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When you start talking on big filmmaking projects, travel is often an integral part of bringing it to life. Gear envy, and wanting to bring everything with us, is a problem we often suffer from whether we shoot locally or not.  Travel adds in the complexity of needing to transport the gear, baggage fees, plus we often have smaller crews. In this post and tutorial we’ll share some key ideas on how you can tell a stronger story while bringing less gear.

One of the scenes in #standwithme takes us to Africa, to the middle of the Kalahari Desert. To get there, we had to make 4 different connections, from plane to plane, to plane to Land Rover. And as if that wasn’t enough, we still had the harsh desert environment to deal with once we got there.

So here we are with the opportunity of a lifetime. We are following somebody who just won Humanitarian Photographer of the Year, we get to travel to the incredibly inspiring country of Namibia, and this will be a huge scene in our first feature length documentary. How do you not bring everything in your arsenal?

 

In this tutorial we’ll take you along for the ride as we travel to Namibia and share our approach to packing, where less is more.

 

A film is made well before the cameras roll. You can always do more with less as long as you take the time to plan it out. By looking at what we were trying to say and seeing how it fits into the overall story we were able to break it down, scene by scene, shot by shot, to see what tools we needed to bring. Less gear means we could move quicker, save on luggage, and most importantly – always be present and focused on the story, instead of being overwhelmed with two many options.

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When you tell a remarkable story, the world opens up.

Bringing a story to life is like rock-climbing. You know where you are and you can visualize where you want to go, but their are many paths that connect the two and the ‘right’ one is often not so clear. With that climb comes great uncertainty, constant challenges, and the need for a solid approach that will take you to the top.

A climber needs rope, shoes, and carabiner’s but they don’t climb the rock any more then the pen and paper will write a great story for you. Cameras don’t tell stories, people do. Yet so often we focus on the gear as our way of making an impact, taking that next step, and telling a powerful story.

I’m reminded of a famous line from Fight Club – we are not our khakis nor are we our cameras.

This short film is our attempt to share what we feel lies at the heart of a remarkable story. If this moves you, it is the foundation of our Storytelling With Heart workshop starting Feb 1st.

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The Movi is an incredible tool that changes the way we as storytellers can communicate with our audience. One of the biggest questions filmmakers often have is about how approachable the rig is. Does it take a long time to learn? Do you need a large crew? This post is all about our tips and tricks on how to maximize the Movi when you’re shooting solo.

Our MoVI has taken a beating. We’ve pushed its limits, run it through harsh environments, completely disassembled it, and flown with it halfway around the world (twice!). After taking our unit from the sidelines of an NFL game to the remote edges of Namibia, we are happy to report that aside from a few scratches and a missing rubber band, our MoVI is still in one piece.

We’ve already shared our initial thoughts on the MoVI and how we feel it’s going to impact filmmakers and the stories we tell. As with any filmmaking tool though, it’s important to realize that that’s exactly what it is — a tool. How and when you use it should motivated by the stories you want to tell and the situations you find yourself in.

Which operating mode are we using the most?

It can be quite overwhelming with how many ways you can use and operate the MoVI. You can easily have a 3 person setup involving an operator, remote controller, wireless focus puller, and multiple monitors to rig. This setup can be very complex with a lot of moving parts; not an issue if you’re shooting on-set with lots of time to setup and coordinate moves.

On the other hand, you have the option to operate the MoVI in Majestic Mode; where you can basically operate the unit solo. By dialing a few settings via a tablet or computer, you can have the MoVI move and react precisely to your personal preference.

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Use Majestic Mode to dial in settings perfectly for single operator shoots.

We’ve found Majestic Mode to be our go-to setup during many live event shoots; whether it be sports or our very own documentary #standwithme.

How we fit it all into a carry-on…

When Joyce and Patrick were in Namibia filming Lisa Kristine’s story for #standwithme, they faced the limitation of having limited crew and gear weight that could be brought along. This meant stripping down the MoVI to its bare minimum parts and disassembling some sections in order to pack it into a compact case. Joyce was able to pack the unit, stand, extra batteries, spare parts, and a tablet into a carry-on size shoulder bag.

