might name themselves “Ascent Productions,” for example. Another thing to consider is whether or not to establish an LLC (a limited liability company). Some videographers rely on their personal name alone, while others create an LLC for legal, accounting, and tax purposes. Here at Black Fox Productions, we are an LLC, and if you want to be considered a bonafide production company in the long run, this is the route we recommend.
YOU NEED A WEBSITE
This one is critical. Your website is the first thing your prospects will see, and they will immediately decide whether or not you are worth hiring based on this aspect alone. It’s also essential if you want to be found on search engines such as Google. There are many affordable website builders on the internet nowadays, such as Squarespace.com for under $20, that allow you to pick out a template and hit the ground running with content. You don’t need to know how to write code to start a website. You just need some projects to showcase in your portfolio! Your website is the salesman that never stops working for you while you sleep.
PURCHASE A CAMERA
This one might sound obvious, but you’ll need a camera to shoot your projects. It’s okay to start with a camera than you can afford. There are lots of DSLR’s on the market that can run as low as $500 or less that shoot decent footage. Buying a camera is sort of like buying a car: you can spend as much or as little as you want - just bear in mind that high-end production cameras such as the Arri Alexa or Red Epic series can cost as much as a car... and that's just for the camera body. We advise starting in the mid-range (we’re big fans of the Panasonic GH5 over here), and then working your way into higher end cameras. Can’t afford a camera yet? That’s okay! Start shooting projects on your phone and edit the footage together. Everyone in the industry had to start somewhere.
START FINDING CLIENTS. YOU MAY HAVE TO WORK FOR FREE (IN THE BEGINNING)
So you’ve decided on a company name, got your LLC paperwork filed, established a website, and purchased a camera. You’re ready to start shooting. It’s time to start finding clients! I have some good news for you: there are actually many ways to make money as a videographer in the high-demand business of video production. Real estate agencies, marketing agencies, small businesses, artists looking for music videos, brides wanting a wedding video - all these are potential client bases to tap into. Another industry that’s become increasingly friendly with video that might surprise you is legal services. There are entire companies out there dedicated to nothing but creating promotional videos for law firms.
In the very beginning, you may have to work for free - at least for your first few projects. This approach can be as simple as approaching friends and family to see if anyone they know might want a video for their business. You can try cold-calling businesses near you and introducing yourself. “Hello! I’m Jack Moffet with Black Fox Productions,” you might say, “Would your business need a commercial made? I’m willing to work for free.” Remember: your first project doesn’t need to be a Martin Scorsese production. Just do your best and enjoy the process.
FOR LATER DOWN THE LINE, WHEN YOU’RE MORE ESTABLISHED
Below are some tips for when you get some projects under your belt.
DON’T SKIMP ON LIGHTING AND SOUND
Lighting and sound are what separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls. Lighting can take a little while to learn, but once you learn how to light your subjects and make them appear more “cinematic,” the results can’t be understated. Lighting is everything. We can’t recommend enough investing in a lightweight lighting kit. You can purchase a 2-light LED kit for under $200 from companies such as Neewer.
Equally important is sound. Utilizing a lavalier mic during interviews is worth its weight in gold. Not only will your audio be clean, but lav mics isolate dialogue almost perfectly. We strongly recommend purchasing a lav mic system if you are planning to shoot weddings and interviews. You’ll absolutely thank yourself later.
DON'T FORGET YOUR TAXES
This tip is more administrative- and accounting-based, but do keep your taxes in mind. Most companies will hire you on as an independent contractor - meaning you’ll be filed in their books as a 1099-MISC expenditure, at least from the IRS’s perspective. You’ll be responsible for paying taxes on that income (which as of this writing is set at 15.3%). So make sure you keep track of your business expenses throughout the year when it comes time to file. Anything you use to make the business run - equipment purchases, travel expenses, subscriptions to editing cloud services like Adobe - all these things are considered a tax write-off. The sooner you start keeping track of your business expenses, the better! And the less of a headache you’ll get once tax season rolls around.
DECIDE WHAT TYPE OF PRODUCTION COMPANY YOU WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE
Finding your niche is something to consider for later down the road. What type of projects do you want to focus on in the future? Do you want to strictly focus on being a wedding videographer? Or would you rather make high-end commercials for big companies with gigantic ad campaigns? Do you want to make feature-length films? Or just focus on music videos? In the beginning stages of your company, it’s okay to be a jack-of-all-trades until you’re more established. But it never hurts to start considering the future focus of your company.
