The Filmmaker's Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age: Fifth Edition

The Filmmaker's Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age: Fifth Edition

by Steven Ascher
The Filmmaker's Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age: Fifth Edition

The Filmmaker's Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age: Fifth Edition

by Steven Ascher


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The authoritative guide to producing, directing, shooting, editing, and distributing your video or film. Whether you aspire to be a great filmmaker yourself or are looking for movie gifts, this comprehensive guide to filmmaking is the first step in turning a hobby into a career.

Widely acknowledged as the “bible” of video and film production, and used in courses around the world, The Filmmaker’s Handbook is now updated with the latest advances in HD and digital formats. For students and teachers, professionals and novices, this indispensable handbook covers all aspects of movie making.

• Techniques for making dramatic features, documentaries, corporate, broadcast, and experimental videos and films
•  Shooting with DSLRs, video, film, and digital cinema cameras
•  In-depth coverage of lenses, lighting, sound recording, editing, and mixing
• Understanding HDR, RAW, Log, 4K, UHD, and other formats
•  The business aspects of funding and producing your project
•  Getting your movie shown in theaters, on television, streaming services, and online

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780452297289
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/27/2012
Pages: 896
Sales rank: 122,385
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Steven Ascher is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker whose films include Troublesome Creek and So Much So Fast. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard University and taught film at MIT. He is currently directing Our Towns for HBO.

Edward Pincus's films include Diaries (1971-76) and One Cut, One Life. He founded the Film Section at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and taught film at Harvard. He died in 2013.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

1 Introduction to Digital and Film Systems 1

Digital Videos Systems

The Video Format

What Is Compression?

Comparing Videos Formats

High Definition Digital Formats

Digital Cinematography Systems

Standard Definition Digital Formats

Standard Definition Analog Formats

Recording to Memory Cards, Drives, and Discs

Sound Recording for Video

Video Editing

Film Systems

Comparing Film Formats

Sounds Recording for Film

Film Editing

Shooting Digital Versus Shooting Film

2 Before You Begin Production 53

Getting Your Movie Off the Ground

Formats for the Big Screen and the Small(er) Screen

The "Look" of the Movie

The Impact of Sensor Size and Film Gauge

Color and Sensitivity to Light

Sharpness and Focus

Aspect Ratio Choices

Frame Rate and Scanning Choices

Choosing a Camera

Planning Your Workflow

Managing Data in Production and Post

The Importance of Sound

Coping with Technology

3 The Video Camcorder 102

Initial Settings

Viewfinder and Monitor Setup

Picture Controls

Recording to Cards, Drives, and Optical Discs

Types of Media

Managing Data on the Shoot

Recording to Digital Tape

Operating the Camcorder

Batteries and Power Supplies

Camera Sensitivity

Other Camera Features

4 The Lens 141

Focal Length and Perspective

The Light-Gathering Power of the Lens

Focusing the Image

Choosing a Zoom Lens

Prime Lenses

Close Focusing

Lens Quality and Condition

The Lens Mount

Lens Seating Problems

Care of the Lens

5 The Video Image 185

Forming the Videos Image

The Digital Video Camera's Response to Light

Understanding and Controlling Contrast

What is Gamma?

Gamma Options When Shooting

Video Color Systems

Some Image Manipulations and Artifacts

Video Monitors and Projectors


Digital Video Recording-How It Works

Pixels and Resolution

Working with Digital Data

Digital Connections

Hard Drive Storage


File Formats and Data Exchange

Digital Compression

Compression Methods

A Few Common Codecs

6 The Film Camera 253

The Film Gate and Shutter

Camera Speed and Motors

Viewing Systems

The Reflex Viewfinder

Camera Film Capacity

Other Camera Features

Camera Tests and Maintenance

7 The Film Image 271

Properties of the Film Stock

Contrast of the Image


Choosing a Raw Stock

Packaging, Handling, and Purchasing

The Light Meter and Exposure Control

Light Meters

Taking Readings

Exposure and Film Stocks

The Film Lab During Production

Screening the Rushes

8 Color and Filters 304


Color Temperature


Matte Boxes and Lens Shades

9 Shooting the Movie 321

The Goals of Production

Composition and Shot Selection

The Moving Camera

Style and Direction

Dramatic Films


Preparing for Production

Preparing the Script and Approach

Scheduling and Planning

Organizing the Production

The Equipment Package

In Production


Supporting the Camera

Slow Motion, Fast Motion, and Judder

Slow Motion

Fast Motion

Judder or Storbing

Shooting TVs and Video Monitors

Shooting in 3D

10 Sound Recording Systems 402


How Audio Is Recorded

Analog Audio Recording

Digital Audio Recording

Types of Audio Recorders

Digital Audio Recorders

Audio in the Video Camera

The Analog Tape Recorder

The Microphone

Audio Connections

11 Sound Recording Techniques 435

Preparing for a Shoot

Gathering Gear

The Sound Recordist's Role

Recording Technique

Setting the Recording Level

Music, Narration, and Effects

Other Recording Issues

Recording Double System for Video and Film

Syncing Audio and Picture

Operating a Double-System Recorder

12 Lighting 471


Lighting Equipment


Types of Lighting Instruments

Lighting Technique

Lighting Styles

Positioning Lights

Controlling Lighting Contrast

Lighting and Color

Special Lighting Effects

Location Lighting

13 Picture and Dialogue Editing 521

Some Film Theory

Approaches to Editing

Dialogue Editing

The Editing Process


14 Editing Digital Videos 544

Components of a Nonlinear Editing System

How the NLE Plays and Edits Media

Postproduction Workflow

What Format or Resolution to Edit In?

