The Inner Game of Tennis.

Tennis? What? Did I come to the right website?

Yes. Chill and hear me out.

About two months ago I shot an interview with a highly successful businessman. The interviewer asked this gentleman “is there a book that you’d recommend to anyone starting or running a business?”

And he answered “Absolutely! I’ve read, re-read, and gifted “The Inner Game of Tennis” many many times in the past 20 years.”

Twenty years? I thought. How come I’ve never heard of this book? And tennis? Nonsense.

Until this past weekend, that is, when I found the audiobook version, and could not do anything else, but listen carefully and take LOTS of notes. The book is truly fantastic.

Here’s the first minute of “The Inner Game of Tennis” audiobook’s introduction and the transcript.

“Every game is composed of two parts an outer game and an inner game. The outer game is played against an external opponent to overcome external obstacles and to reach an external goal. Mastering this game is the subject of many books offering instructions on how to swing a racquet club or bat and how to position arms legs or torso to achieve the best results. But for some reason most of us find these instructions easier to remember than to execute. It is the thesis of this book that neither mastery nor satisfaction can be found in the playing of any game without giving some attention to the relatively neglected skills of the inner game. This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self condemnation. In short it is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence and performance. We often wonder why we play so well one day and so poorly the next or why we clutch during competition or blow easy shots. And why does it take so long to break a bad habit and learn a new one. Victories in the inner game may provide no additions to the trophy case, but they bring valuable rewards which are more permanent, and which can contribute significantly to one’s success. Off the court as well as on.”

Why post a book review on a website for filmmakers? Because the whole book it’s about something I strongly believe; learning how to use the tools of our craft is important, but we should also learn how to control our mind, our inner game in order to craft better stories.

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Crafting stories and the aim for perfection. Lessons from Ira Glass and Anthony Bourdain.

I have been studying Ira Glass and Anthony Bourdain for a very long time.

Ira Glass is very well known in the U.S. because he is the producer and host of a very well-known radio show called “This American Life.” Bourdain was a celebrity chef, writer, host and producer of travel programs for The Travel Channel and CNN, exploring cultures and foods around the world.

Ira Glass, producer and host of "This American Life."

Ira Glass

The way the show works is as follows: a team of 12 people go out and find simple stories about everyday topics with normal subjects and characters, and produce fascinating stories about them.

For example, every highway has something called roadkill, which are the dead animals like deer, cats or dogs on the side of the road. Well, someone needs to go and pick them up. So many years ago, Ira Glass produced a story about the person who does that job, and it’s very appropriately called “Dead animal man.”

“I’d have given half my life for that squirrel at one time. I was a prisoner during the Korean War and I’d set up off at Han River and watch seagulls fly over, I’ll be laying there thinking I fry one. That’s how hungry I was.”

Clarence Hicks

The way Ira Glass asks and sequences the questions, and the kind of sounds he includes are all masterfully executed.

Ira Glass and his team approach pre-production in a similar way. Every Monday morning a group of 12 people meet, and each person pitches at least one story idea. As a group they pick and choose the best six ideas, and spend the rest of the week producing them. The following Monday they go over the six stories, pick the best one or two, and only those are the ones that get broadcasted. The other stories either die or get a second chance in the future.

The stories we hear on “This American Life” are incredibly good, not only because all the team members are super talented and work extremely hard, but also because they start with 12 stories, narrow them down to six and then hand-picked the best two.


Anthony Bourdain

Bourdain stories, on the other hand, were all about traveling to different locations and exploring local food.

“A prego is a steak sandwich slash booze mop that puts you right over the edge in a protein overdose, which is to say, happiness.”

The setup for all Bourdain’s shows was fairly simple. It was always Bourdain with a guest, talking about politics, culture and current events over food.

The way the shows were shot was very efficient. Two cinematographers recording sound on camera, and one director/producer/C Cam operator. Most of the time they used available light.

When one watches the show it’s hard to believe they only had a 2 or 3-person crew. And I believe a reason to achieve this high level of production is possible because they started researching each location a month before production, and spent a lot of time in pre-production.

Before each shoot the crew had pre-pro meetings to discuss core concepts, looks, shooting approaches. They found inspiration in movies, songs, books and researched about the history and the place in its current state. Yet, they didn’t use scripts, and Bourdain never wrote anything for a show beforehand.

“If you think you’ve already figured out what the show’s going to be about or what you expect out of the scene, that’s a lethal impulse.”

