Creative Cow, YouTube, Videomaker.com. We all know these sites as holding a vast wealth of information for film and video production. Creativecow.net is first stop central for the creative industry as a whole. Youtube.com holds (among most everything else) a vast wealth of video tutorials for any piece of software out there. Videomaker.com brings you inside the world of video production, with tips, tricks, resources and insightful industry news, expanding on the magazine and its community. There are many well-known and frequented websites, but where do you go to once you’re away from the staples of video production on the web?
If you need something else, you typically do a search for it and pull up the first two or three results. That’s how it’s done right? It’s true you can get by this way much of the time, but scouring the results takes time. You’ll also have to sift through those sites that promise information but only want to sell you something. For every site you visit, you’ll probably pass over thirty others, and for every thirty you visit; only one will really have all you want. In the meantime you’ll be missing out on some real gems.
Presented below are some places you really should check out if you haven’t already. They’re full of information and resources, and can act as springboards to new creative tools and ideas.
www.videohelp.com – Please tell us you know of this site. It packs an insane amount of video wealth into an easy-to-digest repository. Mainly a site for listing, discussing, and talking about video tools, conversion programs and media handlers, it also packs a vast amount of how to guides, explanations of media formats, “underground” hacks and user contributed ratings and tutorials. The community is vast and frequented; if you ask a question you’ll usually have your answer in no time.
www.mediacollege.com – Think of this site as a free on-line textbook for video production. The content covers the basics (and dips into the intermediate) of lighting, audio, video, equipment, and more. There are also some useful free downloads. The site will be especially valuable to anyone just learning about the business, or who wants to learn on his or her own.
www.kenstone.net – One of the more popular stops, this site is geared towards tutorials and reviews for any and all Mac-based production programs. Most Final Cut Pro users find this site an invaluable resource, but there’s no reason the concepts can’t be appreciated by users of other edit platforms. After all, the buttons may change from program to program, but editing is editing, no matter what you use.
www.streaminglearningcenter.com – There’s video production, and there’s video production for the Internet. While most of the concepts overlap, there’s also a plethora of differences you need to understand if your primary distribution is going to be the World Wide Web. With equipment and tools evaluated, lighting and camera procedures examined and processing methods explored, Streaming Learning Center’s got you covered.
www.emedialive.com – This site tracks the business end of disc creation and distribution. They keep tabs on new materials, industry movers and shakers, and hardware/software releases. There are also some great downloadable guides and FAQs to aid in DVD and Blu-ray authoring, reproduction, packaging and distribution.
www.designparagon.com – This site is young, but growing. Already however, the “50 Photo Manipulation Tutorials” list is well worth a look. Hand picked, the advanced methods are described with such clarity you’ll be left wondering why you didn’t think of them before. The fun will then be in taking what you’ve learned and incorporating it into your own projects, or finding ways to do similar tricks in your videos. For learning with a splash of inspiration, this site’s worth a peek. We’re anxious to see where this site goes in the future.
www.pbs.org/producers – If you’re intending to market your product for television broadcast or distribution, this site is a must. Every network has similar information, but there is no greater pillar holding up broadcast specifications and professional procedures than PBS (being heavily government funded they pretty much have to be). On this page you will find information on proposing your project, acquiring funding, and the almighty “Red Book” of broadcast technical specifications. Don’t feel you need to stop at PBS, however. If you can understand the information here, you’ll be well prepared to approach any other network or station with your conception, and do it the right way.
www.filmland.com/glossary/Dictionary.html – Normally, recommending a site that is almost entirely taken down would be out of the question. However, in this case the page is so comprehensive that mentioning it is a must. This page of terms indeed seems to be the last surviving page of a larger site, but it’s a great resource. Sure there are many film and video dictionaries out there, but this one’s got them all beat. It’s the only one we could find that defined such terms as a “#1 wood clamp.”
www.filmscriptwriting.com – So you’re having trouble writing a script. Need some development guidance? Well now you know where to look. This site is less about formatting and more about concepts for successful content creation. The not-so-long-as-to-be-tedious articles succinctly cover everything from the three-act play to writing realistic character dialog. It’s the perfect companion to your favorite scriptwriting book.
www.displaymate.com – You’ve probably heard of this site and its products for calibrating your screens, monitoring video, etc. What you probably don’t know is that this site also contains hardware reviews, comparisons, tutorials and information on all that technical stuff we’re faced with both on the job and in the television department of our local consumer electronics store. If you do a lot of printing, you might want to check out their printer calibration guide. If you want to know which portable media player has the best screen, they’ve got you covered. This is one of those sites that has a ton of information you really need to know, but never knew you needed it.
