Making Movies Price and Availability Change

A quick update.

Book Cover ImageThis is just a quick note to let folks know about two changes to the first Maria’s Guides book, Making Movies: A Guide for Serious Amateurs:

  • We’ve dropped the price on the ebook editions of the book. It was $3.99; it’s now $2.99. This is a great price for this overview of the video creation process.
  • In addition the the Kindle Store, where it has been available since publication in October, the book is now also available on the Apple iBookstore and the Barnes & Noble NOOK store. Unfortunately, back in December we entered into an exclusive agreement with for the ebook distribution rights; that agreement expires today and we’re very pleased to be offering it through other retail outlets once again.

The book is also available in print from and

We’re also waiting for the iBookstore to approve a special iBooks 2 Enhanced Edition of the book that includes actual video clips from the sample movie. When published — hopefully soon — it will be available for $4.99.

MacVoices TV Interview about Making Movies Book

Interview by Chuck Joiner now online.

Screen GrabI’m extremely pleased to announce that my interview with Chuck Joiner on Mac Voices TV went live today. I hope you’ll check out MacVoicesTV #1182: Maria Langer Helps You Make Movies.

This was the first time I’d appeared on MacVoices TV; usually, I’m on the audio-only version, MacVoices. In the background, you’ll see the covered up stored furniture of my new office in Phoenix. You’ll also get a chance to see my horrible haircut six full weeks after I was scalped. (Hint: There’s still not enough to do anything with it except spike it.)

Chuck is a great host who always asks good questions. As usual, it was a real pleasure to be on his show. I hope you’ll take the time to explore the other MacVoices episodes on Chuck’s site. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of interest there.

You can find a complete list of my recent interview appearances on my personal website.

Making Movies: A Guide for Serious Amateurs

A step-by-step approach to making quality video productions.

Making Movies book cover

Tired of turning video footage into ho-hum productions that make people yawn? Or, worse yet, just putting raw video out there and hoping for the best? If so, this guide is for you. It clearly explains how to research, plan, shoot, assemble, edit, and fine-tune video productions for just about any purpose. Richly illustrated with stills from an example movie, it’ll get you on the right track to making movies that’ll inform, entertain, and impress your audience.

Buy from Amazon’s Kindle Bookstore

I’m really pleased to announce that the first book in the Maria’s Guides series — Making Movies: A Guide for Serious Amateurs — is now available.

About the Book

I originally wrote the first draft of Making Movies as a personal guide to help me remember how I created my first “watchable” movie, Cherries: From Tree to Truck. Later, I rounded it out into a series of articles for InformIT. To create this book, I added and revised content and formatted it for print and ebook publication.

This book differs from most of my computer how-to books in that it concentrates on theory rather than specific how-to tasks. For example, it doesn’t explain how to edit moves in iMovie or Final Cut Pro. Instead, it tells you about the kinds of clips you should acquire and why. It also goes into a great deal of detail about the part of movie-making that’s most overlooked by inexperienced movie-makers: the planning process. The idea was to write a book that could benefit all first-time movie makers — not just the ones using a specific camera or editing software package.

Inside, you’ll find chapters for the following “steps”:

Step 1: Explore the Topic
Step 2: Plan the Shoot
Step 3: Shoot the Video
Step 4: Create the Rough Cut
Step 5: Fine-Tune and Complete
Step 6: Publish and Share

The printed version of the book runs 66 pages, including cover, front matter, and index.

The book uses two examples throughout the text: the existing cherry harvest video I created and a hypothetical home movie of a kid’s soccer game. There are screen images and other figures to help illustrate important points.

I think the book is a great guide to help new movie makers learn the lingo and get a feel for making good movies. Its step-by-step approach can help keep readers focused on the tasks that need to be done to ensure success.

Buy the Book

The book is available in four formats from three sources (so far):

EPUB and Kindle Ebook

I wrote the book primarily for distribution as an ebook. As such, it’s available in EPUB and Kindle formats from two popular sources at a very reasonable $3.99:

Print and PDF Ebook

The book is also available in print and in a PDF-style ebook format from MagCloud.

MagCloud is a print-on-demand publisher that calculates printed cost by the page, so the longer a book is, the more it costs. The printed version, which is in full color, is available for $12.95 plus shipping. Be advised that it may take up to two weeks for the book to arrive.

