Videographer / Editor / VFX – Victor Lei This is my holiday theme music video “Holiday Spirit In Macau 2018″, showcasing the Christmas spirit at several locations around Macau, including Christmas trees and Christmas decorations. These videos were shot in 2016 and 2017. I apologise that I didn’t shoot the new videos recently due to my health concern. Wishing you have a safe, warm and joyful Christmas, and happy holidays! God Bless.
So all you need to make a film is an iPhone. But should you?
Before you grab your pitchfork, I want to make one thing clear, I’m all for unbridled positivity in the filmmaking world. I love making movies; I love just going out and making something fun with your friends and accomplishing a common goal together. To me, making a film is one of the greatest examples of artistic collaboration. It’s probably the world’s most collaborative art form, and it includes a little bit of all of the different artistic media — making it the perfect art form (in my humble opinion).
It’s not easy to do. It’s not easy to get started. When setting out to become a filmmaker, you realize a few things very quickly: it’s expensive; it’s time-consuming; and it requires a lot of people, favors, and very difficult moments. Making a film, even a very short one, is a marathon of believing in yourself and your idea enough to make sacrifice after sacrifice. The result is the greatest reward of all: watching all of that blood, sweat, and tears become a story — something you can be proud of.
Common pieces of advice I hear for beginning filmmakers is to “just get out and shoot,” that “the gear doesn’t matter,” and that you can make a film with anything — “even a cell phone.” These extremely well-meaning and relatively harmless sentiments are common answers from well-established and successfulfilmmakers when someone asks them “What advice do you have for beginning filmmakers?”
I struggled for years to finally start shooting things on the gear I wanted to use, and I always found that advice a little bit discouraging. This person over here who shot their last music video with an Alexa and anamorphic primes on a techno-crane with a crew of 30 is telling me I need to shoot my movie on an iPhone. Why would I do that? Isn’t my idea good enough to shoot it the way I pictured it? Why should I settle? Am I not good enough? Am I not motivated enough to just “get out and shoot?”
This is why I struggle with this advice.
You Have To Believe In Yourself
Filmmaking is a long string of defeats and some victories. You may decide to give up about a million times during the course of your career (I know I have), and for most of us, we realize that we just can’t — It’s gotten a hold of us, and we just can’t stop.
For me, a major point is that you have to believe in yourself enough to get whatever you need to make your idea happen in the manner best suited to it. We constantly hear that we have to pick the right lenses and the right gear to serve the story we’re telling, and then we also hear that we should shoot our movie on a smart phone. Well, which is it?
If you want to shoot a film on an iPhone, which has been done extremely successfully in the past, more power to you — but is it the way your story is meant to be told? Does it serve the emotional tone and direction of the story? Are you just grabbing the first camera you can find and selling your idea short?
You have to believe in yourself enough as a filmmaker to get it done right. Nobody else is going to do it for you, and you can certainly do it. You have to sell other people on believing in your idea as much as you do, and get the necessary resources and tools to do it right.
It’s Not As Hard to Source Gear As You Might Think
So you don’t have the right gear. You want to shoot with the perfect camera and lenses, and you know which ones you want, but you have no money. This is when you might hear that you should grab whatever camera you have and just make the film anyway. My advice is that you spend the extra time to perfect your idea, and you get every single moment of it planned to the point that it can’t fail. You believe in it enough to do the hard part. In the meantime, you save up to rent the nearest and best camera you can accept and afford, and you alter your expectations based on whatever that is. That extra effort will reward you.
Throwing your cousin $20 bucks to borrow their Sony A7s and working extra hours all summer so you can rent some Rokinons to throw in front of it is much better than shooting on an iPhone or your parents’ Handycam. It will be more rewarding, too. Everyone who has ever made it in the film industry has done something like this at one point or another.
While I don’t recommend that you max out some credit cards like Kevin Smith did, you still have to believe in what you’re doing enough to take the time and effort to do whatever it takes to make your project represent your vision. A perfect representation will never happen, but you’ll still be happier in the end. All in all, it’s really not that hard to make it work and call in the favors to do it right with the right tools — the hard part is believing in the project enough and having the courage to do it.
It’s Not That Easy To Make A Film on An iPhone
(Soderbergh shot UNSANEentirely on an iPhone 7, and it’s a great example of how phone footage actually serves the story.)
I wish people would stop acting like you can make cell phone footage look cinematic. For what it is, it’s really great — a camera you have with you at all times. You can get some really cool-looking phone footage, no doubt, especially if you use gimbals or adapters like the moment anamorphic adapter (which I would absolutely love to try).
