Making a Documentary: Soundtrack and Music

Filmmaker 365

CR Production offers a vast array of royalty-free stock music and sound effects for you to purchase. Still, there are nearly endless ways to create your soundtrack. The ideal way (after CR Production, of course) is to hire a composer to compose a score for your documentary, this way your picture’s soundtrack is totally customized and unique. If this option sounds enticing to you, find a composer, negotiate a price, and get it to them as soon as your editing is locked in.

For many of us that don’t have the connections or budget, there are other options. Here are a few tips when selecting music for your soundtrack.

Determine the Mood or Tone

One of the last components of a documentary film (or any film for that matter) is the soundtrack. Music and sound are merely tools to help you define the mood or tone that you’ve already worked to develop. With each piece of music, always ask yourself does this match the Mood or Tone of the picture.

Don’t Be Afraid of Silence

Before you go crazy with the soundtrack of your documentary, consider the possibility of very little soundtrack at all. Emotional cues can be built many different ways. Sometimes a well thought out silent pause can be extremely effective.

Music Can Drive Pace

Very early on in your project, you’ll find that your documentary has a certain tempo to it. The pacing of how people talk, how they go between excited and tempered, it all feeds into an underlying rhythm. The soundtrack and music will help develop that pace and give a powerful foundation to your film.

Did we leave anything out? Tell us about it in the comments below.

For Additional Information and tools, Be sure to check out these resources.


Making a Documentary: Editing

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Editing your documentary is your first real chance to explore how your subject’s story is going to unfold. This can be and usually is the most tedious part of the documentary filmmaking process. Due to the sheer scope of coverage, it is very important to follow these three simple tips to make the process the best it can be.

  1. Organize Folders and Label Bins

You’re going to rack up lots of footage making a documentary. You’ve simply got to start and stay organized. You’ll want to set everything up as much as possible in the beginning or else things can take a turn quickly and you’ll be looking at a mess.

You can use some free programs like PostHaste from Digital Rebellion to create folder structures from customizable templates, or you can put together your own templates from scratch on your computer. JUST STAY ORGANIZED FROM THE BEGINNING!!

  1. Create Sequences for Individual Interviews

When doing your pre-edit, create sequences for individual interviews which have all of the footage available. This will help with transcribing, locating, and putting said sequences together on a larger timeline later.

  1. Backup Everything

This should be tips #3-12: BACK UP EVERYTHING. There is no reason in the world you shouldn’t take the extra time to make sure your files are safe. You literally have everything to lose in these situations, so be a professional and make sure you’re saving your files in multiple places. Cloud storage services like Dropbox are very usuful in these situations.

Did we leave anything out? Tell us about it in the comments below.

For Additional Information and tools, Be sure to check out these resources.


How to Find Your Story When Cutting a Documentary

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In a lot of ways editing a documentary is much more difficult than a narrative. Documentaries find their voice in the editing bay, so if you’re looking to craft an engaging story there’s a few things you must always do. Here are a few essential tips for finding your story when cutting a documentary.

Insane Organization

Since shooting ratios on documentaries can be ridiculously high (sometimes 100:1 or higher), staying organized is one of the best ways you can make your job easier throughout the editorial process. The vast majority of editors understand that it’s important to have

an organized project file with bin, shots, and takes labeled appropriately. But in order to really stay on top of things, the organization needs to extend beyond the project file.

Files and folders should be organized just as well on your hard drives in order to avoid offline media and workflow issues when sending your project out for sound/color/VFX. I also recommend organizing and logging all interviews as meticulously as possible within your project in order to streamline your process for recutting interview segments later on. For instance, you might want to add markers to sequences with synced interviews in them and label each marker with the interview topic. It will take some more legwork up front, but can save you hours and hours of sifting through footage later on.

Plan Ahead, Then Work from Instinct

Although it’s tempting to wait until you’re in the editing room to start conceptualizing the exact edit and flow of the story, putting in the early legwork will pay dividends when you jump into the edit.

It’s usually best to work with the director and crew before shooting in order to ensure that the film is being shot with editing in mind. Similarly, you should then be able to go into the edit knowing the director’s exact vision. It’s typically not possible for the you, the editor, to be present for all the shooting, so let the director know what you would like from the shoot – the good takes, the blown takes, b-roll, etc. This will be immensely helpful when you start logging footage.

