DSLR CINEMA CRAFTING THE FILM LOOK WITH VIDEO PDF
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DSLR Cinema Crafting the Film Look with Video Kurt Lancaster Focal Press Front-matter. Advance Praise for DSLR Cinema “A huge thank you to Kurt Lancaster. Large sensor video cameras (DSLRs) offer filmmakers an affordable, high-quality image previously impossible DSLR Cinema Crafting the Film Look with Large Sensor Video DownloadPDF MB Read online. Book title: DSLR Cinema: Crafting the Film Look with Video Dаtе: Fоrmаts: pdf, i.
Large sensor video cameras DSLRs offer filmmakers an affordable, high-quality image previously impossible without high-end cinema cameras. These video-capable DSLR cameras have revolutionized filmmaking, documentary production, journalism, television, and even Hollywood cinema. This book empowers the filmmaker to craft visually stunning images inexpensively. This updated and expanded edition includes new workflows for Adobe Premier and Final Cut X-from syncing external audio settings to using the right settings. It also covers the workflow for using Technicolor's picture style, CineStyle, designed on consultation with Canon scientists. The films are examined in detail, exploring how each exemplifies great storytelling, exceptional visual character, and how you can push the limits of your DSLR. Search all titles.
By Kurt Lancaster. Edition 2nd Edition. First Published Imprint Routledge. DOI https: Pages pages. Subjects Arts. Export Citation. Get Citation.
Lancaster, K. New York: Routledge, https: I welcome him on the set any time after his assistance on The Last 3 Minutes.
DSLR cinema: Crafting the film look with video - PDF Free Download
He jumped into action when our sound person was stuck in traffic and did excellent sound recording. Kurt was like a superhero sound guy in the night to save our project.
Kudos, my man! Please be sure to visit! Please mark this for your records. If you're concerned about mistakes you will hold yourself back. They're primarily stills cameras. But thousands of DSLR shooters are using them as cinema cameras. A lot of indies gravitated toward this camera for their cinema projects. Today, consumers can purchase mini point-andshoot HD cameras that James Bond could use on his spy missions. Yet, all of these cameras—whether HD or not, whether shooting in 24P or 30P, whether recorded on P2 cards at Mbps—look like video, feel like video—that uncinematic, flat, overly sharp look that make cinema-makers and photographers cringe.
Because video cameras are so crammed with features needed for ENG work and for ease of use for low-end consumer cameras that it becomes everything for everyone. Video cameras can shoot family reunions, reporters can shoot news, sporting events can be caught in full HD glory—but none of those video cameras capture the look and feel of cinema without special 35 mm lens adapters.
Video cameras are full of compromises, such as high zoom ratios with fixed lenses that do not come close to the quality of the glass found in Zeiss or Canon L series prime lenses, for example.
Jeremy Ian Thomas, a colorist and editor at Hdi RAWworks in Hollywood, discusses how he felt as a former student at the Los Angeles Film School, where he was constantly confronted with the limitations of video: You're looking at the image and even with HD cameras it doesn't look like a movie to me, and I immediately found out that that had to do with color.
And it had to do with creating looks. Whether or not someone prefers to shoot HD video on a standard video camera or on a DSLR, what can't be argued is how photographer Vincent Laforet redefined the argument overnight.
It was a Friday. Laforet took a peek, but they wouldn't let him touch the camera until he signed a nondisclosure agreement. Indeed, when he found out it was the world's first DSLR camera to shoot full-size HD video, he begged Sparer to let him borrow one for the weekend. But the cameras were to be shipped out to other photographers for testing on Monday, so the answer was no. Laforet made a pitch. Figure I.
Used with permission. When Laforet first saw the results of the 5D Mark II on-screen, he knew this was different from any type of video he had previously examined. It's one of the best still cameras out in the world. But between the size of the sensor and the lens choice and the way it captures light it's absolutely stunning.
After Laforet put Reverie online Canon liked it , it received over a million views in a week, and Laforet's life changed overnight. The day after the upload, he received three different film project offers within a day.
