Tag Archives: video editing

Helpful Tips For First-Time Filmmakers

helpful film tips

When you start to learn about filmmaking, it’s best to keep things simple and stick to the fundamentals.  You might be using a video camera, a smartphone, or an advanced DSLR camera.  Before you start, make sure your video camera is ready, with a fully charged battery, and enough free space on the internal hard drive, or a few memory cards.

  1. Prepare to film many separate shots: Limit camera movement around a scene and try to not follow action. Film a series of separate shots that can be edited later in post-production.
  2. Keep the camera steady: Support the camera with a tripod, camera gimbal stabilizer, or by resting the camera on a surface, such as a table, wall, shelf, pillow, or chair.
  3. Take backup shots: It’s always smart to take multiple backup shots of different scenes
  4. Move around: Don’t film only at eye level or waist level. Move around and film shots from different places. Try from above, below, and from different positions around the subject.
  5. Don’t use zoom: It is best to stay all the way zoomed out, video camera shaking will be less apparent, and sound will generally record better and be clearer.
  6. Frame shots carefully: Stay focused on the background and edges of the shot and keep the camera level
  7. Get close to the action: Use lots of close-up shots to bring attention to important details, consider using a macro lens for close-ups.
  8. Think about lighting: Film where this is a lot of light but not much contrast, film with the light behind you.
  9. Take control of your camera: Do not only rely on autofocus and auto exposure, learn how to set exposure and focus manually.
  10. Think about sound quality and holding the shots in place: When using an internal microphone get very close to the subject being filmed, also film shots for a few seconds longer than you need. Hold the shot for about 10 seconds for a non-action shot and hold the shot 5 seconds before or after any speech or action.

Are you interested in a promising career in film? Want to learn more?

Consider observing a class at our leading film school in New York, NY.

Digital Film Academy was founded by film producer and director Patrick DiRenna on September 10, 2001 in the historic Film Center building in New York City. While making his first feature film Train of Illusion in 1991, DiRenna realized that he was at the mercy of others who did not share his same passion and drive about his project. This realization echoed throughout his career, and as technology advanced and the reliance on film lessened, DiRenna foresaw digital media as the future for independent filmmakers while other academic institutions still focused on film.

Wanting to create an all-digital media school offering tools to filmmakers not available at any other school, Digital Film Academy was born! In addition to state-of-the-art instruction in digital filmmaking, filmmakers receive a production membership to the academy’s facility upon graduation. This unique combination of instruction and access to the facility enables filmmakers to become independent and start working in the growing industry without having to invest thousands of dollars into equipment.

The demand for such a program was noted as our school grew and established an excellent reputation in the community and abroad over the years. At that time, Digital Film Academy offered a part-time, hands-on program where students would write, produce, direct, and edit their short film.

In 2008, the academy further flourished under the leadership of Elena Primost, former Vice President and Director of Academic Affairs, who expanded the academy’s curriculum to full-time beginner and advanced conservatory programs and led the academy to national accreditation in 2011.

Digital Film Academy continues to be innovative and strive to exceed the needs of filmmakers. With our program, you are provided with the skills, the tools, and the support that you need to be truly independent.

Student Focus July 2014: Danesha Holmes

Before coming to the Digital Film Academy, Danesha Holmes tried many different career paths. She always knew she wanted to work in entertainment, but didn’t know in what capacity. As a result, in addition to trying acting and stand-up comedy, Holmes spent time in retail, in customer service, as a personal trainer, and even as an EKG technician.

Finally, she came to grips with the fact that TV was what she truly loved, and decided to do what she had to to make it her career. Before she knew it, she was googling film schools in the New York area. When she discovered the Digital Film Academy, she knew it fit the bill.

Times Square, home of the DFA.
Times Square, home of the DFA.

“The DFA was the best of all available choices, and it got my foot in the door,” Holmes says. Their one-year program was a good fit for her and, most importantly, she was able to receive financial aid. “I got a scholarship, and that really made the difference. Without that, I wouldn’t have been able to go.”

