Helping new studios by Chris62 & Killian
Posted 30 September 2008 - 08:47 PM
There has been a recent resurgence in “newer” members of the community coming in, along with some older members who have returned after a long hiatus. And they are being faced with the Everest-like obstacle of trying to make movies that catch the attention of us all.
Why Everest-like? Well, the recent move to outside editing by a lot of the community has sky rocketed the bar well above that that can easily be done using just the game engine. However, newer members shouldn’t be worried about this, just yet. The reason for that is that, no matter how many bells, whistles, streamers, ticker-tapes or fireworks you bolt onto a film, if the film itself isn’t very good, it simply won’t matter how much you try and disguise it with fancy editing techniques; it will still suck!
So, for the benefit of the newer people who have recently braced themselves to take on the mantle of “The Movies” directors, here is a short guide to the various steps you need to think about when making any movie, if you want to try to garner the RIGHT kind of attention.
This isn’t some “magic formula” for making a hit film (and some of you may well decide to ignore any and all steps within this guide, or modify the way you work; that’s fine. Do whatever works for you best).
However, one big thing that bears mentioning right off the bat; if you’re serious about making decent films, you have to have a serious attitude towards the production process. Not only will this discipline you into working better, it will come through in every stage of the creative process.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at the brief stages of putting together a movie.
THINK ABOUT YOUR MOVIE.
That’s right; before you even open The Movies up to start shooting, sit down with a pencil and paper (or a word processor and fingers, if you’re not an old Luddite like me!), and think. Too many shorts show a serious lack of this part of the creative process and look as if they have been thrown together into a bucket and shaken for an hour before being poured out.
Think about what your movie will be. Not just what it’s about (though of course this is a major part of the process), but what you are trying to convey and achieve with it. As already mentioned, don’t try and make a movie as complex and interlayered as The Intermediate, Valentine’s Day, Cleopatra or whatever hooked you in; you’re asking for major headaches and failure right there, especially if the only thing you’ve produced so far is a couple of Baggage Boy movies. Set your sights low enough that they are obtainable without too much of a stretch, but high enough that they challenge you in some respect (even if it’s just to work to a deadline, communicate properly with others, etc); don’t push it too far with this movie, that will come with the next.
You can make a complete storyboard of all shots, etc… or you could just scratch down a few lines as a memory aid, but make sure you get SOMETHING down here; it may well change as the story develops, but at least you have a firm starting point.
What is the movie about? How many characters are in it? Who are the main players? What is going to happen to them? All this stuff needs to be thought about here.
PLAN YOUR MOVIE
As an extension of the above, start to plan out what you need. Need a seesaw for a particular scene? You need to find it before you start shooting. Compile a list of specifics you need to get to actually shoot the sequences you want to include; this could be mods, overlays, music… whatever. Then spend some time getting them together.
Presentation is important. How you lay them out is down to the individual writer, but most tend to follow the standard variant (using Final Draft, CeltX or whatever). You must clearly indicate who is speaking (usually in the standard format of:-
Posted 30 September 2008 - 08:48 PM
Blah, blah, blah.
CHARACTER A: Blah, blah, blah.
Don’t use fancy typefaces for scripts; they need to be clear and concise so the VOs know what their lines are and can read them; Times New Roman, Arial or (preferably) Courier all look dull, but they are used for a reason; keep the font size to 12 points all through.
If you have any awkward phrases or words (especially prevalent in sci-fi and fantasy scripts), attach a brief page or so of “pronunciation guide” so the artists know how to pronounce them).
Movie length is also gauged here; 1 page of dialogue in script format is roughly 1 min of screen time (not including directions or shot descriptions); this of course depends on the length of the lines and the size and complexity of shots.
You must give the actor some indicator of the emotion the character is supposed to be displaying, and/or what is going on around them; if you just send off bare dialogue, don’t be surprised if that scene where you wanted the voice to be happy comes back entirely differently.
