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Old September 2nd, 2009, 12:02 AM   #1
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Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro? For my own movies (HMC150?)

Nice to meet you all! (This is my first post, so please forgive me if I am not 100% clear)

My name is Ben and I am a 30 years old actor. I am going to explain you my situation and then ask you a couple questions...

I live in Vermont, and here we do not have a lot in terms of movie making and show business. The same in terms of stage acting. So, it is very difficult to get cast on a good nice production as and actor and even for stage acting since many companies bring their people from NY. That makes building my acting resume a very tough task. Someone told me that I should create my own opportunities. And I do not want to spend years and years waiting for a big production (or small one) to come this way and shoot a movie (also considering they might not even pick me!). So, I decided to learn the craft and art of film making since I want to start shooting my own scenes and/or short movies and eventually (perhaps some day) a movie as well. As the Producer, Director and Casting Director of my own movies, I can cast myself for whatever role I want to play.
So I have been doing several hours of 'internet' research (this post is part of it) in the last 3 weeks.

What I want to accomplish is: movie quality results on the scenes I shoot (and short movies) to build my acting resume (reel) and have very good movie quality material to send to 'real' casting directors for auditions in Boston or NY someday (can't buy talent but can buy camera ^_^). I would also like to be able to put them on DVD (or Blue Ray).

For doing so, I need to make an investment. How much money do I have to invest? Well, I guess I can end up putting together about 5000 bucks for all I need (unless I get a better suggestion and I can gather a dollar or two more).

My research was mainly on which camera to get. After a lot of on line reading, I came to the conclusion that perhaps the better camera for price, quality and end results is the Panasonic AG-HMC150. Because it can give me that movie like (1080p 24p) I want and not having to spend 6000 bucks (EX1 for example) for a camera that can provide me with the same or better end results. So, I believe that is the camera I am going to end up buying. But I am well open to all kind of suggestions since I AM NOT AN EXPERT AT ALL (but you guys are).

I know I am a beginner, and there is A LOT to learn with an HMC150 (and with film making); but I am willing to learn over time buy reading and doing.

But my MAIN question is:

Should I get Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro? (Final Cut Studio)

I looked on many, many places on line trying to find that answer with no luck at all (until I came across this forum I hope), I went to my local college's (Dartmouth) media center, I spoke with a documentary film maker from this area, and I couldn't find the answer I am looking for from any of them.

Most people told me:

Movie studios use FCP instead of FCE.
With FCP you can do more stuff.
FCP has more effects and stuff.
FCP has more filters and stuff :)
FCP is a program that comes in Final Cut Studio which comes with several other applications (Soundtrack, Color, etc).
FCP is 800+ buck more than FCE).

I do not understand the real difference between FCE and FCP. Let me explain you what I mean... what I DO understand is:
All of the above.
I need a Mac with an Intel processor.
FCP is better than FCE and it's more expensive. It has more options than FCE.
I've noticed you can get certified for FCP by Apple but not on FCE.

My draft budget would be:
3400 buck for the HMC150
1500 for an iMac (MB418LL/A Intel® Core™2 Duo processor 2.66GHz; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM; 640GB). Yes, I know Mac Pros are much better, but they are a lot more expensive for a decent one.
200 for FCE (or FCP [Studio] for 1000).

But what are the other differences?
Can you please explain me: What ARE the differences?
What FCP CAN DO that FCE CANNOT?
Can I accomplish what I want to accomplish with FCE without spending 800 more for FCP (Final Cut Studio)?
Do you still recommend FCP instead? Why?

I really do appreciate your suggestions and comments VERY MUCH!!!

THANK YOU ^_^

Ben Tolosa
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 12:55 AM   #2
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I am going to give you a two part answer here. And I hope you take it in the spirit intended.

First, the meat of the matter. I feel you should purchase Final Cut Pro. But not because it "does more" than FCE. Chances are, you won't need to do that much. That is not where the problem lies. Where the REAL issue will come in, is that your talents and experience will not allow you to produce anything like professional quality results in the near term. And if that is your goal, you are going to need help. You are going to need to collaborate with others. And frankly, this is a strength of Final Cut Pro, and a near impossibility in Final Cut Express. For that reason alone, FCP is the better choice, and the one that won't paint you into a creative corner with hundreds of dollars spent to show for it.