Based on how good the on-set notes are, and how much time is allotted for the edit, it’s often worthwhile to do a rough paper edit. Working with a director in this stage will make the edit go smoother, as you’ll have a clearer idea of their vision based on the footage that was captured. It’s also useful for knowing what still needs to be shot. Get those Post-It-Notes ready and map out a rough story structure.

Once you get into your editing app, there’s no exact formula for cutting a documentary. One popular approach is to cut the bulk of interviews together first as a starting point and working out from there. If you’ve gone through the footage and one particular moment really sticks out to you – maybe consider cutting that first, and then working the other scenes around it, assuming it’s a pivotal moment.

Or maybe you have a vision for a beautiful opening montage and are able to build out the first act completely sequentially by starting from square one. Tackle the material that speaks to you and inspires you the most. Doing so will lead to further inspiration once you start hitting the next few scenes and sequences.

Get a First Cut Done Quickly

If you’ve ever cut together a feature documentary before, you know very well that the final cut often looks nothing like the first cut.

Documentaries typically have far more revisions than narrative films. Since there’s so much footage to pull from, each revision looks that much different. The point being that your first cut doesn’t need to be perfect… it’s going to change immensely anyways.

The first cut is really just a mold at which you can start chiseling away. It’s better to have that mold ready sooner than later so that you can tear it down, rebuild it, and do it all over again, as opposed to trying to make that first cut perfect and then becoming frustrated when it needs to get recut.

Even if you believe you can make a near-perfect first cut, your director, producer, sales agent, or whoever else might have a say in the process may very well feel differently.

The best thing you can do is get through your first cut as quickly as possible (which, by the way, also forces you to work on your instincts) and then start refining things from there.

Did we leave anything out? Tell us about it in the comments below.

For Additional Information and tools, Be sure to check out these resources.


Tips For Optimizing Your Computer for 4K

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Last year I made the switch to shooting and editing videos in 4K. I quickly realized that in order to work efficiently in post, I would need to do a major computer upgrade to handle the increased file size of the 4K video format.

From my own experience, I’ve compiled four crucial technical considerations every video editor should make before making the jump to 4K video.

Lighting Fast Storage

For internal memory you want a solution that will process data quickly. These days an SSD is your best option. SSDs have no moving parts, so they are less prone to failure and are quicker than traditional hard drives. It’s worth noting that different drives have different transfer rates. A drive that can effectively do this is the Samsung 1TB SSD which runs at 540MB/s. You’ll need to shell out more than double the money for a SSD, but it’s worth the investment for pro users.

Expand Your Brain

You don’t have to go crazy with your computer’s processor, but you want one that is solid and can run multiple tasks with relative ease. Intel is currently in both Mac and PC. With Intel you have two clear cut choices: the Intel i7 and the Xeon e5. (Info Current as of 2016)

You can go either way here. Both the Xeon e5 and the i7 will give you the processing power you need to get the job done. The Xeon e5 is rated just a little better than the i7 and packs a little harder punch — but it’s also around twice the price.

Boost Your Memory

There’s one thing above all else to consider when editing and running software like Premiere Pro CC, Avid, and FCPX: memory.

Programs like those listed above use up a lot of memory to process your work, especially if you’re processing and rendering highresolution video. Boost the RAM memory to increase your processing power. You’ll rarely see a professional editor with less than 16GB of memory in their editing computer.

Max the Graphics

Graphics are just as important as processing power and memory when building a computer for video editing. Processing 4K will require a lot of GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) so you’ll want to find a solution that gives you at least 1GB of memory.

Did we leave anything out? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Four Tips on Integrating Action Cam Shots With Cinema Footage

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GoPro has come a long way since the first version was released back in 2004. Until the last few years, the pint-sized cameras were use sparingly (if at all) in Hollywood and professional productions. But that all changed with the GoPro HERO 3 & 4 series. In fact, GoPros were the go-to camera for documentary films like 2012′s ‘Leviathan’, which used GoPros almost exclusively to capture a commercial fishing boat at sea.

