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Hitchcock and PSYCHO: A Love Story

Alfred Hitchcock, cinema’s all-time master director of suspense, is set to return to the big screen in 2013. “Hitch,” as he was called, influenced both the horror genre and forever left his stamp on the craft of filmmaking. We take a sneak peek at the new biography and the film’s star.


A larger than life presence: the great director Alfred Hitchcock works his magic.

Bringing Hitchcock Back
In the new film “Hitchcock,” Anthony Hopkins (best known as Hannibal Lector and more recently as Thor’s father Odin), will star as Alfred Hitchcock with Helen Mirren portraying Hitchcock’s beloved wife Alma. The Fox Searchlight production will be directed by Sacha Gervasi and co-produced by Ivan Reitman, of “Ghostbusters” fame.

“Hitchcock” will concentrate on the lifelong love story between the famous director and his wife. The backdrop for the story: the 1960 production of Hitchcock’s brilliant terror masterpiece, “Psycho,” a film many critics still consider the greatest horror film ever made.

Shooting on “Hitchcock” began last week in Los Angeles, with the cast being rounded out by Scarlett Johansson (as actress Janet Leigh, who portrayed the ill-fated Marion Crane in “Psycho”), Jessica Biel (as actress Vera Miles, who also starred in the original film) and actor James D’Arcy (who will play Anthony Perkins, an actor who gained tremendous notoriety based on his performance as “Psycho”’s deranged Norman Bates).


Hitchcock on the set of “Psycho,” setting up the shower scene…


…And Sir Anthony Hopkins, in full makeup, displaying the famous director’s profile in the new film “Hitchcock.” 

Hitchcock’s challenges to get “Psycho” made are legendary in Hollywood circles: The master director eventually was forced to fund the entire $800,000 budget himself and save money by utilizing the shooting crew from his celebrated TV program. Once released, however, the film (which the studio didn’t want to make) caused an international sensation and earned its director and producer both financial success and and a reputation as filmdom’s Master of Suspense.

Based on Stephen Rebello’s outstanding book, “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” (which detailed Hitchcock’s struggles to get the project produced, despite a complete lack of interest in making the film by Universal Studios) “Hitchcock” could be an Oscar contender.


Ever the prankster, Hitchcock released this publicity shot of him sitting in the set chair of “Psycho”‘s very dead Mrs. Bates.

Meet the Masters in Film School 
Serious about becoming a filmmaker? Then learn how to make a movie this summer at film camp. Learn about the techniques that masters like Hitchcock used to make movies. If you’re an aspiring filmmaker, there’s no better time to learn the craft than now. Tools like Final Cut Pro X and After Effects make it easier than ever before to bring your cinematic vision to life. Who knows? You might have what it takes to be the next Alfred Hitchcock.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

A Tribute: Alfred Hitchcock, Legendary Moviemaker and “Master of Suspense”

If you’re considering a career in filmmaking you’re probably studying the masters. Directors like Alfred Hitchcock. Maybe you’ve heard of him? He created such vintage thrillers as “Rear Window,” “The Birds” and “Vertigo,” but Hitch saved his most outlandish filmmaking tricks for a black-and-white classic called “Psycho.”


Hitchcock wasn’t kidding: Armed guards were posted in theaters to keep stragglers from wandering in after the film had started. Hitchcock felt that if the audience came into the picture too late, they would have no idea what was going on. 

Made in 1960, “Psycho” was the most shocking film audiences of the day had ever seen. And for a long time, it was considered the most frightening movie ever made. Even now, it ranks high on the list of movie thrillers and horror films.

Making Crazy
Considering it’s revered as a classic, it’s amazing to think that Universal Studios (the studio that backed Hitchcock) didn’t even want to make the movie. Hitchcock ended up financing it himself, using the production crew from his television show. Universal provided the set – building the famous Bates Motel and the Bates house on the Universal back lot, where both remain to this day. The film’s production budget? About $800,000 – a relatively small budget for a major picture, even in 1960.

Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is now world-renowned as a Hollywood classic and worth looking into for several reasons. However,”Psycho” is best known for “the shower scene.” Like Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws,” it’s what the audience doesn’t see that scared the heck out of ‘em.


Hitchcock and crew worked on the famous shower scene for seven full days.

Hitchcock was notorious for pulling the rug out from beneath his audience. He’d lead you down one path and suddenly leave you wondering why you didn’t end up where you thought you were going. But in addition to being a master storyteller, he was also a tireless perfectionist – using 70 camera set-ups to produce the necessary 45 seconds of footage for the shower scene.

