Fan Filmmaker's Primer

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

  1. FalTorPan

    FalTorPan Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks again, Maurice. This weekend a few friends are coming over to help me experiment with the shotgun mic / shock mount / boom pole, plus Zoom H4n, plus camera and tripod. I don't own any decent lights yet, but just getting video into the camera and capturing "second sound" on the Zoom will be a good enough start to learning how to make this work whenever a real production kicks off. :)
     
  2. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^As to lights, invest $100 and buy some china-ball paper lanterns and some color-correct photo-optic bulbs and you'll never be sorry, as they are very useful in a lot of circumstances.
     
  3. FalTorPan

    FalTorPan Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks for the suggestion. This is the first that I recall hearing of color-correct photo-optic bulbs. Looks like I have more reading to do. :)
     
  4. The Trekster

    The Trekster Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    +1

    This is my personal set-up for when I'm lighting on my own. Definitely a good place to start. Also pick up some scoops (those clamp lights with the silver bowl reflector) at your local hardware store. They're great for throwing light at backgrounds and adding depth, or if you want a hard light source. Pick up some cinefoil to flag the lights (also works on your china balls.) You can't beat the price.

    For lightbulbs, be sure to check out CFLs as they use less wattage and don't get nearly as hot so they are much safer to use, especially in those paper lanterns. If you want to match daylight (and from what I can tell, Trek used a cool color temp on the starships) be sure you have a color temp of 5500k or more.
     
  5. The Trekster

    The Trekster Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I've noticed there are some repeating themes in this sub-forum. One of which is the argument about only designing/building the sets for what is actually on camera vs. what I've seen folks on here call "museum pieces." From just a filmmaker standpoint, I agree with the former; and as a fan I can understand the desire to do the latter. Trek fans are very passionate and detail-oriented. Which is why those museum pieces look so great and the CGI is often one of the best things about a fan production.

    But what is best for your film? Which option will make the production process run more quickly and smoothly? It seems that a lot of pre-production on these fan films get stuck in the building stages, when maybe they only needed to build half a set and could have gotten the project completed sooner. But I digress...

    Set Extension

    Which sort of brings me to the point of this post:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BKdyMbdIug

    This is an example of how the pros are saving time and money. And you can't even tell! So, I'm thinking, with the CGI skill of some of the fans out there, there is no reason why this can't save you time and money as well. You build enough of the set that your characters can interact, throw green screens up (lighting them evenly) and you can do some set extensions to make it look real.

    Check out these free tutorials from the fantastic Andrew Kramer:
    http://www.videocopilot.net/tutorials/set_extensions/
    http://www.videocopilot.net/tutorials/3d_set_extensions/

    Anyways, just some food for thought. :)
     
  6. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    We've done this a little bit on Intrepid, albeit with mixed results. Indeed, it was part of our game plan when we started out all the way back in 2003. It's a pretty useful tool.
     
  7. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think it worked very well with Intrepid. Even though I have some idea of how such things are done, I never found myself distracted by obviously painted in backgrounds. The itch to be "perfect" really can sabotage a set up that's perfectly good.
     
  8. The Trekster

    The Trekster Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I checked out the Intrepid website. Unfortunately I'm at work and the comps here have audio disabled, but I really dig your premise. I look forward to watching it :)
     
  9. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    Be warned, it's *rough*. Especially the early stuff. :)
     
  10. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Overdue for a new topic. Let's talk about something pretty elementary but I rarely see discussed...

    THE SLATE (CLAPPERBOARD)

    The guy or gal snapping the "clapper" shut at the start of a take is so commonplace that it's cliché. But even some beginning filmmakers don't quite understand its full purpose.

    Let's talk about the Clapper first. The two bars at the top are called the "sticks" or "clapper sticks" and the reason they're snapped together on-camera is to give the editor an audible and visible cue for synchronizing sound and picture (especially important if you're recording sound to a different device than the camera).

    The Slate (so-called because in the past it was a slate surface on which you wrote in chalk) is used to visually include the information related to a given take within the take itself. This allows footage to be easily identified when reviewing or editing. It's actually fairly important for this reason. If camera logs or other records get lost, the critical information is built into the take.

    Typically, a slate contains the following info:
    • PRODUCTION NAME/#: What movie or episode this is
    • ROLL: The number of the film roll/tape/ or memory card being recorded to
    • SCENE: The scene # being shot, as identified in the shooting script
    • TAKE: Which take # of the indicated scene is being shot
    • DATE: The date of the shoot
    • DAY/NITE: This is used to indicate if the scene is supposed to take place in daytime or nighttime, not when it was actually shot. Sometimes you shoot "day for night" (footage shot in daylight and processed to simulate night), etc.
    Traditionally, slates also contain the name of the Director and the Cinematographer.

    Below is a typical slate.

    [​IMG]
    Slate for a synced sound take with camera info
    Slates may also contain additional information, such as:
    • MOS: Some Slates feature the text MOS, which is circled if the shot is NOT being recorded with sync sound or if the shot contains no sound that matters. However, it's easier to indicate MOS just by having the person slating place their fingers between the clapper bars, which shows that there will be no clap, ergo MOS.
    • CAMERA TYPE: If different cameras are being used, the camera name is often written on the slate. This is useful when identifying what needs to be done with footage when you're mixing camera types or need to match the camera in later shots.
    In these POLARIS slates you'll also see the following:
    • LENS: The lens size size being used
    • F.L.: The Focal Length of the take
    • ISO: The "film speed", or the digital equivalent setting on the camera
    • F/: The F-stop (such as F/5.6)
    This information is typically recorded in the Camera Log made by the camera crew, but in some cases you put it on the slate. Why? In these cases, it's because there will be visual effects added to the shots, and this information is recorded on the slate so that the visual effects people can see it on the shots they're working on.

