Just like every other year, this New Year’s Eve is a time for reflection and an opportunity to make a few new resolutions for ourselves.
These are often filled with good intentions aimed at making us better people, but sadly the vast majority of us never keep to them beyond the end of January.
However, instead of sticking to the tried and tested resolutions such as vowing to start exercising, being more helpful around the house, or learning a musical instrument, why not expand your horizons with the help of all the technology that surrounds you?
Three golden rules
Filmmaking can be great fun, and the tools at your disposal make it easier and more affordable than ever to pick up a camera instead of reaching for the keyboard.
If you’re new to filmmaking, you’ll need to abide by three basic guidelines. First, follow the rule of thirds – subdivide your shot into a 3 x 3 grid and make sure important parts of your image fall along the grid lines. Secondly, if you’re panning the camera make sure it’s slow and steady, so as not to disorientate your viewers.
Finally, shoot as much as you can. When it comes to editing together your clips, you may need different shots to make the film interesting to watch. You’ll be surprised just how often you end up using shots that you originally thought were useless in order to give a particular scene added depth.
Final Cut Pro X
If you’d rather stay with Apple but feel you’ve outgrown iMovie, then Final Cut Pro X is a good choice. The original program was favoured by professionals, but Apple went back to the drawing board in an attempt to broaden its appeal. While this angered its core users, who complained that the application had been dumbed down and had key features removed, it was good news for the rest of us. You should, however, note that you’ll need to use a modern camcorder. We recommend you download the free 30-day trial from www.apple.com/uk/finalcutpro/trial/ to ensure all your equipment will work with it.
Apple originally saw the importance of putting together home movies back in 1999 when it released the first version of its popular program, iMovie. Since then, the application has gone from strength to strength, and it’s now an integral part of iLife. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a piece of video-editing software that’s easier to use than iMovie ’11.
The reason for this is that it provides basic tools for novices, while also offering more powerful options to keep seasoned film editors busy and excited. It allows you, for example, to take footage from tape-based camcorders, HD cameras or even from your iOS devices, and transfer it to a Mac. You can then incorporate this film into a project where you can apply some basic colour correction, add visual effects, include a musical score and attach titles, and then export the final cut online or back to a portable device.
If you are serious about filmmaking, then your best option is a high-quality camcorder. If, however, you are only going to use it occasionally, then there are cheaper options.
These days, that will often take the form of a smartphone. Indeed, many of the latest models boast impressive built-in cameras – Apple’s iPhone 4S, for example, has won plaudits for the quality of its sensor, lenses and colour accuracy, as well as its 1,920 x 1,080-pixel display.
If you are using a smartphone you’ll also need a tripod to stop camera shake, and if you’re going to be shooting with your iPhone, a mount adaptor so you can attach your handset to any standard tripod. Studio Neat’s Glif ($20 [£13], www.studioneat.com) is a good option.
While iMovie is wonderfully elegant and simple to use, it’s somewhat lacking in versatility. There are a number of things that you can’t do with the program, such as applying two video effects to a single clip. If you’d like a little more creative freedom with your editing process, then you may like to explore other alternatives.
One of the most popular of these is Adobe’ Premiere Elements 10, which is currently available for around £60. This program is indeed much more powerful than Apple’s basic offering, and it even lets you add Hollywood-style menus to your film. Other options include the ability to work with multiple video layers, apply as many effects as you need to any clip, and even alter their settings over time. The one drawback is that the interface feels extremely cumbersome and un-Mac like.