Fan Filmmaker's Primer

Discussion in 'Fan Productions' started by Maurice, Dec 9, 2010.

  1. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I don't know how many of you will find this interesting, but tomorrow (Friday May 25th) I'm going to be doing a short pickup shoot for a short film. For those who are curious about the process, I think I'd share some of the emails and our Call Sheet as a reference. I'm gonna SPOILER CODE the bulk of this message for those who aren't so interested in how sausage is made.

    Discussing requirements with the stage owner:
    A follow-up regarding how much "set dressing" we are doing. This shoot is on greenscreen, so...
    Here's the email sent to cast and crew.
    And, as per the email above, here's the CALL SHEET (link).

    End of sausage making.
     
  2. Melonpool

    Melonpool Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Thanks for posting! That will definitely aide me as I ramp up to shooting. Much more professional and easy to wade through than my usual ramblings!
     
  3. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks. I hope things I post here are useful to people, so it's good to know when they are.

    Speaking of the shoot referenced in those "sausage making" emails, we successfully wrapped our pickup and got all the shots on the "must have" list and "reset to one" the stage at the agreed-upon time. Whew!

    Here are a few pictures I snapped before we rolled (I insist that all cell phones be OFF during shooting, so no pix were taken with phones while we were rolling).

    [​IMG]
    Lighting check

    Here my A.D. stands in for the actress (still in makeup) while we set the lights. If you've never worked with a professional monitor, the box to the lower right displays a histogram which allows us to see how even the lighting on the greenscreen is. You can see the "hole" in the middle of the histogram where the stand-in is and the light values are lower.
    [LEFT]
    [​IMG][/LEFT]
    "Mr. DeMolyneaux, I'm ready for my closeup!"
    [LEFT]Actress Heather Sherpardson in full makeup takes a moment in one of the director's chairs in front of the greenscreen before we do final checks. The strange makeup is because the film we're making is literally a black and white comic book, and every piece of scenery is a drawing.
    [/LEFT]
    [​IMG]
    Quiet on set! Sound check! Eye-light!
    Finally, here we are moments from the first take. There are a few things happening here. First, Sound Recordist Phillip Foster is checking levels as Heather runs some lines. Notice the hot pink "T" of tape that is the actor's "mark" on the floor.

    The hand you're seeing to the left is being used to help aim a tiny light that isn't for illumination but to try to get a "glint" off the actress's eye when she turns into shadow. The light is barn-doored down to almost a point, and focused on the hand, which is slowly moved towards the actress while the grip adjusts the light to follow (otherwise, it's hard to figure out where it's pointing).

    About the lighting:
    • The flat black boxes at the top center and left and right are Kino Flo 4-bank florescent light boxes—each with four tubes—that are the light used to illuminate the screen.
    • The diffused light to the upper left is stage lamp used to backlight/rimlight the hair and shoulder to camera left.
    • The big glow to the right are two Parabeam 400 light boxes (one above the other) shining through a large piece of diffusion and supply the primary light source (as we are aiming for heavy shadows).
    We were only reshooting Heather's closeups because the lighting on the original shots wasn't quite right, and my writing/producing partner and I wrote new lines for her after viewing the assembled cut of the film and deciding we wanted to give her more "zingers". This shoot killed two birds with one stone.

    Hope that was instructive.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  4. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Sweet! Glad to see this final bit filmed (I had a small part in the project), but, as always, some awesome tips for other filmmakers.
     
  5. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^Thanks, Middy. We missed having the full crew there this time.

    Following up on the above, here are two photos taken on set that illustrate our setup.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [LEFT]The first thing you probably notice is now crowded everything is. That's pretty typical when shooting closeups and tight angles. You often have to carefully weave your way between C-stands and other gear to get in near the talent. This is why you put SANDBAGS (like these) on the bases of all the equipment: to prevent a bump from starting a domino cascade of falling equipment and/or things hitting people.

    Oh, I'm the schmuck in the rocking black and white fedora.