A final note: it can take a little while to get a production company going. Be patient, always be professional and courteous with your clients, and the work will come to you.
We hope this has been helpful, and good luck in starting your video production company!
- Jack Moffet
THE DJI RS2 IS PERFECT FOR WEDDING VIDEOGRAPHERS
MAY 11th, 2021
In this blog post, we'll be discussing a piece of equipment that has become absolutely essential in my equipment kit: the DJI RS2 camera gimbal. I'll cut right to the chase if you are considering buying one to shoot your videos: it's pretty awesome. Having used the gimbal for multiple shoots by this point, I'll take you through what I consider to be the pro's and con's of DJI's newest flagship camera stabilizer.
Pro #1: Your Shots will be Buttery Smooth
This is probably the most important for us videographers. After all, this is obviously why we use the gimbal in the first place: to achieve those awesome looking, cinematic tracking shots. The new SuperSmooth option provides an added layer of stabilization even when you are moving quickly (such as leading the bride down the aisle when she makes her grand entrance or circling around your couple during their first dance). There are bound to be those slight bumps in the footage from your footsteps (as with any gimbal), but overall my experience with the actual stabilization of footage has been a positive one.
Pro #2: Compact, Light, and Mobile
I recently purchased this gimbal as an upgrade from the Ronin M, and while the M is great for stabilization in general, it can be extremely cumbersome to lug around while shooting at weddings. When protracted over the course of a full shooting day, that can be downright exhausting. In order to sit the gimbal down, you have to carry the balancing bracket along with the gimbal itself. Overall, it was too heavy to be practical and can be a pain to deal with if you're a wedding videographer.
The DJI RS2 eliminates all those problems. The bottom screw-on handle of the gimbal also functions as a mini-tripod with three legs attached. You can sit it down on any stable surface, and oh my lord is it easy to carry. If you need to walk a considerable distance, you can even lock the three axis' motors into place and carry the fully-rigged gimbal with one hand. The convenience can't be beat.
Pro #3: Easy to Use
The gimbal itself is extremely intuitive to use in general. While initial setup can take a little bit of time (I'll discuss that as a con later in this article), once your camera is fired up and ready to go, the controls are placed in extremely convenient positions within a finger's reach. The ability to control the focus motor with a roll of your index finger is absolutely critical when shooting can't-miss moments such as first looks with the bride and groom. If you decide to purchase the new 3D Focus System, even better (in my case I went without it and settled for the Pro Combo package that included a focus motor). There is another added feature on the gimbal that's fantastic: a touch screen. If you need to calibrate your gimbal and make sure those motors are nice and tight, a couple of buttons and the RS2 will test out each axis' stiffness using Auto Tune. If you need a quick view of the gimbal's active track shot, it will show up on the screen when activated (although this isn't as good as an actual external monitor). So when it comes to ease of use and ergonomic design: bravo DJI.
Pro #4: The Raven Eye Wireless Video Transmitter
The Raven Eye is essential if you're deciding whether or not to purchase the RS2. You may not think you'll need it, but oh will you. There are many times when I would want to get low to the ground when shooting, and in cases like this it's essential that you use the Raven Eye so you can view your shot. Not only that, it eliminates the need for a bulky external monitor like you would need to use with the Ronin M. I have almost no complaints about this system. It's easy to use and the convenience of using your phone as an external monitor is ingenious.
Pro & Con: Battery Life
I'll list this feature as both a pro and con, seeing as there are both some great positives here while also recognizing some caveats. While the battery life of the DJI RS2 is ample, I'd say you'll be able to get a solid 10 hours of use out of the gimbal if you use it constantly. If you let the gimbal rest in sleep mode occasionally, the advertised 12-hour battery life is more feasible. That's crucial if you're shooting a wedding over the course of a full day. I think DJI's claim that the battery can last a full 12 hours while in constant use is overestimating things just a bit. If you're putting this gimbal through the ringer with hours of non-stop shooting, it's my opinion your battery will run out before those 12 hours are up. I can't complain about this too much, as being as able to shoot potentially for 10 to 12 without a recharge is fantastic. But this is something to be aware of if you start shooting a wedding at, say, 10 AM in the morning and go all the way to 10 PM at night. I would carry your charger with you just in case you need to recharge later in the day as your battery drains. A note on charging: it takes a while - and by that I mean a couple of hours. You'll certainly want to let the battery charge overnight before you head off to your shoot.