HD at least at the prosumer level may have been a game changer for news, sports, and event videographers—but not for many filmmakers. Hurlbut, among other ASC members, attended. But Hurlbut saw the potential right away. I knew that this was going to change everything.
I thought it was revolutionary. When McG, the director of Terminator Salvation , called Hurlbut and asked him to direct and shoot a series of webisodes to promote the movie—all based around a first-person perspective of a helmet cam—Hurlbut was all over it. Hurlbut saw the potential right away. I was all in. Motion pictures were born. Their specialty is capturing the news and sports. When I look at their images they don't look cinematic.
I feel that the HD platform has now come from the right source, still photography. Up to this point, the HD video camera chip technology just doesn't quite do it for Hurlbut because the video looks overly sharp and has way too much depth of field.
You need to think much more out of the box, stop looking at all the numbers and drink the DSLR Kool-Aid, along with its limited color space and digital compression.
This is what makes it look cinematic and organic, I call it digital film. He often gets some strange looks when pulling out his 5D, especially when he hands it to the Technocrane technicians.
But despite its alien look in the film world, Hurlbut tries to keep shooting simple. It is intimate and my portal to view the light and composition. By embracing the simplicity of the Canon technology, he was able to keep the production simple, small, and intimate with the director and the actors, not a big circus.
The camera becomes the DIT as well as the video playback technician. Note the red tape on the monitor setting the 1: Photo by Kurt Lancaster Figure I. And I think out of all this it's going to start a massive revolution. A few years ago, he started and today still runs an all-digital postproduction house, Hdi RAWworks hdirawworks. He used Smith's posthouse for the postproduction work. Charters needed to get shots of the White House, Smith explains.
Charters, Smith continues, took the stealth approach. He pretended to be a museum tourist. Would it be cinematic or look as though it painfully stood out with a video aesthetic? We understand all about color space and resolution. But in the right hands, the ugly duckling can shine.
Smith asked Charters to do the ultimate test. However, 4K resolution is an entirely different story. For now, though, Smith is pushing the HDSLR cinema revolution, and he feels that Canon will beat out the other dedicated video cameras due to Moore's Law—faster, better, cheaper—the HDSLR cameras can only get better, plus Canon has the sales distribution and mass market on its side. It gave a new level of being able to pull the actors out of the background and pull them … right to your face, and give an intimacy that I haven't seen in digital or film.
There is something in the sensor design, something in the spirit of the machine, the soul of the machine that is very organic.
There is something that Canon engineers do with these sensors and their color science that produces a very film-like aesthetic. Independent filmmaker Philip Bloom, who, like Smith, dismissed the value of the Canon 5D Mark II, bought one and tossed it aside because he couldn't control some of the features manually.
As a professional DP, he wanted that control. But late in the spring of , he saw the potential. He started shooting some projects with it. He wrote about his experiences and put samples of his work on his blog philipbloom. People noticed.
Within several months, he became one of the key HDSLR experts, being invited to give workshops and asked by Canon and Panasonic to test out cameras for them. Mike Blanchard, the head of postproduction at Lucasfilm, called him up.
They wanted to know how far the cameras could be pushed cinematically—can a DSLR be used as a cinema camera? Bloom arrived with his equipment and shot around the countryside of Skywalker Ranch see Figure I. He converted the files to Apple ProRes overnight and cut together a rough edit by morning. The big guys wanted to see it projected on a foot screen. That was the true test. Bloom knew the work looked good on his computer screen. And his stuff looked good on the Web—but on a cinema screen?
Not codecs, limitations, bit rates, et cetera. All those are very important, but the most important thing by far for them is how it actually looks and it passed with flying colors. That is what they really care about. I was nervous. Never having seen my work on a big screen as good as this, but also George Lucas came in to watch and also the legendary sound designer Ben Burtt. My heart was racing. I watched as the edit played and they loved it.
