Fan Filmmaker's Primer

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

  1. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    I've never really shot anything that required "Action Camera" so I really have no opinion on those things. As per my previous post I tend not to get into recommending hardware or software because a) there's so much of it out there and b) I figure most fanfilm makers are low- or no-budget and are going to use whatever they have at hand or can get their hands on.

    The gear I've used is all over the place. I did the film Afterglow to see what I could do with a smartphone and a gimbal and a cheap FLIR thermographic camera accessory for the smartphone. I shot one Kinsey Sicks video using three smartphones and a Canon T4i. I've shot a lot of videos with the same Canon, I've had DPs bring their own cameras in on other shoots.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2022
  2. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    In a thread over in Fan Art I was explaining directional continuity, which is something I often mention but seems little known to self-taught and fan filmmakers and 3D animators...and, sadly, a few too many "pros" these days. So I thought I'd bring the explanation over here.

    CINEMATOGRAPHY 101: DIRECTIONAL CONTINUITY
    OR
    STAY ON TARGET!

    Directional Continuity is a basic cinematography rule, and it's actually a really easy one: Objects traveling towards a destination horizontally tend and ought to maintain a general directional facing—say screen left or screen right—on the screen. This is related to The Line/180° Rule (discussed here), where once you establish that a character is facing something you maintain that facing throughout because it's intuitively clear to the audience that they have not turned around.

    Likewise, Directional Continuity makes clear that when something is heading towards or away from something or somewhere, so long as is maintains that general screen direction— be that left or right—it's clear it's still going the same way in the same direction.

    TERMINOLGY
    Here's our basic lingo.

    ^
    |
    Camera Neutral (UP)
    |
    <—Camera Left ------ Camera Neutral ---- Camera Right—>
    |
    Camera Neutral (DOWN)
    |
    v

    You can also say Screen Left and Screen Right, as they mean the same thing. While filming you might say "camera left" but watching the film you might say "screen left".

    Camera Neutral means no left or right facing, though it can be upwards or downwards.

    East of Left
    One fun and sort of obvious convention is that traveling towards screen left generally means "west" and screen right means "east"; think of a map. When I did the short Stagecoach In the Sky the model photography was delivered with the plane facing screen right...but since there was a story point that the protagonist was "flying west" to be a cowboy, I flopped the shots of the plane so it was always heading screen left...because left=west.

    I'll explain the Continuity here and then explain how Camera Neutral works in practice at the end.

    EXAMPLES OF PROPERLY EXECUTED DIRECTIONAL CONTINUITY

    ST—TMP
    1. The starship Enterprise is established in drydock with a facing of camera left...ship's nose points to the left side of the screen. From that establishing shot on the ship resolutely points towards screen left as it lights up, leaves drydock, flies by Jupiter, goes to warp, skids around in the wormhole, warps to and faces V'ger and flies over it. In our cinematographic language V'ger is to the "west", or screen left. Earth is back in the "east" towards screen right.
    1977's Star Wars (that's its title, George)
    1. The rebel ship enters fleeing towards screen left and...
    2. The Star Destroyer pursues in the same direction
    3. This continues all through the capture
    Even better is Star Wars' final battle
    1. The fighters leave the rebel base and in all shots are bearing screen left
    2. When they "try to draw their fire" the X-Wings now head this way and that because they are zig-zagging over the Death Star to distract the Imperials, so directional continuity doesn't matter as much
    3. But once down in the tench, the fighters always point/travel from screen right to screen left throughout the sequence. Y-Wings, X-Wings, TIEs...all the same way, cuz the end of the trench with the target is to screen left.
    The climax of "The Doomsday Machine":
    1. The Enterprise is bearing screen right as is the pursuing Planet Killer. If one was shown heading camera left instead, they'd appear to either be heading towards or away from one another. Thus both maintain that screen right direction to show they are going the same direction, one after the other.
    2. Decker's shuttlecraft, on the other hand, heads screen left, the opposite direction from the fleeing Enterprise and towards (and then into) the oncoming and screen right headed Planet Killer.
    3. The suicide run of the Constellation likewise has that ship facing screen left, cuz it too is heading into the same oncoming danger (nom nom nom).
    In all of these examples, if they suddenly cut to a shot where a ship previously established heading one direction was now facing the other, it would appear the ship had turned around (or was a new ship going the opposite way).