Ok, now the second part of my post.

Your budget will make it exceedingly difficult for you to get anything resembling pro level results. While you are selecting a fine camera that can shoot some very nice images, there are three crucial pieces for getting that image to seem "professional". The first, is a quality recording system. The HMC150 is "good enough". The second is lighting. And you have budgeted zero. Professional lighting for a "scene" can be a very expensive proposition. Far more expensive than what you are planning to spend on that camera. The last piece of the puzzle is sound. And you've not budgeted anything to get decent quality sound either. If you are acting a scene, the microphone should be no further than 3dt from your mouth at any time you are speaking. Fulfilling that edict is a challenge for new filmmakers but a very necessary one. People are often content to listen to a movie while they go get something from the kitchen, or be distracted by something else. But turn the sound off on a movie, and interest quickly wanes. Sound is SO much of the movie, and you've not addressed it at all in your budget.

I wish you all the best success, and I know you'll get many replies to your question with varied responses and opinions. Weigh them all carefully.
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 01:34 PM   #3
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Ben:

I would have to 100% agree withs Perrones observations.

I believe you need to fully refine your plans. You are asking a massively broad based question. Shooting any pro quality footage is not about the equipment, it's about production experience and know-how.

Learning audio and video equipment and a NLE from the ground up is also a multi-year learning experience with constant needs for additional equipment when you are starting out.

What you need to do is move to an area more friendly to your profession. You could also start signing up and auditioning with places like studiocenter.com. You could also write and direct your own first short and use a local videographer to shoot it.

Anyway, I bet that is not what you want to hear. If you are going buy equipment, I would plan for another $5000 for audio & lighting. You don't have to make the entire outlay at once, but you will need to provide for audio capture up-front. An on-camera mic is no use whatsoever for what you intend to shoot.
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 02:26 PM   #4
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Ben,

Something you might consider.

With your camera, a basic microphone, and 2 lights, you could do a one-man show. If you think of stage plays where there is a single actor on the stage, nearly in the dark but light by a single spot, this is what I am envisioning.

It's simple, inexpensive to shot (relatively), and will showcase your talent. If you add a basic light kit, you could change this to an intimate 2-person dialog. But as soon as you start to add a "scene" where you've got to light a background, fight the sun, etc., you're going to be spending real money.
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 10:39 PM   #5
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Thanks!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Perrone Ford View Post
I am going to give you a two part answer here. And I hope you take it in the spirit intended.

First, the meat of the matter. I feel you should purchase Final Cut Pro. But not because it "does more" than FCE. Chances are, you won't need to do that much. That is not where the problem lies. Where the REAL issue will come in, is that your talents and experience will not allow you to produce anything like professional quality results in the near term. And if that is your goal, you are going to need help. You are going to need to collaborate with others. And frankly, this is a strength of Final Cut Pro, and a near impossibility in Final Cut Express. For that reason alone, FCP is the better choice, and the one that won't paint you into a creative corner with hundreds of dollars spent to show for it.

Ok, now the second part of my post.

Your budget will make it exceedingly difficult for you to get anything resembling pro level results. While you are selecting a fine camera that can shoot some very nice images, there are three crucial pieces for getting that image to seem "professional". The first, is a quality recording system. The HMC150 is "good enough". The second is lighting. And you have budgeted zero. Professional lighting for a "scene" can be a very expensive proposition. Far more expensive than what you are planning to spend on that camera. The last piece of the puzzle is sound. And you've not budgeted anything to get decent quality sound either. If you are acting a scene, the microphone should be no further than 3dt from your mouth at any time you are speaking. Fulfilling that edict is a challenge for new filmmakers but a very necessary one. People are often content to listen to a movie while they go get something from the kitchen, or be distracted by something else. But turn the sound off on a movie, and interest quickly wanes. Sound is SO much of the movie, and you've not addressed it at all in your budget.

