Indie Filmmaking: Get the Blockbuster Look on a DIY Budget | Nguyen Anh Nguyen | Skillshare

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Indie Filmmaking: Get the Blockbuster Look on a DIY Budget

teacher avatar Nguyen Anh Nguyen, Film Director

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Starting with a Single Image


    • 3.

      Key Elements of a Moodboard


    • 4.

      Direction Notes


    • 5.

      Location, Location, Location


    • 6.



    • 7.

      Shooting Smartly for VFX


    • 8.

      Sound and Music


    • 9.

      Bringing It All Together as a Director


    • 10.

      That's a Wrap


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About This Class

This 45-minute film class is packed with knowledge, and is perfect for aspiring filmmakers, directors, cinematographers, visual effects artists, producers, and any creator who is interested in bringing their passion project to life in the form of a live-action film.

Montreal-based director Nguyen-Anh Nguyen — known for his work on the viral hit Akira Project and the cyberpunk thriller Temple — will walk you through his step-by-step director’s process for creating a high-quality fan film on a DIY budget.

Key lessons include:

  • Moodboarding
  • Direction Notes
  • Location selection
  • Actors
  • Shooting Smartly for VFX
  • Sound and Music

Starting with a single idea, then building a moodboard out of your vision through style references, art direction, and visual effects supervision, Anh’s workflow will unlock a whole new world of filmmaking, helping you to build a community around your fan film idea, and most importantly, realize your vision.

Meet Your Teacher

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Nguyen Anh Nguyen

Film Director


Montreal-based film director. Creator of Akira Project and new original cyberpunk thriller, Temple.