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Keep it as simple as possible if you’re a single operator. 

After they landed in Namibia, it took them just under 30 minutes to reassemble the unit, balance it with the C100, and immediately start shooting. Not too shabby, right?

And because we run it in Majestic Mode, only one person is needed to operate the MoVI and the bare setup allows us to quickly switch the unit for a monopod when the story calls for it.

Our go-to MoVI setup…

Even when we’re not in the middle of the desert with only two crew members, we’re still usually trying to stay as light and quick as possible. So what’s our go-to setup when we need to be fast, mobile, and running in Majestic Mode? This kit will get you up and running with a C100 and lens setup in no time.

In the MoVI bag:

MoVI with the entire handle and grip disassembled
Basic Nexus 7 tablet + charger
Rode Videmic Pro + bar mount
SmallHD DP-4 monitor + bar mount
4x DP-4 batteries + charger
5 MoVI batteries + charger
MoVI assembly tools
A thin-cabled HDMI cable

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This kit and more fits into a carry-on friendly bag.

Joyce + MoVI = Love 4eva

If you haven’t heard, Joyce is a big fan of the MoVI. With it, she’s been able to push her stories, tackle documentary and sports shoots on her own and be able to move the camera to add energy and excitement without the use of a full body mounted rig.

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On a recent shoot with talent on a bicycle at sunrise Joyce was looking for a big epic shot with a ton of energy and and there was no way using a monopod or shoulder rig could’ve replicated that same feeling.

For the first time ever, she found herself tracking a cyclist down the road and hanging out the back of a van to get some sweet moving shots.

4 tips to get the most out of the MoVI


Here are some tips based on our time with the MoVI on the road:

1. A bare C100 with the Canon 24-70 (version 2) is a great combination for wide epic energetic shots with the ability to zoom in tighter when necessary. Zooming may throw off your camera balance a little but nothing that the MoVI’s electronics can’t compensate for. You don’t want to get caught having to switch lenses and rebalancing the unit in middle of the action!

2. Unlike a body mounted Steadicam, it isn’t as easy to adjust focus and other camera settings on the fly. We typically stop down a bit more than usual to take advantage of a deeper range of focus. F/8.0 is a good spot to try if you are just starting out and running solo.

3. Turn on your MoVI before boarding a vehicle that you plan to shoot out of (i.e. car, boat, helicopter, ect). Once your vehicle starts moving, the MoVI may have a difficult time booting up and aligning itself. The Freefly batteries will keep the MoVI running for a good amount of time and we’ve gotten an hour of continuous operation off a single charge.

4. On the tablet, start with these basic settings in Majestic Mode. Get a good feel for how fast the pan and tilts react to your movements. Slowly adjust your values up or down to fit your needs.

  • Pan Smoothing: 15
  • Pan Window: 5
  • Tilt Smoothing: 15
  • Tilt Window: 5

Don’t try to do everything. If you’re a solo operator, recognize what your constraints are and use them to push your creativity as a solo operator. 

If you are thinking of adding the Movi, but aren’t quite sure, we always recommend trying it first. Our friends at LensProToGo carry the Movi M10 and you can rent it right here. Here is what is super cool about the LPTG team – when you rent the Movi M10 you also get amazing support from their team on how to set it up and get it running.

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Remember, the MoVI is a tool — just like anything else you need to tell a powerful story. With something this cool, it’s tempting to use it all the time, but the story always comes first!

If you’ve enjoyed this, check out our Storytelling With Heart workshop. It’s a day full of discussions just like this one, with some hands-on exercises and and in-depth look at our approaches to meaningful storytelling. We’ll have a MoVI at each stop to demo and share with everyone there as well.

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Filmmaking: getting the resources to make your film, actually making it, and getting it out there — are all now more accessible than ever.

