In the last 5 years, since we gave filmmaking a try for the first time, we had much fun and inspiring moments but also a lot of problems to solve and to jump over hurdles that we haven’t seen when we were still unaware of some key principles of the media entertainment industry that also apply to us as we want to set up non-commercial, independent projects. Today we can justifiably claim to be “old hands” with some experience in things that relate to media content creation on a small scope. We want to share some experience.

Everything in one hand?

The main advantage of Munich Filmworks is it’s main disadvantage – currently there is nearly everything (except the music) in the hands of two people. Whether it is the idea for a short film, the organization, the filming itself, whether it is the Munich Filmworks related design and animation, the design and programming of the website, the modeling, texturing, animation and simulating of a VFX shot, whether it is the sound design or the building of equipment like a dolly for smoother camera moves or a simple tracking system for inserting a CG character into live action footage. Funny enough, the latter was considered to be an art object as we filmed in front of an art museum.

tracking system

Art object or simple tracking system?

So the point is, that the freedom doing what you want is bought at a price and in combination with not getting every actor on the stage when you need to. If everything does not work out as intended, you can pay a high price: cancelling our first short “Das Duell” and publish a fictional Trailer instead wasn't an easy decision, but we learned from it and will either spread tasks across several partners who would like to work with us or we will try to better fit the workload onto two shoulders, getting the job done. Nonetheless, work never stops.

Everything in due time?

You clearly cannot blame an average Joe for being unaware of the time and resources that many studios, talented artists and engineers put into movies these days, because how does he know what it takes to accomplish these shots? But we can say, that even on a smaller scale and even without a deadline, one important factor in getting all the tasks done is time – not only in regard to the rendering process which ultimately hinders you in working on your shots if you only have one PC.

Furthermore neither Wolfgang nor me are studying a CGI or film related subject, so there is only the spare time to learn new stuff, try new things and to get the project finally done. There are times when the question arose as to how a shot can be finished without getting wrinkles and gray hair.

Therefore time management is essential even in non-commercial projects if you take it seriously – another lesson learned!

Everything is about getting started?

greenscreen car

not very well planned greenscreen shoot

In this regard we now know how important planning and management is. You can save a lot of time by outlining your scenes, writing down which steps a potential script should run trough or thinking about what actually needs your attention in a shot and what doesn’t. For example for us it has become routine to use the software Celtx to create a storyboard and conceptualize our ideas.

By the try-and-error-approach we also had to learn the hard way that every VFX shot has to be carefully prepared at the set. Especially rolling shutter and shaky movements slow the post production in an unnecessary way down. It could be really frustrating stabilizing shots with rolling shutter considering the expectation of the viewer is to see something special not something like a smooth camera movement that is a matter of course.

Furthermore in the post production it turned out that not only planning but also detailing is very important. If you are after a photorealistic look throw as many necessary details in your CG scene as you can. If you want your object to seem massive then pay attention to the details and small objects. And sometimes it can be better to drop another complicated shot and take the time polishing your best shot(s).

Lesson learned? Oh, wait… one more!

Whether you are doing short movies, short animations, VFX etc. on a small scope but got a heavy workload, you should ask yourself these few questions from time to time and there certainly are a lot more like where to get good music – this really can be a big issue when you are thinking after months of work you can sit back and enjoy but there is still the music missing! And moreover the problem is… But enough complaints – complaining is just for greenhorns!