FILM LTK – 240+ Filmmaking Links, Tutorials & Knowledge (2013)


Filmmaking Links, Tutorials & Knowledge

.Last Update: Oct-27, 2013



Everyone has to go through their own journey of discovery, wonder, failure and success, studying, sleepless nights and long work days to achieve anything in any profession.

I believe that the only way the world will ever become better is by sharing experiences and teaching each other, making ones’ own path easier for the next person to walk on, until it is a highway for thousands. The more people become successful in one field, and the quicker they learn their skillset, the more likely it is that one of them will discover something that pushes the envelope even further, and expands the possibilities of everyone else.


That’s why I appreciate people like Koo from nofilmschool, because that’s pretty much exactly what he does – he gives people a weekly digest of internet information and new products that he discovered along his own way, or Oliver Stapleton, BSC from cineman, who shares his decade-long experiences with everyone as if it was a 20-hour conversation over a dozen cups of coffee.

There is no need to do the same thing as them – they already do it as good as it gets – instead, I want to share with you what I discovered along the way over the last two years; my personal bookmarks that I set specifically for this use – so you can learn faster, so you don’t have to discover these tutorials, thesis papers, video instructions or product catalogs yourself … and you can concentrate more on the goal than the way to get there.
I hope that everyone who wants to do something in the film industry behind the scenes – cinematography, gaffing, producing, directing, writing – can find something useful in this page!

Also, if you’re a total beginner, N00b^1000, or an advanced filmmaker – this list should provide an overview of what is out there, and hopefully supplement your already existing knowledge.

The following is a collection of links, and I appreciate any further suggestions or wishes; please share them via the comment function or via email to ! The goal here is to provide a single site that will lead you to anything between ten quick minutes of brain refreshment and hundreds of hours of learning as much as you can.

Also, these links should be useful rather than space-fillers; I tried to compile the list with the goal in mind to only spread useful and effective information. This will become – hopefully – an increasingly extensive resource, so be sure to check back again here in the next months!

Order, Please!

The following list is structured in the form of a film’s pipeline, so you can navigate quickly:

First, you have to become part of a community and immerse yourself in the field, meet peers and friends that keep you going on rainy days. Then, you need to write a screenplay (that is the pretty much most important part of all – a good story). Go on to produce and put things together to actually make the project happen; direct it creatively and lead all heads on set to a single vision, shoot it with skill and understanding, rig the lights to get impossible shots, build your own tools if you can’t afford them. You will need to design the set and props, build costumes, use special effects if needed and apply the appropriate Makeup to your actors –  then you’re good to go for post production. Editing until all the pieces are put together and you can “picture lock”, then design the sounds in the film, create visual effects that enhance your story, and then give your film a final polish and look with color grading.In the end, you will need to market and distribute your film. Of course, this pipeline is simplified and skips a bunch of positions on set, but it gives a good overview – and more is to come. Also, understand that you can’t do everything yourself, and that it is important to see filmwork as teamwork – but knowing something about everything that a film entails is incredibly helpful, regardless what specialty you might decide to transform into your career.

The Filmmaking LTK: Links, Tutorials and Knowledge.

The Filmmaking LTK: Links, Tutorials and Knowledge.The Filmmaking LTK: Links, Tutorials and Knowledge.


Forums & Communities

The fastest way to grow your skills and knowledge is to become part of a community and converse with them all the time. If you are not enrolled in a film school or otherwise surrounded by filmmakers in your area, then becoming part of an online forum/community will kick your learning curve up by more than you can imagine.

As you can see, in my hierarchy “Forums & Communities” has as much importance as all tutorials and knowledge – because these are the only places where your learning experience becomes interactive and social [if you don’t have access to a face-to-face filmmaking community outside of the internet], and becoming part of a learning and experimenting community is just as important as the content of what you actually learn.

  • DVXUser: – a great forum with massive amounts of information, lot of activity and a nice atmosphere.
  • – a very informative community with professional and friendly people.
  • Cinema5D: – a DSLR filmmaker community that offers great in-depth forums with lots of user activity, and a high technical knowledge across the board.
  • – a nice community with lots of categories and diversity; worth checking out!
  • – a community of mostly (not just) student filmmakers, very active and full of conversation – a good place to find other people that cherish learning and development!
  • – a community based around low-cost filmmaking; sometimes the conversational niveau is not the highest here, but lots of motivated people populate the forums.
  • – a community/tutorial-base that talks about everything digital art-related (incl. Cinematography & Editing). The forums still have the oldschool 1995 tree structure, but there’s lots of helpful tutorials, helpful people and a good atmosphere.
  • REDUser: – the official RED forum that talks about ONE, ONE MX, SCARLET, EPIC, DRAGON and so on and so forth. Also the best source for RedcineX-updates, and your home of you are RED-obsessed or planning to buy one.
  • The RPF: – large forum on prop building, model building, sculpting, model building, Sci-Fi costume design and Makeup / Special Effects Makeup. Extremely old, extremely full of professional content, and still very active.

Tutorials & Instructions

Tutorials, especially video tutorials, are the best replacement for on-set experience. If you can’t work on a big set as an assistant and can observe your superiors, or you can’t be in a film school production class, online videos where people explain how to do certain things will be your (usually) free bible. Here a few resources that will provide you with a constant influx of new knowledge:

  • NoFilmSchool: – Ryan Koo’s weekly web digest of the most important things going on in the film world. One of the few newsletters worth subscribing.
  • VideoCopilot: – the probably world’s best and largest and most awesomest and most Kramerest collection of After-Effects Tutorials. Here you can literally go from 0 to 100 in After Effects.
  • Cambridge in Colour: – this is the best-researched and comprehensively written knowledge collection about photography. An absolute must-read for every amateur and super-pro Photographer and Cinematographer… here, you will learn everything about sensor sizes, depth of field and the physics of photography. In-depth and easy to grasp.
  • So You Want to Work in Movies: Stapleton, BSC (The Proposal, Pay it Forward), a top-notch Cinematographer, pours out his brain and heart in this four-hour read to answer your question: What am I good for, and how do I get into the industry? This site is a pure soul search, and a great resource to understand other soulsearchers that you will encounter along the way to becoming a film professional. An absolute must-must-must read for film professionals and those that would like to make it big. Contains many other articles, mostly cinematography-centered.
  • Vimeo Video School: – the Official Vimeo video school, in which you can learn about everything front to back – really extensive, and high quality tutorials in: Behind the Scenes, Do It Yourself, DSLRs, Editing, Filming Gear, Lighting, Shooting, Software, Sound.
  • Raindance Resource Collection: – as humble as it looks, this film festival has more than 300 custom-written advice articles in the areas of writing, producing and directing. Absolutely amazing.
  • Filmmaker IQ: – a great collection of articles, tutorials, DIY stuff, link lists and tutorial lists, financing, online publishing – you can spend weeks of learning there!
  • CreativeCow Library: – a great collection of editing- and VFX-related tutorials, sorted by programs, moderated by CreativeCow. Decent Quality Control, and offers insight for all skill levels.
  • Cheesycam: – similar to Nofilmschool, but more equipment-centered.
  • Lifehacker: – although not film-related, everyone working in the industry will know that film people need to be very productive and optimize their daily lives. This is what lifehacker is all about – productivity, work ethic and lifestyle optimization.
  • RED 101: – a really valuable, well-designed collection of resources published by RED directly. Although it’s partially designed to market their cameras, you can learn a ton about resolution, global VS. rolling shutter, temporal aliasing, filters, anamorphic lenses and a lot more.
  • Editing Brain Dump: – Evan Schiff, a veteran editor, spills the beans on anything from audio cleanups in dialogue to aspect ratio uses in feature films, organizations of digital and analogue reels, assistant editing techniques – if you’re into editing, you will spend a lifetime on his resources.


Not just HOW to write, but especially WHAT to write needs to be put into lots of consideration and inner dialogue. History shows that certain forms and ways of writing are more efficient, expressive and successful than others, so studying the science of writing can never be a mistake. And of course, we’re talking about screenwriting – so FORMAT is the very first thing you need to know.

