Last and greatest film project

The major film project fourth quarter is up to you. Extend and deepen* what you are able to do in any (socially acceptable) genre you choose. At least 4 minutes. No camera out the car window shots unless pre-approved. Due May 29/30
* you will be asked to explain exactly what aspects of this final film are a “stretch” for you – doing/trying things that you have not done before

Senior exams:

  • Red 3 – May 31
  • Blue 2 – June 5

Seniors are exempt from final exams in those courses in which they have earned at least a B- for the 4th quarter and the year for a full year course.

Sound design/Foley

Tech assignment, due April 24 – April 25 (Tues/Wed):

2 minutes of multiple-clips film, all audio replaced.

Show two versions (= 4 minutes):

  1. edited/assembled, with original sound
  2. edited/assembled, with replaced sound


  • No dialog (unless you feel you just have to, in which case it you have to talk to me and has to be looped/dubbed/ADRed) ; really, just do “action.”
  • Minimum (i.e., for a “C”) of 10 different effects,
    • at least 5 of which are Foleyed by you,
    • at least one of each – “footsteps, cloth, props”
    • at least 4 of which are prerecorded sound effects,
    • and at least one of which is ambient sound, either 
      • recorded by you (get it when you’re out there; c.f., Krill sailing film) or
    • from a library
      that unifies several different shots, enhancing the illusion that they are seamless/sequential (i.e., “all this is happening one after the other, I just happen to be looking this way and that way”)
  • Not funny — the goal is to create an illusion, not trash it. (OK – one funny sound, if you have to.)
  • All audio is balanced, clip-to-clip – the audience (me!) should not have to ride the gain to balance loud and quiet sections.
  • Explore the sound effects (especially “ambience”) that come with iMovie (2011 or 2013); in addition, the web is packed with free sound effects.
  • If you want to play with split screen to show off your Foley chops (i.e.,  a BTS on one side, as in Track Stars, below) iMovie help is here.
  • Note: if you want, you can do a music video – e.g., Jordan’s “Black Bird,” Alex’s “Believe” (ft Koda) – multiple clips, all sound replaced with original sound recorded by you, sound effects added.

Classic demo of old-school Foley work:

Basic tutorial on multiple audio tracks in iMovie 2011:

Basic tutorial on audio in iMovie 2013:

More sophisticated editing – The Precision Editor:

Assignment: Documentary

Documentaries are everywhere. Technology has become so available that, armed with a decent camera and a laptop, anyone with a good sense of story-telling and the patience to shoot and edit it well can make a decent documentary film that could go national. (Not so true of your blockbuster adventure film.)

The major film project for third quarter is a documentary, 5 to 7 minutes long, that tells a story, rich with visual information, about

  • an event (a game, a performance)
  • an issue
  • a place
  • a history (family, a thing that happened)
  • a group (a team, some friends, a family)
  • a person (a “profile”)
  • a process
  • a phenomenon
  • advocacy – make a case for/against something

This will take planning, so there will be a midpoint deadline — “filming complete” — one week before deadline.

Filming complete, clips loaded into iMovie: Monday/Tuesday, March 26/27

And if you’re not yet satiated by the number of documentaries we’ve seen in class, there is always Documentary Heaven.

Also Vogue’s list of Best Documentaries of All Time.

And Netflix’s current documentaries.

Final due date, ready-to-show: beginning of the last week of the quarter, Monday/Tuesday, April 2/3.

Checkoff sheet as pdf is here.

Interview practice


  • 2 minute video of a somebody talking about what they’re going to do in the future, with B-roll cutaways that illustrate/comment on what they talk about. Can be serious or funny, straight or parody.

Formal requirements:

  • No audio of “interviewer” – the audio should seem like the subject just happens to be talking the future
  • Interview framing is classic rule of thirds, with key light on the wide side, bounce light for fill
  • Subject is visually well-differentiated from background (back light?), which is intentionally framed
  • Interview is recorded with lav mic
  • At least two jump cuts in interview segments, maybe to cover edit, that are so exquisitely timed/cut that a non-film person wouldn’t even notice they happened
  • In post, fake a very slow slider push-in a couple of times to see how it affects the feeling of the content
  • At least five video-only B-roll cutaways, during which the interview audio continues under the cutaway
  • At least one video + audio cutaway, during which the audio of the interview is not heard
  • Most of the cutaway video has the camera in motion –
    • dolly/slider/steadicam
    • one or two jumpy-handheld shots at most
    • at least half of B-roll is shot by you
    • max of one looking-out-the-window-of-a-vehicle shot
  • No soundtrack music
  • Use the classic J-cut beginning – subject talking but we haven’t seen them yet
  • Fade-to-black at end, then 5 seconds of black, then outtakes showing
    • BTS: adjusting of the bounce board
    • list of questions you asked
    • BTS: question(s) being asked
    • BTS: you shooting B-roll with a slider

Due: Beginning of period, February 26/27.

