Category: Video Production Tips

How to make a puddle of blood that expands

How to make a puddle of blood that expands

Have you ever wanted to shoot a scene where one of your actors gets shot in the head or trips and in the following scene they are lying on the floor in a puddle of blood? In this article you’ll learn how to make the “puddle of blood” effect at home!

More specifically, you’ll learn how to make a puddle of blood that expands as if the actor was bleeding out.

What you’ll need

You’ll need a few particular things to pull off this effect:

  • Fake blood
  • A rubber hose
  • Hot glue
  • An empty plastic bottle (at least 1l of volume)
  • A pair of scissors or a knife
  • And an actor who doesn’t mind getting their hair and clothes dirty

The fake blood

There are 2 ways of getting fake blood:

Buying it off the Internet

You can easily get fake blood from Amazon. It comes in different sized containers. Make sure you choose a product that isn’t gelatine-based. Why? Because you don’t want it to thicken over time.

Gallon of fake blood
Check out this one I found on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2EUnXnS

Making the blood yourself

Preparing fake blood is a simple process. It can be done in many different ways. Here’s a video by Thaitrick I found on the subject:

For the purpose of making a puddle of blood under your actor’s head, make sure your blood isn’t too thick. It should be as runny as in the video. Otherwise it would be hard to get the blood through the hose.

Fun fact: Alfred Hitchcock used Boso Chocolate Syrup as fake blood in his movie “Psycho”. After all, the film was black and white.

The dispenser for fake blood

Now this is the fun part for all of you engineers! You’ll make a device, which will make our pond of blood slowly grow.

For this part you’ll need :

Scissors, plastic bottle, hot glue and a hose
  • A rubber hose – the smaller its diameter, the slower the flow
  • A big plastic bottle (at least 1l)
  • A pair of scissors or a knife
  • A hot glue gun
  • A rod of hot glue

Plug the hot glue gun in before the assembly, since it takes a while for it to heat up.

How to assemble it step by step:

First of all, empty the plastic bottle and cut it approximately in half of its length.

Cutting a plastic bottle in a striped t-shirt
This will be the top of your funnel

Secondly, make a hole in the bottle cap. Make sure it’s at least as big as the inner diameter of the hose. Otherwise the blood flow will be sluggish.

Making a hole in a bottle cap
Put the cap on a surface and push one end of the scissors on its middle. Don’t do it against your hand!

Thirdly, cut the rubber hose to the desired length – 1 meter will work just fine for closeup shots of the head. In contrast, use a longer piece if you’d like to show the entire actor lying on the floor.

Cutting a rubber hose with scissors
And snip!

Finally, glue one end of the hose to your bottle cap. Above all, bear in mind not to get glue inside the hole. It will block the blood flow. If, however, you managed to get the glue in there, just cut that end of the hose, get another bottle cap and try again!

Hot gluing a rubber hose to a bottle cap
Stick the hose inside the hole and seal the connection with hot glue. Using the dispenser will be cleaner if it doesn’t leak.

That’s it! Now you have your very own blood dispenser for creating puddles of blood under your actors.

How to make the puddle

Using the dispenser is pretty straightforward. It is essentially a funnel for your fake blood.

Firstly, attach the hose to the back of your actor’s clothes (duct tape comes in handy) – or better, run it through their clothes. This way the hose will be hidden even better. Certainly, the end of the hose should be under your actor’s head – that’s where the puddle will form.

transparent hose taped to the back of the head
Duct tape sticks well to the skin and is easy to remove – if the pieces ale small

Next, get somebody to hold the funnel up in the air. Another person should pour the fake blood inside. You may only need one person to do it all, but if you bought the gallon of blood which I mentioned above, then it may be a little tricky.

Pouring fake blood into a funnel
I used raspberry juice, since I didn’t have any fake blood lying around.

Eventually, the blood should be coming out of the other end of the hose. If, however, the flow is too slow, try blowing inside the bottle. It will solve the problem.

Fake blood splatter on the floor
Unfortunately nobody at my house wanted to get dirty for this effect. Maybe that’s because I used the sweet & sticky raspberry juice?
fake blood puddle on dry ground
The hose being transparent makes it easy to predict when to say “Action!”