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1. Introduction: My name is Nguyen-Anh Nguyen. I used to be a dentist a while back. I decided to go back into film production because I like films and I started my own indie film production company in 2008, and, ever since, I've decided to make what I love which is sci-fi films. I've done a few, but the ones I'm really proud of are the ones I've just done in the last few years. The bigger one being the Akira project which was very popular online and that you might have seen and I just recently short something called Temple, suburban thriller, which is inspired by everything I love. It's martial arts intensive film and involves cyborg and action. In this class, we're going to learn how to shoot a visual effects intensive live action fan project, and we're going to use a mood board to convey your vision and to bring the general art direction to life. Doing this mood board will teach you these three different skills art direction, visual effects supervision and general direction of the film. One of the trickiest challenge of this project is really finding a vision that's going to be well-defined and finding how to achieve that vision on the very low budget or no budget. Shooting with no budget is always difficult, shooting with low budget is a bit easier, but there are tricks to go around these constraints and you'll learn how you can make something look the way you want it to look with what you have at your disposal or with the limitations that comes with no budget shoot. What makes a project good versus great is usually the detail and openification you put into it, but most importantly it's the dedication that you have to put into that project to make it as best as you can. There's always something that could be better. Most of the time you can make it better if you put the time into it. So, let's get started. 2. Starting with a Single Image: I usually get started with a project with either a single idea or a single image based on something that I love. The single idea usually will come from something that is real, that's out there, that you can extrapolate on. I'm a super geek, so I watch a lot of tech news or science news because of my science background, and I'll usually take something that inspires me and extrapolate on that. For example, in Temple, it started out with a single idea that human organs could be rejected by your own body. From that idea came cyborgs and martial arts and the rest of the sci-fi world. Again, on Temple, the visuals of Temple started out with a single image that I had, which was this city of the future that was being flooded by the ocean. From that image, I shot this plate in Montreal, and we added some of the effects to it, and then the whole world built around that image. I think that one of the most important aspect of making a project is creating a world that feels real and that feels tangible because if that world doesn't work then nothing else around it will work, especially if you're doing something sci-fi or somethings fantastical. If you're shooting something in real life now, it's easy to do. If you're going out there and creating a world that doesn't exist, you have to really put the care into very minute details of that world. So, you make sure that you only show things that apply to that world, you only have events that would fit into this whole experience. How I start with concepts or ideas usually is when I'm drinking coffee and doing nothing, but also, I base myself on stuff I loved as a kid. I was very inspired as a kid by things I've read. Stemming from that, you put everything else that you have experience with. So, I used to be a dentist, so science is a big part of what I know and love. Science fiction is also a lot of technology coming in, so I watch the news and I gather bits and pieces of what could be possible in the future and I put it into this general story I have. In general, I think you should start with something that you know about. If you don't know enough about a subject, it'll show onscreen and in the story that you're trying to tell. Also, if you don't know about something enough, you should do a lot of research and get into that subject and get details out that will make it special. For me, I'm a very visual person. A lot of the times, I will start with a single image and that image will start off the whole process of creating the story. So, for me, it's an image, but for some, it may be a piece of music, a book, an emotion, or a general theme that you want to explore. Going back into the image though, I do a lot of research online. Google is your friend, that's the first thing, but also, I use this website called ArtStation. You look up concept art on the website, and based on that, you can really dive into that world. If you had money, you'd pay a concept artist to create something specific for your world, but I find that website is a very great resource in terms of finding lots of stuff from talented people who are willing to share their work and that really can inspire you. So, like a lot of you, I scour the Internet all day and night, and every time I see something that inspires me, be it a shot of nature or photography or sci-fi, I will save it to Evernote. I have this little icon in my browser and it's just like a simple click. You can put it into a notebook and you can tag exactly what it is that inspires you about it and you can get back to it later. I really feel like that's a huge source of inspiration for future projects. So, now, for example, on Temple, I found my one key image that started this whole process. So, from that one image, you can move into creating the mood board. So, we'll get started. 3. Key Elements of a Moodboard: In this lesson, we're going to talk about how to create a moodboard. The general elements of a moodboard consists of art direction, style references, lighting, textures, and how you create the universe that the film is based on. For example, in Temple, the art direction was based heavily on Cyberpunk, which is my favorites RF films, and books, and life. But, for example, very different from Steampunk, if you do Cyberpunk, you really have to be careful not to include elements of Steampunk in it. So, if you're doing something more fantastical, you also have to really gear yourself to that idea and bring all the elements that will make that idea function. So, the art direction in the moodboard can be done through images. Basically, there's going to be a lot and a lot of images. You take something that inspires you in terms of style. You place textures in it. You place color scheme, lighting scheme, everything can be separated by either the environment that you want to work in or the specific location that you have access to. Finally, you can also have different cinematography style and references. Most likely, there's going to be somebody out there who has already created an image that's at least 60 percent of what you have in your head. So, I usually find one image that really inspires me, and I'll talk to my art director, and she'll find other related images that she can build on. If you're like a one man team, you don't have an art director, then really