  • CeltX: – this free software makes Screenplay writing and formatting about 95% smoother. An absolute must.
  • 100 Advice Articles for Indie Screenwriters: – Raindance has an amazing collection of 100 articles by different authors on their site, all geared towards screenwriters. This amazing competendium of knowledge gives tips without end, similar to the LTK, but created only within Raindance. A few examples of the topics covered are..: Derivative Screenplays, Audience Profiles, Theme, Heroes, Dialogue Improvements, Screenwriting Myths, Typical Mistakes of Beginners etc. – get ready to keep reading for a week straight.
  • Screenwriting Complete Overview: – a great overview over what screenwriting is about, what diffent terms mean, how to structure and format a screenplay, and what kind of literary tools to use in order to make a screenplay flow better. Pretty much, a complete screenwriting class online, for free. A must-read for anyone wanting to write, and looking for a single, informative source.
  • Six Elements to a Sell-Worthy Script: – this article explains six elements that must be properly executed to make a script professional – character, theme, tone & time, castability, memorability and genre.
  • Ten Great Screenplay Elements: – may it be symmetric plot parts, symmetric dialogue, or tension distribution: This article is well worth your time reading, since it explains elements of storytelling that can improve your screenplays without essentially changing your ideas or forcing a structure on you. Also, some important storytelling terms are introduced.
  • Three Act Structure, Arguments Pro and Con: – if you’ve ever taken a screenwriting class, the Hollywood-styled “Three Act Structure” will be burned in your brain forever. Not just that – also, conspirating writers huddling in corners and declaring the 3 Act Structure a faux and the equivalent of fastfood in writing, will turn into lasting memories. Regardless of who is right or wrong, regardless if you believe religiously that an inciting incident has to happen by page X or if you feel like “The Tree of Life” is the perfect example of a story that defies structure – it’s good to know the conversation, to know the three act structure, and then decide for yourself what you want to do with it. Also, make sure to read the comments below the article, as they contain nice arguments for and against the writer’s point of view.
  • An Aspiring Writer’s Success Account: – since writing is an abstract job, it’s sometimes hard to figure out how others “made it”. Here, Lauren Morelli desribes how she got her very first job for writing a TV series.
  • Filmcourage’s First-Hand Tip Videos: – filmcourage does one-on-one interviews with successful filmmakers and writers; incredibly interesting advice told by the professionals themselves, through dozens of free videos.


Producing is organizing, hustling, paperwork, sitting back, playing big daddy and taking true and big responsibility. Definitely something you want to prepare yourself for – no matter if you have to deal with SAG, if you need to find the cheapest equipment in the most available location, if you need to sort out a conflict on set or deal with insurance and risk. Don’t get yourself into a lawsuit, and make sure everyone comes in and out from the set in good physical condition – that’s the foundation of good producing.

  • Film Budgeting: – it’s good to know what producing is all about: Bringing resources together. And of course, most resources cost money, which is well-explained on Wikipedia.
  • 90 Advice-Giving Articles for Producers: – no less than 90 articles are featured here, custom-written to give the young and experienced producers tips in all sorts of areas. The articles cover topics such as: Distributor Relations, Financing Routes, Breaking in as a Producer, Social Media Capitalism, Dealing with Rejection, Press Releases, Making a Living etc. – a whole lot of good articles to cherry-pick for you as an aspiring producer.
  • Sundance Tell-All by a Producer: Niederhoffer gives a sober, realistic picture of what it is like to produce 3 films that get into Sundance at the same time, attend the festival, try to sell the film, and interact with all the people present.
  • The Anatomy of a Film Crew:– useful for anyone, but especially producers: Who is doing what on a film set, and how does it look like? Producers need to know what kind of crew members they need to get for which kinds of productions, and this little photo story is going to help you get a better insight if you haven’t been on film sets much.

    Anatomy of a Film Crew - a selection of crew members, and what they do

    Anatomy of a Film Crew – a selection of crew members, and what they do

  • Producing With a Big Name Attached: – a pervertedly in-depth, even intimate, look behind the Making of “The Canyons” with Lindsay Lohan. This article will be a great test for anyone wanting to produce: If you like what you read there, you’re most likely fit to deal with all the stress and hairpulling that is involved in making films happen.
  • Pitching Essentials: – written for the American Film Market 2013, a former MGM studio executive tells you in 13 comprehensible pages what you as a producer should know about pitching your film to the “Big Wigs” – and also, to anyone else who might be interested in your project…!
  • Getting your Foot in the Door as a PA: – 10 pages free, 66 pages for 3 bucks – this link gives you an extensive manual for how to become a PA on big productions, and getting the experience you might want if you head for producing big stuff – with the old fashioned “Work Your Way Up”-Mantra. Of course, you can follow the modern “Pull Yourself Up by the Bootstraps” tactic by producing small films on your own and growing the production value gradually.
  • Great Production Budget Template: – easy and very useful for small, low-budget projects. Available in multiple formats including *.xls – a great place to start and build upon.
  • Preproduction Templates and Examples: – a basic collection of preproduction work like breaking down the script, calculating times of different crew departments etc.
  • Simple Front to Back Budget Template: – an instructional page about all steps of budgeting, *.xls-budget template included. The budget is very simple but shows that all steps of the production should be organized and accounted for.
  • Scheduling for Dummies: – gives you some good insight in the steps of breaking down a script and scheduling a shoot. Remember, you don’t need to professionally break down a script on small shoots – but a professional, well-thought-out schedule is what you should focus your energies on.
  • Schedule & Shot List Template: – interesting template utilizing screenplay-looking organization to schedule a shoot and including a detailed shot list.
  • SAG Instruction Videos: – SAG members are giving you instructions how to sign a production (you have to, if you use SAG actors, otherwise you jeopardize their guild standing) and making the word “SAG” just a little less scary by giving you some good insight.
  • SAG signatory online system: – sign your production online, right here. Saves you lots headache, because this is one of the first things you should get done as a producer.
  • G&E Equipment Rentals Wooden Nickel: – useful if you are producing in the LA area, or if you want to get a good idea for affordable, professional Grip&Electric equipment that you will need to include in the budget.
  • Camera/Lens Equipment Rental Samy’s: – also useful for people in LA; the NY equivalent would be Adorama Rentals. These stores rent lens and camera equipment, whereas I would mainly recommend them for lenses, that’s what we do with them.
  • Making a $20,000 indie film: – good article from a filmmaker that “did it” – telling you what to be cautious about and what to concentrate on.
  • Largest Collection and System of Film Festivals: – this website lets you enter your film into hundreds of film festivals around the world, organizes the submission process for you, and is directly linked to IMDB (every accepted submission to qualifying festivals gets the film an IMDB page).
  • CeltX for Script Breakdowns: – once there is a screenplay, it needs to be “broken down” into various elements, like cast, props, vehicles, stunts, extras etc. – CeltX lets you mark up the script and juggle these elements.
  • The Crowdfunding Bible: – a 47-page free PDF bible for crowdfunding projects through platforms like Kickstarter, IndieGogo et al.; a deeply informational crunch of profound information about campaign design, psychology, marketing, ethics etc. – all you basically need to know if you ever want to fund something through kickstarter.
  • How a Webseries Pilot raised $100.000 through Crowdfunding: – a great article that describes the process the webseries pilot “Agent 88” went through to get its funding, and got made.
  • SpaceFinder for Studio Locations: – FracturedAtlas, a non-profit arts organization, came up with a great solution to “finding and booking a studio with XYZ requirements” problem – a unified system that works in the 10 major U.S. film cities and lets you search by location, a million different features, all on interactive maps and schedules.
  • Film Financing Basics & Balanced Producing: – a short interview talking about what it means to be a “balanced producer” – Fiduciary; Marketer; Visionary. Also touches on casting decisions and financing strategies.
  • Pitch Structure & 5 Stages of being “Good in a Room”: – Stephanie Palmer, former MGM Studio Executive, shares valuable insight on how a pitch should be structured, how to interact with the executives you are pitching to, and how to prepare yourself for one of these rare chances.
  • 37 Filmmaking Grants: – filmmakers-know – No matter if you’re looking to fund a documentary or narrative film or screenwriting development: NoFilmSchool’s researchers have your back.