Con #1: Assembly. Cords, Cords, and more Cords
Out of the box, the RS2 can be intimidating in terms of assembly. When I received the gimbal in the mail, I spent a solid half day doing nothing but putting it together. While DJI does a good job of providing plenty of instruction booklets and how-to videos, it's still a bit confusing as to which cord plugs into which port. With a complete rig, I ended up with four cords in total plugged into the gimbal and camera (and this isn't including the optional 3D Focus System). I'm sure in the future DJI may find a way to integrate all connectors into a single cable, and granted I'm no engineer, but overall this is a small price to pay for the overall convenience once fully assembled. I can undoubtedly say that I'm much faster in building the rig having shot with the RS2 over the course of the last few months, but this is something else to bear in mind when you are up against the clock on wedding day. I always assemble the RS2 the night before specifically so I can save time when I show up to the venue.
Con #2: Active Track Could Still Use Some Work
I think an enormous benefit to future iterations of Active Track would be improvements in facial recognition, similar to the software used in iPhones. It honestly might be that I'm new to using the gimbal's firmware, but there were times when my focus point was lost and the camera struggled to track the point I dictated to it. This is something that DJI is undoubtedly working on improving, and will only improve with each new version of Active Track.
It's also a requirement that you purchase the Raven Eye system in order to use Active Track in general, and while the system works great, I'm sure there are videographers out there that would like to be able to use it strictly with the built-in touchscreen for a more cost-effective option.
Conclusion: Absolutely Worth the Price Tag
If you're deciding whether or not to purchase the RS2, I can say wholeheartedly that this gimbal is worth the money. Obviously the pro's outweigh the con's, and ff you're a wedding videographer, look no further the RS2. I can't say whether it would be worth your an upgrade from the Ronin S, as I jumped directly from the Ronin M to the RS2, but I'll definitely say my experience with this gimbal has been a positive one. The convenience of mobility and intuitive controls make for a perfect run-and-gun videographer's gimbal.
- Jack Moffet
why i still use the panasonic gh5 to shoot video
February 11th, 2021
In this blog post, we'll be discussing a camera that needs absolutely no introduction in the world of videography: the Panasonic GH5, and why - even going on four years after its original release - I still use it for shooting video.
The GH5 (at the time of its release in March 2017) was a major game-changer: it was the first mirrorless camera capable of shooting 4K resolution video with 10-bit 4:2:2 chroma subsampling. When its sister camera, the GH5S, was released nearly a year later in January 2018, providing even better performance in low light, videographers the world over understandably felt their eyes pop out of their head when reviewing the dynamic range and color space of their footage. Suddenly, anyone with a GH5S in their hands could consider themselves a filmmaker at an unbeatable price-point. I purchased my own GH5S in November of 2018, and I've fallen in love with the camera ever since.
As goes without saying, the GH5 is an absolute workhorse of a camera. The footage is breathtaking even in today's era of popular full-frame cameras such as the GH5's big sister the S1H or Black Magic's Pocket Cinema 6K. When equipped with V-Log, the camera is capable of shooting footage that is downright cinema-worthy. I've been shooting with the camera for several years now, and I can tell you first-hand that the camera is worth every penny of its price-tag if you are an aspiring videographer or filmmaker. If you are interested in wedding videography, just take a look at the still below taken directly from a wedding video I shot in last November of 2020.
If you are looking for a starter camera, I can't recommend it enough. With the GH5 currently priced at about $1400 and the GH5S at $1900, both are a steal. All that being said, I will also be the first to admit that the camera is due for an update. Four years after the original camera's release, professional videographers have been waiting breathlessly for an update to the GH5. The S1H, released in September 2019, took the lead in full-frame mirrorless video and has been a very popular choice ever since. So.... where is the next camera in the GH series?
The Panasonic GH6 is rumored to finally arrive this year.
