Creativity & Collaboration

Creativity is a powerful life force mojo accelerator. Collaboration is a powerful and satisfying brain enhancer.


The cast & crew of “Aeranger” on location in Topanga Canyon, CA. Left to right, Kristen Pickrell-Makeup Artist, Bobbie Breckenridge-lead Actress, Nick Kretz-BTS Photographer, Jon Schweigart-Cinematographer and Sage Bova-Sound Recording/taking this picture.

How To Turn Your Smartphone Into A Inexpensive DSLR Style Video Camera With A Simple Rig & Apps

In this tutorial, I share with you the basic smartphone video rig and apps I use to capture DSLR style video easily and inexpensively.

Be sure to watch my video channel for more Sci-Fi filmmaking giddy-up.

How To Organize A Hard Drive Of Raw Footage To Entice An Editor To Work On Your Low Or No Budget Video Project

You spend months thinking about and prepping your project during pre-production period. You wrote the project or created it. You have a handle on it or are steering the ship. Momentum is building. You survive the shoot and now you enter the post-production phase. You have a years worth of blood, sweat, and tears on a hard drive. You need to find an editor

You look at some editing reels and the editor you think is perfect is $650 a day your total budget for the edit is $500. You talk to several editors to try and get them excited about your project in the hopes they will join the team. I am going to stop right here. Put yourself in the editor’s shoes, you want them to edit for little or no money and to start off that relationship you’re going to hand them a hard drive with three terabytes of raw footage that contains a bunch of folders that say, Card 01, Card 02 and contains numerically labeled shots. That is hardly enticing, in fact, its a deterrent.

Here is a simple way to get an Editor excited about working on your project. You want them to be able to dive right in. You are going to prep the drive. First, create a series of folders. The main folder will be the project name, the title of the work. Within that folder create subfolders. Number them as follows: 01_project, 02_Media, 03_Music, 04_Audio, 05_GFX, 06_Docs, 07_Stills, 08_Assets, 09_Exports.

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Now move all your media into the 02_Media folder. If you record audio separately move that into the 04_Audio folder. Add a copy of the script into the 06_Docs folder. If you have storyboards put a copy there. If you have ideas for music put those in the 03 Music Folder.

This next step is what will really help you entice an editor to start on the project. Set up the project in the editing software and make selects. Most likely you will be using Final Cut, AVID or Adobe Premiere. As of now, the most predominant DIY platform is Adobe Premiere Pro CC. If you don’t own it you can get started for under $20 a month. Whichever platform you choose the steps are the same and very similar to the project folder structure. In your chosen editing platform create a new project. In the project create a series of folders. 01_ Sequence, 02_Media, 03_Music, 04_Audio, 05_GFX, 06_SFX, 07_Titles, 08_Misc. Next, import your footage into the project. Media into the media folder, Audio into the audio folder, etc.

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This next step will really go a long way. Create a New Sequence in your project and call it selects. Start to watch all your raw footage and “select” your preferred takes and pull them into the timeline. Perhaps you like two, just pull them both. Creating a sequence and making selects is very simple. If your not comfortable or familiar with the editing platform at all a few google searches will guide you through this basic process.

Alternatively, if that seems too involved or beyond your time or abilities. At the very least Set up the drive with the folders and create a paper edit. Create a document and assign a brief description of each Footage Card and Contents. Then Do a paper edit. Watch the footage in a viewer such as Quick-Time. Make your selects that way. Create a new document, split the page into two columns. On the left will be the script, On the right will be your notes and your ‘Selects” If the script says, ‘Mary Enters, speaks to Bill. Mary: Hi Bill!” That will be in the left column in the right will be the shot into something like Mary Enters Card02, IMG-0190.mp4 at 03:04. And just map the whole script out with your selects.

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The point of all this is to present the editor with a project they can jump right into. If you present an editor with a low rate and terabytes of raw footage they will politely pass. If you talk to an editor excited about the possibilities of the project with specific examples from media you’ve already organized and prepped you have a reasonable chance to get them just as excited about being a part of something. If you don’t have the money to invest you simply need to invest your time. Sharing the time investment with the editor rather than laying it all on them will encourage talented people to join you. Last I should mention be sure to make a backup of the drive and its contents and store that away safely.

For more tips and shared experience visit our youtube channel Create Sci-Fi with plenty of informative videos on creating content.


