Genre: Audio and Film Blog

Learn Filmmaking Through Special Features

I thought I'd try and make a list of the films that I'd wished I had known about when I started learning about filmmaking. Most of these are super insightful and have great info on various aspects of filmmaking. Although some of these dvd's special features might be more inspirational than simply a teaching or how-to section, but they are still incredibly helpful. They're many more, and I'll definitely be adding to this list as I think of them. Please do the same.

EL Mariachi:
This is the classic example, coupled with Robert Rodriguez' book "Rebel Without a Crew", of how to make a movie basically by yourself. The special features on the dvd (10 minute film school, commentary) give great insight into lighting, editing, shooting without sound, and many other great ideas.


Every Other Robert Rodriguez DVD:
This is really broad, and probably seems weird not to list it with El Mariachi but personally I think "El Mariachi" is the best example of the diy approach since on the rest of his films he has a full crew. All of them are still great though, especially "Full Tilt Boogie". It's a feature length movie about the making of "From Dusk Till Dawn". Other RR dvds with great special features include Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Sin City


Donnie Darko - Directors Cut:
The coolest feature on this is the commentary with Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith. It's really interesting to hear how Richard Kelly thought out his script and his film and hear Kevin Smith's take on it.


This Adam Rifkins film has a great behind the scenes look into the making of a film made pretty much on surveillance cameras and all the problems that come along with that. Especially when he goes to shoot in a convenience store that now wants $5,000 to shut down for a few hours.


Roger Dodger:
I LOVE this movie. The score, lighting, acting, everything is incredible. If you haven't seen this, check it out. There is a section where they break down a scene that was shot in the bar, as well as commentary with the director Dylan Kidd and the Director of Photography.


This was one of the big DVX100 films that everybody talked about a few years back. I think it still looks great and is an incredible primer to all things filmmaking. Alex Ferrari really went all out to fill this dvd with special features on every aspect of the filmmaking process. I think there's roughly 3 hours of special features.


This was another one of the films shot with the DVX100 except on a bigger stage. It stars Courtney Cox and is a really cool movie. It has a bunch of behind the scenes footage, but the best part is the commentary with the D.O.P. She describes most of the lighting setups in the film. Really great commentary.


Hard Eight:
Paul Thomas Anderson's first movie. This is not only an outstanding film (possibly my favorite PTA film) but the commentary is incredible. Paul discusses getting his first movie made and all that goes along with that. Really informative, not so much in a how-to-make-a-film-technically (like the Robert Rodriguez films) but more about getting a film made and having a good attitude.


Richard Linklater's debut film offers some great special features including his first full length super -8 film as well as various commentaries. This was shot around 1990 and pre-dates the likes of Kevin Smith and Tarantino. R.L and this film laid the groundwork for most independent films that would come after.



This has to be one of the classic examples of diy no budget filmmaking. It is really insightful hearing how he got this film made and distributed. The commentary track is incredible but one of the best features on the 10th anniversary edition has to be "The Snowball Effect". It's a feature length doc about Kevin Smith's life and how he made the movie. Definitely a must watch.


Cormans World:
Great dvd about Roger Corman and how he got started. More of a doc, but you learn how he thinks about making movies and selling films.

Choosing the Right Speakers – Seeing with Your Ears

Picking the best speaker for your situation is often a rather hard task. You have to weed through all the articles telling you this one's better than the other. Thankfully though, these days you can get some incredible speakers, often for incredible deals.

Size Matters

The first thing to determine is how much room you have. If size is no problem, I would definitely get a pair of 8 inch speakers. They will usually offer the most low end and usually give you the truest picture of how your audio sounds. If you have enough room I would suggest looking on ebay for a set of used M-audio BX8a. Nice and found cheap (I just looked and there is a set for $100 with free shipping), Mark Isham (Composer: Crash, The Mist, Etc) used a set in his studio. I've also heard good things about the Yamaha HS80M.

If you don't have the room for big speakers there are some great 6 inch or even 4 inch speakers. KRK makes the "V4s". They have Kevlar drivers and can withstand very loud volumes for a 4in speaker. I have a set and can honestly say it is a great choice. M-audio makes a 5 inch speaker(bx5a) that is great as well.

Sound of the Room

Another commonly overlooked factor is the room the speakers are in. If you have a large room with hard wood floors and not much carpet you could potentially have problems. You could invest in thousands of dollars in sound treatment, but if you are using these inexpensive monitors to mix the audio to your indie film then you probably don't have it in the budget.

I would suggest just putting a carpet in the room. If you need to dampen the sound a little more you could hang some blankets around the room and usually that will help as well.

The pricier option but one that will help you in the long run is a set of monitors with room correcting software in them. JBL makes the LSR series which compensates for the inaccuracies in the room (if there is too much bass it attenuates it). These are my main speakers, and I, as well as a number of my other audio friends, could tell a big improvement in my mixes after I got them, so I'm a big believer in them. A cheaper option is the Mackie hr824. My friends have some and they sound great as well.

Its All In Your Head

If you just don't have quite enough room or you live in an apartment and can't really have a set of speakers there is another choice.... Headphones.

Now I don't mean a set of $20 earbuds. I'm talking about professional headphones that sound almost as good, and in some cases better than monitors.

Photo from

I recommend the ATH-M50 by Audio Technica. I have mixed on them and then listened back on my JBL's and it sounds basically the same which means it is doable to mix on these headphones and trust them. They are really that good. Although, I still think it's best to use a good set of monitors to at least compare your mix on.

Plus, getting a good set of phones will change the way you listen to everyday music. I literally heard things in songs through these phones I have never heard before.

Collect the Whole Set

Honestly, if you have the room and funds I would suggest having all three options.  This way you can check your audio on many different listening sources and compensate accordingly. You never know if the listener could be listening on small speakers, or a really nice surround sound system or maybe just some earbuds. You could even substitute one of these listening choices for a boombox or maybe tv speakers. This will give you the truest real world picture.

Keep in Touch

Hopefully this helps in your search for THE PERFECT SPEAKER.  If you have any questions about the topics I've listed, please feel free to send me an email, and please sign up for my free mailing list at the bottom of this page so you'll know when new content is added to the



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