Then Quentin Tarantino came in as he was due to talk at a screening of Inglourious Basterds and George said to Quentin, come see this. He had no idea you could shoot HD video on them or they were so good. Mike Blanchard, Lucasfilm's head of postproduction, wasn't sure if the footage would hold up on-screen. You know, it's really not, because nobody ever sees a projected negative. So the great part about working at Lucasfilm, for people like Rick [McCallum] and George [Lucas]— working for them—is that you just show them things and that's where it ends.
We don't do little charts about how it doesn't have that or it doesn't do that. We make it work. And that's just a beautiful way to do work, because it opens up everything. They previously shot on film. He noted that there is a stark difference between those who are shooting stories and those who are shooting test charts: Ironically, the camera's video capability was all done by mistake.
DSLR cinema: Crafting the film look with video
It all started with the movie Iron Man 2. The 2nd Unit DOP was using the camera for stunt work. There were major flaws with the camera when it first came out. There was no manual aperture control, and it shot only true 30P. Canon sent two engineers to the set, and within two weeks, they were able to add manual aperture control to the camera. The frame rate was the same but now the camera was a better tool for video work.
The camera started popping up everywhere. Californication had one spinning on 2nd Unit, replacing a 16 mm Bolex. It now seemed as though everyone was using this new tool in his or her kit.
This was the real test for the camera. Would it hold up under broadcast conditions for one of the most popular shows in the country? It passed with flying colors. The Canon 5D Mark II, with its full-frame still sensor, has a certain aesthetic that cannot be achieved with any other camera.
The use of depth of field to help tell the story had been missing from the video toolkit for some time. There was a short time of DOF lens adapters, but that was only a temporary solution. Anyone with a good story and a good eye can produce highquality imagery with these cameras. What This Book is About This book is designed for people who want to open up the possibilities of using DSLRs as a cinema camera—whether you're shooting a wedding, a student thesis film, a documentary, video journalism, an independent film for a festival, or a feature.
It's designed to help the DSLR shooter create cinema-quality HD video with the fewest possible people and equipment—to maintain a small footprint of the one-person shooter, if needed, but with the ability to maintain a big vision, as Shane Hurlbut noted earlier.
Ultimately, HDSLR shooters can learn how to make their work look better by reading this book, but hooking that cinematic look to a good story is more than key. It's essential. It's what will impact an audience. Suddenly we are giving people an affordable tool to make highquality imagery, and it's releasing potential in people they never realized they had.
There are people out there who never thought that they would be able to shoot high-quality images like this, that they would have the opportunity to do it. And they will go out and do it and they may not do it as a full-time job—and most of them [won't]—but it's the passion brought out in people that is just incredible. This book is about taking that passion, that desire to shoot HD video with a DSLR camera, as if you were shooting film—and not as if you're shooting on an ENG or prosumer video camera.
This camera doesn't function like one of those. Instead, you must think like a cinematographer, rather than a videographer. The simplicity of pointing and shooting a DSLR camera as if you were shooting a video camera with everything automatically set is not the way to go. What's Covered in the Book This book assumes you already know how to shoot and edit. At the same time, the importance of basic cinematography will not be assumed, and even if you already have this knowledge, the review may be beneficial because the examples draw from a DSLR perspective.
Chapters 1 through 5 include either a checklist or a set of steps, so you can plan each element as you begin to master it, or use each checklist as a helpful reminder. All the chapters include working examples from some of the best DSLR shooters in the field to illustrate the technical and artistic expression of cinematography. It's not an exhaustive overview of DSLR shooters, however. Only a few were selected for this book—based on availability and the author's sensibilities. There are many, many others that just could not be included.
Chapter 6 covers postproduction workflow, while Chapter 7 provides an overview and exercises on storytelling so you can quickly think about the number one reason to get a DSLR in the first place: The goal isn't to master the entire art and craft of cinematography in these chapters, but to expose you to some of the basic principles so you can begin shooting DSLR projects cinematically.