A director is the one central element of a film. Everything renders down to an able and well-prepared director, one that can infest his crew with courage and motivation, and keep cool when things get too hot on set. A director needs to be a great communicator, understand himself and even more so, his actors and their psychological triggers, and have a good balance of self-criticism, self esteem and persistence. Directing, since it’s such a social profession, can only be really learned on set – but gearing up some aces and hidden tricks up your sleeve when things get tight is never a bad idea.

  • Michael Kaine about Directing: – genious video where veteran actor Michael Kaine explains what a director should do with an actor, and shows live how to direct actors and block out a scene. An absolute must-see.
  • Starting out, it might just be yourself and one great friend - but a few years of bootstrapping later, you might have 40 people in your crew.

    Starting out, it might just be yourself and one great friend – but a few years of bootstrapping later, you might have 40 people in your crew.

    How to Make your First Serious Short Film: – in this article, you will learn what it means to bootstrap – to start from zero – and use various self-propelled tools of legitimacy to get people to work on your project and collaborate with you. The article concentrates on six essentials: A good script, a cast, a crew, locations, equipment and budgeting – and uses real-life examples to make these concepts graspable.

  • Common Mistakes of Aspiring Filmmakers: – there have been people making bad choices and behaving poorly before you. Learn from the common pitfalls so that you can close some of these one-way streets. The topics include things like day job considerations, knowing why you want to make movies, self awareness, working with the wrong people etc.
  • Preproduction for a Director: – how to mark a script with the Assistant Director, measure film scenes in eigths etc. – a good collection of information for the preproduction process and how to properly plan ahead.
  • Directing & Organization: – tips on how to be a good director, and more precisely, on how to be an organized director. Organization and preparation is often the director’s only resort from the inadvertent chaos.
  • Beginners Directing Tips: – these tips are basic, but definitely useful for beginners … it’s important to think about everything and soak yourself up with information before investing your own and other people’s time (and eventually money).
  • Advanced Directing Tips: – good advice on directing actors and becoming confident as a director.
  • Honest Movie Trailers: – every director must learn to battle the seductive power of quick preproduction decisions and sloppy storytelling. This installment with 30 different “Honest Trailers” puts a very entertaining spin of criticizing films by means of satirical trailers. These give away all of the logical, character-related, plot-related and concept-related problems with each film, and allow filmmakers to learn from the mistakes of their idols.
  • 50 Advice Articles for Directors: – direct directing advice, neatly organized in about 50 articles of vastly different topics; a great place to find answers and cover unknown territory of knowledge. Topics cover Documentary Mistakes, Rehearsing with Actors, Sound Considerations, Crossing the Line, Shooting Schedules etc. – dig around!
  • Movie Sins in >5 Minutes: – a staccato-rain of movie mistakes, plot holes and other logical issues in a guaranteed timeframe. If you like going to auction houses, this is for you. Unlike “Honest Trailers”, you have to watch these (more in-depth, less funny) quick style film critiques about 3 times to learn all of the problems. Nevertheless – it’s a great platform to learn from big guys’ issues.
  • The Fast and The Furious 6 - Behind the Scenes Photo

    The Fast and The Furious 6 – Behind the Scenes Photo by Car and Driver magazine

    Realizing a Modern Car Chase: – a very detailed writing on the making of different chase sequences in “The Fast and the Furious 6” by the car magazine “Car and Driver” – how to use Previz and real stunts to achieve a high level of adrenaline.

  • Book Tips: There is many good books about directing; I personally can recommend “First Time Director: How to Make your Breakthrough Movie” and “Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances“. Both are outstandingly good books, readable at any level in the directing profession. The first book deals with everything related to making your first feature film (similar to Robert Rodriguez‘ “Rebel without a Crew“, but with higher budgets and less medical research lab rats); the second book tip deals exclusively with the art of working with actors on fostering outstanding acting work in your film.
  • Some of Stanley Kubrick’s filming techniques: – it’s good to learn from the best. Not to copy them, but to get inspired and understand what made them unique and successful. This article lists a few of Kubrick’s filming elements that made him inique, like long scenes, coldness in characters or long tracking shots.
  • Some of Steven Spielberg’s filming techniques: – some more stylish advice from Spielberg, like approaching-to-closeup, match cuts or framing through foreground objects.
  • The Different Paths You Can Take as a Director: – this article talks about how you can become a number of different directors – may that be directing documentaries, commercials, reality TV, feature films or webseries. Topics like motivation and persistence are part of the author’s own experience, and are exposed in the article – most of all, this is a collection of tips on how to become a working director.
  • Filmmaking-Inspired, edutainment Infographics

    Filmmaking-Inspired, edutainment InfographicsFilmmaking-Inspired, edutainment Infographics

    Film-related Infographics:– a fun yet educational resource/collection of film infographics, circling around production pipelines and general filmmaking advice.

  • 160 Articles of Interest to Filmmakers:,5315,0,0,1,0 – although less instructional than the other articles in the Raindance Resource Series, this competendium informs you about the constantly changing media landscape and various things to be learned from recent developments. Think of topics like Film Career Brand Strategy, Learning from Pop Icons, Radio Survival, Trends in Filmmaking, Surviving Film Festivals etc. – many articles there are worth reading or flying over.
  • Sam Mendes’ 25 Pieces of Directing Advice: – Sam Mendes explains what roots, motivates and pushes you as a director, regardless on what level of skill you are currently residing at.


These links and videos deal mainly with lighting and camerawork. As a cinematographer, you have to understand and feel lighting. Usually, DPs (Directors of Photography) are total equipment nerds and know everything about lighting equipment and camera models – so should you, with the ultimate goal of being able to better express a story through lighting skill and camera choice. Find exactly that below – tutorials about lighting, cameras and the meaning of cinematography. Regardless of equipment preference, the large number of DSLR-related tutorials can be easily translated to any other kind of digital cinema camera like the Blackmagic, RED or Alexa – once you truly understand the principles and connections, the cameras you are shooting with become only tools (of course, with quality differences). The key lies in knowing which tool is the most effective for the desired result.

  • Online Free Lighting Simulator by Zvork:– learn how to light, interactively! This is an absolute secret tip (the page is totally unpopular); you can choose from various photography strobes (easily translateable into film), gels, light sizes and directions – and light five different faces. The rendering engine is pretty realistic, and will teach you a ton about lighting! Priceless!

    The outstanding Free Virtual (Online) Lighting Simulator by Zvork - an amazing tool intended for Photographers, but just as useful to Cinematographers.

    The outstanding Free Virtual (Online) Lighting Simulator by Zvork – an amazing tool intended for Photographers, but just as useful to Cinematographers.

