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Maurice December 9 2010 03:25 AM

Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
For some time I thought that it might be fun and useful to start a thread in which the discussion is not about a specific film or projects, but as a sort of primer for wanna-be fan filmmakers on various aspects of production.

Basically, this is a place where you can share experiences and techniques you've tried and found working or wanting.

To kick it off, a few thoughts on...
LIGHTING
Good studio type lights are expensive, large, and heady, requiring C-Stands and some pretty substantial capacity on your circuit breaker. They're great if you can afford them, but a lot of people can't.

There are a number of other approaches. I'll toss out a simple one. One thing I like to use for simple shoots are china ball lanterns. They're cheap, collapse flat for storage, come in different sizes, and you can load them with relatively inexpensive color-corrected bulbs. They put out a soft even light, which is great for ambient illumination or soft non contrasty light.


This above frame from a comedic music video I just did was lit entirely with four 16" china balls loaded with 150W.118V Halogen photo optic bulbs, and arrayed to hit the foreground and backround. The result is pretty good if you want nice even light without a lot of modeling. If you want something more dramatic, you'd need to mix in some other kinds of lights.

http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5085/...3b6b5efd_z.jpg

Studio Lighting (on a small soundstage)

This frame is from a different shoot location where we used more professional equipment but needed to maintain a consistent style with the shots made on a location. Here we bounced four studio lights off the white ceiling above the stage floor and off the top of the white cyclorama (above shot) to evenly light the cyc background. We then put a large bank of florescents to the right of the camera as a primary illumination, and another stage light reflected off a large white card to camera left to fill in the shadows.

We did this for two reasons, both having to do with speed.
  1. Both lighting setups generally got sufficient illumination on anyone in shot no matter where they were, so we didn't have to worry about a lack of light that would affect setups and focus.
  2. By eliminating the need to change the lighting setup after setup, I was able to concentrate on getting as many takes and setups as possible in each place.

Incidentally, this was shot with a digital SLR: a Canon T1i Rebel.


Anyone else have a tip, or technique to share?

Admiral Buzzkill December 9 2010 03:54 AM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
Since you mentioned digital SLRs - someone should talk about them and cameras in general in some detail, but I'm not knowledgable enough to do so.

I'll note that there are quite a few now that will record remarkable HD video for a fraction of what a standard definition prosumer camera cost a few years ago. If you're working on a very limited budget, as most fan film producers are, IMAO these are the cameras you should be seriously looking at.

Maurice December 9 2010 06:31 AM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
Quote:

Dennis wrote: (Post 4582162)
Since you mentioned digital SLRs - someone should talk about them and cameras in general in some detail, but I'm not knowledgable enough to do so.

I'll note that there are quite a few now that will record remarkable HD video for a fraction of what a standard definition prosumer camera cost a few years ago. If you're working on a very limited budget, as most fan film producers are, IMAO these are the cameras you should be seriously looking at.

Indeed. Every film project I've worked on in the past 366 days (Polaris, a short film and four music vidoes) have all been shot on Canon Digital SLRs of one stripe or another.

Captain Robert April December 9 2010 07:56 AM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
So, now would be a good time to retire that old Super 8?

Admiral Buzzkill December 9 2010 03:35 PM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
Editing Super-8: I used to see sprocket holes every time I closed my eyes for at least a day...

Hudson_uk December 9 2010 09:13 PM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
I seem to remember a couple of TV shows recently shooting episodes on DSLRs (550D?). House springs to mind.

These may also make interesting reading :

http://magazine.creativecow.net/arti...responsibility

and this one on the VERY high end Arri Alexa (Not a DSLR but might be interesting)
[COLOR=#0068cf]http://magazine.creativecow.net/article/digital-cinema-comes-of-age[/COLOR]

MikeH92467 December 10 2010 07:33 PM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
Two things to really concentrate on: sound has to be good. I don't know the model numbers, but a good boom mic is something you really can't cheap out on. Off mic dialogue spoils the suspension of disbelief in a hurry. Another consideration is to really plan your shots around editing. With a tip of the tam o' shanter to Hudson UK and the rest of the Intrepid crew I would point to their latest vignette as an example of really smooth editing. Bumpy edits are the kind of thing that people may not notice consciously, but they definitely are a distraction.

Maurice December 10 2010 08:51 PM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
Good points, MikeH92467. More on the subject of...

SOUND

A good mic is important, but it's not the only factor. Not just the mic is important. What you're recording to and the sound quality of the space you're in is also important.
The Set
I've in other threads mentioned using heavy blankets to deaden echos of set flats and walls not in shot. When we shot Stagecoach In the Sky we have to put a blanket over a flag to cover an open hatch on the plane because the echoing was nuts if we didn't.

Number of Mics
One mic often isn't enough. Sometimes you need two mics to get all the sound in a shot, particularly if you have a scene where actors are far apart in the frame and there's overlapping dialogue.

What You're Recording To
Furthermore, a lot of cameras, and particularly DSLRs, have crappy audio, so on such cameras you definitely want to be recording second sound to another device of higher quality.

The Slate Clap
A lot of people don't realize how important this is. That clap sound helps you sync or resync audio to picture if you don't have a slate that generates timecode. It's particularly important if you're shooting separate sound, as you don't want to be manually trying to sync sound to picture in post...trust me.

Audio Levels
One trick a DP I worked with taught me is to always use a stereo mic and to set the levels so that the left channel is "ideal" and the right is maybe 10-15% lower. The right channel ends up being the safety track if the sound on the left channel spikes and distorts or pops. On more than one occasion it's saved me from having to go back later and loop lines.

Maurice December 13 2010 10:51 PM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
Back to Lighting for a moment, here's a photo from another shoot I did in the same small stage I mentioned previously, but wherein you can actually see how much lighting we were using:


Basically, there are four banks of florescents (the large flat black boxes) arrayed to get the greenscreen lit evenly: two above, one to the left one to the right. There are five additional barn-doored stage lights on C-stands to illuminate the players.

Also note the black sound blankets hanging from the ceiling to help deaden echoes.

MikeH92467 December 14 2010 02:15 AM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
Quote:

DS9Sega wrote: (Post 4592183)
Back to Lighting for a moment, here's a photo from another shoot I did in the same small stage I mentioned previously, but wherein you can actually see how much lighting we were using:


Basically, there are four banks of florescents (the large flat black boxes) arrayed to get the greenscreen lit evenly: two above, one to the left one to the right. There are five additional barn-doored stage lights on C-stands to illuminate the players.

Also note the black sound blankets hanging from the ceiling to help deaden echoes.

Love the sound blankets! In my bedroom/recording studio, I'm using comforters nailed to the wall! :)

Maurice December 16 2010 02:37 AM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
^^Whatever works. The result is what matters.

Anyone else have things to share? Given the number of fan filmmakers here I'd thought there'd be more activity in this thread.

DestinyCaptain December 16 2010 05:15 AM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
This is all good stuff.

FalTorPan December 16 2010 02:15 PM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
Quote:

DS9Sega wrote: (Post 4597138)
^^Whatever works. The result is what matters.

Anyone else have things to share? Given the number of fan filmmakers here I'd thought there'd be more activity in this thread.

Having only made one movie so far, I have far more questions than answers. Maybe a questions thread would be a good idea.

By the way thank you immensely for contributing to this thread. This info is much appreciated.

USS Intrepid December 16 2010 04:47 PM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
Sounds like blankets would be very useful to us. We have the most annoying echo in the theatre we use for greenscreen shoots.

CaptainSerek December 16 2010 07:59 PM

Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer
 
This thread is a good idea, helping both veteran and new film makers with basic issues as well as giving pointers.


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