you just need to do a bit more like work and a bit more research. But again, the internet is such a valuable resource nowadays that you can pretty easily find what you're looking for. For me, one of the first thing I think about is color in the film. I get very inspired by color and I try to find a visually distinct style to a film from the beginning because otherwise, if you don't have a strong direction, your film is going to look like everything outdoors shot on auto mode, which is okay, but which is not very visually impactful especially for a sci-fi or fantastic film. How you create a universe that feels real and feel specific is that you really have to decide what makes that universe different from real life. Is it the colors? Is it the technology? Is it CG monsters that you're going to add to it? So, you really have to keep that in mind and you have to design everything else around that one or that those rules that you set in your film. I mean, you can get started with one idea even though you have only a vague idea of what that look or that film is going to be. But for example, if you go to an art station or even on Google images, you click on one link and usually, that one link will give you a bunch of other links base on other projects or images that the artist has created or that's similar to that project. From that, you can dig deeper into that warm hole of ideas and you'll come up with something that you didn't think you could find initially. So, moodboard is super important, I think in terms of convincing people of your vision that you have a clear and defined vision. It helped me gather a team. It helped me gather actors and just make this whole thing possible for Akira, for example. I have a lot of people approach me. We had launched in Indiegogo campaign and we received a lot of support from the internet. People would email me, and I would enter, and send them back a moodboard of what I wanted to do. That really fired people up because they could see a direction and a goal for this thing like we are going to recreate this shot based on Akira with all these elements into it. So, most of the projects I'm working on now, I do it for very cheap less than $10,000, but they're worth a lot more in terms of production value because people put their time and their talent into it. Usually, it's anywhere up to like $150 or $200,000 in terms of value of these projects. Before I start a moodboard, I thought it was a super complicated process, but really it doesn't have to be. It's super simple. You can take a word document. You just drag and drop images. You try to give them some sort of consistent layout and you separate them by sections. You separate them by either the introduction of your film or if you have specific locations that you're working on. You separate them by location or by shots. All of these images can become a PDF that's easily shared with your team. For example, this is the moodboard for Temple. As you can see, top left, you have the lighting reference that I really like, these little beads and dots, and we recreated that lighting into Temple. You also see that texture and wallpaper patterns were importing, which is something else that we try to reproduce. On the next page, you can see other textural references that we were toying with. We had lots of ideas obviously. That's what a moodboard is for. You just go through different ideas and you say what you like best or what is possible on the budget level or the constraints that you have. In Akira, one of the things that I really wanted to have was this foggy, smoky environment, which you can see in the moodboard. It's present in many images that I referenced and on set basically, I asked for everything to be smoked. So, we had the smoke on that would smoke everything to create this gradient more Cyberpunk aspect to the whole thing. It really added a lot to the image. Then, the Akira moodboard also had these tungsten lighting references of city streets. I really liked that look and it was a very simple look to achieve because the city streets are tungsten yellow. We really went and looked for little areas in Montreal. We shot in Montreal where that look was present. So, you can see from the moodboard that it really translated over to the final image. The new Tokyo reveal like the big shot where everything you see the city for a first time, I wanted to have different colors in the background, and this whole tint of blue and yellow, which is what we have in the moodboard. So, you really can see that the moodboard helped put things together. Without the moodboard, it would be a lot harder for me to show the artist what I want. In this shot, you really can see the final tone of the big explosion in Akira. It was dark blue. Again, we created that in the post, but it was based on that specific image. So, for moodboard to work, I mean, it really depends on your project for specifically on Akira, I did this moodboard for my visual effects artists. So, I had the broken down each scene that required heavy visual effects to be moodboarded and we had specific shots for each of the scene. For Temple, we had more of the production moodboard as well as the VFX moodboard. The production moodboard was for set, and the location, and the lighting, and the visual effects moodboard was specifically again for the VFX shots. You don't have to have a lot of images. Sometimes I think you should constrain yourself to more specific images because if you just have lots and lots of inspiration, then it becomes a bit pointless. You don't have a direction anymore. You have all the stuff I love, but you don't have one specific shot that people can refer to. In these images, you can see the shot I did for the cooling chamber in Akira, which is one of my favorite shot. You have lighting and have texture. It doesn't show the cooling chamber at all. It just shows what type of lighting, and mood I wanted, and what type of metal texture I wanted. On the more production side, the art direction for the casting for us, the lead character in Temple, you can see that we did lots of research on how to achieve a look that felt right. So, you can see the texture of the costume, the style that we knew we wanted to have a hood, and we also tried to aim for a different color, which is like that red hue that we like. At this point, I think you are to focus on the more general aspect of your film like specific details will come up and you'll get to choose that once you have more things locked down. But because you're at the beginning of the process, think a bit wider in terms of perspective. So, think about the environment, the lighting, texture, and the general look of the film, and the details will come along, and you'll get to decide that later in production. 