  • So you want to be a Cinematographer: – what you have to expect from becoming a DP – not just as a technician or artist, but as a lover and parent – managing the balance between family and cinematography is an important subject that is usually not talked about – but Oliver Stapleton talks exactly about that, in detail, with life lessons and tips.
  • Let There Be Light: – Mark Vargo, ASC, explains the foundations of light types. Tungsten, Fluorescent, HMI, PARs, HMIs, Fresnel Lenses etc. etc. – anything you would want to know to get a solid foundation in the types of light that are out there. A great and simple film that even advanced Cinematographers will find useful.
  • DSLR Super Guide: – The NoFilmSchool DSLR Guide is a free guide that introduces you to everything you need to know if you want to be part of the DLSR revolution – from exposure to F-stop and sensor size, trough the Canon army of awesome cameras (and Nikon’s/Panasonic’s comrades) to the CMOS issues with rolling shutter or the graceless moire and aliasing. If you want the PDF, you need to Sign up for the Newsletter. Good for anyone between beginner and total pro – the guide is simply written, but communicates complex concepts and facts.
  • Light Meters in Real Life: – Mark Vargo, ASC put together a great instructional video about Light Meters – in test settings and on big Hollywood sets. Especially in the beginning, we have the illusion that filming and previewing with digital cameras makes meters obsolete. To the contrary; with a meter you can measure light ratios, expose for the unpredictable and can make sure that professional gaffers don’t think of you as a fool for not knowing how to use it.
  • CreativeCow DSLR Collection: – this Youtube playlist with 30 videos by Creative Cow is absolutely great for beginners – it teaches you exposure (aperture, shutter speed, ISO), monitoring, slow motion, focus, gadgets, tools, … a smooth way to get an introduction to filming on DLSRs – good if you are a beginner, too basic if you’re a pro.
  • The Lowel Lighting Terms Glossary: – A great resource for people on all skill levels – unless you have 15 years of experience, you will find many terms and concepts here you had no idea about. Especially good for those who did not go to a Cinematography school that might have covered these terms, but are self-taught professionals. Also, it’s not just a collection of words but rather concepts – things you can read today and apply on set tomorrow.
  • LearningDSLR: – A video giude to the DSLR basics – very nicely made, with good lessons and a from-beginning-to-end mentality. Great for beginners and advanced DSLR users!
  • Reverse Key Light Analysis: – a stylized way of lighting faces that proves to be not just popular, but looks damn great. Evan E. Richards puts in words what we have subconsciusly thought all along! Why does this come so far on the top? Well … because it’s so important to understand!
  • “Why We Need Light” Article Series: – a great series of small articles analyzing lighting in big feature films and relating it to principles, like contrast, leading the viewer’s eye, lighting layers etc. – a quick and good read, written by Ryan Patrick O’Hara.
  • Behind the Scenes of a Cinematographer: – Art Adams is a Cinematographer that boasts about 30 articles about stuff he’s shot. All listed in a good overview, lighting diagrams, videos, photos, easy to read – a great collection of resources and real life examples!
  • Camera Blocking Walkthrough: – a cinematographer walks you through the creation and thoughts behind a complicated opening dolly move of a low-budget but decent-looking horror film, and explains the reasons for planning it that way.
  • Portrait/People Lighting Diagrams: – really valuable videos that explain strobe setups for photography (it takes little creativity to translate these in continuous lights) and shows the final results together with neat diagrams. Each video is usually one photo shoot, and you learn a lot about making women look beautiful – the eccentrically dressed photographer is an added bonus.
  • Basic Cinematography: – a good introduction to the way a cinematographer should think and what questions to ask oneself when being a DP.

  • Scene Lighting: – an SMAPP lighting tutorial for entire scenes; useful if you want to learn to light larger spaces. Although the directing and acting in this clip is questionable, the shots are well done.
  • Lighting Techniques: – Eve Hazelton’s Lighting Techniques, Tutorial 1

  • Lighting Techniques: – Eve Hazelton’s Lighting Techniques, Tutorial 2
  • Basic Lighting: – SMAPP Basic Lighting Tutorials
  • Rembrandt Lighting: – a basic tutorial about Rembrandt Lighting. While this video is basic, it introduces one of the old masters of lighting, and should inspire you to borrow books about painting from the local library. I swear, learning to shoot and light from the paintings of old masters will make you a MUCH better cinematographer [however, it is supplemental knowledge and should build on a strong pre-existing understanding of lighting].
  • The Bastard’s Book of Photography: – a great, free and open-source guide and website teaching you about practical applications of photography and the use of natural light in relation to your camera’s function – directly translatable into film.
  • Beyonce Shoot Setup: – a detailed video explaining a George Holz beauty shoot with Beyonce. Good for music video white room look shoots – and of course, you have to translate from strobe to continuous.
  • Studio Lighting, Beginner’s Guide:—a-beginners-guide-to-studio-lighting-132 – although this is also a tutorial for photography, it teaches you the importance of light source sizes, the proper use of softboxes and artificial lighting in confined spaces. All you have to do is replace “strobes” with “continuous lighting”!
  • The Effect of Lenses on the Human Face:– From 350mm to 19mm, a photographer shows you how wider lenses distort, while longer lenses compress, a human face – and our perception of beauty and emotional state is influenced by it.

    Stephen Eastwood's famous study showing the impact of lens choice on rendering of a human face.

    Stephen Eastwood’s famous study showing the impact of lens choice on rendering of a human face.

  • Romantic Restaurant Lighting: – a cool little tutorial teaching you how to light a larger space; a restaurant – in correlation with the story content, a romantic dinner.
  • Using a Light Meter on set: – the much underestimated Light Meter and how it works by Ryan E. Walters … a great overview that includes lighting ratios and real-life applications.
  • Green Screen: – Green Screen Chroma Key Tutorial with Eve Hazelton (Lighting & checking it)
  • Roger Deakins Forum: – although a forum, it’s a great cinematography resource, since Roger Deakings, ASC (a famous cinematographer) often answers questions himself there…!
  • The Film Look: – a BBC White Paper (PDF) explaining what makes digital look like film. Totally advanced knowledge, on a technical level of understanding the material – have Wikipedia ready for understanding terms.
  • 25 Tips from Roger Deakins on being a DP: – Roger Deakins, ASC, sometimes shares his wisdom. The guys from the Black and Blue have collected 25 of these tips and categorized them in “Art of Cinematography”, “Camera Systems” and “Film Careers & Getting Work”, “Camera Assisting” and “Working with Crew”.
  • DSLR Aliasing & Moire: – great article explaining the difficulties of DSLR footage processing.
  • RED ONE Setup: – a good intro to the components of a RED ONE. If someone asks you if you can shoot on the RED, and you say yes but lie – this might be a good video to watch before you are on set.
  • Managing RED Footage: – good video tutorial explaining the flow of managing RED Footage of the RED ONE. Soon, this will be a bit outdated (Scarlet and Epic with REDCineX make it simple), but it can’t hurt knowing.
  • Magic Lantern Users: – The official Magic Lantern (a.k.a. make your DSLR in a monster … unless it’s the 7d) community of awesome hackers around the world that transform the world for advanced DSLR filmmakers.
  • CreativeCow DLSR Library: – a cutting edge resource of DSLR reviews and similar cameras; fetures tutorials, analyses, articles and a lot more. Especially the guest articles are helpful for advanced users; the creative cow-own tutorials here are only for beginners.
  • AbelCine Blog: – for all nerds, this blog reviews current technology and gadgets as well as stuff in the post-pipeline. Good to stay updated on technological developments.
  • The Understanding Series: – a great series designed for stills photographer working with color negative film, but extremely relevant to modern digital and analog cinematography. Exposure, framing, cropping, sharpness etc. principles explained with lots of text and pictures.
  • Shooting for the Edit: – a good, moderated vimeo channel that features tutorials for shooting digital movies in connection with editing.
  • Pulling Better Focus: – how to pull better focus on rigs and dollies; a detailed series of articles targeted towards 1st ACs and One-man-band DPs.
  • The Camera Assistant’s Manual: – a Google Book version of David E. Elkin’s Camera Assistant’s Manual – about 250 of the 500 pages are available to read online, and will blow your mind if you haven’t been AC or DP on big productions – there’s a lot of information about tripods, film stock and the AC job that can help you do things better on any level of production.
  • Comparative Tests and Mailing List for DPs: – although it might seem a bit technical and dry for beginners, the advanced Cinematographer will truly appreciate this resource: It has comparative tests from all sorts of modern cameras (EPIC, ALEXA etc.) based on dynamic range, skin color representation etc. – and one of the most professional mailing lists (these are about to die out) for Camera professionals.

