All posts by softsystemsolution

“Call it”

It’s your first day as AD (Assistant Director) and everyone is ready to shoot. The director just looks at you and tells you to “call the shot”. What do you do?

“Picture’s Up!” or “Quiet on Set!”

This is your first step. Loudly, without screaming, let everyone know they’re about to go into an actual take. Anytime you hear this on set, stop what you’re doing and get comfortable because you shouldn’t move or make a sound until you hear “cut” and sometimes that can take a while.

“Roll Sound!”

First thing you want to do is get the sound recorder to start recording (On your very own Zoom f6, if you’re in our Associates Program with equipment included*). Why start there? Sound is cheap. It runs on cheaper cards, taking up less space on the drives. Don’t get me wrong – it is not the sound mixer or boom mixer that are cheap, they’re looking at up to $800 a day for their expertise.

Your Sound Mixer will start recording audio and they will let you know by saying: 

“Sound Speeds” or “Sound Rolling”

You will then say:

“Roll Camera!”

Now your Operator will start the camera recording (with your 6k Blackmagic*) and they will let you know by saying: 

“Camera Rolling” or “Camera Speeds”

You’re now getting audio and video recordings so it’s time to capture the slate “clapping” this is used (when you don’t have timecode) to synchronize (sync) the audio and video clips. (Slates are also included in the Associate equipment package*) You will now tell the 2nd AC to:

“Mark it!” 

The 2nd AC will read the pertinent information from the slate so the editor can identify which take it is by listening to the audio.

“Scene 1 Charley, Take 4”

The 2nd AC will clap the slate and clear frame. At this point, on most sets, your job is done. When they are ready the director will finally call: 

“Action!”

This is the basis for every take, but things change on the fly and there’s lots of special circumstances and some different ways to call the shot.

If you’re interested in learning some of these industry specifics and so many other important elements of the filmmaking and media business, consider coming to one of our Open Houses. You will be able to get a feeling for our school, programs, and more!

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We’re changing, are you?

Students working as a film crew, directing, operating the camera and recording sound at Central Park in New York.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”

– Rita Mae Brown (not Einstein, I checked)


Everything around us is constantly changing, and that’s never been more true. I’ll throw another quote at you:

“For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled”

– Bob Dylan


The best way to succeed is to be on the forefront of change. And that’s what we’re doing. Digital Film Academy is always on the lookout for how we can change to better serve our students. We’ve pivoted to a hybrid learning environment that allows our busy students to do most of their classes remotely. We bring our seasoned professors to you, wherever you are. 

We’ve designed an entirely new Associates Program that gives you equipment to own (yours forever, no joke), included in the tuition. That means that as you’re building your portfolio, working on school projects, or working with clients, you’ve got everything you need. You become your own production company. When you’re learning the equipment you have it there, in your hands. We did this because it’s the best way for you to learn and that’s our top priority. 

We’ve adapted our hands-on classes so that we can still deliver the essentials, while keeping our students safe. We just finished our intensive 3 week summer classes that had students performing in real life scenarios. From shooting walk-and-talks in Central Park to dramatic dollys in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. 

Our mission is and always has been to prepare you to make money and we’re always looking for new ways to do that better. 

Maybe it’s time you think about making a change? 

Come to one of our Open Houses and see if we can’t help you take a step in a new direction.

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Don’t Trade Your Future for those Film Schools

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article titled “Financially Hobbled for Life” in which they talk about film school graduates who leave their programs $100K – $300k in debt. Now these were master’s degrees, but this problem impacts graduates at all levels. 

It’s. Not. Worth. It.

No one in the film and media industry cares about a fancy degree. They want people who know how to function on set. You can get that experience without going into massive debt. So don’t trade your future for those Film Schools.

DFA programs are designed to give you exactly what you need to be able to make money. We teach you the essential skills, we give you lifetime access to our equipment and facilities, and we do this for a fraction of the cost of other schools. 

Film and Media affordable programs

We succeed when you succeed. It’s been our driving force for the 20 years we’ve been educating students.

Whether you’re interested in Directing, Cinematography, Screenwriting, Editing, Sound Recording, Producing or VFX. We teach you how to work in every area of the film/television industry, while allowing you to specialize in your preferred path.