On location Bourdain and his crew spent on average a week of frantic work, and they shoot a LOT, between sixty and eighty hours of footage (on average) to produce a single one hour-long episode.


Conclusion

Most of us don’t approach our projects the way Glass and Bourdain did. We might have one or two projects or stories, we work on them, and then we might decide to publish them or not, but we don’t produce a high volume of content, and pick only the absolute best of the best to be shared with the world. That constant search for perfection is what makes them so great.

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Comparing 3 different wireless kits for filmmakers.

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In my previous post I compared 6 different microphones on 6 configurations for filmmakers. Today I will compare 3 different wireless systems, once connected directly to a Panasonic GH5 , and a second time connected to a Zoom H1n field recorder.

The cool thing about these posts is that you will be able to listen to how each mic sounds while recording the same exact audio source, and judge the quality of each system by yourself.

Poison Apple Studios, a modern recording studio in Lisbon, Portugal

The Setup

The main goal was to test which mic/system would perform best under real-life situations for people working as a 1 Person Crew, so we chose one of the most popular cameras among indie filmmakers and the most basic field recorder we could find. For these tests I asked the help of Tiago Canadas, a professional audio engineer and owner of Poison Apple Studio, a professional audio facility in Lisbon. He chose a 30 second audio clip of a woman singing, and we meticulously set the mics at exactly the same distance and angle from the speakers.

Tiago hard at work.

Settings

We recorded all the microphones at 48000 Hz Stereo 24 bit, and used the same output settings to export the .wav files from Adobe Premiere Pro.

First we tested three wireless systems connected to the Panasonic GH5

Eduardo’s Comments: The three wireless systems performed very similarly andt he price for the three kits is almost identical. The RodeLink kit recorded more subtle sounds, and the Saramonic a bit less, but overall they seem extremely close.

See Tiago’s Comments at the end of the post.

Listen to all three samples and choose the one that you think is the highest-quality audio.

07 MicTests_RodeLink Wirelss Kit to GH5
08 MicTests_Comica Wireless Kit to GH5
09 MicTests_Saramonica Wireless Kit to GH5

And then we tested the same three wireless systems connected to a Zoom H1n

Eduardo’s Comments: The Saramonica and Rode wireless systems are very close, but the Rode seems a bit “crispier. The Comica wireless system captures a less details than the other two.

See Tiago’s Comments at the end of the post.

Listen to all three samples and choose the one that you think is the highest-quality audio.

10 MicTests_RodeLink Wireless Kit to H1N
11 MicTests_Comica Wireless Kit to H1N
12 MicTests_Saramonica Wireless Kit to H1N

Conclusions

Tiago’s Comments: The sound from all mics is poor, but this wasn’t a fair test for any of the mics. We should redo the test, adjusting each mic to perform its best and record actual human voices, not a recording.

Your Turn!

So here’s a question for you (the reader): If we redo this test, how would YOU like us to test these mics? Write your comments below, send me an email or even a Tweet.

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Comparing 12 different microphones for filmmakers.

Tiago Carvalho, owner of Poison Apple Studio, a professional recording studio in Lisbon, Portugal.

DISCLAIMER
This article is not paid or sponsored by anyone. It reflects my own independent opinion. I only recommend companies and products that I trust. Some links might be affiliates, which means I may get a few pennies if you decide to purchase something.
Thanks in advance for your support!

In this post I compare 6 different microphones for filmmakers. On the next post I will compare 3 different wireless systems on 2 different configurations each. On both posts you will see the exact gear we used for the tests, and you will be able to listen to how each mic sounds while recording the same exact audio source. Sounds good? Let’s go!

The Importance of Clean Audio.

I strongly believe sound is the most important element on a film. We can have the most amazing story, stunning visuals and masterful editing and transitions, but add crappy sound and the viewer will tune out immediately.

For a number of reasons I own different audio sets, but never actually took the time to test them side by side. Until now. A few days ago I called my incredibly talented friend Tiago Canadas who owns Poison Apple Studios, a professional recording studio in Lisbon.

“Poison Apple Studios is a modern recording facility for today´s musician, band, producer, equipped with some of the most cutting-edge and old-school gear within an environment that is dedicated to one thing: creating great music. “

I’ve always wondered, “how long does it take to learn what each button does?”
Poison Apple Studios, a modern recording studio in Lisbon, Portugal.
Not exactly 1 Person Crew audio gear.

Why these tests?

