Category Archives: Blogs

Behind The Scenes Of A Sitcom With Director/Author Phil Ramuno

The Sitcom Career Book

Director Phil Ramuno takes us on the set for a behind-the-scenes immersion of the most popular form of comedy in the world – the television SITCOM.  Phil, along with co-author Mary Lou Belli, reveal the rules, the language, the pacing, the schedules and the traditions of this beloved form of entertainment.  With the forward written by iconic actor Henry Winkler, it’s no wonder Amazon gives the book a 5-star rating!

ABOUT PHIL RAMUNO:  Phil Ramuno is an award-winning director, producer, writer, photographer, teacher and published author.  He co-authored the best-selling ‘Sitcom Career Book”.  He has directed hundreds of projects including theatrical, pilots and episodes of American and international network and syndicated situation comedies. Phil is an adjunct professor at The University of Southern California prestigious graduate film school and has also taught at both Emerson College and Endicott College in Boston.

Phil Ramuno shares his on-set ‘must-haves’ and ‘wish list’ from the set of BzSpotlight – the Business Webisode Series.

BzSpotlight provides corporate and custom video in the greater Los Angeles area.

 

 

 


Tips On Light Diffusion

Affordable Vellum For Light Diffusion

I like putting a sheet of diffusion paper (vellum) in front of each light.  The industry standard is from Rosco, with a 25 by 4 foot roll costing over $125.

You can certainly get by with a roll half as long by 3 and 1/2 feet from Dietzgen for half the price.

With careful use, the paper can be reused several times.

The C-47 clips that we all use to attach the paper to the lights are just a fancy show business name for common wooden clothes pins.

 

 

ABOUT PHIL RAMUNO:  Phil Ramuno is an award-winning director, producer, writer, photographer, teacher and published author.  He co-authored the best-selling ‘Sitcom Career Book”.  He has directed hundreds of projects including theatrical, pilots and episodes of American and international network and syndicated situation comedies. Phil is an adjunct professor at The University of Southern California prestigious graduate film school and has also taught at both Emerson College and Endicott College in Boston.

Phil Ramuno shares his on-set ‘must-haves’ and ‘wish list’ from the set of BzSpotlight – the Business Webisode Series.

BzSpotlight provides corporate and custom video in the greater Los Angeles area.


Reflector and Reflector Arm Holder

Don’t Buy, BOUNCE: Reflector and Reflector Arm Holder

Your $200 one light photo studio is complete.  I talked about using natural light as a source for classic three point lighting.  What you might not understand is that, if you only have a window from one side letting in light, you cannot use overhead lights or lamps in the room for the third lighting source.  Office overheads are usually fluorescent lights which are green colored compared to daylight and strobes.  Most floor or desk lamps are red colored.  Our eye adjusts to these color differences but your camera will not.  So you may need at least on more daylight colored source.

Yes, you can get a second Neewer strobe for $100 and put that on the second light stand that I had you buy along with the second receiver/trigger for that strobe at $16.  But we can keep our budget down by using a reflector instead.

There are many kits of 5 reflectors with white, black, silver, gold and translucent.  Honestly, you won’t need all of those.  Silver or white are the ones you will always use. $16.

You will need something to hold the reflector in place. Neewer has a simple clip that can mount it to your second light stand for $7.

 

But that gives you only one position.  I like a positionable arm for more flexibility.

That one is $28 and is well worth the extra cost. Make sure you use one of your 4 sandbags for this setup.
So, now using any daylight in the room as one source and with all the lights turned off, your strobe and $45 reflector setup can complete your classic three point lighting. Since the fill light on the front side opposite the key light should be half as strong, use your creativity to decide which sources should be the key, fill and backlights.

ABOUT PHIL RAMUNO:  Phil Ramuno is an award-winning director, producer, writer, photographer, teacher and published author.  He co-authored the best-selling ‘Sitcom Career Book”.  He has directed hundreds of projects including theatrical, pilots and episodes of American and international network and syndicated situation comedies. Phil is an adjunct professor at The University of Southern California prestigious graduate film school and has also taught at both Emerson College and Endicott College in Boston.

Phil Ramuno shares his on-set ‘must-haves’ and ‘wish list’ from the set of BzSpotlight – the Business Webisode Series.

BzSpotlight provides corporate and custom video in the greater Los Angeles area.


Neewer Sand Bags

Weighing In On Equipment Safety: Neewer Sand Bags

So, by now I have encouraged you to shop for a $100 strobe light, a $35 remote for the strobe, $30 for two light stands, a $6 bracket and $10 for a photo umbrella.  We are still under $200, so what else do you need?   Well, you need to protect your small investment.  Get some sort of weight to keep the light stand from falling over, especially outdoors and when you have an umbrella sticking out and acting like a sail.

Neewer again comes in at a bargain price with 4 bags for under $15.

 

You can fill these with sand, gravel, nuts and bolt or ball bearings.  Just understand that the sharper the fill, the more chance of eventually wearing a hole in the fabric of the bag.  Also weighing them down too much can put a strain on the stitching that is holding the cloth handles.

