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A film being made in Warsaw, Bracka street

Filmmaking (often refered to in academia contexting as film production) is the process of making a film, from an initial story idea or commission, through scriptwriting, shooting, editing, directing and distribution to an audience. Typically, it involves a large number of people, and takes from a few months to several years to complete. Filmmaking takes place all over the world in a huge range of economic, social, and political contexts, and using a variety of technologies and techniques.



Film production occurs in five stages:[1]

  • Development—The script is written and drafted into a workable blueprint for a film.
  • Pre-production—Preparations are made for the shoot, in which cast and crew are hired, locations are selected, and sets are built.
  • Production—The raw elements for the finished film are recorded.
  • Post-Production—The film is edited; production sound (dialogue) is concurrently (but separately) edited, music tracks (and songs) are composed, performed and recorded; sound effects are designed and recorded; and any other computer-graphic 'visual' effects are digitally added, all sound elements are mixed into "stems" then the stems are mixed then married to picture and the film is fully completed ("locked").
  • Sales and distribution—The film is screened for potential buyers (distributors), is picked up by a distributor and reaches its cinema and/or home media audience.


In this stage, the project's producer finds a story, which may come from a book, play, another film, a true story, original idea, etc. After identifying a theme or underlying message, the producer works with writers to prepare a synopsis. Next they produce a step outline, which breaks the story down into one-paragraph scenes that concentrate on dramatic structure. Next, they prepare a treatment, a 25 to 30 page description of the story, its mood, and characters. This usually has little dialog and stage direction, but often contains drawings that help visualize key points.

Next, a screenwriter writes a screenplay over a period of several months. The screenwriter may rewrite it several times to improve dramatization, clarity, structure, characters, dialogue, and overall style. However, producers often skip the previous steps and develop submitted screenplays which investors, studios, and other interested parties assess through a process called script coverage. A film distributor may be contacted at an early stage to assess the likely market and potential financial success of the film. Hollywood distributors adopt a hard-headed business approach and consider factors such as the film genre, the target audience, the historical success of similar films, the actors who might appear in the film, and potential directors. All these factors imply a certain appeal of the film to a possible audience and hence the number of "bums on seats" during the theatrical release. Not all films make a profit from the theatrical release alone, so film companies take DVD sales and worldwide distribution rights into account.

The producer and screenwriter prepare a film pitch, or treatment, and present it to potential financiers. If the pitch is successful, the film receives a "green light", meaning someone offers financial backing: typically a major film studio, film council, or independent investor. The parties involved negotiate a deal and sign contracts. Once all parties have met and the deal has been set, the film may proceed into the pre-production period. By this stage, the film should have a clearly defined marketing strategy and target audience.


In pre-production, the film is designed and planned. The production company is created and a production office established. The production is storyboarded and visualized with the help of illustrators and concept artists. A production budget is drawn up to plan expenditures for the film.

The producer hires a crew. The nature of the film, and the budget, determine the size and type of crew used during filmmaking. Many Hollywood blockbusters employ a cast and crew of hundreds, while a low-budget, independent film may be made by a skeleton crew of eight or nine (or fewer). These are typical crew positions:

  • The sound designer creates the aural conception of the film[4], working for the supervising sound editor. Some productions employ a sound designer instead of a DoA.
  • The composer creates new music for the film. (usually not until post-production)
  • The production designer creates the visual conception of the film, working with the art director[4].
  • The art director manages the art department, which makes production sets
  • The costume designer creates the clothing for the characters in the film working closely with the actors, as well as other departments.
  • The make up and hair designer works closely with the costume designer in addition to create a certain look for a character.
  • The storyboard artist creates visual images to help the director and production designer communicate their ideas to the production team.
  • The choreographer creates and coordinates the movement and dance - typically for musicals. Some films also credit a fight choreographer.


Sesame Workshop crews film an improvised segment of Sesame Street, a children's series, on location in Washington Square Park in New York City.

