How To Make Sci-Fi Props Sourcing Everyday Objects

In this tutorial, I take you through my process of sourcing everyday objects to convert into sci-fi props in order to save time and money.

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

 

Episode (13): Experience The Delirious Sci-Fi Comedy Web Series ‘Galactic Galaxy’

The Amazing of breaks down & reviews Galactic Galaxy for you here on his podcast. Have a listen.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

 

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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

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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.

 

How To Crowdfund Video, Crowdfunding Crash Course: Step 7 How To Make A Sci-Fi Short Film

In this tutorial on Create Sci-Fi, I am talking to all media creators, I break down all the steps of creating, launching and managing a crowdfunding campaign. With this how to, you can start today.

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

Why I Am Filming More And More Video Content With My Smartphone, An Honest Non-Technical Answer

I wanted to talk a bit about the idea of shooting video content on a smartphone. 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. A funny thing happened to me recently that made me think about that.

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When I first started shooting video in the early days, fueled by Dogme 95, I was making Mumblecore films before that name existed. Shooting video was liberating. My experience with filmmaking had been shooting music videos on Super 16 as a job. The group I was involved with would make sure to do what was known as a weekend rental. We’d shoot the band on Friday with the equipment rented on the budget provided by the record company.  Because the rental houses were closed on the weekend we would have the equipment over the weekend so we could make our personal films as long as we bought our own filmstock and had the rental back by Monday. We’d piggyback all the laborious tasks and expenses on the back of the music video budget. I remember lighting a set for hours and never really knowing if the shots were any good until almost a week later. Editing was an event. We’d rent a suite with an operator, they would provide lunch and we’d sit on a huge couch in the back of a room while an editor operated a console that looked like it belonged on the Starship Enterprise.

Then very shortly in my foray into filmmaking, these digital cameras started showing up, the Sony VX2000 and the Cannon XL1. I worked at a production house that had one coveted AVID editing system. I was low man on the pole but they were kind enough to let me edit my own projects. The catch was, I had to come in after midnight. One day they said, we just got this new thing is called, Final Cut. It was Apple’s Final Cut, version one in fact. You can use that if you want, they said. Cue Hallelujah music and sound effects. Between the new cameras and desktop editing, I was off on an adventure, one I continue to this day.

It was a rough time back then. People were very divided on the subject of film versus video. Mostly the established working people would tell you video would never look like film and how it’s not the same, and less than. And all the unestablished hard working people trying to get ahead would say, content is king and I am a storyteller and every six months the technology would get better and better. It was an exciting time. I imagine it was what it was like for kids hearing punk rock music for the first time and thinking, I can do this and starting bands with their friends.  

My long journey and commitment paid off when the DSLR cameras appeared. It all worked out fine, I could proceed to tell my stories and not have anyone undermine them because of the filmic quality. I get a warm and fuzzy feeling just thinking about the DSLR. Remember the tsunami of over-cranked footage, it was so beautiful we could not get enough. Then the slider, ah perfection. And now the drone shots … a dream come true.

What is my point you might be asking yourself? Recently I have been hearing about festival films shot on a smartphone. Reading about 4K resolution recording with a phone. Giant Billboards touting, shot with the phone. My knee-jerk reaction was, why on earth would you want to make a film on your phone? It’s a phone! I remember the yellow plastic phone on the kitchen wall with a 10-foot cord. The Motorola bricks, the Razor! Shoot a film on your phone ?!?! Ah ha! There’s the rub, I realized I was reacting just like the film veterans were reacting to me and my video punk friends back in the day. Actually, I realized that after I shot a bunch of footage on my phone that looked great.

I was somewhere with an unexpected opportunity to shoot some footage and I had no camera. I used my phone out of necessity. Once I got home and saw the results I immediately adopted it into my workflow. I did some research and downloaded a camera app that was a bit beefier than the stock one on my phone. Did some more research an purchased an audio recording app for another five bucks. And I have to say, it works quite well. I am now planning to shoot my next short film with my camera.

The last thing I’ll say is I intentionally wanted to not make this a technical comparison. However, I edit video for a living and without going into boring detail, in laymen’s terms, the video looked and sounded just fine. And for a ten dollar investment? I’d upgrade that comment to, it looked and sounded amazing.

Be sure to subscribe and follow my video channel for more filmmaking How To.

How To Make Sci-Fi Goggles: DIY Dollar Store Mash Up Video

In this tutorial, I take you through the build process step by step. I show you how to make a screen ready sci-fi goggle prop from a few Dollar Store items.

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

They Say, Dollar Store. We Say, Sci-Fi Prop Store !!

In this video, I look at inexpensive solutions to creating props for sci-fi through my process of discovery at the dollar store.