Assignment: Montage

Show a lot of things happening at once,
Remind everyone of what’s going on
And with every shot you show a little improvement
To show it all would take too long
That’s called a montage
Oh we want montage

Your assignment: make a montage. There are many definitions/subsets of “montage,” but the one that we’ll use is “a series of very short shots edited into a 3 – 4 minute sequence to condense space (at least 4 locations), time (ostensibly at least 4 days), and information.”

You’re not necessarily telling a whole story, just making a sequence that shows the passage of time, often with “a little improvement,” as Team America has it, or more generally, just “change.” Something needs to be very different at the end than it was at the beginning.

It may help to imagine the story in which this montage fits, but the only part you need to make is the montage itself. Unless you just have to, use no diegetic sound — unify the whole thing with one piece of music, so you don’t have to deal with editing/syncing audio.

Random ideas: have a twist — set up the idea and then surprise us; do an homage — even copy something shot for shot; use your song as inspiration (c.f., almost any music video); think of your shots as video-only — all audio is the soundtrack; use a film convention (or 2 or 3) as inspiration; get better at cooking; learn how to make something; get better at feeding a baby; get a dog to do a trick; learn how to parallel park; conversely, work at something really hard and fail at it, either comically or tragically. (BTW: No “Rocky” montage music. It’s just too clichéd. Even making fun of it is clichéd.)

Have a least one shot you are proud of technically, maybe a tracking shot, or a rack focus, or an aerial shot, or a match cut, etc. Montages are almost all quick cuts, 30+ per minute, so there should be very few long takes. Try to mix up the shots – close-up, medium, long, etc. Note: although maybe 20 seconds can be time lapse / stop motion, the bulk of your piece needs to be a traditional montage.

Please give your final film some ease on both ends — maybe fade from and to black; maybe have credits; please begin and end audio purposefully.

Assignment: “Narrative Music Video”

Your assignment: make a narrative music video. That is, make a montage-like video of something happening/some people doing something and intercut it with a band/performer performing. The two don’t have to match up, thematically, but they can. This technically may not constitute a “narrative,” but it probably will feel like it.

Random ideas: have a twist — set up the idea and then surprise us; do an homage — even copy something shot for shot; think of your shots as video-only — all audio is the soundtrack; use a film convention (or 2 or 3) as inspiration.

Have a least one shot you are proud of technically, maybe a tracking shot, or a rack focus, or an aerial shot, or a match cut, etc. Many music videos are almost all quick cuts, 30+ per minute, so there should be very few long takes. Try to mix up the shots – close-up, medium, long, etc.

Do not choose this assignment as a way of avoiding the work of the Montage Assignment. At least half of these clips are your work; all the editing is your work, including (radically?) editing the orginal music video.

Please give your final film some ease on both ends — maybe fade from and to black; maybe have credits; please begin and end audio purposefully.

Get somebody from here to there and then do something


Kurt Vonnegut’s rule #3 for writing short stories applies even more to film:

  1. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

What characters want can be very simple, but they have to want something, have some kind of goal – Vonnegut’s glass of water, the mouse getting the cracker over the ledge, Nathaniel’s glass of milk, Torri’s jumping into a quarry, Wink getting to a bus, or Hushpuppy’s getting him a bite of fried gator tail. Characters can want multiple things as they go along, but when they don’t have an overall goal the audience is denied the pleasure of expectations – thwarted, mysterious, or fulfilled.

Assignment: Make a 2+ minute action sequence following a character as they move from one place to another and at the end do something, maybe with their hands.  The action is linear and purposeful – it is not a montage.