I often joke about how many people spend all their money on a camera, get the kit (aka shitty) lens that comes with it, and if there’s any money left they buy the crappiest tripod in the world. It should be the opposite, as a good solid tripod can last 20 years, a great lens at least 5 to 10 years, and the cameras are being replaced by cheaper, better, faster alternatives every 18 months or less. Well, the same goes with audio gear. You can have a great field recorder and a professional mic, add a low-quality XLR cable and you get low-quality sound.

I’ve set a few professional goals regarding sound for 2019; pay more attention to audio recording while on location, add more sound effects to my projects, get better at choosing the music that enhances the story, and get a better technical understanding of mixing and mastering.

We spent an afternoon designing a test to compare three XLR shotgun mics, three on-camera shotgun mics, three wireless systems connected to a camera, and the same three wireless systems connected to a field recorder.

The Setup

At some point we considered plugging the mics to Pro Tools and go nuts analyzing the different tracks. But the main goal was to test which mic/system would perform best under real-life situations for people working as a 1 Person Crew, so we chose one of the most popular cameras among indie filmmakers and the most basic field recorder we could find. Tiago chose a 30 second audio clip of a woman singing, and we meticulously set the mics at exactly the same distance and angle from the speakers.

Tiago hard at work.

The Settings

We recorded all the microphones at 48000 Hz Stereo 24 bit, and used the same output settings to export the .wav files from Adobe Premiere Pro.

We tested three on-camera shotgun mics connected to a Panasonic GH5

Eduardo’s Comments: Saramonic mini shotgun is as good as the rode video mic go that I’ve used for many many years. The Panasonic shotgun picks up a lot more ambient sound than the other two shotgun mics. The Saramonic Vmic Mini and Rode VideoMic GO seem even in quality (and price).

See Tiago’s Comments at the end of the post.

Listen to all three samples and choose the one that you think is the highest-quality audio.

01 MicTests_SaramonicMiniShotgun on GH5
02 MicTests_RodeVideoMicGo on GH5
03 MicTests_PanasonicShotgun on GH5

We tested three XLR shotgun mics connected to a Panasonic GH5 using Panasonic’s DMW XLR1 Adapter

Eduardo’s Comments: This was not a fair competition for the Audio-Technica, as it is a completely different type of mic. The Rode NTG2 has a crisper sound than the Saramonic Shotgun. To me the Rode NTG2 performed better on this test..

See Tiago’s Comments at the end of the post.

Listen to all three samples and choose the one that you think is the highest-quality audio.

04 MicTests_AudioTechnica on GH5 w XLR1 Adapter
05 MicTests_RodeNTG2 on GH5 w XLR1 Adapter
06 MicTests_SaramonicShotgun on GH5 w XLR1 Adapter

Conclusions

Tiago’s Comments: The sound from all mics is poor, but this wasn’t a fair test for any of the mics. We should redo the test, adjusting each mic to perform its best and record actual human voices, not a recording.

On the next post I’ll share the second part of these test, using three different wireless mic kits (with the same set up) on two different recording devices.

Your Turn!

So here’s a question for you (the reader): If we redo this test, how would YOU like us to test these mics? Write your comments below, send me an email or even a Tweet.

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On Cooking and Filmmaking.

Most nights I feel like I’m eating at a Michelin-rated restaurant.

During the past year, my wife has been testing new recipes and the results are both stunningly beautiful and delicious.

This got me thinking on how similar two seemingly different crafts, cooking and filmmaking, really are.

Sometimes tackling a complete video production as a 1 Person Crew feels like running a restaurant by yourself. Possible, but borderline insane.

But the key question you should be asking yourself is “WHY am I doing this?”

THE DIFFERENCES

If you have a restaurant serving multiple “sittings” each night, and striving to offer safe food, prompt service and an overall good customer experience, you most likely need a team of people working with you. Most likely you’ll also have a huge overhead and anxious investors expecting to see great reviews and even greater profits. 

But what if your goal isn’t running a restaurant, but to improve your cooking skills, eat healthier, prepare dishes that are hard to get by where you live and/or simply have a relaxing time with your family or friends? Then you don’t need a commercial kitchen or a team to cook. You can do this alone.

I truly enjoy working “lean and mean” on short projects, learn as much as possible, and apply those new skills to the next project.

Working as a 1 Person Crew offers several advantages, including more intimate conversations with your subjects, the ability to work extremely fast, and forcing you to prepare well in advance, as more often than not, there are no opportunities for retakes (or blaming anybody else for the screw ups!).

