10 Gifts for Filmmakers and Movie Lovers

The holiday season is upon us, and with that comes a surge of blog posts about finding the “perfect present.” For filmmakers, a Christmas wishlist tends to contain some pricey and potentially unattainable items (I would love for Santa to bring me a few Zeiss Prime Cine lenses… but it’s not in his budget). While a $4,000 lens is not a stocking-stuffer, there are a lot of cheap gifts filmmakers would love to receive or grab for themselves over the holidays. Whether you’re building your wish list, or buying for a friend, here are some suggestions to gear up over the holidays…

Full disclaimer: I have no stake in these products or the companies that sell them and I encourage you to shop around for the best fit. However, Amazon and Zazzle do give me a little referral bonus if you purchase something after using these links, which does not alter the item price, and in no way implies endorsement. That means if you use these links, you’ll be helping me out this holiday season, too! Maybe I can get that Zeiss lens after all…?

1. A slate/clapper

Not only does a slate make you look like you know what you’re doing, it’s also an extremely helpful tool for labeling footage and synchronizing multiple cameras in post.

2. Books

From production techniques to cinema history, any filmmaker will benefit from having vast information at their fingertips. I also think my private library dramatically improves the cool-factor of my editing workstation… here are a few I can’t live without:

3. Storyboard Dry Erase Board

This one is a shameless plug for a product I designed on Zazzle, but I think it’s a pretty practical choice. Great for sketching, but you can save them for later too by snapping photos on your mobile device. All of the 19×9 panels have small marks indicating where you should draw top and bottom crop marks for the CinemaScope aspect ratio. This one’s available in the medium size depicted here, and in a large size for really serious storyboarding.

4. Inspiration (other movies)

Although I’ve depicted a personal favorite here, James Stewart in Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), there are thousands of classic films to stimulate any budding or experienced filmmaker’s creative mind.

5. Painters Tape (All colors!)

There is very little Painters’ Tape cannot do on a film set. Marking actor and prop locations, labeling gear, holding equipment together without leaving a damaging residue, and attaching things to the “set” without damaging the walls are just a few examples. If you can find more colors besides the classic blue, that’s very helpful!

6. A Big Bag o’ Clamps

I love me some clamps. Hanging a backdrop, holding a reflector in place, pinching an ill-fitting costume, the uses are endless.

7. Magazine Subscription

This one delivers monthly joy throughout the year. Magazines I’ve found extremely useful include Videomaker, Filmmaker Magazine, and American Cinematographer Magazine. Although the content and level of skill expected for readers of each varies, there’s usually great inspiration and tips in these that will apply to everyone.

8. Sun Hat

If you read my post about the surprising burning capabilities of the sun, you’ll know why a wide-brimmed sun hat is in my toolkit. This not only shields your face, ears, and nose from the discomfort and dangers of a serious burn, it also blocks the LCD and black plastic of your camera while shooting. Straw hats are made from renewable natural materials, are lightweight, and breathe really well compared to many fabrics.

9. More Memory Cards

You can really never have too many memory cards. This is a very specific area though, and you’ll want to make sure you get the brand, size, type, and speed appropriate for your filmmaker’s needs. Personally, I only buy SanDisk brand and I find anything less than 60MB/sec. will have issues with some cameras I use. If you’re buying one as a surprise, get a peek at one of your filmmaker’s best cards and take a picture.

10. Donate to their crowdfunding campaign!

When all else fails, you can always donate to your favorite filmmaker’s crowdfunding campaign (if they don’t have one going yet, you know they’re about to start one). Indigogo and Kickstarter are popular platforms for raising money online, but some filmmakers do it the old fashioned way too: begging! Just ask if there’s a project they’re trying to get off the ground and see what you can do to help. Don’t forget to twist their arm a little and get that “Producer” credit.

Have you purchased or received an affordable filmmaking tool that you’d like to share? Do you sell handmade clapboards on Etsy? Share any suggestions in the comments and I’ll add them to my list for 2016!

Happy Shopping!

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Ten Adobe Premiere Shortcuts for Faster Editing in 2015

Adobe Premiere Timeline

Editing can be tedious, but it doesn’t have to be slow. If your New Year’s Resolution is to improve your editing skills, learning your software’s keyboard shortcuts for repetitive tasks will allow you finish projects faster with less clicking, searching through menus, and aiming for tiny buttons. Here are ten shortcuts for beginners and advanced users of Adobe Premiere to add to their arsenal in 2015:

  1. Ctrl + S (Cmd + S Mac)
    • Save – This one’s obvious, but must be said. My left hand hovers over this side of the keyboard throughout the editing process and I save every time I make an edit I wouldn’t want to repeat in the event of a crash.
  2. Page Down / Page Up
    • Go to Next Cut / Previous Cut – This is a fast way to get your playhead exactly on a cut, or to fly through the timeline without zooming in and out so much. This command will ignore clips on video and audio layers that aren’t highlighted; click on the layer name (e.g. “Video 1”) to highlight or unselect a layer.
  3. Ctrl + M (Cmd + M Mac)
    • Export – This quick keystroke saves you several clicks every time you need to export, especially useful when queuing several short timelines from one project.
  4. ~ (Tilde a.k.a. “the squiggly worm key”)
    • Maximize Panel – At first glance, there is no “full screen” option in Premiere. In fact, you can maximize any panel by selecting that panel and pressing the “~” key. Use this to get a closer look at a cluttered bin or timeline on complex projects.
  5. J / K
    • Fast Forward / Rewind – When you’re scrubbing quickly through a timeline using the space bar to start and stop playback, many users reach for the mouse to drag the playhead back a few seconds to watch an edit again. Just hit rewind, then play again to accomplish the same with two quick keystrokes. Press these multiple times to increase the speed.
  6. I / O
    • In Point / Out Point – If you set in and out points on source clips, try these handy keys. I keep my hand ready on the “I” while playing through source clips looking for good material, then switch to “O” as I wait for the moment to end. If you aren’t setting in and out points to isolate a clip before putting it on your timeline, give it a try! That’s another blog post…
  7. * (asterisk on number pad)
    • Set Marker – Using markers is a great way to mark your timeline and find your place later, but mousing into menus to find this command is tedious and will stop playback. Just reach for the asterisk!
  8. Ctrl + D (Cmd + D Mac)
    • Video Transition – Hover near a cut to apply a transition on selected layers (see tip #2 about selecting layers). This is a personal favorite of mine, as it saves me many repetitious click-and-drag operations. In combination with tip #2, this is my secret weapon for slideshows. By default this applies “cross dissolve,” but you can right-click any video transition and “set as default.”
  9. Ctrl + Shift + D (Cmd + Shift + D Mac)
    • Audio Transition – Same as #8, but on audio layers.
  10. Backspace / Delete
    • This one is self-explanatory, but I’ve seen a lot of users right-clicking clips and choosing “clear” to remove items from the timeline. Just hit backspace as you would when typing. On that note, be careful not to hit backspace accidentally while a clip is selected, thinking you’re typing in another window.

Do you have any favorite tips or shortcuts? Share here, the list doesn’t have to stop at ten!