Ultimately, the film look is actually different from the cinematic look of HDSLRs, which I refer to as the HDSLR cinema aesthetic; however, I do refer to the film look throughout the book as a shorthand, a simple way to explore that cinematic look that's far different from conventional video. It examines the golden mean in composition, the importance of working with actors to tell a story visually through body language, as well as why camera movement is one of the most powerful elements in cinematography.
Lighting sets the mood of every scene, and just because DSLR cameras are good in low light doesn't mean you should ignore the most important tool in cinematography. A mastery of the tonal scale will teach you how much light to use on your subject and in the background. Exposure will help you determine not only how much light hits the sensor, but how much depth of field you'll have, while the ability to use a variety of 4.
Pitfalls of Presets and Creating Custom Styles. Picture style is one of the most powerful tools DSLR shooters can use to get their look before shooting. The chapter also covers the use of flat and superflat settings, in addition to exploring how to change color temperature in-camera. It's more important than capturing a good picture.
Poorly recorded sound will prevent an audience from seeing your film. This chapter goes over some of the technical aspects of microphones and includes recommendations for equipment. It also includes the best way to get the cleanest sound for DSLR shooters: In addition, it includes steps for using PluralEyes, the software that will sync external audio recording with in-camera sound.
Furthermore, the chapter includes a basic overview of Magic Bullet, an easy-to-use and powerful colorgrading software tool. It's one thing to buy a DSLR camera and start shooting, but to enter the world of professional cinema, a mastery of storytelling is essential. The chapter provides the basics of the three-act structure, covers the importance of visual storytelling through the actions characters take, and provides tips on writing good dialog.
In addition, it includes exercises on how to get good story ideas. It includes examples of short fiction and short documentary projects. Casulo , directed by Bernardo Uzeda, Brazil, 17 min. I think this kind of a result for a camera that costs even less than the lenses and accessories we were using is quite a revolution. The before and after shots of postproduction noise removal and color grading included in this chapter reveal the importance of taking the time to do it right in post.
It reveals Philip Bloom's signature style with close-ups of faces in and around horse stables and a racetrack. In addition, it includes details from the preproduction meeting I observed before the team went out to shoot. This heart-rending story that flies by quickly shows off the power of cinematic storytelling with the Canon 5D Mark II.
The chapter includes interviews with the writer-director, Po Chan, as well as with Shane Hurlbut, ASC, the cinematographer on the project. In many cases, this chapter showcases how the equipment was used. At the same time, it provides a brief overview of what the equipment does. Essentially, the chapter includes three different sets of equipment that can be purchased by budget size, but it does not include big-ticket items seen in a full production package in Hollywood.
Rather, these are the different kinds of equipment designed for the solo or small team DSLR shooters who need portability, who are on a small budget, and who are not going to buy or rent a set of tracks, for example. The equipment includes some of the DSLR cameras not an exhaustive list , audio equipment such as microphones and external recorders , portable lights, tripods, steadicams, shoulder mounts, handheld gear, backpacks, lenses, and so forth. Most of the equipment I mentioned are being used by DSLR shooters, and there is far more equipment being manufactured and sold than could ever by covered in a single chapter of a book.
This is one of the most exciting times to be a filmmaker. Potential filmmakers and students got excited with miniDV and the later prosumer HD, but these didn't really break through to the cinema world, other than with a few exceptions.
The closest we got was the breakthrough by Richard Leacock and Robert Drew, who developed a portable 16 mm sync-sound film camera that changed how documentaries were made see, for example, Primary, You, as a DSLR shooter, will pave the way for a new kind of cinema, a cinema that could never have been previously attained on such a small equipment budget.
Show us what you can do. Nikon deserves mention, but no one I came across was using them.
Vincent Laforet. In depth interview with Greg Yaitaines. Many video users shoot everything manually, but the difference with a DSLR is that it reflects the purity of shooting on film—set lens with depth of field, set your lighting, meter it, set the f-stop, focus, and shoot.