And the potential specs are nothing short of exciting. According to 43Rumors, it's rumored that the camera will be capable of recording 8K video - an astonishing resolution for any videographer. Although it was originally slated to be released in mid-2020, the camera was withheld from release due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If the rumors hold true, the GH6 could well become the first practical 8K video camera at its size and price-point. Once again, the GH line of cameras may break barriers for countless professional videographers looking to achieve the "Hollywood" look in their footage.
I'm going to go out on a limb here: I think this is going to be the most popular video camera release of the year. For professional videographers like myself, the camera could well become a dream come true for many. There are rumored to be three versions of the camera: the GH6 (the base model), the GH6V (aimed at video shooting), and the GH6X (likely aimed at professional photographers). The price of the camera is expected to be around $2500. At that price range, if you can afford the camera and have some patience to spare, it will be absolutely worth your wait. If the price tag is outside your budget, you can expect the GH5 to drop in price as soon as the GH6 is released. As stated before, you'd be hard pressed to find a better starter camera than the GH5.
So are you are as excited as we are to get your hands on the GH6? We know we're ready!
- Jack Moffet
VIDEO MARKETING IN THE MODERN AGE
January 25th, 2021
Hello! And welcome to Black Fox Productions' very first blog post. In this post, we'll be discussing the importance of using video in your marketing strategy, and why it has become a standard in virtually all modern marketing infrastructures.
A common question I get from many business owners is: "How would a video benefit my business?"
This is a very valid question, as the benefits may not be inherently obvious at first glance. It may seem like an extravagant expense to hire a videographer or production company, but the statistics couldn't possibly contradict this notion more and absolutely speak for themselves.
According to a 2020 study by Wyzowl*:
- 89% of video marketers say video gives them a good ROI.
- 83% of video marketers say video helps them with lead generation.
- 87% of video marketers say video has increased traffic to their website.
- 80% of video marketers say video has directly helped increase sales.
- 89% of video marketers say video gives them a good ROI.
- 83% of video marketers say video helps them with lead generation.
- 87% of video marketers say video has increased traffic to their website.
- 80% of video marketers say video has directly helped increase sales.
Study after study has shown that businesses (both small, medium, and large alike) are benefitting from video in their marketing strategies. It's not only becoming popular to use video, it's becoming a standard.
When I first began studying film and video back in college, it was somewhat of a novelty trade. There were the professionals who had access to equipment that cost as much as a house, and then there were people who watched the television shows, movies, or news broadcasts produced by those professionals. With the advent of social media - such as Youtube and Facebook - the entire landscape of videography and filmmaking changed. With the invention of smart phones, the access to endless forms of media (especially video) was now available in someone's pocket at the simple push of a button, and it was available instantly.
This democratized media as a whole. Suddenly, anyone with a smart phone could post a video to their business's Facebook page and reach all of their followers within seconds. Videographers could now purchase cinema-grade DSLR cameras at a fraction of the cost, and overnight they were filmmakers. Businesses are now creating their own video departments specifically to address this ever-growing demand for more video in their marketing platforms.
So when it comes to video benefitting your business (and I'm sure as a professional videographer I have some unapologetic built-in bias here), it's my opinion that video is a worthwhile investment. A single video post on your business's Facebook page can potentially generate thousands of viewers. Overnight, your prospects have ballooned exponentially and that means potential conversion of more leads.
Are you a small law firm, looking to gain an edge on the other firms in your area? Look no further than video marketing*. There are entire companies dedicated to nothing but law firm video marketing. Are you a medical practice, looking to gain more patients? A video commercial highlighting your services is a great way to go. Do you own a restaurant? A short documentary-style video highlighting delicious food being made will make your customers want to come eat dinner at your business on Friday night. Run a dance studio? How about a cinema-style short showcasing one your student's dancing skills? Are you a real estate agent, hoping to sell a hot new property? A video walkthrough of the listing is statistically more likely to generate leads.**
Not only that, but video is entertaining and easy to watch. It's the easiest and most effective way for a prospect to research your brand before deciding to buy from you. A quick "About You" video introducing yourself as business owner develops a sense of openness and trust. We live in a highly risk-averse consumer culture. Your prospects want a guarantee that their hard-earned money won't go to waste. And what better way to do that than showcasing what your business can offer to them?
This trend has only become more ironclad with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, solidifying video's place in the marketing industry. Businesses and customers alike are utilizing video now more than ever before.
So what are you waiting for? Let's talk about your video!
- Jack Moffet