  • Zacuto’s Great Camera Shootouts: 2010: | 2011: | 2012: – what would a list like this be without the Zacuto Great Camera Shootouts Video series. These annual installations compare film and digital cameras, 35mm VS. DSLR, iPhone VS. RED EPIC. In 2010, it was all pretty technical and dry, in 2012 it becomes more subjective and philosophical. Very useful if you want to get an overview of the modern cameras out there, and the DPs that use them. Each Video is approx. 1 hour long. Also, compare how their testing methods changed over the years; while it was a “let’s see how the cameras do under the same conditions” in 2010, it is “every DP gets to adjust the lighting in the scene to help his camera perform better” – which are simply two different arguments of testing philosophies, and it’s good for beginners and professionals to see how similar all cameras perform once you allow experienced DPs to tailor the lighting to each camera.
  • Real-Life Advice: Stapleton, BSC (The Proposal, Pay it Forward), takes you on a trip to look deep inside of yourself: Do I have what it takes to be a Cinematographer, or should I do something else in Film?. Contains many other articles, like “How do I deal with having a family when I spend half of my life at the end of the world shooting features?”.
  • Digital Cinema Camera Manuals: – this resource collected some of the most popular digital cinema camera manuals, directly from the manufacturers. A bit outdated (2009), but it’s good to know some of these cameras (Panavision Genesis, SI2K, Phantom HD etc.). Sports a film cinema camera manuals section as well.
  • Emotions of a Photographer: – If you’re looking for emotional insight, personal openness about technique, fears, expectations, lessons learned, stress etc. and above-mentioned Oliver Stapleton’s life journal was not enough – here you get a good insight on the life of photographer Stephen Eastwood, very similar emotions to a self-employed DP.
  • How Much You Should Charge as a DP: – Figuring out how much you should ask for your work is often difficult. An experienced Cinematographer shares his technique of calculating his value – and how you can come up with a fair rate for yourself.
  • Lens Review Catalog: – an amazing resource for helping you decide which lens you want to buy and rent – or, which sets of lenses you want to combine on your next shoot. The guys at DP Review are the kings of technical detail: Chromatic Abberation charts, sharpness charts, detailed build and electronics analysis – you can’t get any better than that. Ech lens gets about 7 pages of attention, which covers every possible thing you might want to know. The catalog also includes cameras; in terms of lens brands, pretty much all large photo lens manufacturers are represented. This guide is mainly for photographers, but can seamlessly be applied to Still Lens Cinema.
  • Lens Reviews in the Field: – an American rogue photographer put together this amazing lens review guide, which is a lot more practically oriented than DPReview’s, and features just about the same level of detail in the reviews. Here, you get to learn more about how each lens compares to others, how they actually work in the field, and Ken makes very nice detailed samples that show sharpness, vignetting & Co. for each lens. An amazing resource!
  • Lighting Trainer for Stage: – a collection of hundreds of free lighting tutorials. Mostly written for stage lighting, but can easily be translated into cinematography terms – a real gold nugget.

Sound Recording

There is nothing worse than a great student film with a superb story, great cinematography and … poor sound. People will always negatively notice that; it happened to me many times that I had something that I was really proud of, just that the sound quality lacked.
Let’s be frank – when you sit in a film-projected movie theater, 50% of the time, you will sit in darkness. If you close your eyes, all that is left of the film is the sound. Granted, you can fix a lot of crap in Sound Editing if you know what you are doing – but it’s like trying to run NeatVideo over DSLR footage shot with ISO 12600: If the base stock is noisy as hell, you’ll never get rid of it in post. In other words: The better your raw footage is – regardless if picture or sound – the better your final output will be. Trust me, some of the secrets of field audio recording (on location and inside a studio) are as simple as to make it a habit to find the AC Off-button before you start rolling. The tutorials in this segment will go in-depth about audio recording, dynamic range, bitrates, recording formats, audio hardware (microphones & recorders/amplifiers/mixers) and sound guy etiquette.

  • Maximizing Audio Techniques for Production: – only 3:45 hours long, this real workshop is an experience that will teach you how to record better sound – by equipment and by technique, with testing, noise reduction and real-life applications and audio tests. Absolutely worth the time to watch, and a total must for every audio guy – you might discover something (highly likely!) that you don’t know … yet.

  • The Clinton Harn Sound Series: – one of the best all-encompassing location/studio sound resource on the net. Clinton Harn guides you through an extensive journey; some of the highlights below. In this Zacuto Resource, there’s something for everyone, and with simple words, all complex concepts, the audio market and equipment choices, theory and practice are being spoon-fed to the reader. A must-bookmark collection for every serious filmmaker, from beginner to professional.
  • Introduction to Field Capturing and Recording of Sound: – a great introduction to in-field shotgun microphones, lavalier microphones and field recorders. The tutorial is shot at a noisy laundromat, which is a perfect way to show the quality difference of different microphones compared to on-board mics of DSLRs.
  • Choosing the Right Microphone: – an incredibly long, bible-like article about different microphone models, with sound recording samples of short shotgun, super cardoid, hyper cardoid and cardoid microphones, recording patterns, noise ratios etc. – very advanced knowledge and detailed specs, neatly compiled for the interested reader.
  • The Vimeo Video School – Sound: Staff-Produced Video Tutorials about Sound from the Vimeo team – room tone, wireless mics, various recorders – a quality-controlled place to check and cherrypick.
  • Basic Introduction to Location Sound: – learn the basics and keywords in a quick read, to get an impression of how similar digital audio and video are.
  • Good Sound Equipment is Money Well Spent: – a very true fact to most amateur and student filmmakers is the attitude to “save on the sound equipment”. Every serious sound guy will tell you that microphones under $1000 are garbage – and in this video series you’ll get a better idea of how the market in sound recording devices is a “what you spend is what you get” type landscape, and why professional audio guys come with $20.000 worth of stuff to set.
  • Microphone Recording Patterns:– here you learn about the different recording patterns of different microphones – like Cardoid and Hyper-Cardoid, and what each of them are useful for.

    A hyper-Cardoid Microphone Recording Pattern

    A Hyper-Cardoid Microphone Recording Pattern

  • Vimeo School Group- Sound: – a neat collection of user-made videotutorials about using microphones, recorders … and the physics and digital principles behind them.
  • Portraits and Experiences from Sound Professionals: – a great collection of real-life success within the sound industry. Personal, 10 minute portraits from sound mixers that made it in the industry – and what their career path was like, how they got into it, why they stayed etc. Bottom line: A must-watch if you are a sound guy yourself or playing with the idea of becoming one.

Rigging & Grip Equipment

One of the most overlooked field of knowledge in film schools, if you ask me (together with costume design, makeup, and production design – if you don’t have one of these components in a project you truly care about, then slap yourself hard left and right and get these positions filled with motivated people!). If you ever thought about becoming a gaffer or grip, or want to extend your Cinematography one-man-show, or learn how to up your game when it comes to placing lights and cameras in difficult/impossible locations, then rigging – the art of setting up contraptions – is a field you should dive deeper into.

  • Grip it Good: – another amazing film by Mark Vargo, ASC, appreciating and showing what Grips do on set. This is not your typical film school explanation – this is a dissection of an entire craft and skillset, and filmed on large studio productions with elaborate rigs and grip work. Fantastic film if you want to learn more about what Grips actually do.
  • Gaffing in General: – a great blog about AC/DC, power sources, rigging, menace arms, lighting and the rest.
  • Great Rigging Video Tutorials: – here you learn how to set up dollies, reflectors, stands etc., as well as useful video tutorials to speedrails, speedwrenches, car mounts, gels – you name it.
  • Grip & Lighting Equipment Names & Pictures – List: – it’s very important to learn the names of the equipment on set. Fine, C-Stands, Cardellini clamps and Scrims are names you connect to a piece of equipment, but how about Mayfer Clamps, Cucoloris, Diva Lights or Bazooka Stands? This website is a greatly illustrated sales catalog that features a comprehensive list of film equipment – from the smallest clamp to the fattest Crank-Up stand – and will teach you a lot of lingo in the grip & electric (G&E), lighting and AC department.
  • Film Equipment Illustrated Name List 2: – another good (sales catalog) resource to learning names of equipment and getting an overview of the equipment that is out there, and what it is used for, through names and photos listed next to each other.
  • Menace Arm, the original: – similar to a camera crane/jib, this arm allows you to hang lights way, way offset from their stand. Advanced knowledge for beginners or some film school students. You can also build “fake” menace arms out of speedrails, C-stands, steel pipes or Gobo arms – as described on gaffersunite, for example.

  • Rigging a Menace Arm / Pipe Boom Rig: – a video tutorial on how to build a 12ft Boom arm – very, very useful knowledge if you haven’t built one yet, very well explained in this 6-minute video.
  • Rigging Examples: – A Rig gallery by Gripnerd, a Blog and Gallery about Camera Dolly Rigs, Lighting rigs and miscellaneous on-set jerryrigging. Very informative and inspiring!
  • How to Rig a Car Shoot:‘ – this guy listened well on set and put together a cool drawing that includes various elements you can use in a nighttime car shoot inside a studio.

