General Approach To Film And Video Lighting

Now that we have figured out the story we want to tell with the lights, made some basic practical decisions, and figured out how to use a meter, we can actually begin to light the set. Film and video lighting can be broken down into four principal areas The key light is the answer to the question, Where is the light coming from Gaffers talk about what light is keying a scene. If the scene is a soccer game outdoors on a sunny day, the sun is keying the scene. A romantic scene on a bearskin rug...

Pathetically Incomplete List Of What Can Go Wrong With A Shot

The actor broke character or laughed The actor missed his mark or stepped into a shadow An air conditioner turned on The costume was hanging funny The costume was worn differently (more fewer buttons open, tie untied tied) from the master shot The actor handled a prop (cigarette, watch, priceless gems) differently than in the master shot Someone walked through the background The explosion didn't go off There was a police siren in the distance The dolly grip missed his mark A cloud passed over...

Acknowledgments

Hollywood can be an unfriendly place, but all of the following people have willingly and unhesitatingly extended a helping hand to a poor writer (who really wants to direct). Since my Oscar speech has to be just forty-five seconds, please allow me to thank them here. My thanks to cinematographer David Safian, gaffer Tim Speed, editor Gary Durrett, and Renaissance woman Mieke Kramer for their technical advice and suggestions. My thanks to industry mavens (and fellow Brunonians) Stephen Kay, Toni...

Acting Tips

Besides helping to maintain your continuity, there are a few other things you can do as an actor to help the crew love you Hit your mark. When the scene is being set up, the camera assistant and 2nd AD will place marks on the floor, showing the camera crew where to move and the actors where to stand. Learn how to land directly on these marks without looking down. If you miss, the focus and framing of the shot may be wrong, forcing the crew to do another take, especially if a long lens (with...

Aerial Shots

Usually shot from a helicopter, the aerial shot gives a vast sense of space and environment. This shot serves as an introduction to an environment. If the location of the film is significant, it may open with an aerial shot, like that of Groundhog Day, which begins with the actors leaving Philadelphia or The Birdcage, which relies on the carnival atmosphere of South Beach in Miami or Working Girl, which tells the story of office women, lost in the concrete canyons of Manhattan. Each one of...

Aspect Ratios

The aspect ratio is the ratio of the width of the image to its height, with width always listed first. A 4 3 ratio means that for every four inches of width, there are three inches of height. You see this aspect ratio every day it's your television screen. Legend has it that the original inventors of the television screen tried to make it as close as possible to the Golden Mean, an arithmetic ratio that the Greeks considered to be a perfect numerical relationship. (The front entrance of the...

Audio

Digital camcorders record audio at a quality level comparable to a CD. Consumer (and some prosumer) camcorders have built-in microphones. Better-quality cameras have a miniplug (like the one on your Walkman headphones) or XLR plug (like the one on your professional microphone) for a separate microphone. These separate microphones generally come in four varieties omni, lavalier, stereo, or shotgun. Omni mics are found on lower-level consumer cameras. Omni means that they pick up in every...

Audio Playback

Occasionally, a production sound mixer will be asked to make noise, instead of just recording it. The most common situation is playing back prerecorded music for a music video or dance number. In this case, the sound mixer will bring a time-code DAT machine to the set, along with an amp and speakers. By jam syncing the slate to the DAT, the mixer can ensure that each chunk of film shot will be time-coded to that exact place in the music. This makes life easier in the editing suite, because the...

By Drew Campbell

Copyright under Berne Copyright Convention, Universal Copyright Convention, and Pan-American Copyright Convention. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior permission of the publisher. Published by Allworth Press An imprint of Allworth Communications 10 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010 Cover and interior design by Mary...

Cables And Plugs

Having a wide variety of lights to choose from is useful, but without a way to plug them in, you have a whole bunch of high-tech sculpture. On a set, the power cords used to plug in the lights are known as stingers. The larger cables running from the generator to the distro boxes are called cables. The smaller sizes of wire, such as the wire coming from your bedside lamp, are known as zip cord. Cables, stingers, and zip cord are rated in amps. Just for comparison, your household outlets are 15...

Camera Department

Lots of people think life on a movie set is fascinating, fast-moving, exciting, or laugh-a-minute. It isn't. More than anything else, for most people on the set, filmmaking is catastrophically boring. Movie sets are the only place I know where you can be stressed out and bored at the same time stressed out because money is being spent at a terrific rate, every little detail matters, and the tiniest mistake can ruin hours of effort and thousands of dollars of investment bored because, let's face...

Camera Movements

Any camera shot that does not move is called a lock-off. Once the camera gets moving, though, the possibilities are endless. Dolly Shots (or Tracking Shots) A dolly shot is a shot in which the camera is mounted on a dolly. (That will be twenty-five cents for that valuable piece of knowledge.) Dolly shots can be complicated and time-consuming to set up, mostly because they require more attention to lighting. With the camera moving, the audience sees more of the set from different angles, which...

Camera Or Camcorder

If you are shooting with a single camera, you will want to choose a camera that also contains a videotape recorder a camcorder. Camcorders are available in every format, from lowly VHS through Beta and DigiBeta to exotic high-end formats like D-9. These cameras can be powered by an extension cord plugged into the wall, but for most applications, they will run off batteries. For a multicamera shoot, whether in a permanent studio or a mobile event, you want a nonrecording camera. In a TV studio,...