Now these nearly indestructible cameras are being fitted to just about everything, giving the audience a point of view we’ve never

had before. But the thing to remember: cinematographers don’t simply strap the GoPro to just anything and let it go. They plan and test certain shots to ensure the cams are being used effectively.

Here are four tips that will allow you to integrate your GoPro footage with cinematic footage:

  1. Coverage

Whether shooting for sports, nature, documentary, or feature film, you’ve got to have a group of shots that give a sense of space that you can cut to, also known as coverage. With this in mind, many filmmakers are using GoPros, specifically in actions sequences.

Having the option of several angles in post-production allows the editor to find footage that will cut seamlessly with the main cinema footage.

  1. Film Flat

The GoPro has a setting called Protune. The adjustments that can be made here are minimal, but really effective. You can adjust white balance, ISO, sharpness, and exposure. On top of this, you can set the color to flat which captures more shadows and highlights detail. A flat image can be matched to your cinema footage through standard color grading processes.

  1. Narrow and Wide

When setting your format, whether it be 1080, 2.7k, or 4k, you have choices. These options allow you to capture video in either a narrow, medium, or wide angle. Using a narrow or medium angle will allow you to mix your footage more seamlessly with cinema footage (Camera A), but even using 4k with the wide angle will work in many cases. As Wolf Creek 2 cinematographer Toby Oliver said…

“If you have a 4K file in post you can zoom in to find a tighter frame and lose the fish-eye feel, without sacrificing resolution.” In films such as 2013′s ‘Into the Mind’, the crew used the GoPro HERO 3 alongside RED Epics and utilized both the narrow and wide angle feature. By using the GoPro they were able to capture intimate time-lapse as well as in-your-face action sequences. While the wide angle lens will usually reveal the GoPro’s presence to the audience, limiting its use can be extremely effective and work alongside cinema footage without issues.

  1. Let’s Clean Things Up

Another way to effectively integrate GoPro footage with cinema footage is to run post processes other than grading. For example, the GoPro footage shot in ‘Need for Speed’ was run through an After Effects plugin called Dark Energy by Cinnafilm. This plugin allows for noise and film-grain reduction or additive. Dark Energy was used specifically to clean up the GoPro footage and to bring in the natural grain look that’s closer to the Canon C500 and ALEXA footage that was shot for the rest of the film. Currently, though, Dark Energy is only available as a plugin for the Windows version of After Effects.

Did we leave anything out? Tell us about it in the comments below.

For Additional Information and tools, Be sure to check out these resources.


Film Trailer Editing Tips

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Trailers play a vital part in the success of any independent film. Not only because they help to generate buzz for the film once it’s ready to be released, but also because they can help secure a release (or distribution) in the first place.

It’s not uncommon for a distributor to commit to a film without actually seeing it in its entirety. At film markets, distributors, sales agents, and other industry pros don’t always have the time to watch films in their entirety before making an offer or securing a deal.

Naturally, they have to rely on the trailer as a means to represent what the film is capable of. But regardless of whether you want to

cut a great trailer as a means to lock in a distributor, or simply to promote the film’s release – it’s critical that the trailer you cut is impeccable. A bad trailer can absolutely ruin the success of a film and there is really no excuse not to be able to cut a strong trailer from a feature film. All it takes is a little practice and some attention to detail.

On Hollywood-level feature films, the editor of the film obviously isn’t cutting the trailer. It’s going to a dedicated editor, usually working at a post-company that only focuses on trailers and promos. The reason being that trailer editing calls for its own distinctive approach. On your indie film, you may need to edit the film and the trailer yourself based on budgetary limitations, and that’s perfectly fine. You just need to treat those two parts of the process as independent projects and tap into different skill sets to get the job done. That can be done in a straightforward way by following these five film trailer editing tips:

  1. Only Use the Best of the Best

If you are cutting down a 100 minute film into a 2-minute trailer, you have no reason to use anything but the absolute best footage. This may sound like a no-brainer, but many indie filmmakers are afraid to use their best material in the trailer, as they don’t want to give anything away. You don’t need to give away major plot points or the twist at the end of your film, but don’t be too precious with your material.

Remember that the best footage will draw the biggest audience, so make sure that every last shot and scene that you show represents the best the film has to offer.

