Now, don’t get it twisted: there is certainly a time and place for zoom lenses.

And because of their range and versatility, it can be tempting to just use zoom lenses all the time…

But if you’re looking to truly advance as a filmmaker, it’s important to get to a place where you feel comfortable leaving the zoom at home and shooting with only primes.

Why? Why is it so important to use primes?

Well, there are two main reasons:

1. Aesthetic beauty.
Background blur, sharpness, contrast… all of these things look much more pleasing to the eye when shot with a prime lens.

2. It will make you a better filmmaker.
Prime lenses require you to pay more attention to what is happening, because if you’re not paying enough attention you could miss a really great moment — you don’t have the ability to zoom when you spot something awesome happening. With prime lenses you’re forced to be more present on the shoot.

When should I be using prime lenses?

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On every shoot, there are problems on top of problems to solve, big and small.

What we filmmakers often don’t think about are the small tools we can pick up that will majorly help us out as we’re running around like crazy people on set.

For this tutorial, we’ve put together 10 of our favorite tools that have come to the rescue time and time again during shoots.

A lot of this stuff you may have considered getting before, but ultimately decided against because you think you won’t use it THAT much. To which we would say… oh yes you will!

All of the tools on this list have saved our lives many times, and we’ll continue to rep them ’til the day we die.

1. Black Foil

One of the coolest things about filmmaking is our ability to alter anything we’re using to make our picture look perfect in the frame.

Even with the most expensive equipment and setup, there will always be alterations necessary on a shoot — and black foil can really be your best friend in those moments.

Use it to:

  • Extend your barn doors
  • Block off the annoying window ruining your shot
  • Quickly make a cookie and add texture to your background

The possibilities are endless… and it’s really quite cheap at just $23.
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Shooting with a shallow depth of field can look really cool and interesting…

But, like any other storytelling tool, how you use DOF and when you choose to rack focus should be purposeful.

We love the look of a shallow DOF just as much as the next cinefile, but what we remind ourselves of and what we want to remind you of is to be aware of the dangers of using shallow DOF.

What are the dangers of using shallow DOF?…

Ok, we’re not trying to SCARE you into not using shallow DOF… we just want you to remember a few things…

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Liz and Ryan-0023

Diving into a great big film project can be scary.

Even if you know your way around a camera, there’s so much that goes into making a film… it’s very easy to build out a great idea and then sit on it until… well, until it disappears.

Whether its a lack of experience holding you back, a lack of support, or just a lack of confidence…

…we get it.

We’ve been there, and any filmmaker who has followed through with a project has been there.

Any project that asks you to step outside of your comfort zone (aka any project worth doing) is going to present you with a lot of those challenges. You’ll feel inexperienced in one way or another, which will hurt your confidence, and you might have no idea where the money’s going to come from.

But the difference between ideas that become forgotten and projects that become remembered is simple: start taking action, and start from the right place.

For some, the starting place may be buying their first camera and figuring out how it works. For some it will be hiring their first employee. For some its making a Kickstarter. Wherever that starting place is — where you really start doing and stop talking about it… that’s the first step toward finishing a project.

For Liz and Ryan, that starting place was enrolling in the Take Action Challenge and learning how to build upon their skills as photographers to become filmmakers.

With the recent launch of our next Take Action online course and the theme of last night’s live webcast (Baker and Grant talking about everything they did wrong when they started I’m Fine, Thanks), we think it’s the perfect time to talk to two former Take Action students who are currently diving into a their first documentary project.

That is, after all, what Take Action is really about: stop watching tutorials and reading about film, and start challenging yourself to improve your skills, hands-on.
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We’re living in the age of the iPhone.

We Instagram our meals before we eat them, there’s an app for everything, and when we see a moment worth capturing we hustle to turn our gritty camera phone lens on the action and record a video before the moment is lost.

The ability to have a video camera at our fingertips has changed so much about the way we document our everyday lives, including the way we function as superfans.

While there are still a few remaining Jeremy Lin fans who spend an hour making a poster board to hold up in the middle of a crowd as he passes by, most of them do what any loyal fan does in this day and age: stick their arm out and record a video.

As filmmakers, however, we don’t just stick our arm out there.

We have equipment, we’ve studied this stuff — we understand composition, framing, the properties of light, and… we have media credentials!

But when Jeremy Lin decides to play a game of pickup basketball at midnight in Taipei, on a public court with tons of surprised fans flocking to get a glimpse…

…we leave our sliders at home, and we shoot dirty.

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