Catering And Craft

The film industry is unlike any other that I know of in that it consistently feeds its own people. In fact, food on a set is considered such an entitlement that I have seen crews refuse to continue with a shoot simply because the food was bad. All sets serve lunch, and most will serve a light breakfast, as well. If the shoot stretches into the evening, dinner will probably appear, although this gets into the realm of pizza more often than not. Everyone knows you can tell the budget of a film by...

Check The Gate

Did you notice the last item in that list above, the one about the hair in the gate If you didn't know what that meant (and you should), read on. As we talked about in chapter 5, the film passes through a winding, twisting path on the way to where it actually gets exposed. When the critical moment comes, the film is slammed home between two pieces of metal and locked in place for 1 24 of a second. The shutter opens, and the light coming from the carefully lit blockbuster scene floods through...

Cinematography

American Cinematographer Video Manual, 3d e. Los Angeles American Society of Cinematography, 2001. The videographer's bible. Just as essential and technical as her big sister, above. Hummel, Rob. American Cinematographer Manual, 8th e. Los Angeles American Society of Cinematography, 2002. The cinematographer's bible. Essential but highly technical. Mascelli, Joseph V. The Five C's of Cinematography. Los Angeles Silman-James Press, 1965. The Five C's, in case you are...

CloseUp

The close-up (usually abbreviated C U on a shot list but never called that out loud) is a shot of one person, seen from the waist up or closer. If the camera shows more of the body, it is called a full body shot. If the camera zooms in on a particular facial feature (like the eyes or mouth), it is called an extreme close-up. (Unlike the close-up, the extreme close-up is generally referred to, even out loud, by the abbreviation ECU. These distinctions exist to make you crazy.)

Continuity

When the chase scene through John Malkovich's subconscious happens in Being John Malkovich, Catherine Keener and Cameron Diaz fly through room after room, inside and outside, screaming and yelling, clawing and kicking and (in Cameron Diaz's case) firing a revolver wildly. All of these scenes were shot at different times, on different sets, days or weeks apart. In order for the sequence to flow smoothly, someone had to keep track of the actresses' hairstyles, clothing, smudges or bruises, and...

Cost

Sure, your brother's colonic therapist knows somebody who works at Kodak who can slip you the leftover film stock from Rocky, Part Seven. Yes, you can get a deal on processing because the lab tech has a crush on your star. Okay, you got a slammin' deal on a camera package because you pulled the rental manager from the jaws of a great white shark. Right. You got yourself a deal. You're a player. You're the man. Your money's no good here. Got it. Film costs more than video not only because the...

Costume Designer

The costume designer is responsible for designing or purchasing all the clothes for the film, following the direction of the director and the production designer. He will have several assistants to shop, draw, measure, and dress the actors throughout the production. He is also assisted by a wardrobe supervisor and dressers who handle the costumes during the shoot. In many cases, a star will negotiate her own costume designer or dresser into a production. This can be quite successful, or it can...

Coverage

On the other hand, no director wants to shortchange himself in the editing suite. In classic 1950s-studio-style filmmaking, the rule for shooting a two-person scene was, shoot the scene five times once from the front, including all the action (the master shot), then once over each actor's shoulder, then once in close-up on each actor. The editor would have five options at any point in the scene, depending on whether he wanted to show the whole scene, focus on one actor or the other, or move in...

Crane Shots

Crane shots are used to take the camera up in the air. Like all moving shots, they require considerably more time to set up, because they reveal more of the set. Check out the classic crane shot in Notorious, where the camera cranes down from high atop a swirling party scene to focus on the tiny key that Ingrid Bergman clutches behind her back. Crane shots are great if you need to move the camera up and down several stories. If you need a more contained move, you will generally use the smaller...

Cranes And Jibs

Sometimes a director needs to get the camera up in the air. He may need to look at a scene from above, peer into a second-story window, or follow a flying superhero. There are a number of devices that do this while keeping the camera attached to the ground (as opposed to putting it in a helicopter). All of these devices fall roughly into two categories cranes and jibs. In general, a crane is something that takes the camera up in the air along with the operator, while a jib arm picks up the...

Dialogue

Dialogue recorded on the set is called set dialogue. Am I going too fast Unfortunately, it's pretty tricky to record dialogue on a set, especially if the set is on location or outdoors. Watch movie credits sometime and look for the line that says, Filmed on location in Paris and Cairo and on the stages of Pinewood Studio, London. When James Bond turns that Paris street corner and enters the Maison de Sucre Patisserie, actor Sean Connery (is there any other Bond ) is actually walking off the...

Directing And Conceptualizing

Making Movies Work Thinking Like a Filmmaker. Los Angeles Silman-James Press, 1995. A great way to train yourself to see the world with a filmmaker's eye. Katz, Steven. Film Directing, Shot by Shot. Studio City, C.A. Michael Wiese Productions, 1991. A guide to the basics. Lumet, Sidney. Making Movies. New York Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. Part memoir and part how-to guide, Lumet's book is a must for anyone who wants to be in the business. Murch, Walter. In the Blink of an Eye, 2d ed....

