by Max Sparber
At its simplest, all you need to make a digital film is a recording device of some sort, and all you need to distribute it is an internet connection. A rough short movie can be made with the camera itself, by shooting scenes sequentially, but if an aspiring digital filmmaker is going to put together a more polished movie, he or she is going to need some way to edit the raw footage. Fortunately, surprisingly sophisticated editing software is now available for little or no money.
So then, the tools of digital filmmaking, step-by-step:
Get a digital recording device: Most digital cameras are now able to
shoot digital video to some extent, and the cost of cameras is plummeting—stores
such as Target and WalMart now sell very basic digital cameras for under $50.
Additionally, many cell phones are now able to shoot digital video. These options
tend to produce very low resolution images, but can be perfectly serviceable
for films distributed via the internet—and beyond. The band The Presidents
of the United States of America recently shot a music video using a cell phone,
and the South African feature film “SMS Sugar Man” was likewise
shot on cell phones.
If you’re willing to invest some money in a proper digital camcorder,
the market is saturated with options, some quite reasonably priced, some semi-professional
models costing thousands of dollars. It’s beyond the scope of this article
to give an overview of camcorder options, but those interested in investing
in a medium-to-high quality digital video camera are encouraged to head to cnet.com,
which offers comprehensive camcorder reviews.
Get an editing program: Apple computer currently comes bundled with
an excellent introductory digital video editing program called iMovie.
It lacks a lot of the bells and whistles of a professional editing program,
but has good, intuitive, basic controls—after a few hours of playing around
with the program, you should be able to piece together various clips into a
competent short film. The newest version of iMovie offers some useful sound
editing features as well, and the program is designed to work easily with the
entire iLife suite
of programs. This means that it is quite easy to add music tracks from iTunes
or photographs from iPhoto,
burn it to a disc using iDVD,
or upload to a Web page using iWeb.
you’re working with a PC, the nearest equivalent is Windows
Movie Maker, available for free download at Microsoft.com. As is often the
case with PC software, you’re going to have to work a little harder to
put together a film—for example, you’re going to need third-party
software to burn your completed project to a DVD. Nevertheless, Windows Movie
Maker is a simple, fairly intuitive program that offers many of the same features
For those willing to spend some money, there are some terrifically sophisticated
editing programs on the market. The most popular of these are certainly Avid
Cut Pro, which both retail for over $1,000, and require some training to
Distribute online: Once you’ve completed your movie and converted
it into an appropriate format (Quicktime is especially popular for online videos),
it’s time to upload it. If you have your own web page and know some basic
HTML, it’s easy enough to simply upload the movie to your own server and
embed it into your page, but there’s really no need. There are a growing
number of websites that will store your digital video for you at no cost, and
even provide you with the necessary HTML to plug your digital video into any
web page you choose.
The most popular among these is YouTube,
which boasts about 70,000 new clips every day and has about 20 million viewers.
It is free to have an account at YouTube and the uploading process is simple.
Additionally, YouTube comes with a built-in audience and a rough but growing
social network: It’s quite easy to find like-minded groups of filmmakers
on YouTube and share videos. If a video becomes popular on YouTube, it is possible
for it to be seen by millions of people in a very short time. One disadvantage
of YouTube is that videos must be shorter than 10 minutes—however, the
company recently made it possible for members to apply for a “director”
status, allowing them to upload much longer films.
Similar to YouTube is Google
Video. The uploading process is a little trickier—you have to download
a program to upload your video for you—and it takes a little longer for
videos to get approved (days rather than hours), but Google Video has a few
advantages. For one thing, if you don’t want to simply give away your
video, Google Video allows you to set a price that viewers must pay to watch
(they take a percentage). Google Video does not offer the sort of community
building tools that YouTube has, however. Both YouTube and Google video automatically
convert your video into a Flash document, which speeds up its download time
but decreases the quality of the image.
third option is OurMedia,
a nonprofit, self-described “Global Home for Grassroots Media.”
In some ways, OurMedia is the worst of the three: It has a slow approval time,
it’s not as popular as the other two sites, and it’s hard to use.
But OurMedia has a few real advantages. First, it’s associated with the
an excellent—and popular—free library of digital media. A video
uploaded to OurMedia will be stored on Archive, which bodes well for its longevity.
Second, OurMedia is not limited to digital video —you can upload anything
that can be digitized, including photographs, documents and music. Finally,
OurMedia preserves the digital document in its original form—if you upload
your video as a Quicktime movie, it’ll stay a Quicktime movie, rather
than being converted into a Flash movie. Quicktime films are generally higher
quality than Flash videos and more easily edited.
One final note: Low-budget filmmakers should be able to start making
and distributing movies for a few thousand dollars, but there is also an option
for no-budget filmmakers. MTN,
Minneapolis’s public access television network, offers courses in digital
filmmaking for just a few hundred dollars. Once you’re trained on their
equipment, you can use it freely to shoot whatever you want, including digital
cameras (which can be checked out) and computers bundled with iMovie and Final
Cut. The only condition is that anything shot and edited using their equipment
must be shown on public access cable. MTN is located at 125 SE Main Street in
Minneapolis and can be reached at 612-331-8575. ||
Sparber is a designer, playwright and amateur filmmaker. Some of his short
films can be seen online at sailormartin.blogspot.com
THE COMING DIGITAL VIDEO REVOLUTION
the Digital Revolution" by Max Sparber
local digital filmmakers online" a Pulse guide
digital video and online distribution is going to change the world"
by Max Sparber