I wish you all the best success, and I know you'll get many replies to your question with varied responses and opinions. Weigh them all carefully.
Good evening (or morning) Perrone!

First of all, I do want to thank you for your answer VERY MUCH (extended to Jeff Kellam too).
I really appreciate your time and the fact that you are sharing your knowledge with me.

I also want to tell you all, somebody else recommended me the following post:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/non-linea...-question.html

And it was very helpful and instructive for me.

I am going to buy Final Cut Studio then. Specially now at 999 dollars, that seems like a good deal according to all the differences and extra tools that comes with.
So, both of my main concerns are solved (Final Cut Studio and HMC150) ^_^

I understand that any craft takes years to master. It is not different than acting, music, wood work, sports or medicine. I am willing to learn and somehow somewhere (this place happens to be one of them) I need to start doing and making mistakes. I would love instant results, but I do know it is practically not possible. So, I will not hope in vane. But I know the more I do, the more I read and learn, the better I can get. Masters (you guys) can open many doors, but it is up to the student/apprentice (me) to cross them. I am conscious that I do not know much about this craft (perhaps nothing at all), but I really want to learn it little by little, day by day. I will need help I know, and it is only up to me to go and find it (main reason why I am here). Somebody else had recommended me the book 'Rebel without a crew' by Rober Rodriguez (it is on my 'to buy' list).

I did not budget any money for light and sound, because I just forgot to do so. So, thanks for remind me and for teach me about that. I would love to budget money for that too, and eventually I will buy that equipment as well. I want to buy the camera and the software (and the computer) first and I will buy light and sound equipment on a later date because I forgot to mention that my wife works at Dartmouth college and she (and me as her husband) can rent for free any kind of film equipment from their film department. So, I can rent some light and sound equipment and use it when I really need it.
However, I would love to ask you (you all) for recommendation on both matters. To have 2 or 3 options (at least the names), so I can continue with my research on those areas.

What would you recommend for:
And better alternative for a camera? (between 3400 and 7 or 8k if possible)
A quality recording system?
A quality light kit?
A microphone?

Please disregard the budget, just to have a rough idea but please try to keep it 'affordable'. What I mean about affordable is something reasonable for professional results.

I do have a Behringer XENYX802 with a UCA202 USB and a Shure SM58 mic (the one with the switch) and I believe I can use that mic into the XLR input on the HMC150 to do what you recommend on your second post right?

Talking about your second post, no I did not think about that and I honestly think is a super nice idea. In fact, I am going to do it as one of my first tests with the HMC150. So a big THANK YOU for that one.

Hope to read you soon and once again: THANK YOU!!!

Ben Tolosa
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 10:56 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Kellam View Post
Ben:

I would have to 100% agree withs Perrones observations.

I believe you need to fully refine your plans. You are asking a massively broad based question. Shooting any pro quality footage is not about the equipment, it's about production experience and know-how.

Learning audio and video equipment and a NLE from the ground up is also a multi-year learning experience with constant needs for additional equipment when you are starting out.

What you need to do is move to an area more friendly to your profession. You could also start signing up and auditioning with places like studiocenter.com. You could also write and direct your own first short and use a local videographer to shoot it.

Anyway, I bet that is not what you want to hear. If you are going buy equipment, I would plan for another $5000 for audio & lighting. You don't have to make the entire outlay at once, but you will need to provide for audio capture up-front. An on-camera mic is no use whatsoever for what you intend to shoot.
Nice to meet you Jeff ^_^

I am going to quote myself from the post above:
'I understand that any craft takes years to master. It is not different than acting, music, wood work, sports or medicine. I am willing to learn and somehow somewhere (this place happens to be one of them) I need to start doing and making mistakes. I would love instant results, but I do know it is practically not possible. So, I will not hope in vane. But I know the more I do, the more I read and learn, the better I can get. Masters (you guys) can open many doors, but it is up to the student/apprentice (me) to cross them. I am conscious that I do not know much about this craft (perhaps nothing at all), but I really want to learn it little by little, day by day. I will need help I know, and it is only up to me to go and find it (main reason why I am here).'