If you would like to know more about our school and programs, come check us out in one of our Open Houses

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It ain’t about how hard you hit

“But it ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” – Rocky Balboa


I used to think that the difference between the successful and unsuccessful was that successful people didn’t fail. They went through life like Neo or Ferris Bueller, dodging metaphorical and literal bullets. While those people might exist, the more I watched the successful people around me the more I realised that they’re not mythically blessed. They just keep going. They plough ahead, no matter how many times they fail. 

Look at DFA graduate Alex Bendaña. Scott Free, Ridley Scott’s production company, hired him back in 2013 to adapt the novel Vicious into a feature film. Unfortunately Development Hell got ahold of that one. But successful people don’t stay down. He kept going and this Fall he’s finally going to get to see one of his own movies up on the big screen. “The Gateway”, featuring Olivia Munn, Frank Grillo, and Keith David will be released in September 2021.

The Getaway movie

So, when life knocks you down, take a moment, feel bad for yourself, then get back up and keep on moving. If you want a school that’s as tough as you, consider coming to a DFA Open House. We’re in your corner. We’re here to support our students and make sure they have what they need to take the hits and keep moving forward. 

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The Darling Buds of May

Summer is almost here!

And even if it’s true that ‘rough winds do shake the darling buds of May’, after a whole year of COVID 19 and pandemic we’ll take it.

Life was on pause before. Now is the time to unpause and launch your plan for world domination in media production and film! And what better way to evolve into this next chapter of your life than with an Associate of Science Degree in Digital Media?

film crew, may programs

Our new Associate Degree in Digital Media gives each student a fantastic equipment kit (valued at $10,000+), yours to keep for life. The list includes a Blackmagic 6K camera, Canon M50 camera, Sound Recording Equipment, Lighting Kit, etc. Take a look at the full equipment list here.

May Programs

Our May programs have literally just begun and today, May 13th 2021, our new group of media students are all boldly moving on to their third day of classes!
All have chosen to embark on this new year of rigorous training in media production and filmmaking techniques.

Students who choose to study at Digital Film Academy can opt for our New York City or Atlanta (Georgia) locations. The Associate of Science Degree Classes can be taken from either campus location. Currently our classes are starting online with the hope and expectation that we will be back to full in-person classes in September (to be confirmed).

Get the proper training in Cinematography, Sound Recording, Directing, Video Editing, Screenwriting and all aspects of professional media training you always wanted.

Interested to jump on board and join our May classes? There is still time to join! Digital Film Academy has a 14-day late start period. For any classes you have missed we’ll give you access to video recordings. No one begins at a disadvantage.

Later today – Thursday May 13th at 1 p.m. EST – we’ll be holding our next Online Open House / Free Demo Class. Jump on our Zoom call and join the group: watch, listen, ask questions. Add your name to the guest list here: https://www.digitalfilmacademy.edu/open-house/.

10 Things Every Independent Filmmaker Should Never Be Without

When you’re just starting out and you’ve got a tight budget, it’s difficult to know what expenses are essential and which can be cut. It’s easy to try and save yourself time, money, and effort by leaving out things you don’t know you’ll need. But that can come back to bite you in the rear if it costs you time on set. So what should every independent filmmaker always have?

10) AC Pouch

assistant camera pouch / ac pouch

All the other things are useless if they’re not readily accessible when you need them. Get a comfortable AC Pouch (a tool belt will suffice) to keep everything at hand.

9) Release Forms

release form

You never know when someone interesting is going to pass by. Use them!

8) Bongo Ties

bongo ties

The only brand name accessory on this list, because there’s nothing else like them! Cable management looks good and keeps things and people safe.

7) 5-in-1 Folding Reflector

reflector

Silk, Solid, Silver, Gold, and Bounce, in one tiny bag. Bang for your buck, these are ESSENTIAL (which is kind of the point of this list, no…?)

6) Lens cleaners

lens cleaner

You can’t have a dirty lens. And it’s so easy to keep a few disposable wipes on hand. So just do it, okay?!?!

5) Water bottle

water bottle

The greatest tool on set? Your brain! Keep it happy. Stay Hydrated. 

4) Grip Gloves

grip gloves

Nothing makes you look more useless than needing to deal with a hot light and looking around for something to protect your hands. Find a pair you like (there’s a million articles online discussing the pros and cons of various styles) and always have them on hand (get it).

3) Multitool

multi tool

This can get kind of expensive, especially if you go for a nice Leatherman, but it will pay for itself time and time again.