The Evolution Of Filming Video With Your Smartphone

More and more I am filming content on my smartphone and I am digging it. Let me start off by saying I am old enough to have been creating content before there were video cameras and desktop editing options. I am also young enough to have been an early adopter of that technology. When I started creating videos over 10 years ago all the working film people would give us video creators a hard time. Saying it’s less than, a toy and not legitimate. Well now that is no longer true and it was well worth my time to go on the journey. Recently hearing about phone filming technologies I scoffed at them. Then I had an uncomfortable realization. I was treating the idea of shooting video on the phone the same way the film people scoffed at video in my early days. I quickly started to learn about the new technologies this is what I found.


To start you want to beef up your camera app and get a sound recording app. The two camera apps that I have been using are Filmic Pro at $14.99 and Movie Pro at $5.99. Right now for me, Filmic Pro is in the lead also the Film Riot Show did a great review tutorial on Filmic Pro here. For audio I have been using one app I’m very happy with called the Apogee Meta Recorder at $4.99. For a single person shooting I have been using a simple inexpensive phone lav, you can get ones like this on Amazon for $20.00. If you are shooting a scene with multiple people you can use a shotgun, Rhode has many phone friendly options.

For stabilization and framing there are many options as well. On a basic level I use a simple tripod phone mount and a basic flexible gorilla tripod. Here is a best of list. Recently I purchased a handheld rig from iographer for around $60.00.

Last I will say I have worked professionally as a video editor and when I import video captured on the phone into the editing program I am hard pressed to find any reasons for not capturing video images on the phone. All the gear to make a legitimate attempt at filming with your phone is under $100.00. That to me is amazing. I would highly recommend you explore the possibilities of shooting a short film or web series idea you’ve been kicking around as soon as possible. With gear under $100.00, it will only cost your time.

To put my money where mouth is so to speak, on my youtube “How To” channel I am doing a series called “How To Make A Sci-Fi Short Film” So far all the episodes are shot on the phone and the short that I will be making at the end of the series will be shot on the smartphone.

I hope you found this simple hack useful. For more tips and shared experience visit and subscribe to my above-mentioned youtube channel Create Sci-Fi with plenty of informative videos on creating content.

Casting A Minor Celebrity Will Increase Interest In Your Short Film Or Web Series

One great way to elevate the status of your web series is to cast a known actor who has been off the radar. In film, Quentin Tarantino is the master of this. With our modest web series production budgets, we can scale this practice down. For example, if your web series is sci-fi you would try and cast a memorable day player who was in several episodes of the TV series Star Trek: Enterprise (2001–2005). If you are making a comedy perhaps you look for a lead actor from an 80’s TV show that you’ve not seen show up in anything in a while. Making a Thriller? Find that actor from that memorable X-Files episode, you get the idea. My colleagues and I are always trying to think of actors for our projects that people know, but don’t know they know, until you remind them. If your script and concept are solid and you are organized and persistent, you can land one of these actors for your show.


Some examples of would be Beverly Owen (later re-placed by Pat Priest) as the teenage niece on, “The Munsters”. Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts who both replaced the Kate Jackson character in the original, “Charlie’s Angeles”. Jenilee Harrison and Priscilla Barnes who both replaced Suzanne Somers character in the 70’s & early 80’s TV Show,” Three’s Company”.

Some people may be skeptical but when you have invested all of your time and energy into a project you want to make sure you’ve done everything to ensure the success of your show. Securing an actor that resonates in the pop culture zeitgeist can go a long way in stimulating interest in your project. Consider casting a recognizable actor in a minor role as the Mom or Dad, the Boss, the Quirky Neighbor, the Spaceship Captain… I could go on.

Here is the Hack. Consider this type of an actor for a supporting role in which you can shoot their appearances across your entire season in one day. Once you have an actor in mind you need to consult IMDB Pro to learn who represents them. If they list an agent and manager the manager is preferable as they tend to have a more personal relationship with their clients. If it’s just an agent then use the agent.


Your Video Production Music On A Budget Can be Royalty Free And Not Suck

I want to share with you some simple scoring solutions I’ve come across and use a few myself. Music is often not dealt with as part of pre-production in tight budget scenarios. A lot of time and effort goes into location scouting, production design, casting and the monumental task of simply scheduling everything. Editing becomes a priority immediately after shooting simply because you want to see what you got. But the score is often ignored by most filmmakers and becomes an afterthought. Not because of ignorance or poor planning mostly because they are the last steps and often fall under the proverb “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it”!


Often times scoring falls to the editor by default and he or she will score with temp music that you do not have the rights to but helps with pace and tempo. That becomes a slippery slope, you can become married to a tempo and energy and then never get the rights to that track. Also if your picture cuts are married to the music once you change it out recutting is inevitable and that’s going to be double the work. Worst case scenario is your cut was better with music you cannot obtain, that will haunt you. My hack is simple, create a music library of the vibe you want for your project. I Would recommend 3 to 1, three song options for each scene or a moment you will be scoring. Make it clear these are the only options. That way the editor can audition the tracks from that group of preselections that are in your budget or already cleared.

