Making the Movie

22Jan/070

Book Review: The DV Rebel’s Guide

The DV Rebel's Guide is several books in one. It's a home action movie kit, it's a self-help book for filmmakers and it's a manifesto of digital democracy. The author, Stu Maschwitz, is the co-founder of special effects house The Orphanage and he has a mind that sees the world in terms of special effects. As with any magic tricks, the cleverest special effects are the most simple. But this Occam's razor approach (Maschwitz' razor?) isn't only for action movie stunts, or even general special effects. It is applicable to anyone who wants to make a movie on a limited budget but who doesn't want the scope of their movie to be limited by the budget.

One of Maschwitz' best pieces of advice is to start with a Rodriguez list:

When you write down all the cool cars, apartments, horses, and samurai swords your friends collectively possess, you will not only be surprised at the length of the list, you may also begin to see a story emerge.

Production values are all around, if you only recognize them.

While I do think the chapters on Planning, Shooting and Editing will be of value to a filmmaker who never intends to touch After Effects, that filmmaker will be disappointed with the final chapter of the book, which details ways to use After Effects as a full-featured onlining suite. Stu doesn't mind capturing on a compressed codec like DV but he hates to lose any information after that. He recommends editing the footage low-resolution with slap comps (temp effects) on your NLE, then spending an equal if not greater amount of time turning that low-res cut into a beautiful work of art.

Having worked in post production now for almost two years, I am just beginning to understand the value of an extensive online. Stu's methods are effective and cheap in money terms, but they are time-intensive. Some filmmakers will want to emphasize story over style, or work to get a look in camera rather than after-the-fact. While a basic NLE is a must these days, After Effects 7.0 and a computer powerful enough to render large files will fall outside of many budget ranges.

So, as I've said, not all filmmakers will benefit from the full range of Stu's methods. Still, this is a book that has rounded corners, and it's meant to be banged around on guerilla shoots. I love the rebel spirit embodied in every page. Action and effect movie filmmakers will find almost too much good stuff because The DV Rebel's Guide is not just a book, it is also a DVD. The DVD includes several chapters that didn't fit in the book (like deleted scenes - get it?). One of those key chapters is on cameras, which includes Stu's personal recipes for 24p and cinegamma settings on the DVX1000 and the HVX200. Also on the DVD is several After Effects projects and plug-ins, as well as Stu's action short The Last Birthday Card and a very awesome little chase scene that was shot bandit with green guns during Chinese New Year celebrations. The Last Birthday Card is not going to change the world of action movies, but it illustrates the theses of the book well. The After Effects projects and the camera settings, plus the fake gun tips and free squib footage will make the book a bonus to the DVD for a lot of people.

As a book that manages to be both practical and inspiring, The DV Rebel's Guide gets this blog's highest recommendation.


SEE ALSO:
Stu Maschwitz on This Week in Media, Episode 35
The Long Tail of the DV Rebel - includes lots of excerpts
ProLost - Stu's Blog



About J. Ott

John Ott is a writer, filmmaker and technology geek. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
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