Make Your Own Hollywood Movie by Ed Gaskell ISBN: 0-7821-4326-1

Reviewed by: Songmuh Jong, November 2004, updated Mar 2007
Published by: Sybex
Requires: A computer, a digital video camera, some editing software and some creativity
MSRP: US $29.99, CDN$41.95

Movie making has come to the masses. It's now in the hands of common people with limited budgets, thanks to the availability of affordable digital video (DV) cameras, reasonably fast personal computers with DVD burners and inexpensive video editing software. Nevertheless, it is still a painstaking process to produce a high-quality movie and it is still true that producing a Hollywood movie costs lots of money. This book is a high-level introduction to the overall process of producing a good movie using home devices. All the web-based access to TV and movies showing up - Joost, YouTube, Google Video, iTunes, etc., etc. - means new platforms for a lot of new content; lots and lots of content.

The book consists of seven sections. The Digital Movie Studio discusses what tools are needed for a good movie. The Preproduction section lists tasks that are needed before shooting any footage. The Shoot section goes into detail on shooting footage. The Final Cut deals with video editing. Editing Audio talks about sound manipulation. Distribution briefly goes into DVD burning and Internet distribution. Hollywood Tricks provides an impressive list of tricks which are used to create visual effects.


Make Your Own Hollywood Movie looks deceptively simple because there are lots of pictures on almost every page. Upon careful reading, you'll find useful information condensed inside the pages. The author has done an excellent job of refining information for each category he attempts to present. Readers benefit from the results provided by author Ed Gaskell, someone who has successful first-hand experience running a busy video production company.

Refinement based on successful experience is always going to be the basis for the best possible advice for novices. When presenting the choice of camera, for example, the author introduces the differences in image quality between traditionally filmed Hollywood movies and the image quality in well-shot digital videos. He goes into the detail of resolutions in both worlds of filming, the different video standards, and the way pixels and colors are sampled through DV cameras. In addition, the author discusses the importance of the lens and many others other items. Based on his descriptions, you'll find yourself suddenly knowing what to look for when you shop for a digital video camera.

The colored Spec List conveniently reminds you the items and specifications for your next purchase. Each topic in each section is condensed into two facing pages, making them very easy to read. The writing style is also very logical, sometimes humorous, and occasionally intriguing. From time to time, you will come across profound statements such as "Any edit to the shot is a manipulation of time," and "Faint heart never won fair lady" and "Your job is going to get tough from time to time, but on a clear desk day, you can see forever." It's not just idle banter. Gaskell really wants to emphasize the habits you need to develop in order to shoot good DV movies.

A significant part of the book is about the shooting techniques which work best with DV cameras. It goes into the detail of taking shots at different distances, framings, movements and under various lighting conditions. The use of audio skills and techniques and their implications and effects on everything you shoot is also front and center. As the author points out, the shots "control what [viewers are] allowed to see and what they are not." The book also points out that you need to find a crew. Without that, you'll "find yourself far too busy to actually shoot anything." The book also gives plenty of tips on what to do when you finish shooting and sit down in front of your computer to cut and edit clips, add transitions and effects and begin using the timeline function found in the best video editing software.

Is it really possible that you can make a Hollywood movie by yourself with only a digital video camera? The answer is an unqualified yes. The book amounts to a comprehensive, well organized collection of tips and tricks to help you make a quality movie. Anyone who is interested in making contemporary motion pictures should read this book and decide for themselves whether the time and money are worth it. With so much information in the book, there is no reason not to own it when the price is so low. If you've got a genuine interest in making great digital videos, the low price won't hurt your first budget and the invaluable information in the book will get you started in the best possible way. YouTube could really use your help. Recommended.




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