Director of Photography

Yes, his official title is cinematographer, but even the people who publish American Cinematographer don't call him that. You also won't hear him called the director of photography, even though that's what it says on his contract. In old movie credits, he was referred to as the cameraman, but these days, the man or woman behind the camera is called the DP. The DP is in charge of choosing the film stock, assembling the camera package, lighting the set, and getting the shot, all with the help of...

Dissolves

A dissolve means one of two things either time has passed or we are going inside the mind of the character. If no other visual clue is given, the audience will assume that some amount of time has passed. A screenplay denotes this transition as DISSOLVE TO. If we are going inside the mind of a character, to a dream, flashback, flash-forward, or fantasy, we must be given some sort of clue early in the sequence (unless the filmmaker wants us to be surprised later It was all a dream ).

Dollies

A dolly is a camera platform on wheels, sometimes mounted on a track, that allows the camera to be moved smoothly during the shot. While budget filmmakers are famous for using a wheelchair, professional dollies and the track they ride on are precision machines, carefully built to remove jitters, shakes, and bumps from the movement of the camera. After the camera, the dolly is probably the most expensive item on the set and should be treated with respect. Whereas the tripod used to be the...

Dv

The DV format (formerly known as DVC, or Digital Videocassette) is the basis for a group of formats designed for consumer and prosumer applications. Sony came out with a version of DV called DVCam, while Panasonic's version is called DVCPro. The two formats are not compatible, but there is one piece of common ground. The DV format is used to make smaller, consumer-oriented tapes, known as miniDV. This gets a little confusing because miniDV is not a format it is a style of cassette. However, you...

Editing How To fRMff A Reality

I once shot a documentary about a company that was using theatrical artists singers, dancers, directors, etc. to teach uptight medical researchers how to work in teams. It was a brilliant concept, really Put a bunch of M.D.s, Ph.D.s, and other multilettered professionals in a hotel conference room and teach them to sing and tap-dance. If they work together as a team, they look brilliant if not, they look silly. Teaches teamwork and interdependence. Simple, and visually interesting. I got the...

Establishing Shot

Often used at the beginning of a scene, the establishing shot gives the viewer the overall layout of where the scene is taking place. Generally, it does not show the talent directly it shows the outside of the lonely warehouse, crippled airliner, speeding train, or car caught in traffic. The implication is that the scene to follow is happening inside. It is often shot by the second unit or pulled from stock footage. Lately, as the pace of movie editing has increased, the establishing shot has...

Film Formats

Each format comes complete with its own set of statistics (such as size and aspect ratio), as well as its own set of pluses and minuses (such as resolution and price). Every format has its champions and detractors, as well. Let's look at what sets each format apart from the others. The biggest determiner in choosing a film format is the size of the film. Everything else sifts down from that initial decision. The size of the film determines the cost of the shoot at a basic level. It also can...

First Assistant Director

The 1st AD works with the UPM to set up the shooting schedule and then executes it. His specialty is knowing how long it will take to get a shot and making sure he's right. He is the whip-cracker on the set, much like a stage manager in the theater. The 1st AD position is not a job for someone training to be a director. Despite the name, it is an entirely different career path. It is a people-management job, not an artistic one. It is also not a job for someone who wants to be liked all the...

Fiy That Stinger To The Midget On The Piatypmswhy This Rook

Fly that stinger to the midget on the platypus Someone actually said that to me. And expected me to understand. It was my first day on a movie set, and I was feeling good. I had spent over twenty years in live theater as a technician, designer, director, and actor, and I knew my way around backstage. I knew a Leko from a fresnel from a hole in the ground, you betcha.1 I knew how to use a parametric equalizer to wring feedback out of wedge monitors, and I wasn't afraid to do it. So when I got to...

Format

Naturally, every video format has its own style of camcorder. If you are in a studio setup, you can use any kind of camera, and the format choice boils down to what kind of videotape recorder you want to record the footage on. These days, the consumer video market has settled (for the moment) on Digital Video shot on miniDV cassettes. The prosumer market has also gone digital, using miniDV or DVCam cassettes. Professional cameramen are mostly shooting BetaSP. The choice of format is primarily a...

Formats of the Future

As I said, 35mm film has been the industry standard since the 1920s, but not for lack of trying new things. The standard 35mm, widescreen image is a terrible compromise in many ways, and those brave souls who are ever trying to bring us better quality images, God love 'em, have never given up (and, hopefully, never will) trying to improve it. One of the more visible attempts was made by Douglas Trumbull, who first became famous for his groundbreaking special effects in 2001 A Space Odyssey. Not...

Getting The Shot

The set has been lit, the camera moves have been rehearsed, the actors know their lines, exorbitant salaries have been paid or crazed volunteers recruited, the sun is at the perfect level, the mood is expectant, and it is Time to Make a Movie. Here's how it goes Amidst the controlled chaos brought on by up to seven different crews (camera, lighting, grip, sound, wardrobe, makeup, and special effects), all trying to do their thing, the AD is yelling things like, Is camera...