We find the magic and structure the movie. To be a good DSLR shooter, you need to think like a cinematographer whether or not you're doubling as the director. And cinematographers are fundamentally storytellers—the ones who translate a writer's words into images that draw viewers into the world. Without a compelling story, you simply have disassociated images. Indeed, not-so-perfect images tied to a compelling story will hold an audience more than strong images linked to a poorly conceived concept or story.
Just as authors use words to describe a scene, a character, and action or a painter uses pigments and dyes to give form, shape, and color to a canvas, a director and cinematographer will use camera movement and lighting to express themselves.
Indeed, the words cinematography and photography are interrelated— meaning to write with movement and light graph: Shooting with a DSLR—a digital tool that approaches the mythic film look more nearly than any other video camera preceding it—you need to think about shooting your projects by means of camera movement and stillness , as well as by light and shadow.
These are your fundamental expressive tools in telling your story. If you ask cinematographers how to attain the cinema look, likely they'll respond against your expectations. The first part of this book examines how to create the best possible image for your story. It includes several setups as described by working cinematographers who have created a look that matches their story's intent. The desire to attain a cinematic look with video was born out of the stark and flat pixilation of the video image, as opposed to the sharp but creamy soft look of film.
One of the main reasons filmmakers have avoided using video cameras to shoot their movies despite the potential huge savings revolves around the inherent quality of the video look—an aspect of resolution and sensor property when it exposes light digitally. But the ability to attain this look is highly subjective and what some people may tolerate as acceptable, others may cringe; however, very few can deny that a good story, well executed, trumps any kind of look.
As a DSLR shooter, your goal should be to help reinforce the look and feel of a story through better cinematography. Not only are the stories you choose to tell up to you, but how they look and feel to an audience derive from the choices you make when shooting; the shot will feel different if your protagonist wears red versus green, for example. As Jon Fauer, ASC, says, the style—the look you're trying to attain—is what will grab an audience's attention.
For a scene that shows a gentleman walking through a door, the left side of Godard's frame might have been inspired by a genre noir film from the '20s and the right side of the frame might have come from a poster he saw that morning on the Metro. The inspiration and art come first. The technology—like the painter's brush—is used in service to the art. You select the kind of camera movement that you want to do. You select your lighting style: Out of all those elements, you create the look of the film.
I have to bring something to that reality that will affect the audience as they look at the picture. Is it a happy day? Is it a sad day? What can I do to create an impression, an emphasis?
Filmmaking— even more so than theater—is one of the most difficult art forms to master. A painter paints, a novelist or poet writes, a sculptor sculpts— all arts that are conducted in one medium most of the time. In film, many different art forms and technology comprise the cinematographer's palette. As a DSLR shooter, you need to consider shooting like a cinematographer, not a videographer. So the first few chapters of this book cover the main elements you need to consider to make DSLR video look more cinematic, and it gives you these techniques on a low budget.
You don't need the full equipment package of a Hollywood production team although that can help , but you can achieve this shooting solo, if needed. So the information in this book is useful not only for independent filmmakers, shooting both docs and fiction, but also for event and wedding shooters, video journalists, as well as students.
The first three chapters provide the foundation, the basic tools needed for DSLR shooters to craft a cinematic look with video DSLRs —from composition to exposure. The fourth chapter describes how you can shape a cinematic look by manipulating the picture styles of DSLR cameras. Chapter 5 covers audio recording—one of the most important aspects in making a good film, while Chapter 6 presents the postproduction workflow. As I define these tools of the cinematographer, I include examples of how DSLR shooters approach them in their projects.
The goal isn't to master the entire art and craft of cinematography in these chapters, but to expose you to some of the basic principles so you can begin shooting DSLR projects cinematically, to help express the film look. There are many books on telling stories, but this compact chapter provides you with core information so you can start telling better stories right away.