    Rigging a Car Shoot

    Rigging a Car Shoot

  • Basic Outdoor/Mobile Lighting & Grip: – how to light outdoors with a barebones crew – little manpower and a need for flexibility in company moves demands very light-weight, small equipment.
  • A list of G&E equipment manufacturers: – it is helpful to take a look at the websites of film equipment manufacturers; you will discover all sorts of new tools, video tutorials and further information that becomes helpful on sets in your future.
  • Gaffer VS. Key Grip: – hilarious series (look on the youtube video list on the right hand side) of different set positions against each other. Interestingly enough, this might even teach you something about set etiquette, correct language and proper hierarchy. Or confuse the hell out of you.

DIY – Do It Yourself Builds

One method to prove yourself how much of a filmmaker you are is when you get down and dirty to the hardware store and abuse some materials to build your own equipment. Usually, when you’re at that stage, time is not exactly money, so it’s a far more effective way for you to build something for $50 now instead of waiting three months worth of paychecks to buy it for $500 later.

Production Design

Possibly more important than Cinematography is Production Design: You might have the best camera in the world and some gorgeous actors, but if all of the locations look empty and soulless, you won’t believe the film for a single second – you might have the most gorgeous lighting, but without the proper accessories and furniture, there is nothing to be lit. Production Design should always get a fair amount of budgetary attention, even more than cinematography. What is Production Design? It’s props, it’s furniture, it’s location decoration and styling. Beyond that, the Production Designer’s important duties include set design, oversight of set building, and coordination with the Costume Designer and the Makeup Artists as well as the Special Effects team. A Production Designer must be a hustler, and know in which dusty junkyards or high-end stores to look for the right props.

  • Guide for No-Budget Production Design: – if there is little money, you have to be smart about where you go, what you buy and what you can use for free. The article also teaches you how to build relationships with various suppliers, become a low-key hustler and build a network of cheap props.
  • 65 Concept Art Tutorials: – A production designer is well-prepared if they are able to communicate with their concept artists, and can channel the vision of the director into actual designs. Even better are Production Designers that are concept artists themselves. In this absolutely amazing list of custom-made Concept Art tutorials, Feng Zhu Design teaches you how different top-notch concept paintings were realized. The level is very advanced, so prior painting/drawing skills are recommended.
  • 20 Set Painting Q&As: – a professional set painter answers a collection of interesting questions, including choices for gauzes, paint types, constructing flats, surfaces, backcloth and set design.
  • Set Design and Spatial Impossibility: – you though the Analyses in your film school were in-depth? Get ready for some of the most complex spatial analysis of Kubrick’s “The Shining”, and how there are doors that cannot lead to any rooms, doors that open the wrong way, rooms that intersect – all things that were done on purpose, to subconsciously disorient and scare the audience. Above link is Part 1, this is Part 2.

  • Production Designer of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” Gives Advice: – made by the British Academy for Film and Television Arts, Production designer of TTSS, Maria Djurkovic, shares some of her valuable knowledge in this “Mini Masterclass” video. A must-watch for upcoming production designers.
  • A home-made Ghostbusters' Proton Pack - with full instructions on how to do it.

    A home-made Ghostbusters’ Proton Pack – with full instructions.

    Building a Ghostbusters Proton Pack: – a completely illustrated tutorial on how to build your own Ghostbusters Proton Pack, right at the intersection of Production Design and Costume Design. Amazing use of wooden pieces and other “trash” to create a professional-looking mold for the actual Proton Pack.

Costume Design

Costume Design is often overlooked in unprofessional productions; the assumption is that contemporary films don’t need costume design. Then ask yourself: How come that outfits from certain TV shows are so memorable? How come I can tell who a character is without them saying a single word? Costumes can tell a lot about a character, can imprint certain color combinations in our heads, and are the absolutely most important tool (together with production design and makeup) to make a period piece film convincing. A good costume can do a lot to contribute to the suspension of disbelief – and a bad one can make a character completely forgettable.

  • Costume Design Basics: – Studio Creations gives you a neat overview of what you should consider and learn when you are starting out with building costumes and props on a film-ready level.
  • Basic Standing Figure Video Tutorial: – a drawing video tutorial intended for fashion designers, teaching you how to draw a geometric frontal view of a person. Every costume designer should have excellent sketching skills – especially the human form – in order to quickly visualize costume ideas. The more actual costume building is involved in a specific project, the more important it is to pre-visualize them and align design with vision, before materials are used and garments constructed.
  • Costume and Prop Design Techniques: – a great list of illustrated tutorials to various costume and prop design techniques – including vacuumforming, building a vacuumtable, body casting, latex masks, and weathering surfaces.
  • 35 Video Tutorials on Rendering Fabrics in Drawings: – a great playlist by FashionARTventures, teaching fashion designers on how to draw and paint convincing fabrics in their designs. Obviously, these tutorials can be directly transferred into the realm of costume design, where the initial sketch oftentimes determines the course of an entire design, including the choice and look of specific materials.
  • The people at Studio Creations show a complete How-To on building a full Storm Trooper costume. Lots of rewarding work!

    The people at Studio Creations show a complete How-To on building a full Storm Trooper costume. Lots of rewarding work!

    Building a Storm Trooper Costume: – yes, for real. The Studiocreations guys show you how to build a full-body, home-made, high-quality storm trooper costume by creating a body cast, complex parts molds, using a large variety of sturdy materials and learn how to build any other kinds of hard-shell “armored” costumes. Watch out: Although really well explained, this is anything but easy or quick to do – but it will elevate your skillset through the roof!

  • 12 Complete SciFi Costume Design Tutorials: – featuring Star Wars mostly, you can probably spend multiple months creating these elaborate designs based on very detailed illustrated tutorials. A must-browse, especially if you are planning to learn Sci-Fi related costume designing from scratch!

Special Effects – FX

Once a story touches into the fantastical or fictional, once it transcends what actors and cameras can do in a location, special effects become necessary. Explosions, stunts, model building, forced perspective work, stunts, green/blue screen and increasingly CGI are in the wide array of special effects skills. This area of “Special Effects” is more concerned with practical effects; a few categories below you can learn more about Visual Effects. Often times, special effects are seamlessly used and stay completely invisible to the audience – and sometimes, they become the focal point of modern blockbusters in the Sci-Fi or Fantasy genre.

  • Special Effects Gallery with 1000+ Real-life, On-Set Examples by Reel EFX: – even though there is little explanation and this was probably not intended for education, you can learn a lot from just looking at their pictures and observing their rigs. Make sure you click through the different categories on the top; each category has about 50-100 pictures. ReelEFX features their Special Effects work and rigs from the areas of: Snow, Storm/Wind/Steam/Air/Smoke, Rain, Fire/Pyro, Mechanical, Cloud Tanks, Blood/Props, Elements, their own Tornado rig, Multicam rigs, and Puppeteering.
  • Low Budget Practical Effects in Big Movies: – an interesting review of how Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Spider Man & Co. used inexpensive yet very effective practical solutions that were superior to work-intensive CGI … at least in most of the cases. The article gives links to various Making Of articles.

  • Making a Breakaway (Sugar) Wine Glass & a Silicone Mold: – a well-explained video about creating a silicone mold based on a real wine glass, and then creating a breakaway wine glass out of it with the colloquial “sugar glass” – melted isomalt.
  • Making a Sugar Glass Breakaway Bottle & Mold, in Detail: – an in-depth series of 6 videos detailing how to create a mold for a breakaway beer bottle out of sugar glass, and a custom mold out of silicon. More in-depth than above video. The instructions are 45 minutes split in 6 videos – with lots of detail about the complex creation of an industrially reliable mold and resulting breakaway beer bottles that are film-ready.
  • Rental Gear List of Special Effects Equipment: – how would you know what to rent, if you don’t even know what there is to rent? This site is a rental list of one of the biggest special effects places in Los Angeles. Looking through the list and googling names and functionality will help you learn more about things like Special Effects Fans, Smoke Machines, Clean Dirt, Cobweb Guns, Pyrotechnics etc.!