    Finally, here's a frame from yesterday's "Martini shot" (because the next shot is in a glass :D). It doesn't matter that some of the equipment is in shot because those will be cropped out with a garbage matte. The green merely has to be behind the items in the shot: in this case the actress, props and faux bartop.
    [/LEFT]
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  6. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    VERTICAL VIDEO SYNDROME (VVS)


    On the lighter side of cinematography... ;)
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  7. doubleohfive

    doubleohfive Fleet Admiral

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  8. Psion

    Psion Commodore Commodore

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    I am cackling maniacally. Okay, I'm done. Now I'm passing that on for folks in my group to enjoy.

    Thanks, Maurice!
     
  9. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I've had some discussions recently with some fan fimmakers about some of the "rules" I've mentioned in this thread. One that keeps coming up is The Line, so I thought I'd revisit this, using something more contemporary than the original Star Trek to illustrate it.
    The Line, Part 2

    To recap, from the original example (full post LINK here)

    In the previous post I used some frames from "The Way to Eden" to illustrate the rule, and what steps and editor would take to ensure it was followed. But modern TV shows and films move the camera around a lot more than than in the 60s, so you might think they're looser about such rules. Let's see...
    [​IMG]
    In the preceding and following frames, notice that The Line that's set up in this scene is between Kirk and Spock, so that any time Kirk looks at Spock his gaze is to camera right (right side of the frame), and any look from Spock to Kirk is to camera left. The camera goes to various distances and framings, but it DOES NOT cross The Line.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Notice also that Pike's eyelines re Kirk and Spock are not similarly consistent: that's because in this context we as viewers see him only in terms of his relationship to Kirk and Spock, who are the focus.

    Next, we see something new, because Kirk is talking to Pike, and a new Line is drawn between them, but notice that the framing typically would keep Kirk's eyeline to Spock the same as before. The only time this is broken is when the camera goes behind Kirk to see Pike, but it still obeys the new Pike to Kirk Line. This isn't a problem because Spock and Kirk aren't interacting AND we know where he is when off-camera because we've previously seen his relationship to Kirk and Pike.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Next, Pike turns to hear Uhura, and this a third Line is established between THEM, with Pike's eyeline to camera left and Uhura's to camera right. Technically, we've crossed the Kirk Spock Line here, except that the focus now has shifted off Kirk and Spock to Pike and Uhura.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Finally, when the conversation jumps back in close with Spock and Kirk addressing Pike, the camera pops back to obey the first Line, with Kirk facing camera right and Spock left.
    [​IMG]

    Now, the thing about The Line is it's not permanent. You can draw a new line via a camera move (like dollying, or jumping way back to reveal the character relationships from a new angle) and/or having characters physically move.

    If all that seems confusing, let me try to summarize why staying to one side of the The Line works:

    EYELINES IN OPPOSITION
    Simply put, when you stay on one side of The Line the eyelines of any two characters will always be in opposition when they face. This is what you see in the real world when you see two people looking at each other. When you cross The Line and the eyelines are not opposed then the characters do not appear to be looking at each other.

    So, at it's core this isn't a cinema RULE as much as it's cinema adapted to take advantage of how we perceive cues in the real world.​
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  10. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Another thing here is that everyone is visible in the frame at all times. Here you could even cross the line without causing too much confusion, as the people facing each other would still all be visible in the frame.



    But when you film dialogue in a way where you see only one character at a time inside the frame, then the line becomes even more important.

    [yt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrMmiUSVRRI[/yt]

    And notice how they lead you from one character to the next by letting the characters turn their eyes to them before they make the cut.
     
  11. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^A good example. And you'll notice they never cross The Lines between Sly and Ahnuld and Ahnuld and Bruce. So what you're seeing here is a great example of The Line in action. You always know who is looking at whom.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  12. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I posted this over in another topic, but it seemed applicable here since it's about how I shot a recent music video which used greenscreen. There are a few photos that show a simple greenscreen setup, etc. I'm reposting here, with a few modifications, but SPOILER CODING it so it won't clutter up the thread here if you've read it in the other thread.

    (slightly modified from the original post)

    Last week I was contracted to do another music video for The Kinsey Sicks. Due to a number of factors, this had to be a fast, small shoot.