It is YOUR responsibility as a writer to ensure that the lines and directions are clear to your artists; they can’t be blamed if the lines come back “wrong” if you never told them properly what it was you wanted in the first place.
Always ensure you create a new studio for a project in Sandbox and never EVER try to create a decent movie in the tycoon section of the game (this should never need to be said, but it bears mentioning just in case!); this enables you to place down just the stuff you need.
For lot buildings, as a bare minimum, you need a stage school (to recruit extras and actors), Custom Script Office (to do the scene blocking in AMM), Casting Office (to shoot the thing) and PP (to edit and export). That’s it; you don’t need cleaners or builders (provided, of course, you have instant build and instant shoot switched on!), as you aren’t going for awards here. At this stage, it bears mentioning that you should have either played through the game to unlock the content, used a mod to do so, or be happy to be limited to the sets and technology available to you that have been unlocked during your game play.
Build the sets you need at this point; don’t worry if you miss out one and find you need it later; using the game purely to create movies, you don’t need to worry about layout or connecting the sets with paths, etc. Just take a second to think about how you can place the sets to get the maximum number into the smallest space, and rotate and place them accordingly. Try to leave some space to slot in an extra set you might need later. I always build the lot buildings by the entrance, rotated away from the door so the queues don’t overlap, but it’s up to you.
AMM AND SHOOTING
Be aware of the “shuffle bug” (shooting, editing then going back to reshoot and all the scenes pinging back to their original shooting order); if you are doing outside editing, try to film your scenes in short “blocks” (as you can easily stitch them back together afterwards anyway, and it keeps shuffles to a minimum); if not, this is where the planning stage really shows it’s worth, as you will be shooting in the correct order anyway.
HOW TO APPROACH VO ARTISTS
I’ve lost count of the number of times that female VO artists, especially, have mentioned about the way they get asked to do VO’s in movies; “are you a girl?” is NOT a good way to start your approach, to begin with!
Always, but ALWAYS, be polite when asking for VO’s, even if sending PM’s. Never, EVER pester a particular artist to be part of your movie; send ONE polite mail/PM whatever, outlining the premise of the film, the parts you have available, what role you are asking them to play and, if possible, a snippet of the script containing about a paragraph of dialogue so they can see what the part entails.
You should also give a timeframe for receiving their response (i.e. a week, fortnight, etc), indicating that if you have not received a reply by then, you will assume they are too busy to respond; always finish by thanking them for the time they have taken to consider the role (manners goes a LONG way, doesn’t cost a blind dime and has become sadly lacking over the last few years, so make a point of this).
Then, you WAIT; you DON’T send mail after mail asking if they have read the part yet, if they’re interested, etc; you wait for the response. If, by the end of the timeframe you stipulated, they haven’t responded, DON’T then assume that they need a constant barrage of mails asking why they haven’t responded, etc.
Cross that person off the list and move onto the next one; the artist may simply be too busy to respond, away on vacation or, possibly, not interested but not sure how to let you down gently! The good artists will usually respond relatively quickly and give you an answer, but common courtesy from you will go a long way to establishing your name in the community.
Once you are in contact with your chosen VO artist(s), you can give a bit more detail about the project. I would normally ask for lines to be returned in blocks; that way, if there is a problem with them, the artist doesn’t have to sit down and redo 30 pages of dialogue, as you weren’t specific enough when you gave them their brief.
Always give a time scale for when you need the lines back by. Never just give them out, wait 3 weeks then start a torrent of mails demanding them back because they are holding up your production; that’s not a good way to establish a good image with your fellow artists!
When you get the lines back, always check them over. VO’s won’t mind on the whole if you ask them to redo lines (provided you haven’t asked them to do 30 pages of dialogue without asking for a sample back first!); of course there’s a line to draw here. Don’t keep asking for lines to be redone; if you have a specific way you want them done, SAY SO AT THE START! Don’t waste the artist’s valuable time doing lines over and over then change how you want them presented. That will only risk you losing their good favour for future projects
Posted 01 October 2008 - 11:11 PM
MODS AND MODDING
Need something the basic Movies can’t provide? Then you’re looking at using some of the fantastic mods that are out there.
