DNA Podcast 032 – Voice Acting with Kimlinh Tran

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In this episode, Rob and Don explore the possibilities of sound by talking with voice actress Kimlinh Tran about her experiences and perspectives gained voice acting in anime and video games. They talk about her efforts to improve her craft, why being near entertainment production centers is a must, and why recording walla is so much fun. All this, and why having a voice acting safe word is a must, are waiting for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.

DNA Podcast 021 – Interview with Tim Eldred

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In this episode, Rob and Don sit down with comic artist and director of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble animated series Tim Eldred to discuss his career in the comic book industry and how it led him into the world of animation. Along the way, they discuss Tim’s advice for aspiring comic book artists, why getting your work done on time is crucial for a career in the comic book industry, and why the secret to successful media production is to have a really big raft! All this, and a look at Tim’s new project Pitsberg, are waiting for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.

DNA Podcast Episode 015 – Podcasting Audio Drama

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In this episode, Don and Rob are joined by Jack Ward of the Sonic Society podcast to talk about Jack’s experiences hosting the Internet’s greatest audio drama showcase for over a decade and the thrills and frustrations of being an audio drama producer in the podcast age. Slap on your Podjectors and Flip the switch to join us in this, the 15th episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs!

How Koreans get their Web Novels

Yesterday I had a long and fascinating chat with a recently arrived Korean international student about Korean webnovels. Webnovels (books written specifically for the web) are extremely popular in Japan, China, and of course South Korea, and have become a gateway for new and rising authors in those countries. Recently, I’ve found myself reading some (fan translated) Chinese Webnovels (more on this in another post) and so I was curious as to what Korea’s market was like.

The student told me a few interesting things:

  • Her primary reading site of choice is NAVER, which is a popular Korean webportal similar to YAHOO, but which offers Webtoons (comics) and Webnovels as part of its lineup. In 2014 alone, Korean NAVER Webnovels had 3.6 Billion views (that’s BILLION, and remember there are only 50 Million people in Korea!).
  • The comics are more popular than the novels, but the Novels still have a large audience which she said is mostly female.
  • Anyone can write a novel on NAVER, but it sounds like there are three tiers- the stuff that anyone can post, the “Challenge League” and the “Best League”. The latter two being high quality amateurs and professionals who get promotion and profit-sharing with NAVER. (More info here.)
  • Works in the Leagues come out in serialized (chapter by chapter) format, with between 1 and 3 chapters released a week.
  • For the first four days of release, you have to pay for the chapter (using NAVER Coins) but after four days it becomes free for fans to read. (To me, this is brilliant, because human nature says most fans will pay to read early, as apparently the student does all the time. However, the old chapters are still there to help readers catch up and interest people.)
  • Advance chapters cost more or less depending on how popular that story is. So if a story isn’t popular an advance chapter might just be 1 or 2 cents, whereas a super-popular book’s chapter might be upwards of 20 cents.
  • Once a book is finished, after a certain time it is archived, which means the first couple chapters will still be free and access to the rest can be rented (for 1 day/1 week/1 month periods) at a cheaper price than reading chapter by chapter.
  • The Webnovels themselves are mostly written in the Young Adult oriented Light Novel format, which means they’re mostly dialogue driven with lots of spacing and simpler language.
  • The Best League novels not only have covers, but each week there is a piece of art that goes with them showing some scene from that chapter in a slightly iconic style.
  • The Best League novels also have an odd quirk I’ve rarely seen before, when major characters have lines of dialogue without any added exposition they just put a tiny portrait picture of the character. So instead of:
    • Sun-yi said, “I don’t know who I love, Byung-Gin.”
      • it will be…
    • [Tiny picture of Sun-yi] “I don’t know who I love, Byung-Gin.”
      • Which I imagine increases the reading speed a bit, and gets rid of some dialogue tags.
  • They’ve solved the Micropayments hurdles by using NAVER Coins, which is real money converted into NAVER credits. Sometimes it’s a 1:1 ratio, but at certain times of year NAVER will offer better ratios to get people to buy more credits. Users can also win credits through contests, loyalty rewards, and other activities that they can then use for buying digital content on the site.