In production, the film is created and shot. More crew will be recruited at this stage, such as the property master, script supervisor, assistant directors, stills photographer, picture editor, and sound editors. These are just the most common roles in filmmaking; the production office will be free to create any unique blend of roles to suit a particular film.

A typical day's shooting begins with the crew arriving on the set/location by their call time. Actors usually have their own separate call times. Since set construction, dressing and lighting can take many hours or even days, they are often set up in advance.
The grip, electric and production design crews are typically a step ahead of the camera and sound departments: for efficiency's sake, while a scene is being filmed, they are already preparing the next one.

While the crew prepare their equipment, the actors are wardrobed in their costumes and attend the hair and make-up departments. The actors rehearse the script and blocking with the director, and the camera and sound crews rehearse with them and make final tweaks. Finally, the action is shot in as many takes as the director wishes. Most American productions follow a specific procedure:

The assistant director calls "picture is up!" to inform everyone that a take is about to be recorded, and then "quiet, everyone!" Once everyone is ready to shoot, he calls "roll sound" (if the take involves sound), and the production sound mixer will start their equipment, record a verbal slate of the take's information, and announce "sound speed" when they are ready. The AD follows with "roll camera", answered by "speed!" by the camera operator once the camera is recording. The clapper, who is already in front of the camera with the clapperboard, calls "marker!" and slaps it shut. If the take involves extras or background action, the AD will cue them ("action background!"), and last is the director, telling the actors "action!".

A take is over when the director calls "cut!", and camera and sound stop recording. The script supervisor will note any continuity issues and the sound and camera teams log technical notes for the take on their respective report sheets. If the director decides additional takes are required, the whole process repeats. Once satisfied, the crew moves on to the next camera angle or "setup," until the whole scene is "covered." When shooting is finished for the scene, the assistant director declares a "wrap" or "moving on," and the crew will "strike," or dismantle, the set for that scene.

At the end of the day,the director approves the next day's shooting schedule and a daily progress report is sent to the production office. This includes the report sheets from continuity, sound, and camera teams. Call sheets are distributed to the cast and crew to tell them when and where to turn up the next shooting day. Later on, the director, producer, other department heads, and, sometimes, the cast, may gather to watch that day or yesterday's footage, called dailies, and review their work.

With workdays often lasting 14 or 18 hours in remote locations, film production tends to create a team spirit. When the entire film is in the can, or in the completion of the production phase, it is customary for the production office to arrange a wrap party, to thank all the cast and crew for their efforts.


Here the film is assembled by the film editor. The modern use of video in the filmmaking process has resulted in two workflow variants: one using entirely film, and the other using a mixture of film and video.

In the film workflow, the original camera film is developed and copied to a one-light workprint (positive) for editing with a mechanical editing machine. An edge code is recorded onto film to locate the position of picture frames. Since the development of non-linear editing systems such as Avid, Quantel or Final Cut Pro, the film workflow is used by very few productions.

In the video workflow, the original camera negative is developed and telecined to video for editing with computer editing software. A timecode is recorded onto video tape to locate the position of picture frames. Production sound is also synced up to the video picture frames during this process.

The first job of the film editor is to build a rough cut taken from sequences (or scenes) based on individual "takes" (shots). The purpose of the rough cut is to select and order the best shots. The director usually works with the editor to ensure the envisioned shots are selected. The next step is to create a fine cut by getting all the shots to flow smoothly in a seamless story. Trimming, the process of shortening scenes by a few seconds, or even frames, is done during this phase. After the fine cut has been screened and approved by the director and producer, the picture is "locked," meaning no further changes are made. Next, the editor creates a negative cut list (using edge code) or an edit decision list (using timecode) either manually or automatically. These edit lists identify the source and the picture frame of each shot in the fine cut.

Once the picture is locked, the film is passed into the hands of the postproduction supervising sound editor of the sound department to build up the sound track. The voice recordings are synchronised and the final sound mix is created by the re-recording mixer. The sound mix combines dialogue, sound effects, atmos, ADR, walla, foleys and music.