Did you like this trick? I can assure you that it works, since I used it for a school video once. I will update the article if I find it someday.

Untill next week!

~Bob

Smartphone video – how to get killer image out of your smartphone?

Smartphone video – how to get killer image out of your smartphone?

Do your smartphone videos look unprofessional? Would you like to shoot better footage with it? This article will teach you how to improve the video quality of your phone.

Audio

Clear audio is what makes a good smartphone video. It’s more pleasurable to watch content with bad quality of the image, but crystal clear audio than with good image but bad audio.

In the end, it’s often the audio that gets the message through in a video, right?

You won’t get good audio from your smartphone if you just point the camera at yourself and start recording.

And it’s not that the microphone is bad. Even the best microphone won’t record good audio if it’s on the other side of the room! The closer the microphone is to your mouth, the better the sound will be. In the world of audio, this is called the Proximity effect

proximity effect
Look at how close the singer is to the microphone. This way her voice can be heard clearly, and the microphone picks up almost no background noise.

If you’d like to get clearer audio – move the microphone closer to yourself (your subject).

But how to accomplish that using a smartphone?

You won’t get good audio for your smartphone video with the internal microphone, unless you’re okay with your face occupying the whole frame!

However, let’s assume that you’re not okay with it and start looking for alternative solutions. I can think of four:

Get another smartphone ($$$)

Borrow it from somebody or use your old one. Then open the voice recorder app. Next, set the recording quality to the highest and voi’la! You’ve got a wireless audio recorder which you can hold next to your mouth. You could also buy yourself a spongy wind filter (like this one) for cheap to look like a real interviewer.

On the other hand, there is a con to this approach. Namely, you’ll have to synchronize audio with video in post. This, however, isn’t that much of a pain in the neck if you record continuously. However, if you ever have trouble with syncing your audio with video – try Red Giant’s PluralEyes.

Red Giant didn’t pay me to promote their products 🙂

Use your smartphone’s earphone mic ($)

white earphones with a microphone for smartphone video
The little hole on the right is the microphone.

Your smartphone earphones have a microphone. Certainly, it will be used as the main microphone when you record video. Just connect the earphones to your smartphone and boom! You’ve got a lapel microphone. Just tape it to your body under your clothes. If the earphone cable is too short for you, simply get a second smartphone, just like in the paragraph above.

Get a lavalier microphone ($$)

Lavalier mics, lapel mics – these are the little ones TV presenters wear. They are almost invisible if hidden correctly.

How to make sure an external microphone will work with my smartphone?
lavalier microphone for smartphone video
I once bought this one for cheap and I haven’t had any problems with it ever since.

You can get ones that can connect to your smartphone via a TRRS jack plug. This is the plug which your smartphone earphones utilize. Not only does it provide connection for the left and right audio channel, but also for the microphone. This is exactly the connector, which TRRS lavalier mics use to communicate with your smartphone. To check out the microphone I use with my smartphone on Amazon click here.

TRS and TRRS
Left – TRRS jack plug (this one will work with your smartphone) Right – TRS plug

Get an XLR microphone and a device with an XLR input ($$$)

XLR is the audio industry standard connection for microphones

XLR connection allows for better quality, less noisy audio. Therefore, if you’re one of the people who prefer futureproofing their gear to temporary DIY solutions – get an XLR microphone. It could be one of these three:

  1. Dynamic
  2. Shotgun
  3. Condenser

Which one you choose depends strictly on how you’re planning to use it.

  • Get a dynamic microphone for street polls
  • Get a shotgun microphone for
    • filmmaking
    • online videos, where you’d like to hide the microphone outside of the frame
  • Get a condenser microphone for podcasts singing or recording instruments

Of course, if you already have one of these then nothing stops you from using it for different purposes. Get creative 🙂

However, keep in mind that if you’d like to record audio through XLR – you will need either an audio interface or an external recorder. For instance, I use this cheap-o one from Amazon. To clarify, It is not the cheapest one from Behringer. Therefore, it already has a metal housing.