The community has spawned some phenomenal modders over it’s time, and there are props, sets, costumes and other stuff available to enable you to make nearly any movie imaginable.
However, there are several frequent questions in regard to mods that come up time and again.
“Where can I find…?”
Check the Mod sites that are out there (links in the side bars to the left-hand side of the forums); always make the effort to look first before asking… laziness does not endear you to others
“How do I install them..?”
Most mods come with a “read me” file of some description in the zip/rar file they are packed in. My advice; read it… it tells you what you need to know in 99% of cases. Again, don’t ask for help in installing a mod unless it hasn’t got an attached read me (and, once you’ve installed a couple, it’s pretty self evident what you need to do with the files in it, even if there‘s no read-me with a particular file).
“I can’t find what I want… How can I ask if it’s available?”
There are several specific sites (as mentioned above) that handle mod requests (or, at least, will entertain them). DON’T ask for mods on TMO, as that is against the rules there and will be you your wrists slapped by the moderators.
Firstly, make sure you have looked properly; I’ve given up counting the number of people wanting lightsabers, cars, star wars ships, etc, etc… All of these are easily available at the big mod sites if you look properly.
If you really CAN’T find what you’re after, visit the forums at the modding sites and ask POLITELY; this doesn’t mean “I need X, Y or Z; who can make it for me?” or something similar. This kind of post lacks the basic manners I mentioned in part one (which is something you should attend to when asking ANYONE about ANYTHING; don’t assume that just because someone offered advice to you when you wanted it that they sit around all day waiting for questions to be asked of them; a simple Thank You is all that is needed in most cases).
Bear in mind that the modding community is usually up to their eyeballs in personal projects, or handling mod requests for others, and are not likely to be able to respond quickly. Be patient; again, as already mentioned, spamming forums demanding a response to your post is just as bad (if not more so) than hassling VO artists with PMs or e-mail; don’t do it.
If all else fails and you have the time and ability to do so, you may want to venture down the path of learning how to mod yourself. Don’t expect to produce wonderful items the first few times you try it, but you will get better with practise. If you have technical questions about mods or modding the best place to ask is, again, the modding specific sites.
And, in ALL CASES, make sure you make a note of the modders whose work you are using, and make sure to credit them in your movie (more on this below).
Used music in your movie, or mods from a specific individual? Then make sure you give them the kudos for providing it.
First off, don't try to upload a movie to TMO if it has copyrighted music, characters, royalty free music, etc; it will be reported and pulled. TMU is more relaxed, but that doesn't mean you can go mad!
If you use ANY outside music, sounds, mods, etc. you should ensure that you give full credit to the modders or musicians that you have utilised in making your movie; they put in the time and effort to create that item or piece of music you've used, as much as you did making the movie... so make sure they get a mention!
Posted 01 October 2008 - 11:14 PM
Ok; you have your plan, you have your script complete; you’ve found or had made the mods you wanted; you’ve approached some VO artists who have agreed to do some work for you… now is the time to launch into the game and start filming!
As mentioned before, take some time to look through the available sets and find the ones you want to use; build them on the lot in your sandbox game and start your shooting.
Tip One: Costumes
If your leads are wearing the same outfit throughout, you can click and drag them onto the coat-hanger icon to the right of the screen and send them to wardrobe, where they will be outfitted with the clothes they will wear for the whole movie. If you want them to change outfits for a particular scene only, you can click on the actor in the scene and do the same thing; any new scenes will reset back to the default outfit when you create them.
You can do the same with your extras; click and drag them across to the wardrobe and outfit them the same way as you do your lead actors (this helps to prevent constant shuffling of outfits from scene to scene).
