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12/05/2008 - BOOK REVIEW: DIGITAL VIDEO SECRETS ? What the Pros Know and the Manuals Don?t Tell You
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Author: Tony Levelle
Book Review by Matthew Terry
Published by: Michael Wiese Productions
ISBN: 978-1-932907-47-6

I will be honest with you. I really did not want to read this book. I had just completed my first low budget feature film (www.dstmovie.com) using an HD Consumer Camera (Canon HV-20) and had shown it at a theatre to a very positive enthusiastic response. This, of course, meant that when I would read this book...it would tell me everything I either did wrong or could have done better.
Let me tell you straight up: I wish I had read this book BEFORE I got started in this film-making process. I certainly would not be going through so many post-production issues if I had.
Now, I already had some general knowledge of film-making and story telling (I've taught screenwriting for 10+ years) and I got a friend with a bit more experience in videography that I talked into volunteering as my DP. But, still - sound issues, lighting issues, "blown out" areas are the biggest crosses that I have to bear as I move along in this process. Would these have been fixed had I read this book? Maybe not - but I certainly would have been more aware of them.
As for the book, Tony Levelle does a great job of breaking down many aspects and, yes, secrets to making digital videos. He covers the topics (such as "which camera to buy", "shooting footage" and "getting good sound," etc.) very clearly and basically. He does get bogged down a bit into the minutiae like "gamma settings" and understanding the "color matrix" - but never long enough to make you feel like you can't just pick up your camera and shoot. His approach is basic, easy and to the point - pretty much exactly what you want out of a book like this.
Where the book could have been improved is in a break down of what you are attempting to film. I would have liked basic sections with: "So you want to film a wedding?" Or: "Feature Film-Making 101" Or: "Filming a sporting event" - he touches on these through various chapters but I would have liked sections where these are broken down in a bit more detail including other secrets that might pertain to them. So if you're running out the door to film the championship game, you can go straight to that chapter. (Note: A secret in regards to filming family events such as a wedding? Film the old people. Years later when the wife finds the dusty video or DVD of the wedding and pops it into the player - they'll love to see old Uncle Charlie (who has long since passed on) sipping punch and flirting with a bridesmaid.)
I was also surprised there was no mention of a "stedicam" or how to make a basic one - not even in the glossary.
But don't those little issues stop you from getting this book. Part-time soccer coach filming practice for your team to wanna-be feature film-maker hoping to make it big at the local film-festival, this book is for you.

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