Cinematographer Style: The Complete Interviews, Vol. American Society of Cinematographers. Chapter 1 Composition, Blocking, and Camera Movement Composition, blocking, and camera movement are the building blocks of your story. They're intertwined like DNA. You cannot have one without the others, so this first chapter begins with defining these three elements and showing examples of how DSLR shooters compose their image along the golden mean, how they tell a story through the blocking of performers, and how they utilize camera movement poetically.
Composition Your three-dimensional subjects and the scene they're in are composed through your lens. This composition relies on many factors, including lenses and shot sizes, as well as camera angles.
But one underlying principle can't be understated: Many cameras are equipped with rule-of-thirds grid lines, which provides a decent way to compose your images—keeping eye lines on the top third of the image and your subject in either the right or left third, for example. But photographer Jake Garn argues that the Rule of Thirds isn't as naturally dynamic as the use of the golden mean, which we can see in one of his photos in Figure 1.
Figure 1. The ratio provides a spiral and rectangular pattern that reflects a pattern found in nature and, when used by photographers and cinematographers, can create powerful compositions.
If you want to learn how to do this and train your eye to compose your images around the golden mean, the Shutterfreaks team—a group of photographers who have created a website with tips and tricks shutterfreaks.
You may download Shutterfreak's application for Photoshop, so you can analyze a still within a golden mean grid; see http: It features a man longing for a girl, failing to find her during a late-night rendezvous. Let's look at a few random stills and apply Shutterfreak's golden mean app in Photoshop, just to see how it holds up compositionally along the golden mean see Figures 1.
If Laforet had composed the characters dead center, the choice may not have been as compositionally powerful as the one he chose. Whether or not Laforet was conscious of it, the golden mean used as a tool helps provide compositional resonance to the scene.
Still fromReverie. Whether or not he was conscious of it, Laforet composed her along the golden mean, providing strong composition to the scene as the camera tilts up.
Note the back light placement causing a rim light glow, as well as her shadow to fall across the ground right across the golden mean line, presenting a strong compositional vertical for the shot.
Three-point lighting setup is covered in the next chapter. Another aspect of composition includes creating the illusion of three dimensions by providing depth to a scene. The woman in Figure 1. Also, you may stage background and foreground characters and move them along different planes of action to signify the sense of depth as well. Practicing with depth, light, and placement of your subjects is the best way to train yourself for good composition. Ultimately, there are no rules, only what looks and feels right for the story.
But an understanding of where and why these rules work—and a mastery of them in your DSLR shooting—is important if you want to create powerful shots. Don't break the rules until you know how to use each of them well. Checklist for Composition 1. Your compositional choice may revolve around your central character or characters. What is in the frame? What you see is what you get. If you don't want something in the frame, get it out of the way or move your subject s until everything you see is meant to be there.
Place your main characters along the golden mean for strong composition. Follow the general principles of framing a character screen left if they're looking right and screen right if they're looking left. Keep eyelines around one-third from the top as a general rule.
Break these rules when your story demands it. How to Install the Actions 1. Open Photoshop. If you haven't already done so, extract all the files from the ZIP file into a folder on your hard disk. Click and drag the. If you look in the Actions window in Photoshop, you will see the action set appear there. Using the Actions Open the action set by clicking the little arrow just to the left of the name RuleOfThirds.
You may need to scroll down in the Actions window to see the actions. Open a photo you want to analyze. Highlight one of the actions by clicking it, and then run the action by clicking the Play Selection arrow at the bottom of the Actions window. The actions will make changes to a duplicate of your file so that you can protect your original.
Notes 1. If you'd like an action that will help you crop your images to conform to the Rule of Thirds and the golden mean, check out our Rule of Thirds Pro Action http: If you are new to using Photoshop actions, http: To correct the problem, convert your image to 8 bits before running the action. Blocking Blocking is where, when, and how subjects are placed and move in the composition, whether working with actors or characters in a documentary.
How they are placed, when they move, where they move from, and where they go are dependent on the story. There should be nothing random because these movements the blocking of the performers need to be motivated; otherwise, random movements not grounded in the story will appear weak on-screen. The job of the director is to shape or choreograph the blocking see Figure 1.
