Digital Cinema Course DVD Review

Reviewing Rush Hamden’s DVD series for filmmakers (with video excerpts)

Digital Cinema Course
Reviewed by Kendal Miller, FreshDV Contributing Editor
MSRP: $439-$529
Fresh Score: 4/5

Fresh Points: This series provides an incredible wealth of information previously attainable only at school or on set. The price places it firmly in the reach of most independent filmmakers making it readily accessible.

Stale Points:
At times the presentation runs long, and I would like to see more first person presentation of the material rather than continual voice-over. I also often found myself craving more advanced, high end setups with more elaborate lighting etc.

Film School on a Budget
It has been said that when you are through learning, well, then you are through. This is especially true in an industry that is as rapidly evolving as ours. I tend to subscribe to this philosophy myself and make every attempt to set aside time routinely for professional development. Whenever I’m on set I always make a concerted effort to take aways some new trick, or tip doesn’t matter if its the Assistant Director, the Gaffer, or a Production Assistant. I want to sharpen my skills and therefore my marketability.

The Digital Cinema Course, produced by Rush Hamden, offers the possibility of learning a lot of information, 18 DVDs and 24hours worth to be exact. The course is divided into four parts which I will refer to as modules. The command pack consist of four modules Gear Guide (DCT-GG07), Basic Production (DCT-BP), Movie Production (DCT-MP), and Lighting Set (DCT-LS). There are several other optional courses things such as audio production, green screen, and compositing available as well. Read on as we examine the aims and goals of this course, an overview of the course and then what will you learn, what you won’t.

The Aim and Purpose

” The Digital Cinema Course is the first fully-comprehensive film-school on DVD. The course is designed to educate novice and experienced filmmakers alike, either for entering the production world or getting more from it. The course has something to offer everyone. It’s been praised for focusing on the “physical” filmmaking production process and avoiding much-discussed “business” subjects such as financing, marketing, and publicity. It plainly teaches you how to physically write and direct a movie, not how to produce it. The course has been described as covering a year’s worth of classroom instruction for 2% of the cost of attending a University. For a fraction of the price of a single college course, it ventures deeply into Scriptwriting, Formatting, Editing, Camera Operation, Lighting, Exposure, Audio recording and mixing, Cinematography, Green/Blue-screen keying and Directing. It’s over 30 hours of filmmaking savvy, wisdom, examples, demonstrations, tips and tricks, by people who work in Hollywood day in, day out. The entire course is resolution- and format-agnostic: Concepts apply no matter what format you shoot in (Film, HD, DV, Analog, 16:9, 4:3) The gear used in the video is easily accessible on a microscopic production budget. The advantages and disadvantages of each piece of equipment is discussed. The course is pragmatic, and tries to reach every viewer. It is pure at heart, devoid of pretense or precocious tone. Unlike other film-school-in-a-box courses, it exists purely to serve the student rather than showcase the talents of the producers.” -Digital Cinema Course

The course begins basically by showing a short film project shot pretty much entirely on the JVC HD-100/ Panasonic AG-HVX200 series cameras. The Director then begins to work backwards starting with the screenwriting process and begins to give you an insiders view into how the short was created. Each finished scene is then shown and then deconstructed from a lighting and camera perspective behind the scenes. This is the heart of the Basic Movie Production Module. Other modules follow each offering insight into a different aspect of production. The one module that took me most off-guard was the gear guide. I anticipated a dry explanation of film gear explaining its use. Instead what I found was in-depth information on how to use gear provided by industry experts, and manufacturers. It was really very informative. One thing I would have liked to have seen more of was the interaction between the crew during the process and spend a little more time on set etiquette and protocol. A lot of information is provided by voice over and narration and I would have liked to see a more hands on approach as the DP explains his process as he walks you through it. There are several segments where this presentation style is adopted for a short time, although sometimes the presenter failed to give thorough explanation on screen so we come back to the voice over to provide more in depth in formation. Generally I found the segments presented in first person to be a more engaging presentation style. However, I must ad that at no point did I feel removed from the learning process due to the presentation style. At times the material ran long and could have been explained in a more concise manner, but it gets the point across that filmmaking can be a tedious process. There is no way to explain in depth what each module teaches so I suggest you visit www.DigitalCinemaCourse.com to find out in depth what is covered. The breadth of this course is simple too wide breakdown each DVD individually.

This course covers a lot of information and I honestly think for someone wanting to learn filmmaking this isn’t a bad place to start as a beginner. The information is presented in a manner that easy to grasp and at a mere fraction of the cost of a semester of film school. While it doesn’t teach you everything you need to succeed as a cinematographer it will give you a firm footing to begin to find your way, and equip you with tools you need to become comfortable on set. There is value in the DVD presentation format as well, bringing the ability to watch, pause, rewind and re-watch at your convenience. Lets face it, we creative types lead pretty hectic lives so the ability to process this information a piece at a time is well appreciated.

What You Can Expect To Learn
Expect to take away a good fundamental understanding of camera control as it relates to a video camera, screen writing, script formatting, shot composition, set etiquette, and lighting. For the beginning filmmaker you will learn a ton of information in a relatively short time, then its just up to you to put it all into practice. This is easily one of the more advanced courses I have seen, and yet in some ways it feels kind of basic to the more advanced cinematographer, however there is still a lot of things you can take away from here. Let me give you a quick quiz, if you can tell me the color of a double net, the light loss, and how it affects the quality of light over a single silk, then while you will learn a good amount a sizable piece the material will be beneath you. If you answered, “Why do I need a net I’m not going fishing?” then this course takes aim right where your sitting. DCC assumes nothing and walks you through the very basics and set etiquette all the way up to the slightly advanced lighting setups. Now while I say it covers the basics it does so in exhaustive detail, so be prepared to walk with a great understanding ready to build on.

What You Won’t Learn
Because this was intentionally shot with a small crew and aimed at the lower budget indie crowd, what you won’t learn is some of dynamics and protocols of working with a larger crew. You won’t learn techniques for working with film as this course reside firmly in the land of digital video and HD production, and while many principals translate fine, others don’t. Lighting setups while better than most tutorials are still relegated to rather small setups so you’ll learn a large amount of lighting theory but techniques for larger scale scenes and more advanced cinematic lighting are relatively unmentioned. There are however a number of tips and tricks waiting to be uncovered throughout this entire series for even the more advanced user. Finally you will not learn the pre-production side, script breakdown, call sheets etc… the more formal side of filmmaking necessary to surviving on a larger set.

In collaboration with DCC, FreshDV has partnered to bring you the following segments exclusively from the DVD set. I hope it will help you get an idea for the presentation style, if you like what you see then go buy the whole set, you won’t regret it!! Also Rush Hamden has offered FreshDV readers $40 off the DCT-COMMAND Course. Just follow the instructions below.

1) Goto www.DigitalCinemaCourse.com
2) Order the DCT-MP/COMMAND-FULL Course
3) Send an email to info@digitalcinematraining.com telling us you heard about the course on FreshDV
4) A partial refund will be sent to you via Paypal

Watch the segments below:

This FreshDV Classic article is licensed and republished at ProVideoCoalition with permission.

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I’m passionate about storytelling, and creating. Whether its directing, or shooting I love the process, the work, and the reward. Creating is a long arduous task to work towards and achieve, but the rewards are…

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