Pysche-ing Out the Audience
Hitchcock used other clever tricks to psyche out “Psycho’s” audience too. Like refusing to let anyone into the theater after the film had started, and enforcing this rule with actual security guards who were posted at selected theaters during the film’s first run. (The reason is obvious, once you watch the movie.) Did the unusual approach to taking a film this serious pay off? You bet it did.)

The movie created a worldwide sensation – and a national panic over showering in motel rooms. One concerned parent actually wrote to Alfred Hitchcock and complained that since seeing “Psycho,” her daughter had refused to take a shower out of fear. Hitchcock jokingly replied, suggesting the parents send their child to the Dry Cleaner’s.

“Psycho” is now more than 50 years old and by now, all of its shocks and surprises have been fully integrated into American pop culture. “Psycho” is now considered the parent of every slasher movie to come along during the last five decades. However, in a very real way, Norman Bates remains the scariest slasher of them all, because he doesn’t rely on gore or gimmicks (like Freddy Kreuger or Jason or Michael Meyers). Norman Bates looks like an average person…most of the time. Measured by this standard, “Psycho” is far scarier than any monster movie, because it’s about the real monsters that walk among us.


“And…cut.”

Meet the Masters in Film School
If you’re serious about becoming a filmmaker and learning about the techniques that masters like Hitchcock used to make movies, why not start by going to film school? If you’re an aspiring filmmaker, there’s no better time to learn the craft than now. Tools like Final Cut Pro X and After Effects make it easier than ever before to bring your cinematic vision to life. Who knows? You might have what it takes to be the next Alfred Hitchcock.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

The 10 Best Academic Programs for Documentary Filmmakers

By Seamus Harte

The 10 Best Academic Programs for Documentary Filmmakers. That is the title of the article I stumbled upon surfing the web for a graduate program that provided a Master’s Degree in Documentary Filmmaking. That is also where I found Digital Media Academy’s Documentary Filmmaking Camp. It was sitting in between Stanford University’s Documentary Film Department and UC  Berkeley’s School of Journalism (two schools you may have heard of). Of course Duke, University of Florida, NYU, and George Washington were some other schools tossed in the mix.

Now, we aren’t offering a Master’s Degree to attend our filmmaking camps, but we are offering top notch instruction. The article highlighted Digital Media Academy’s ability to provide a “quick but comprehensive taste of the craft.”

Maybe you graduated high school and you’re thinking about attending a 4 year college to pursue a career of movie making, perhaps you should check out this camp and get a head start on making your passion your career.

Perhaps you are looking to change careers but nervous about diving right into a school.

Or maybe you are a filmmaker and you are just looking to sharpen your tools.

Why spend your time and money with big schools and uncertainty when you can attend a Digital Media Academy camp and discover what new path you want to head down.

Check out the rest of the article here:

Check out the Digital Media Academy Documentary Filmmaking Camp here:

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posted by Seamus Harte in News Blog and have No Comments

Make a Music Video at Film Camp this Summer! John Lennon Bus

Written by Brian Rothschild of the John Lennon Bus 

Experience the ultimate music video summer camp.  Bring your imagination, and leave with the skills you need to create professional music and video projects with ease, from start to finish. The Lennon Bus has teamed up with the Digital Media Academy to provide a new course based on the techniques taught daily on The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. Using the latest audio, video and music gear, you’ll work with a diverse group of talented students and professionals to edit and create original music and videos. Make beats, write a song, record audio, shoot video, edit like the pros and author your own DVD. No experience needed; this course is for anyone interested in learning the basics of music and video creation.

Making a Music Video

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posted by Philip Harding in News Blog and have No Comments

Get Creative with a Music Video! Learn How at This Film Camp

Make a creative music video that will make you famous!

Come take film courses this summer at DMA! Be sure you are learning from the best! DMA has also teamed up with The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus to offer a Music Video Production course! You will learn the skills you need to make the perfect music video. As I always say… the only limit is your creativity! Here are a few famous music videos to get your creativity flowing….

….Ever heard of Ok Go?

How can anyone forget this famous music video from the band Ok Go – “Here We Go Again”? This music video went viral and took the internet by storm. The band didn’t include the normal drums, guitar and bass you’d expect. Instead, the rock band turned in their instruments for treadmills. With over 45,321,935 views on YouTube, you know this music video made this band famous.  httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv5zWaTEVkI

….The White Stripes get creative in their music videos!

The White Stripes always seem to stretch the creative boundaries in their music videos. This is such a creative example of combining technical filming and editing skills with a truly original idea. The video becomes more complex and interesting with each beat! httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLESpHrtvxs
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Here is another amazing White Stripes music video made with Legos! This is crazy creative. How much time do you think this could possibly take? Find out this summer!  httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRDi67G0Siw

 

Get a Certification from DMA: Game Design, Maya, Film, Web Design

http://www.digitalmediaacademy.org

 

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posted by Philip Harding in News Blog and have Comment (1)

After Effects: From Fan to Feared to Favorite (plus tips)

We’ve all been there, watching a film when an amazing special effect blows your mind – leaving you to wonder how did they do that? Well, several years back, I started asking fellow editors and educators this very question – and again and again I heard the same response: After Effects. Want to motion track? After Effects. Want to green screen? After Effects. Want color correction? After Effects. Want an intergalactic light saber fight scene with explosions and an amazing 3D camera move? After Effects.

I started to see a trend . . .

Satisfied with this answer – I happily downloaded the free 30-day trial of AE (that’s After Effects for short) from Adobe’s website. However, my initial enthusiasm soon waned, well, plummeted actually. Almost immediately after launching AE, I had a common new user experience – I will politely dub “After Shock”. To explain, as a full-time teacher of Adobe software for years, I had taught literally thousands of people how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, and/or Premiere Pro. Some would even say I’m bit of an Adobe zealot: I’ve beta-tested new releases, done workshops all over, and even trained new Adobe employees through the Digital Media Academy. Indeed, when it comes to Adobe software no mysterious button, workflow, or special effect is safe from my twisted desire to know everything an application can do.

But here was After Effects, and it appeared to be a different animal entirely. I must confess, I was a grown man . . . and I was afraid.

Like most who experience such After Shock, I did my best to poke around and bend After Effects to my will – but with little success. For those comfortable with other Adobe apps, there are some truly strange and downright spooky moments to be had when first looking at AE – for example, creating a new project does not involve a settings menu, there is no razor tool to cut clips with, there are over 200 effects each with a range of adjustments allowing for literally millions of possible combinations . . . and seemingly as many shortcuts. Clearly, this was not my beloved, intuitive Photoshop.

So given the choice of abandoning the AE quest – or to stubbornly plod on – I looked at every AE website I could find, read every book I could get my hands on, watched DVD tutorials, took a class with my fellow Adobe Ed Leaders, and even bothered contacts at Adobe for more info. It was not always a smooth journey, my friends, but along the way I came to three important conclusions:

1) AE is just as amazing as they say.

2) AE can be easy to learn – if approached the right way.

3) I could have realized #2 a whole lot sooner.

Essentially, in looking back at my AE travails, I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I slowed down my own progress by forming some common AE misconceptions. So for those of you just setting out with AE (or hoping to someday), I hope this list of “5 Beginner After Effect Tips” might make your experience much better – and possibly save you a few months of your life:

5 Beginner After Effect Tips

1) Know your DV basics first. As a longtime editor, this was the only thing I had going for me when I started with AE – and probably the only thing that kept me going early on. Basically, if terms like 24fps, interlacing, NTSC, or compression are entirely new to you, help yourself out by visiting some useful websites that define such basic DV terms and concepts:

For just the bare bones of DV, you can start with: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_video#Technical_overview

For the hardcore user, checkout the extremely thorough DV primers on Adobe’s site: http://www.adobe.com/motion/primers.html

2) Know what After Effects is (and is not) for. Think of AE as a dedicated special effects application for individual shots and short animations – and here’s critical part- you typically perfect these shots in AE and then export them to your preferred editing application. In other words, AE is a great enhancement to (but not a replacement of) your editing software. This paradigm shift is really important– because AE is not really designed to: capture footage, make a bunch of tight cuts, work with transitions, etc. as you would with Final Cut, Premiere Pro, etc. Because AE is dedicated to special effects, it is appropriately different in many respects and truly does have a logical structure and workflow. Embrace these differences (and the rationale for them) and you’ll be far less likely to fall into the common trap of thinking “why doesn’t AE work like my editing software?”

3) Know just enough of the AE keyboard shortcuts to be dangerous – and realize that this does not mean that many. While certain shortcuts are essential to AE, most are simply there to save you from a deep dive into the pull down menus and an extra click or two. Do not feel that you need to know a hundred of these to be an AE editor. By learning 10-20 of these clever little guys, you’ll soon adapt to a new way of editing – and find yourself having a much better time. To get you going, here are 10 shortcuts that I particularly like (and that took a while to discover):

 

When getting started:

With a new project, import a video clip, and drag it to the comp timeline. This is often preferable to creating a composition first because it auto-creates a new composition that matches the chosen video clip’s duration, scale, frame rate, and pixel ratio.

 

When making edits in the composition timeline:

Page Down moves the current time one frame forward

Page Up moves the current time one frame backward

; toggles the view to a full zoom in or out at your current time.

Ctrl + [ trims the “in” point(s) of the selected layer(s) to the current time - and as you might expect it has a twin . . .