4. Direction Notes: In this section, we'll talk about the director's notes that you can also include in the mood board. This doesn't apply to everybody, but it apply for the specific projects I worked on. The one thing I like to start with usually is the general cinematography of the film like how I want to shoot the film with style I want. Is it going to be long slow takes? Is it going to be odd angles? Is it going to be crazy kinetic sequences? You can include that, and you can include the style of framing and the images that you like. At this point also, you can decide what type of camera or lenses you're going to use. I like to shoot anamorphic lenses, for example. So, my frame is always going to be a bit wider rather than high. So, that's going to influence the art direction as well. If you're going to be on the set, you know that you're going to see a lot left and right of the main characters. So, you have to keep that in mind when you do art direction. You can write in these notes or you can just pull up a film that looks like what you wanted it to look like. Mine was Blade Runner because it's a masterpiece and it's shot anamorphic. So, it's easy. You place a frame in the shot that you want and you'll see, for example, that because it's shot anamorphic, there's so much content on the left frame, even though the character is on the right frame. So, you think about that when you create the location that you're shooting in. For example, one of the other things I like is that I like mix lighting, tungsten lighting with colder lights, for example, and I tried to mix it up in each of the scene. I don't like monochromatic shots, so I always tried to have different lightings in the shot, be a tungsten or be a just neons of different colors, for example. If you're starting out and you don't know about specific lighting, then just look at your favorite films and see what you like about them. Is it the neons? Is it the general aspect of the film? You try to pull frames on these films and try to pull frames from a specific film. It's very for you to know very well how one film was done, so that you cannot copy it, but you can get inspired by it. Then, pull references from many, many different films. It's going to give you a clear target into the look that you want to achieve. One of the main things I always decide is this project going to be more interior shots or is it going to be more exterior shots. If it's interior, then you have to put a lot into art direction, so that you make everything look good. If it is exterior shots, then you have to start location scout. It's difficult to find the specific places that will be adapted for the film, and also you have to get permits and all the adjust. You also can start thinking about camera, although it's not crucial at this moment. But you can decide if you really want to have a specific camera. Temple was shot with Blackmagic design cameras. All different sorts of Blackmagic cameras, we shot with the Blackmagic URSA, we shot of the Blackmagic Production 4K, and we shot with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. So, it really also gave a very different look to the whole film, that allowed us to do specific takes that could not have been done with the epic. Waking up the actor, putting the camera in different places, that also you need to think of at this point. Because it's going to help you shape the frames and the composition of your project. If you have no budget and if you really are starting out, then, a camera is a camera. It doesn't take you the best camera out there to shoot a good project. Use what you have. If it's a Canon 5D, if it's your friends camera, you just, there are ways to make a shot look good. It doesn't have to be done on an expensive camera. Do what you can with what you have. I think the most important thing is that, what's in front of the lens is done well. So, the camera is just a tool. But at this point in time, this is more of a mood board. You don't really have to decide on the camera that you're shooting with. The specific details, you can figure out down the line. So, specifically, cinematography for Temple was very influenced by the fight that we're going to shoot. An action scene takes a long time to shoot. So, we had to plan everything out, so we could get the whole fight. Secondly, the fight was a bit long. So, we had to make people want to watch it till the end and for that, we chose different angles that was more inspired by video games. We had like this third party angle that we use a buddy Reagan, the actor. We place the camera right behind the shoulders, and it really gave this kinetic impact to all the punches and the hits. We also plays a camera up in hard to reach positions, to give the fight a different point of view. We use a lot of editing techniques to make the whole actions flow better and feel more impactful. There are other ways to shoot a fight scene. You can shoot a fight scene by holding long shots as well. You don't have to do fast editing, but you have to be aware that if you do that. Then, you really need to focus all your energy on the choreography and the fighters, because they are the ones who will pull everything off in that scene. You won't have a lot of leeway to cutaway in editing and kind of cheat the action sequence. So, it's a decision and you have to make that decision early. But remember, all these things are very specific to my project and they're not necessarily in the mood board. There are more on pre-production notes that you can or cannot put in the mood board and for now, you should concentrate on the general idea of your film. The mood board is still a conceptual stage in your production. So, you don't have to be that specific. But if you know for example, that you need to build a rig to place a camera on the actor, you have to start thinking about it now. In Temple, for example, we had to build a rig that would spray waters all over the actor. So, we had to think about how to do that. The fairly early in the process, because it won't leave you enough time. Otherwise, if you start thinking about it a few days before the shoot. At this point, the most important thing is, you have to know the tone of your film, the cinematography of the film and the general art direction of your film. Everything else is a secondary. One of the most important things also, because this is a visual effects class, you need to think about which shots will require visual effects. It's going to be important for you to think of what can be achieved in camera, what can be achieved with practical effects for example and what can only be achieved in post. If you are going to shoot for posts, you need to know how to shoot properly for both. But, we'll talk about that in a different section. One of the major mistake that people make in this process because it's so early, is that they underestimate the amount of time or the complication of the process of shooting the VFX. That usually will impact the end result or just the timeline of the release of the film, because it's always going to take three times as long as what you think it is. For you to overcome these obstacles, I think one of the main thing to keep in mind is to use VFX as little as possible. You should dream big, but you should plan efficiently on how to create the most impact for as little work as possible. That's going to help you a lot, especially if you're starting out with visual effects. 