Creating a home studio is the realization of a dream for many professional filmmakers and now it's possible to live that dream even if making movies is simply your leisure time activity. Prior to the digital era, keen photographers enjoyed creating darkrooms at home in which to develop prints, and although using video and film requires different processes, the principle is the same. Here are some examples of how you can go about creating a state of the art studio space in your home.

The green screen

Firstly, think about what you will need to create a contained environment, one staple ingredient of which many professionals argue is the green screen. Alternatively, some people like to use a white backdrop, however, any solid color will generally serve the same purpose – highlighting the subject of your film without distracting attention from what is being said or done.

Lighting

Good lighting is the key and of course this is not cheap, however there are budget DIY kits for lighting that you can put together if you want to keep your spending in check. In general, really great lights are worth the investment, but if you're watching the pennies you can certainly make do with less. You can even use your tablet to make a decent softbox light if you need to do so.

The fact is however, the more light you can use, the better quality you will achieve. Avoid using light bulbs from around the house and remember that fluorescent lighting is low maintenance and low temperature. Ensure you have three-point lighting rigged up so that your movie or video subject in the middle benefits from a backlight (behind them and to their right) a key light (in front of them and to their right) and a fill lighting source (in front of them and to their left). Generally, the best position for your camera in order to film the subject is between the key and fill lights.

Camera and audio

Recording devices include your camera and microphone, and the range of choices in this area is vast. Technically when it comes to recording visual material you can choose almost anything between an upscale video camera and a brand new iPhone. Make sure you have identified a way to stabilize the camera, such as using a tripod. Often, your built-in microphone on your camera is not of sufficient quality, however, there are plenty of other options including omnidirectional microphones, which can be very effective.

Hollywood at home

The first movie ever made is reported to be The Horse in Motion, by Eadweard Muybridge in 1876, which was commissioned to settle an argument about whether horses really do lift all four of their hooves completely off the ground when galloping (which they do). Movie making has moved on considerably from these early days, when basically a series of still photographs were strung together to make a continuous sequence. Hollywood film production continues to use ever more innovative techniques as advances in technology continue.

For example, well known producers such as Steven Spielberg, Ben Stiller, Mel Gibson and Marc Shmuger, who was named chairman of Universal Studios in 2006, continue to drive innovation and change in the business. Spielberg is considered to be one of the most influential and popular directors and producers in film history; Stiller has received multiple honors and awards; Gibson's leading roles have been critically acclaimed; Shmuger won the Producers Guild of America (PGA) award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures for We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (2013).

If you're a budding movie maker then make that special space in your home for a studio, and prepare to produce the next Hollywood blockbuster. Every famous film producer had a modest project in their past that started their creative juices flowing and led them to fame and fortune.

Deborah Cornwall headshot 10-2013

It's hard to talk about cancer and kids in the same breath.

When facing a cancer diagnosis in the family, many parents are tempted to sugar-coat the situation, especially for younger children. This is understandable, but not necessarily helpful. In fact, if carried too far, silence or camouflage about cancer can actually undermine kids' trust in their parents and inflict lasting harm.

Let's face it: Even young children sense when something in the household has changed. They'll see you whispering, and exchanging furtive looks; they know when you're on the phone more often with your parents, or spending more time at the computer screen than interacting with them.

If they're not told what's going on, they may fill the information void with imaginings that may be far worse than reality. Older children may even jump right ahead to "Is she going to die?" before the prognosis has even been discussed by the medical team.

Talking about reality with kids is about helping them to focus on their own daily lives, preserving trust in their parents to tell them the truth, and minimizing their anxieties about things they can't control. This requires giving them age-appropriate information over time, which means you should:

  • Respond to what the child actually wants or needs to know.

    Don't assume that you have to give a detailed account of all that's going on. A child's concern, if expressed at all, is more likely to reflect a personal and immediate question, like "Why aren't you spending more time with me?" or "Will I still be able to go fishing with Uncle Ted this weekend?"

  • Let the child set the agenda: Give the broad brush overview first, and then let the child probe if he wants more detail.

    At first, this might mean saying things like, "You know how we go to see the doctor when you don't feel good? Well, Daddy's been having tummy aches, so the doctor has been doing tests to figure out why and how to help him feel better. When we know more, we'll tell you more." Later or with older children, it might mean explaining, for example, that "Daddy has cancer, a serious disease, but the doctors are doing their best to help him get better."

  • Share short and frequent information updates . Kids' attention spans are often short. They want to know that things are OK, but they also want to get on with their own lives. Brief doses of information can reassure them that it's OK to do that.
  • Pay attention to healthy family members . Cancer is notoriously greedy with caregivers' time, attention, and emotional energy, especially when one child is in treatment and the prognosis is uncertain.

It's too easy for parents to focus all of their waking energy on the patient and to assume that other family members can fend for themselves for a while. Don't assume that older children, who might say "I'm fine," actually are fine. Sometimes they'll hide their concerns to avoid adding to your stress. Think about arranging for added support for them through existing school resources (teachers, coaches, or counselors) or from a local cancer support program for children of similar ages.

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Finally, one of the most important things you can do for your children and for the family member who is facing cancer is to emphasize that cancer isn't contagious. The patient-whether a parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, cousin, sibling, or family friend-still loves and will still enjoy spending time with the children. In fact, the kids may be a pleasant distraction from treatment and its side effects.

Truth-telling can be gentle, phased, and age-appropriate.


A legislative advocate with the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network, Deborah J. Cornwall is the author of Things I Wish I'd Known: Cancer and Kids and Things I Wish I'd Known: Cancer Caregivers Speak Out . Cancer and Kids focuses on what you need to know and do, and where to find resources, when faced with a cancer diagnosis in the family.