Gorilla

The camera determines everything it is the final arbiter, the revealer of all things, the oracle of Delphi, and Merlin's crystal ball. Everything that is done on the set is done for the benefit of the camera. In the Italian Renaissance theater, the nobleman footing the bill for the show got a special seat right in the center of the house, where he sat while the entire show was played directly to him. All of the scenery was designed to look good from that one spot. Everyone else in the audience...

Grip Department

The DP's other right hand is the key grip. Grips have a wide range of jobs on a set. They move scenery, certainly, but they also set up a particular collection of gear known as grip equipment. If a lighting instrument is spilling unwanted light onto a piece of scenery, it is the grip's job to place flags, fingers, or scrims to block or reduce the light. You might think that this would be the electrician's job, but in Hollywood, things aren't always what you think. Grips also handle the cranes,...

Hi

Video is the fastest changing area of show business for one reason The average American watches over three hours of television every day. This kind of viewership fills the video industry with the need for constant innovation. As a matter of fact, this very chapter is in danger of being out of date from the day I write it. Still, there are a great many common factors in most video cameras, so a basic discussion has a shot at remaining relevant. Video cameras are divided into three groups...

High Definition Television HDTV

The resolution difference is fading, however, now that High Definition Television (HDTV) is gaining popularity. Driven by powerful new digital chips, these cameras are approaching the resolution of film, although the two are still clearly distinguishable. As the technology progresses, however, expect this difference to narrow and, someday, go away entirely. On that day, celluloid will begin to go the way of the vinyl record, and there will be a sea change in the industry. It won't happen all at...

How Light Reveals The Story

The most basic skill in cinematography is a deep understanding of light, in all its moods, shapes, and technical complexities. Good DPs are masters of light, and light reveals the story in four specific ways Every moment of the day, light is shifting and changing all around you. One of the most spiritual things you can do is sit in one place, all day, and just watch the light change. When Impressionist painter Claude Monet painted the haystacks in his fields, he had to work feverishly, tossing...

Image Stabilization

It is quite a trick to hold a camera steady. It is still the mark of a practiced and professional videographer. However, the little gnomes who design electronic circuitry have given us some help over the years, by designing electronic image stabilizers into video cameras. The image stabilizer works by comparing each frame of video with the previous one. If the new one is slightly shifted to one side, indicating that the camera was jiggled a little, the computer corrects the image and shoves 14...

Lighting Department

To the old-timers, electricians are sparkies. If you spend any time at all on a movie set, you will probably find yourself waiting for the lighting crew more than for anyone else not because they are slow, but because lighting is both time-consuming and deeply critical to the filmmaking process. Gaffers, Best Boys, and Electricians The gaffer is the head of the lighting crew, but, more than that, he is here to help the DP get the right amount of the right kind of light. The DP-gaffer...

Lighting Stands

If you are shooting on a soundstage, most of your lights will go on pipes hung overhead. Studio soundstages will usually have permanent, walkable catwalks, known as the perms. In most cases, the perms are too high up to hang the lights. They exist as a place to hang temporary, movable catwalks known as greenbeds. The lights are hung off poles on the sides of these greenbeds, down closer to the set where they can really do some good. If you are shooting on location (and, often, when you are on a...

Low Impedance Versus High Impedance

Impedance is a fairly mysterious audio phenomenon that even some professional sound engineers do not understand. They do understand its importance, however. Put simply, impedance is the amount of resistance an electrical circuit puts up to an incoming signal. Why is impedance significant Three words Noise, Noise, and Noise. A microphone is like a toddler crawling around stuffing sound into its mouth. One of the unsavory things it will wrap its chubby little fists around is electrical noise....

Makeup

The key makeup artist is in charge of this area and everyone in it, including assistant makeup artists, hairstylists, and body makeup artists. The key makeup artist designs all the makeup as well. A touch-up artist is always available on the set to touch up an actor's makeup. This is a constant battle, as actors live their lives under the glare of hot movie lights. A touch-up artist might also be called upon to apply (sing it with me now) Blood, Sweat, and Tears. If there is a lot of special...

Master Shot

As opposed to the establishing shot, the master shot shows the room where the scene is actually taking place. It usually includes the entire set and all the actors and extends from the beginning of the scene to the end. It can be a butt-covering shot a guarantee that, come hell or high water, the crew has shot every line in the script. It is often the first shot completed, on the theory that if the crew lights the entire set at the top of the day, most of the lighting for the other shots will...

Moves and transitions

With a hundred years of development behind it, the language of film has become relatively stable, the efforts of experimental filmmakers aside. The shots themselves are the nouns, marking out the story in blocks of time and narrative. The transitions between them are the verbs, establishing relationships between people, places and events. The camera movements are the adjectives, amplifying and describing the action by providing speed and changes in perspective. Like our spoken language, the...

Music

Music used to be fairly simple there were two kinds source music and background music. Source music is ostensibly created on the screen a dance band backing up Tommy Dorsey, music coming out of a radio, the intergalactic cantina band in Star Wars that sort of thing. The source music tended to be popular songs, while the background music was generally orchestral. Of course, in some cases, it was both, like As Time Goes By in Casablanca, which becomes a constant refrain in the background music...

