Tuesday, December 25, 2007

#65 Wk47 Cinematography

At the beginning of the week we looked at several movies to better understand how to use the camera to break up dialog and deliver another level of story information.

Despite it's static nature, dialog doesn't have to be a lead weight that kills the momentum of your story. If you shoot it properly, you can actually propel the viewer through multiple layers of information about the characters and the plot without any additional effort required on the part of the audience.

This isn't merely an academic pursuit. In the Killers, our next film project, most of the "action" takes place in a diner where the characters spend most of their time sitting or lying down. Also, we have to show the evolution of the character of Nick, a seemingly minor character, with few lines in the first half of the story, but who becomes the central character by the end.

We review some films, focusing on how to shoot dialog in a static location and keep it interesting. These included clips from Se7en, Jurassic Park, Gladiator, Cape Fear, The Incredibles and American Beauty. All these films involved clever use of camera motion to keep the story moving ahead during a lengthy exposition.

During the last class each person gave a brief explanation of how they would use lights and camera to best present the story in their final project film. In the process I got some valuable feedback about how to set up for different types of interviews, a question I've been looking to answer for a long time.

Monday, December 24, 2007

#64 Wk46 Cinematography

Work is starting to pile and in the interest of streamlining tasks I'm taking a different a approach to recording this show. For the next few months I'm going to produce a less scripted show and be less picky when I edit. The effect, I hope, will be me sounding more natural even as I eliminate production time. You'll let me know if I sound less intelligible, right? I'm interested in cutting down production time without sacrificing critical quality.

The list of things on my plate are
  • increased demand for video in my day job, a big development
  • a class project shooting and editing scenes from the Hemingway script, The Killers
  • independent, paying projects, outside of school and work, such as the promotional videos Laura and I shoot for the Huntington Theatre - there may be another one I'll be involved in coming in January with another classmate
  • and of course my final film project which is a documentary about the life of a professional craftsperson, a potter.

I'll have more to say about my final project in the next show. In this show I continue to talk about using light to control the feeling or mood of a scene that helps to advance the film's story.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

#63 Wk45 Cinematography

This is the first week on the topic of Cinematography. The class is all about controlling light and the camera to create a specific mood or effect. Successful lighting is all about mastery of these two elements in filmmaking. We're going about this by running through tests to see the subtle differences between intensities of lights and how to use camera handling techniques such as tilt, pan, handheld and dolly moves.

I hope the explanation of Key/Film ratio is understandable. Simply put, the key is the brightest light shining on the person, at about 45 degrees to one side of the front, and the fill is positioned on the opposite side of the key also at 45 degrees. Both lights are above eye level.

The key creates a shadow on the far side of someone's face and body and the fill, which is not as bright, lightens the shadow enough to show detail, but not to remove the shadow. You play with how dark you want the shadow to be to create an effect or mood.

I want to note an error I made when I listed F-stops, I listed 1.2, which is an error, it should be 1.4. These are important details.

Monday, December 10, 2007

#62 Wk44 PreProduction

This episode winds up the last week of the Preproduction module. I think it's the most useful, insightful and humbling set of classes I've experienced so far. Most of the show is centered on what I feel are the five most important things I've learned during this time. They are:

  1. You need to surrender control of parts of the film project or your finished product will be deficient.
  2. Filmmaking is a business. Completing a film is not the definition of success, making money on the film is success.
  3. Plan everything until your fingers bleed, before beginning to film
  4. Know what everyone does so you can delegate work properly
  5. Identify your market

On the last point I spend some time talking about a turning point during the last class where, through an open discussion about the status of our final projects, I finally understand who I'm making my film for. This one little piece of information sets me free to explore the possibilities of my subject and at the same time anchors me so that I don't dissipate my energies on too many ideas that go nowhere.

Like I said, a great class.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

#61 Howard Phillips Interview Pt.2

The second half of the interview with Howard Phillips, Associate Director of the Filmmaking program at CDIA at Boston University. Lots of talk about the role of technology in creating films and CDIA's goal of developing a filmmaking community.
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