Tip Two: Scene Duplication (Stunts and Effects required)
Say you want to try a couple of different angles in the same scene, but you don’t want to waste time having to redress a set every time. Simple; right-click on the scene icon in your timeline, and it will auto create a duplicate of that scene right next to the one you just shot. This will initially be an exact copy of the original, but you can amend this without affecting the other shot.
Tip Three: Continuity
Always make sure if a character is wearing or using a particular outfit or item in one scene, that it doesn’t magically change in the next without a good reason! I’ve seen this happen on multiple occasions in movies and it can really spoil the flow. Double check all your scenes as you shoot them to ensure they all flow together nicely.
This also goes for cuts; don’t cut a scene and have an actor stood on one side of the set, when in the next shot he/she is sat down, then stood up again in the next, without a good reason!
Tip Four: Spelling
Ultra important if you are using subtitles; there’s nothing worse than seeing a halfway decent movie, then wincing every time you read the subbies because you can’t spell or use punctuation or grammar correctly. This also goes double for scripts if you are getting VO artists in to do voices for you.
If you aren’t great at spelling, either get someone to proof-read your script/subtitled dialogue before you produce it, or use a dictionary. Don’t just throw it out to the world thinking it won’t matter; it will. A good movie can stand up if it has no voiceovers, provided it ticks all the right boxes… and correctly spelled subtitles is one of them.
Posted 01 October 2008 - 11:16 PM
Publicising your Film
The worst kind of publicity is this:-
“I have made a movie; it is XYZ; please watch it and review!”
…or something similar.
Why on earth would anyone want to watch it? What’s it about? Is it a film I might want to see? Anyone I know doing voices in it? Has it already gained some good reviews from community members?
Publicising your movie is almost an art-form in itself (why do you think Hollywood studios spend millions to do it?); you must give your potential audience a reason to watch your film when it’s done, or they simply won’t bother. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I saw the above post on a forum, the last thing I would do is go and have a look. I could very well be missing something wonderful, but I could equally be watching the biggest pile of old tosh in the world… thanks, but I think I’ll pass on this one
A good way to get an audience is to review other people’s films yourself. By this, I don’t mean….
“Good film I liked it please go watch XYZ”
…as that is nearly as bad as the other attempt above
To get some notice, you need to make your reviews clear, precise, polite and above all, constructive. Posting “this was crap” in someone’s comments section will only get you noticed as a potential troublemaker, and get you entirely the WRONG kind of attention!
It’s fine if you watched something and you didn’t like it to say so; but you MUST be polite and constructive in your review. Say what you didn’t like, by all means (provided you say why and do so constructively, people are usually fine with that), but also say what you DID like; this is what being balanced and fair in reviewing movies is all about.
Not everything you or others watch will be your cup or tea, but it’s perfectly possible to appreciate the technical aspects of a movie you didn’t really like, and vice versa.
By the same token, don’t fly off the handle if you get negative comments in your own reviews. Most of the community have been watching and making movies for a long time, and if they say something to you that isn’t glowing praise, you can bet your bottom dollar there’s a damned good reason for it in the main.
You should listen to your bad reviews as much as the good ones; in fact, I’d go as far as to say moreso. You will never improve if you don’t pay attention to the bad comments as well as the good. Read what has been said, take it onboard, and bear it in mind when you make your next film; you will only get better because of it.
Some Things to Avoid
* Creating controversial films for the sake of the shock factor (we’ve all seen them, I’m sure); not big, not clever and certainly won’t get you noticed… well, it will; but only as a someone to avoid at all costs.
* Starting flamewars on forums, pestering other community members constantly, “stalking” community members, derailing threads on forums just to hear your own voice; starting threads about controversial topics you know will inflame the community for no reason
* Creating movies and hyping them just to shove your own message down people’s throats; you’ll get a name then, alright; the kind mentioned in the section above.
This isn’t a comprehensive guide by any means, but hopefully it contains some useful information that will help to make your movie-making career a long and enjoyable one!
See you at The Movies!