  1. Prioritize the First Half of the Film

Although you can certainly get away with using scenes from any part of your film, focus primarily on the first half. In most films, Act 1 and Act 2 contain the best trailer moments. Act 1 is the setup, so naturally you are going to want to include enough scenes from there to help ease the viewer into your story.

And the beginning of Act 2 typically focuses heavily on the premise of your film – or the hook that’s going to sell tickets. You want to give away enough of your film that it accurately represents the story, but not so much that the viewer feels like they’ve seen it all. That’s why focusing on the first half is usually a good rule of thumb.

  1. Understand the Format

Not all trailers are created equal. There’s certainly some room for creative flexibility in the cutting room. You can always break the rules or use a less-traditional method for getting your vision across.

One example of this might be to take a single moment or scene from your film and let it play out. Rather than showing the whole picture of what the film is about, this strategy is all about creating a mood or texture that teases the audience without giving away many story details. The infamous first Cloverfield trailer is a perfect example of this technique.

There’s really no one specific format or formula that works best for trailer editing, but you do need to identify which approach you want to take before you start cutting. If you go in blindly, it would be like shooting your film with no script. Know which format works best for your trailer, and choose your scenes and moments wisely so that they fit within those parameters.

  1. Use Multiple Music Cues

Two and a half minutes might not seem like a lot of time, but in the context of a trailer — it can be a lifetime. Assuming you have cut together a wide variety of material and your trailer has some sort of arc to it, it’s going to need more than one music cue to bridge together each beat.

Think of your trailer as a miniature film. Would you use the same music cue for your entire feature film? Probably not. So why use a single cue for your trailer, which is essentially a short film in itself? You don’t need to go overboard, but using two or three cues tastefully to help guide the different beats in your trailer can be very helpful.

  1. Keep the Logo Short

This is a small but important point. Always keep the production company logo up front as short as possible – or don’t have it at all. Having 15 seconds of a logo up front (from a company that no one has ever heard of) can come across as unprofessional. If you want to include your logo, that’s completely fine. But limit the screen time to a couple of seconds at the most so you can get into the meat of your trailer.

Did we leave anything out? Tell us about it in the comments below.

For Additional Information and tools, Be sure to check out these resources.


The Basics of Building a Color Correction Suite

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Color correction tools like DaVinci Resolve are more affordable and accessible than ever, but working with color takes more than just the right software. Here are three tips for building a color correction suite that will improve your output.

Much like editing bays, color correction suites come in all shapes and sizes. On the top level, a color room at a high-end facility might have hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment in it, while an at-home setup will naturally be more modest. With that said, just because you might be working from home or from a small facility doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t follow the same principles as the larger color suites.

You may not need a $30,000 color board or a 4K projector, but what you do need are a number of basic components that will make or break the quality of your work. Let’s take a look at three of the most important aspects of any color suite.

Light Control

If you come from an offline editing background, then you might be used to editing on your laptop on set, in a coffee shop, at the kitchen table, or anywhere else you can find space to set up shop. Unfortunately, things aren’t as simple when working with color, as ambient room light can pose big challenges when handling color work.

Imagine attempting to color correct a photo on your iPhone in a dark room. Now imagine trying to color the same photo on your iPhone in broad daylight. Obviously you’ll have a much tougher time working outside, since the glare from the sun makes a perfectly clear view of your screen nearly impossible. The same principle applies inside your color room.

Any little bit of light that seeps into your room through a window, door, or elsewhere will negatively impact your color session. Not only does ambient light make it more difficult to view your monitor properly, but it’s inconsistent nature will also throw off your results. For instance, you might start your session in the morning while the sun isn’t yet overhead — but by noon, it’s shining straight through the window. Whether you realize it or not, you’ll be compensating for this extra light in the room by making color adjustments in your footage.

For these reasons and more, the first thing you need to do when setting up your color suite is control the light. Buy blackout blinds and install them on every window in your suite to block any and all uncontrolled light. With the house lights off, your room should be pitch black inside, so make whatever changes you need to ensure that your space achieves this.

Room Color

Ambient light isn’t the only variable that can affect your ability to see color objectively — the colors in your room can pose just as many challenges.