5. Location, Location, Location: After we've created the mood board the next step is naturally to look for places where we can actually shoot the film, and location is one of the most important aspect of the project such as this in terms of it being believable. You need to find something that has usually a lot of character, that will help you to tell your story and that will have you work as little as possible in changing what the place looks like. It's like in real estate basically, location is everything and you need to spend a lot of time finding the right location because it's going to make or break your project. For example, in Akira we spent about a month and a half in just in location scouting. We need it for example, to find a post apocalyptic stadium that would look the part. So we found lots of location but very few that fit the bill. Price is going to be an issue a lot of the times, and there's no getting around it. You have to talk to people and explain to them what your project is that you're not a Hollywood studio, that you're doing this on your own. A lot of times people are going to understand what that means and if you were nice enough to them, they'll probably be nice to you in return. For example, in Temple we had a location that was beautiful for two weeks and I think we've paid less than six or $500 for it. The location was worth a lot more, but we explain what our project was and that it was meant to try and finance a feature film and that we would come back to her in return and it worked. So, try the same, you need to find something that fits the project's first, and then find a way to make it happen. One of the things that we needed to think of on Temple for example, were the windows. We had to blackout a certain number of windows because we were shooting all day and the scene was happening at night so everything had to be blacked out. Also, if you're shooting something that has visual effects, you need to be aware of that it's hard to roto the windows out because of the reflections. And If you want to hide the cityscape for example, it's going to be hard. Also, if you are shooting a Sci-fi film, you need to always be mindful of what's in the background, if you need to remove something that really does not belong to the world that you're building, you need to know if it's possible to remove, if it's going to be a complicated process or if the place you're shooting out is going to have cars in the background that looks like it's from now, but your film happens in 100 years from now it's not going to be the same. Always keep not just the foreground location in mind, but also everything else around it. On Akira for example, we shot in this container yard and behind it we had a train that kept coming by at anytime. In one shot, the shot was perfect but we didn't notice the train in the background and we had to remove it in post. Sometimes it's easy to remove something like a stable building, when the cameras not moving it's not hard to do but if you want to remove for example tree lines in the background it's a bit trickier because of all the rotoscoping, and if your actor passes in front of it as well it's going to become slightly more complicated process. Sometimes you have to understand that it's impossible to find a location that you want, so you have to find ways to make it happen. If it's on a green screen for example, then you shoot on the green screen. In Akira we needed to shoot on the Space Station and we had shoot in the cooling chamber. I knew right away that I didn't have a Space Station in my backyard and a cooling chamber was something fairly impossible to find. So, we had to create that and post and that's when you require a green screen, and that's when you have to decide to not look for location but to shoot it in studio. Ideally, the art direction is already done for you in the location, a lot of times that's how I choose a location, so that you spend as little time and money as possible to art dec it. You'll always need to improve it but you shouldn't have to reshape a whole location. It's not something you can do on a low budget usually. When I search for locations, I usually first ask friends if they've shot somewhere that could be suitable or not. Secondly, you need to find location that not only is comparable to you but that will allow you to shoot there, and is it possible to even get maybe permits. A piece of paper will always be helpful if you get somebody to come onset. It's gonna calm everything down 90% of the time. Either it's the police, it's a landlord, it's just a bystander, it's always better to have something that proves you have the right to be there. Sometimes it's just impossible to shoot that someplace and you can either do it illegally or you don't do it. For example, the first 30-second shot that we did on Akira we just we didn't ask permission for anything, we just again please the camera on my car and we drove around the city and we found spots that were suitable and we started to roll. Again it's possible to do stuff like that if it doesn't involve a big crew, if it involves just you, your camera and your friend but if as soon as you start getting into a fairly bigger production you'll need to have the proper permits and permissions. Ideally when you find a location, set design and lighting will add almost like eighty 80% the final result at that location. V effects should only be a small part of it, it should serve to enhance what's in the location and add something to it but really it shouldn't change a location completely. Again, V effects should only serve to enhance and sell your world, like in the final scene of Temple where you see the highway, that's something that really gels everything together and that creates that world that you want people to believe in. But it shouldn't be used constantly to fix the fact that the location has white bare walls that are not that interesting. If you shoot interiors you always need to keep in mind that you need high ceilings not only to hide your lights but to also get the camera angles that you want, that you have enough backing to place the camera in specific angles. It's always been if you shoot interior and the room is too small, you won't be able to get wide enough to get the shots that you want. The other thing that's important is everything else around the production is that just the place where you're shooting, it's also the production support that delegation allows i.e. Parking craft, equipment's storage, and can the location be secured overnight for example. You don't want to be logging in and out equipment every day if you're shooting there for a long time. Also you need a place for people to stay warm if you're shooting outdoors, you can't just always stay outdoors. You need a place to transfer data, you need a place to set equipment, get people to eat. So, all of these logistical things you need to think of as well. Also always have a backup if you're shooting exterior or on any particular location if you think that there's a chance that your whole team gets kicked out on that day, and you can shoot some other day, then finding a possibility for you to shoot somewhere else on that same day. So, now that we found the locations, we need to look into actors. Actors are one the most important aspect of your film. 6. Actors: So, actors are one of the most important