2) Key Tool

key tool

You can use your Multitool, but you should also get yourself a dedicated keytool that can handle your tripod screws, I suggest one with a thicker tip, and keep it on your keys so it’s always with you.

1) Gaff Tape

gaffer tape

Is there anything Gaffer tape can’t do? Probably the most reached for item in your kit, always have tape on hand, ideally in a few different colors. 

If you want to be taken seriously, make sure you have these things and be ready to hand them to someone when they’re about to ask for it. When the AC (Assistant Camera) goes to attach the tripod plate, hand him your keytool. When the AD (Assistant Director) wants to label a new folder, hand them a piece of colored Gaff tape. If you need to adjust a hot light, don’t choose between burning your hands or looking around for a makeshift hotpad, just pull your gloves out and do it. 

These are some ways you can stand out from the amateurs on a busy film set. Know what else is essential? Lifetime equipment access! Leave the expensive equipment to us and use your money elsewhere. If you’re interested in becoming an independent filmmaker, check out our LEAP and Equipment Ownership programs to find the right fit for you.

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They’re here! In-person classes

Spring in-person classes

“When are you going to be back in-person?”. That’s by far the most asked question from aspiring filmmakers that are interested in attending DFA. We get it – and we heard you!

We are finally back with selected classes on our NYC facility.

While the COVID pandemic isn’t quite over yet, there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. After all, DFA is known as a hands-on training school. And that hasn’t changed, even while we’re teaching online.

We managed to make the transition to online classes smoothly. But we know that there are some subjects that are just not completely suitable for online learning – like cinematography and sound recording. That’s why we came up with the in-person spring classes.

To make that happen we’re taking every precaution: masks required, limited classrooms, daily temperature check, sanitizing equipment and facilities religiously.

And for those who can’t attend, we are transmitting every class live through zoom, even when it’s outside. Thanks technology!

Student Testimonial

We had a talk with Tramelle Stroman, one of our current students and he shared some interesting insights:

How is cinematography going?

Cinematography is going really well. I was nervous about doing it at first, but I’m you know, developing a comfort for it.

How much experience did you have before you got to class?

In cinematography? Zero.

How is the pacing been? Have you been getting left behind, or are we going too slow?

I feel the pacing is right where it needs to be, we’re advancing pretty quickly but at the same time the instructors are taking time to make sure everyone’s on the same page and if there’s someone behind to allow us to keep up.

What’s your strong point? Do you want to be a cinematographer?

My strong point is: I want to be a screenwriter and eventually gravitate towards directing. So, to be a director you obviously have to level up in cinematography and to be a good screenwriter you have to know basically how these looks that you’re inflicting to your screenplay will come out on camera. 

Besides cinematography, what’s been your favorite part of DFA?

Definitely the Documentary class and I’d say Screenwriting with Don Cato. 

Why did you choose DFA?

The first time I came in I felt extremely welcomed. It didn’t seem like you guys were trying to get people in for their  money, it seemed like you cared and it seemed very structured here. 

Just at first? (laughter)

No (laughter). You guys maintained well after the pandemic also. A few hiccups but it’s been enjoyable.

Would you recommend Digital Film Academy for someone that’s looking for a film school?

I’d definitely recommend Digital Film Academy for someone especially if you take your craft seriously and want to make a living off of the industry.

Find out more about our training and lifetime access to equipment and facilities available to all DFA students and graduates that qualify on one of our Open House events. Join, listen, ask questions.

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5 lessons from Francis Ford Coppola

For Coppola’s 82nd birthday, after almost 60 years of filmmaking, we’ve tried to extract some wisdom.

1) Don’t Give Up


Coppola almost got fired three times while filming The Godfather. But he didn’t quit, delivering a film most consider one of the greatest of all time.

2) Don’t Be Afraid of Change

 “I have seen movies change from devastating to wonderful in my life. And those changes could be made in a day”

In a recent interview to Vulture, Coppola said that when The Godfather Part II was previewed in San Francisco the audience was indifferent. 
That night, he made 121 changes, which is unheard of, because the sound edit was already completed and altering an already mixed movie, with music, is incredibly difficult. 
But three days later they previewed it again in San Diego and the audience reacted completely differently, and this ended up being the edit that we’ve come to love today.

3) Seize Every Opportunity, Even If It Scares You.