Yes I realize it WILL take me several years to become a pro. But I am going to try, this is the beginning of a real 'beginner'. I have A LOT to learn and I need YEARS of practice, and that is why I am here. This is one of the MANY resources I will need on my path to become a filmmaker (I hope to become one someday), because right now I am just a wannabe.

Moving to a more friendly area is a an ideal idea, but realistically not possible for me at the moment and probably for many more years to come. Perhaps someday if I do have a possibility and/or a shot, but I do need some experience first. And unfortunately or fortunately, this is the place I have to get it from.

We all started with a blank sheet at some point, and mine looks like a full moon.

I do thank you very much for your answer, it is great to get your input!

Kind Regards Jeff!

Ben Tolosa
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 08:44 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Tolosa View Post
I am going to buy Final Cut Studio then. Specially now at 999 dollars, that seems like a good deal according to all the differences and extra tools that comes with.
So, both of my main concerns are solved (Final Cut Studio and HMC150) ^_^

What would you recommend for:
And better alternative for a camera? (between 3400 and 7 or 8k if possible)
A quality recording system?
A quality light kit?
A microphone?

Please disregard the budget, just to have a rough idea but please try to keep it 'affordable'. What I mean about affordable is something reasonable for professional results.

I do have a Behringer XENYX802 with a UCA202 USB and a Shure SM58 mic (the one with the switch) and I believe I can use that mic into the XLR input on the HMC150 to do what you recommend on your second post right?

Ben Tolosa
Ben:

To help answer some of your questions, I offer the following advice:

As far as a better camera, you will get many varied opinions on this. You have to consider tapeless vs. tape based capture and workflow and the camera file system compatability with FCP. IMO the best two cameras currently on the market are the Panasonic HMC-150 (lower price point) and the Sony EX-1 (higher price point). Both cameras have tapeless capture (via different methods) and both cameras are capable of excellent results. The AVCHD files from the HMC-150 can be difficult to edit on an older computer, but you have that covered. All of the other higher end cameras which are tapeless are going to use a very expensive recording media and a better recording codec, but are not worth the expense for your use IMO.

In general, all the current $3000ish price point 1/3" & up imager cameras are extremely good and have their strengths & weaknesses. I have had the HMC-150 since September of 2008 & can report excellent results with stage shows/ballet recital type work (which can be very tough to shoot). The EX-1 is certainly a step up in quality (and complexity), but you would have to decide if you need that level of camera.


As far as your microphone question, Im guessing you are looking at a wireless system(s) to start out rather than boomed mic(s). The mimimum level of wireless system you need would be the Sennheiser G3. I would probably recommend replacing the included lav mics with the industry standard Sanken COS11D lav mics. Audio is much more complicated and difficult to learn than video IMO. You really need to determine exactly what type of shoot and the type of location before you can even approach audio needs.
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 09:27 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Kellam View Post
Ben:

To help answer some of your questions, I offer the following advice:

As far as a better camera, you will get many varied opinions on this. You have to consider tapeless vs. tape based capture and workflow and the camera file system compatability with FCP. IMO the best two cameras currently on the market are the Panasonic HMC-150 (lower price point) and the Sony EX-1 (higher price point). Both cameras have tapeless capture (via different methods) and both cameras are capable of excellent results. The AVCHD files from the HMC-150 can be difficult to edit on an older computer, but you have that covered. All of the other higher end cameras which are tapeless are going to use a very expensive recording media and a better recording codec, but are not worth the expense for your use IMO.

In general, all the current $3000ish price point 1/3" & up imager cameras are extremely good and have their strengths & weaknesses. I have had the HMC-150 since September of 2008 & can report excellent results with stage shows/ballet recital type work (which can be very tough to shoot). The EX-1 is certainly a step up in quality (and complexity), but you would have to decide if you need that level of camera.