You now have everything for a great one light set-up.  Classic lighting, however, is three point light with that main light at the 45 degree angle and something on the opposite side of lower intensity to fill any shadows and a third light behind to separate the subject from the background.  Letting some daylight in the room that you are shooting can certainly work for these other two sources.  Just notice where the natural light is coming from and use it to your advantage.  In a future review I will talk about using a reflector for a secondary source.


LimoStudio Photo Umbrella

Soften Your Lighting: LimoStudio Photo Umbrella

If you have followed my previous reviews, you are well on your way to creating beautiful studio quality photos for a minimal investment.  The real secret to “beautiful” is the quality of the light.  Flashes tend to be a bit harsh and cause sharp shadows.  The trick is to use soft light.  That’s why people in outdoor shots look beautiful on cloudy days.  The trick for when you don’t have that cloud cover or if you are shooting indoors, is to soften the light source yourself.  The easiest way is to use some diffusion on the light or in front of the light.

If you look at the bracket that I recommended to hold your flash,

you will see a hole halfway up that is intended to permit the use of a photo umbrella to be mounted.  Putting the umbrella between the light and subject will diffuse the light.  The rule of thumb is “the larger the light source, the softer the light.”  So I am recommending a 43″ umbrella that you should shine the light through and place it as close to the subject as possible without getting it in the shot.

I have found a very inexpensive umbrella from LimoStudio.

Don’t forget to keep the light at a 45 degree angle to the side and above the subject for “perfect” wrap around lighting. You can experiment with moving it to the side to 60 or 80 degrees for a more dramatic “Old Hollywood” look but understand that this increases the nose shadows and any facial features, so it is not for all faces. You can have the model facing this more angled light, which will give a great dramatic shot.

See Phil’s Other Equipment Reviews

 

Phil Ramuno is an award-winning director, producer, writer, photographer, teacher and published author.  He is currently directing BzS – the Business Spotlight Webisode Series specializing in small business and corporate video production in Los Angeles, California.


Neewer Remote Flash Trigger

Move Your Strobe Off Camera: Neewer Remote Flash Trigger

So many of you have liked my recommendation of the Neewer camera flash unit You have tried tilting it to a white wall or ceiling with success and now want to use my recommendation of getting it off your camera for a more beautiful modelling look.  Well, in the interest of keeping your photo investment as reasonable as my $100 flash, there is a solution to that as well.

Instead of putting the flash on your camera’s hot shoe you can put a radio transmitter there and a small receiver on the flash which could be hand held by a friend or on a small tripod.  PocketWizard is the brand of choice by many professional shooters.  But these cost hundred of dollars.  If you are not making your living shooting photographs, this becomes a very expensive hobby.

Well, Neewer brand also has a low cost solution.  They sell a PocketWizard-style remote transmitter and receiver for the 850 flash unit.

The receiver triggers the flash unit when you just plug it to the side of the flash’s USB port.  The user reviews on Amazon are excellent and the under $35 dollar price for both the transmitter and receiver combo is astounding.  If you start to get really serious with your photo set up, you can get a second receiver for another flash for under $20

For the record, Godox brand is the manufacturer of Neewer flashes and identical, except Godox cost a couple of dollars more than Neewer charges for the same items.

 

See More of Phil’s Reviews:

Neewer TT850 Flash Speedlight


Amazon’s Book Buy-Back Program

Could Amazon’s Book Buy-Back Stretch Your Holiday Budget?

I’m a really bad reader.  There, I said it!  I was actually jealous as I watched my friends completely immerse themselves into the twisting plot of the latest best seller.  But reading always put me to sleep.  Two paragraphs in and my eyes are slamming shut.  So I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of Amazon’s book buy-back program but when I found out about it I thought it was a brilliant idea.

The idea is simple…trade your used books in to Amazon for up to 80 percent of their value – and get that money in the form of an Amazon gift card. The process seems simple: Search for your book title from the list of qualified books, print out a label for free shipping to Amazon, get a gift card. Voila!

DarnIt! I wish I had read more!  What do you think of this service? Is it something you could/would use?

Amazon Book Buy Back Program


Big Cat Preserve In Los Angeles Uses Power Of WebVideo

In a remote Southern California location, on the very edges of Los Angeles California, nested in the Santa Clarita Valley lies the desert city of Acton, home to Tippi Hedren’s Shambala Preserve. The actress established the animal sanctuary in 1972, followed by the organization of the nonprofit Roar Foundation that would fund it.

Shambala cares for endangered exotic big cats such as African lions, Siberian and Bengal tigers, leopards, servals, mountain lions, bobcats, plus a lynx, a panther, and a liger. Most of the animals were born in captivity and orphaned from circuses or zoos, or are given up by private owners who could no longer care for them. Two of Shambala’s most famous residents were Michael Jackson’s Bengal tigers, Sabu and Thriller, brought to Shambala after the iconic performer decided to close his Neverland Ranch zoo. 13-year old Thriller died in 2012.