Part of Holmes’ financial aid package involved working off her tuition both by blogging for the school and by working as a receptionist. You can check out her blog posts here, under her pen name, Harley Page.

Most importantly, though, her experience with the DFA helped Holmes decide exactly which job in entertainment was right for her.

Editing raw footage from hit shows like Monk in class helped Holmes find her career path.
Editing raw footage from hit shows like Monk in class helped Holmes find her career path.

“By the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to be a video editor,” she says. “I enjoy that environment, enjoy seeing the final product come together, and the creativity and the work that goes into it.”

Throughout her DFA courses, Holmes was given the opportunity to work with rough footage from hit TV shows like Monk and Hell’s Kitchen. She got to put together cuts from multiple cameras to create a finished product. She also completed a co-thesis with another student, Jazmin Young – a web series called Sabotage. The trailer and logo can be viewed below.

She now works for Leftfield Entertainment, transcribing and logging shows such as Pawn Stars, ESPN 30-30, Blood, Sweat, and Heels, and United States of Stuff. She recently interviewed for a promotion to assistant editor.


But her long-term goal? “To be a video editor and to own my own business,” Holmes says with confidence.

“The DFA changed my life completely,” she says. “It helped me choose my career path. I’m definitely going for the stars now. Thank you guys!”


By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain

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The Devil’s in the (Editing) Details

Johnny Depp, playing the part of producer-writer-director Ed Wood in Tim Burton’s movie Ed Wood, states at one point in the film that “Filmmaking is not about the tiny details. It’s about the big picture.” Unfortunately, Ed Wood, while a very upbeat and positive person, was never considered a serious filmmaker. One reason why he wasn’t taken seriously might be because he really believed that filmmaking was just about the big picture. Of course, serious filmmakers know that filmmaking is all about the tiny details. Thousands and thousands of tiny details. Especially when it comes to editing.

Johnny Depp as Ed Wood: "The big picture!"
Johnny Depp as Ed Wood: “The big picture!”

As an editor, it’s important to keep track of every detail of the footage you’re editing; from initially copying and organizing the video and audio clips into properly named folders on your hard drive, to renaming the video and audio clips correctly (by Scene and Take if it’s a scripted program to keeping detailed notes if it’s a reality / non-scripted show). As an example, if you name a video clip Sc_A_Tk_03 and you name your audio clip ScATk03, it’s going to make finding either of those clips (in order to sync them) much more difficult than if you named them exactly the same.

Further, when it comes to syncing your video to your audio clips, you must be very detail-oriented and make sure that you’re syncing them perfectly; you need to make sure that you’re marking your video clips exactly on the slate’s ‘clap’ and that you are marking your audio on that same ‘clap’. Even if one of those marks is ‘off’ by a frame or two, your audio and video will ‘look’ funny – in other words, it will look like the actor is either talking early or late. Again, it’s all in the details, details, details.

Working in FCP X - keep your sound and image in sync!
Working in FCP X – keep your sound and image in sync!

And these are just a few of the basic details of editing; of course, once you start to edit your program, music video, or short film, you need to keep very detailed notes about your footage (whether or not certain takes are usable, or if any footage is usable or unusable) along with making sure that the footage is well organized within your NLE (non linear editor). Remember, for an hour-long reality show, about 40-50 hours worth of footage is shot – even more footage is shot for a feature length film. So, if you correctly and properly organize and name all of that footage from the start, it makes editing all of that footage much easier – and much faster – because you’ll be spending less time searching for clips and spending more time assembling your edit.

You'll be the one crying if you have to sift through 50+ hours of the Kardashians to find one small clip.
You’ll be the one crying if you have to sift through 50+ hours of the Kardashians to find one small clip.

Even if Ed Wood took detailed notes about his footage and sync’d them properly, it wouldn’t have made him a great filmmaker – an editor can’t turn bad footage into great footage. But, great footage that’s been sync’d improperly or can’t be ‘found’ quickly during the editing process, or has been edited without paying attention to all of the story’s details, might turn a great film into a bad one.

By Digital Film Academy FCP X instructor Blake Taylor

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