Po Chan's approach to blocking in The Last 3 Minutes featured in Chapter 12 is as precise as her direction on all aspects of the short: In the scene, Po takes time to set up the physical actions for actor Harwood Gordon, as his character William Turner has a heart attack and collapses to the floor.
Po knows what she's looking for. She understands very well and is glad that Gordon has had no such experience before. She goes into extreme detail and wants Gordon to convey the pain in this moment. She explains to him the different layers of emotions that should be inside him in this scene. By doing so, she keeps the actor fresh in his imagination, and the physical action conveys that naturalness she's looking for. Some actors may be hands off with the director, but Po says she looks for actors she can communicate with, heart to heart, look into their eyes, and know their feelings: In this scene, there is no dialog, so the physical actions are the main vehicle to convey the story.
She puts herself emotionally into the scene as she directs: I apply myself to them. Even though I can only live one life, I can experience many more different lives through the art of cinema. There are several possible combinations of blocking with a camera: A performer can stand still and the camera remains locked down. A performer can stand still and the camera moves. A performer can move and the camera is locked down.
A performer can move and the camera can move. Po Chan reveal how her blocking visually reveals the story. The movements and position of Harwood Gordon's character, William, on-screen provides the information for an audience to understand what is going on; Shane Hurlbut's shots support the blocking by conveying these emotions through shot sizes, composition, and lighting. Each one of these changes the dynamics of the scene.
Each scene has an emotion shift, a change that alters the emotion of the scene, and an understanding of when this change occurs will help you make the better choice. For example, in this particular scene refer to Figure 1. In the second image, we see a low camera angle looking up before it cuts to the third image, when Gordon drops into a tight close-up frame of the camera. These two shots contain the shift in the scene—conveying to the audience the suddenness of his heart attack in the first, while the close-up expresses his surprise and pain.
This is the first time the tight close-up is used in this scene. It's the crux, the point where the scene shifts into a new direction. In the beginning of the scene, William is mopping the floor, alone with his thoughts.
But in the close-up, we see his pain and struggle, and the scene shifts as he struggles for a meaningful heirloom in his pocket and his life flashes before his eyes. The filmmakers could have added camera movement at this point to emphasize this point, but it may have come across as melodramatic or overly manipulative, whereas the low angle followed by the tight closeup does the job in this particular instance.
In summary, blocking is the visual depiction of the story by actors' bodies—their body language, gestures, and movement through space —and this blocking must be tied to the shot, whether the camera is locked down or moves. In the opening sequence to The Last 3 Minutes, we can see how the story is fully told by not only how the character of William is composed in space, but how he moves and how the camera captures his movements.
Whatever decision you make as a cinematographer when shooting with DSLRs, be aware that blocking and camera movement are intrinsically tied together see the next section on camera movement. Blocking is the visual depiction of the story by actors' bodies. Checklist for Blocking 1. Who owns the scene—the point of view character?
This is the character who, perhaps, has most to lose in the scene or the character impacted by the events in the scene. When you know who owns the scene, then, as the director, you can determine what the emotional state of this character is at the beginning of the scene and at the end of the scene: Set up your camera so that you capture not only the action of this character, but more importantly, the reaction of the character to the events occurring in the scene—especially where the scene change occurs.
The character's actions and reactions will motivate where and what you capture on camera—and will help immensely in editing. The choices for blocking and the use of the camera include these four combinations: The choice you make should be dependent on the needs of the story; this takes analysis see Chapter 7 on stories for more details.
Make a list mental or physical of the shots you need to tell the story— and for editing, especially as it relates to the scene's emotional shift.
Think about the actions of the characters and what they're doing from shot to shot. What shots do you need to tell the full story when you edit?
Where do the performers' eyelines take us? This is one good clue to choosing shots to edit, and a good shooter needs to capture these eyelines. What will the shots look like as you edit?