Other Grip Equipment

So, you're staging a love scene outside the heroine's door as she kisses her new boyfriend good night. She reaches up to put her arm around his neck, only to grasp at air, because the actor is shorter than she is. Grips carry around a pile of wooden boxes for just such emergencies. Because of their size and shape, they are known as apple boxes, and they are used in any situation where anything needs to be a little higher than it is. Solidly built and reinforced, they can be stood on, stacked,...

Other Ways of Describing Shots

Any of the shots we have talked about so far may also fall into one or more of the following categories. POV. A point-of-view shot mimics the viewpoint of a character in a scene. When Rosanna Arquette drops a nickel into the binoculars at Battery Park to spy on Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan, the director cuts to a POV shot a shot of Madonna in the distance, as she would be seen by Rosanna Arquette. The POV shot pretends to be what the character herself is looking at. MOS. It is not...

Panning and Tilting Shots

Panning and tilting shots, like dolly shots, are moving shots, but in this case the camera stays rooted to one spot. Panning means the camera is moving from side to side. Tilting means the camera swings up and down. The camera can also move up and down on the hydraulic arm attached to the dolly. This is called arming down and arming up. Panning shots are often used to reveal landscapes, particularly if the intended effect is to impress the viewer with the scale of the land. Westerns do it all...

Power

Okay, an analogy When I lived in Seattle, we used to go down to the fish market where all the tourists hang out and buy fresh fish. The shops had these long tanks full of fish and, whenever somebody wanted one, the sales guy would reach in with his bare hands, yank one out, and toss it over the heads of some surprised tourists right into the hands of another guy by the cash register, who would wrap it and sell it, singing in Sicilian the whole time. It was pretty impressive, but even more...

Producing Department

Somebody once said that all you needed to be a producer was a phone booth and a stack of nickels. Of course, these days, it's a cell phone and a clear signal, but make no mistake, the ability to talk fast and smooth is still a job requirement for a producer. The producer stays with the film, commercial, or TV show from the idea stage (when it is called a concept or a package), through preproduction (when it is called a project), production and postproduction (when it is called a show), and then...

Producing Film And Television

Daniels, Bill, David Leedy, and Steven D. Sills. Movie Money Understanding Hollywood's (Creative) Accounting Practices. Los Angeles Silman-James Press, 1998. A useful (and funny) window into the way Hollywood handles money. Donaldson, Michael C. Clearance and Copyright. Los Angeles Silman-James Press, 1996. An excellent once-over about these sticky legal issues. Gaines, Phillip and David J. Rhodes. Micro-Budget Hollywood. Los Angeles Silman-James Press, 1995. A guide to making movies for 50,000...

Production Designer

The production designer is responsible for the look of the film. His job is conceptual and integrates several departments sets, costumes, and props to create an integrated whole, an environment where the film can take place. He must also decide which scenes will be shot at existing locations and which will be done on the soundstage. Production designers have an army of help to create their masterpieces. Conceptual Artists. When a film takes place in a world very unlike our own, a conceptual...

Production sound capturing dialogue

In many ways, sound is the redheaded bastard stepchild on the set the one area that tends to get the table scraps while the lighting and camera crews get first shot at the banquet. It's not that good sound isn't important. On the contrary, high-quality sound is one of the most impressive achievements of modern TV and film production. A great many television shows broadcast in stereo, theatrical film has become a showcase for talented sound engineers, more homes than ever have installed Surround...

Prop Department

The propmaster is distinguished from the set dresser because props refer to specific items mentioned in the script, like the neuralizer in Men in Black, or the tacky alarm clock that wakes up Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. If some of those props are guns, there may also be (and should be) a weapons expert on the set. It is important to remember that props aren't always what they seem. The most famous story comes from the original Star Trek series, where the propmaster was sent out to find...

Range of Light

The last area of comparison between film and video has to do with the amount of light available to shoot. Video requires more light than film, which means that film will look better when exposed under low light. Furthermore, video can only shoot in a fairly narrow range of light levels. Let's say you are shooting a scene of two lovers lying before a fire. On video, you would probably get a pretty nice image from the lovers' faces and clothing, but the shadows under them would turn completely...

Resolution Depth

There is another scale of resolution that we can understand by looking at one of those mosaic rocks. Let's say that we are making a mosaic out of quarter-sized rocks and we come to a place where the cheek is a warm pink. The artist has collected several different pink rocks of varying shades, from a pale, almost white, pink to a deep, rich red. Let's say the artist has collected five possibilities. Next to this artist is another artist who is a good bit more industrious. Before he even started...

Resolution Width

A face, perhaps. Now, imagine creating a stone mosaic that depicts that photograph. The mosaic is made up of small colored stones, laid out to represent the shapes, lines, and colors of the face. If the stones were, say, the size of baseballs, you would be fairly limited in the amount of detail you could depict. A smoothly shaped eyebrow might become a stair step of rocks. The gentle fade of the pink cheek fading into the tan forehead might be a hard-edged boundary between...