That was pretty much it, but I thought it was quite interesting. As I said, I especially love the part about offering content early for people willing to chip in a few cents, since most people will do exactly that if they want to read the next chapter badly enough. The student says she spends about (the equivalent of) a $1 a week on buying Webnovel chapters, which doesn’t sound like much, but can add up pretty quickly.

It’s sad that nobody in the English speaking world has made the effort to produce such a scheme, because I think it could be a great platform for authors. Right now your options for getting English Ebooks out is pretty much either give it away for free in some form on a site like Wattpad or sell it as a complete volume on Amazon or Apple iBooks. In theory, you could use Patreon to get readers to support you, and let the Patreon subscribers have chapters a week earlier, but the problem is that Patreon doesn’t work in cents, but in dollars, and it’s pretty clumsy.

What’s needed is a system like this- where vetted authors can make money in a profit-sharing system with the website and not-yet-vetted authors can practice their craft in a place where they get a wide potential audience. (Possibly also having the option of making some money as they write as well, depending on how it was set up.)

In any case, I thought it was an interesting system, and worth sharing. If you’re interested in reading some Korean novel translations, you can find some links here in an older Reddit thread. (There aren’t a lot of them out there, but a few.)

Shooting Indie Style!

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I put together this guide for my students to help them with their film projects in my media class, and now I’m making it available to anyone who wants to get more out of their mobile phone’s video camera. This is a collection of tips and techniques that covers all parts of the film-making process, from planning, to production, and even editing. Of course, it’s not just for mobile phone filmmakers, this book will help any beginner who’s looking to up their game, so if you’re thinking of making a film, check it out!

Available now on Kindle and Smashwords (ePub) for 99 cents!

Rob

Stupid Indie Tricks- The Rodriguez List

When the American Director Robert Rodriguez decided to make his first full film, El Mariachi, the first thing he did (even before writing the script) was sit down and make a list of all the possible resources he had available to him.

He did this because he knew if he wanted to make the best film he could for the little money available, he had to make the best possible use of all the resources he could get his hands on. He felt that if he just used what he had, instead of worrying about what he didn’t have, he could produce a much better film.

He was right, El Mariachi was made for $7000, and would later catapult him into Hollywood success as a man who could produce quality work for a budget. He chronicles this in his book Rebel Without a Crew, which is good reading for any aspiring filmmaker.

Later on, in the book DV Rebel’s Guide (also more good reading), Stu Maschwitz would use the term “Robert Rodriguez List” to describe following Rodriguez’s approach and making a list of all your assets and resources before you start to plan your first film.

I recommend you do the same.

Whether you know what you want to make, or are just trying to come up with something worth making, sit down and make a Rodriguez List beforehand. In it, try to include ever single relevant asset you have available to you, up to and including…

  • Camera Gear (Mobile Phone, DSLR Camera, Webcam, whatever can film!)
  • Sound Gear
  • Software
  • Your skills/talents
  • Your strengths and weaknesses
  • Places to film you have access to in one way or another.
  • Vehicles
  • Clothes (especially special or unique stuff)
  • Lights
  • Props (Swords, Wheelchairs, Power Tools, anything useful)
  • Set Decorations
  • Makeup
  • People who can act.
  • People who like you.
  • People who owe you favors.
  • People who know people who can act.
  • People who have equipment you could use.
  • People who have access to locations to film.
  • People who can help you carry your gear or drive you around.
  • People who you can consult/ask for help in your weak areas.

Basically, you’re listing anything or anyone you think might be remotely useful in making a film. It doesn’t matter whether you use it or not, it helps you have a realistic idea of what you can pull off before you even plan. Even if you don’t use it on this project, you might end up using it on the next one!

One tip with shooting locations- remember that what looks boring and commonplace to you might still look exotic and interesting to someone who lives far away from you. Don’t always think you need locations that look exotic and different to you, because they might look boring and uninteresting to others.

Rob

Application of the Rule of Thirds

Fun and catchy short musical tutorial about the Rule of Thirds.