If you’ve ever worked in a professional color suite, you know that almost all of them have walls that are painted grey. The reason for this is quite simple: if your room is any color other than a neutral grey, your eyes will adjust to the ambient color of the room. Therefore, you’ll be making inaccurate judgements when it comes to coloring your footage.

Think of what happens when you wear blue sunglasses for more than a few minutes and then take them off — everything now appears yellow, or warm. This is because your eyes have an ability to “white balance,” so to speak, and this phenomenon can occur just as obviously when you’re inside your color suite.

If you were to attempt to color a project in a room that’s painted a bright vivid color (let’s say cherry red), there’s no question that your images would all have a very distinct color cast to them. Your eyes would adjust to the red in the room pretty quickly. In an unconscious attempt to balance the color of the image to your eyes, you’d be inadvertently adding more red to your images than called for.

So, if you plan on doing professional color work, be sure to paint your room neutral grey to avoid headaches and technical issues with your projects. It’s also ideal to use light fixtures that have a color temperature of 6500K for greater consistency and accuracy.

Calibrated Monitor

Even if your room is light controlled and painted neutral grey, you aren’t quite out of the woods yet. The other huge variable to consider when working on color projects your monitoring system set up — more specifically, how it’s calibrated.

Regular computer monitors are not designed for critical color work. Some monitors are warmer than others, some have too much contrast, others are oversaturated, and so on. The bottom line is that a $150 monitor from Best Buy is never going to display colors to meet a professional standard, and attempting to use monitors like this to color with is ill-advised.

If you’re serious about color, you really need to invest in a proper broadcast monitor that can take an SDI video signal and be calibrated professionally. You may not need to invest in a color board right away, or a huge office space to work in, but investing in a monitor is an absolute must. In many ways, your monitor is the heart of your color operation — so if there’s one area you’re going to want to invest your money, it’s here.

5 Reasons to Get a Color Grading Control Surface

A control surface is an essential piece of gear for professional color correction. Here are five good reasons why.

Though this is no secret to seasoned professionals, many aspiring colorists don’t realize the inherent value that a color grading control surface will bring to their work. After all, many professional software packages can be used without additional hardware.


The DaVinci control surface maps many of Resolve’s functions to dedicated buttons and knobs, making grading a breeze. However, its hefty price tag is out of reach for many. Luckily, third-party surfaces from Tangent, JL Cooper, Avid and newcomer OxygenTec harness much of the DaVinci panel at a fraction of the cost. With fewer buttons and dials, you’ll be scrolling through menus to find the parameter to change, far from a deal breaker to many.

No matter which model you choose, a control surface is an essential aspect of getting any job graded and delivered on time. Let’s take a look at several specific reasons why any surface is a must for the serious colorist.

Speed and Multiple Actions

The biggest and most obvious advantage to using a color grading control surface is speed. With dedicated knobs, buttons, dials and wheels set to specific functions, muscle memory quickly develops as you learn your panel. When you get fast enough, color grading is no longer frustrating, it’s actually fun! You’ll be wondering how you ever did good work without a panel for this reason alone.

Speed isn’t just about jumping to specific commands to alter your image. When coloring, it’s helpful to adjust several parameters at once to see how the image reacts. This will enable the colorist to experiment with a wide range of looks to gauge a favorable client reaction.


Trust Me, Your Work Will Improve

Working with a panel enables an organic relationship with your images. By controlling the color wheels, you’ll intuit where the image wants to sit. The physical nature of working with your hands will also prevent you from processing every job in the same way.

Using the color wheels and dials allows for finely-tuned adjustments that are difficult to articulate with a mouse. Many times in session I push the slightest change in the hue of a skin tone to satisfy the client. The software color wheels inside Resolve are small, making these kinds of moves cumbersome.


Stave Off Carpal Tunnel

The ergonomic layout of every panel provides minimal strain for long grading sessions. I remember a long-form job that required me to grade several hundred shots in three days. I was awarded the job before I owned a panel, and was one of the catalysts for acquiring one.

During the job, my hand was gnarled around the mouse in just the right amount to make fine adjustments, but across a full ten-hour day, my hand began to cramp, and when the job concluded, I experienced pain in my wrist and joints. I gave my hand a break and began looking into which color grading control surface would be my best option.