We’ve learned a ton in making our first documentary, and we want to bring that process to you in one post. But these ideas are so much bigger than us. We interviewed Shane & Lydia Hurlbut, Ryan Koo of NoFilmSchool, the CEO of Tugg.com, as well as Annie Roney of ro*co films (an international distributer). With that, we bring you an in-depth look at the one key to independent filmmaking today: community.

In the world of independent filmmaking, there’s the old way of doing things, and now there’s a new way.

While the old way often requires you to sell your soul to a distributor and make a deal that waives most or all of your rights, the new way gives you (the filmmaker) total control over how the film is marketed and distributed.

We’re living in a time where the internet is drastically changing the way people watch television and movies, and the way that filmmakers both fund their films and get them seen. We think this is a blessing!

We just poured so much energy into the #standwithme story — and we’re not about to give up all of our rights because this is “the film business as usual.” That’s old school thinking, and it’s no longer the only option in a world where — if you try hard enough — you can successfully crowd fund $200,000 to buy a video of Rob Ford smoking crack.

There is a new economy of filmmaking; one that is driven by filmmakers who believe in their stories, and communities who demand stories to believe in. Personally, we think it’s the best thing that could ever happen to storytelling.

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From my days in psychology, there are a few ideas that have always really stuck with me and helped shape my filmmaking. Below is one those ideas; it’s a mistake we often make in how we see other people we make films with or for.  Keeping this one idea in mind has greatly helped me tell stronger stories, every time out.

First, the mistake…

There is a principle in psychology called the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE).

The Fundamental Attribution Error states that when we look to attribute, or find the cause of somebody else’s behavior, we often overemphasize the importance of their personality, and underemphasize the power of the situation or context.

Take these two situations as examples:

1. You walk on set to see the director emerge from around the corner yelling at everybody in site

“Get that crane up faster, we need to be ready to roll in 10 minutes!”
“Where’s my monitor, I need to see what’s happening!”

He then turns to you and says “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

Whoa, you think, this guy (or girl) is something else. What an ass.

2. Okay, now imagine you’re a wedding filmmaker. You show up on a bright and sunny Saturday morning, enter a brick house clad in pink frilly things, and find your way through the maze of people to introduce yourself to the bride.

You find her in the back of the house having her make-up done.

“Good morning!”, you yell, “Excited?” She looks at you, smiles meekly, offers up an unconvincing nod of her head, and returns to her make-up.

Oh no, you think, this girl is a total drag. This is not going to be a fun day.

Now, I’m not sure about you, but I can see myself in similar situations many times over the years. We meet somebody, we form an impression quickly, and we assume that’s who they are.

Here’s a super simple, every day example of how the FAE works:

You’re driving home and somebody comes out of nowhere and cut’s you off. We quickly assume that he or she is a jerk for what they just did – that it’s who they are. Now, perhaps he or she just got into an argument with a partner or feels very ill and is trying to get home quickly – the situation they were in could have played a large role. Our natural tendency is to attribute the behavior to the personality of the person, but we don’t give enough consideration to the situation itself.

Now, let’s take this and apply it to the yelling director we talked about at the top. Perhaps he is just an unfriendly, belligerent person or maybe he just got a call from the client and they are pushing up the delivery time while also needing to make cut backs on the budget.

Or our meek and subdued bride. Perhaps the stress of a wedding, of having so many people focus on her, and her nervousness for having to speak her vows in front of a crowd have led her to respond to you in that way.

The point is not to suggest that the behaviors are good or bad, or to make excuses for them. The point is to realize just how much of a role the situation plays in shaping behavior.

Okay, so we have a tendency to undervalue the situation when we look to explain or understand the behavior of others – so what?

Why does this matter? And what could it possibly have to do with filmmaking?

Filmmaking doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We work with people and we take images of other people. How we perceive or feel about these people plays such a large part in how we interact with them and how the video of them will feel in the end.

Here are some tips on how you can apply the Fundamental Attribution Error to filmmaking that can help you become a stronger storyteller.