    First, here's the finished video:
    [yt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO7dHmNGj9A&cc_load_policy=1[/yt]

    [LEFT] Here's how it went down:
    [/LEFT]

    PLANNING
    The original plan was to shoot a different song (a parody of "Three Little Maids from School" from The Mikado titled "Eliminate the Schools"), but the group's publicist wanted something more directly applicable to the election, so we abruptly shifted gears and agreed upon this song because it was fast and funny and really sharp. BUT, there were a few problems.

    First, I had to see the show again to see the number so I could figure out how much of the stage choreo I could use (luckily, most of it). Second, was the problem of the song as recorded...

    AUDIO
    Although they are an a capella singing group (technically Dragappella™), I don't have the Kinseys sing live on these shoots because:

    1. you do so many takes you'd wear their voices out right before a show
    2. it's tough to mic four singers shooting in multiple locations and have the sound be consistent
    But in this case, while the song is on their latest album, over months performing it they sped it way up and shortened it. We all wanted the current version, which meant re-recording it. As such, arrangement were made so that right after a show they got out of costume and we bolted over to a recording studio (at 11pm) and they recorded the song.

    [​IMG]
    Studio session at Coast Recorders.
    Left to right: Ben Schatz, Jefferey Manabat, Spencer Brown, Irwin Keller.
    Fortunately, since they've been performing it live all year they aced it and take 3 was basically perfect. The engineer emailed me a rough "bounce" of the song in the wee hours that I could have them lip sync to (with a 1, 2, 3 at the top so they'd know when to start).

    SHOWROOM SHOOT
    Because of severe time pressures I'd decided the best thing to do was shoot at the hotel and showroom where they were performing. That way they could get made up and in costume early, we could shoot, they could freshen up and go directly on stage.

    The showroom was convenient because we could use the stage lights for most of the lighting rather than bringing in other lights, but it meant moving about 20 tables and audio monitors right before a show and then getting everything back in place before they had to let the patrons in.

    COVERAGE
    For speed, I decided to limit the coverage to:

    1. super wide shot that I could do a matte extension on (the opening shot)
    2. full shot of the entire group
    3. 2-shot of "Trixie" and "Rachel"
    4. 2-shot of "Trampolina" and "Winnie"
    5. worm's-eye view of the leg kicks
    I saved the legs kicking for last because:

    • it was the shot I could live without if time ran out
    • we could have our PAs and the staff start getting the showroom back together while we got that
    Kicks aside, from each angle we covered the whole song two or three times, thus ensuring sufficient coverage to get the a video together even if something prevented us from getting more.

    The only things I really needed to change in the choreography were

    • have them march in place in the two-shots rather than come towards the camera
    • eliminate the bit where they turn around and grab the flags, instead we did a few takes of just the end of the song wherein the performers already the flags in hand and raised them into shot
    You have to think about how this stuff will cut, and while a music video rarely needs the kind of continuity needed by a narrative film, it's good to keep in mind how the pieces might fit together or not.

    As efficient as we were, we still ran about 15 minutes long, and even caused the show to be late (the audience lined up outside didn't seem to find once they were told we were shooting a video).

    GREENSCREEN SHOOT
    Now, once we left the showroom we had about an hour til they needed to be on stage, but I'd come prepared for this, and before we shot on the stage I, my DP and a PA had gone to one of the hotel rooms and set up a simple greenscreen (a 4.5' wide roll of chromakey green paper) and illuminated them with four 16" china ball lanterns (suspended using blue painters tape, easily removed without marring the walls and ceiling).

    It's not the ideal way to light a greenscreen, but workable for a simple setup, and the only real problems were a few spots on the green were over-bright and didn't read as green as I'd want.
    [​IMG]
    "Rachel" (Ben Schatz) sings in front of a simple greenscreen illuminated by
    four 16" china balls. The green was much more even from the camera POV.
    The camera is a Canon 5D, operated by Mr. WA. The laptop is playing sound.

    [LEFT]We arrived in the room, switched the lights on, got the camera in position, and were shooting within five minutes. I had each singer do the entire song twice, first sort of serious, the second more nutty. As we finished with each singer, we released them to head back to the dressing room to touch-up so the show could go on.
    [/LEFT]

    [​IMG]
    From this angle you can see the small "beauty" light aimed at the singer's face
    (foreground left). I'm starting audio playback on the laptop.