The sound track and picture are combined together, resulting in a low quality answer print of the film. There are now two possible workflows to create the high quality release print depending on the recording medium:

  1. In the film workflow, the cut list that describes the film-based answer print is used to cut the original color negative (OCN) and create a color timed copy called the color master positive or interpositive print. For all subsequent steps this effectively becomes the master copy. The next step is to create a one-light copy called the color duplicate negative or internegative. It is from this that many copies of the final theatrical release print are made. Copying from the internegative is much simpler than copying from the interpositive directly because it is a one-light process; it also reduces wear-and-tear on the interpositive print.
  2. In the video workflow, the edit decision list that describes the video-based answer print is used to edit the original color tape (OCT) and create a high quality color master tape. For all subsequent steps this effectively becomes the master copy. The next step uses a film recorder to read the color master tape and copy each video frame directly to film to create the final theatrical release print.

Finally the film is previewed, normally by the target audience, and any feedback may result in further shooting or edits to the film.

There are two ways that film can be put together. One way is linear editing and the other is non-linear editing.

Linear editing uses the film as it is in a continuous film. All of the parts of the film are already in order and need not be moved or any such thing.

Conversely, non-linear editing is not subject to using the film in the order it is taped. Scenes can be moved around or even removed. A better way to see it is that non-linear editing is like a hodgepodge of video.

Distribution and exhibition

This is the final stage, where the film is released to cinemas or, occasionally, to DVD, VCD, VHS (though VHS tapes are less common now that more people own DVD players), Blu-Ray, or direct download from a provider. The film is duplicated as required for distribution to cinemas. Press kits, posters, and other advertising materials are published and the film is advertised.

Film companies usually release a film with a launch party, press releases, interviews with the press, press preview screenings, and film festival screenings. Most films have a website. The film plays at selected cinemas and the DVD typically is released a few months later. The distribution rights for the film and DVD are also usually sold for worldwide distribution. The distributor and the production company share profits.

Independent filmmaking

Filmmaking also takes place outside of the mainstream and is commonly called independent filmmaking. Since the introduction of DV technology, the means of production have become more democratized. Filmmakers can conceivably shoot and edit a film, create and edit the sound and music, and mix the final cut on a home computer. However, while the means of production may be democratized, financing, distribution, and marketing remain difficult to accomplish outside the traditional system. Most independent filmmakers rely on film festivals to get their films noticed and sold for distribution. However, the Internet has allowed for relatively inexpensive distribution of independent films; many filmmakers post their films online for critique and recognition. Although there is little profitability in this, a filmmaker can still gain exposure via the web.

See also




  • Campbell, Drew: Technical Film and TV for Nontechnical People. Allworth Communications 2002.
  1. ^ Steiff, Josef (2005). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Independent Filmmaking. Alpha Books. pp. 26–28. 
  2. ^ Sound for Digital Video by Tomlinson Holman (Focal Press) 2005 (p. 162)
  3. ^ Dialogue Editing for Motion Pictures by John Purcell (Focal Press) 2007 (p. 148)
  4. ^ a b Sound-On-Film by Vincent LoBrutto (1994)

External links

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

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May 15, 2008 -- See Mohamed Alsayed's animatic movie at YouTube.

Courses in Filmmaking →
Course #1:
Basic filmmaking (pre-production) Mplayer.svg
Course #2:
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Course #3:
Film scoring for dramatic scenes Crystal Clear app knotify.png
Script writing for high school dramas Nuvola apps package wordprocessing.png
Poser / DAZ Studio animation EmotiBase-smile down 000.png

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Wikiversity Film School
The Courses in
Narrative Film Production

Crystal Clear action build.png Click on the course name to begin the course. →

Note: These courses are only for dramatic motion pictures (movies with a script and dialog).
These courses are not for documentaries, event video, corporate video, educational programs, or multimedia.

