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DV101 – Log In and Learn: Continuing Your Education Online

I have always been a strong proponent of teaching and sharing, especially with aspiring filmmakers. The “column” that I used to write in the MySpace Filmmaker’s Forum (yes, MySpace—I’m old) eventually evolved into this column; my book, A Shot in the Dark: A Creative DIY Guide to Digital Video Lighting on (Almost) No Budget, was the culmination of years of low-budget cinematography and a popular lecture I gave for years at Digital Video Expo called “Lighting from Home Depot.”

Teaching and sharing information has been a side job for me my entire professional career. Since it is very important to me that I am always learning and sharing, I am constantly on the lookout for great sources of information—especially those available online.

Of course, one of your first stops for information should be Digital Video magazine, and our forums at—that should go without saying—but in this article I’m going to talk about other great resources you might not have run across.
This site, started in 2005, is run by independent filmmaker Ryan Koo (@ryanbkoo) and serves as a DIY resource for filmmakers and independent creatives. As Koo explains on the “about” page, “The site focuses on tools and technology relevant to filmmakers, writers, directors, editors, producers, cinematographers, bloggers, designers and entrepreneurs. If you’re a multi-hyphenate—meaning, you’re more than one of these things—all the better.”

The site is a collection of articles—some written by Koo, some by contributors, many re-posted from other sites around the web. Koo’s writing is smooth and accessible. Koo is an autodidact, and the site evolved along with his self-education.

When you sign up with, you get a PDF of Koo’s 100-page book The DSLR Cinematography Guide, an extraordinarily well written and incredibly detailed volume that covers considerable ground, from the basics of cinematography to understanding lenses, cameras, accessories and even postproduction. The guide alone is worth the price of admission (which amounts to sharing your e-mail address with Koo); the site’s content and weekly digest e-mails of articles “you might have missed” are the icing on the cake.
If you don’t already know about, go there now! Seriously, stop reading this and check out You can come back to this later. We’ll still be here, promise. hosts an extraordinary collection of training videos on any number of subjects, most notably software such as Adobe After Effects and Photoshop, Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, and much more. There are tutorials on photography, editing, lighting, graphics and visual effects. It’s an online learning resource of world-class quality. This is not a free resource—you’ll need to pay a subscription fee of between $25 a month and $375 a year, depending on your needs. The videos are well produced and extremely informative. They’ll have you up and running in no time.

Many years ago when I first got to test Adobe After Effects 5.0 for American Cinematographer magazine, a training video was included (VHS!) in the box. Watching the 30-minute video got me up and running immediately in After Effects—and I’ve been working with those skills for nearly a decade since. is a wonderful resource for learning specific skills and expanding your professional repertoire.
Created and run by micro-budget filmmaker John Hess, is primarily a collection of news, reviews and tutorials from around the web, along with a forum. The site is well designed and easy to navigate. In addition to curating links to outside news and articles, Hess tosses in his own opinions in his articles, videos and podcasts.

His articles are aimed at micro-budget DIYers, and he shares lots of great tips and techniques. I often go through the pages of FilmmakerIQ to find inspiration for DV101 subjects and to see what innovative projects and products are being built in garages around the world that may be newsworthy for Digital Video readers.
This isn’t really a web site, forum or collection of training videos—it’s a program run by industry veterans Marc (@MarcZicree) and Elaine Zicree, the authors of more than 100 produced television series scripts, screenplays, pilots and even a series of novels. Marc might be best known as the author of the incomparable Twilight Zone Companion. For the last 16 years Marc has run a networking group called the Industry Round Table that meets near North Hollywood every week. He runs the networking group with an incredibly warm, giving and supportive spirit. The group, of about 1,000 members, is composed not only of new filmmakers but also Emmy- and Academy Award-winning veterans. Writers, directors, producers, actors, cinematographers, composers, editors, production designers and more are welcome to the table.

But where Marc really shines is in his Supermentors class. He and Elaine meet with mentoring students every week for six weeks to “maximize opportunities” in their careers. Supporters of this program include Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8) and Michael Nankin (Battlestar Galactica). In addition to in-person mentorship, the Zicrees offer phone mentoring for those not located in Hollywood.

Marc very recently began a blog on in which he discusses his experiences in the business. It’s always inspiring and informative.
Most HDSLR users have heard of Philip Bloom (@PhilipBloom). His site is really an extensive blog, but it contains a wealth of information, opinion and reviews. In addition to the blog, look for insightful content under the Education and Review tabs on the site. Under Education you’ll find sections on editing, grading, lighting, DSLR shooting, DSLR workflow and lenses. These articles are primarily video tutorials presented by guests, some by Bloom, and they’re all informative. Video is a very powerful educational tool—you’re not just reading and looking at still photos; you’re hearing, watching and seeing demonstrations in motion, which is an extraordinary way to learn.
Cinema5D is, first and foremost, a forum. I’m always a little skeptical when it comes to forums as they run the gamut from truly extraordinary, where the users are respectful and share useful information, to truly horrible, with trolls, aggressive posters, false information and misleading “experts.” As with nearly everything on the internet, you’ve got to learn to filter out the noise to find the quality material. Cinema5D has some quality posters and a wealth of information aimed specifically at HDSLR users. In addition to the forum, C5D features news (from press releases or reposted from other sites) and reviews (reposted from other site content).