The Nutella Thief
April 23rd, 2018in film making
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The Nutella Thief is my first micro-short film, conceived on a Saturday over a late breakfast, filmed that afternoon, and edited and scored the next day.

Motivation

I’d been hanging out with Rolo Green (we worked at the same company for a bit) and he mentioned having trouble ever actually finishing and releasing any of his artistic work (a familiar lament for anyone who creates anything, I’m sure). He had of late adopted a policy of taking a focused period of time (an evening, a day, a weekend) to create a thing and then release it to the world no matter what, regardless of whether he felt it was finished. Ever since adopting that approach he says he’s been able to get a lot more work out there and, most importantly, is happier with his work.

A few weeks after that conversation I found myself with the time and opportunity to create a thing, and here we are.

Lessons learned

TL;DR: get organized, whether it’s for filming, editing, or really anything else in life.

  • Filming
    • If I hadn’t story-boarded this, built a shot list (right in the story board), and then used that shot list to track as I was filming, I’d have absolutely lost my mind. It’s amazing how taxing it is to act as director/DP/grip/AD all at the same time, so organization is paramount. Being organized allowed me to film all the scenes for each setup rather than filming in order, and of course that saved a lot of time.
    • Start with your most difficult shot to set up before bringing on the talent so the talent doesn’t need to wait as much for subsequent setups. This is particularly important when the talent is six years old and/or a dog.
    • Leave the inserts and specialty shots until the end so you can let as much of the talent go as early as possible.
    • Consider the radius of the jib when planning a jib shot - thankfully I was able to make the lateral movement work in my favor for the intro shot.
    • Filming with daylight and practicals is much easier than relying chiefly on artificial light sources.
      • Downside: As the afternoon advanced, the light moved a bunch. I decided not to care (and barely bothered fixing it in post), although having a variable ND filter made not caring easy.
      • Downside: Providing a meaningful counter to natural light such as the intended halo on the jar of Nutella is difficult since you’re competing with the intensity of the sun. I was close to lugging out a 750W Source4 but got just enough light out of my LED panel that I called it done.
    • You can fairly cheaply prepare yourself for a variety of circumstances to make it easier to remain in the moment and keep hauling.
      • All my lenses are adapted to the same filter thread: I can freely move around lens caps, and my variable ND just attaches anywhere.
      • My gear lives on one wheeled IKEA cart so I can take it anywhere in the house. I attached some stops to an IKEA cutting board so it fits on the top and doesn’t slide off - great for keeping the laptop nearby.
      • I have the same base plate receiver on my tripod head, my jib, and as a C-stand mount just in case - all have been useful timesavers.
    • You don’t need to spend a lot of money on gear to have fun and tell a story.
      • But having just nice enough gear (e.g. good stands that you don’t have to worry about falling over) makes the experience much more pleasant.
      • Fewer choices make life faster and easier, and possibly cheaper (e.g. not having a zoom lens).
    • Android slates don’t make for great client monitors because they can’t attach to the camera and a source of power at the same time - important when you’re filming on a whim and your slate isn’t charged. Considering trading the EOS6D for something with a proper HDMI out.
  • Scoring
    • Just listen to some source material to get inspired and go for it. I did virtually zero mixing and mastering and it came out just fine - consider the crappy hardware most folks will be using to listen to online content…
    • Ableton 10 seems to put far more load on my GPU than before - my laptop’s fans were at maximum speed anytime it was open. Opening up the laptop and blowing out a bunch of dust seems to have helped but not fully resolved the situation. (Update: turns out this is a major flaw in Ableton for both Mac and PC; I’ve had to finally build a proper editing PC to get out of GPU overload hell.)
  • Sound
    • Yeah, that’s some goofy clip of a dog barking I found on the internet. I didn’t want to force the dog to bark while holding a mic near him. Alas.
  • Editing
    • I spent a lot of time organizing the footage prior to doing a rough cut: renamed source media to scenes and takes, rated media in bin, moved offcuts into a clutter sub-bin, marked in/out points for each clip.
    • This helped me get into the zone and then allowed the rough cut to take less than five minutes. Some stuff didn’t quite work as I’d storyboarded it so having access to a well-labeled set of clips allowed me to make some fast substitutions/inserts.

Production ingredients

  • Pencil and paper for story boards and shot tracking
  • Canon EOS6D on a Manfrotto 502 video head on top of clunky used Manfrotto tripod legs
  • Cheap pancake lenses (Canon EF 50mm f/1.8, Nikon FX 24mm f/2.8, Opteka 85mm f/1.8)
  • Assorted cheap (Neewer) negative fills and bounces on good (Impact) stands with good (Impact, Bessey) clamps
  • Genus mini jib with some left-over gym weights as balance
  • Ableton 10 and Native Instruments Komplete for the score
  • Premiere Pro and two beautiful 27” 4K monitors

Kudos

Many thanks to the YouTube channels that have taught and inspired me:

  • Sven Pape at This Guy Edits for teaching me everything I know about editing
  • Caleb Pike at DSLR Video Shooter for helping me figure out how to get organized and get some decent but not extravagant gear in place
  • Simon Cade at DSLR Guide for talking about story telling and getting on with it instead of gear-hounding all day long
  • Tony Zhou at Every Frame a Painting (because of course) for showing how much there’s to be found in film as a medium

And again many thanks to Rolo Green for inspiring me to actually get something out there.

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