Monday, February 26, 2007

#11 Wk5 - Lighting

Practical Lighting

Tuesday night's class began with how to set up 3 Point lighting, the classic TV news lighting. 3 point lighting consists of the main light, Key; secondary light, Fill; Backlight or Kicker, which separates the subject from the background and Background light.

3 points of light, 4 lights, an amazing paradox. I describe our efforts setting up the scene. By the way, I mistakenly used the term "baffle" when referring to a fabric grid we use on the Rifa to direct light forward. I don't know what it is called and I couldn't find it on the Lowel site.

Thursday night we used the same lighting techniques to recreate a night scene and I include pointers on how to do that.

Podcasts for filmmakers

Finally, I introduce a new segment, reviewing podcasts that I feel are valuable learning tools for anyone interested in working in the motion graphics field. Tonight I'm profiling the VFX Show. Mentioned briefly is episode 5 where the hosts talk about their favorite DVD extras that include helpful movies on production techniques.

Take a look at DVD Breakdown for reviews of DVDs and descriptions of the extras. I also mentioned a book by Robert Rodriquez, the guy who gave us El Mariachi and Spy Kids. It's called Rebel without a Crew.

Chapter Titles

  • 00:07 This Week
  • 00:45 3 Point Lighting
  • 01:53 Key
  • 02:18 Fill
  • 03:29 Backlight
  • 04:00 Kicker
  • 05:19 Background
  • 06:55 Exercise: News Lighting
  • 08:54 Night Light
  • 12:22 Exercise: Night Lighting
  • 14:07 What is Podcasting?
  • 18:07 The VFX Show
  • 22:49 DVD Extras
  • 25:25 Close

Saturday, February 24, 2007

#10 Wk4 - Special Topic

Documentary A-Z
This is a special mid week episode of the Video StudentGuy podcast. Thursday night we had a special topic presentation by Franco Sacchi, a filmmaker and instructor at CDIA. He presented his documentary, American Eunuch, as an example of how to create a documentary.

The class covered every step of the production process beginning with finding the idea, preproduction, the shoot, post and promotion. Check out for help marketing your film.

Franco briefly referred to the Long Tail marketing concept which I try to explain in a nutshell. This was a term popularized by Chris Anderson of Wired and he went on to write a book about it as well. He also has a blog on it. I believe this business model has significant impact on all content producers and will continue to gain mind-share over the next several years.

Everything about the film should be rolled up into a website for promotional purposes. Include budget, proposal and treatment to demonstrate your organizational skills. You should contrast the earlier American Eunuch site to the more current This is Nollywood website to see how he is using the web to create buzz about his movies. Nollywood is a documentary about the growing film industry in Nigeria. That film is currently in post.

Towards the end of the show I present a few of my thoughts about the movie. Keep in mind I only saw a portion of the film. All the same I give it a thumbs up. I close out with some production notes about this podcast.

Chapter Titles
  • 00:08 This Week
  • 01:25 Franco Sacchi
  • 01:50 Costs
  • 03:44 Find the story
  • 06:31 Preproduction
  • 07:41 The Shoot
  • 08:43 Post
  • 10:03 Promotion
  • 11:40 The Long Tail
  • 13:36 Websites
  • 15:23 Film Commentary
  • 18:10 Close - Production Notes

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

#9 Wk4 - Light up everybody

In this episode there’s a lot of information about the character of light and lighting hardware. To our eyes light is white, but light is always changing color and knowing how to describe it and measure it is very important to filmmaking.

Measuring light
Two ways of measuring light is CRI, the Color Rendering Index and the Kelvin color temperature. CRI measures the strength of light and how consistent it is. CRI values are on each piece of professional lighting equipment and the best piece of information you can learn is to never buy a lamp that has a CRI below 90%. You can find useful information about CRI on GE’s site, including graphs displaying the color consistency.

Kelvin measures the color of light. The two lights used most frequently in filmmaking are tungsten and daylight. Tungsten, which is a red/orange color, is about 3200 degrees Kelvin, Daylight, which is bluish is about 5600 degrees Kelvin. These values are not heat temperatures, they measure color in a range from black on the low end to white on the high end.

Light kits
There are three different sets of lights we use at school. Arri are tungsten lights and they use Fresnel lenses which concentrates light and directs it straight ahead. Lowell are also tungsten lights and Kino lights are fluorescent lights that are color accurate to either daylight or tungsten. The key thing is to not trust your eyes or the LCD on the camera, trust the monitor.

You can control the light by adding on elements such as barn doors, scrims, gels, gobos and diffusers.

Handling electricity
WARNING WILL ROBINSON: Be very very careful when dealing with electricity and make sure yhou understand how to handle lights before using them. I’m giving you a brief overview, don’t rely on what I say alone.