Execute Actions from Other Applications

Since the control panels are dedicated instruments for Resolve, button presses continue to interact with the application, regardless of what’s in focus. If I’m browsing the Internet, I can save my project or scroll to the beginning of the timeline to play the cut for a client that just walked in.


Client Perception

When engaging a new customer relationship, I have to instill immediate confidence in my clients so they are confident their project will be handled professionally. Purchasing a panel is one way to forecast this. You’re showing your clientele you’re serious about the craft. What’s more, a monetary career investment now will pay off in huge ways in the future. In time, better work and more prestigious clients will follow, overshadowing the panel’s initial cost.

 Consider a Control Surface Today

A writer’s control surface is a keyboard, which is fast since every letter is mapped to a specific key. Similarly, a colorist doesn’t want to click around on the screen when a gestural input is available. The nuanced nature of color benefits from having a device that is attuned to these subtleties.

I’ll admit, it took me a long time to purchase my control surface. I had numerous conversations with other professional colorists about the benefit of owning one, but until I made the purchase, I just didn’t get how much it would help me. Today, having owned my panel for years, I can firmly say it’s one of the best investments I’ve made toward furthering my craft.

Did we leave anything out? Tell us about it in the comments below.

For Additional Information and tools, Be sure to check out these resources.


Film Societies: What Do Those Abbreviations Mean?

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Have you ever taken notice of the letters that appear after names in movie credits? Those post-nominal letters indicate a society or union that person is a member of. Here are the most well-known film societies and organizations, particularly those you will see listed in opening and end credits.

American Cinema Editors — A.C.E.

American Cinema Editors (ACE) was founded in 1950 and is officially defined as an honorary society of motion picture editors. The society should not be confused with the Motion Picture Editors Guild, the union organization under I.A.T.S.E.

The objectives and purposes of the American Cinema Editors are to advance the art and science of the editing profession; to increase the entertainment value of motion pictures by attaining artistic preeminence and scientific achievement in the creative art of editing; to bring into close alliance those editors who desire to advance the prestige and dignity of the editing profession.

The organization votes members based on their professional achievements and their commitment to editing motion pictures. Membership requires a sponsorship by two active members, as well as minimum of five years of editing experience on features or television.

The ACE has published the Cinema Editor quarterly magazine since 1951 and celebrates achievement with the annual Eddie Awards.

American Society of Cinematographers — A.S.C.

The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) was founded in 1919. The goal was to advance the art and science of cinematography and build a collaborative environment for cinematographers to share ideas and techniques.

The organization is not a labor union or guild, but an educational, cultural, and professional organization. Membership is extended by invitation, exclusive to those who have demonstrated outstanding ability as a director of photography.

The ASC credit first appeared in the title sequence for the 1920 western film Sand, shot by Joe August, ASC. That same year, the organization began publishing The American Cinematographer magazine. The ASC is also the publisher of the American Cinematographer Manual, commonly known as the filmmaker’s bible.

The best work is celebrated annually with the American Society of Cinematographers Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theatrical Releases.

British Society of Cinematographers — B.S.C.

The British Society of Cinematographers (BSC) was first conceived by Bert Easey, the head of the Denham and Pinewood studio camera departments. Officially formed in 1949, the society aimed to mirror the previously established American Society of Cinematographers.

The BSC instituted four objectives:

  1. To promote and encourage the pursuit of the highest standards in the craft of Motion Picture Photography.
  2. To further the applications by others of the highest standards in the craft of Motion Picture Photography and to encourage original and outstanding work.
  3. To cooperate with all whose aims and interests are wholly or in part related to those of the society.
  4. To provide facilities for social intercourse between the members and arrange lectures, debates and meetings calculated to further the objects of the Society.

Cinematographers working both in the United States of America and the United Kingdom can be members of both the ASC and BSC, often seen with both designations in credits.

Casting Society of America — C.S.A.

The Casting Society of America (CSA) was formed in 1982, originally known as the American Society of Casting Directors. The society is a collection of the best casting directors in film, television, and stage.