MagCloud also offers a ebook version of the book. Unlike the EPUB and Kindle versions, the MagCloud version is based on a PDF, so it’s formatted exactly like the book. The cost of this ebook version is $3.95 and it downloads immediately upon purchase.

Note that when you buy the print version, you get a free copy of the ebook version.

Additional Material, Feedback, and Support

You can find additional material about making movies on this site. Just follow the Movie Making topic link.

You can also post questions and read questions and answers on the book’s support page.

Creating a Time-Lapse Calculator with Excel

A quick way to perform movie-making calculations.

One of my hobbies is photography and I dabble occasionally with time-lapse. In time-lapse photography, you set up a camera on a tripod to take a photo at a set interval, like every 15 seconds, over a long period of time, like hours. When you’re finished, you take the resulting images and compile them into a movie using each photo as a movie frame. The length of your movie is dependent on the number of shots and the number of frames per second (fps) at which they are compiled.

I wanted to be able to easily calculate various values for a time-lapse movie project based on certain values I provide, which I call “assumptions.” For example, how many seconds between shots if I want 1200 shots over 3-1/2 hours? How long would a movie be if I took shots over 10 hours with 15 seconds between shots and compiled them at 30 fps?

This is basic math, but with a twist. I wanted to be able to solve for any one of three source photo values given the other two values:

  • Time period, in hours
  • Seconds between shots
  • Number of shots

Given that information, I also wanted to be able to solve for either of two resulting movie values:

  • Frames per second
  • Movie length, in seconds

Time-Lapse CalculatorThe resulting Time-Lapse Calculator shown here does the job.

The formulas I put in the green cells are shown below. The IF function tests to see if cells are empty and uses the test result to determine whether it needs to perform and display a calculation. For example, in cell D6, it checks to see if B6 is empty; if it is, it calculates the result based on B7 and B8. Because the last two formulas require data from either cell B8 or D8, they also test to see which one contains data. The result is a nestled IF statement.



You can download a password-protected copy of the worksheet here. (The password is not available for distribution.)

After completing this worksheet and beginning to write about it, I realized that it’s not everything I envisioned. What I really wanted was to calculate one of the following based on the other three:

  • Time period, in hours
  • Seconds between shots
  • Frames per second
  • Movie length, in seconds

I’ll likely work on this in the future. If I finish it, it’ll appear here on Maria’s Guides.

Want to learn more about Excel?

Check out my most recent Excel books and video training materials:

And be sure to use the Excel link in the sidebar to track down other Excel articles like this one on Maria’s Guides.

Gila Monster

My first Final Cut Express video project.

After spending three days going through a tutorial to learn Final Cut Express HD, I was ready to create my first video project. I’m sharing it with blog readers so you can see how much effort a person can expend on 25 seconds of video.

About the Project

This particular project features a Gila Monster (pronounced “heela monster”), which is a rather large lizard that can be found in the Arizona desert. If I’m lucky, I see one or two of these in a year, so they’re not exactly common. They are, like so many things in the desert, poisonous, so you don’t want to get too close. But since they’re not exactly fast and they’re definitely not aggressive, you can get photos of them in action if you have equipment with you.

On a backroad trip with Mike and some friends, we happened to come upon one croassing the road. I had my video camera with me and whipped it out to capture some pretty decent footage. This Final Cut Express project cuts out the boring shaky bits, replaces our silly comments with music, and adds opening and closing titles. This is the first in a series of short videos I hope to add to, so make the site more interesting to visitors.

But this is also an experiment to check out video formats and Final Cut Express’s export feature. I had great success when exporting to QuickTime movie format, for iPod, and for Apple TV. But the Windows Media Player export didn’t work right at all and the AVI format was extremely poor quality, despite the file size, so I’m not going to distribute them. I just spent another few minutes using the iPod version of the file to create an e-mail version using QuickTime’s Share command. That worked best of all for the Web view of the file. Only 3.3 MB (which is smaller than the iPod version, and it looks pretty good.

Getting it Online

XHTML purists will tell you that the EMBED tag is a no-no in Web development. I think it has something to do with Internet Explorer which, for some reason, can’t interpret XHTML and CSS like the rest of the Web browsers on this planet.

So this project is also an experiment to see if the QuickTime Embed plugin for WordPress will work. If you’re reading this article shortly after I put it online and there’s no QuickTime movie below (or if the whole site is messed up), it’s because I’m trying this out and debugging. (Check in again in about 30 minutes.)

That said, here’s the movie with a Poster movie. I think I’l leave the iPod file for distribution.