Better Photographic Composition – Beyond the Rule of Thirds

Fascinating lecture on photographic (and artistic) composition. If you’re an artist most of this probably won’t be new to you, but for a newbie like me it’s really interesting stuff. Applicable to everything from CGI work to filmmaking.

Stupid Indie Tricks- You’re holding your phone wrong when taking video.

The Film Artist demonstrates an alternate way to hold your phone when taking video that I’ve never seen before. I tried it, and it seems to improve the stability of my iPhone when I’m filming, so give it a try and it might work for you too!

via Steady iPhone 4s on Vimeo.

Stupid Indie Tricks: Shooting Night Scenes with Cell Phone Cameras

There is a very simple rule- Cell phone cameras and night shots do not mix well.

The realities of the situation are simple- the smaller the aperture of your camera (the hole light goes through into the sensor), the lower the quality image will result because it’s getting less light for the sensor to work with. Newer cameras can actually compensate quite well if there’s a fair amount of light (a well-lit urban environment, for example), but what if you need to shoot a scene that happens in the middle of a cornfield at night?

Well, generally you have two options if you’re not trying to do the “found footage” thing. (Where the audience will just accept the unnatural presence of the camera light because they know it’s a camera.)

1) Shoot at night, but bring a bunch of filters to use over your lights.

This can work, but it will require a lot of effort and likely expensive equipment.

2) Play with your camera’s settings to trick it into simulating night shots, like this guy does…

This guy’s tricks would work well with Filmic Pro for the iPhone. You’d first lock White Balance on something bright orange, and then lock the exposure setting on something bright. You might have to play with it a bit, but then you’d be able to shoot bright scenes during the day and have it look like a passable night shot.

3) Shoot during the day, and make it look like night in post-production.

Because we’re talking about cell phone cameras here, this third one is probably your best bet when trying to capture footage that should technically be impossible to do with your equipment. Whether it’s characters walking through a forest at night, sneaking through a house, or taking a moonlit stroll, this is the way to do it.

So let’s talk about how.

First, there are a few rules to shooting “day for night” scenes.

  1. Shoot on a cloudy day. (This reduces the chance of reflections that might indicate that it isn’t really night in the shot, and also makes your job easier in general.)
  2. Avoid shooting the sky as much as you possibly can. (Try to frame your shots so that as little of the sky is in the shot as you can possibly manage.)
  3. Avoid reflective surfaces like windows, water and anything else that might reflect the sky and ruin the effect.
  4. Make sure you shoot in as high a resolution as you can, because you want the room to be able to manipulate the image without worrying about a bit of degradation.
  5. If you have the option to shoot it using color correction presets, shoot with the camera set for very warm light conditions. (Tungsten Bulbs, for example) This will cause your camera to naturally make things more blue while you’re shooting (to compensate for the warmth of the bulbs) and make your job even easier. But you probably shouldn’t do the exposure trick from #2 as well.

That said, you can and should be using a fairly normal lighting setup to make sure that your subjects are well lit and clear. You want the sharpest and best possible image so that you have more room to play with in post-production.

Once you’re done filming and take it back to the editing room, you can then fire up video editing software and get to work. In short, you’re going to be playing with the contrast and colors to try and give the footage a blue tint that simulates night without making it took dark. Remember that we’ve actually be trained by movies and TV to interpret a strong blue tint  as representing low-light/night conditions (yeah, the pros are also using this technique). So, since your audience is already taught to interpret it that way, go ahead and use it!

Poking around, you can find tutorials on YouTube to do this for almost any video editing software out there. I use Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, but I actually found this tutorial for Adobe Premiere Elements to be one that produced the results I liked better than the CS6 tutorials I saw.

Here’s a more complex version for Adobe Audition Pro CS6, which you might like better than I did…

Of course After Effects can also do it. This guy below is doing it manually, but I understand there are a number of pre-sets you can download out there for free which will also do it instantly if you can find them.

Sony Vegas apparently has this effect as a preset under Color Curves, according to this video…

And for you Mac users, there are tutorials for iMovie…

and Final Cut Pro.

I hope this helps!

Happy filming!

Rob