Brian Peterson: Hi, I’m Brian Peterson.
Mark Montgomery: And I’m Mark Montgomery.
Brian Peterson: And this is Tips and Techniques, and we’ve got a little bit of both, right? We always do. We’re going to melt down some people’s brains here, probably mine included.
Mark Montgomery: As well as mine.
Brian Peterson: Do you ever pay attention at school when it came to doing engineering terms?
Mark Montgomery: No, I certainly wasn’t the kid who would… The conditions were…
Brian Peterson: Well, it comes down to math and I didn’t pay good attention then either. I’ve got a really good example of how not paying attention can really get you when you’re working in production. Ohm’s law. We’ll just say there’s a guy, his name is Ohm, and you probably heard about him. He’s a lot to do with resistance, Ohms, Volts, and that kind of stuff.
Anyway, we’re going to talk about load distribution lighting, and a real simple way to make it where you’re not getting shot or blowing circuit breakers. We’re going to get to that in just a second, but first the meltdown part.
Mark Montgomery: Yes.
Brian Peterson: We’re going to talk about three things: Amps, Watts, and Volts.
Mark Montgomery: Right. Apples, oranges, and…
Brian Peterson: And pears. Exactly. Right. So, what does that mean to you as a video producer. Well, really you’re most concerned with what your voltage is of your bulbs, and most people know what does are, you know. I mean, you work with, what do you work with mostly? 500s? 250s?
Mark Montgomery: 500s, 250s are the most common for what I do.
Brian Peterson: Okay. And there are the 1000s, you know, some of the totals have the longer bulbs with 1000 Watts. So, really what you want to be able to do in the end of the day is have lights and have power going to those lights. And if you’ve been doing this long enough, you’ve probably experienced blowing circuit breakers, I’m sure you’ve done that once or twice.
Mark Montgomery: Yes, yes.
Brian Peterson: So, we’re going to tell you a real simple technique and how to balance your load so that you don’t blow circuit breakers. Let’s take an example. You’re going into a home, you don’t know whether or not it’s a home that has to date electrical fixtures, or let’s just put it this way. If it’s pre 1962, there’s a likelihood that there could be older circuit breakers. And actually they can be only 15 Amps circuits. Which means, you’ve got to count how many lights you’ve got on each circuit.
So, let’s, this is where the Amps and Watts and things come in.
So, we’re going to do some real simple math here. Let’s take a 500 Watt light. And you’ve got three of those, so you’ve got three 500 Watts. We’re going to convert that 500 Watts into Amps, because that’s what you need to know when you go talk to the homeowner. Sometimes homeowners actually know these things. You say, hey, do you have 15 Amp or do you have a 20 Amp.
You can actually go to a circuit breaker and find out yourself, but we’ll get to that in a second.
So, you have these three 500 Watt lights, you want to put them on the same circuit, and you want to know how many Amps is that.
Mark Montgomery: Right.
Brian Peterson: How do you do that?
Mark Montgomery: How do you do the math?
Brian Peterson: We’re just going to drop a few zeros, let’s do that. So 500, we’re going to drop the ones, and we’re going to move the decimal place over one, so that goes from 500 to 50. Then we move the decimal to zero to write next to the five, so that’s 5.0 Amps. And the 0 comes in in just a second. So 500 Watts equals approximately 5 Amps.
Neat thing about that is it builds in a little bit of safety too. It actually comes to a 4.5 Amps, but when we round this way, you’re building in a very small percentage of safety factor. So, 500 Watt light, 5 Amps.
Mark Montgomery: Right. You don’t know too who’s, you know, in the house blow drying the hair.
Brian Peterson: Exactly.
Mark Montgomery: So I would not, that extra padding is good too.
Brian Peterson: Or who’s on the computer on that same circuit, that sort of thing.
Mark Montgomery: Right.
Brian Peterson: So, here comes the difficult math part. We’ve got those three lamps. How many Amps does that three lamps take? Each 500Watts.
Mark Montgomery: Each 500. So you’ve got to-
Brian Peterson: You’ve got to do some math.
Mark Montgomery: More math.
Brian Peterson: Yeah. So, three times five, fifteen.
Mark Montgomery: Fifteen.
Brian Peterson: 15 Amps. So we got it worked out.
Now, how do you know whether or not you’ve got them all on the same circuit? Now, that’s another thing. There’s actually some sophisticated equipment you can get, we’re not going to suggest you do that. There’s really simple way to graft if it’s on the same circuit. Go ahead and plug in three that don’t exceed 15 Amps, let’s go back to those three 500 Watts, that’s safe in almost any situation. Plug them into three different plugs, and go have someone place the system, even the homeowner, just go start switching off the circuits. Once those lights go off, and if all of them go off, you know they’re all on the same circuit. Bingo!