    CHANGING DIRECTION
    Star Trek II gives a comprehensive example of how to both maintain directional continuity and when to switch it around to show the ship has changed course or destination (and it messes it up once):
    1. The Enterprise resolutely points screen left from the stock footage through its encounter with the Reliant.
    2. But, whups, when the ship arrives at Regula I it's inexplicably heading screen right. Since it never changed course, that's a boo-boo.
    3. When the ship heads for the nebula it heads screen right. As the Reliant pursues, it too follows towards screen right.
    4. Within the nebula we see the Enterprise from above, angled down and right (still screen right), then it curves around from a screen right facing to screen left, which it maintains until...
    5. The ship turns around to try to escape the nebula, heading screen right again all the way through its "Go Sulu" warp drive climax.
    6. The final shot has the ship leaving the Genesis planet heading screen left again, suggesting it has again set a new course.

    Examples of this abound in all over movies and TV shows (autos driving in cities not so much because cities are mazes and we assume cars make turns to follow the streets).

    NEUTRAL ON CAMERA NEUTRAL
    In the preceding examples I left off mention of shots where the ships face in a Camera Neutral direction, because—like a true MacGuffin—they don't really matter to the topic of Directional Continuity. They are "neutral" because they don't cross the line and take on any horizontal direction.

    Because of this all this, something will feel "off" if Spock strides off to screen right and then we cut to the next room and see him entering facing screen left. It's like he turned around somewhere. On the other hand, if in one shot we see him walk directly towards the camera, without any left or right bias, we can then cut to a reverse shot where he's walking away angling screen left or screen right or camera neutral. We can intercut Camera Neutral with Camera Left or Camera Right and it feels fine. But go from Camera Right to Camera Neutral and then to Camera Left and it'll feel like a U-Turn.

    UPS AND DOWNS
    As creatures who mostly operate on a 2-dimensional plane, with eyes positioned on a horizontal plane, and who generally look left and right to see other people, we have biases towards seeing things in terms of left and right facings. So, when you flatten that view onto a 2D screen we tend to notice reversals on the horizontal way more than the vertical. As such, unless we turn an actor or vehicle or even the camera upside down, it's difficult to break any sort of vertical Directional Continuity.

    CHANGING DIRECTION
    There are times when your Spock or your starship needs to change course, and while you can just break Directional Continuity to do it, the best way to make sure it reads is to show the subject turning or going around a corner or what have you.


    In summary, this rule—like so many cinematography rules—is about visual language that connects with how we see the world. It's not arbitrary; it's common sense.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2021
  3. Matthew Raymond

    Matthew Raymond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I'd like to add to the topic of screen movement:

    While this is not a hard and fast rule, screen movement tends to follow the direction of your writing system, with progress in cultures with Left-To-Right writing systems tending to occur in movement from the left side of the screen to the right. Heroes tend to face and move towards the right, while villains move towards left. This is clearly shown in the opening of the X-Men cartoon, where at the end the X-Men, facing right, charge towards the Brotherhood of Mutants, facing left.

    For cultures that read and write in the opposite, the directions can be reversed. In the opening to Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba, the heroes almost exclusively face left, while the villains face right.

    In the movie Snowpiercer, towards the right is the front of the train and towards the protagonist's goal and greater opulence, while left is towards the back, which also represents the past and poverty, but also greater humanity.

    Here's a related video:
     
  4. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    I appreciate you sharing that, and there's probably absolutely nothing wrong with following what it suggests. Even if it turns out not to be accurate or true, it seems harmless.

    However...

    I do not find the video convincing. Furthermore, some of its contents and conclusions set off alarm bells.

    For one thing, the video begins with this example of flopping video to test this supposed perception effect (recreating a film described in the paper the video shamelessly rips off). But that sample itself contains unintended biases. In the first example, the cars across the street are parked facing screen left. But when they flop "all" the shots they miss flopping the first one, so when we first see the woman the cars are pointing screen left and she sits at screen left. but in the subsequent shot of her she's suddenly screen right and the whole room is reversed, and from here forward the cars face screen right, so immediately something feels "wrong" because there's a continuity error (heck even without that, the facing of the parked cars could inherently feel "wrong" in either facing to audiences based on if they live in left or right drive countries). One hopes the original study film was not so sloppy.