Behringer U-Phoria UMC22 audio interface
Behringer U-Phoria UMC22

Lighting your scene

Good lighting is the key to shooting great smartphone video. The sensor in your smartphone camera is tiny. As a result, it needs lots of light to produce quality video. Keep that in mind when you choose a spot for recording.

Avoid shooting in your basement with the lights off. Neither does shooting under a broken street light during the night seem a particularly good idea.

Instead, try one of these to light up you face:

  • lights of a storefront (Used for example by JR Alli in his New York City – Don’t Blink)
  • the window in your room
  • sunlight
  • a flashlight (if you’re shooting in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night)
  • the lights by the mirror in your toilet
  • the light from your laptop screen
  • a cheap softbox kit (like this one I found on Amazon: click here)
  • a work light which you may already have in your garage
softbox for smartphone video
Softboxes are a simple way to professionally light any scene

Stabilization of a smartphone video

Next step is to figure out how to make your footage stable. You’ll face the following problems:

  • First of all, it is hard to introduce camera shake when you’re shooting with a heavily rigged RED camera. It is, however, relatively easy to shake a light camera. Therefore, you’ll need to add weight to your smartphone or keep it mounted to something.
  • Secondly, lectronic image stabilization does not look good. Therefore, if your device has optical image stabilization – use it!
  • Finally, shooting with wider lenses equals less shaky video. Try out some of these cheap clip-on wide angle converters. This is what they look like.

Click here to check out our article on the topic of DIY stabilization!

But, if you want even smoother footage, an electronic gimbal will give you just what you need. Check out this one that’s made specifically for smartphones!

Zhiyun Smooth 4 gimbal for smartphone video
Zhiyun Smooth 4

External app for smartphone video

If your standard camera app doesn’t provide a lot of functionality – feel free to betray it. Look through the Play Store/App Store. There is a ton of filmmaking apps that are flooded with great options like:

  • Manual exposure controls
  • Manual focusing
  • Focus peaking
  • False color
  • Flat color profile

The most popular app for shooting smartphone video (at the time of writing this article) is FiLMiC Pro. You can get it for both Android and iOS. I used it on a Samsung Galaxy S3 a few years ago, and it was a huuge step up from the default camera app. This isn’t a sponsored ad 🙂

Post-production

Feel free to get creative in your editing software, but keep one thing in mind:

Smartphone video is usually heavily compressed. Consequently, it is no good for color grading.

color grading smartphone video
Heavy color grading your smartphone video often results in a noisy image

If you need to color correct some clips – do it. However, don’t puch the sliders and curves too far, because you’ll stars seeing artefacts and digital noise pretty quickly.

Did you leave the electronic image stabilization OFF? Great! Now you may be able to get some sweet results using software stabilization. I recommend you to try out the Warp Stabilizer in Premiere Pro. It does a great job stabilizing shaky footage! But make sure that no object are passing through the shot. These usually spoil the effect 🙁

In conclusion, smartphone video can look astonishing if done correctly. And doing it correctly is just a matter of following some simple steps! Come back to this article before you shoot your next smartphone video.

See you next week!

Bob

Cover Photo by Angela Compagnone on Unsplash

How to prepare for shooting a corporate video?

How to prepare for shooting a corporate video?

If you want to prepare for shooting a corporate video, but don’t know what to begin with – this tutorial is for you. Below are 6 steps to prepare for shooting a corporate video:

1. Meet your client in person

The first step for a successful preparation should be arranging a meeting. If possible – meet at the location where you’ll be shooting. This way your client will find it easier to explain what they want to show in the video.

Photo by Thomas Drouault on Unsplash

You’ll also be able to plan some of the shots already. Therefore you’ll know if the rooms are too dark and need additional lighting or if the spaces are very tight and require a wider lens.

The human eye accomodates to poor lighting conditions. We don’t notice subtle changes of brightness. However, our cameras do. Therefore, I always take my camera with me to check the lighting conditions during the first meeting. Crucial when preparing for shooting a corporate video!

Take a piece of paper and a pen with you. No matter how good you think your memory is – you will forget some detail. Shooting a corporate video for the first time may overwhelm you, since it’s such an important task. Noting on your piece of paper will make it less scary. Additionaly, it will give you the feeling of being in control. Thet’s because having planned 60% of the video with your client – there’s only 40% that you’ll have to come up with yourself.

