Fan Filmmaker's Primer

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

  1. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    QFT.

    Also, one rule I learned: never ask the crew to give you orders for meals. If you do, what ends up happening is everyone tailors their order to a degree that it wastes a lot of time getting lunch ordered and sorted out. I usually cater with a variety of sandwiches and snacks so that there's something everyone can eat. It saves time and cost. It's good to know beforehand about anyone's requirements (dietary or otherwise) and have pre-picked food that will cover these.
     
  2. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    We serve chicken wings, pizza (cheese, pepperoni and sausage), chips, dips, cookies, occasionally fruit or cupcakes even, three or four different types of $5 footlongs, coke, sprite, water and diet coke. Never can tell what anyone will eat, but everyone can find SOMETHING that they'll eat. The wings are comped from The Crowbar in exchange for copies, the pizza's comped in exchange for copies, and the $5 footlongs aren't all that much. Everyone's well fed, always left overs to nibble on when you're not on set or even after filming.

    Oh, and always put the mayo, mustard, salad dressing on the table, not the food. And make sure that not all the sandwiches have cheese on them. Easier to keep all day, and in case someone has some dietary restrictions either for health or religious reasons.
     
  3. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    [/CENTER]

    The basic rule of The Line is that once you establish it, you cannot cross it. This is because The Line establishes direction of looks, movement and relative positions in relationship to the camera. It makes it possible to maintain a sense of screen direction and where things are even when you change setups and angles.


    REDRAWING THE LINE

    The Line isn't a permanent thing. You can establish a new Line if the actors move around in the scene, or if the camera moves (say dollies) to a new position, but you need to see the move and establish this new Line.

    Hope that all makes sense!
    [/QUOTE]

    Believe it or not, this rule also applies when editing audio scenes and using panning. I just got feedback from a producer on a show I've been working on and he noted in one scene that an actor's voice was panned left while her footsteps appeared to move from stage right...busted for a basic mistake. Panning is a great tool, but just like camera movements it must be used sparingly and with proper respect for "THE LINE"!
     
  4. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    THE LINE AND EYELINES

    Following up on the topic of The Line, Nick/USS Intrepid was nice enough to give me permission to use frame grabs from his show to illustrate things. So here we go.

    In this scene we see two characters meeting in a tunnel. Nick's character looks to screen right to face the other character, and she looks to screen left to face him. Even though the two characters do not appear in the same shot, a Line has been established between them.

    [​IMG]
    His eyeline to her is to camera right —>

    [​IMG]
    Her eyeline to him is camera left <—

    All fine and good, but then some addition characters intrude, so now there are sets of three eyelines to deal with.

    When she faces these new characters her eyeline is to screen right (opposite of looking to Nick's character), like so...

    [​IMG]

    And Nick's eyeline to the intruders is to screen left, again away from the previous eyeline to the woman. All good so far.

    [​IMG]

    But a problem occurs when the baddies talk to Nick's character...

    [​IMG]

    Whoops! Their eyelines are also to Camera Left. Eyelines should be in opposition, as in —> to <—, but here both the intruders and Nick are looking in the same screen direction. So, the intruders appear to be looking at the woman instead of Nick.

    Still, they got 5 of the 6 looks right. Close!

    Now, it's entirely possible I'm misreading the scene, but if I am, the fact that there's never an eyeline between Nick and the intruders is adding the confusion.​
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  5. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    Nope, we totally screwed that one up. Mainly because we didn't put much planning into the action, and we rushed to get it done. I was pulling triple duty, so wasn't paying enough attention to what was happening. I remember looking at the footage when I was capturing it and going 'doh'.

    Which underlines the need for storyboarding and proper planning very neatly.
     
  6. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Continuing with cinematography basics, let's talk about...

    THE JUMP CUT (A NO-NO)

    A Jump Cut is an edit in which two sequential shots of the same subject are taken from camera positions that vary only slightly, with the result that the subject appears to "jump" position, making the edit both visible and jarring.

    The Jump Cut is easily avoided in two ways:

    1. If you've already shot the film and your camera setups on a given subject vary too little, never cut directly from one shot of that subject to another shot of the same subject. Cut to another subject (another person in the conversation, etc.) before cutting back.
    2. Better yet, observe the 30° Rule when shooting (see below).

    THE 30° RULE

    The 30° Rule is a basic guideline that applies to both shooting and editing. Its purpose is to make sequential shots of the same subject different enough to avoid a Jump Cut.

    The rule is pretty simple: the camera should move at least 30° between shots of the same subject in order to impart a change of perspective significant enough so that the change feels motivated (intentional), with the added benefit of making the edit less obvious to the viewer.

    [​IMG]

    If consecutive shots of the same subject are too similar in angle (say less than 30°), they may look like a Jump Cut.

    Just moving the camera in an arc around the subject isn't always a full solution. For instance, if the framing of the subject does not change significantly (e.g. medium to CU), then even observing the 30° Rule might not be enough. It's usually best to change the framing of a subject when changing the angle, as again, it makes the shot change feel intentional and thus invisible to the viewer.

    [​IMG]

    So, as in this example above, with each angle, the camera moves to a different distance from the subject, resulting in different framing.

    A CAVEAT
    You must always be mindful of The Line and actor Eyelines. It's easy to get carried away and cross The Line or mess up the Eyelines by moving too drastically on an opposing axis.