After making The Godfather II, Coppola pivoted to a completely different genre with Apocalypse Now and encountered an entirely new set of obstacles. 

“I didn’t know how to shoot helicopter sequences or such large-scale pyrotechnics. Then I had a lot of natural issues to deal with — the weather, the typhoons, and Marty’s heart attack (Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack while on the set of Apocalypse Now. Pushed to physical and emotional limits by Coppola while filming, he also experienced a full mental breakdown.)

4) The Emotion Is What Counts

“I mean any real Italian knows that Vito Corleone would never be called Don Corleone. You would call him Don Vito. I’m Don Francesco, I am not Don Coppola. What came out in Mario (the author of the Godfather book) was a natural understanding he had of the family.”

5) Cast Based On What Your Gut Tells You

Francis Ford Coppola has an eye for talent. He has cast either people who were at the beginning of their careers or total unknowns who went on to become huge stars — James Caan, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, Laurence Fishburne, Jim Carrey…

His advice is to cast whoever got stuck in your head. 

“Say you go to a party, and you meet several dozen people. There’s always someone the next day that you’re still thinking about, who stuck with you. Obviously, when you’re young, it might be a woman. Or it just might be some old guy who said something. But something sticks, and you don’t know why. That’s how I cast.” 

If you’re passionate about making meaningful content (while supporting yourself financially), Digital Film Academy might be the right place for you. Our goal is to help our students become successful storytellers and we don’t take that goal lightly.  

DFA offers lifetime equipment access to all students and graduates that qualify. We give you all the training, and the tools for you to put your best ideas out there. You will learn the ways to successfully navigate the business side of the industry so you don’t get lost in the sea of idealistic artists. 

If you want to learn more about our programs, classes and schedules, sign up for one of our Online Open Houses, we would love to have you there.

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DFA Blog

Do you REALLY need a Shooting Schedule?

It’s a short script, you wrote it and, you’re filming it with your friends/fellow students/Cousin Brad. You’re the producer and director and writer, you know this project like the back of your hand. So it will be okay, right? 

NO!

You should always have a shooting schedule. Even for small simple projects. 

Why?

Because something will go wrong. Something always goes wrong. An actor gets sick, a location drops out, Cousin Brad got arrested for tax fraud. Whatever happens, you will need to quickly adjust because time is money. And your shoot schedule is going to help you when the schedule has to change. Because all of the essential elements are there in your shoot schedule. 

Holding folders for shooting schedule

A good shoot schedule is designed to be changed and modified. You can see the essential elements needed for any given scene and easily move to an alternative day’s schedule so there aren’t any interruptions in production.

girl going to a shooting schedule

Effective and thorough Pre-Production is the backbone of all good shoots and one of the hardest things to learn on your own. It’s much better to learn from industry insiders, seasoned professionals with practical experience. 

Which is why every student that comes through Digital Film Academy gets training in all aspects of Pre-Production, so they have the tools they need to go out and create compelling media. 

If you’d like to learn more about how we prepare our graduates for the real world check out our Programs or join us at one of our Open House Events. We’d love the opportunity to talk with you and see if we’re a good fit.

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Overcoming Limitations

Overcoming Limitations and make great media

I’m a firm believer that everyone is capable of making really great media. So where does all the bad media come from? Limitations. People are limited by budgets, availability, time, weather, and global pandemics. The thing stopping us from making great media isn’t a lack of ability. It’s the outside pressures pulling at our attention, telling us “no”. 

So how can DFA help?

We help you overcome the limitations in a number of ways. With Pre-Production, making sure you know exactly what you need and how to get it.  DFA students have access to professional equipment for life. So even long after you’ve graduated you’ll still be able to use our equipment for Production, reducing budget limitations considerably.
And finally through Post-Production. In response to Covid-19 DFA has made our cutting-edge computers accessible remotely online. So you can edit in Davinci Resolve, Avid, Pro-Tools, After Effects, and many other softwares from the safety of your own home, and your client can dial in and go over the project with you live, from anywhere in the world! 

When you study at DFA you have every resource at your fingertips to turn yourself into a lean mean filmmaking machine. Someone who can navigate the hurdles in your way to deliver clean powerful content. 

If you’d like to find out more, please join us for an Online Open House (complete the form to add your name to the guest list, then watch your inbox for the confirmation email) Thursday February 18th @ 1pm EST, or check us out online at any of the links below and see if we’re a good fit for you.

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