2. Find a few potential songs you could use in the corporate video

Go through some free music libraries and try to find something interesting. You may also negotiate the budget and buy a licensed track. Remember – a piece of music that’s good for editing video to does not neccessarily have to sound great on its own.

Photo by Namroud Gorguis on Unsplash

You don’t need to like the taste of fish to enjoy the taste of sushi. A sushi roll is a composition of different ingredients and has a taste of its own.

My girlfiend – Wiki

From now on I will refer to the quote above as the “Sushi Phenomenon”

Try to close your eyes and see the location where you’ll be shooting with the track playing in the background. Maybe some interesting cuts come to your mind? If you feel a thrill, then that’s the track you were looking for.

When it comes to the choice of music, there are two paths you could follow:

  1. Don’t send them the track for acceptance, since the composition of music and video follows the Sushi Phenomenon. Risk them wanting you to change the music. That means re-editing the whole video.
  2. Send them the track for acceptance. You will eventually find a track that they approve. This way your client will be less likely to change their mind about the track.

I prefer the former, since it gets you editing much sooner. Moreover, there are situations where your client is dissatisfied with how the song they chose or approved works with the corporate video.

3. Prepare a shotlist and a timeline for the corporate video

If you don’t know yet what a shotlist is – it’s an ordered list of all the shots you will use in your video. Try to be precise describing them. You don’t have to stick to all of your ideas on set, but writing as much as you can think of is beneficial for your time efficiency on location. That is, the more you write down, the clearer your vision of the finished corporate video will be. Therefore, it will take you less time to come up with alternative solution when something doesn’t work out.

I advise you to draw something I call a “timeline”.

As video editors we tend to have a better understanding of chronology when we see a timeline. Just like in our video editing software.

Try drawing your shotlist as if it was a project on a timeline:

  • Let you shots be represented as rectangles
  • Below them draw rectangles which will represent sound effects and music

This way you will know which shots are really neccessary for your corporate video and what sound effects you will need to record at the location (or find on the Internet)

4. Make sure you have all the gear you need

… and pack it the day before! It is very easy to forget something crucial like a battery or an SD card at home. Therefore, packing your gear the day before saves you stress.

Photo by Jeff Hopper on Unsplash

It is also the last chance to realize that you indeed don’t have a certain piece of gear that you really need. If it is vital you still have some time to borrow it from a good friend or buy it at a local store for future projects. However, if you’ll be able to get by without it, this is the time to re-plan the parts of your video which require this particular piece of gear.

5. Arrange a meeting (or more) to shoot

One but last step before you shoot! Arrange the meeting. By now you should know if you will be able to shoot the whole corporate video in one day. Otherwise, agree on a few dates when it’s most convenient to shoot particular scenes.

Certain employees, offices and devices may not be available at all times.

As an example look at this list of who’s absent during the week when you’d like to shoot:

  • Monday – all working
  • Tuesday – the head accountant is having a day off
  • Wednesday – 2 out of 5 hired graphic designers are on holiday
  • Thursday – 2 out of 5 hired graphic designers are on holiday
  • Friday – 2 out of 5 hired graphic designers are on holiday
  • Saturday – closed
  • Sunday – closed

So according to the information above:

  • Monday is the only possible day to shoot a main walkthrough of the company, if you’re planning to have all of the employees in one shot
  • Monday and Tuesday are the only days when you’ll be able to shoot some footage of the graphic designers, since they’ll be absent until the end of the week
  • You’ll only be able to shoot footage of the main accountand on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

All of the above may be obvious, but it is crucial to get such information from your client. After your first meeting (step 1) you should know what they particularly want you to show in the video.

Ask them this specific question:

On which days between [the timeframe you’re interested in] will we have access to [a room, device, employee they wanted you to include in the video]?

Write down what they say. This should make planning your meetings a piece of cake!

6. Take your notes on set

Take everything you wrote down in the previous steps with you on set. Having your notes in your pocket will make it much easier to come up with alternative shots in case something doesn’t go as planned.

Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

For example:

  • Somebody may loose consciousness at work. You’ll then have to shoot in other parts of the company while the paramedics take care of them.
  • Some device may break or randomly stop functioning. You’ll have to shoot it when it’s repaired OR make use of the notes in your backpocket! Maybe you can show a certain quality of the company withot the shot of that device? Your notes will help you out.

In case something goes wrong you should also be able to contact the person who you arranged the meetings with.

You’re done preparing for your corporate video shoot!

If up to now you’ve followed all of the steps above, you should be ready to shoot that corporate video you were so stressed out about. However, if you aren’t on the verge of shooting a video for a company – come back again when the time comes. I’m sure this tutorial will guide you through the not-so-complicated process of preparation for shooting a corporate video. I hope you’ll remember to charge the batteries and format your SD cards 🙂

7 ways to get stable footage with no budget

7 ways to get stable footage with no budget

We’ve all been there. You’re just tired of how bumpy your footage is. Additionaly you would like to increase the production vallue of your videos. There are numerous camera stabilizers out there like the all-mechanical Glidecam or electronic gimbals like the DJI Ronin. However, you don’t need to spend money to get silky smooth shots with your camera. Everything can be done the DIY way. Here are 7 ways to get stable footage with no budget:

1. Walking smoothly

When you record something, don’t walk like an elephant. Every step will create a wobbly image and you won’t be satisfied with your footage. Instead try bending your knees a little bit more. This will reduce the bumpiness of your footage, since your knees amortize your steps. 

I also found wearing running shoes quite helpful. That’s because they also absorb some of the bumps with their thick sole.

2. Strap stabilization

Man stretching a camera strap
Stretch the strap like this

Fun fact, the DSLR or mirrorless you’re using comes with a stabilizer out of a box. It is the camera strap that you sometimes take off. Now, hang the camera on your neck and apply forward pressure, so that the strap becomes stiff. That’s how you get stable footage in any conditions!

You can also make jib and slider shots using the same technique! Apply forward pressure to your camera body to stiffen the strap. 

Now try moving the camera:

Side to side

This will create a slider shot. There is a particular reason why this technique works so great. Not only does the camera travel smoothy left to right or right to left, but it is also pointing in the same direction throughout the motion! For that reason alone you won’t ever need a short slider for traveling – you can losslessly substitute these slider shots for the shots achieved using this technique!

Vertically

What will this help you accomplish? Exactly, a jib shot with no jib! Unfortunately, this time the strap won’t help us keep the camera pointing the same direction all the time. However, this allows you to tilt the camera during the motion and focus the attention of your audience on a certain subject

Dolly in, dolly out

if you bend your back, you can use the same technique to fake smooth dolly in and dolly out shots

Or combine all of the above

And get some interesting results.

3. Adding weight

The main reason why smartphone footage usually looks shaky compared to what you see in cinemas is the weight of the camera (or the whole rig). Blockbusters are shot using RED and ARRI cameras, which weigh a lot even when unrigged . Compare that to the weight of your DSLR, mirrorless or smartphone camera and the solution comes naturally – add more weight.

It seems counterintuitive, but adding weight to your camera will Make the footage more stable.

Why is that?

To move a larger object you have to apply a greater force. It is easier to knock over a vase than a fridge, or going to an extreme – a building. Therefore, tiny forces, which are responsible for the shakiness of your video will have a harder time trying to move your camera around.

How to add weight to a camera?

The simplest, obvious way is to tie it to something heavy (Maybe an anvil if you have one?)


Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

The optimal way is to keep the new setup functional. Get a cage for your camera. Add a microphone and an external monitor to it. Add a battery pack. All the weight will add up resulting in smoother shots – stable footage.

4. Wide lens

Attaching a wide angle lens is an instant fix for wobbliness in you footage. The cheapest wide angle lens for Canon crop-sensor DSLRs is probably the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM. It is enough for shooting outside in natural lighting contitions. However, it is a bit too slow (The aperture doesn’t open wide enough) for indoor and night shots.

