Tips For The First-Time Filmmaker

Tips For The First-Time Filmmaker

Singapore’s filmmaking history may still be young, but with the likes of Boo Junfeng making waves at Cannes Film Festival for his gripping storytelling, it’s evident that our little island and its filmmakers have stories that can captivate the world. Together with ASUS, our short film series Vision In Action calibrates the focus on Singapore’s young, up-and-coming filmmaking talents, tasking each to create a nostalgic short film with the use of the all-in-one entertainment hub, the ASUS Zen AiO Pro – and they didn’t fail to deliver.

There are many others out there who also have their own compelling stories to tell, but are daunted by the complex mission of making their first film. For those of you who see yourself rubbing shoulders with the Scorseses and Tarantinos some day but don’t know where to start, here we offer some simple but elementary tips that’ll help you get your filmic journey on the right track.



Write A Solid Script

There will have been countless times in which you’ve been blown away by a film’s visuals, but left disappointed for its absence of a good story – we don’t have to name names for you to already know which directors are guilty of this. Any film worth watching more than once starts with a rock-solid script – and, often, a compelling, well-conceived story will make up for less-than-perfect visuals, special effects or other budget constraints.



Storyboard Your Scenes

Even if you have every scene played out perfectly in your head, that can quickly change on shooting day if you’re only just beginning to see details you may have forgotten, or if the location, props and actors don’t your initial vision. You can save immense amounts of time and fuss by drawing out each scene of your feature on a storyboard. You don’t have to be Van Gogh when sketching out your scenes – a rough guide is sufficient in not only keeping on track, but also assisting other crew members in visualising and framing each scene efficiently and cohesively.



Imagine The Image

Before you begin to decide which cameras you want to use to capture the action, you’ll pat yourself on the back later if you take some time to think about what kind of look and feel your film should carry in the planning stages. Some of the most immersive films can capture their audiences by simply accounting for what colour palette will drive its aesthetic and overall theme (think The Matrix’s green tint, or The Dark Knight’s cool tones). With this in mind, you can then consider whether certain sets, locations and costumes are in line with your visual goals.



Consider Your Camera Options

Enterprising individuals have shown the world that a feature film can be shot from an iPhone, and with continual strides in visual technology, anyone with a smartphone or compact camera can tell a compelling story without splurging on a RED cinema camera. However, it’s important to note that in order to effectively transport your viewer to the world you’ve created, you need to nail down the frame rate you’ll be shooting in (for example, 24 frames per second (fps) will give your footage a cinematic feel) and making sure that the amount of movement of the cameras and your subjects don’t create any undesirable effects like “rolling shutter”, while also ensuring that there aren’t wild variations in colour, contrast and exposure settings across your scenes.



Make Sound Decisions

Even the most mind-blowing visuals and thought-provoking story can be quickly diminished by poor quality audio – and, despite the crucial role that sounds plays as a transportative element of movies, it’s often a factor that’s overlooked (even directorial titans like Christopher Nolan have received flack for inaudible dialogue). Even if hiring a soundman to operate a boom is out of your budget, investing in a few dependable microphones, like camera-mounted shotgun mics or well-concealed laveliers for dialogue, will make an overwhelming difference to the final product.



Curate Your Characters

On low- to zero-budget projects, it’s not uncommon to rake in a few close pals to take on acting roles in your production. However, no matter how well you may know your friends, it all boils down to how well they know and execute your script. Conversely, hiring “pros” who over-act and attempt to hijack the limelight, will come across just as poorly, if not more so than amateurs, in your film. Before selecting your cast, think carefully about what each individual can bring to their character, and not whether the character can be superimposed on the individual.



Play In Post-Production

YouTube tutorials and online forums are excellent resources to consult when putting the final touches on your footage. While there’s a wealth of software, tools, templates and plug-ins that are available to give your film a unique aesthetic, it’s important to begin with the basics, like colour-grading, sharp editing and expediting workflow. Despite the availability of software packages that can apply grading and effect presets quickly and effortly, applying a few lazy presets to your entire film will be immediately apparent to the viewer. Take your time to experiment with different colour schemes and effects for each scene before finalising the overall look and feel, and – this is crucial – exercise restraint. Watch this montage of lens flares from J.J. Abram’s Star Trek for an example of when directors get a little too carried away with effects.



Use A Computer That's Built To Create

It’s not at all uncommon to see independent filmmakers create their visual stories on an unassuming laptop, and the ability to do so is testament to how far technology has taken the industry and those who find new ways to influence it. But anyone who’s tried to put together an Adobe Premiere Pro sequence longer than five minutes on a MacBook will tell you that trying to work with your footage in real-time and rendering the final product is less than favourable. When it comes to working efficiently, a desktop system with plenty of RAM is your best bet, and the ASUS Zen AiO Pro is just the kind for a filmmaker that wants to make an impactful debut. Sporting a 23.8-inch 4K/UHD display, with a wide colour gamut of 82 per cent NTSC, 85 per cent Adobe RGB and up to 100 percent sRGB, the all-in-one entertainment hub is capable of handling demanding video formats like 4K while producing images in vivid, accurate colour. Equipped with the latest Intel® Core i7 quad-core processor and up to 32GB of DDR4 memory, 4GB DDR5 video memory and lightning fast PCIe® 3.0 x4 M.2 SSD storage, the ASUS Zen AiO Pro effortlessly processes expansive video workflows, while also allowing filmmakers to enjoy their efforts with an immersive display and powerful 16-watt, six-speaker stereo audio.

To put the ASUS Zen AiO Pro to the test, we had four local, independent filmmakers each create a short film centred on the theme of nostalgia in the campaign ‘Vision In Action’. Watch the video below to find out how their experiences went using the all-in-one PC to inspire innovation.



See the short films from our ‘Vision In Action’ series in our YouTube playlist above. For more information on the ASUS Zen AiO Pro with 4K/UHD display (Z240ICGT-GJ120X), visit


Text Trent Davis

Images Various Sources