THE SIMILARITIES

Seeing how much time and effort it takes my wife to prepare even a simple meal that will be consumed in a short period of time is mind-blowing. And that’s not including cleaning  the mess afterwards!

My wife needs time to find the right recipe and buy fresh, seasonal ingredients at a fair price.
I need time to write the script and shot list, determine a “look and feel” for the project, and test my gear.

She needs enough time to marinate the dish and to actually enjoy the prepping time.
(Lounge music and wine work great, by the way).
I need to allocate enough time to scout locations, get permits, props and go over any logistical challenges.

She needs plenty of time to cook, which often requires following many steps in a specific order and having the right temperature and amounts.
I need cameras, lenses, lights, microphones, monopods, and some sort of plan, or recipe, so I have enough footage to work with in post.

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The finished meal is often enjoyed by others within minutes or sometimes even seconds.
After days and days of prepping, location scouting, shooting and editing, and running like a madman, I might have a 2-minute video that most people won’t watch until the end.

So, unless someone is really into cooking or filmmaking, few realize how much time and work is behind each meal or video production.

The funny/sad thing is that, as a cook, you don’t have time to get attached to the finished product. Whether a dish is uneatable or it’s an art piece, you have to start from scratch the next day. Same goes with filmmaking. We can’t spend 10 years making sure our video is “perfect” before getting it out!

Final Thoughts

The best dishes are the ones tested and improved over time. The only way we can master any technique is to consistently practice and do our best to improve ourselves at every new opportunity.

Salud!

How to quickly create a cinematic look.

How to quickly create a cinematic look or match a film look.

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Thanks in advance for your support!

Adobe Capture

Adobe has a free app called Adobe Capture that few people know, and even less people use. Here’s why you might want to start using it today to very quickly and easily create a cinematic look, and even match the look of movies you like.

How it is supposed to work.

The way Adobe Capture works is: You take a picture and the app creates a color patch. Then that patch gets exported to your Adobe Creative Cloud library so you can share it with all the other Adobe applications. I don’t use it that way.

How I use it to create a cinematic look.

I do use it to recreate the grade or cinematic look of specific movie. To achieve this all I need is to get a screenshot of that movie, create a color patch based on that image, and apply that patch to my footage. These simple steps often get me pretty close to the original look.

How to quickly create a cinematic look or match a film look.
How to quickly create a cinematic look or match a film look.
How to quickly create a cinematic look or match a film look.

Here’s more info:

Pretty cool, right? This is huge for people working under very tight deadlines or who aren’t super technical and don’t want to spend a lot of time learning applications like  DaVinci Resolve, Lustre, Nucoda, SCRATCH, or Baselight.

Now, if you ARE interested in learning more about grading, and especially how color affects perception in storytelling, I can’t recommend this book high enough.

Want more? Check this “Amazing Adobe Premiere Pro Tips.

Comments? Questions? Feedback? All of them are welcomed below.

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How I Use Hard Drives for Video Productions.

On my last post, I shared where to find information about reliable hard drives and a couple of people asked “How is this applicable to a 1 Person Crew video production?”

Well, if I know that a specific 3TB drive from a certain brand has a 50% failure rate, that’s all I need to know to not even consider getting it, regardless its price or features.

Once I know which brands and sizes are the most reliable, I set up my workflow using three hard drives. On this video tutorial I quickly explain why:

Takeaways

  • For video production, you only want hard drives that are 7200RPM, not 5400 RPM.
  • Keep only your OS and Applications on your computer’s internal hard drive.
  • Keep all your project’s assets in ONE location. It’s good for productivity and peace of mind.
  • An USB-powered drive is almost always slower than an AC-powered drive.
  • Having a clear and consistent back up strategy is essential. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Solid Sate Drives

Solid state drives are still very expensive, but they tiny, extremely durable, and they are coming down in price.

On location, I like using cheaper internal solid state drives like these to backup my footage.

How are you setting up your hard drives for video production? Leave your comments below.

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When to replace your hard drives.

All hard drives will die. The question is not if, but when. This is why finding reliable hardware AND having a solid back up strategy is extremely important.

Finding Reliable Information.

Reading tech reports like Backblaze’s annual report on hard drives is important, because they provide priceless information on which brands and models NOT to buy. At the end of 2018 Backblaze was monitoring 104,954 hard drives used to store data, so they REALLY know which hard drives are good, and which ones should be avoided.