Importing and Organizing Your Material

Importing Files

Capturing from Tape

Creating and Editing Sequences

Basic Sound Editing

Working with Double-Systems Sound

Basic Video Effects

Titles, Graphics, and Stills

Mixing and Converting Formats

Working with 24p and Pulldown

Editing 24p Footage

Finishing and Output

Managing Media

Exporting a File

Output to Tape

Creating a DVD or Blu-ray

Creating a Digital Cinema Package

Color Correction

Tape Editing

The EDL and Online Editing

15 Sound Editing and Mixing 635

The Sound Editing Process

Sound Editing Tools

Sound Editing Technique


Some Sound Editing Issues

Preparing for the Mix

The Sound Mix

Level and Dynamic Range

Frequency Range and EQ

Other Sound Processing

Mix Formats


16 Working with Film in Postproduction 675

Overview of Film-Video Transfers

Some Film-Digital Workflows

Film-to-Digital Transfer Devices

Telecine Options and Controls

Recording Format and Scanning Options

Image Control

Audio Options

Film Transfer Data

Booking a Transfer

Editing Film Digitally

Preparing to Edit

Editing Considerations for Traditional Film Finish

When You're Done with the Offline Edit

From Digital to Film

Preparing for the Digital-to-Film Transfer

Traditional Film Conforming and Blowups

Preparing the Original for Printing


Making Film Prints

Printing Basics

Answer Prints


Release Prints

Sound for Film Prints

Analog Optical Tracks

Digital Sound Tracks

Film Projection

17 Producting and Distributing the Move 718

Developing the Project

Funding Sources


Business Arrangements

Legal and Copyright Issues

Protecting Your Work

Releases for Real People, Places, and Things

Using Copyrighted Material

Distribution and Marketing

A Last Word

Appendices 767

A Adjusting a Video Monitor

B Data Rates and Storage Needs for Various Digital Formats

C Depth of Field Tables

D Hyperfocal Distance Table

E Angle of View in Different Formats

Bibliography 791

Websites 794

Index 797

What People are Saying About This

Pat Jackson

"I was thrilled to find your book, which is a gem. No matter what corner of the subject I poked into, looking for cogent explanations, the Handbook passed with flying colors. So please accept my admiration, appreciation and thanks."--(Pat Jackson, Assistant Professor, San Francisco State University)

Steven Ascher

From the Author:

A book for people working in video, in film or both.

This new edition was written with the idea that you may want to work just in video, or just in film, or in any combination. Writing the first edition, I tried to put in a book the essential things you need to know to make films. In the new edition, I've tried to do the same thing with video. Camcorders, nonlinear editing, tape-based and computer-based systems, TV broadcast. We are in a transitional era, in which both analog and digital gear are in use — the book deals with both. Moviemakers working with digital video (DV) cameras, analog video, 16mm or 35mm should find what they're looking for. The book isn't just about technology. It's about the tools and methods of telling stories with motion pictures, and includes a short course in fundraising, legal and business issues and distribution as well.

From the Publisher

– New York Times

"Gold-standard technical reference book for filmmakers."
-Boston Globe

“The bible – updated.”
- The Independent

"This is an essential book."
-Self-Reliant Filmmaking

"You need this book. Billed as the authoritative guide to filmmaking from fundraising to distribution, the book achieves this in clear, accessible language using current up-to-date information. It's easy to see why this has become a standard text in many film schools. A gilt-edged investment for aspiring and beginning filmmakers and it would not be out of place in the libraries of experienced professionals either."
-James MacGregor,

"This edition of the book is awesome. I don't know how you managed it. Such a mass of information so expertly organized and so clearly presented! Amazing."
-Alfred Guzzetti, Professor, Harvard University

“Anyone who is serious about learning the language and techniques of this art, whether amateur or professional, must have this comprehensive reference.”
- Bookviews

“Speaking as a member of the 'figure it out yourself' camp, I consider most 'technical' reference books to be nothing more than leisure reading. This one is worth its salt. Every page is relevant and fascinating. When I find a chapter that refers to something we've done, I realize that every mistake we made was covered, if only we'd thought to read up beforehand.”

"I was thrilled to find your book, which is a gem. No matter what corner of the subject I poked into, looking for cogent explanations, the Handbook passed with flying colors. So please accept my admiration, appreciation and thanks."
-Pat Jackson, Associate Professor, San Francisco State University; Emmy-winning Supervising Sound Editor

Alfred Guzzetti

"This edition of the book is awesome. I don't know how you managed it. Such a mass of information so expertly organized and so clearly presented! Amazing."--(Alfred Guzzetti, Professor, Harvard University)

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