    As soon as we got to the room, I started dumping the contents of the camera's first memory card into my laptop, and did the second immediately upon wrapping. This meant we had a backup (cards and computer) and I could immediately begging log and transfer of the footage after we finished. When we wrapped, I dumped the second card while we broke down the gear.

    And that's it for the shoot. The next four days were wall-to-wall editorial.
     
  13. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks, Maurice. You answered a lot of questions I had about "how it was done."

    One of the things that amazes me is the sheer number of times that performers repeat things, yet still manage to make it seem fresh. I'm not cut out for that, for sure.
     
  14. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Some performers can grind out nearly identical performances take after take, and others change it every single time. Even shooting this, I was amazed by all the little differences in terms of gestures and facial expressions. There's a terrific expression on Trampolina's face on the line "It has allure" that happened only in that one take I used. You have to keep your eyes out for that!"
     
  15. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    New topic:

    SHOOTING GREENSCREEN

    There are a few tricks about setting up a greenscreen that fan filmmakers should be aware of.

    1. You want to keep the greenscreen as far away from the talent/objects in front of it because it:
    • prevents the latter from casting shadows on the green
    • helps minimize the chance of green "spill" onto them
    • allows you more latitude in positioning lights to hit only the former or latter
    2. Take the time to minimize wrinkles and folds in the greenscreen. The smoother and flatter it is, the easier it is to get a clean matte.

    3. Put tracking markers on the green even if you're not planning to move the camera. Two or three small X's of tape will do, placed where that the actors/props won't pass over, or done with green tape of a different shade. Easy to crop out, but handy to have if you decide you DO want to pan or tilt or dolly, as it will help keep the background aligned.

    4. You want to try to light the screen so that it appears a relatively even green without hotspots or dark spots, because the amount of color information in the extremes is lower and ergo harder to key out.

    5. While keying software typically lets you key out virtually any color, the reasons green is the most common keying color are:
    • a chromakey-green screen requires less light to properly illuminate than a blue screen.
    • on most digital video cameras the information in the green channel is typically the sharpest
    • there's very little green in most flesh tones
    6. To minimize green spill on hair or other shiny parts of a costume, use a top or backlight with a MAGENTA gel on it. Magenta is the opposite color from green, and will tend to neutralize green reflections. You don't need much of it, just enough to kill the spill, so to speak. Be certain such lights are flagged so as not to hit the greenscreen. (You can eliminate any magenta tint on the actors in a color corrector, assuming you don't overdo it).

    7. LOCK THE EXPOSURE. If you're using autoexposure (I recommend not), once you have the shot looking right switch the autoexposure OFF, otherwise the camera will keep adjusting the exposure because your actors are moving and this will make keying messier.

    8. CHECK THE FOCUS. The mushier the focus, the harder a time you'll have getting a good matte. As with autoexposure, don't use autofocus.

    9. Watch the shot on a monitor. Most small cameras screens are small enough where you might not notice if the focus is slightly soft, etc.

    10. Don't worry about anything part of the greenscreen that nothing passes in front of. Cropping and garbage mattes are used to get rid of any parts of the frame where foreground objects don't cross.

    11.Shoot a CLEAN plate for every setup, meaning shoot the greenscreen without anything in front of it for a couple of seconds. Why? Some keying software has the option of allowing you to use a "clean" frame" as a reference, and it compares each frame of the shot to the clean frame to look for differences, sometimes making for sharper mattes because there's more info to work from.

    2016 EDIT TO ADD:

    12. USE THE LOWEST ISO YOU CAN! The higher the ISO the more "noisy" your footage is likely to be, and the harder it will be to pull a clean matte. If your image looks dark, put in more light instead of lowering the ISO! (At the same time, keep the "zebra stripes" mode on your camera ON so you can see if you have hot-spots which can cause other problems.)

    ...annnnnd this...

     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2016
  16. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    I don't understand what you mean by this:
     
  17. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Editing error. Fixed. Now reads "The smoother and flatter it is, the easier it is to get a clean matte."
     
  18. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    k. Thanks; what I thought you meant.

    I believe you also added that text, and that makes that point much more immediately understandable, too.
     
  19. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, I made a few additions, including point 11. Hope that helps.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2012
  20. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Oh, yeah, I had missed that. Point 11 is awesome.