part of the project. If you don't have good actors, everything else won't matter. For you to find good actors on a small low-budget project, you have different places you can go to. One of the most obvious places is Craigslist. However, that can also flood you with people who want to be actors and are not quite fit for the role. There are Facebook groups where you can find people and just post ads up there. There's a website called that allows you to find actors with no fee if you're doing it on an individual project. There are also friends and acquaintances. You can convince to be actors if they have the talent for it. Sometimes if you think your project is interesting enough for the casting agencies or the talent agencies, you can try to approach them and tell them that you're a student or an indie filmmaker, and see if they have any up and coming actors who would be interested to do a part for no or low budget. So, for both Akira and temple, I looked around me. First, friends acquaintances and people who knew actors. I posted ads on Craigslist and Facebook and I found a few of those people throw through the internet and my lead actor actually contacted me over my website. Because he had heard about the projects haven't seen the poster online. So, I got lucky on that. He just emailed me out of the blue, I was looking for actors at that time and it worked out beautifully and he came back for temple as well even though he was living in Vancouver at the time. Well, first the characters have to fit in the world in terms of their looks. Obviously they have to look the part, if it's a special service agent he has to look muscular and you have to find that base that you can work with. But everything else can be done with custom-designed makeup. It really can add a lot to the character. On Akira, one of the biggest challenges to the project was to find actors who looked like the part in the manga and the enemy. So, they had to physically match something that was established in a world. That only existed on paper. So, it took a while for me to cast everybody. Again, I got really lucky because elite character actually does look a lot like Anita and as soon as I saw his IMDB profile, this is the guy. One advice I would give, is that you should not shoot your film if you don't believe that your characters are perfect for the role. Any casting that's done, not perfect or not good enough, it's going to room wherever production value you have. So, a few tips for you to direct actors in the visual effect seen, that's going to require a lot of post production. The first thing, is that you have to know yourself. Exactly what the effects will be, how it will be done, and where it's going to be onset. It helps a lot to tell the actor, okay this is going to happen. You have to react to this monster that's going to appear or you have to look this way, because there's going to be something that's going to fly on top of you. So, you had to know that to be able to tell the actor exactly what he has to do. You also have to put the actor and the mood of the scene. So, if it's a sequence where he's been chased by monsters, you actually just get him to run a few blocks before you start shooting. So, he appears out of breath. Small things will add to it. If you just place him in position and start rolling, it's going to look chaophic. Finally, if you have the time, try to show the actor one of the takes, so that he actually sees what the shot looks like. So, there he sees his position in the frame, and what he does right and what he does wrong, even though there's nothing in the frame yet. In terms of the effects, he's going to understand where things are going to be placed. So, stemming from that, up next we're going to talk about how to shoot smartly for visual effects. 7. Shooting Smartly for VFX: So, in this section, we'll cover how to shoot smartly for visual effects. Obviously, if you're doing something on a low budget, you don't have a lot of resources or you don't have a lot of time to spend on VFX or as little as possible. One of the first thing that you should know is that, it's better not to do the VFX if you can. So, for example in temple, we have this arm sequence where an arm is being ripped out and we towed with the idea of doing the whole sequence in VFX to make it cool, but we realized that no amount of VFX could actually match the fact that we just took a picks arm and we onset unfortunately, had to rip it apart. It looked very gruesome, very realistic, and if you use it smartly, we just reframe very tightly and we use editing to cut into the shot and out of it, it really felt powerful and it's a hard thing to watch even for me. That's one of my first comment, is that VFX again should be used as sparingly as possible. However, if you know that you have to have VFX in the shot, then try to do these few techniques that's going to help you. The first thing is if you really don't need to have a camera movement in the shot, then don't, it always easier to track to rotoscope out and to do any VFX is the frame is still. Because of the types of cameras that we have access to nowadays, everything is shot in 4K or 6K, you can always zoom in, you can always apply slight camera movements in post-production and nobody's going to know, so try to keep your frame as still as possible, your visual effects artist are going to love you for it. If you're shooting visual effects, try to have the actor not cross the acid that you are going to add as much as you can. If you do, it's going to take a lot of time for the VFX artists to actually rotoscope out the actor and if you imagine this shot that we did on Akira, the actor was supposed to be riding his bike, but we forgot to add a green screen behind him, so we had to rotoscope his hair out of the shot on every single frame. It just took a long time, it's something that could have been avoided if we had just place the green screen behind him but on that shot, we were rushed and we forgot basically, so don't forget. Finally, one of the other things is that visual effects only work and will only integrate well into a shot if the environment is affected by the visual effects. For example, on the Akira, we had this major bike explosion that happened, we knew that if we just added an explosion randomly in a shot, it was going to look fake. So, what we did is that we applied lights on the timing of the explosion, so we just had this huge lights as the character was coming in, we just turned on the lights change the whole environment and then shut it off to make the explosion integrate into the shot. Same thing, the actor was riding his bike, so we needed to have wind and the wind really sets the fact that he's riding the bike for real, things like that will just make or break a VFX shot. If you need to have camera movements or if you can't avoid the actor moving in the shot, for example on Temple, we had this fake tattoo that we applied on the actor. Some of the shots were just simply rotoscoped by hand which took a long time, but it worked out in the end very well, it's just we had the tattoo and we had literally, on every single frame, roto out the tattoo and apply the effects to it. But some