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Anyone can learn to be a filmmaker

Filmmaking is easy
Filmmaking is not rocket science. Everything about filmmaking is extremely easy to learn. Anyone can do it if they wish.
The challenge of learning filmmaking
The challenge is filmmaking requires learning a huge number of skills. Each skill is easy to learn but the number of things you must learn is huge.
If you want to be an independent filmmaker, you must learn the equivalent of 20 different careers. Even if you are a fast learner, it can take you years to learn everything.
Telling a story
In a dramatic motion picture, the story is told by many people. The cinematographer tells the story with the camera. The lighting person tells the story with lighting. The film composer tells the story with music. The actors tell the story with action and dialog. The editor tells the story with editing. The sound designer tells the story with sound.
You have to learn all of this
And as an independent filmmaker, you have to learn to all of these skills.
If you fail to learn even one of these skills, people will notice and be turned off by your movie. You must learn everything!!!!
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Film School Preparatory

Wikiversity Film School is a preparatory school for budding filmmakers who plan to go to film school or take classes in motion picture production.
Each year, USC Film School receives 800 applicants to fill just 50 undergraduate positions.
We teach you the things that film schools expect you to know before you get to film school so that you can have a base to work from when you first start film-school.

Learning filmmaking software

Intel processor
First, you need to do is learn about the computer software for filmmaking. See below for a list of the software you will need. Most is free!
Designed for the Macintosh
The Film Scoring course is designed for Apple's GarageBand with Jam Pack: Symphony Orchestra
The Film Editing course is designed for Apple's Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere.
Where possible, free Linux software is listed.
However, there is still no standard movie file format for Linux and nothing which matches the quality and usefulness of Apple's GarageBand for film scoring.
Therefore, Linux is currently not a good choice for filmmakers.
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What do we do?

Make a tiny movie
In the filmmaking class, we create a short motion picture. It is less than a minute long so it is very simple.
But before you complete the animatic for the movie, you will also need to learn film editing and film scoring.
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Where to start?

Filmmaking, editing, and scoring
Budding filmmakers should start with the basic filmmaking course. For the first lesson, you will format a very short motion picture script. After that, take the pop quiz where you tell me how you would begin to film this scene.
If you want to be a film composer (but you are not a musician), screen writer, or a film editor, you can go directly to the courses in film editing or film scoring or the script writing exercise.
If you are a musician who wants to be a film composer, click here.

Note: These courses are designed for the Macintosh computer.

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These filmmaking courses are free. The only requirement is you submit your homework assignments so others can benefit. (see right)
The disks
If you do not wish to purchase the required disks from the Star Movie Shop , you can borrow the disks from the instructor. You will have one month before you must return each disk.
I always try to select programs which are free.
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Sharing your work

Your homework assignments
Your completed assignments must be submitted under the Free Documentation License or as Public Domain.
This allows what you have learned to be shared by others.

Free Software used at Wikiversity Film School

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Free Filmmaking Software at Wikivesity Film School

There is some of free software used at Wikiversity Film School. Sometimes, this software is demo versions or simplified versions of software but this is good enough to complete these lessons. Using free software, you can learn a tremendous amount about filmmaking.
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FrameForge 3D Studio Free Demo Version

Basic filmmaking (pre-production)
The heart of the Wikiversity Film School's basic filmmaking course (pre-production) is FrameForge 3D Studio 2 Demo Version. This is the most educational program used at Wikiversity Film School. And the demo version is free for both the Macintosh and Windows operating system.
This program simulates the motion picture camera, the movie set, and the actors. The program is useful for experimenting with the different lenses on your motion picture camera. And the final output of FrameForge 3D Studio 2 Demo Version is completely frame accurate (including depth of field effects) ready to give your cinematographer for creating all the shots of your movie.
The free demo version is limited to 20 uses. Other limitations apply. However, this is more than enough to complete your assignments at Wikiversity Film School. Download this free program today and begin learning how to use it.