As far as your microphone question, Im guessing you are looking at a wireless system(s) to start out rather than boomed mic(s). The mimimum level of wireless system you need would be the Sennheiser G3. I would probably recommend replacing the included lav mics with the industry standard Sanken COS11D lav mics. Audio is much more complicated and difficult to learn than video IMO. You really need to determine exactly what type of shoot and the type of location before you can even approach audio needs.
Hi Jeff!

Yes, for what I have read from current owners such as yourself, it is apparently the way to go. EX-1 is a step up like you said, but I believe the HMC-150 is enough for me for now at least. Maybe if I do learn more over the years and I want to star shooting with two cameras, I can get an EX-1 or whatever will be similar to that in the future. I was very intrigued by the Red Scarlet, but people keep waiting for it since the beginning of the year and who knows when it's going to be out. People said 3k for 3k ($). But probably the Scarlet will be rocket science for me (the HMC-150 will be for a while tough...). I also looked at the HPX-170 but for what I read is exactly (or nearly exactly) the same camera as the HMC-150 but with P2 solid state recording system.

And about the kind of scenes I want to start taping: I want to do monologues, one-man show (like Perrone suggested) and dialogue scenes were I can play with another actor. The perfect scene I can give you as an example would be the scene between Pacino and De Niro in the movie 'Heat'. The one they are sitting over a cup of coffee. I do know I will never ever be neither De Niro or Pacino; but that is the type of material I want to create. Another good type of scene is the one between Marlon Brando and Pacino in the 'Godfather' when they are talking at their backyard (patio) and Don Corleone is drinking wine.

I want to shoot that type of stuff, with not much physical movement but with dialogue where I can really capture my intimacy as an actor. That is why probably the wireless mics will be my best bet.

Any more suggestions in terms of mics for that kind of scenes?

And... do you know if the SHURE SM58 I have can be just plugged straight to the HMC-150 and use it?

Thanks very VERY much for your input Jeff!!!

Ben Tolosa
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Old September 4th, 2009, 05:00 PM   #9
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Hi Ben,

I'm going to be brutally honest with you.

I have been shooting video on a pro basis for just under 2 years. I have only recently upgraded from Express to FCS and I still have a huge learning curve ahead of me. I do event work, and I have progressed a huge amount in 2 years but I still have a huge learning curve to climb in that area as well.

Learning to do a professional job of this assignment will be a career in it's own right if you are to be successful. If you want to become a videographer/film maker, that's great. But if you actually want to be an actor, I suggest you concentrate on that. If you have thousands of dollars burning a hole in your wallet use some of it to employ a proper professional to do this film for you. It will cost you much less, and you will get better results much faster. There are loads of budding film makers out there who would bite your hand of I'm sure, check out DVX user if you want to find some.

Good luck.

stuart
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Old September 9th, 2009, 10:52 PM   #10
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Quote:
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Hi Ben,

I'm going to be brutally honest with you.

I have been shooting video on a pro basis for just under 2 years. I have only recently upgraded from Express to FCS and I still have a huge learning curve ahead of me. I do event work, and I have progressed a huge amount in 2 years but I still have a huge learning curve to climb in that area as well.

Learning to do a professional job of this assignment will be a career in it's own right if you are to be successful. If you want to become a videographer/film maker, that's great. But if you actually want to be an actor, I suggest you concentrate on that. If you have thousands of dollars burning a hole in your wallet use some of it to employ a proper professional to do this film for you. It will cost you much less, and you will get better results much faster. There are loads of budding film makers out there who would bite your hand of I'm sure, check out DVX user if you want to find some.

Good luck.

stuart
Hi Stuart!

First of all, I want to thank you for your honesty. That is what I am looking for. This is great!

I do realize becoming a filmmaker takes years! And that is OK with me. If I am alive and healthy, I do have years to invest on learning more and more. Acting is my biggest passion, but it leaves me a lot of room around this area, since there is not much going on in terms of acting. And filmmaking was always a 'perhaps someday' for me, since I was a little boy. Although I do not have thousands of dollars to burn (believe me I wish I do); I know fimmaking besides an art is a business and I do have to eventually invest money on it (like any other business). So, I am willing to do so; but I want to learn the craft. I know it will take me years and/or decades; but I am willing to invest my time (and the money) on it. We all start with a blank page at some point ^_^

Thanks very much to share your view with me and I will get Final Cut Studio for sure!!!