Script Supervisor

My brother's wife has an astounding skill. Every time my brother loses his keys, his wallet, the magazine he was just reading, or anything else, he asks her where it is. She pauses, cocks her head, purses her lips slightly, and then, unfailingly, pinpoints the missing object, usually within inches. When asked about her prodigious talent, she shrugs. I just pay attention, she says. She would make a great script supervisor. Was the actor's top button closed in the previous shot or not Did he...

Sculpting The Soundaudio

A movie's sound track is divided into three parts, generally referred to as DME. That's dialogue (including set dialogue and ADR), music (the sound track, as well as source music), and effects (including sound effects and foley). By the way, when a picture is shipped overseas, the sound editor will usually prepare M and E tracks, containing music and effects but lacking dialogue so it can be dubbed into another language. Each of these areas is overseen by a specialist the dialogue editor, the...

Shooting Ratio

Anything else, the shooting ratio is directly related to the budget. Microbudget films, which rarely do more than one take of a scene, may shoot three to one (or less, God forbid). Low-budget films, where every foot of film counts but scenes are shot from multiple angles, may shoot five or even ten to one. Big-budget Hollywood pictures shoot twenty to one or more. It is a question of economics. If you are paying Tom Cruise 20 million, then it doesn't make sense to scrimp on film. You've got one...

Signal Level

When audible sound enters a sound system, it is changed from a physical vibration to an electrical signal by the microphone. While the sound is being shunted around the system, it stays in this electrical form, known as the signal. Once it reaches the speakers, it is changed back into a physical form by the vibrating speaker cone. As the signal travels through the sound system, it goes through some changes. Some of the most important changes it goes through are changes in strength, or signal...

Sound Track Formats

Movies existed quite happily in mono for many years, until stereo sound really took off in the 1950s. When the stereo format first appeared, sound mixers would put an actor's dialogue in the speaker on his side of the screen. If he was standing on the right side, they would mix his voice into the right-hand channel. This led to some peculiar effects, particularly if a new shot suddenly appeared with the same actor on the other side of the screen. His voice would jump abruptly from one side to...

Steadicam Shots

Besides the practical advantages of the Steadicam (or floating camera) shot, such as the ability to go through doors and up stairs, it also provides a sense of immediacy that is missing in a dolly shot. A floating camera shot7 is much steadier than a standard handheld shot, yet it still retains a small amount of jitteriness that translates into dramatic tension. This effect has been used in every horror movie since the darn thing was invented, as well as in TV dramas like ER and NYPD Blue. To...

Storing fILM

Film breaks down over time, causing a decrease in sensitivity, changes in contrast, and increased fogging. The biggest killers are high heat and high humidity, which is why people tend to keep film in the refrigerator. According to Kodak, raw stock should be stored at a temperature of 55 F (13 C) if you are going to use it in the next six months. If you want to keep it longer than that, it should be stored at 0 to -10 F (-18 to -23 C). When you are getting ready to use the film, take it out of...

Svhs

Basically a higher resolution form of VHS, S-VHS is convenient for lots of uses. It is sharper and more colorful than its predecessor, but S-VHS decks can still play the old VHS tapes. It became a good format for industrial and training videos that needed better-than-consumer quality but were not ready for a true pro format. S-VHS worked wonderfully for professional wedding videographers, in-house training videos, low-budget filmmaking, and so forth. Unfortunately, it never became cheap enough...

TARIf OF rONTfNTS

Fly That Stinger to the Midget on the Platypus Who Does What The Population of a Set 1 Shots, Camera Moves, and Transitions 20 The First Big Choice Film and Video Formats 30 Painting the Frame Lighting and Cinematography 53 The Eight-Hundred-Pound Gorilla 75 The Celluloid Canvas The Film 87 The Fastest Change in the Industry 91 Tripods, Dollies, and Camera Mounts 98

Teachers Doctors And Other Helpertypes

Federal law has strict rules for children on sets, including what times of day they can be on the set and the number of hours they can work. The law also mandates that any production shooting on a weekday must have a teacher who conducts classes for a specified number of hours. If you are including children in your show, or if your own children are becoming actors, make sure that you contact Actors' Equity to confirm that your show is in compliance. Like the fire marshal, representatives of the...

Telecine

Most of the film that is shot in this country never sees the inside of a movie theater. That's because most of it is destined for television. Commercials, music videos, made-for-TV movies, and television dramas are shot on film. A few sitcoms are shot on video, as are daytime soaps, sports, news, game shows, porn, and the current money tree, reality TV, but a huge portion of television content is still shot on film. The greater resolution and smoother picture that film creates are still state...

Ten Things Every Film And Tv Person Should Know

The difference between a grip and a gaffer. These two job descriptions intertwine on the set, but they are quite distinct. Gaffers deal with electrical things. Grips move scenery and set up C-stands. Sequence doesn't matter. It never matters what order you shoot things in. If it is in the can, it is available to the editor. Of course, actors like to shoot things in sequence because it helps them maintain an emotional through-line, but when it comes to the final product, it doesn't matter if you...

The Director

While the producer wields control over the big decisions like casting, script, and budget, the director controls all of the shot-by-shot, moment-to-moment decisions. Of course, he has input in those pre-production issues, but he doesn't become a deity until we are on the set. He will choose where the camera goes, how it moves, and what it sees, and, because everything that happens on a set happens for the camera, that makes the director a powerful person. The director has a mental image of what...