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Apple's GarageBand

Film Scoring
All film scoring lessons at Wikiversity Film School can be done using Apple's GarageBand which is free with each new Macintosh PC.
In addition to a midi program like GarageBand, you will also need a good selection of musical instruments for the symphony orchestra. Some musical software instruments of the symphony orchestra for GarageBand are free (such as the packages from Boldt) and some are not. I recommend Apple's Jam Pack:Symphony Orchestra. I have not tried Apple's new Jam Pack for voices which should also be useful.
  • Filmmakers should NOT use Apple's Logic 7 which is poorly designed and exceedingly awkward. I have not tried version 8 yet.
  • I do not know what to recommend for Windows.

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Film Dailies

Editing Workshop disks
The filmmaking course, film editing course, and film scoring course use Editing Workshop disks developed by the Star Movie Shop . The Star Movie Shop is not open to the public. It is only for serious film students.
These disks contain unedited scenes from television dramas for editing and scoring on the Macintosh computer. This is the real thing. Most film dailies require QuickTime. Files can be converted to other formats for Windows using additional software (not provided.)
All of the informational contents of these Editing Workshop disks is distributed under the GNU Open Source Document License.
May through September, 2008
Currently, you can receive the first disk for free once you have completed the first part of the film scoring or the basic filmmaking course. When you receive a disk, you must edit the scene or score the scene to receive the next disk for free. To save money on shipping, you are requested to share the disk with other young filmmakers in your country. (Available to most locations on the planet. Some restrictions apply. Obviously, additional software required.)

Starting in 2009, Wikiversity Film School will have a simple course in 3D animation. This will use the free programs of DAZ Studio and Bryce 5.5.
If you have Poser and Vue, you can use those programs but they are not free.
DAZ Studio and Bryce take time to learn so if you are interested in working with 3D, you should download these free programs and begin to learn them.

Other useful programs
  • ArtRage 2.5 Starter Edition is a free used for matte painting and creating the movie poster. This is a simple and fun artistic painting program. Feels very natural. Extremely useful. If you need any kind of digital painting with traditional artist materials, this is your first choice. This is the free version which is fully working but more limited than the full version which is also remarkably inexpensive.
  • GIMP is a free paint program comparable to Adobe Photoshop. Surprisingly mature program but definitely not as easy to use as Photoshop. Requires X-11. If you do not have Adobe Photoshop 4 or later, this program is absolutely necessary for some of the classes at Wikiversity Film School.
  • Audacity is a free useful utility for working with audio and converting audio to OGG files. It is a bit awkward but it is free.
  • Tux Paint is a free fun paint program for kids. It has the added advantage of using rubber stamps and creating matte paintings easily. Has the unique feature of doing rough storyboards with special storyboard artwork. Also useful for one of the lessons about learning matte painting at Wikiversity Film School for kids.
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Where to begin?

  • The most important course of all is film scoring. You will need the Film Scoring Course to complete the other two courses. Crystal Clear app knotify.png

Contact your instructor

Your instructor for this filmmaking class is Robert Elliott. You can email me by clicking here. Crystal Clear app xfmail.png

External links

NOT RECOMMENDED for these lessons
As far as I know, currently none of the programs listed below is compatible with the disks used in these lessons. -- Robert Elliott, your Instructor
  • Musix - A multimedia Linux distro (music and video)
  • Jashaka - comprehensive open source player and editor - "Powering the new Hollywood"
  • VirtualDub - Open source nonlinear editor with recent release
  • FSF - list of free video editing tools
  • Avidemux - open source video editor

  • Student in the Film Editing Course may upload their own assignments.


Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Movie Making Manual article)

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Movie Making Manual


Introduction to Movie Making





Film Distribution & Marketing

Digital Filmmaking

Enter the Movie Making Manual Volume 2 – The Digital Video Production Manual and see the future of filmmaking in the 21st century.


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