Thursday, 10 March 2011

Making better movies with Moviestorm

We've written a lot on the main blog recently about how you can use Moviestorm to practice film techniques. Several people contacted us to ask whether we had any specific examples of how to do it. I’ve therefore been putting together a collection of simple exercises you can do to learn specific techniques, under the working title Making Better Movies with Moviestorm.

These exercises are all fairly adaptable. Generally, you don't need any particular packs or content: any version of Moviestorm will do. Most of them work on the same principle: take a single scene, and film it in several different ways. You can use the same scene over and over again if you want - I often use a short scene from one of Per Holmes's training DVDs, and another, slightly longer one, from a parody soap opera I was working on some years ago. This is actually a pretty good way of working, as you can focus explicitly on the one aspect you're practicing, and reuse much of what you've previously done; sets, characters, recorded dialog, and so on. You'll also develop an increasing empathy with the scene, and you'll find each take getting better and better, rather like a musician practicing the same piece over and over. When you've worked your way through several exercises, you can compare all the different versions with your first attempt, and see what you've achieved.

These exercises aren't specific only to making movies with Moviestorm. They're standard techniques that apply to all forms of film. For example, one focuses on filming a scene without moving cameras, and then filming it again but allowing the camera to move. Another requires you to shoot the same scene with and without extras. You can then take what you've learned to any other film-making medium - full CG animation, live action, or whatever. The advantage of using Moviestorm is that you can practice when it's convenient for you, and you don't need to assemble a cast and crew each time. And if you're not happy with what you've done, you can easily go back and do it again and again until you're satisfied.

Each exercise takes somewhere between an hour and an evening, depending on what's involved and how long you want to spend on it. Each one uses a standard format:
  • Technique: what you’re going to focus on
  • Purpose: why this is important
  • Preparation: what you need (typically, the type of scene that works best for this)
  • Exercise: what you do
  • Review: analysis of the two versions and how they differ
  • Followup exercises: more things you can try to develop this technique
I‘ve so far written up about half a dozen of these, with around ten more sketched out. Before I release them, however, I want to make some videos that will show what each exercise is highlighting (i.e. the same scene filmed with locked and moving cameras), and possibly create some downloadable Moviestorm movies that you can use to get going.

We’ll probably release these exercises initially through the blog, then we’ll collate them on the Web site. If there’s demand, we’ve been talking about putting them into an ebook for wider release.

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