of the wider shots, we didn't have to do that, so we just placed tracking markers, we placed an LED light on his arm so that we could really have something to focus on for the post-process to work. Placing tracking markers is obviously one of the most basic steps in VFX but you need to remember to have them and you need to remember to have enough of them so that the software will be able to pick up those trackers and track your shot. Otherwise, you'll have to do it by hand and it's a huge time-consuming process. Stemming from that, you need to know what the post-production workflow will entail, what programs you're going to be using and what they're going to be capable of. So again, as much as I've talked about trying not to use VFX too much, you should also know what you can do in pause so that you don't waste too much time onset doing something that can be easily fixed in impulse. For example, if it's a simple thing like color balance that you have one house lights that won't be able to turn off because of the circumstances of the shoot, you can easily color correct the color balance in pause. Also, for post-production, if a shot is still, again it's very easy to remove something from a shot, not adding but removing something from the shot. So, just keep that shot still, you shoot the scene as you can and then shoot a still frame of an empty slate and you'll be able to remove that impulse fairly easily by using the empty frame without the actors, without anybody moving in front of the background, you'll be able to simply copy that background and remove whatever was happening in the other shot. So, speaking of VFX, VFX will have to go hand in hand with sound and we'll talk about sound in the next section. 8. Sound and Music: So, in this section, we're going to talk about sound and how important sound is to every project. I have to have a disclaimer on all of my projects. I've had amazing people work in sound for these projects, that's something that was possible because I convince these people to work on these projects based on the mood board and the presentation of the film. Now, if you don't have access to that type of resources, then be aware that sound is going to be important, so don't forget about it. If you know that you can do everything yourself, try to minimize the use of sound and try to not have too much sound effects in your film if it is possible to avoid it. Sound and visual effects have to go hand in hand. Sound is going to be 50 percent of your visual effects. It's going to help sell your visual effects. For example, in tempo, we have this UI that appears on the side window of the car, that appears in that room. Before, I heard sound in the shot, I wasn't convinced that it was going to sell but then when you heard these little blu lu lu, it just really made everything work together. Also, we had this scene in Akira where there is a bike coming in and it explodes in front of the kid. Really, the explosion of the sound and the sound effects gels everything together. There's this other sequence where Kaneda is standing on top of his bike and shooting a laser right at you. The laser, the bike, the sound effect that hits you in the face really makes everything work. If you don't have sound in mind when you do visual effects, it's going to be a bit harder to make everything sound and feel as good as possible. If you just add a last-minute sound effects on top of the great visual effects, it's going to actually reduce its impact. As for example, we created this big satellite, the soul satellite in Akira and obviously that's all CG. But the sound of that laser going off when she's on top of it really adds the shot and the makes it work. One thing to note that, it's important to do visual effects and sound fairly simultaneously. If you start doing sound without having the visual effects, then it's wasting your sound designer's time because he won't have anything to match with. Again, try to have the effects done early so that you can add to the effects by doing great sound design to it. If you don't plan sound properly, you're going to end up wasting a lot of time between visual effects and sound trying to match these two together. The end result may be impacted negatively because it's not going to be as good as it can be. If you're on a small budget or no budget, then one of the most important thing is, again, the mood board and the presentation of your project so that you can try to convince a great sound designer to work on your project so that it really elevates the level of your film. Secondly, music is super uber important and you need to have great music for a project to really be solid. There are multiple resources online if you can't afford to hire somebody who composers original soundtrack for your film. You can use websites like or Musicbed is a more cinematic website and they have licenses that will let you use their songs for very cheap or even free if it's non-commercial projects. Premium beats is more ads and commercials oriented but they also have very good deals on songs as well. So, really, it's worth investing a bit of money to get great music if you can't afford to hire somebody or if don't know a good composer. One of the things to keep in mind also is that ideally, you should know what the music is going to be before you start the editing of your project. Get people involved as early as possible is always a good idea. It hard to match music track to an edit that's already locked than to match an edit to a soundtrack. Music has a different rhythm and sometimes it's just impossible for an artist to match your image edit to the actual song that he's writing. On top of that, when you're using temporary tracks like I did with Akira, you fall into the trap of falling in love with that track. For example, on Akira, we use a track that was bought from one of my favorite games Dues X and the track was epic in proportion. I had a composer on-board for Akira who had to reproduce the soundtrack for Akira based on that track. However, the edit was pretty locked and it was hard for him to be able to reproduce something that was already done. So, no matter how good somebody is, it's almost impossible to do something after effect. For me, it was impossible to change the image edit, so we had to decide to go with the temporary track in the end. It worked out but not sometimes possible, so you really have to be careful not to fall in love with your temporary track and get music done as soon as you can. So, for Akira we had to go with the dendrite base on all these different criterias. I knew that it wasn't ideal at that the artist could pull the track down, but because Akira was a non-profit project and I decide to include also a link to his iTunes for the song, the artist could also make money based on the audience of the Akira project was getting. I wasn't making any money, so it turned out okay in the end. But it's not something that I recommend doing because it's a big risk that you're taking for a project that's probably taken you months or years to do. Therefore, keep in mind that sound, design and music is going to be at least 40-50 percent of your project. Don't disregard it, make sure