CSA began publishing a monthly newsletter in 1983. Since then, membership has grown tremendously, with CSA members based in the US, Canada, Italy, Australia, and South Africa. The CSA celebrates achievements with the Artios Award, named for the Greek “perfectly fitted.”

Directors Guild of America — D.G.A.

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) is a craft union representing directors and members of the directorial team working in film, television, commercials, documentaries, news, sports and new media.

Founded as the Screen Directors Guild in 1936, the group merged with the Radio and Television Directors Guild to form the DGA in 1960. The union offers the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film,which has nearly predicted every winner of the Best Director Academy Award.

This union is one of the most well known organizations, but members do not use the DGA suffix in any credits.

Producers Guild of America — P.G.A.

The Producers Guild of America (PGA) represents television, film, and new media producers. Originally formed as the Screen Producers Guild in 1950, the union has since merged with the Television Producers Guild and American Association of Producers. The PGA celebrates with the Producers Guild Award, originally called the Golden Laurel Awards.

The PGA first introduced the post-nominal letters in 2012, allowing approved producers to add the designation. Unlike other societies and organizations, the mark does not indicate membership in the Producers Guild. It only certifies that a producer performed a major portion of the producing on a given motion picture.

The mark is licensed on a film-by-film basis, meaning any producer who has previously used the mark is not automatically able to continue using the designation.

Writers Guild of America (East, West) — WGAE, WGAW

The Writers Guild of America is a combination of two labor unions. The Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) and the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW).

The WGAE was founded in 1912 by a collection of book, magazine, and drama writers. The WGAW was founded as the Screen Writers Guild in 1921 in Hollywood. In 1954, five writing unions formed the WGAE on the east coast and WGAW on the west coast.

Like the DGA, these unions are some of the most well-known organizations, but do not use any designations in the credits.

Did we leave anything out? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Keeping a Long Dialogue Scene Visually

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While shooting a one or two page scene with lots of dialogue might be fairly straightforward, things get much more complicated when you get into lengthier page counts.

For instance, when you’re shooting a conversation between two people sitting at the dinner table… If you were to cover it in the traditional sense (a wide and two close-ups) you’d run out of steam after a minute or two in the editing room pretty quickly, and things will likely start to get pretty boring. However, if you can follow at least one of the tips on this list, you’ll be in much better shape.

Move the Camera

A roaming camera (whether handheld or on a steadicam) will always hold the viewers attention better than a static shot. Just as it’s important that you choose the right type of camera movement for your scene, it’s also important to choose the right movement for your audience. With long dialogue scenes, always look for ways that you can move that camera, whether it’s panning back and forth between your actors, circling your talent, etc. to keep your audience visually stimulated.

Move Your Actors

If you’re hellbent on no camera movement at all, either because it doesn’t work with the mood you’re setting or it’s technically impossible, then consider moving your actors instead. Say for instance you’re shooting the dinner scene as described above and it’s six pages long. Why not have one of the actors get up at the two page mark and walk to the kitchen to get something? Whether the other character follows or not, you now have a new background and new angles on both characters and have subsequently added more dimension to the scene.

Cross the Line

Those of you that went to film school have had it drilled in your heads to never ‘cross the line’ (which is of course the imaginary axis the camera sits on), but rules are made to be broken. Assuming you don’t want to use a roaming camera and want your actors to stay static, crossing the line is a great way to completely change the perception of a scene by simply capturing reverse coverage. If there’s a beat in your scene where the tone or pace changes, consider using a cutaway shot to bring you across the line and then shoot the remainder of the scene from the other side. If nothing else, it will keep things interesting and let the viewer subtly know a change has occurred.

And there really is no better way to understand the craft of shooting a heavy dialogue scene than by watching great films by some of the masters of dialogue. Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Richard Linklater are notorious for their use of dialogue, and both employ a variety of techniques to keep the viewer stimulated. In particular, I recommend watching Inglourious Basterds and Before Sunrise (by each respective auteur) for some inspiration.

Did we leave anything out? Tell us about it in the comments below.

For Additional Information and tools, Be sure to check out these resources.