For travel vloggers and YouTubers, the iPhone (or other comparable smart phones) is a fantastic tool, and you can, of course, create compelling content with it. Even well-shot content. However, for people interested in narrative filmmaking, it’s a nearly impossible and prohibitively cumbersome task — though, obviously, it has been done.
I don’t have to tell you that shooting with a phone is a limiting experience. It’s hard to color grade, there is very little dynamic range to speak of, and most basic camera options and functions are less than easily available. You’ll run out of space a lot, it’s kind of a pain to transfer footage, and, more than anything else, it just looks like phone footage. Even those YouTube videos we’ve all seen where they try to pretend that their iPhone footage is indistinguishable from a cinema camera aren’t that successful — at-least to my eyes. They look like you’re comparing a phone to a cinema camera.
(These are just my opinions, admittedly, but I just have a much harder time getting excited to watch anything that was shot with an iPhone, compared to a more intentional and story-driven cinematic approach.)
It’s More Rewarding in The End
I ultimately just wish more leaders in the filmmaking community would spend more time being honest about how difficult filmmaking is, and how often they’ve failed, rather than being falsely encouraging about how easy it is and how you should just go out and do it — and why aren’t you already? We don’t talk enough about our mistakes and how we all doubt ourselves and our abilities from time to time.
You can do it. You really can. Making a film almost always feels nearly impossible. Your actors might cancel, your crew might not show up, your scene might not play out the way you had hoped. That’s all okay. That’s how it goes for everybody.
Just make sure that when you make a film, you’re pushing yourself to the extent of your ability, which includes working tirelessly to source the right gear to tell the story that you want to tell. Don’t feel bad about wanting to wait until you can rent that set of lenses, or try out that new light kit you’ve been looking at. Save up and find some way tell your story the way you want to tell it, and spend the time in between perfecting your craft and idea itself. It may take some more time, but that’s okay.
Finding images and multimedia for your news project (without breaking copyright laws)
Whether you need an image for your blog post, a soundtrack to your video or that YouTube clip for your documentary, if you’re dealing with multimedia it’s likely you’ll end up using – or wanting to use – someone else’s work as part of your own.
Here are some basic tips on finding and using multimedia across the web in a way that won’t (hopefully) land you in hot water.
The public domain myth
One of the mistakes that has repeatedly landed journalists and their employers in trouble is confusion over the term “public domain“.
Public domain has two possible meanings. In copyright terms, public domain refers to work whose copyright has expired, meaning that anyone can use it without having to ask the copyright holder. Disney – a fierce lobbyist itself for extending copyright – has used ‘public domain’ material as the basis for most of its cartoons, from the work of the Grimm Brothers to a host of other fairy tales, myths and legends.
For example, pretty much every piece of media, almost by definition, is “in the public domain”. Newspapers and magazines sit on the newsstands; television and radio reports are broadcast on huge city centre screens and speakers.
But if you take that content and reproduce it in its entirety without permission, you are breaking copyright law.
The $7,500 copyright scam
If you need any persuading about this, read this post about a copyright scam whereby images are pushed to the top of Google Images search results pages, and then bloggers sued for using them without permission.
It seems odd that media organisations so used to protecting their own, very public, content, should think that another person’s photo, or video, or report, should be fair game because it is “in the public domain”. But they do.
But never assume something is public domain because it is “in public”.
One point to make: while an image, story, or composition may be out of copyright, its performance, re-design or re-telling may not.
Just ask Disney.
Creative Commons – making UGC copyright explicit
If you’re dealing with content that’s been published on a platform like Flickr or YouTube, you may be able to find out the copyright status of that content relatively easily.
Both allow users to easily establish copyright through the Creative Commons licence. You can either look for that licence in the relevant part of the page hosting the content.
On YouTube it is under the video:
On Flickr this is on the right hand side under License:
Make sure you click on that licence to find out what terms it requires.
Creative Commons, for example, has a number of elements:
Whether the material can be used only in noncommercial contexts, or for commercial use as well
Whether the material can be adapted and changed, or must be left unchanged
Whether you must use the same CC licence if you use this material (e.g. you cannot use a noncommercial licence but then allow your work to be used commercially)
Whether you must attribute the work (this is where many people breach the licence)
If you’re unsure of where your work fits against those criteria (for example, whether it’s considered as “commercial”), then approach the copyright holder for clarity. Remember that the CC licence is only a default position, and can be negotiated. Also, if you cannot get any response and decide to publish anyway, your attempts to contact the copyright holder will be important if there are any legal proceedings.
