4 minute read
When you’re trying to produce pro-quality content on an indy-film budget, you have to work smart. No one knows that better than Ryan Connolly, independent filmmaker and founder of Film Riot, and in his YouTube videos and podcasts he’s happy to share his knowledge with filmmakers of many levels.
He’s a repository of tips and tricks that can help you up your game while saving money and time. Here’s a look at the streamlined studio workflow Film Riot uses to produce their twice-weekly episodes.
The main cameras used for their how-to videos are the Canon C100 and C300 Mark II, and the Sony A7S II. The C100 is used primarily for their locked-down green-screen shoots; the C300 serves as the traveling camera for shooting their sketches; and the A7S is locked down at Ryan’s desk as he does his Q&As or software walk-thrus.
They always shoot at 24 fps and almost never record in log (color grading is handled with their own collection of LUTs). And with turnarounds ranging from a day to three days, they also rarely shoot in 4K.
Film Riot uses in-camera audio, further reducing turnaround time by eliminating the need for post syncing and the cost of recording audio separately.
Because speed and ease is of paramount importance, the Film Riot crew uses raw camera files without transcoding, which work well in Premiere with XAVC-S as the primary codec. In fact, when Ryan’s finished doing his on-camera shoot, he just pops the card out of the camera that’s mounted on his desk and into his desktop system, the HP Z40, which he describes as “a beast of a system.”
Josh Connolly, Ryan’s brother, is his Film Riot partner, and he handles offloading and backing up the files to a custom-built NAS setup. Nothing is stored exclusively on the individual systems. Working from the NAS, both of them can access everything from files to assets to plugins.
Josh also sets up the folders per episode for both he and Ryan to use. Once upon a time, they created an episode template, but currently they find that the individual episodes are so different that the template has become less useful. The basic structure is an Adobe folder for all of the Premiere and After Effects files, an audio folder that branches out to music and sound effects, a folder that contains the sketch material, and then additional folders (as needed) for any screen captures or VFX.
Both Ryan and Josh edit—Ryan handles the sketches, while Josh assembles the episodes (on an Alienware system that is less tricked out than the HP), with Ryan stepping in to do the final color grading and audio sweetening.
While Ryan and Josh effectively are the core of Film Riot, they employ an off-site After Effects artist from England who handles graphics and VFX, and have another part-time artist who’s based in Ohio. Film Riot also has an online store, and they’re collaborating with editor Lucas Harger, who edited Ryan’s recent short film BALLiSTIC (link to the MIF piece?), on a store-related project. To stay organized, they use Google Drive and Dropbox to upload assets, and Frame.io for notes, reviews, and sharing versions.
Ryan does his own color grading for the Film Riot videos, using Premiere and Lumetri. He likes to add a little bit of grain at the end using FilmConvert, and sometimes uses Magic Bullet Colorista or Magic Bullet Looks, working on the adjustment layer rather than the individual clips.
Sound is handled in Premiere if it’s very simple (again, to save extra steps) but if Ryan’s working on a sketch piece he’ll do a dynamic link to Audition and send a mixed-down version of the file back to Premiere. For more complex sweetening he might also use Ableton Live. And Soundly is Ryan’s game-changing sound effects source—for a monthly fee you get access to thousands of sound effects that are easily searchable, simple to manipulate, and can be dragged directly into Premiere. The ease and speed of Soundly makes it one of Ryan’s go-to pieces of software.
Because they’re delivering the videos to Facebook and YouTube, delivery is straightforward, with a stock h.264 upload out of Google Drive, Dropbox, or Frame.io, depending on what’s most convenient at the time. Note that the short films are a different story, uploaded to Vimeo at ProRes.
As for archiving, Film Riot keeps everything stored on their 60 TB server, with the caveat that they have amassed a quantity of content that will make it necessary for them to find a better long-term solution soon. Of course, when you’re not storing client’s materials, it makes finding a solution just a little less pressing.
When you’re an independent filmmaker, you always need to get as close to doing the best work as quickly and inexpensively as possible. It’s a big ask, but Film Riot has it pretty well figured out.
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