Due: December 11/12


  • a useful and varied mix of shots – establishing, medium, close-up; static, moving; low angle, high angle; rack focus (FiLMiC Pro) – think of all the things we looked at in Lola (who’s got a crane? selfie stick!)
  •  framing/edits that follow the 180° rule and are aware of consistent lateral direction
  • at least one “cut on motion,” maybe one of which is “walking (moving) through the camera”
  • mechanically smooth tracking shots (e.g., slider / dolly / skateboard / car / bike / shopping cart / rolling-truck-with-no-driver-and-camera-duct-taped-to-window )
  • handheld-seeming shots
  • jump cuts
  • rule of thirds
  • keep the camera moving
  • cuts to POV shots, where it’s clear we’re seeing what the character is looking at as they move along
  • at least one shot you’re technically proud of
  • give it some air – starts black with faded-in sound, ends black
  • no need for title or credits unless they add to what you’re doing

You can crosscut a couple times to the goal if that’s fun/effective, and crosscut more if it’s a chase scene, but not so much that you avoid the problem of how to vary the mix of shots and tell the story linearly.


No diegetic sound – just slam in a music soundtrack. Advanced students can tweak this requirement if they know what they’re doing.

For some people this is an exercise, learning to think about how to shoot a sequence. For others this can turn into something aesthetically complete, interesting, and satisfying.  Either is fine – no need to shoulder the burden of art unless you want to.

You can create film crews for shooting and then share the resulting footage. Everybody, however, edits their own final cut. Most people in the past have just done the assignment on their own, with one cameraperson and one actor, and it works just fine.

When transferring your clips to iMovie, iMovie itself is pretty good at seeing into your phone or camera (using USB – see iMovie Essential Training, Chapter 1). Image Capture gives you more control, though.


Assignment: YouTube one-shot re-cut


Due: October 31/November 1

Demo in class: go get Tennis Court

Goal: Learn basic post-production skills in iMovie by adding visual energy, focus, and rhythm to a structurally simple single-shot clip. Extra goal: aesthetic pride. That is, be proud of what you do, trying to make the final product better than the original.

Tools to use:

  • Start new Library, Event, and Project, import YouTube (or make your own)
  • Scrub > spacebar to pause > Split clip (Command-B)
  • Probably good to learn to use (faux) beat markers
  • Things to try with clips using tools in the Adjustments Bar:
    • Crop (including Ken Burn’s effect to create a pan or a zoom (see also this tutorial)
    • Change color/saturation/balance, etc  (don’t forget “Video Effects”)
    • Copy > Paste Adjustments
    • Speed (beware of losing audio sync)
  • Things to use/try from the sidebar Content Library:
    • Title
    • Fade to black beginning/ending
    • Transitions
    • Edit > Connect cutaways (mess with opacity?)
    • Cut/move/repeat clips
  • Sample list from the classes from a couple of years ago is here.
  • Wikipedia has an entry on one shot music videos with a list of examples.
  • Mental Floss has a page with 15 one shot music videos here (h/t Tiffany).

Lorde’s Tennis Court, recut sample:

BTW: Not only is repetition/rhythm a key element of music that we like, it’s a key element to be aware of in good editing – but not slavishly. Most art is about setting up expecations (e.g., rhythm) and then messing with the expectation (e.g., change of rhythm).



Assignment: Film conventions

Film Conventions: Run Lola Run

We use Run Lola Run to develop awareness of film techniques and conventions. Items with pages numbers on the list are straight out of Anatomy of Film, on reserve in the library.

DUE: September 26/27.

Your job is to

  1. use the internet AND Anatomy of Film to understand the items assigned to you,
  2. start a new Library / Events cache / Movie in iMovie and drag Lola in (use your Workflow handout or this web page),
  3. find examples in Lola,
  4. clip them into iMovie
  5. make a film that introduces your convention with a title that
    1. names it and
    2. makes the definition clear and
  6. includes a voiceover to make sure we see what you want us to see;
  7. open and close your film with “Fade to Black” and begin with the “Standard Lower Third” title and type size on black.conventions-title
  8. In written description of the convention, use either “Centered” or “Zoom” from the Titles selection. 80 point font is about right.
  9. use the “auto” audio button on all your clips (select all first) to normalize the volume across the entire presentation.
  10. When you’re done, iMovie > File > Share > File… > HD 720, named with your item number, title and your name, e.g., “Blue 2 25 Lizzie.” Then run through HandBrake, Apple 720p preset.

A microphone is on reserve in the library, as are copies of the book.

For a grade higher than a C+,

  1. include a clip or two from other movies (YouTube downloads) and
  2. have something to say about how the technique shapes our response to the scene.

Sign up here for two different conventions (make two separate films, one for each convention).

Example – this would get a B or B+ – not enough examples from the web for people to really “see” it.