Ask a Ninja Co-Creator on 10 Years of Digital Filmmakering

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Kent Nichols, the co-creator, director and producer of (aka digitalfilmmaker on YouTube), recently celebrated 10 years as a Web auteur. Here are his thoughts on reaching that milestone and the technology he's employed along the way, reprinted with permission from his blog. (If you want to see the original post, click here.)

Writing this and not coming off as a grumpy old man is tough. But we truly are living in the most exciting time ever to be a filmmaker. I am approaching the 10th Anniversary of my leaving college to become a professional storyteller, and in that time we have seen such an amazing growth in the capabilities of the tools and an intensification of the competition. It’s almost unthinkable where we will be in the next ten years.

When I started editing movies I used the first iMac with Firewire and the first version of the iMovie. The 1.0 of iMovie didn’t even have an “undo” feature. I had to save a lot and revert back. I was so excited when 2.0 came out and there was an undo. Render times for DV were atrocious and hard drive space was scarce (you couldn’t even fit a whole DV tape onto one drive).

Now most laptops can churn out DV, and Harddrives are spacious. Render times and space still get eaten up by HiDef, but that will change and soon we’ll all be working in 4k…

Back then I bought a Sony TRV-900 for $1800. It cost as much as my car at the time. It was a 3-CCD 1/4 Camcorder that recorded to Mini-DV tapes in Standard Definition. Feature films were shot on this camera, films that made it into festivals, and into the theaters.

Now I bought a Canon 7D SLR that shoots beautiful stills and video for that same $1800. It has an imager that’s as larger as Super 35mm film and shoots in High Definition with replaceable lenses.

Back in 2000, my friends at the comedy schools I attended and where I met Douglas Sarine, no one was thinking about putting their stuff on the internet. I was showing them films like 405, Hard Drinking Lincoln, and others to get them excited.

Now I go to parties that have 500 people all with their own web show. All seeking funding, all looking to be the next Ask A Ninja or LonelyGirl15 (and some of them not knowing what Ask A Ninja and LonelyGirl15 are…).

So in summary, in terms of tools, now has never been a better or more exciting time. If you can’t mange to get your vision realized with whatever level of tools you have available to you, you lack imagination. Every Mac for the last ten years can edit video there is a new or used one available at your price point. Most stills cameras from the last 3 years can shoot video, as well as most cells phones, and then there are the amazing and high quality HD camcorders too. The tools are there, go tell a story.

In terms of competing for scarce resources, now is probably the most daunting time. Anyone can be a producer and director, and you’re only going to stand out if you’re talented and lucky and persistent. LA is a great place, but it’s also a place where there will be thousands of other just like you. If you stay where you’re from and become undeniably good you’ll eventually get here.

I had no choice, I grew up in Southern California, but it’s very expensive and isolating without a family (and that “family” can be a close-knit group of friends too, but those are very hard to find in LA…).

Go tell your stories, and keep getting better at telling them. And always remember to care more, that will get communicated to your audience.

21 Responses on "Ask a Ninja Co-Creator on 10 Years of Digital Filmmakering"

  1. Jeremiah says:

    Good article. We've come a long way in 10 years.


    You don't need eyes to see you need vision...and a camera. The storytellers with whatever definition will be entertaining us more than TV cos and admen. I like your enthusiasm. Thanks for this.

    gamefan12 says:

    Being a film maker is such a great thing. There are so many people trying to get into this business each day.
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    Eddie says:

    Good article. We've come a long way in 10 years
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