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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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Let there be light!

Don’t let it look like crap.

Lighting can be really difficult and mysterious — most rooms you’ll walk into already have lights of their own, and its up to you to shape that light every which way until the picture looks just right in the frame of your camera.

But you can’t just shape the light to look good… it has to fit your scene.

And while you might know what you want the light to look like for your scene… the hard part is figuring out which setup is going to achieve that look you’re going for.

To help you visualize just how much a light setup can dramatically change the mood of a scene, we’re deconstructing a light setup for three different scenarios.

Each one has a different mood:

1. Happy.
2. Scary.
3. Sexy.

Our main character, who has just been called to his boss’s office for reasons unknown, goes through each scenario in his head.

In each scenario, we break down how and why we made our choices in order to achieve each look.

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THE SUN.

Our world revolves around it, and so does an outside shoot.

There are several ways to work with the sun when shooting outside, but we find that simple modifiers often work best — they’re lightweight, quick to set up, and much easier to travel with than a light kit.

Now, depending on how bright the sun in shining on the day of your shoot, the modifier setup is going to change. On an overcast day you’ll have softer light to work with, but on a bright sunny day without a cloud in the sky… you’ve got some work to do in order to soften that light.

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Whether Mr. Hitchcock is really a kind-hearted family man or just an old pervert, we may never know.

But this simple demonstration of the Kuleshov effect does a great job of illustrating something we do know: what people actually see on screen and what they think they see can be two very different things, and it’s the ability play with the latter that will really allow you to work some magic as a filmmaker.

Now, if you know anything about Stillmotion, you know that we don’t often aim to “work magic,” but rather to document magic as it naturally unfolds, without having to fake anything.

We’ve trained countless hours to avoid using intervention as a means to tell great stories — instead, we get in front of things as they are happening. This is a beautiful thing when you’re telling a real story — but what happens when you are trying to tell a story that you can’t physically access?

Sometimes you just *have* to fake it.

So that’s exactly what we did in this piece that we filmed for AT&T during the 2012 Summer Olympics.


 

Wow, it’s like we were really there!

But we definitely weren’t.

Not even close.

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We’ve had one heck of an amazing year in 2012!

And as the team sat around talking recently, we knew we wanted to do something equally amazing to give back.

After all, without the support from you, our readers, fans, attendees, and supporters, 2012 wouldn’t have been one of the most engaging and rewarding years of our lives.

So, to thank you properly – we’re tapping into the holiday season of giving.

We’re making all of our premium tutorials on SMAPP (our iPhone app) completely free – starting right now.

That’s right, all the tools, all the tutorials, have been made 100% free!

If you have the app installed, simply make sure you update it on your device. Or if you’ve yet to download it, well – there is no excuse now (getsmapp.com).

Note to Android users: We’re actively working on an Android version for you as we speak. Stay tuned, it’s coming! :)

If you purchased a few of the tutorials from us previously this year, we really appreciate your early support – and hope you’ve applied those lessons and benefited already from access. You’ve now got access to even more to help push your storytelling to new heights!

If you purchased a handful of tutorials recently on the app, over $20, please click here and fill out this quick form. We’d love to talk with you directly. (Unfortunately, Apple won’t give us your contact info, but it’ll be worth your time to fill out the quick form.)

Cheap Interview Lighting: Grab a few bucks and get resourceful!…

To celebrate two new updates to SMAPP, we’ve created a tutorial we’ve been wanting to shoot for a long time now (scroll up and click play).

Seriously, you should have seen Patrick when we gave him $26 and sent him to Home Depot – he was like a kid on Christmas morning! ;)

We wanted to show you that great interview lighting can be achieved on almost nothing (you can judge for yourself in our example).

This can really happen to you, too.

We’ve been on sets with our luggage delayed, inadequate resources (we weren’t given all the information correctly), or random wrenches thrown in our best pre-production plans (let’s say the location changes suddenly).

We work our butts off to make sure we minimize these major issues – but they still happen – all the time!

Resourcefulness (and a positive attitude) have saved us more times than we can count. :)

*****

Once again, thank you for an amazing year – and I hope you enjoy the dozens of new tools and tutorials you have access to on SMAPP.