    The video then cherry picks shots from feature films to illustrate its conclusion, ignoring any practical filming considerations that might account for the directional choices. Consider the Hitchcock scene: when a left drive American car pulls to a sidewalk on a two way street in front of a building and the filmmaker wants to show the feet of someone stepping out, they're almost invariably going to put the camera towards the back of the car, which, means to the right of the car, which means the persons exiting are going to walk screen right to where the building is. In the UK or Japan that would be the opposite.

    Further, the video sometimes conflates screen direction standards with this supposed left v. right difference. One could just as easily argue the Hobbits travel towards screen right because Mordor is east of the Shire and one western cinematic convention is that screen right=east (like on a map).

    So what is this video based on?

    Its description cites a whopping two academic papers as its sources, so I found them. The video basically cribs from the one titled "Which Way Did He Go? Directionality of Film Character and Camera Movement and Subsequent Spectator Interpretation". (The citation was a broken link, but I found it through the magic of the Wayback Machine plugin (link)). Basically, the video treats the paper as factual, whereas the paper itself says:

    This study, then, is a step along the path to providing quantitative, empirical support to phenomena that have heretofore been examined via other modes such as semiotics (Eco, 1976; Metz, 1974). This convergence of critical cultural and empirical quantitative perspectives is rarely found in film studies, and is a much needed confluence in the scholarly literature.

    I went through the paper and I find it...sketchy. There are clumsy logical inferences and some dubious conclusions. Example: referencing that so many single player 2D videogames have "forward" to the right...which probably has its roots in 2 player games. When you number two players' scores on a screen in the west, you write 1 first then 2, not 2 then 1. So, when you make a game that can be played either with 1 or 2 players, where does a single player (1) start? Screen left facing right. So one can argue that's an equally valid—and more likely—origin for the initial facing of Player 1 characters than what this paper speculates. Blame Pong. I do (damn you Al Alcorn!). ;)

    The paper also makes a ludicrous leap to Pitfall! as supporting evidence...and cites the book Racing the Beam to buttress that. Mind you, I know the programmer of the former and a map I did was cited and reproduced in the latter.

    The meat of the paper concerns an experiment conducted and which the video badly reproduced (with the aforementioned biases). Alarmingly, the paper gives no indication of the number of participants in that survey (unless i missed it), which provides little confidence that the test was broad enough to account for common statistical error. Furthermore, the paper notes the subjects were recruited from "Communication courses" and not a general cross-section of people, which in itself could skew the results. There's also zip mention of control groups.

    The paper also contains this troublingly unbiased statement: "Some filmmakers also realize the importance of action moving from the left to the right versus from the right to the left." Emphasis mine, which implies there is importance to it, not that there may be.


    The second paper (link) is solely about The Kuleshov Effect (link) which is referenced in the first paper, but not in a context that supports the argument, but about how Kuleshov believed lateral movement to be the easiest for audiences to follow (whereas the Kuleshov Effect suggests the way shots are cut together and interact has more impact than the content of either shot individually.) BTW, skimming the Kuleshov paper cited I see no mention of screen direction.


    So, is what the video postulating possible? Yes. Is there convincing evidence for it? Meh.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2021
  5. Matthew Raymond

    Matthew Raymond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Wow, you took that video way more seriously than I had intended. However, you do bring up a lot of good points related to lateral movement, such as the observation that many movies treat towards the screen as north. Like I said, I'm not trying to represent these things as hard and fast rules. I'm simply trying to make film makers aware of another potential tool in their tool chest.

    For example, a fan film maker could make the left side of the screen towards the Federation in space shots while making right towards the Delta Quadrant and the unknown, with the viewer facing the galactic core. Similarly, if you have crew running from the bridge to the shuttlebay as the ship is about to explode, you would want the direction of the shuttlebay to always be on one side of the screen to avoid confusion.
     
  6. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    Respectfully, aside from screen left being “home” that’s just directional continuity and not what the video was about.

