… for Random Weirdness

Tip #443: Shooting Night-time Car Scenes

Keep shots tight and the background murky.

Image courtesy of pexels.com.
Blurry, dark backgrounds can imply just about anything.

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This article, written by Logan Baker, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt of a conversation with the Coen brothers.

Shooting night-time car scenes can be tricky when working with a micro-budget. Fortunately, there are a few key techniques that can help you pull it off without leaving the garage.

For dialogue between the two characters that takes place while driving a car at night, consider shooting in your garage. Keep your depth of field shallow — put the focus on the actors while having the background out of focus. By doing this, it allows you to keep a level of vagueness to what’s really going on behind-the-scenes.

To further mask the unwanted backdrop of your garage or driveway, have a friend point a hose towards the windshield to create “rain.”

Purchase some cheap individual accent lights from Home Depot and place them inside the car to eliminate the need to set up a complicated lighting rig around the exterior (a rig that might actually show reflections). Consider having a grip or production assistant sit in the back of the car, moving one of the small lights up and down on the actor’s side to give the appearance of streetlights passing by.

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… for Random Weirdness

Tip #442: Find the Funny

Funny takes work.

(Image courtesy of Pexels.com.)

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This article, written by Jourdan Aldredge, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt.

The art of the comedy short film is actually nothing new, and can be traced back to the earliest days of film and cinema with the works of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Here are some tips to finding the funny and creating quality comedy shorts and videos.

The initial planning helps set the tone. The goal is to explore ideas. You can do free association with just yourself and a piece of paper. Ideally, once you’ve “found the funny,” you can start putting those ideas to paper by planning your outline, script, and shots.

A good way to work is to cover your bases and make sure you have every shot you’d need to put together an edit. Then, once the rigid work is done, loosen things up and do as many takes as you can stand.

Another simple trick that can help out in the edit is to shoot several reaction shots. Comedy very much lives in faces.

When is comes to editing, comedy lends itself to quick cuts, especially to reactions.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #441: Lighting for a Cinematic Look

Less lighting, with more control, is the secret to “cinema lighting.”

When it comes to lighting, less is more.

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This article, written by Zach Ramelan, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt.

A common misconception among aspiring or soon-to-be filmmakers is that you need a lot of huge, expensive lights to really pull of a professional, cinematic look. That was true once, but not anymore.

By taping dark household fabrics around an overhead light source you’re able to cone and channel the light so that it eliminates spill on the background.

NOTE: Be careful about excess heat burning your fabric.

If you want a realistic look chances are that’s actually with minimal light. Find one source that you can control and work around that.

A crucial key tip for cinematography is that direct light usually looks the worst. You can defuse it by pointing at a white wall or angle it so it makes a much more subtle glow on your subject. Unless it’s necessary to the style or story direct lighting looks unflattering and unnatural.

… for Apple Motion

Tip #447: Move Text Along an Unusual Path

Any shape can form a path for text to travel around the screen.

The Text Inspector in Apple Motion 5.x.
Change the Layout Method to Path, then lower down, change the Path Options.

Topic $TipTopic

This article is an excerpt from an Apple KnowledgeBase article.

Most of the time, we want text in Motion to travel in a straight line. But, when you want that text to take strange shapes, Motion makes it easy. Here’s how to use a shape as a path for text.

  1. In Motion, import or draw the shape you want to use as the path source.
  2. Select text in the Layers list, canvas, or Timeline.
  3. In the Layout pane of the Text Inspector, click the Layout Method pop-up menu, then choose Path.
  4. In the Path Options section of the Layout pane, click the Path Shape pop-up menu, then choose Geometry. The Shape Source well appears in the Inspector.
  5. From the Layers list, drag the shape into the Shape Source well.
  6. When the pointer becomes a curved arrow, release the mouse button.
  7. A thumbnail of the shape appears in the well and the shape is used as the source shape for the text path.

NOTE: You might want to disable (deselect) the original source shape in the Layers list so it’s not visible in your project.

… for Apple Motion

Tip #446: Move Text on a Path

Text can move around paths or shapes.

Text following a path in Apple Motion.

Topic $TipTopic

This article is an excerpt from an Apple KnowledgeBase article.