I do my best to explain about calculating the load your lights are putting on your electrical system. Watts, Amps and Volts are the three variables. You get to do the math everytime you set up lights so that you never blow out the circuit.

Watts / Volts = Amps

Amps x Volts = Watts

Lighten up
Finally, a little more information about matching the color of lights. Don’t be so precise, Leave a little room for variation in color within a scene. As long as it matches your intentions, bear in mind that in the real world, we’re looking at multiple colored light sources all the time and don’t think anything of it.

Chapter times

  • 00:08 This week
  • 012:9 Lighting terminology
  • 02:48 The color of light
  • 03:51 CRI
  • 05:42 Kelvin color temperature
  • 06:40 Light kits
  • 08:41 Scrims, gels, barn doors
  • 11:22 Changing color with gels
  • 13:20 Electricity
  • 16:57 Cookies and gobos
  • 18:10 Don’t try to match exactly
  • 20:34 Close

Sunday, February 11, 2007

#8 Wk3 - Camera and Sound

The Sound and the Frustration

This is the last week for the Camera and Sound module. The class broke up into 2 teams of 5 and continued to use the boom mic and lavalier mic. Tuesday we recorded an interview and a narrative short on Thursday. I spend a few moments explaining the advantages of a Boom over a lav mic.

We’re also using a sound mixer which provides greater control than is available through the camera alone. I explain why it is both simple and hard

We experienced difficulties working with the audio that put us under a lot of pressure to meet our end of class deadline. The big lesson is that no matter what the source of your equipment, it makes sense and can really save your butt if you check the working status before you begin setting up the shot.

Of course all the preparation in the world won't save you if you don't pay attention to details. Despite my best efforts to avoid problems, by coming into class an hour early to prep the equipment, I still managed to miss the fact that the video gain was turned on through our entire shoot.
“Wakey, wakey” as a friend used to say.

We worked up a short story that we would shoot as an in-camera edit, where each scene is shot in one take, as it occurs in the story. Each shot is filmed so that the end and beginning fit in with the next and previous shot. No extra footage because you aren't editing it in the computer, it's all in the camera. It took a lot of planning and discussion to shoot, but it was fun and it worked out rather well. It helped that it was a simple story and it was short, only 3 minutes long.

On the last day of the class we’re introduced to optical stabilization, which makes shooting hand held practical. We didn’t get a chance to use it this week, so I’ll talk about it in a future episode.

I also discuss the need to develop a process for double checking, not only the working status of equipment, but also the settings on the equipment.

Howard Phillips, the associate director of the Film program, will be teaching the next module on lighting, which begins next week.

Chapter times
  • 00:07 Last week recap
  • 00:54 This week
  • 01:19 Boom vs Lav mic
  • 03:24 Reel to reel memories
  • 04:20 Mixer revealed
  • 05:18 Production problems
  • 07:08 Shooting In-Camera edit
  • 07:52 Deciding on a story
  • 08:26 The other team's story
  • 09:21 Our shoot
  • 10:17 Critique of video
  • 11:16 Optical stabilization
  • 12:06 Composition concerns
  • 12:46 Checklists
  • 13:40 Editorial: Order order
  • 15:30 Close

Monday, February 5, 2007

#7 Wk2 -Camera and Sound

Composing the frame and recording audio

We shot a little video, experimenting with the various controls of the camera and framing techniques. During critiques Greg referred to framing conventions as the Grammar of Cinema. Every shot serves a purpose in advancing the story. The composition of the shot communicates on an unconscious and emotional level, as well as visually. During each critique he would use the rule of thirds to identify the impact of the scene visually.

He referred to a book on cinematic grammar, Shot by Shot. If I get my hands this book I'll write a brief review.

The rule of thirds is a way of composing your scene and arranging the relationship between subjects and subject and the background. It is used in all areas of design. Here's a link to a site that has a good explanation from a photographer's point of view, but applies to cinema as well.

Saturday was the first all day class and it was all about recording audio. We used a number of different microphones and looked at ways to control sound that you don't want to record.

Chapter Titles
  • 00:07 This week
  • 00:27 PreRoll Checklist
  • 00:57 Time Code is tricky
  • 01:59 Critique
  • 02:40 Rule of thirds
  • 04:49 Grammar of cinema
  • 05:22 DVX100 complaint
  • 06:46 Recording audio
  • 07:44 Testing different mics in an interview
  • 10:08 Hierarchy of microphones
  • 11:14 Controlling sound
  • 12:24 Learning highlights
  • 13:56 Close

Thursday, February 1, 2007

#6 Wk1 - Working with the DVX100

Week 1 Getting familiar with the hardware

The next three weeks the class will be covering how to setup and use essential camera and sound equipment. This week we set up tripods, calibrated the monitor, adjusted the frame rate and set the white balance on the DVX100.

Next week we finish the Preroll checklist and shoot some video.

Here’s a link to a pdf of the manual for the DVX100P.
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