Learn the Lingo: 15 Weird Filmmaking Terms

Filmmaker 365

When it comes to filmmaking, there are a lot of strange terms. Learning the lingo is a rite of passage that every filmmaker has to go through. Let’s take a look at some of the stranger filmmaking terms out there and figure out what they mean.


Other Names: CP-47, 47, Peg, Ammo, Bullet

On a film set, a C-47 is simply a clothespin. The origin of why it came to be called a C-47 is somewhat fuzzy. Some say it was named after the C-47 airplane because of it’s versatility. Others say they were named after the bin in which they were stored. No matter the origin, a C-47 is one of the most-used tools on a film set. Typically they are used to clamp filters to the barn doors of lights, but they can also be used to hold up fabric or prank unsuspecting crew members.


Other Names: Electrician

No, a juicer isn’t a kitchen appliance or muscular person. In film, a juicer refers to an on-set electrician. A juicer is one of the most important roles on set, as there’s typically a lot of power required to operate all of the various pieces of equipment associated with shooting a film.


Other Names: Martini Shot

A Martini, or Martini Shot, is the final shot before wrapping the set for the day. It’s supposedly called the Martini shot because the next shot would be taken out of a glass, aka post-wrap drinking. It’s also been said that in the early days of Hollywood, stars would begin their post-wrap party a little early and start drinking martinis during the last shot. When you hear the term martini said on set, it brings about as much joy as a couple of real ones.


On a film set, stinger refers to a single extension cord. A stinger refers to any size of extension cord. Typically on a film set, stingers will be black instead of the bright orange cables found at local hardware stores


When a filmmaker is talking about legs, they’re typically talking about the legs of a tripod. On most professional tripods, the head and the legs can be easily separated. Professional tripod legs are usually made out of carbon fiber, as they are light, tough, and good in extreme conditions.


Sticks is another word for tripod on a film set. If someone were to say grab the sticks, they would be referring to both the legs and head of the tripod.


Other Names: Baby Stick, Baby Legs

A baby on a film set is a small set of tripod legs. Tripod legs come in all shapes and forms, but if you are wanting to put your camera extremely close to the ground, you’ll want to go lower than what most standard tripod legs will allow. To do this you will want to use a baby, or small tripod legs, to get low-angle shots.


Other Names: Striking

To strike on a film set simply means to turn on a production light or series of lights. While it is less common in modern filmmaking, every now and then you might hear someone yell “striking” when turning on a light. However, some argue that it is much better to simply say “mind your eyes, light coming on.”


A cheeseplate is a metal plate with holes designed to serve as a multipurpose utility bracket for various film related accessories. While cheeseplates come in all shapes and sizes, they are almost always used to create camera rigs. The holes allow the user to mount screw-based devices easily.

Abby Singer

Abbey Singer refers to the second-to-last shot at a specific film location. It was named after Abbey Singer, a famous production manager who would alert his crew two shots before the set needed to be collapsed.


Other Names: Cucoloris

A cookie is a device used to mask light patterns onto a background. Cookies can come in all shapes and sizes, but they’re almost always placed on a stand separate from the actual light source. They’re called cookies because their hole patterns look like a chocolate chip cookie.

Run and Gun

Run and gun is a term used to describe a style of filmmaking with very little production equipment besides a camera. Run and gun is typically used in documentary-style filmmaking, as filmmakers aren’t always given the luxury of a controlled set. With cameras quickly progressing in dynamic range and sensitivity, it is becoming increasingly popular for indie filmmakers to utilize a run and gun approach to their craft.

Dead Cat

Other Names: Wind Muff, Mic Cover

On a film set, a dead cat is a fuzzy cover that goes around the end of a boom mic to block out wind distortion. The name fits the accessory perfectly, as its furry exterior makes it look just like a dead cat. Rode currently sells a ‘Dead Wombat’ that is slightly larger than a traditional dead cat.


Other Name: Film Slate, Clapboard, Slate, Clapperboard, Slapperboard, Time Slate, Board

A clapper is a board used for syncing and identifying a shot in post. A clapper is most notably the most iconic accessory on any movie set.

Typically, a clapper will have a place to write the scene, take, and shot with some other information like production title, director, and DP.

Did we leave anything out? Tell us about it in the comments below.

For Additional Information and tools, Be sure to check out these resources.