"You cannot fail unless you quit." Abraham Lincoln

Kind regards!

Ben Tolosa
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Old September 10th, 2009, 12:23 AM   #11
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Ben, I would advise you to buy some cheap equipment, and the money saved put towards taking some classes. Also it would be good for you to just get a job on a movie set (like a grip), so you can see how things are done. You will most likely meet fun, nice people, who want to do projects like yours, so you can team up. Unlike a still photography movie making, particularly fiction, is not a solo gig. A long list of names a the end of each movie is there for a reason, because it takes so many folks to make a decent product.
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Old September 16th, 2009, 08:50 PM   #12
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Ben, I would advise you to buy some cheap equipment, and the money saved put towards taking some classes. Also it would be good for you to just get a job on a movie set (like a grip), so you can see how things are done. You will most likely meet fun, nice people, who want to do projects like yours, so you can team up. Unlike a still photography movie making, particularly fiction, is not a solo gig. A long list of names a the end of each movie is there for a reason, because it takes so many folks to make a decent product.
Hi Robert,

Thank you very much for your advise. I live in VT and here there is not a whole lot going on on terms of movie making. That is why I want to somehow make my own opportinities. However I met a NY filmmaker currently living in the Upper Valley and I will be helping him editing his documentary next year. Now he needs to keep logging since he has 420+ of raw material. That will be a great experience for me. As for me, I am counting down the days to my birthday in October to get my HMC-150.

Any advise on any DVD classes? What are the best?

Thanks very much Robert!!

Best Regards,

Ben Tolosa
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Old September 16th, 2009, 10:41 PM   #13
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Ben, there are a lot of books on the subject as well. Some community colleges sometimes offer some basic classes. Check your local library on the subject matter. A lot of times high schools offer some programs in basic video work- maybe you can hook up with some folks through that.
Watch films- see how they are written, the shot selection. Close up, medium, wide, over the shoulder.... see what works and why.
Network, so you can meet other folks. Don't invest too much into your gear first,
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Old September 23rd, 2009, 09:05 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Robert Rogoz View Post
Ben, there are a lot of books on the subject as well. Some community colleges sometimes offer some basic classes. Check your local library on the subject matter. A lot of times high schools offer some programs in basic video work- maybe you can hook up with some folks through that.
Watch films- see how they are written, the shot selection. Close up, medium, wide, over the shoulder.... see what works and why.
Network, so you can meet other folks. Don't invest too much into your gear first,
Hi Robert,

That is great, I will definitely start reading. I heard 2 recommendations for filmmaking books:

A rebel without a crew
by Robert Rodriguez

and

Making Movies
by Sidney Lumet

Any other good recomendation for filmmaking reading?

Also, any good DVD course on Final Cut?

THANKS VERY MUCH!!

Ben Tolosa
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Old January 2nd, 2010, 10:11 PM   #15
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FCE vs FCP

I've been toying with 'home' movies for a while and fwiw, here is my experience.

I went final cut express first as my "second step" (up from imovie) and promptly upgraded to FCP in less than a week.

There are things for even the most rudimentary editing that final cut express was painfully limiting when you run into them. I may not be able to fully utilize final cut studio for quite some time, but now as i come up with a new idea, or see something that someone else did that rocked, and wonder if I can do X or Y, i just go back to the manual/tutorial (of all the ones i've tried, the ripple training has been hands down the best) and after a day of focused effort i can start making baby steps in the right direction.

these are the tutorials that really worked for me... http://www.rippletraining.com/ but since we all learn differently (I waded through tons of tutorials before finding those) try the free tutorials from different series and see which educator/style works best for you personally.

Find a mentor with regards to shooting, editing, etc... I have two that have been absolutely invaluable to me (and i'm at the hobbiest with big dreams level) and... the hardest of all... listen to them. learn. take input. check ego at door.
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