  • Practical Stop-Motion Effects and More: – a great compilation of simple modern-day stop motion trick cinematography, and some interesting use of materials like magnetic putty for quite astounding effects that would be a lot more work in CGI.
  • Fight Scenes and Other Action Effects: – a nice collection of practical action effects and stunt work in the beginner and avanced areas: In-depth fight choreography, filming car chases, basic martial arts, armor&padding, and more “safe” fighting instructions. Remember, stunts can be dangerous – take care of your crew and cast and stay as safe as you can.
  • Using a 1/72 Helicopter Model for FX: – building a helicopter or a car in CGI can be very time-consuming, especially when the vehicle/aircraft doesn’t have all too much screen time. It might be better – as demonstrated in this video – to use a 1/72 scale model for a convincing stand-in. Some enhancements in CGI make the end result very believable.
  • Making a Big Chilled Ground Fog Machine: – fog machines usually spread their fog everywhere. Only when the fog is cooled down, it will stay low on the ground; here a guy explains how to build your own fog chiller and turn your backyard on a windless morning into a foggy ocean.
  • Working with Dry Ice, Fake Snow and Starched Water: – in this 10-minute video show, you will learn how to make “Flubber”-like smoking water containers with dry ice, how to create fake snow with Sodium Polyacrylate, snow sculptures or shapes with Sodium Acetate a la “Frosted Designs”, and use water mixed with starch on top of a speaker to create flubber-like dancing “figures” out of the heavy mixture. Just try to ignore the obnoxious glue commercials that come with the video.


A film without good Makeup is only seldomly good. Makeup can hide flaws of the actors we like to see as perfect; it can enhance or decrease certain facial or physical features. Makeup can mean “make her look flawless and flat”, or “let the blood gush out of his neck”. Makeup is generally separated in “regular” makeup and special FX makeup, which can range from prosthetics and silicon scars to contraptions that make bodily liquids squirt out of artificially constructed holes. Generally, Makeup also includes the work on hair – and the Makeup Artist often coordinates together with the Costume Designer so that their approaches are symbiotic.

  • Creating A Massive Fake Beard with Crepe Hair: – need a bearded character for your film, but the actor has no beard or cannot grow one? This quick video tutorial shows you how you can construct your own beard – convincing, and cost-efficient, resulting in a pretty decent-looking Zeus clone.
  • Liquid Latex Ageing Detailed Tutorial: – a very detailed, illustrated tutorial on the application, mix and technicalities of liquid latex to create wrinkles on actor’s faces and age them by 5-30 years. Especially helpful troubleshooting part, in case your latex application flakes off.

  • Professional Fake Beard: – how to give an actor a camera-ready, convincing and well-done beard, explained in a 40 minute video tutorial by a quite eccentric and very professional Makeup artist. If you want to learn fake beards, this guy will kick your skill level through the roof.
  • Hair Punching, hyperrealistic: – an absolutely mindblowing video tutorial from Makeup-FX’s great custom-made instructions: Punch hair into a hyperrealistic prosthetic head; beard, eyebrows and main head hair included. Prepare for some serious Madame Tussaud’s-type quality.
  • Creating a Fake Head, extremely well-explained by Makeup FX, from inception to completion. All of what you see on this photo is fake.

    Creating a stunningly realistic fake head, from inception to completion. The illustrated tutorial is extremely well-explained by Makeup FX – the head on this photo is 100% fake.

    Making a Fake Head of an Actor, From Scratch: – always wondered how a character lost their head in a movie, and it was later shown tumbling around or being picked up? These are usually the results of 100+ hours of work on creating a completely believable head. So believable that they look even better than the stuff at Madame Tussauds. And guess what – here is a really detailed, illustrated tutorial on how to build one, by the extremely talented guy over at Makeup FX.

  • Modeling a Skinless Arm and Hand: – an amazing tutorial in which you “take the skin off” – i.e. model muscles, veins, tendons and other things under your skin and attach them to a real arm. After adding blood, it looks incredibly convincing and menacing; these guys took the time to write a really detailed tutorial about their process and show you an on-camera reel of the final effect.
  • Custom-made False Teeth: – how to build your own set of fake teeth with self-made molds of the actor’s teeth.
  • Hand Make a Professional Wig: – this illustrated tutorial teaches you how to make a custom wig, again from scratch, while upkeeping high quality. Custom-made wigs are a lot more durable than the usual comercially available ones.
  • Simple gun wounds, cuts and glass wounds: – three short and effective tutorials to create simple wounds – bullet wounds, ripped open skin and glass shard intrusions.


One thing is true about filmmaking: Once you are finished filming, you are halfway done with your work. The editing room (or nowadays, your computer workstation/cluttered desk) is not just a place to put footage together, but to actually tell and re-tell the story; to construct connections between characters that were not there at the stages of filming or scriptwriting, to change messages and implications; to support the film’s narrative through editing style, editing pace or shot/scene sequencing. If you want to become a director, learn editing (first for yourself, and then for the editor [so he doesn’t hate you for having no idea about it]), and if you want to become an editor, then it’s really time you start learning – you should have started when you were just about in the middle of puberty!

Sound Design / SFX

Also often overlooked in film schools; as a sound designer or editing one-man-show, you are master over the audio-experience of a film. Watch films like The Blairwitch Project, Cloverfield or Tape [genious film, by the way] and you will notice that image quality or camera choice are not necessary factors to make a box-office ready film. Watch student films produced at the low end of film schools (or any “student” “nonserious” “amateur” film for that matter), and you will notice that the sound quality sucks, and without even seeing the film, you can immediately tell that the film will suck as well. Noisy sound recordings, audible sound clippings between edits, stale environments without any environmental sounds – those are the most basic mistakes made. Once you dwelve deeper into sound editing, sound design and sound engineering, you will see a whole new world open up. Many filmmakers believe that sound is 50% of their movie. And if you project your movie on actual film rolls, 50% of the time you are sitting in the movie theater, you will be staring at a black screen while hearing the sounds only.

  • What is a Sound Designer: – a little intro to the work a Sound Designer does, and what is important to look out for and accomplish. Very useful, even if you never want to become a sound designer – getting an understanding for sound design will help you a lot down the line.
  • Essential Sound Filters: – this user article explains some of the basic sound filters in a very understandable fashion and gives you some insight what you might use LowCut, HighCut, Equalizer/EQ and so on for. Very important for 1-man-crews.
  • – the probably coolest and most in-depth library website with completely free sounds for any kind of project – student film or commercial, it’s all for the common good and free.
  • 50 Free Sound Websites: – if Freesound was not enough, you’ll find what you need here. Some of them charge you for specific usage.
  • Foley Tutorials: – a great list of instructions how to create certain sound effects on a foley stage or in a recording studio. Feels very DIY-like, has totally valuable information in there and is comprehensive as hell!
  • Sound Design of “Prometheus”: – the sound designer of Ridley Scott’s SciFi epic explain their approach to the sound design of the film – powerful insight to top-notch sound designers’ work!
  • Sound Design breakdown by NY Times

    Sound Design breakdown by NY Times

    Sound Breakdown for “Killing Them Softly”: – an sound “map” with samples of what went into the mix for a specific scene of the film. Also, a good NY Times article detailing the work the sound designers did.

Visual Effects – VFX

This will cost you half of your lifetime – Visual Effects are the ultimate time eater, similar to editing. On big movie budgets, they are the big money eaters. Nevertheless, VFX are essential to the modern filmmakers’ toolbox, and should be learned by any director in order to communicate better with VFX artists down the line. If you want to become a VFX artist yourself, you will probably already have VideoCopilot hidden under your pillow and as your browser start page; but essentially, VFX is all about learning lots and lots of examples, and growing the capacity to use that knowledge and create the effects needed for your film. The most essential skills – for one-man-shows – are sky replacement, camera stabilization and 2D tracking, and they will come in quite handy if you messed up on set or couldn’t afford to shoot something specific. If you are looking for practical effects, visit the Special Effects section of the LTK a few categories above.