Unplug one, go plug it in somewhere else, get an extension cord going to another room. That’s probably a good way to do the test again. If only two go off, one stays on, you’ve got some distribution of your load. Bingo!
Mark Montgomery: Balance load. And the older the home, the more critical you’re going to take this process. Because more chances that the damage you’re going to do if you don’t balance your load, you know, difference can be burning the house down from blowing the circuit or that sort of thing.
Brian Peterson: That would be bad. Fact is that the older homes have glass fuses which are really hard to replace.
Mark Montgomery: Yeah.
Brian Peterson: Do check that. So I’m really talking about circuit breakers, and not the old style glass plugs.
Another thing when you start distributing load, some of the times you have to use extension cords. And you’re just telling me you’ve never done this. I’ve done this several times. You’ve never put too many lights on the same extension cord?
Mark Montgomery: No, actually, I usually am very safe about that type of, extension cords are so easy to acquire, I mean, any Home Depot, Lowes is going to have them. So, you know, don’t skimp on cheap extension cords, get some heavy duty ones that can, you know, you can also run your power source off of.
Brian Peterson: Right, Mark, that’s a really, really good point. You’re going to see a gauge that’s noted on the power or the extension cords. You don’t want to go for something that’s fairly light. And usually, like you said, it’s heavy duty is one way, if you pick it up, it’s heavy, it’s probably really good. The problem with that is that it can actually have a lot of isolation on it which will make it feel heavy, and yet here your portion of the wires may still be light, like 16, 18 or 16, 14 gauge, your safe if you go with 14 is okay, 12 is the best.
And probably the best way to know if you’re getting good extension cords is how much you’re going to pay. 50 ft extension cord, that’s a 12 gauge that will run on, least $35 to $50. So, you‘ll know when you show up the wallet, really.
Mark Montgomery: You might also want to look on extension cord, a lot of them will have on the end of it, a little LED that lights up if you’ve got power. That saved me some time, when the light goes off, is it the bulb, did you break the circuit, you’ll be able to look at LED and say, I’m getting power from the wall, so it’s a problem with my light, too.
When you’re buying an extension cord, look for that feature as well.
Brian Peterson: Really good. Now, the one way you can also tell if you’re loading up the cord a little bit too much, you’ve got, say, three lights on one cord you think is heavy enough, just every once in a while, touch the cord, if you feel it’s getting a little bit warm, if, and I’ve done this before, they start feeling like silly putty. If you have a cord that’s coming like silly putty, unplug what you got in there. It’s just a hazard, and not good for the cord, not good for the lights as well.
Right, so that’s distributing load, did we get it all?
Mark Montgomery: I think so.
Brian Peterson: Right. So I shouldn’t go into the volts equals amps minus watts? Or divided by watts? No! I didn’t pay attention either, okay?
Mark Montgomery: Next is the, next lesson…
Brian Peterson: Yeah, next lesson, Brian goes to math class.
Okay, let’s talk about story telling now. We’ve got some, a lot of our readers talk to us about, how do I make my video better? And, you know, often times they’re looking for equipment tips and that sort of thing. And we can provide that really easy, but what is implicit in that question is how do I really make the story better?
Mark Montgomery: Right.
Brian Peterson: And we’ve got a couple of tips here. We’re just going to run through them really quickly. The concept of story arc, how often do you get people coming to you and really articulating, this is what they’re story’s on?
Mark Montgomery: I think you’ve hit it on the head. There’s not a lot of people who come and say, hey, I’ve got money to spend, or you know, where do I spend it? And when it comes to writing, it’s usually, like, spend your money on coffee and sharpen your pencil and get back at it.
But the story arc is actually very important technique for writers. Did you want to say more or?
Brian Peterson: No, that’s good. And I think, I think we’re just going to use a good example. And so, great, great point though, it doesn’t cost anything. Putting together a good story, if you’re doing it yourself, doesn’t cost anything, except time, some brain cells, and like you said, too much caffeine.
Mark Montgomery: Right.
Brian Peterson: So, Charlie, if we can put up, we’ve got a really classic example in Wizard of Oz. And, we’re going to full frame this and edit it, but as you can see, and I’m sure all of you are aware of Wizard of Oz, and the story, the beginning starts with the great character introduction. We see Dorothy, and did I say it right, Dorothy?
Mark Montgomery: I think so.
Brian Peterson: Good. All right. We introduce the heroine, we introduce the conflict, the protagonist, and the antagonist, and then we start to see this gradually ascending line, all of the way to commonation of where she’s stuck at the height of the tower, certain doom is her faith, and yet it resolves very nicely, in ruby slippers and yeah, you know the story.