If you want others to publish their content under a CC licence, it helps if you publish at least some of your own work under a CC licence too. Indeed, if it contains other CC material, their licences may require you to.
Flickr and YouTube aren’t the only sites that use Creative Commons licences, of course. To search for media under a CC licence (including on those sites), use the search facility on the Creative Commons site and select the engine you want to search through.
If you’re running a hyperlocal site, or any site that needs images of places, check out Geograph, which hosts Creative Commons-licensed images of locations around the UK.
There are also specialist sites for sharing music under CC, such as Freesound.
Even if the media you are interested in using does not use a CC licence, of course, you can still approach the copyright holder for permission to use it.
Attribution does not cover you for copyright
Another mistake that some people make is to believe that simply linking to the source, or naming the photographer/source, is enough to avoid copyright issues.
This is only the case if the licence for the material says so.
Copyright has two elements: moral rights, and economic rights.
The moral right is the right to be identified as the author of a piece of work. This is the attribution which is in pretty much every copyright licence, Creative Commons or otherwise.
But it’s not the right that most people sue over.
The economic right is the right to right to “allow or prevent the copying of their work or the performance of their work in public” (IPO). This translates into the ability to earn money from a piece of work. And this is what people largely sue over.
Attributing a photo only covers the moral right. It does not mean you won’t be sued.
If, then, you have used an image, video or audio without the permission of the rights holder (granted through a Creative Commons licence or directly to you through correspondence) then you are still probably breaking copyright law.
Embedding versus re-broadcasting
If the media is hosted on a platform like YouTube, you may be able to embed it on a webpage without seeking permission at all: if the creator* has enabled embedding then they would have little argument in suing for breach of copyright because:
By enabling embedding they have given an ‘implied’ right; and
They could stop you publishing it instantly by disabling embedding.
Also, your embedding of their media would not lead to any loss of revenue (as advertising can be embedded too), so it is unlikely that there would be any damages to sue for.
*note: this does not apply to video created by other people and uploaded by someone other than the copyright holder.
“In essence, anyone will be able to visit Getty Images’ library of content, select an image and copy an embed HTML code to use that image on their own websites. Getty Images will serve the image in a embedded player – very much like YouTube currently does with its videos – which will include the full copyright information and a link back to the image’s dedicated licensing page on the Getty Images website.”
Of course, it’s one thing to talk about the strict legal position, and another to talk about what actually happens. Journalists regularly publish content that breaks the law – but make a judgement about the likelihood of ending up in court over that. For example, I can say that the Queen is corrupt (a defamatory statement) and be almost certain that the Queen is not going to sue me (because she has a history of not doing so).
Media lawyers are not just there to advise publishers on their strict legal position, but on the balance of risk involved, and how to reduce those risks. While you cannot always avoid risks, you can avoid them in simple ways:
Always try to establish the copyright situation regarding any media you use: who holds the copyright (there may be more than one copyright owner: for example, performer and composer), and what are the terms of the licence?
Try to contact the copyright holder if you’re in any doubt – even if you can’t contact them your efforts to do so will help you if you do end up in court.
Always attribute authorship and link to the source (this can be done in title credits, captions and/or links on the host webpage). Copyright claims normally revolve around loss of earnings: anything that may have contributed to that (i.e. not linking to the source) will likely add to damages.
Minimal cost and royalty free
‘Royalty free’ is a vague term which is often confused with, simply, ‘free’. It most often refers to media which is paid for once and can then be used multiple times in different contexts.
For example, you might pay for a CD of ‘royalty free’ music or sound effects which can be used across multiple video projects – saving you the hassle of acquiring permissions every time for different music.
Or you might buy a CD of royalty free images (clip art, for example) that you can use across various design projects.
If you’re studying in a school of media, or working in a large media organisation, they will probably have some royalty free media for students or employees to use – so ask around to find out what’s available.
But don’t use it for the sake of it: the quality can vary. In addition, many other media projects may have relied on the same libraries, so you can lose distinctiveness.
Thankfully for those who want more diversity, the internet has made new types of royalty free media – and new pricing – possible, as a wider range of photographers and other media creators can now sell their work through online marketplaces.
Stock.XCHNG deserves special mention, boasting that it is the world’s “leading free stock photo site” and hosting thousands of royalty free images. Even if the image is ‘free’, however, it’s only free under the terms of the licence – so always check them.
You can find many more sources by searching for articles like this on the ‘best places to get free images’.
This is my theme music video “Chinese New Year 2018-Parade Float Exhibition", showcasing the Chinese New Year spirit at Tap Siac square in Macau. Wishing you have a safe, warm Chinese New Year! God Bless. See you next year-the year of pig!