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Production Tips and Tricks
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Tip #8

If you're working with actors that have a lot of dialog, it can be tough for an actor to try to memorize huge paragraphs of speaking lines...

One trick is if the actor is at a place where they're sitting, you can hide the script so they can still read from it if necessary. If you angle the camera the right way, you won't catch the script in your shot.

If they're at a desk, tape the script to a computer monitor and shoot from behind the monitor. Or, if the character looks like they're working, have them just hold the script and act like they're holding some sort of work document.

I had an actor reading from a script he was holding, but he was jotting down notes on it during his monologue so it looked like he was holding an important document of some sort.

Tip #9

If you're working on an indy movie, pay attention to what your actors are wearing or what they're going to wear.

If there's a logo on someone's shirt, you may have to blur it out in post, which can be a pain and also ruin the look of your shot.

Make sure that the actors don't wear white or clothing with a lot of stripes. White clothing can throw off the color levels in certain circumstances and patterns can cause a distracting effect onscreen as well.

Tip #10

If you're shooting against a blue or green screen for color keying - pay close attention to lighting! Lighting is the key element here, the lighting needs to be flat and even to produce a clean key, shadows or uneven lighting create sloppy keys.

Also, make sure your actors aren't wearing any clothing that's the same color as the blue or green screen, unless you're going for an invisible man kind of thing.

Tip #11

Don't rely just on just one website for finding cast and crew. Be sure to check out multiple Websites such as, and

In terms of actors, check out your local film office website like the one we have in Philadelphia - The Philadelphia Film Office Website, they also have a casting hotline for people to call.

Tip #12

Plug ins are a good way to expand the capabilities of your software. There are a lot of plug-ins for various programs out there such as Final Cut, After Effects and more.

Plug-ins have different ways of expanding functionality including color correction, giving video a more film-ish appearance (look for Magic Bullet) as well as adding texture effects, animated backgrounds and text, and much more.

A good Website to learn more about what's available is right here:

Tip #13

Maintenance of your machines is also important. Be sure to defrag your computer and archive your files. Unfortunately we can't just focus on being creative with editing, effects and graphics. If you don't take care of the machine you're working on, the rest of the process can be delayed by computer problems.

As far as maintenance programs go for the Mac, I recommend Mac Janitor (Google it, you can download it for free) and Disk Warrior.

There's also a good book concerning these issues with regard to working with FCP called Optimizing Your FCP System.

For the PC, there's always Norton Utilities.

Tip #14

While doing titles, one common mistake when people are first learning is not using something called "Title Safe".

Be sure to turn the title safe area on when doing graphics with text. Title safe ensures that your text does not get cut off around the edges of the screen. Older TV sets (which most people still have, it's not a HD world yet but we're on our way) tend to cut off graphics at the very edge of the screen due to the shape of the tube and partially because the way the signal is transmitted.

Title safe is a kind of margin that comes up that bascially represents that very edge of the screen. Keep your titles within title safe and your text won't get cut off.

Tip #15

In terms of music, know your copyright laws. If you're doing something that you're not going to sell, you can pretty much use what you want and get away with it for the most part. Unless, the original band or musician sees your project and isn't happy about being associated with it, then they may come after you with a cease and desist.

For commercial use - there are sound libraries you can purchase that are royalty free. There are songs considered "public domain" which means their copyright has expired and they're open to the public. You can also find Websites like Sound America ( that will allow you to download royalty free music for free as well.

If you want to create your own music, I would recommend checking out loop programs like Soundtrack Pro for the MAC (I used it for all the music in Disturbing Images, it's great) and Audition for the PC (formerly known as Cool Edit Pro).

Another option is too look for bands that want to get their music into movie soundtracks. There are quite a few bands on MySpace that are always offering their music for soundtracks. Most musicians are eager for the exposure and not to mention that it's just fun.

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Sean and Brett

Sean McKnight and Brett Triantafillou on set
Photo by Drew Kohler