February 14, 2017 at 2:09PM, Edited February 14, 2:15PM


Feedback on a high school film project?

i am a high school student that wants to pursue a life in film. i just finished a project in class and i would really appreciate feedback on how i did. its would really be nice to get tips on editing, sound design. narrative structure. writing and cinematography. it was a really small project and only four students worked on it. it would be really nice to hear back on the things i did well and what i need to improve on. much appreciated


OK that was actually pretty amusing, so no real issue with the script. I'll concentrate mainly on technical stuff since that's more my strong point.
Acting and directing are difficult jobs to do, especially at the same time. Next video, I'd suggest doing one or the other as a main character generally needs a 3rd party to help him/her gauge the performance. For all else, that will just get better with practice.
I also believe it was well-edited, though sometimes when you cut to somebody, I can tell they are waiting to say their line. That's one thing that gets better with practice in directing but if it happens in the future, you can cut to them during their line/action to cover.
Need more light. I thing there is enough light except in the computer lab, but the lighting is harsh. That's not your fault, just the way overhead lighting looks. If you add some diffused lighting near the camera like in the library, it will bring out people's faces better. I know you're in high school and money is tight, but you can get a 2-lamp fluorescent kit with stands and a couple of umbrellas for under $60. When I was your age (I sound super old, I know) I used those cheap clip-on work lights more than I care to admit. Sometimes I'd use torchiers with 150-Watt bulbs. In the computer lab, a key light is really needed; just a single light near the door to indicate there's some kind of light entering the room would do the job.
Auto-exposure is the cardinal sin of professional production. If you don't have a light meter, you can use the camera to judge skin tone and lock the exposure to that. I got my first light meter for $5 and it still works well today, though I have better. If you want to get serious about production, you'll need one.
I like your choice of music but it's often too loud. I also often can't hear the dialogue well. The mic sometimes needs to be closer to the actors (which I can see in one shot is by the camera) but other times is simply drowned out by the music. Auto-gain, like auto-iris, is the cardinal sin of audio production. When in doubt, manually set the audio recorder on the low side and raise it in the mix to make sure there's no distortion. Mix with good speakers, not headphones, because headphones skew your perception of the mix. I used ordinary bookshelf speakers when I started, though they will need something to bring them up to head level.

I could get a lot more into detail on the dos and don'ts of A/V production, mostly about forming good habits so you can see/hear what you have better, but I think I've heaped enough info on you for the day. One last thing, don't do this with a career as your only goal, do it because you love it and never stop learning. There's so many people trying to make a career in this dying industry that it's almost impossible to get regular paying work unless you have connections with people in high places. I'm serious, everybody I know who gets regular work does so because they are friends or relatives of the bosses. Even in my small market, we get at least 300 applications even for 4-hour per week jobs. If the boss knows you and likes you, he/she will actually read your resume rather than simply passing over it.

February 15, 2017 at 8:26AM, Edited February 15, 8:28AM


Thank you. That really helped a lot and I appreciate the constructive criticism. i feel the same way about the computer lab scene and i wanted to reshoot it with better light but we didnt have enough time. the music definitely is overpowering and i realize now its because i was listening to it through headphones. but thanks for the music compliment. i thought the fast up beat music would work great to influence the hustlin in it. i manage to put together a few samples on garage band that are scored throughout. i do want to learn more about the audio portion. do you think lowering the audio recorder would reduce some of the background noise? if not what are some stragedies i can start on to fix this problem? i think i am most proud of the editing. i tried my best to cut it so it was a forward driven rhythm to it at the same time try to keep it as natural as possible so it wont disorientate the audience. i also agree about the acting/directing part. next project i plan to stick to one or the other. unfortunately i didnt really have the option with this project since they is only four of us in the class and every one was busy doing there part. i cant thank you enough for taking the time out of your day to write so extensively. i love film so much. every aspect of it i appreciate and want to get better at and keep learning more.
thanks again stephen!!

Noah Gunderson

February 15, 2017 at 2:08PM

"i manage to put together a few samples on garage band that are scored throughout."

Be careful you don't overuse music though.

"do you think lowering the audio recorder would reduce some of the background noise?"

Noise is mostly about mic selection and placement. Over-processing (including AGC) can bring out more noise, but that only seems to be the case in the computer lab. Making sure the audio levels are within standard is mostly about avoiding distortion. Many novices try to record/mix just as hot as modern crushed music masters (I won't get into the loudness war here) and it doesn't work. While yours isn't like this, I had to prep a 10-minute short for projection yesterday that was 21dB over THX standards! It was easy to lower the audio to standard level on my end but since the mix was "everything maximum loud all the time", including background noise, it had no impact, just irritating mush. Standards exist not only to ensure the comfort of the audience but also to allow maximum impact.

Now, background noise is not a bad thing. It exists in the real world and depriving your videos of it removes a layer of realism. In fact, we try to record at least two minutes of "room tone" at every location and sometimes overdub more background activity later to ensure there's realistic and *consistent* background noise throughout a scene. A lot of people obsess about trying to eliminate all shadows too and that makes for a very flat, unrealistic image, but I digress. Bringing the mic a bit closer will reduce acoustic issues but beware; too close will sound unnatural. Sometimes you can't avoid excessive background noise but there's tricks to fix that.

I certainly know what it's like to work with a minimal crew and everybody changing hats from one shot to the next. My first actual film short had a crew of four as well, all of us appeared on camera (though I had the least screen time since I was directing). It can be done but it's tough and sacrifices must be made as you already know.

I can write much more than is suited for an open forum, so feel free to E-mail me if you wish. I am soundman at gcm studio, all one word of course and the usual .com suffix. Audio production alone can take a lifetime to master and virtually nobody in the video industry takes the time to learn it. If you specialize there, you will have much less competition than as a DP or director, though it's a less glamorous job.

February 16, 2017 at 5:46AM, Edited February 16, 5:54AM


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