So, this is just a really nice example of kind of ascending tension and release, ascending tension and release, all the way, but it’s a growing, growing pattern up to the point at which there’s either success or failure, and then there’s a nice resolution. And everybody’s happy, it’s a feel good story.
Mark Montgomery: Right.
Brian Peterson: This is so classic, this is been the case since Aristotle’s day. Actually, Aristotle almost was the one that we attribute the developing this classic story arc.
So, how do you do that? Well, we’ll just start getting into details. You were talking about introducing your characters and giving them some life.
Mark Montgomery: Yeah, you want to make sure that your characters are life like and have qualities that are going to grab or have your audience gravitate towards your story in the beginning. Actually, a lot of times, if you’re doing like a 60 minute narrative, the first 10 minutes are the most important for the story because, you know, your audience is either going to decide that they will stick with the story, or, you know, flip the channel.
Brian Peterson: And it doesn’t need to be that they’re likeable. They can be detestable.
Mark Montgomery: Yeah, yeah. Something interesting. Something, you know, preferably fresh or new, or something that actually, you know, people want to see them go across this arc. And see if they succeed.
Brian Peterson: And then in the middle you’ve got a little bit different challenge. You have to snap, the challenge to introducing, what is the environmental condition, what is the ascent, what is the character going to be challenged with. It can be something internal, a personal struggle, a conflict within a relationship, it can be something external, like in almost every action flick there’s out there.
Mark Montgomery: Right.
Brian Peterson: It can be very fanciful, and that’s the thing. The actual environment doesn’t have to be believable at all. It can be very fanciful. But it’s the character’s involvement in that story that needs to be believable. So you can throw somebody in a completely futuresque, just like Star Trek, you know. So your characters have to be responding in a way that you and I can connect with.
Mark Montgomery: Right. And that’s also important. That challenge is important because it brings out so much character. So they really have to work well together, because you’re going to learn as a viewer, you’re going to learn so much more about this character because of the challenge, than you do, you know, of the opening shot.
Brian Peterson: Right. And then of course, there’s the end. Now, it’s not always the case where the person has to be successful, they can be defeated, and that can have a resolution as well. People don’t go out to theatre all feeling good, but they go feeling… that’s the thing, you want to have people really feel touched and moved.
Mark Montgomery: Right, right.
Brian Peterson: You know, so the story arc really is what good story is all about, but when it comes to actually putting it together, you know, you’ve talked a lot about this too, planning.
Mark Montgomery: Yes. Planning is a huge part of writing a story. You know, it’s more than just a first draft, it’s more than just a second draft, or final draft, it’s also a lot of background story you have to do with your characters. So, a lot of people who script write end up writing, you know, like I said 60 minute narrative, ten additional pages of what actually happened before the story starts.
In fact, Wicked is a play off, a book, a play off of Wizard of Oz, about the story of the Wicked Witch of the West. So, there’s some back story even for, you know, common stories like this. But there’s also more other treatments, what else do we have?
Brian Peterson: Well, those get you at least started. And then, of course, there’s, we think of the budget with your story, and then trying to match the production value to the budget to the story. So these three things need to be somewhat balanced. You wouldn’t want, say, your budget is $5,000, you don’t want to go hire a crane, helicopter, and shoot film, because you’ll shoot four minutes, and that will be it.
So, you really want to try to balance all those three equations. So, your story, your budget, and your production value. All need to be in some sort of sync.
And then, finally, that comes down to how many people are going to be involved in the process. Now, you’ve been on some shoots where there’s been a lot of people, you’ve done a few just by yourself.
Mark Montgomery: Yeah, you know, production value doesn’t necessarily mean a lot more people, but really, it kind of does. The bigger the project, the more people are you going to need to, you know, move equipment, and make ap. So, you need to come up with a budget that’s appropriate for your production value. And that includes, you know, maybe a 50 person crew, or a 1 person crew.
Brian Peterson: And budget accordingly.
Mark Montgomery: Right. Then, of course, now you’ve got people, you’ve also got to equip them with tools, so, there’s a lot to consider when putting together a budget. And there’s whole books just written on, you know, how to budget a production.
Brian Peterson: Absolutely. All right, well, I think we’ve gone just a little bit over our time, so we’re going to wrap it up there, but good story, really just consider a story arc as you wait, really hang the whole action setup, the character development…
Plenty of more information at videomaker.com. You can go check it out Secrets of Storytelling, is a recent whole article by Dr Robert Nolf, so… that’s it for this week, and see you next time.