Since we’re talking no budget – a cheaper alternative to buying a lens is to simply buy a wide angle converter like the one below:


This particular one screws into a 58mm thread on top of your lens. This means that it’s just right for your Canon 18-55mm kit lens. However, if you’re planning to use it with a lens that has a different thread – you will need to buy a different converter. On the other hand, if the lens has a smaller diameter of the thread – you may use step up rings to attach this particular converter to it. It will make the field of view wider. Therefore the shots will become more stable.

5. Body slider

Man shifting bodyweight holding a DSLR camera
Try it now! You should get the idea quickly.

Did you know that you can use your body as a camera slider? Hold your forearms close to your chest and get a good grip on the camera. Now shift the weight of your body from one leg to the other and BOOM! – You’ve got a slider!

6. Tripod steadicam

Canon DSLR on a tripod
You just pinch it with your thumb an index finger. Don’t grab it with your whole hand!

A friend of mine used this one a lot. If you grab a tripod below its head in two fingers, it will smooth out the motion a bit. Still, it is a good starting point for stabilization in post-production.

7. Monopod jib

Canon DSLR on a monopod
Raise your camera up high and play around with motion!

This one is fun! But be sure that your camera is screwed tightly to the monopod. We’re going to do something risky here.

The trick here is to grab the bottom of your monopod and stick it up in the air. It will give you great elevation and stabilize your shots, since your hands are further from the camera.

To get a jib shot just play around with camera movement. Go down to top, side to side – find something that works for you! 

To sum up. There are a plenty ways to stabilize your shots with little to no money. Stable footage is achievable in plenty of ways. Filmmaking is all about creativity 😀

How to screw a shotgun microphone onto a tripod

How to screw a shotgun microphone onto a tripod

Have you ever been shocked that the screw in the quick release plate of your tripod is too small and won’t screw into a shotgun microphone like the RODE Videomic or a tripod head?

Whatever it is that you’re having a hard time with – I’ve already been through that problem. It just won’t screw in! 😮

The reason why it won’t:

The screw on top of you tripod is 1/4 inch in diameter, wheras the the threaded hole you’re having a hard time with is 3/8 inch in diameter. More specifically it is a 3/8-16 screw, which stands for 3/8 inch in diameter and 16 threads per inch of its height.

Why are there two types of screws for video gear?

3/8 inch is a standard thread for attaching tripod heads to their legs. For any tripod, that has a head detachable from the legs, or for companies, which sell tripod legs and heads separately – the standard bolt to tighten the kit together is the 3/8-16 screw .

The exceptions for this are:

  • When the camera must be attachable even without a proper tripod head screwed on. Monopods are a great example of such use. Freelancers shooting media coverage who you often see on public events don’t usually put a head on a monopod. Since it is basically a metal rod, it allows for quick and easy camera pans and tilts. No tripod head needed.
  • When the legs and the head are very small and compact.

In these cases the base – be it the tripod legs or a monopod – is equipped with the 1/4-20 screw you’re used to. Analogously as for the 3/8-16 bolt, 1/4 is the diameter of the screw in inches and 20 is the number of threads per inch.

Okay, but how do I screw a 1/4 inch screw into a 3/8 inch hole?

You are going to need a screw converter/thread reducer – there are a lot of names for these.

I recommend buying them in packs, because if you only have one and loose it – you are in trouble. I had a few shoots when I couldn’t use my shotgun microphone on a monopod (to serve as a boompole).

Easy to unscrew

I recommend this kind of converters, since they have a groove on one end. You use it to screw the adapter out if you get it too far in.

Get it here on Amazon:

Foto&Tech 5 Pieces Metal 1/4″ to 3/8″ Convert Screw Adapter for Tripod Monopod Ballhead DSLR SLR

I personally used it to attach my RODE Videomic to a monopod, which had a 1/4 inch screw on top of it. It was a cheap monopod and unfortunately it didn’t stand the test of time (or more probably of my own stupidity 😛 ) I used it to support one end of a 6kg video slider, which resulted in the slider ripping the 1/4 inch mount off the monopod. They say we learn on our own mistakes 🙂

Picture of the 1/4 to 3/8 inch screw converter was taken by
https://www.flickr.com/photos/qubodup/

and is licensed under:
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode