Table of Contents
|Total Money Spent So Far|
As part of keeping everyone up to date, we thought we would try and keep a list of the tools we are using during the project and how much money they have cost us. The list will be ongoing and we'll update it as much as we can. The total at the top will only represent the things we've mentioned in this page, but if we manage to keep everything up to date it should also represent our current cost.
There are of course other things that you'll need which aren't on this list, but at some point we have to cut it off. So, for example, you'll need a computer and an operating system and food and clothes and a high school education and such. There are some things on the list that we bought because we knew we could use it for other stuff too, so keep that in mind.
At the end of the list are some other things we've found useful or have used a lot, but we don't, strictly speaking, consider them part of the budget because we doubt other films would.
We realise that the total up there might be a little off-putting. However, we never said you could make a film for free and there will be some financial investment involved. But, to keep things in perspective, perhaps the most successful low budget film of all time, "The Blair Witch Project" cost £12,460 to make. And it made over £123,604,440. We're hoping to achieve something along that kind of quality, but for even less money. As it stands, there are no other major purchases to be made, so we expect the figure above to be our final budget.
This is the thing that started it all for us. When we saw the film, "Elephants Dream" we were totally blown away that it was made with open source software that could be downloaded by anyone for free. That inspired us a lot and made us realise that the only thing stopping us doing something like that was learning the software and having a creative vision. It is truly amazing that this fantastic software exists for free and we only wish more artists knew about it. This should be an essential piece of software on any creative person's computer. It might be a little scary at first, but this program holds so much potential and ease of use for people willing to get through the learning curve. We love you blender and we thank everyone who made it and supported it.
Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 (£499.98)
After the camera, this is the most expensive thing on our list and, to be frank, we got it at a very good price. Also, it is the only piece of software on the project that we've actually paid any money for. All the other software has either been free to use or open source. This is professional level editing software and it really is superb. At the time of writing this, we just don't think there are any open source solutions that can compare. And, rather than have to fight to get them to work, we have opted for a commercial solution for the moment. There are a couple of open source projects that might develop enough that we can switch to them, but the commercial solutions are much better at the moment and open source ones just don't compare.
If you think the price tag is a little too steep for you though, there are cheaper solutions. We'd recommend Pinnacle Studio or Final Cut Pro (the latter is Apple only we're afraid). We've used Pinnacle in the past and it is good for the beginner and not too expensive. We're not Apple users so we only know what we've heard about Final Cut Pro, but apparently it's very good as well.
Audacity is a program for recording, editing and manipulating audio. It's not quite professional level, but it can do everything we need it to by and large. The especially nice thing about it is that it is free and open source. Which means it is owned by everyone and therefore costs nothing. If you feel you need a more professional solution, we'd recommend Adobe Audition, but we feel that audacity will probably have everything you need for an amateur production, and it does come with such a lovely price tag. We use it for re-recording vocals, Foley work, music and podcasts.
The GIMP (£0)
The GIMP is an image manipulation program. That means it's not especially create for creating images, but fairly wonderful for doing interesting things with them. The GIMP is also free and open source and has similar aims as Adobe Photoshop (but without the price tag). We love the GIMP and use it for all our texturing and image manipulation work. A really superb package. Some people might wonder why do not use Cinepaint as it is supposed to be better set up for films than the GIMP (Cinepaint was a fork of the GIMP project and has been used in some big budget films like Harry Potter). Well, the answer is that we would if it was currently stable or, in fact, usable. We are supporters of both projects, but at the moment the GIMP still has better functionality and we find it easier to use. One the rebuild of cinepaint is complete, we may switch to that instead. But we imagine we will still use the GIMP for some things.
While the GIMP is great for image manipulation, it is not so hot for image and logo creation. For that, we tend to use Inkscape. Inkscape is a vector image program. That means that the images you create will never lose quality, no matter how much you resize them. It is very good for creating basic images which you can then manipulate in other packages. We'd be inclined to say this is the best package of its kind on the market. Not to mention it's also free and open source. Another good image creation package (and also free and open source) is Paint.NET. We have found it to be a great package also, however, it seems to be trying to meet a middle ground between the two and not being totally great in either area.
If you're going to be creating a website for your film (and we recommend you do), there are two basic approaches. One is to make a one off website that never changes, and the other is to make one that will change a lot. The second case is made much easier if you have some sort of content management system so that the creation and editing of web pages on your site is a lot easier. In our case, we use DokuWiki. We like DokuWiki because it is easy to use, allows user accounts so you can prevent how people can edit the site, it requires no database, has a built in version control system and (best of all) is free and open source. This website runs on DokuWiki with a theme that we made. I think a lot of people are put off DokuWiki (or any wiki software) because they think it is either hard to theme, or that anyone can change your site. Neither are true with DokuWiki. We made our theme in about three days and we just restricted page editing and creation to ourselves. This is a nice, low weight solution that has everything you need and costs nothing to run. We also love that it doesn't use a database and the feature list is, frankly, staggering. We think it's the best wiki on the market and it has loads of plug-in modules available too. Check it out.
Notepad++ is an attempt at making a very advanced, yet simple and non-bloated, text editing package. It deals with pure text (no fonts or type setting for example) in the same way as Windows Notepad, but also has advanced functions that are largely to do with programming. This has been John's source code editor of choice for many years now, but its use in this project is to do with the making of the website. While we use DokuWiki for our content management, we did make the theme ourselves. We did that from scratch, making the graphics in Blender and the GIMP. However, the code that ties it all together is the HTML and CSS source code of the theme. We also code that ourselves by hand and this is what we use to do it. It has lovely code highlighting and other nice features which we love. And, also somewhat wonderful, it is free and open source.
Dark Room (£0)
Dark Room is a minimalist text editing program. Its particular benefit comes from producing a completely black screen with no distractions. There is also no font formatting. It's just you and the text. The idea is to provide distraction free writing and we found this very useful in coming up with the original story for our film. We took the approach of writing the story as a narrative first, then adapting it as a screenplay. We found this program really does help in keeping you focussed. It is free (but not open source), though only available on Windows. However, it is based on a piece of software for Apple computers called WriteRoom.
Celtx is a piece of free and open source software designed to handle most of the pre-production creative elements of a film. This includes tools for character development, screenplay writing, story boarding, prop planning, budget planning, schedule planning and loads of other stuff. We mainly use it for the script writing stuff, but it really is bang on software and a great benefit to any amateur film maker. Once again, we are amazed that such good software is free and open source. Also, if you know nothing about how to lay out a script (we certainly didn't) this program gives you a lot of guidance for it.
Tortoise SVN (£0)
You will probably find that in working with lots of files which change often (be that text, image or video based) you might wish you could revert back to an earlier version. One way of doing this is to store a different file for all versions. However, a better way is to use version control. A version control system just saves the changes between versions, thus saving disk space. It's also a much more structured way of doing this and you can save comments for each version. Admittedly it works better with certain types of file, but we'd still say it is essential for dealing with file changes. Tortoise SVN is a nice Windows based system for version control and we have used it for almost everything we've created so far.
Video Conversion Software (£0)
Although our final movie will most likely be distributed through a DVD release, there will be versions available for online download. It is best that this should be in a number of formats that cover the largest number of computer users. We also create vidcasts from time to time so we also want those formats to cover the largest number of portable players. We seem to be able to cover most of that using three free programs. Dr.DivX makes XviD/DivX compatible files. Free iPod Video Convertor makes iPod and Apple compliant files. And, lastly, Windows Media Encoder makes Windows and Zune compatible files. That covers pretty much everything we want and costs us no money. It might be a bit of a pain to use three separate programs, but we've ultimately found this the smoothest way. Dr.DivX is also open source, so that's nice as well.
Sony Handycam HDR-CX6EK (£599.98)
We spent a long time trying to weigh up the pros and cons of various camcorder models that were available. We had to weigh up cost against ability and eventually got this one for a good price on Amazon. We were drawn to the sony handycams because of the high quality lens that they used, and we liked this model because is was so small, produced HD quality video and wrote to memory cards rather than DVD or miniDV. The bandwidth is smaller than miniDV tape though so if you move the camera very quickly, it is not as smooth as miniDV. However, it is still better than DVD and probably about the same as a hard disc based camcorder. However, we have been extremely impressed with this camera, especially weighed against its cost and we would highly recommend sony's handycams to any amateur film maker. They are especially well set up for editing on a computer. But remember, weigh up your own needs against the cost and make sure you see examples of the quality before you pay out any money. This one is more expensive than most amateur film makers would need and we admit we just wanted a nicer camera.
Hama Gamma 74 Tripod (£32.94)
A camera on its own is likely to be very shaky and unprofessional looking. There are three main things used in film to get round this shakiness of holding a camera: Steadycam; Dollies; Tripods. By and large, the first two are too expensive or too hard to set up, so we found the best tripod we could without spending too much money.
Poor Man's Steadicam (£19.91)
Although tripods are great for static and panning shots, you sometimes want more freedom of movement. However, walking around with a camcorder tends to produce shaky shots that look extremely unprofessional. The traditional way to get round this was to use cranes or put the cameras on rails to get the smooth shots. However, the steadicam was invented to provide even more freedom by allowing the camera operator to get smooth shots and still allow them to go anywhere they liked. Steadicam's provide a counter weight for the camera so that it is easier for the camera operator to get a smooth shot while moving. This technique is extremely common in modern cinema. However, steadicams tend to cost rather a lot of money. Luckily, we found a set up that produces about 95% of the quality of a pro steadicam, but costs almost nothing. The inventor of “The Poor Man's Steadicam” has full instructions on his website on how he made the device or, if you're lazy like us, you can him build and send you one for a small fee. This is probably one of the best “cost vs. benefit” things you can buy as an amateur film maker.
Shure SM58 Microphone (£69.00)
The mixing desk alone will not do you much good without the appropriate cables and microphones to make the most of it. We recommend the Shure SM58. It's pretty much the world's best selling microphone and is well worth the money. To make the most of, be sure to get an XLR lead to connect it to your mixing desk. You'll probably do better if you have decent headphones as well, but they're not essential and you can get pretty good ones for fairly little money.
My Book 500GB External Hard Drive (£69.94)
It's a good idea to buy some extra storage for your computer if you're going to be dealing with a lot of video and audio storage. We've found the easiest and most versatile way was to buy these large, good quality, external hard drives because they are currently very cheap and allow us to move the data easily between computers. It also means that we can just keep adding them when we need more and literally unplug older ones and put them in storage untill we need them again.
Domain Name, Webspace and Emails (£12.99 for Two Years)
Websites are a fairly cheap and efficient means of getting information about your film to those who might want to know. Advertising is usually not an option for amateurs, but websites don't really cost that much these days and can do you a lot of good in getting people interested. We've found that people are much more inclined to find out about your film if there is a website that they can go to and easily find out the information they want. The company that we used charged us £12.99 for two years including a domain name, unlimited webspace, PHP, CGI and unlimited email addresses. The downside was that there is an additional fee for accessing your webspace without using their dial-up, but we've figured out ways round that. We'll talk more about that in our tutorial on getting webspace. The main point, is that getting a website adds a sense of professionalism to your film, keeps people interested and lets you advertise for very little money.
FeedBurner is a service that allows you to track how many people actually use your RSS Feeds, Podcasts or Vidcasts. Basically you make your own feed, submit it to FeedBurner, then they'll give you a new one to tell your visitors about. When you update your original one, they update their one. However, they also track who access their one and allow you to find out how many listeners, viewers or subscribers you have. It's quite important to have something like this because it is the only real way of knowing how many people care enough about what you are making to subscribe to it. FeedBurner was recently acquired by Google and they have made all features totally free to use.
While FeedBurner can track how many people use your feeds, StatCounter can track information about how many visitors you have, their paths through the site, how long they spend on each part, where they are from, which pages are most popular and a bunch of other information. It costs nothing and is invisible to visitors. Google Analyics does similar things, but we think StatCounter is better. A personal choice on our part, you'll have to decide for yourself. However, as with FeedBurner, it is important to know how successful your site is and where it is most popular and least popular.
We realised early on that we needed an easy way of sharing files with each other. The ideal solution would have been to set up a dedicated SVN server that we could both access on the net. However, an easier solution was FolderShare. FolderShare keeps multiple folders in sync across several computers. That way, we always have access to all the project files no matter which computer we are on. The service is free and is run by Microsoft (Windows only I'm afraid). It is really easy to set up, is fully encrypted and works really well. The transfer to keep the files in sync is really quick because it is a peer to peer connection (directly between the computers, no server middleman). It's well worth the price tag of £0 and we've found it to be invaluable.
We got a little worried quite early on about crashing our website because of bandwidth. Since we are dealing with large downloads (video and audio files), we needed somewhere to store them. Putting them on our website would just have increased the bandwidth and we wanted to avoid that. Thus, we found two solutions and this is the first. Since our files are mostly creative commons (i.e., open source) we found a website that would store open source media for free. It's called OurMedia and is run by Archive.org. It also has a client program you can use to make the uploads really easy. After we upload files to their servers, we can just link directly to them. They even make nice little players that we can embed in our site. And all of this for no money. We love them to bits and, if you're going the creative commons route like us, this is a top notch solution for distribution.
Another way of getting around distribution problems and bandwidth limitations on websites is to use BitTorrent. This is a peer to peer distribution method. This means that the files are never stored on a website, but that you or someone else must be sharing the files from your computer if other people are going to be able to access them. However, unlike with the traditional website approach, the more popular your file becomes, the quicker it will download. We use Azureus to create and seed our BitTorrent files. The reason we favour Azureus is that you can publish your torrents directly to Azureus' own “Vuze” system. This is a content publishing site based on BitTorrent that is free to publish to. The benefit of that is that the file is always stored there, so even if no one is on-line sharing the file, people can still download it from Vuze.
As we stated at the top of the page, these are items we feel deserve credit and that you should know about for your own projects, but we do not consider them part of the budget. As such, their cost will not be added to the total at the top of the page.
Inspired Short 3D Film Production (£33.63)
This book is perhaps the most important thing in our tool list at the moment. We bought this once we decided we would be doing a larger film project, though at the time we still expected it to be purely animated. However, now that we are doing a live action movie, we still find this book extremely beneficial. This is probably the best general introduction to making films that we have seen. It is focussed on computer animation, but most of the concepts work equally well with live action films. It covers most of the topics of making a film from the writing and story creation through final editing. It is aimed at amateurs and is superbly written with lots of examples and helpful hints. This is highly recommended.
Essential Blender (£29.64)
In essence, this is the current manual for the Blender software package. Blender is the program that we are using to do all of our computer generated imagery work. This book takes the absolute novice to the point of being fully competent with the software. All that you might be lacking by the end of this book is experience. Like all artistic software, learning Blender's interface is only the first stage, you will probably need to play about with it quite a bit to find techniques that work for you. It's much the same way that my understanding the basics of how a paint brush works doesn't make me Leonardo Da Vinci.
Introducing Character Animation With Blender (£16.89)
One of the things that will help you develop technique with 3D animation is to create and animate characters. While the Essential Blender book teaches you how to operate Blender, this book starts to show you some technique for using more specialised areas. If you're really serious about using Blender for your computer graphics in your film, you really need to get this book as well as Essential Blender.
The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation (£30.88)
When we first started to look into the concepts of computer animation and Blender, we realised that learning software packages was only the start. We needed to actually learn the principles of animation and start to think of things like an animator. We scoured the net for as many animation courses as we could, not to partake, but to find out what the textbooks were (hey, we're on a tight budget, we can't afford classes). There were two books that every course required and this is the first. Although this book does talk about animation technique, it is really more of a history of animation. However, this is an extremely good introductory text and really starts you thinking like an animator. If you're new to animation, you must buy this book. This has been voted the best animation book of all time and was written by some of the most famous animators that Disney had in their Golden Age.
The Animator's Survival Kit (£13.74)
This is another book that is on pretty much all animation courses' lists of essential texts. Written by perhaps the only person to have come through the Golden Age of animation right through to modern Computer Animation, this book is the true technique book for everyone. While Illusion of Life is perhaps necessary for beginners to get them into the right mind set for programming, this book takes that mind set and teaches you everything that you need to apply it. We can't say enough about this book. It may be true that we consider all the books we've mentioned to be essential to producing films like ours, but if you're going to do anything with animation at any time in your life, you need Illusion of Life and you need The Animator's Survival Kit.
Elephants Dream (£0)
“Elephants Dream” was the world's first open source movie (and was what inspired Scott and John to make their own film). This meant that all the production materials were released under an open source license. While this is not strictly speaking a training DVD, it does include all the models, rigs and everything else that was used to render the final movie in Blender. If you were so inclined, you could reproduce the entire movie from this DVD. There are also a lot of making of videos and it gives you a good insight into what is involved. The DVDs seem to be out of print at the moment, but you can download everything that was on them for free at the Elephants Dream website.
The ManCandy FAQ (£20.48)
This is the first DVD to be produced by the Blender Institute's Open Movie Workshop DVD series. These are targeted at spreading the knowledge of previous participants in Open Movie projects, such as “Elephants Dream.” DVD revenues will be used to support future Open Blender projects. The DVD features tutorials on rigging and character animation and is well worth a look if your film will be using any digital characters. Also, you will be supporting future open source movies.
Modeling the Female Head/Body DVDs (£15.15/£22.73)
These two DVDs are screen capture videos of Jonathan Williamson modeling a female head and body in Blender. It is really educational to watch someone who knows what they are doing model something this complex from start to finish. I can't recommend these DVDs enough for their educational value.
Behringer Xenyx 1204FX 12 channel Mixer with FX and USB (£105.00)
There is a very good chance that the camcorder you're using does not have the capabilities to produce studio level audio recordings. At the moment, we only use the built in microphone of our camera for making of videos. By and large, if you want pro level audio you can do it in one of two ways. The first is two have a sound man record the audio with a film quality location microphone. That will be a very costly solution, and we're all about saving pennies. Our solution, though no where near as good as having a professional microphone on location, is still probably better than using your camcorder's own microphone but is still fairly cost effective. Essentially, we do all the audio in post production, after all the filming has taken place. This means that we re-record our voice to match what is on screen, then reproduce the ambient noises and sound effects to match the location. This also has the benefit of allowing you to control the volume and panning of all the sounds in your final mix. We've found the best way to do that is to get a few decent microphones and a decent mixing desk. The one we bought was fairly cheap, but produces fantastic audio quality. As a side benefit, we also use it to record our podcasts and do our music production. This particular model comes with special effects built in (to make it easier to match the echo's and ambiance of a location) and has a USB connector to make it perfect for connecting to your computer (no matter how good or bad your soundcard is).
Do keep in mind that we opted for a slightly more expensive one that you might need (we intend to use it for some other things than just the film). If you know that you will only need to record one noise at a time, then you might find the podcastudio a better buy. It also comes with a USB connector, leads, headphones and a good quality microphone. It's probably everything you'll need for very little money, but only if you don't need the effects and only need to record one noise at a time. It costs around £85.
Lastly, and the reason we have not included this as part of our budget, you could totally do without this and do all the same stuff using software on your computer. However, we opted not to because it saves time. Not using a more professional recording setup means you've just added more things you need to compensate for in the computer. Having said that, it is entirely possible to do so and this is probably an unnecessary expensive for most hobbyist film makers.
Wacom Bamboo Fun Graphics Tablet (£49.94)
We decided that for some aspects of making textures for 3D models, doing concept sketches and producing storyboards, it was best to have a graphics tablet. Again, this is entirely unnecessary for film production, but does make life easier if, like Scott and John, you want to keep things digital. We found this tablet to work well and be a good price. We'd recommend that, if you do get a tablet, you make sure it has pressure sensitivity.