For example:

“Based on 1,220 drives and nearly 500,000 drive days, the AFR (Annualized Failure Rate) of the Seagate 10 TB drives continue to impress. For 2018 it was just 0.33%.”

When can you or I test a thousand hard drives, let alone a hundred thousand? Never, that’s when.

Last year alone, Backblaze had 180 Western Digital 3TB drives remaining, and ALL of them where removed and replaced with 12TB drives. Sometime this year they plan to replace all of their 4TB and 6TB drives and upgrade them to 14, 16, or even 20TB drives.

Annualized Hard Drive Failure Rates from January 2018 to December 2018.
Annualized Hard Drive Failure Rates comparing 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Annualized Hard Drive Failure Rates from 2013 to 2018.

Key Stats.

There are a LOT of useful gems we can extract from Backblaze’s 2018 report:

  • Backblaze replaced 3TB, 4TB, and even a handful of 6TB drives with new 12TB drives. The drives replaced are about 4 years old.
  • The failure rates of all of the larger drives (8, 10, and 12 TB) are very good: 1.21% AFR or less.
  • In September 2018 Backblazde added 79 12TB drives, and as of this publication, none of them have failed.
  • The Seagate 10TB drives, which have been in operation for over 1 year now, are performing very nicely with a failure rate of 0.48%.
  • In 2016 the average size of hard drives they had was 4.5 TB. By 2018 the average size had grown to 7.7 TB.
  • The 2018 annualized failure rate of 1.25% was the lowest by far of any year they’ve recorded.
  • The Seagate 10 TB drives continue to impress as their AFR for 2018 was just 0.33%. That’s based on 1,220 drives and nearly 500,000 drive days, making the AFR pretty solid.
  • None of their Toshiba 5 TB drives has failed since 2016.

Do you find this info useful? If so, leave your comments below.

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Sound Effects libraries, from free to super awesome.

Image of an old radio

On any video production, regardless the crew size, sound design is key. We all know that. What’s is not very well known is where to find high quality and affordable sound effects.

Resources

On today’s video tutorial I share some of the websites I’ve found most useful, from the usual suspects, to the BBC and even a somewhat hidden sound effects library within YouTube.

Sound Effects library on YouTube

I quickly discuss when to spend time recording ambient sounds on locations and when I’ve found it’s better to rely on sound effects libraries. There’s even a tip on how to create sound beds for free and without any copyright issues, and lastly, I discuss why Artlist.io is currently my favorite music library.

By the way, if you like what you see at Artlist.io, this link gets you 2 months FREE.

Dive in. It’s just under 3-minutes long but full of (hopefully) useful info. If you have other resources I didn’t mention, please add them to the comments below.

The more we share, the more we learn.  

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Related Content

Being unfaithful (and testing new mics).

Why the Three-Act Structure is Obsolete.

Marketing is the fourth production stage.

Why I like cutting a trailer RIGHT AWAY.

The fourth production stage.

National Geographic Brain Games TV show print ad campaign

A common misconception is that there are three stages on any video production: pre-production, production, and post.

Marketing

I’d argue that there’s a fourth element, perhaps as important or even more so than the other three. I’m talking about marketing.

Marketing is something we should start thinking about as soon as we start working on a project. Who is going to be interested in this message? Why? On which platform are these people spending most of their time? How do we reach them? Which other projects are similar to ours? How are we going to differentiate ourselves?

Here’s a brilliant example:

In today’s tutorial I use a National Geographic TV show called “Brain Games” as an example of a marketing campaign that is very unique and effective. The premise of the “Brain Games” show is how easy it’s to fool our brains. To prove a point they fool the viewer THREE times within 30 seconds.

Most noteworthy is that National Geographic not only fooled us 3 times with the 30-second commercial. They do it again 37 more times with their print campaign!

National Geographic Brain Games TV show print ad campaign
National Geographic Brain Games TV show print ad campaign
Brilliant marketing campaign for a National Geographic show.
Brilliant marketing campaign for a National Geographic show.

Yes, Jason Silva, the show’s host is a master storyteller. And yes, National Geographic is a powerful global brand with over 10 million followers on YouTube alone. But even they are thinking different and trying new things to promote a show. So, why shouldn’t WE do our best to find different approaches to market our projects? Perhaps starting with a killer 30-second trailer is a good start.

Do you have other marketing campaigns new or old that you admire? If so, please share a link or two below.

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