www.codecs.com – Sounds more like something a computer geek would be interested in right? Well, it sort of rides the line, but these days we’re all faced at some point with audio or video in a format we’ve never seen, or asked to post in a format we wouldn’t normally use. You could go searching for the appropriate information and dig around until you find the proper support files, or you could stop here, learn all about it in a quick brief, and hit the link to jump right to the installer files at the source. The site also compares codecs, containers and the most popular codec packs available. With all the time you’ve just saved, browse their articles covering everything from copy protection to resolving error messages in popular players and transcoders.
www.1001freefonts.com – Everyone needs fonts sooner or later. You may need to pick and choose, but there are some detailed fonts that look really good inside video productions. Others are variations of some of your favorite show and movie titles, or other popular fonts that cost money to use. Unlike those, everything here is free. If you don’t see exactly what you want, head on over to www.dafont.com. Fonts here have both Mac and PC versions. Just be sure to check the usage rights, as each one on this site will be different.
www.stonewashed.net/free-music.html – Forget buyout music, this page links to a bunch of sites offering music for you to use in your productions. In most cases, the only thing they ask for in return is a proper credit in the production. The selection isn’t enormous, but if you don’t find what you want, use the page as a springboard to get in touch with some of the lesser-known (and less expensive) royalty-free buyout sites. (note the main page has no direct link to this resource page, but feel free to check it out anyway)
www.sounddogs.com – OK, this one isn’t free, but it’s so good it needs to be mentioned. Perhaps the largest online showcase of downloadable sound effects, Sound Dogs has an easy to navigate layout that will get you right to what you want. When you’re ready, you can buy just the right effects for your productions.
www.filmmakeriq.com – What we have here is akin to an online newspaper for the film and video world. There are hundreds of articles on all subjects dating back for years. One in particular you must check out is at filmmakeriq.com/2009/04/588-free-film-contracts-and-forms, which aggregates a mind-blowing amount of legal forms for use on your productions. Talent releases, location contracts, rental agreements, insurance, it’s all there.
Sidebar: Five Out of the Ordinary Sites
1. www.syfy.com/battlestar – In addition to talking about the show and all its nuances, Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore consistently gives some of the best insights into the decisions and methods to designing, running and staging an ongoing television series. As a show commentary it’s very entertaining. As a production learning resource, it’s fantastic. If you’re looking for an entertaining listen as well as insight into successful show running, this is the one to listen to. Many of the podcasts are also on the DVDs for those of you who were thinking of buying the series. We should point out, however, that occasionally the podcast may address some mature themes as the show dictates, or use some colorful language, so listen when the kids aren’t around.
2. http://ncam.wgbh.org/invent_build/web_multimedia – WGBH Boston has put together a page of accessibility guides, tools, and specs for the impaired. Featured is the Magpie project, which provides a freely available method of closed captioning.
3. www.revision3.com/systm/avcabling – Spend an hour with Kevin Rose and Dan Huard learning about audio and video cables. Learn what all that hype means on the premium product packages, and see what’s needed to build and repair your own. This episode of an ongoing Internet video series could save you a fortune.
4. www.digitalbits.com – A fun site to keep up with the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases and rumors. Learn what extras will be on a disc before it’s available. Get the drop on release dates, and find out why a disc is as it is.
5. www.eeggs.com – Another site that’s more for the fun of it than anything else. This place has the low-down on all the secrets hidden among your favorite DVD and Blu-ray releases.
Sidebar: Five Utilities You Didn’t Know You Needed
Sometimes a website is just a website. That doesn’t mean you won’t find a gem on it. Here are some great utilities to aid in some of the more annoying aspects of production you thought no one could help you with.
1. www.catacombae.org – Macs can read PC formatted discs, but what do you do when a client walks in to your PC production facility with a Mac formatted disc? Why, reach for “HFS Explorer”, of course.
2. www.audiotool.com – Why worry about other people’s music when you can author your own. This site combines the power of looping software with the fun of setting up your own audio equipment.
3. www.dropbox.com – Install drop box on your computers. Drop a file in the Dropbox folder. Anything in there is automatically synced across all your other computers. There’s even a public folder where you can post previews for your clients. The free option provides 2GB of online storage. Why are you still reading? Why aren’t you installing Dropbox?
4. www.logmein.com – Remotely log in and control your computer. It’s not perfect for remote editing, but it’s great when you need to do that one little thing you forgot to do before leaving. Use it in conjunction with Dropbox to grab that file you forgot to take with you.
5. www.ashzfall.com/products/autorun/browsercall.html – Ever wish you could make a CD or DVD automatically play a file upon insertion into your PC? This little freebie’s your answer. So powerful, yet so simple.
Peter Zunitch is a post-production manager and editor working on every system from 16mm film to Avid Symphony, utilizing many of today’s advanced manipulation and compositing tools.