  • VideoCopilot: – the probably best place ever to learn visual effects – over 100 top-notch After Effects tutorials, including project files, with complex and high-end looking projects. A piece of VFX history!
  • Creative Cow After Effects: – an awesome playlist on Youtube with 200+ original After Effects tutorials, moderated by Creative Cow. The projects are simple and easy to understand.
  • Ayato@Web: – the japanese second degree Cousin of Andrew Cramer – that guy has the text&picture equivalent these AfterEffects-tutorials. They are neatly organized step-by-step tutorials for Motion Graphics and light effects, for the most part.
  • Basic Sky Replacement: – great news if your sky is blown out or ugly – there is help! Also, check out the Advanced Sky Replacement Tutorial if you’ve got more camera moves and using a procedural matte for the sky seems like a better option.

  • VFX Breakdown “The Great Gatsby”: – If you want to get an update on where CGI is nowadays and how fantastically it can enhance the freedom of imagination of a filmmaker, watch this video.
  • Gunshot Lighting: – simulate lighting from a gunshot – a basic skill for all action fans.
  • Footage Stabilization in AE: – footage stabilization is crucial in basic visual effects. Very helpful. If you’ve got After Effects CS 5 or after, check out the awesome Warp Stabilizer.
  • Day to Night: – although this is mainly a cinematography question, there is just certain cases where the VFX guy will have to go from day to night… and this tutorial explains one of the many possible approaches to that.
  • Advanced “Soft” Chroma Keying: – a good tutorial about partial keying and leaving reflections, dirt etc. in the footage to give it more depth and realism. Partially builds on pre-existing Green Screen skills.
  • Tracking2.5D in AE: – tracking a shot and using the information for a 3D-like camera movement with parallax effect of inserted elements. Powerful, simple idea!

  • Creating a Blast Wave Effect: – a blast wave Tutorial that uses Mocha, Tracking and external footage. Very helpful if you are working on a warfare scene, and will teach you a lot about believable composting and creating on-screen action in post.
  • FXPhD Tips: – some free tutorials, mostly for Nuke & Flame software … teaches you plenty about nodes, expressions and serious compositing – as long as you have the tools for it.
  • RedGiant TV / Magic Bullet Tutorials: – although mostly self-promotional (tutorials for their tools in the MagicBullet series), this website boasts 200+ tutorials. Worth a read!
  • Twixtor:– a great little piece of software that gives you ultra-slow-motion for $300 (standard) and advanced stuff for $600. Eventually, you will find this software incredibly useful in your workflow if you work in music videos, action, sports etc.If you have access to a Linux-distribution like Ubuntu, check out SlowMoVideo, a free alternative to Twixtor that only works on Linux and provides comparable results!
  • 50 Twixtor Tutorials: – a collection of 50 (!) video tutorials around Twixtor [I did’t even know there is so much to talk about!].

Color Correction / Color Grading

Color Correction is to correct wrong white balances and exposures, to “sync” one shot to the next in a scene and make them seem seamless, hiding the mistakes of the cinematographer. Color grading is when you give that corrected footage an actual style or look; the typical bleach-bypass/Apple-Color/After-Effects/DaVinci/porn-filter/crushed-blacks orgy you see more and more online. Since everyone learns to make their movies look cool, so should you. Only, learn it with a purpose: Learn color correction to make your film flawless and professional; learn color grading to support the narrative and style of the film, and to enhance the viewers’ emotional experience of scenes in the film – not to show off how hard you can twist Curves or how much MagicBullet presets you downloaded.

  • The Art of Color-Correction: – a sleek and short 2-hour introduction to color correction, using BlackMagic’s DaVinci Resolve, one of the best color software packages out there. Grab some popcorn and soda light, lean back and enjoy the introductory ride to Color Correction, Color Grading and DaVinci!

  • Color Grading in FCP: – A tutorial for primary and secondary color correction with Apple Tools – can be easily translated to other toolsets.
  • 7 Tips for Color Correction: – great tips from Shane Hurlbut, DP of “Terminator: Salvation”. All based around Premiere Pro, but easily translates into all other Color Correction tools.
  • Color Grading/Film Noise in AE: – a nice video tutorial with sample files; even though it’s a bit long, it goes into detail about selective sharpening, selective brightness (i.e. only a character), film grain on DSLR footage and digital noise reduction and features a nice low-cost one-man-band process for indie western films.
  • True Color Correction: – not color grading (stylizing) but color correcting. And not by feeling, but by numbers, involving photoshop, RGB-value reading and other semi-advanced techniques. Helpful for all who are interested in color correction and grading.

  • Cinestyle Looking Good: – this guy understands how to correct cinestyle properly, by feeling – and shows before/after comparisons. (Cinestyle is a Canon DSLR picture style) Worth watching!
  • Cinestyle Color Breakdown: – a video showing various steps of making Cinestyle come to a final output look.
  • Cinestyle LUT use: – a video showing many examples of Cinestyle footage, comparison to Standard footage and Look-Up-Table correction.
  • Bleach Bypass: – A Bleach Bypass tutorial. Bleach bypass looks are popular these days…!

Distribution & Marketing

It would be an incomplete, amateur-oriented LTK if there was no section about distribution and marketing. As important as it is to tell a timeless and unforgettable story, it is absolutely essential to design a film with commercial success in mind. Since the beginning of time, commercial success was always a possible outcome that needed great marketing as a foundation; a gateway for people to discover a film and build a hype around it. This section will be more analytical, less tutorial-oriented than other sections … in a way, movie marketing and distribution can be self-taught mostly by analyzing others’ successes and failures. As all the other fields above, the true secret to distribution is meeting experienced people and learning from them, and making your own experiences.

  • Distribution and the Indie Filmmaker: – Mark Litwak explains the dynamics of distribution, the relationships between the filmmaker and the distribution company, as well as the common pitfalls – an excellent article for everyone to read.
  • The Marketing that ended up Killing “John Carter”: – Very smart, insightful article about the issue that defined the nearly 100 Million$-loss leader “John Carter” – a too narrow-minded, past-success-ultraboosted director coupled with an inconsistent marketing campaign.
  • Doing a Festival Q&A: – When you are presenting your film at a festival, the following Q&A can determine your and them film’s future. This article sports ten great tips.
  • International Film Distribution 101: – how international distribution works, and what to watch out for.
  • Domestic Film Distribution 101: – domestic distribution basics, written by an entertainment attorney – valuable knowledge for “when the time comes”.
  • Life After Sundance: – if a film is not picked up by a distributor at a film festival, the producers need to be ready for some alternative solutions on the post-distributor landscape of alternative distribution.
  • Secrets of Distribution: – Jerome Courshon offers lots of free knowledge in video and text form on his website “Secrets of Distribution”. Definitively worth a few hours of reading.
  • Film Poster Analysis: – although a relatively basic/beginner-level analysis, it’s helpful to understand what elements go into a feature film poster as well as a short film poster; how the two differ, and which design aspects should be thought out with special care.
  • Film Sales – Producer Reps VS. Sales Agents: – what’s the difference between the two, what are their pros & cons, and how can they help to get a film distributed?
  • Distribution Resource Collection: – similar to the Film LTK, Courshon lists other resources he finds helpful for people to read – from Blockbuster distribution strategies to failure/success stories, Youtube and Netflix as new distribution venues etc. – a great collection!
  • How to Work the American Film Market: – a guide on how to survive and be successful at AFM, North America’s largest film market event, thrown annually in Los Angeles. Funnily enough, this resource is being provided by AFM themselves – a sign that they want filmmakers to succeed in selling their finished pictures or getting distribution deals.
  • 5 Ripoffs and Con-Artists You are Likely to Encounter: – filmmakers and screenwriters get screwed over all the time, everywhere in the world. Elliot Grove talks about his experience with fraudsters mostly at the festival/distribution stage..: illegitimate Festival Consultants/Sales Reps/Optioning Producers, people who lie about who they know, and the problem of exclusive deals.
  • How Much Is My Film Worth?: – valuing a film is difficult; here, you can read from statistics from the Raindance festival that most narrative features are being sold – if they are being sold – between $50.000 and $500.000 , depending on the genre. The article has additional details, examples and common pitfalls in value strategy.