User Story: FLAW'D Workshop Cutting with Avid Media Composer

Hey guys, I just wanted to let you know what's going on out here in wilderness between New York and LA (That's Lower Alabama). Here in north Georgia, I was buried in writing the next three great screenplays of all time and found myself in need of an excuse (clearing throat) reason to visit the Videoguys site to exercise my God given right as an American to whip out the credit card and spend money I don't have. I will, of course, make that money back next week with the wonderful and magical new toys (clearing throat) I mean tools that I have acquired.

But, I had nothing to edit - nothing to add beautifully rendered effects to. I needed footage. Coincidentally, there were several kids in my neighborhood who needed and wanted a little training in the arts of movie making. I was beginning to see the light. Here is the excuse - er hummm - reason to update my seldom used Avid software, and to keep on top of the latest and greatest of Adobe's Creative Suite (still saving up for that one).

And so began the FLAW'D Workshop (Film - Lighting - Acting - Writing - Directing). Now, I couldn't spend more money, so we came up with a way not to do that - too much - I hope. Every other week we write and shoot a 1 to 3 page scene. The crew are all kids age 13 to 18. Some of the actors are older. We're flexible about that because we need actors. Everything is written to be shot here at my house. That way we don't risk equipment and waste time in travel. We literally have zero budget.

Training for new crew includes videos on lighting technique from the back of Blain Brown's book "Motion Picture and Video Lighting" and a few hours of personal coaching on things like handling hot lights and balancing electrical. Trust me, kids have better memories than adults and it really isn't that hard to teach them good practices. I also have a full library of production books for everything from writing to lighting. The one thing that I am not good at teaching is how to be a good production assistant. That is most definitely not my thing. Also, makeup. Can't do it. We have several very skilled 13 and 14 year old girls for that.

I am slowly becoming aware that zero budget does not mean zero cost. After all, craft service can't always be water and stale bread. We have to buy pizza at least every few months. Then, there are the little things like lamps that blow and tapes. It all costs something, but I digress.

Here's how the workshop works: Each meeting someone is assigned to write for the next shoot. We will also decide crew assignments. The intent is to rotate jobs so that everyone gets a taste of everything. The writer will submit ideas ASAP to the director and submit the script within the week. The director will re-write for the actors and send out the script hopefully with a week for them to prep. On the day of the shoot we will meet and block out the scene or scenes. We then divide up with the actors and director going one way and the crew each focused on preparing for their specific job. When the set is lit and the actors are ready, we shoot.

If we are very lucky, we get it all done in the three hour limit. If not, we come back the next time and try again, or move on to another idea.

Editing is on Avid Media Composer. Though I have the only version for the workshop at this time, Avid has exceptional pricing for the academic version. If you have kids wanting to learn editing, Avid is a great way to go. Compositing and Effects is done in After Effects and Audio in Audition. We occasionally use Photoshop and some of the other Production Premium tools.

Let me tell you guys, this takes a lot of commitment on the part of these kids. Not only do they have to be here every time and on time, they have to put up the the natural tension that pops up on a busy set. Then, they help with the post production. They do a tremendous job. The results are posted on YouTube at . The plan is to post a scene every two weeks so be sure and subscribe.

Now for reality. It was a rough start. We had two actors for the first scene COFFEE TO GO. This was a stand alone skit written by James Deaton. Week two came around and we found ourselves without a male actor. He had other commitments that could not be reconciled. Faced with adapting or shutting down until we could find another actor (trust me writing anything interesting that has only one actor is not easy), we adapted. The next few episodes are serialized single actor follow ups to the initial skit. And this is how soap operas are born.

Currently the tools of the workshop are Avid Media Composer 4 on a Core 2 Quad workstation with Avid Mojo. Adobe CS3 Production Suite. Adobe Audition 3.0. Canon XL-2 with Redrock Micro M2 35mm adapter.

Here's where things get really interesting. With the native H264 support in Avid Media Composer 5 we hope to be able to switch to DSLR filming soon. Imagine for a minute the power of such an inexpensive camera solution in a teaching environment. No longer are we forced to settle for cheap digital cameras with no depth of field control. We can show them and let them do it themselves. On top of that, Avid's new support for the Matrox MX02 Mini is a fantastic tool that will give us the ability to monitor HD with affordable monitors. If you've ever had to sign the check for a broadcast quality monitor, you know that this is a huge deal.

God bless you guys and thanks to the Videoguys for keeping it simple and cheap. Also, a big thank you for letting us post on your blog. Now, go see what these kids have done. And, if you have it in you to do something like this, do it. The tools are getting cheaper every day.

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