Chris Gallucci, VP of Operations and Director of The Roar Foundation, met Tippi on the set of Roar, a movie featuring the star and her daughter Melanie Griffith, as well as a plethora of big cats and two elephants. Chris was immediately fascinated by Timbo, the gigantic bull elephant, and when the film’s elephant trainer quit, he immediately applied for the job. “Someone told me that the elephant was the largest animal that walked the earth,” Chris says. “I knew I had to have a piece of that.” To win the pachyderm’s trust that first night, Chris chained himself beside Timbo in his enclosure and threw away the key. That was the start of the 30+ year long relationship.

Running the sanctuary is like running a small business and part of the job requires a good deal of marketing, including social media. The staff manages a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a stream of ongoing video to bring awareness of their mission and drive funding to the organization. “We live off donations”, says Chris. “It takes a staggering amount of money to run an operation as large and unique as Shambala. “It costs 1 million dollars per year to run the Shambala Preserve – $20,000 dollars every 7 days!”

That’s a LOT of cat food!


Is Online Video Too Expensive For Your Small Business?

By now we know how important online video is for your business in Los Angeles CA,  to the elusive, oft-confusing SEO algorithms.  According to internet marketing guru Jeff Bullas (@jeffbullas), audiences are 12 times more likely to engage with a video than a text based post.  But if you’re an entrepreneur with a small business in Santa Clarita CA or Los Angeles CA the thought of adding video to your website is quite daunting. There is so much to do in producing a video, production, camera, and lighting are just three steps in making a successful video for your website.

Jack Tillotson, Director of Sales at BzS  (The Business Spotlight Webisode Series) said the two main obstacles he battles with clients are actually myths.  The first objection is the perceived cost.  Clients simply do not realize that cost of video production has dramatically decreased in the past decade.  And the second objection is the client thinks S/He is not experienced enough to be an on-camera spokesperson for the company.  “Our format is entirely different and unique, allowing a warm, comfortable, non-scripted environment with an economy-of-scale formula where clients literally share in the production expenses.” says Mr. Tillotson.  The clients simply tell us the story of their business, like they do every single day of their lives.  Business owners and managers are passionate about what they do, it’s amazing how well that plays out on camera with an experienced production team.”

BzS Executive Producer, Sue Berry noted that “less than 1% of all our webisode guests have had any previous media interaction what-so-ever.  Our host Bella Shaw (former CNN anchor) is also a seasoned media trainer and when you talk to her, it’s like talking to a friend.  No Scripting.  No Rehearsal. Just Tell Us Your Story – that’s the BzS mantra.”

Adding video to your marketing strategy doesn’t need to be expensive or hard.  There are dozens of qualified production companies available in Southern California that will provide affordable and turn-key video to get you ready for your close-up.

 


Entrepreneurial Celebrities Use The Power of Video

When iconic Actor/Director Jerry Mathers re-launched his website, he was advised to add videos.  Lots and lots of them!  Growing up as the loveable Beaver Cleaver in the iconic 1950’s television series, Leave It To Beaver, Jerry has one thing going for him…he just happens to have lots and lots of website videos.

Jerry started his career as a child actor working with industry legends like Alfred Hitchcock and Bob Hope.  But after the Leave It To Beaver series ended he began adding additional occupations to his resume including personal appearances, public speaking engagements and product endorsements.  For Jerry to be on big brand’s radar, he needed a social media strategy.  Jerry recently explained to Bz Spotlight viewers how managing his career is similar to running a small business in Los Angeles, CA.

Radio host Mother Love cranks out her passionate and informative LATalkRadio show 2 hours a day, 5 days a week and still manages to travel the country as a motivational speaker, author, actress and spokesperson for diabetes awareness.  Recently added to her never-ending list of daily tasks is to focus on social media campaigns designed to drive more fans and followers- using video.  Posting relevant, entertaining or informative content and adding video on websites and social media pages help raise her Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Remember, Video for websites converts more customers for your small business, every time.

Even adorable Tabitha, in the Bewitched series of the 1960’s Erin Murphy has become an entrepreneur in the most unusual genre:  Alpaca Ranching.  And, just like any small business, Erin has taken to social media to get her company noticed using video for her social sites.  She recently told Bz Spotlight Webisode Series Executive Producer Sue Berry:

“I think social media is hugely important as a way to grow any business.  Facebook is huge.  Twitter is a great way to get soundbites out there…you can talk about a sale your company is offering or an event that is coming up.  I like blogging because it’s a way to write a longer article and it’s like a running journal about your business that lives on the internet.”

From restaurateurs (Robert De Niro, Sandra Bullock, Gene Simmons) to clothing designers (Jessica Simpson, Beyoncé, The Kardashians, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) to a myriad of consumer products and start-ups (Jennifer Aniston, Ashton Kutcher, Justin Timberlake), celebrity entrepreneurs can’t escape adding social media and video production to their marketing mix.