 

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

6 key Ingredients You Can Use To Increase Your Storytelling Creativity In Sci-Fi DIY Filmmaking

If you are a DIY content creator, like me and love sci-fi and fantasy, like me, the most rewarding and daunting part is the world building and creation. Here I will share with you six key components to consider in order to bring your vision to life, and how to approach them. I am always working on a tight budget so these ideas are as thrifty as possible. If you go down the fandom rabbit holes for sci-fi on social media and video sharing sites you will quickly realize there are plenty of people waiting to view any new content. All the more reason to get started on putting your vision out there for them.

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  • Multicultural Cast And A Droid

One of the greatest attributes of the sci-fi story is the multicultural cast. Make sure as many races as possible are represented and mixed. One simple and very effective adjustment that works well is switching up gender cliche. In my series Galactic Galaxy, the swashbuckling rogue character is played by a woman. A female captain or warrior always adds nicely to sci-fi. Also, a droid or alien sidekick always rounds things out well. Depending on budget you can go as simple as a basic brow or ear prosthetic. Even inhuman looking contact lenses can do the trick. If you have the budget a Droid can be as easy as a puppet, a person in a costume or a 3D element added later.

  • Going To Need A Bigger Ship

If your story takes place entirely or partially on a starship you need to think of it as another part of the cast. First, determine the character of the ship, is it old, new, fast, slow, loved or hated? Then you need to name and design her. In Galactic Galaxy, our main ship is “The Granny” and the ID numbers on the exterior are GR4NN3. The ship’s computer voice is characterized as an older nagging mother. The point is to have fun and go deep. For the exterior, you can go as simple as a repurposed space ship toy or model filmed against a black background or green screen. Or some basic motion effects with a 3D ship. You can find free 3D space ships online pretty easily. Whether your ship is built practicality or in the computer I recommend kitbashing. That is the process of taking multiple models and mixing them together to make a new one. This works with actual physical models and toys as well as 3D models

  • On Deck Or In The Cockpit

Once your ship has a personality you are going to have to create the deck, or if it’s a smaller cast perhaps a cock pit. Is it pristine or junk? Maybe you plan to shoot on green screen and add the Deck later. A few words on that. If you shoot on green screen planning to add sets later and are on a tight budget keep in mind it never looks very good. It will undermine your intentions. If your sci-fi is humorous then it could actually work in your favor. Simple screen elements are great and add production value. Green panels that will later be windows to space or computer screens can work nicely. For practical sets basic white or brushed metallic wall panels in an octagon configuration interestingly lit with a few green panels to add elements into later will work nicely. Also, the cluttered set made of old computer parts, holiday lights, hardware store bits and bobs is a tried and true option. Just be sure to have a light touch. Less is more.

  • Communication Devices

The hologram communication never gets old. It is a great visual that’s very straightforward to accomplish and it adds scope. You can talk to other planets, alien races, and exotic locations simply and easily. Including a character on a distant planet is a lot simpler when it’s only a head on a video screen. In addition adding another character to flesh out your world will be very easy to costume and shoot. Just lock of the camera and do as many takes as you need. Much like your ship deck considerations, your video communications can be pristine or interference plagued scan lines. Your hologram can be a thing of beauty or a glitchy scratchy element. Don’t overlook their value in moving the story along in an economic fashion.

  • On The Ground

On a Budget, there are a really only a few options in my mind. My personal favorite is the desert. A forest or rock quarry can work. Basically, you should pick a landscape you can frame as pristine and expansive. Alternatively, there is the post apocalypse approach. If you’re in a city find abandoned sites you can get access to. Dilapidated factories seem to be in abundance these days. Use what is around you.  If you’re out in the country a forest or rock quarry can do the trick. And if you’re by a desert, go desert. Beach could work. Whatever you choose, try and do some wide establishing shots on a tripod. With locked off shots from a tripod, it is much easier to add a second moon or fly some ships by over head. Also, know that if you have a big blue sky in your location it is fairly easy to change the blue to another unearthly color.

  • What Was That?

In some cases, you are going to want a  creature. A gigantic 3D creature is always nice. Similar to the robot, a costume could work or a forced perspective puppet. A shadowy implied creature lurking in the shadows will work best on a budget. After a build up you can finally reveal the creature in a burst with some quick cutting. As with the ship if your show is humorous then you can get away with a lot more. Rubber masks and body paint will be fine. If you are going for realism try and keep to the shadows and build tension with your cuts in post.

These are just a few things to think about to get the creative juices flowing. Creating sci-fi has been the most rewarding creative experience in my whole career. For me, I started out making contemporary dramas. I didn’t imagine I could pull off sci-fi on my restricted budgets. But now I know better. Because I wished I’d started sooner I am very passionate about sharing all I’ve learned with you. Keep in mind it’s all hard to pull off so it might as well be what you really want to do, not what you think is practical. Create your worlds and share them, otherwise, they will be lost forever. That would be a shame.

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