"The Silence After Life" cover

Feature film released 2020 on Blink in the Endless

technical references for making a no-budget feature film to professional standards

Some of the technical reference books used during the making of the feature film The Silence After Life


This article aims to help any feature film makers wanting to make their first no-budget feature film to professional technical standards as we did for our debut feature "The Silence After Life".

All the information presented here is provided "as is" - circumstances will be different for every film and what was right for us on a budget of a few thousand Pounds Sterling (GBP) may not be right for another production.


A selection of the most useful books I used when making this film.
Yes I have read every one.
All the way through.

Get Close, Lean Team Documentary Filmmaking by Rustin Thompson
My current favourite filmmaking book, wish I'd read it at the start of filming process rather than at the end, very good at analysing what you can and cannot expect (including the likelihood of getting into film festivals) when working with a very small budget

Directing Film Techniques and Aesthetics By Michael Rabiger and Mick Hurbis-Cherrier
Utterly brilliant book on the whole directing process

Directing the Documentary by By Michael Rabiger and Courtney Hermann
This is a text on making a documentary but is brilliant for understanding no-budget filming as everything is scaled back

How Not to Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flynn
A great book about writing without trying to ram a strict formula down your throat

Naked Cinema by Sally Potter
No-nonsense guide to working with actors from someone who has actually directed great films and great actors (e.g. Tilda Swinton in Orlando)

DSLR Cinema by Kurt Lancaster
A key book in getting me started - how to use a small camera to make cinematic images

The Guerilla Film Makers Pocketbook by Chris Jones and Genevieve Jolliffe, Andrew Zinnes
Only a small book but surprisingly jam-packed with useful and interviews

Raindance Producers' Lab Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking by Elliot Grove
The classic guide to filmmakers trying to do the impossible with just the money they have

In the Blink of an Eye, A PerspectIve on Film Editing by Walter Murch
The classic text from the legendary Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now) on film editing - his tip on editing with the sound turned off was so useful

Art of the Cut, Conversations with Film and TV Editors by Steve Hullfish
Interviews with working editors - so helpful in understanding the mindset of editing

Sound-On-Film by Vincent LoBrutto
An old book but seems to be the only book around that talks about why sound is mixed how is rather than how - worth it for the interview with Ben Burtt, Skip Lievsay and Walter Murch alone

The Foley Grail by Vanessa Theme Ament
Who wouldn't buy a book with this title?

Surround Sound, Up and Running by Tomlinson Holman
Out of date but a key text in understanding surround sound in detail

Mastering Audio The Art and the Science by Bob Katz
Very technical and really aimed at music audio mastering ... but utter genius

Color Correction Handbook by Alexis Van Hurkman
Again very technical and not cheap ... but it tells you exactly how to colour grade / colour correct, all in one place

The FilmCraft book series
A very inspiring series of books when I first started - probably a litle out of date now but a great collection of interviews


This is by no means an exhaustive list, rather it is a list of the information I had real trouble finding. I hope it's useful.

BBC Technical Delivery Standards
BBC Sound Mixing Guidelines
Steve Yedlin analysis of camera resolution (watch PART 01 and PART 02)
Explaining aspect ratios for cinema
Setting up Sony mirrorless camera for cinema shooting (for Sony a7S but applies to other Sony cameras e.g. A68)
Tips for working in the rain
BBC - understanding audio loudness and the EBU R128 standard
EBU - understanding audio loudness and the EBU R128 standard
ProTools Expert - understanding audio loudness and the EBU R128 standard
The BBC's High Robjohns on surround sound for delivery
Surround sound dos and donts
No need to apply the X-curve for surround sound mixing
Using reverb in surround sound mixing
EBU R123 audio track allocation (use with above BBC Technical Delivery Standards)
Netflix tutorial on creating M&E audio mix
Larry Jordan explains colour correcting in FCPX using scopes
Larry Jordan explains why H.264 is more appropriate than HEVC compression for rendering
BBC guidance on how to create subtitles (overview)
BBC guidance on how to create subtitles (detailed)
Preparing rendered film for conversion into a DCP Digital Cinema Package (needed for cinema)


Our film 'The Silence After Life' now conforms to cinema, EBU and BBC broadcast technical standards but much of the equipment we used was cheaper than used in most cinema films. The tech info here is not provided as definitive but is rather a guide to what is possible with equipment that could well be judged as less than ideal on a standard 'low budget' (500k GBP and above) feature film.


film - Sony XAVC-S, HD resolution, 25fps, 50 Mbit/s
audio - 48kHz, 24 bit, mono / stereo, broadcast WAV

Note HD chosen as source format rather than 4K as HD translates well to 2K (just needs blowing up by 4%) and 2K is perfectly sufficient for cinema viewing. In comparison 4K was felt to be unnecessary and takes up too much disk space and processing time and power.


film - Apple ProRes 422, 2K 1998 x 1080 resolution, 24fps (converted), 120 Mbit/s
audio - 48kHz, 24 bit, stereo / 5.1, broadcast WAV (timestretched in FCPX to match 24fps)

No proxies format was required for editing as the edit format was 2K rather than 4K.


DCP (Digital Cinema Package), 1.85 aspect ratio, 5.1 audio

DCP created for and tested during the cast and crew screening in the fully pro David Lean Cinema, Croydon, UK.


H.264 MP4, 30 MBit/s, 48kHz AAC stereo

Note in practice Vimeo renders this origin format into multiple delivery formats e.g. HEVC


camera - Sony A68 mirrorless DSLR (an older, bigger, not trendy camera therefore cheaper)
lens - Sigma 17-50mm zoom f2.8 EX DC OS (just a zoom used so shooting could be faster)
lighting - Aputure AL-672S and AL-528S LED soft lights (plus a lot of available light)
shotgun mic - Audio Technica AT875R
lavalier mics - Sennheiser MKE2-P-C wired mics x 2
   (wireless rejected as not reliable enough at low budget)
audio wind protection - Rycote (including Super Softie for shotgun mic)
editing machine - 2016 MacBook Pro
editing drives - Lacie Porsche 4TB 7200rpm HDD x 3 (main + 2 backups)
film editing + grading + VFX + subtitling software - Apple Final Cut Pro X (FCPX)
image noise reduction - Neat Video for FCPX
audio editing software - Apple Logic Pro
audio EQ - Channel EQ in Apple Logic Pro
audio compression and limiting - PSP Vintage Warmer, PSP Xenon, Logic Pro compressors
audio noise reduction - Izotope RX5
audio reverb - Flux Verb, Audio Damage EOS, Logic Space Pro Designer
audio EBU R128 meter - TC Electronic LM6
film compression / delivery - Apple Compressor

Sunday 17 January 2021

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