Alright, back. Okay, so first of all, a more general input to "sollthars filmmaking guide"
Every aspect of filmmaking is a language - camera, light, costumes, acting, pacing, music, locations - similar to our spoken or written languages. It follows certain rules and it gets meaning through a certain combination of elements, and changes it's meaning if these elements are switched or changed.
So as a filmmaker/director, you need to be very aware of all the details (and I mean DETAILS) you want to communicate to your audience and you need to use the languages film offers to do just that. The audience won't see what you "intended", they will see what you communicate. And like with the english language, if you use the wrong words, you'll be misunderstood. It all depends on what you want to tell, what you want the audience to feel, what you want them to know...
As with every language, you need to be aware that there is subtext and a certain matter of interpretation. So these are general guidelines and not 100% truth written in stone. But as with everything else, you need to know the rules to break them.
I'll try to summarize a few very very basic rules here which I hope will help you plan your future shoots.CameraworkFraming
The simplest language is the distance of your shot. There's a few archetypical ones, such as:
- WIDE : A wide shot shows a very wide angle, where actors are usually small dots. These shots are commonly used to introduce a location. The viewer is able to get an overview of where he is, what is where. Emotionally, the viewer is distant. He's a spectator. Just watching what happens.
- TOTAL: The angle is wide, your actor is full in frame, from his feet to his head. And there's a great deal of background visible, but not as much. These shots are commonly used to introduce an actor/object, but still leave details aside. The viewer sees more of the actors/objects and has an overview of them. The location becomes less important, the actor becomes more important. Emotionally, this is a bit closer, but the viewer is still a spectator that gets an overview.
- CLOSE: The close shot shows your actors from waist or chest upwards. This is commonly used for all kind of character situations. It's the most used type of shot. You get closer to the actor/object, and the viewer gets more and more drawn into the action/emotion of what's happening. Emotionally, you get more attached.
- SUPERCLOSE: The focuses on a detail, a face, an object. This is commonly used to draw the attention to something very important. The one ring, the fist of the angry boy, the eyes of the loving woman, the wound of the hurt soldier etc. Emotionally, this is the closest you can get. This can be both pleasant or unpleasant, but as a viewer, you're forced to watch a specific detail.
- EYELINE / LOW / HIGH: Depending on where your angle is, you can change perceiption and therefore communicate something specific, or just subtle. If you film your actor from below for example, he will look taller, more menacing/heroic. If you film him from above, the opposite is the case. Use these elements consciously to support your desired effect.Camera Movement
The main thing to get certain feelings across. There's a few standard types, depending on your movement.
- PANNING: Obviously, you pan from A to B in one shot. Which is your basic tool to show your viewer something, then give him another information later on, by panning to something else/additional. This is different to having both A and B be visible from the beginning. It's a more dosed information control. Control your viewer!
- ZOOMING: If you change your zoom throughout a shot, you want your viewer to change his focus. For example, you start in a SUPERCLOSE of an eye, then zoom back up to a CLOSE. You want to start with full emotion, then giving a bit of distance to see what's happening (Could be a shock effect, or whatever). Or the other way round, you start in a TOTAL, then zoom into a CLOSE or even a SUPERCLOSE, you want your viewer to get an overview, then suddenly focus on the eye. (Could be used for a silence before the storm kind of moment). Both movement give completely different emotions.
- ROLLING: If you move your camera while filming. This gives a different result to just pan or zoom to something else. You force your viewer to change his position. For example in a horror movie, if you move your cam slowly towards the evil creature, you communicate to your viewer, then he can't escape, he's in fact coming closer! Always good in actionsequences too, as it enhances the feeling of "energy".
- FOCUS: Another way, that might not be possible with any cam. Changing focus. Famous example: The gun pointed at the cam, first is the barrel, then the face in Focus.Other rules
There's rules about what is a good angle and what isn't. "Good" in the sense of, most pleasant to view / easy to decode. (Because think of it that way, all the languages in every frame of film need to be decoded by the viewer, just like he needs to hear every word you're saying. Make this as easy as possible)
- "rule of thirds": Just one rule amongst many. This tells you where to put your actors/object relative to the frame. Basically divide your image into thirds, then see that you can creatively fill a specific number of these thirds (search in the forums for more detailed info, this has been covered)
- Foreground, Background : Ideally, your image has a Foreground and a Background and it's easy to tell what is what. You can divide that with many different tricks. For example, look that your BG is out of focus, or darker then your FG, or in another color, or different in structre/vectors etc. The easier it will be for someone to see what's happenign and the more pleasant your image will look.Editing
As tarn has mentioned, narrative editing really means one thing: Every cut has to be there for a reason. You have to chop your whole story into little pieces of information. I like to call it "a collection of moments". Now in the editing, it's your job to decide, WHAT moment comes at WHICH place in WHAT order and for HOW long. And you always need to know WHY!Narration
As said, every cut happens for a reason. There can't be any other way this cut could be, it's there because it needs to be there, at that very frame. Simply put: You cut to another shot when thos shot contains a NEW information/moment, the other should couldn't deliver as well. That's the only reason to cut to another shot. (well, practically, some shots just stop being usable after a few seconds for whatever reason, that's a good reason too). But you need to get a new information after every cut as a viewer, even if it just changes the framing, because the film wants me to feel different about the same thing (cutting from a TOTAL to a SUPERCLOSE for example).Continuity
Hell for every editor. Yes, the shots actually need to have a good flow and need to match. If your actor is walking to a chair, and then suddenly you cut to a shot where he's sitting, it'll look wrong (except of course, you deliberately want this moment to feel awkward, but this has to be very very thought through). Or if he runs, where is the weight of his legs? Where is the glass on the table? Is it full? Empty? All this needs to be taken into consideration.Pacing
The editing room is where you give your pacing. What moment is how important? If your main character dies, you'll want to spend more time on that then when Footsoldier 1723 gets shot, where no one cares. But beware of having a moment for too long! You don't want to bore your audience. You want to keep them interested and feed them a new bit of info every now and then so they keep coming back for more. This is a very difficult thing and is the most open to interpretation.Light
Light is crucial, as Joey Lawrence knows.
Light defines the mood of your scene. Use it wisely, then you'll get there with no problems. There's many different light setups if you work with a lighting-kit, which you SHOULD! even if it's just a bunch of 10 $ do it yourself spotlights. But even if you have to work with Daylight, USE it, don't just accept it.Mood
Think about the mood of your scene. That defines the light. Dramatic sequences should commonly be in the early morning light or the sunset, when the colors have this dramatic/cheesy feel to them. Film your scene in the "golden hour". Maybe the bright midday sun with it's specific vertical shadows fits your scene, or the darkness of the night? If the light of the scene doesn't reflect the mood your going for, then good night.Daylight
Many Lowbudget filmmakers have to work with daylight. And daylight is almost (!) uncontrollable. But still, there's lots of things you can do with it, if you know what you're doing. Chose the time of the day you film your shot wisely. The sun travels the whole day, giving you a completely different lighting setup to work with, different shadows etc. Check the time you have the light you want, then film your scene at THAT time. You don't want the sun to be behind your actors so you can only see a silhouette (unless of course, that's precicesly your plan) or all darkened faces.Shadows
Yes! The lights counterpart is just as important as the light itself. Use shadows to your convenience! Have you ever noticed how certain object just look a lot more 3D when the shadows are all over them? Shadows lets us determine the surface / structure of an object. Suddenly, an uninteresting looking object can look fantastic, just because you can make out structure. The whole image will suddenly look much more "real" and "3D".
Play around with lighter and darker parts. Best example is an actors face. It'll get MUCH more interesting, if you have a brighter and a darkes side of the face. Or if you have little shadows that'll make your face more interesting too look at. Notice how almost every film does that. But not only do it with faces, do it with everything else too.Outlines
Ideally, your actors/objects have an outline (a white line defining it's silhoutte, achieved through a strong light from behind - Easy to do with sunlight!), for much the same reasons like they should have shadows. It's easier to make out a structure. And it looks much more "high glossy quality" that way too. And if your foreground object has an outline, it's also easier to separate from the background.Locations
Locations are the key to make your story believable. And, what most people don't understand, they also tell their own stories. And you want to make sure, their story matches yours! For example, your script says "living room". You can't just take any living room, but the one that fits best for your story.realism
A general note to locations. The locations need to feel "real" to the audience, that's not necessarily the case just because they ARE real. You have to work with prejudices. I used a real police station one time, and people didn't believe it. They had a completely different idea of what a police station looked like. Or if your scene actually plays in a backyard, don't be surprised if people don't like it, even though it IS a backyard. Locations have many criterias to fulfill.social context
Your location needs to fit the social context of your characters. It needs to fit the person owning it - A poor Junkie will most likely not have expensive Art on his designer table, a lawyer will hardly have a cheap desktop PC in garage. A big mobster will hardly have his meeting in a forest and your jedi will not have his training in your backyard.mood
This is the most important, the one many amateurs fail at. The location needs to fit your mood - If your scene is thrilling, the pink flower curtains will most likely not leave the best impression. If you have a shootout between an Alien commander and a Marine, your backyard won't be the best place. Why? Because it doesn't feel right. So many aspects need to be considered to get a right feel - And your location needs to satisfy ALL of them. Sometimes it's really mad what can destroy a scene. A streetfight, exciting, tense, on a street. But believe it or not, there is better and worse street corners for that. If you have a pink house on your street, the whole scene will suffer, even though that house has nothing to do with it. Even if it's just in the background.
So, I could go on and on, but these seemed to be the most important. So it all leads to one thing you need to be aware of as a filmmaker. You need to CONTROL IT ALL! Every pixel of your frame will define what gets across through your film. Stuff you can put there, and stuff you didn't put there, but decided to film anyways but having it in your frame. Try to make this all as conscious as possible. In the end, it's a matter of three things: The knowledge of these rules, the practice you have on these rules, and your simple talent in using these rules.
So, I hope these things help you. Sometimes you can just make a large step by asking the right question. If you seriously ask yourself "Is showing three different shots of that dead guy actually the best way to get the OMG BUT HES SO STRONG feeling across?" I'm sure you can't say "Yes" and be 100% sure about it. At least I hope so for you.
Last edited Tue, 16th May 2006, 10:07pm; edited 1 times in total.