you get good sound onset and make sure you have enough time planned in your project to create a good sound design/soundtrack for it. 9. Bringing It All Together as a Director: So, as a director, one of the most important part of my job is to be okay to sit in front of a computer all day. That's only because you need to keep track of everything involved in making a film. So, after you've shot, you have to kind of manage the whole post-production workflow and making sure that the project stays in the good direction that you intended. You have to make sure that all of the artists and the people working on projects are working in the same direction and keeping the same tone to the film that you initially intended. Onset as well, you need to remember the general ideas that you had because it can be a stressful environment and you, a lot of the times, will forget what you were trying to do. You just need to get the shot but you forget why you wanted to get that shot. So, it's important to always have the vision that's why it's such an important position being the director is that you need to keep everything together in the same direction. For example, when you shoot a conversation, it's easy to just get coverage close up, white shots and that's it and you forget to shoot the details like the hand of the main character shaking because he's nervous doing this conversation with the other person. So, things like that will impact the editing quite a bit. So, you have to always remember the small details and not get overwhelmed by production issues. One of the most important thing in post-production is always to keep your initial vision and remember to update the team as you go along because you're going to get all these different parts falling in place and you'll be the only one who sees the general picture but other people won't necessarily see that. So, it's important to share that the process is evolving in the good direction of the rescue team, not only to inspire them but to also show them the idea and the tone of your concept that's coming in place right now. So, everybody works towards the same goal and the general vision gets I guess better because of that. At that point, it's not necessarily the mood board that's so important. If you want to motivate people, you update the whole team with a new cut, with a new edit that involves 50 percent of the VFX shot that involves temporary SoundDesign. So, people can see as the shot goes along that they are working towards something and that something is going to be quality and it's going to be great. One of the best advice I can give you is that if you truly believe in the project, don't give up. Most of the time, people will have reasons to come into a project but also reasons to give up on a project because of time constraints, because their life, because of their work. You as a director, you need to keep going because if you don't, then nobody's going to follow you. On Akira, for example, we had to change almost all of the post-production team as we went along because people were busy with their own lives and couldn't commit to that project anymore. So, we had to find other people and renew the whole process. It was very time-consuming and pretty exhausting and at certain times, I wanted to give up but then I kept going and that's why it made it to the finish line. So, basically, you have to have dedication to your project and be motivated enough to keep it till the end. On Akira, I learned a lot obviously. It was my first big visual effects project and I worked with a lot of people and it taught me a few things. One of the first thing is that it's a lot easier to coordinate things with a smaller crew but because I had such a big crew, I had to use whatever tools I had at my disposal. A few of these tools are first, Dropbox. Dropbox was instrumental. We just placed everything in Dropbox for visual effects delivery. We sent VFX out and people could deliver their VFX into the Dropbox directly without having to go through any other system. I use the simple Google Doc sheet in terms of keeping track of all the VFX shot, who was assigned what, what was the percentage of their project that was done and it really gave you an overview of everything and it gave you a way to track your process. If you had more money, big post-production houses uses a Shotgun or F-track. Basically, it's Dropbox, Google Sheets, and Vimeo combined to one. You can track, review, and deliver content for VFX but it's not quite necessary at this stage especially if you're working on a small project, the workflow is too heavy for that. I found this great new website that's called now. It's basically a way for you to preview your content and people can actually write their comments on time markers, they can even draw directly on the image to show this section works, this section doesn't work. It's a very helpful workflow review process. I'm still working on independent projects. So, at this stage, I find it easier to work with lesser individuals who are generalists and talented at many things. However, as you keep working, the standard changes a little bit. You tend to work with bigger post-production houses where people get really defined tasks and one person is going to only track this shot, the other person is only going to roll scope that shot. It creates for a more separated workflow but usually, the end result will be a bit better. However, it's not quite necessary yet and it's easier for you if you can find a few very good people that you trust, that trust you, and that you can communicate easily with rather than go through a complicated work and review process. So, the wood board is going to be one of the first thing that you create for this project and it's going to be one of the most important tool that you have at your disposal. So, keep it in mind and try to go back to it to first, motivate you because some of the images will really inspire you again as you see them. Keep going back to it so that you can always remember the direction of your project and what you want it to achieve. It's going to be super-helpful throughout the whole process. 10. That's a Wrap: So, in conclusion, we've talked about many things in this class. We've talked about how to create a mood board, how to decide what kind of film you're going to shoot, how to find locations, how to find actors, how to shoot for visual effects, and sound design as well. So, remember, if there's one thing that you can take from this class, is that you should create a mood board, share it in the project gallery so that other people can see your ideas and comment on them and motivate you to do your project. So, you should find the idea that motivates you, that's going to keep you going in the long run. Find a team that's as motivated as you, that's talented, and that's going to help you achieve your idea. It's very hard to do something on your own. It's easier if you have people whose going to shoulder your work and who's going to give you motivation to keep going. Akira was great, it took me two years to achieve, but it's going to help me do a lot of other things in the future, and I hope that your project is going to be the same for you.