The Editing Process Today

After the footage has been transferred to tape in the telecine process, it is logged by an assistant editor. This person makes a list of every shot and where it starts and ends on the tape. If the script supervisor has done her job, this is merely a process of marking which shots are where. The script super should have kept track of details like what lines are included in each scene, which takes show the best angles, which ones had goofs, and so on. Each clip will be numbered and lettered to...

The Matte

At the end of the lens sits a big square box. The matte box is named for the metal plates (known as hard mattes) that are mounted on the front of it, forming a black window that the lens looks through. Each hard matte has its own aspect ratio. If you want to shoot in 1.66 1, you choose the matte with that size hole in it. The camera kit contains a matte for each aspect ratio, so you can choose the one that matches your final output. The matte masks off anything that will not be seen in the...

The Mighty Cstand

Perhaps no other piece of film equipment is so ubiquitous, so useful, and so common as the C-stand. Named for the C-shaped legs (okay to me, they look like an L, but I am young and have not yet learned the mysterious Ways of the Grip), these stands hang on the doors of production trucks all over this great nation. They are the answer to the question, How do I make that thing stay in one place A C-stand is composed of three legs (which can be folded together for storage) that hold up a vertical...

The Mixdown

By now you probably realize that it takes hundreds of different sounds to create the sound track of a movie. All of these different sounds dialogue, ADR, source music, the score, sound effects, and foley are all brought together into a mixing stage, where they are combined into the final sound track. A mixing stage is the size of a movie theater, just like the one you go to at the multiplex. After all, the filmmakers need to know what the movie will sound like in a theater, not in a small...

The Producer

The producer is the one in charge the capo di tutti capi for one simple reason. She's the money. Or at least she represents the money, because every good producer knows the folly of investing her own hard-earned cash in a film. She is in charge of staying on budget and on schedule. She also may operate as a liaison between the show and the production company or studio. The film is the producer's baby. She raises the money, buys the script, hires the crew, chooses the cast, approves the budget,...

THffINf And The Daiiik

Like any photographer, the first thing a DP has to do is get the film developed. During the production of a film, it is important for the director to see the product of his crew's labors as soon as possible. It takes a lot of effort and money to get a cast and crew together, so the director wants to know right away if a scene was shot successfully that is, if we got it. At the end of the day, the reels of exposed film are sent to the lab.27 This is a time of great stress for a DP, as the film...

Things To Hang On A Cstand

Now that you know how to set up the stand, what will we put on it The following are common items that are held up by C-stands. All of these items will store on the grip truck. A solid is a piece of black fabric designed to cut off light completely. Larger sizes (they commonly come up to twenty feet by twenty feet) are mounted on a frame like a painting. That frame, in turn, is held up by C-stands or combo stands. The smaller sizes are permanently stretched on metal frames and come in lots of...

This Crazy Industry

Development Girl The Hollywood Virgin's Guide to Making It in the Movie Business. New York Doubleday, 1999. Often derided as shallow, this book tells it like it is, Prada shoes and all. A very funny account of how the industry works, seen from the development trenches. Dunne, John Gregory. Monster Living off the Big Screen. New York Vintage Books, 1997. Dunne writes masterfully about writing, moviemaking, and the business. Grey, Ian. Sex, Stupidity and Greed. New York Juno Books,...

Three Quarter Inch

For many years, the professional format of choice was 3 4 tape. With more tape to record a signal on, a 3 4 tape could record more information than the 1 2 version used in VHS. This greater capacity meant that the picture had a higher resolution and sharpness. Like VHS, the three-quarter format eventually spawned a higher-quality version known as 3 4 SP. And, like S-VHS, both are rapidly being replaced by digital formats. Don't throw away that 3 4 deck, though. A great deal of professional...

Tripods

Ever since people stopped painting on the walls of caves and started needing a place to put the canvas, the tripod has been a part of the creative process. Tripods, or sticks, as they are called on the set, provide a flexible, level, sturdy place to set your expensive camera. Let's break the tripod down into its component parts. This is the part that actually latches on to the camera. There are three different species the friction, fluid, and geared heads. Friction heads are the cheapest and...

Two Shot Three Shot Four Shot

These terms all refer to shots with said number of people in them. In other words, a two-shot is a shot with two people in it. Note that this number refers to the speaking characters. A shot with the lead actor, the lead actress, and a stadium full of extras in the background is still a two-shot. In practical usage, only two- and three-shots are really used. Any more than three people, and it's a wide shot or a master. Over-the-Shoulder This is the shot you see when two people are talking to...

Vhs

The normal, vanilla videotape that we rent, pass around, and record on is called VHS. Some people refer to it as half-inch tape, because that's how wide the actual tape is. While everyone agrees that, compared to virtually any other format, VHS is a low-quality, grainy format that does not stand up well to being copied, it will undoubtedly hang on for a while because of the millions of VHS machines around the world. The story of the adoption of VHS as the consumer standard is the story of...