Posted 01 October 2008 - 11:42 PM
What I like is that you're not going into telling people how to write their scripts, or how to format them, or any of that kind of stuff....but giving them the kind of knowledge that many of us have had to acquire on our own over the past few years.
A true goldmine to anyone who wants to hit the ground running.
EDIT: (and based on Chris's subsequent post, bravo to you too, Killian....we'll gush over you a little more Sunday)
Edited by kuroken, 01 October 2008 - 11:55 PM.
Posted 07 December 2008 - 04:36 AM
(A few basic tips about writing)
Writing; the most important part of the film-makers art. Without it, there is no play, no radio acting, no stage performance.... and no movie...
So, that said, how and what should you write?
What to write
The correct answer here is "what the hell you want" However, this has to be tempered by several other factors:-
What genre is the writing for? Horror? Sci-fi? Romance? Action adventure? Noir? Most scripts could and probably should be a combination of two or more of these types (along with others), but you should have a reasonable idea of what you're writing.
Is this a commisioned work or freelance? By which I mean, are you writing a script for someone else, or for your own use? There are differences in how these should be presented.
Full or note form? Initial "synopses" can be very useful (i.e. showing where the start is, where the middle is and where the end is, with brief notes about set-pieces and so forth) as a guide, but are no way acceptable for giving to actors or directors!
There is quite simply no other way to do this. If you want to write well, you MUST be disciplined about it. It's no good saying "well, I'll jot some stuff down and maybe it'll be ok". Yes, there are times when this can work, but they are (on the whole) massively outweighed by the times it DOESN'T.
In order to discipline yourself, you must be prepared for it. If loud noises distract you, then don't write in the daytime when you have kids running around, a dog barking and building work going on next door; if music while working irritates you, don't play it. If you write in the same room as a TV and can't help stopping for 5 minutes (which then becomes 30 as you end up watching something), either switch off the telly or write in another room.
Write in a way that suits you best. I know some people who write better by hand than they ever could by word processor (and vice versa); always write in a way that's comfortable and easy for YOU. Of course, for our purposes, we will have to make the document into a script at some stage (for sending to collaborators, actors, etc), so think about this before you start.
A lot of the community use CELTX to produce their scripts (either typing directly into, or to produce the final product); in addition to being free, it has the extra bonus of being able to produce PDF files (which nearly everyone has software that can read), which aren't likely to contain iffy macro viruses, which makes it easier to distribute the final product.
Write WHEN it suits you best; some people do their best writing in the evening, some first thing in the morning, etc. Try and find out when your mind is working at it's best, and try to work around that as much as possible (obviously, you won't always be in a position to do so all (or indeed any) of the time, but if you just know there's no way you can write at 3:00am, don't even try to do so!)
Ideas and Inspiration
You know it won't write itself, and the biggest enemy a writer has is his own desire for "perfection"... plus the little niggly voice in the back of his head that keeps saying "this is terrible, you know"... even (or should that be "especially"?) when it's really good stuff.
Waiting for that dreaded "inspiration" to strike is awful; every one of us has had the nightmare "writer's block" from time to time, where we have looked at a blank page or word processor document and thought "..........".
So, how to get around it?
- Surround yourself with things that DO inspire you (though a room full of naked, nubile women is probably going a tad far...). Pictures can be an amazing source of inspiration, as can taking a break for a night, sitting down to watch something interesting and keeping a notebook handy to jot down something that might pop into your mind (just don't use this as an excuse NOT to write...)
- Music can inspire; if you're writing, try and listen to something in the same vein or that conveys the same kind of mood as you are trying to achieve (only if listening to music doesn't distract you, of course )
- Reading; read books about the subject matter that interests you, or that your movie is about (which should really be the same thing, let's be honest!) And don't just read any old crap; you could buy 50 detective novels, police history books or whatever, but I can virtually guarantee that most of them will probably not be something your brain can digest properly for our purposes. Always keep a notepad or dictaphone handy when doing this, as inspiration can strike very quickly if you hit the right book for you.