The good news is great news actually, getting the rights to a piece of music to score your production has become very affordable and there are many free options. Filmmakers can get cheap or free scores by creating them through software programs like GarageBand or an online service like Filmstro that allows you to score your video with their library. Websites like Pond5 and Audiojungle have tracks you can get the rights to for around $20. If you consider the time investment of the free options $20 is a bargain. Also with the low-cost sites like AudioJungle and Pond5 you can download any track before you actually buy it. This makes it easy to fill up your projects music library. It will have an audio watermark but that is fine for trying out tracks in your edit. You can also find some free options too. I’ve used Free Stock Music quite a few times. And for free sound effects an excellent resource is Freesound.

Creating your own scores with GarageBand can be rewarding, it’s not too difficult to learn and with the newer version you can import your video. GARAGE BAND TUTORIAL

Is a customizable music library that always you to control several aspects of a music track to customise it to your image. It is subscription based. FILMSTRO TUTORIALS

Is part of Envato Market. At AudioJungle you can buy royalty-free music and sound effects inexpensively. The site is home to a bustling community of audio composers and producers. They offer ‘Music Kits” to customise and rearrange music tracks without using complex software. Basically, they give you the separate elements of a track.

Similar to AudioJungle, Pond5 is a New York-based online marketplace for royalty-free media. The company licenses stock footage, stock music, stock photography sound effects, after effects, images and 3-D models.

Free Stock Music
There are many free tracks on this site. They offer a 100% royalty free license that allows you to use the music in all types of productions, for worldwide distribution, forever. There are never any licensing fees.
Freesound is a collaborative database of creative-commons licensed sound for musicians and filmmakers. They have just about any sound effect you are looking for.

There should be an option on this list to fit your creative and budgetary needs. I hope you found this article useful. For more tips and shared experience visit my youtube channel Create Sci-Fi with plenty of informative videos on creating content.

From Trash To Blast! How To Make A Sci-Fi Recycle Bin Laser Blaster Gun

Any good Sci-Fi project is going to need a Blaster, Laser Gun, Ray Gun, Photon Rifle, the list goes on. There are many ways to go about making these weapons for your sci-fi arsenal be it for a film, a cosplay or simply for display. In this article, I want to share with you an inexpensive and fun solution. I’ve come across a lot of craft builds with recycled plastic bottles lately and I thought hey, I have an overflowing recycle bin with a  bunch of material for some Blaster building so I figured I’d give it a try. Here I’m going to share with you what I came up with.

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First I dug into my recycle bin and found some bottles that were interesting and got out some tools.

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I roughly arranged some silhouettes for my recycle bin blaster and this was the winner.

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I start by cutting the bottom off of the water bottle.

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I merge it with a ridged chip container.

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I cut off the top of a cleaning bottle to make a hand grip. I saw that in some online video and it stuck in my head, it’s very clever and works nicely. I hot glue these parts together.

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What I learn here is that the hot glue melts this plastic bottle that is my barrel which was not what I wanted. I had to cut off the damaged excess and I decided to take this opportunity to add some more dimensions. I added a hand soap bottle as a collar that I slid over the damaged area and that cleaned it up and looked good. A happy accident as they say.

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Then I add the trigger. I simply repurposed the trigger from the cleaning bottle. To make it fit I rough out a hole in the handle with a Dremel tool to pressure fit this trigger in the handle. You could also cut a hole with an Exacto blade. It is not a practical trigger so I just secure it in place with glue.

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Next up is a spent deodorant bottle added to the top as some sort of scope. Also, I add the ball from the deodorant model to the bottom of the handle and this interesting sports bottle cap finishes off the profile nicely.

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Everything gets a light sanding so it will better accept the paint.I base coat it with a flat black primer and just dusted it a little bronze over that.

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Painting is done with a dry brush technique. Using a metallic paint with a very light amount on the brush that is further lightened by brushing onto a paper towel. The paint is applied by just lightly brushing the surface and a brushed metallic look is achieved. To add some dimensionality I add some gold metallic by extra lightly brushing the high points and that gives it a nice glow. The final touch is introducing sparse green metallic highlights in places that might be buttons or decorative just to give it a little more life.

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To make the Blaster look real and to give it some character a weathering pass is needed. That is simply some watered down brown and black paint that is washed over the entire piece. It is then quickly wiped off with a paper towel.  The dark wash remains in the low points, cracks and crevices, this gives it the illusion of being an actual object.