Ctrl + ] trims the “out” point(s) of the selected layer(s) to the current time.

Ctrl +D duplicates selected layers or effects

Ctrl + Shift + D duplicates and cuts a layer at the current time. It’s as close to a razor tool as you will find in AE.

 

When animating/keyframing:

U shows only the keyframed attributes of a selected layer.

Alt + Drag selected keyframes stretches (or squeezes) the distribution of selected keyframe groups uniformly. This can save a ton of time when retiming a complex multi-layered effect.

4) Start simple, and I mean super simple. With all that you can do in AE, it’s tempting to try to make first project something colossal. So while making an HD sequel to the movie “300” (green screen and all) is certainly do-able in AE, it would lead to more than a little frustration for a newcomer. (Not that I’m speaking from experience . . . ahem). Try experimenting in a standard definition project with a few foundational elements – 3d space, keyframing, text animation, camera moves, etc. and you will have a much easier (and more fulfilling) sense of what can eventually be done on the grand scale.

5) Take a class (and yes, this is a shameless plug . . . but hear me out). The incredible range of AE means that its structure has a corresponding range of complexity – which can be tricky to figure out. To this end, I am all for books, web tutorials, DVDs, etc., but there is simply nothing like project-based, hands on training. Moreover, having learned differing approaches from so many AE experts over the years, I have worked hard to come up with a streamlined approach to learning AE that is enjoyable, easy, and avoids the mistakes that so many of us have made when first starting out.

Looking back, I’ve come a long way from my initial day of After Shock, but I am proud to say that After Effects is now my favorite application to use – and to teach. Even though I took the long way to get there, I am now proud to have clients pleased with AE results - and students creating with some of those the same special effects I first fell in love with on the big screen.

Hope to see you at DMA this summer,
Kevin McMahon

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posted by Instructor in News Blog and have No Comments

Documentary Filmmaking : Learn How to Make a Documentary Film

My name is Matthew Levie, and I’ll be teaching Documentary Filmmaking again this summer. I’m a professional editor, and feel free to browse my web site to see what I do.

Last year’s Documentary Filmmaking class was a fantastic experience for me as a teacher. The students included:

• a businesswoman from Boston,
• a sociologist from Japan,
• a teenager from France,
• a flight attendant from Miami,
• a scientist from Texas,
• and a teacher from South Carolina

Imagine what you could learn from a group like that!

Here’s a small snippet from the course. Since I’m an editor I can’t resist an example of phenomenal documentary editing. Have a look at the following clip, from the documentary Carrier, about the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWBH0XSp0Ec

So first, one of the pilots introduces the idea that everybody on the carrier needs to do their job correctly, at the right time, for the carrier to function properly. And that sets off this montage of flight deck operations, set to—wait, can it be?—the “March of the Wooden Soldiers” from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”

Notice how similar motions are grouped together—there’s a beautiful series of circular motions, for instance. And at the end, somebody declares “it’s like a ballet.” Which makes perfect sense, since the filmmakers have already make that perfectly clear from a visual standpoint! But then they extend the metaphor to other areas of the ship, particularly the people feeding the ship and cleaning it up.

This is actually an important priority of the filmmakers: making the viewers understand that an aircraft carrier isn’t all about the planes and the flight deck, but that there are people greasing the cables and cleaning the toilets as well. And they’ve done a great job of conveying that visually at every opportunity.

Want more? Well, you’ll have to come to Stanford. Not a lot of people regret spending a week in Northern California, and I’m sure you’ll learn a tremendous amount and enjoy yourself as well!

Browse the Documentary Film class syllabus here.

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posted by Instructor in News Blog and have Comment (1)

Film Camp for Kids. Cool stop motion video made between film projects at summer camp!

Kids learn how to make a movie at summer camp!

This is a project the Digital Media Adventures film class (movie making and special effects) made in between movie projects this past summer at DMA summer camp in Michigan. Somehow they managed to shoot these hundreds of photos and stitch them together in Final Cut Pro as a fun project in between the two other short films they made in one week!  This is truly a great film camp experience for kids.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Lo8BW0MMPc

Learn more about DMA’s Film and Computer Camps for Kids

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posted by Philip Harding in News Blog and have No Comments

Film Camp. Watch a Stop Motion Movie made at DMA Summer Camp with Skittles!

See what teens made at Digital Media Academy film camp this summer in Chicago!

This video was made by shooting hundreds of individual JPEG photos and piecing/editing them together in Final Cut Pro. This was made during DMA Film Camp in Chicago this past summer in the Teen Film Editing and  Filmmaking Course. Learn how to make a movie like this at a DMA course this summer!

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIBGjBQZzeQ

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posted by Philip Harding in News Blog and have Comment (1)