Video Formats

Video comes in lots of flavors, but they mostly line up in a nice hierarchy by quality and expense. You won't find many people making decisions between video formats based on aesthetics. More expensive is more better. Let's talk for a second about how video is structured. A video image on a television is created by an electron gun at the back of the TV tube. It scans a light-sensitive screen very quickly, from side to side and top to bottom. Each time it crosses the screen, it excites a line of...

Who does what the population of a set

When I made my first real film, as opposed to the video experimentations that I used as a rationalization for introducing myself as a filmmaker at parties, I made an arrangement to do a shoot at a local restaurant. I assured the nervous owner that it was a small, no-budget production with a skeleton crew, a fact I knew to be true, having spent some time on large feature film sets. Just the essential people no frills, no entourages, no paparazzi. I reminded people repeatedly that we were a...

Wipes

A wipe is a transition where one shot is replaced by the next in a side-to-side, sliding motion, as if a screen were being pulled over the previous shot. Wipe transitions were used heavily in serial action films in the thirties and forties. Lately, they have been used to give a film a period or nostalgic flavor. Star Wars used wipe transitions to make the film seem more classic, more epic, and a bit of a throwback to earlier, simpler films. In terms of time, the wipe can be interpreted as...

Zooming Shots

Back in the 1960s, when zoom lenses came into wide usage, the sudden zooming shot (known as a crash zoom) was often used to show a character's shock, or surprise, or realization. Nowadays, the effect is considered dated, especially when it is used to parody the earlier style, as in the Austin Powers movies. The sudden zoom was replaced in the 1980s by the dolly-zoom effect. Originally invented by Alfred Hitchcock to simulate Jimmy Stewart's vertigo in the film of the same name, this shot...

Measuring Light Levels

Now that we have set our camera speed and shutter angle, decided on an f-stop to light for, chosen a film speed, determined how much depth of field we need, and selected a lens, we need to know how much light is actually on the set right now. In order to gather this all-important piece of information, we need a light meter. If you have ever taken pictures, you are probably familiar with what a light meter does. It measures the available light, then tells you what settings to use on your camera....

Floating Camera Systems

There are five inventions that have defined the film industry and radically changed how films are designed and shot the film camera itself (1896), sound for film (late 1920s), widescreen film and projectors (early 1950s), blue-screen compositing (late 1960s), and, in the early 1970s, the floating camera system. The first floating camera system to become popular was the Steadicam, built by Cinema Products, and because of its firstest-with-the-mostest status, it has become a kleenex word that is,...

Seven Things Every Film And Iv Person Should

It is the everything tool pliers, knife, screwdriver. Beefier than a Swiss army knife and much more useful. Alligator clips. We are forever trying to attach things to other things on movie sets. I recommend a small collection of clipping things, from clothespins to small 'gator clips to one or two big ones. Gloves. You never know when heavy lifting or hot lights are going to become part of your job description. LA 411 or the local equivalent. The essential guide...

The Film Camera Package

A camera kit consists of everything that a camera needs to do its job, and that's a lot of pieces. Don't expect to pick up the camera in your two-seater sports car. It is not unusual for an entire truck to be devoted solely to camera equipment, and even a small, independent film can rent a camera package that will completely fill the largest SUV. A camera package consists of the following pieces Come with me now as I escort you on a fantastic journey through the intricate workings of a film...

The Basic Decisions

Creating lighting means solving a puzzle, fitting together such technical considerations as film stock and lens with story considerations like location, mood, and action. Despite the fact that film (and, thus, film lighting) is essentially about emotions, it rests on some fundamental technical realities. Having defined the five major artistic elements above, the DP must decide six very practical things before proceeding The f-stop determines how much light is coming through the lens. Although...

Film Editing

Back around 1910,1 mean. The camera was set up in front of a set that was indistinguishable from a stage set. The cameraman cranked up the camera the actors entered from the wings and played the scene as if the camera were an audience member sitting third row center. A movie was made by cutting together these scenes with cards containing narration or the actor's lines. The distinction between plays and movies wasn't really made until people like D.W. Griffith began...

Effects

Most people don't realize that virtually every sound you hear in a movie was added after the scene was shot. Every car door, footstep, sucker punch, gunshot, and siren was added by a team of audio wizards. While the basic technology of the picture hasn't fundamentally changed since 33 Wolff spent a great deal of time listening to Jerry Seinfeld's comedy routines and he realized that the comedian had a very noticeable tempo about 110 beats per minute. Thus, all his musical cues run at that...

The Lights

Bouncing Light Griffolyn

Because film and TV lighting is an art that is both varied and precise, there is a vast array of lights to fill every purpose, from lighting a football field to putting a sparkle in the eye of a leading lady. Gaffers refer to the lights themselves as heads, by the way, as in, Get the stands out of the truck and put the heads on them. When a DP is looking for a hard light to use as a key light, more often than not, she will reach for a fresnel pronounced fur-NELL . The original fresnel was...

Iighting Equipment

Somewhere back in the Stone Age of movie lighting, somebody had a sense of humor. Somebody decided that film work was too backbreaking, too frustrating, and too boring for us to just sit around and suffer. Some joker knew the fundamental truth about life in general and show business in particular To wit, if you're not having fun, why bother I am absolutely convinced of the existence of this person. Why else would film and TV lighting be so chock-full of goofy terms that could only have come...