The Path layout method lets you place text on a baseline path that you can warp to create curving or angular trails of text. After you create text on a path, you can modify or extend the path, add or remove control points, or animate text on the path.


  1. In Motion, select text in the canvas, Layers list, or Timeline.
  2. In the Layout pane of the Text Inspector, click the Layout Method pop-up menu, then choose Path.
    The Path Options controls become available, near the bottom of the Layout pane.
  3. In the canvas toolbar, select the Text tool (shortcut: T), then click the text in the canvas.

NOTE: Step 3 is important—the Text tool must be selected to view or edit the text path.

  • The path appears below the text. The default path shape is a straight line (an open spline) with three control points.

NOTE: To add a control point, Control-click the path and choose Add Point.

Read the rest of the article to learn how to adjust, extend or modify the path.

… for Apple Motion

Tip #448: How to Use LUTs in Motion

LUTs don’t require rendering, making them VERY fast!

The Filters menu in Apple Motion 5.x.

Topic $TipTopic

This article is an excerpt from an Apple KnowledgeBase article.

The Custom LUT filter in Motion applies stylized film and video “looks” (such as Summer, Old Timey, Sci-Fi, and so on), camera LUTs, or tone mapping (to convert footage from one color space to another).

To use LUTs in Motion, add the Custom LUT filter to a layer in your project, import third-party LUTs into the filter, then choose the LUT you want to apply to your footage.

Stylized LUT effects are available from a variety of third-party sources. Camera LUTs, used to convert “flat” or “log” footage from high-end cameras to standard color spaces, are available from many camera manufacturers and other sources.

NOTE: Because Motion stores third-party LUTs externally (outside of Motion projects), it’s inadvisable to use LUTs in templates created for Final Cut Pro X.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #450: What Does Sharpening Do?

Sharpening adjusts the apparent focus of a clip.

The top is unsharpened, the bottom is significantly sharpened.

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Sharpening adjusts the apparent focus of a clip, without actually changing its focus.

Sharpening adjusts the contrast at the edges of objects in an image to improve their apparent focus. What our eye sees as “focus” is actually the sharpness of the edges between a foreground object and the background. If the edges are sharp, our eye considers the image in focus. If not, we consider the image – or that part of the image at least – blurry.

Unsharp Masking (which is the preferred method of sharpening) enhances the contrast between two adjacent edges. Our eye perceives that improved contrast as improved focus, though nothing about the focus of an image has changed.

When using Unsharp Mask, a little goes a long way. A Radius setting between 1.5 and 4 will yield perceptible results without making the image look like bad VHS tape.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #394: Why Use Vignettes

Vignettes conjure emotions of the “old times,” romance, and warmth.

A vignette applied to a wedding photo.

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A vignette, in film, darkens the edges of the frame to focus the attention of the eye on the brighter portion of the image at the center.

In the old days, photographs created these automatically because the lens was not particularly good at passing the same amount of light across the entire exposure. The center was always brighter than the edges.

Since those early days, lenses have improved tremendously, which is why we associate vignettes with older images, romance, or something historical.

This screen shot illustrates a vignette – see the darkening from the center out to the edges of the image? It also illustrates a typical use – to subtly highlight the subject at the center, while lending a feeling of warmth and romance to the image.

To be most effective, a vignette should be subtle; it’s a darkening of the edges, not a spotlight on the center.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #340: Quick Green Screen Lighting Tip

The sun makes a great set light.

Using the sun as a set light is OK by me.

Topic $TipTopic

Looking for a fast way to evenly light a green-screen background?

Move outside.

Let the sun light both your talent and background. However, to avoid screaming at your screen during editing, make SURE your green – or blue – background is as smooth as possible. Wrinkles are almost impossible to key well.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #454: More Than You Need to Know – About Codecs

20 different codecs – all easy to compare.

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I was wandering around Wikipedia and discovered this comparison table of twenty popular media “containers,” their features and related codecs. This is fascinating to explore, simply due to the diversity.

Even if you don’t understand all of this – and I don’t – it is still fun to look at. Why? Because this puts key features of popular codecs all in one place, making them easy to review and compare.

Here’s a link to learn more.