- Watch other movies (both Machinima and TV/Cinema types), again about subjects that interest you. This can spark your creativity no end.
The biggest "DON'T" here is: DON'T try to write about something that either a) doesn't interest you (you will get bored easily, lose interest and ultimately whatever you DO turn out won't be much good) or you know nothing about. The latter will show to anyone who DOES know something about the subject and, lets be honest here, they will be the ones wanting to watch the movie anyway (not a good way to garner an audience!)
LEARN how to write certain things properly. We've all seen examples of badly constructed writing and/or dialogue, so the first principle is LISTEN AND READ!
LISTEN to how people speak (both in real life and in movies and on the TV); they don't "talk very formally like this, and do not always speak exactly as if they were prim English teachers" unless there's a reason for it. They use contractions, colloquialisms, slang, etc all the time (obviously, cursing is both a matter of personal choice, and movie audience (as it is with VOs; don't pepper your romance movie with 4 letter words and expect it to be a) believable or accepted by most VOs!).
Stilted dialogue on the page is both boring to read and incredibly hard for a VO actor to get around without major work. So, do both them and YOU a favour, and pay attention to this part.
READ how dialogue is written in other works (books, scripts, etc); see how people cut across each other, interrupt, run on sentences, etc etc. Again, stilted writing here will do you and your script no good whatsoever.
And, for god's sake, if you are serious in any way, shape or form about what you're writing, LEARN TO SPELL OR USE A SPELLCHECKER! There's nothing worse than seeing a script riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, especially if its a subject the reader knows about.
Use a spellchecker if your spelling isn't good, and make doubly sure to check any technical words or phrases you are using. Most spellcheckers will catch the majority of errors, but if you use "meat" where it's "two people meet at a train station", for example, the spellchecker won't pick that up.
That's not to say people will be spelling Nazis about every last error you make (well, most people won't... or shouldn't be, at any rate...), and most folk can easily forgive the odd slip-up here and there. But a document filled with errors, bad writing and an obvious lack of knowledge about the subject won't endear you to any VO actor, director or indeed anyone else you send it to!
Anyway, that's a few bits and bobs that, with a bit of luck, will help those who need it to think about their writing.
Hopefully it's of use to someone!
Posted 14 December 2008 - 07:16 PM
Yes, we've all seen this many times, no doubt, but it does bear special mention when using ANY program for machinima creation (whether it be The Movies, iClone, Moviestorm, Antics3D, DAZ3D Studios, Poser, 3DMax, Magix, Vegas, Ulead, etc, etc).
The program usually comes with a manual for a good reason; it's there for you to read it, not prop up a wonky shelf or gather dust on a ledge somewhere. The basics (and, indeed, some of the advanced stuff) can be found by reading the damned thing that is designed for the job!
Asking things that can be found out very easily by turning to Page 5 of the book (or electronic document) will not endear you to the busy people who frequent this (or indeed, any other) site.
Asking for CLARIFICATION on an issue, the use of the program to do specific things, issues discovered with different aspects of the program; all this is exactly what forums are for! It's likely that someone in the community has experienced, if not this then something similar and can help out.
Just be sure to make an effort to learn something from the thing designed for it first, before asking a question if the manual/book/document doesn't help; it will save you a lot of hassle in the long run!
Posted 07 April 2009 - 07:33 PM
Posted 07 April 2009 - 10:29 PM
Every shot has an affect on the audience. Like Chris said, it is very important to plan out your shots by storyboards or a shot list.
The Golden Section
One camera shot can show who is in power or not. Placing a character on the right third of the screen shows power. That third of the frame is called The Golden Section. Usually at the beginning, the antagonist of the film is at The Golden Section, meanwhile the protagonist is at the left side of the frame. At the end, the protagonist is at the right and the antagonist is on the left side of the frame.
Moderator, Blender User, iClone filmmaker, and overall OCD guy at set dressing.
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