    My goal here is always to help beginner filmmakers improve their work with simple, grounded and proven filmmaking techniques. I took the video at face value. I found its conclusions dubious and the research it cites questionable. I said it’s probably harmless to follow what it suggests. I simply find the conclusions it reached unconvincing.
     
  7. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    Dusting off ye olde topic because I made a short playlist of behind the scenes stuff from various Polaris shoots. Thought some of you might find it fun.

    Here are the separate clips, since you can't embed a playlist as a video:


     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2022
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  8. Joshua Irwin56

    Joshua Irwin56 Cadet Newbie

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    I guess the only thing I can add to this discussion is. Be prepared for things to go wrong. Because they will. Actors and crew simply won't show up, or will drop out day of. Props will break. You name it. Yes, pre production and planning is the most important phase of the project. But like Mike Tyson says "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."
     
  9. publiusr

    publiusr Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There have been some advancements that may be useful in terms of computer models.

    There is a faster way to look at physics interactions:
    https://techxplore.com/news/2022-08-faster-browse-physics-based-animations.html


    "If you are an animator and you have some idea in mind, you have to tune those parameters manually, then sort through all the outcomes one by one,"

    No more...

    Asked to animate a stuffed armadillo falling down a spiral staircase, for instance, the animator might create a query in the Unified Browser that says, "Show me only options where the armadillo falls all the way to and comes to rest on the lowest stair." Charged with animating cubes of Jell-O bounding into a bowl, the animator could limit options only to those where all the cubes stay in the bowl, or perhaps where one, but only one, falls out. A small blue ball launched at an imaginary sandcastle might specify "give me samples where the front-left turret is smashed" or "the top turret only."

    Recently, a hologram was teleported:
    https://techxplore.com/news/2022-08-world-international-holographic-teleportation.html

    Better audio is being looked at
    https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-08-audio-virtual-reality-authentic.html

    I still like film and in-camera effects myself.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2022
  10. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    Welcome aboard.

    Planning means planning contingencies for when things go wrong. For instance, any time a film has outdoor shooting scheduled they almost invariably have "cover set" where the production can move to in inclement weather, etc. An actor has to go home sick, you send them home, stick someone in their costume and use them as a double for over the shoulder shots while you shoot the closeups of other actors in the scene (this happened in "The Devil In the Dark" when Shatner had to be away when his father died, where Shatner's stand-in took his place in a lot of shots until Shatner returned and they the necessary shots of him).

    You also have to be proactive. David Mamet wrote "always shoot an entrance and an exit" for every character even if the scenes don't require it, because if you have to change something you can always use those shots to bring a character into a scene late or bet them out of the scene. When we shot Polaris on a day when I had the entire bridge crew cast on hand I shot everyone entering an exiting, and got B-roll of reaction shots and them all working at the consoles as safety for fixes that might be necessary later.


    While I appreciate your chiming in, I'm sorry to have to say this but I don't see how the three things you post have any practical application to fanfilm makers. The first is a SIGgraph presentation, not a software solution such filmmakers could use, the second is about transmitting holograms, and the third concerns a study on techniques to make audio in virtual reality a better experience and not disorienting.

    The whole point of this thread has been to be of practical use to fan filmmakers. These read like research papers.
     
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  11. publiusr

    publiusr Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Everything but Andor seems to have a computer in it..if only in post. The Unified many worlds deal is a way to tell the black box what you want to see without having to code everything. That having been said, the simpler DALL-E has…on its own…made medieval spaceships that look better than IMAGEN.

    IMAGEN also can generate images based on text…but the spacecraft look stranger. One looks like it could fly in the background of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights…shades of Deep Dreaming images.

    These are artifacts of course…but artifacts can have their place. An amateur filmmaker might want, say, to use older cameras.

    I remember early, ghostly video cameras where overly bright jewelry reflections had a black starburst core that I thought had an awesome, evil look to it. To the folks of the time, they saw that artifact as a problem—I see it as an asset.


    If I weren’t working two jobs and I’m a fix…I’d love to write a book on camera artifacts…like those that get called UFOs or orbs that are just shutters and bugs subject to digital blooming. Forgive me…my mind wanders.