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Who knew space blaster hiding out right in my recycling bin! Now if I was doing a sci-fi project and I wanted to suspend your disbelief make you believe it was a real future or a parallel universe I probably wouldn’t use this prop Blaster. However, if I was doing a sci-fi fantasy like a Barbarella or a comedy this is exactly what I would use.

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The Look: The Galactic Galaxy Production Diaries

This week I want to talk about the look of my web series Galactic Galaxy. What really makes Galactic Galaxy unique and frankly me proud is the graphic novel treatment. Most often it is compared to The 80’s epic cartoon Heavy Metal. Which is a happy accident or maybe not I actually saw that movie in the theatres? I’m pretty sure we snuck out of The Great Muppet Caper and into another time and space… I digress. Many of my SciFi influences for the show are from The early 80’s Heavy Metal Comics or Metal Hurlant when it was first released and featured Mobius and my favorite Philippe Druillett, so though it was unintentional, it certainly makes sense.


I did lots of research on how to technically turn live action into illustration, the most obvious was Rotoscoping. Rotoscoping is an animation technique used by animators to trace over footage, frame by frame. The most influential for me was 1977 Wizards by Ralph Bakshi but that was very basic and more of a Broll filler. But like Heavy Metal an indispensable influence. I would not exist without those movies. More recently were the beautiful movies from Richard Linklater, Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly which are beautiful. Bob Sabiston is the man responsible for that work and it is stunning. So much so that it is the other end of the spectrum, the time money and sheer artistry behind that method was well beyond my means

maxresdefaultI used to say back to the drawing board but what is more accurate these days is, back down the google rabbit hole. I started looking into DIY desktop solutions from great resources like Red Giant and Video Co-Pilot. Shout out to Andrew Kramer, once you start to learn about SciFi DIY you can probably trace 80% of it to his tutorials. I was not able to find exactly what I needed so I started to cobble together bits and pieces from various resources until I came up with something that might work in theory. After some initial tests, I was able to come up with something that would work for my budget and not compromise my vision.

The basic process I came up with was a combination of online tutorials, some basic software and a year of trial and error. In essence, I Shoot on green screen and then key out the live action (remove the green). Then I apply a series of filters that turn the actors into an illustration. To add depth and movement a virtual film camera is introduced via Adobe After Effects to combine the 2D live action with a 3D background. To really sell this look I add very subtle camera moves and a few other subtle tweaks with film grain and lens flares.


In the end, it is a lot of work for a primarily DIY production. Many long hours were put into the creation of this show and I cannot wait to show you the end result. Be sure to subscribe and follow my video channel for more Sci-Fi filmmaking How To.

Proof Of Concept: The Galactic Galaxy Production Diaries

This week I want to talk about the proof of concept short I made for My web series Galactic Galaxy. Once I decided on the unique “tooned” look of the series I knew I had to figure out the ins and outs of how exactly it was going to work? I went through the original script and selected three scenes that showcased the most characters and major locations. The thought is this way I can get a very good idea of how to make this work and what it was going to look like.


On a very basic level in my apartment, I did a super basic, very rough test of the skull warrior. I shot very rough poorly lit footage. A worst case example if you will. I did a test of the process I planned to use and for a test, it looked pretty decent. I was relieved, this could work. From this, I was motivated and excited.


I went to work and did a casting for the scene and was planning on just doing it quickly and inexpensively as a test. Well, the good news was I did, in fact, figure out how the process would work and that in fact, it would work. However, that test footage took one year to finish. It was so exciting but so much to work out. But once I had the systems in place and the kinks ironed out it went much quicker with the web series. Still took one year but that was for six times more content.


As an afterthought, I filmed the Queen character doing a monologue I wrote to give some exposition to the random scenes so I could show it at festivals as a short film, and use it for promotional material. I was fortunate enough to get into the Dances With Films Festival which resulted in a Screening at the Historic Manns Chinese Theatre which was both exciting and motivating. the short also won a silver medal at The Stann Lee Comic Con. Not bad for a proof of concept film with no plot.


Motivated by the interest shown in the proof of concept film, I was more excited than ever to get to work on the series.  A valuable function of that was early short film was I knew the original script was not going to work and some of the characters while wonderfully acted were not working quite right within the story. Also as I mentioned I love the process and I was looking forward to refining my vision. From the short, it was clear I would have to go back to the drawing board and start the dreaded … rewrite.
Be sure to subscribe and follow my video channel for more Sci-Fi filmmaking How To.