     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  7. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    We were out scouting a location where we'll be shooting a sort of "sniper" sequence for Polaris, and I realized that the first thing we had to decide was where the "rest of the planet" is relative to our landing party - that is, when they go out from the landing site to explore do they go camera right or left? The sniper fire has to come from that direction as well, and therefore if "outward" is camera right then the gunman has to aim camera left, etc.
     
  8. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^Right. You need to figure out where everything is so you can establish eyelines and maintain directional continuity.

    Interestingly, I noticed that Exeter broke its own directional continuity in Act 3 for one shot (the ship consistently travels screen left, but in one shot it's heading screen right). I looked at the shot in question and it's actually correct, but in editing someone flopped it...oops.
     
  9. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Following up on the discussion of the cinematography basics, let's talk about...

    THE AXIAL CUT

    An Axial Cut is a type of cut that has been generally out of favor since the silent era, but it's worth knowing about.

    [​IMG]

    Essentially, an Axial Cut changes only the framing (say Medium to CloseUp), and not the angle. As such, Axial Cuts are very prone to the Jump Cut problem, as when jumping in or out along the same axis any difference in the subject's pose or expression or movement is instantly obvious in a way that does not happen when changing the angle. The 30° Rule helps avoid this.

    As with any kind of shot there are places you might want to use this, but it's actually more likely something you want to know about mostly in order to avoid it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  10. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Even though I'll never be a filmmaker myself, I'm finding this thread very educational. Thanks, and hope it continues.
     
  11. DrMcCoy

    DrMcCoy Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    A quick scan of this (excellent) thread, looks like no one has yet discussed sets...

    In my experience, fan films are prone to constructing museum pieces where they need SHOOTABLE SETS.

    Making things wild is almost never a mistake and building only what you need for the production according to the plan (i.e. THE SCRIPT) saves cost, time, effort, space, etc.

    While it may be nice to have a complete recreation of your favorite spaceship bridge, it doesn't always add up to a practical shooting environment and, at the end of the day, it's what's on screen that matters, not the physical set.

    When it comes to Star Trek, you can easily get probably 95% of the bridge shots in TOS using about 60% of the pie (and less than that if you're even modestly creative). For the first two New Voyages episodes we only had from Uhura's station to the starboard flat of the viewscreen...
     
  12. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    A good point, Dr.!

    As has been discussed here a number of times, even on TOS they typically had a good third of the bridge pulled out most of the time and rarely put the entire set together. Starship Exeter had about 2/3rds of a bridge and would swap sections around to be opposing sides.

    On Polaris we had a 200° set (basically one side plus the front and back ends), and at the end of the shoot we rearranged the one of the end pieces and redressed and rotated the center console 180° degrees and got all the shots we needed of the other side. The set being wide open on one side made it easy to work in, that's for sure.
     
  13. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I, too, will never be a filmmaker (I don't think!) but have found this thread a great read!!
     
  14. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, Exeter had 80 percent of the bridge. Two 36 degree sections could be moved from starboard to port with the overhead displays swapped out in order to get the full set.
     
  15. Captain Robert April

    Captain Robert April Vice Admiral Admiral

    I hope the Ajax folks know that. Otherwise, they're busy driving themselves nuts trying to figure out what happened to those two missing sections.

    BTW, shouldn't this thread be stickied? This is some pretty good info being dispensed in here.
     
  16. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Another issue is acting. I would be very interested to read what people had to say about how to act, especially on camera.
     
  17. Captain Robert April

    Captain Robert April Vice Admiral Admiral

    That's a whooooooooole 'nother topic...
     
  18. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    To piggyback off this very excellent observation ...

    Some fan films seem obsessed with getting all their ducks in a row to perfectly "recreate" their beloved television show before a single frame is shot.

    In other words, they seem to obsess over the details first — perfectly recreated sets (and all of them, including engineering), CGI models (ship, shuttles and other things), and uniforms. Granted a production may need those things and maybe all of them at one point, but they are worthless unless you have a story to tell.

    I've seen plenty of fan film threads that showcase the sets and the models to wet fans appetites, but not a nay word on the story, setting, characters or theme. You can have all those pretty, shiny things but without a story ... they're just pretty, shiny things.

    What's the story you want to tell? What burns to tell it? What's the theme and who are the characters?

    Once you have that, then you'll know the rest — what sets are needed, what models and what uniforms.

    Story first ... the recreated details second, imao.

    There also seems to be this need to bank sets for future episodes. But fan films and future installments seem a fickle thing. Build for what you need per shoot, and keep the sets from the previous shoot that you might need in the future would seem the more logical approach.

    In other words, bank sets as you go along (as NV/PII seems to have done). Professional television shows can build and bank their sets before the first frame is shot because they have the bucks to do so.

    Also, if you can't build a full engineering set or briefing room or whatever ... don't be afraid to redress a set — i.e. move around flats and consoles — to approximate those things. Not everything has to look exact, especially if your starship is of a different class. Hell, even our beloved Enterprise had two styles of briefing room in the original series.

    (In the interest of disclosure, I am not an indie filmmaker with a large amount of expertise in this arena. I've only worked on two of DS9Sega's productions. However, I do have a background in fiction writing — i.e. a degree — and television news production.)
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2011
  19. lennier1

    lennier1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    a) Get a Canadian passport.
    b) Lose your hair and cover it up with a glued-on dust mop.
    c) Try to rip open your shirt as often as possible.
    d) Recite your lines in a chopped-up pattern no sane person would use.

    How James Cawley can try to recreate that and still keep a straight face is completely beyond me.
     
  20. Captain Robert April

    Captain Robert April Vice Admiral Admiral

    Okay, now that we've got the obligatory slap at Shatner out of the way...