    [​IMG]
    MOS (no sound) slate. MOS is indicated by the 2nd Assistant Camera's fingers holding the clapper open.

    SLATE PROTOCOL
    Typically, the Slate is handled by the Second Assistant Camera (2nd AC) or "clapper loader" (more common in Europe) who fills in the Slate and hold it in front of the camera and claps the clapper.

    Here's the way it's called on many shoots:
    A.D. (Assistant Director): Roll Camera.
    CAMERA OPERATOR: Speed.*
    A.D. Roll Sound.
    SOUND RECORDIST: Speed.*
    A.D. Mark it.**
    2nd ASST. CAMERA: Scene 25 Foxtrot, Take 2. (CLAP)

    *Means the device is recording at speed.
    **Means "Do the slate thing."
    Once the the Slate is cleared of the scene, the Director can call Action at her discretion.

    NOTES:
    When slating any shot where sound is being recorded, the person handling the Slate reads off the scene and take number before clapping. This ensures that the scene and take information is recorded on the soundtrack in addition to the clap for synchronization.

    It's REALLY IMPORTANT to make sure the Camera and Sound are rolling for a few seconds before you "mark it" with the slate, otherwise you risk the slate not being on camera or the clap sound not being recorded.

    Because the slate is designed to be easy to erase, it's also easy to erase things that don't change. As such, it's pretty common to stick tape to the slate with information that doesn't change much or at all.

    THE TAIL SLATE

    Finally there's one additional slating convention. The TAIL SLATE is done when, for whatever reason, it's not possible or convenient to film the Slate at the head of the take. In such a case the shot is done without a slate at the start but, before the Director yells "Cut", a "Tail Slate" is called for. The 2nd Camera Assistant does the Slate thing BUT to indicate it's a Tail Slate, the Slate is held UPSIDE-DOWN. (CLICK HERE to see an example of a Tail Slate from "Spock's Brain".)

    Oh, and the thing used to wipe the Slate is called the MOUSE.​
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  11. doubleohfive

    doubleohfive Fleet Admiral

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    Maurice, this is as perfect and as informative an explanation of slates as I've ever been given in the past five years on the innumerable shows I've been on. Thank you.

    Some other examples (if I may share) of slates:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    Can you comment on precisely how the synchronization process works? For example, should the peak of the clapping sound ever be offset by any number of frames from the frame on which the clapper strikes the slate, and if so under what circumstances? Is there ever any ambiguity regarding the frame on which the clapper strikes the slate?

    Also, in a long scene, is drift in synchronization ever a problem?

    Thanks.
     
  13. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    There are also some pretty good slate apps for the iPad. I don't think they'll always replace my physical slate, but they're still pretty neat.

    Also, don't know if this is a British thing, but the physical slate I have has a space labelled 'slate'. I've never been entirely sure what the correct usage of this is, but I tend to use it as an incremental count on the number of shots we've slated throughout the day.
     
  14. doubleohfive

    doubleohfive Fleet Admiral

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    ^Which ones would you recommend?
     
  15. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    I've got three. SyncSlate, Marker Slate, and Movie*Slate. Of the three, I mainly use Movie*Slate, though the others are quite a bit cheaper. I rather like that Movie*Slate stores all the shot data for later use, and also access the GPS/WIFI to log your location.

    That said, the others may do some or all of this, but like I said, I haven't really used the others.
     
  16. doubleohfive

    doubleohfive Fleet Admiral

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    Excellent. Thanks for the info and recommendation! :)
     
  17. lennier1

    lennier1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    @doubleohfive: Those colored stripes on top are another useful feature, since they provide valuable clues to the people in post production (VFX, color-grading, compositing, ...).
     
  18. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Ahhh, you anticipated my next comment. The thing I've noticed with digital video is that the audible "clap" of the clapper bars never actually seems to line up with the video as recorded on the camera. In fact, on the Canon SLRs I've shot with, the "clap" seems to happen about two frames BEFORE the bars close. Why this is, I don't know.

    Drift can and is a problem with digital video, especially with sync sound. I use a program called DualEyes to replace the camera audio with the second sound in post, and that software does drift correction on its own.

    Nick, do you have a pic of this slate?

    Those are good to have. Frequently I tape a printed set of COLOR BARS to the back of the slate and have the Camera Assistant show that to the camera before flipping the slate around to mark the take.
     
  19. lennier1

    lennier1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Exactly!
    There's a whole truckload of tasks which are a lot easier to tackle once you have that information.
    Being able to extrapolate the delta in colors makes it even easier, but even something like http://www.st-bilder.de/gallery/modelle/sternenflotte/galaxy/galaxy-66226.html is already a good start (extremes, mid-tones and the like).
     
  20. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Oh one other thing...

    The meaning and origin of MOS

    The popular explanation of MOS to indicate a take without sound is that MOS (spoken as "M.O.S." not "moss") is an acronym for "Mit Out Sprechen" (without speaking) or "Mit Out Sound", and sometimes bla— er, attributed to Erich von Stroheim or some other German director.

    Other possible explanations are that it meant "Minus Optical Stripe" or "Minus Optical Sound" or even "Motor Only Sync" or a half dozen other things. The truth seems to be lost in the mists of time, so don't let anyone bullshit you into thinking they have the definitive answer... unless they're Erich von Stroheim.

    A list of possible MOS origins (click).
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016