Do you have enough shots? Can you condense several shots into one shot with camera movement? Documentary filmmakers the Renaud brothers mention how important it is for shooters to be editors: If you can become a good editor first, it is easy to become a good shooter. Just as a character needs to be motivated before moving on-screen, the camera needs to be motivated in its movement.
The camera's movement needs to be tied to character motivations and movements because the camera captures emotions and actions through its lens. To quickly attain an amateur look in your DSLR projects, just handhold the camera and move around a lot.
Controlling the movement of a camera takes discipline and proper tools. And DSLR cameras are less stable than typical video cameras; they're shaped for photography, not for handheld video movement. When you are engaging in handheld movement, the cameras are awkward and difficult to keep stable for longer sustained shots.
One of the problems with handheld work is that it's hard; it's easy to make the movements unprofessionally shaky! Move in slow motion and make the camera feel heavy. It's easy to whip a light camera around and make it jiggle too much as the body of the DSLR shooter fails to remain still. You must Zen your body and focus your attention on the shot. In many of the shots of The Last 3 Minutes, Shane Hurlbut, ASC, handheld the camera, but his body was rock steady and the movements of the camera were slight and were never jerky.
Several companies have designed a variety of handheld and shoulder-mounted stabilization devices for helping with handheld shots.
But they can still provide poor results if you're moving around and bouncing too much. Holding still, moving in slow motion, and moving as if you're carrying weights will help your handheld work. When handholding shots, you may tilt up and down along the vertical axis yaw or move side to side, left to right pitch. A roll occurs when you move front to back like a ship riding waves at sea rarely used. It's easy to whip light cameras around and make it jiggle too much as the body of the DSLR shooter fails to remain still.
One of the safest ways to get a clean shot is to use a tripod … when the story warrants it. It's one of the best ways to get stable and acceptable shots for DSLR projects, but the shots may appear too static, so some slight motion may be needed. Again, let your story determine the best way to convey the emotion you want in a scene. Also, remember that the longer the lens, the faster the apparent motion and the more unstable the shot will be when handholding.
It may be best to use a tripod when using a long lens. Critics point to these shifts as a weakness to the camera. At the same time, however, this issue doesn't seem to impact many professional filmmakers. Shane Hurlbut, ASC, says he's rarely encountered the problem. Vincent Laforet dir. Reverie recently said this about it: It's important to keep in mind that any camera out there, film or digital, has limitations on how fast you can pan it— especially when projected onto a large screen.
In general, a DP will always plan for this on any camera moves they are directing the speed of the camera's move. It's important to remember that a pan may look just fine on a 17H monitor—but the same pan may be a bit painful for the audience's eyes on 50 foot silver screen. Unless you are doing dynamic and fast moving action sequences, where you are purposefully moving the camera at extremely high rates whip pans, running sequences, etc.
Camera movement includes Pan: Push-in through space see Figure 1. Pull-out through space see Figure 1. Tracking or dolly: But getting a dolly that works really well will blow the budget let's face it, cheaper tripod dollies—tripods with wheels attached to them—just don't cut it. And the skateboard dolly or wheelchair trick goes only so far and requires a smooth surface.
Laying down tracks just isn't doable for most DSLR shooters, either. However, there's an affordable way to get that high-end filmic look: The slow push-in offers poetic power around its smooth rhythmic beat. Push-in shot from 1: Film shot on a Canon Rebel T2i with a variety of lenses.
Color grading with Magic Bullet software. By moving the camera on this micro dolly, the DSLR shooter can achieve high-end Hollywood-style cinema motion. High-end dollies can be bulky and expensive. For low-budget DSLR shooters—especially those one man- and one woman-band shooters —the inch pocket dolly see Figure 1. The image in the foreground shows the product with the crank and belt.
Kessler Crane's Motorized dolly tripod system now shipping. Lumix GH1-Wedding Highlights. Tiffen's Steadicam Merlin balances the camera on a handheld support device, providing the ability to shape smooth handheld shots.
It requires perfect balance based on the camera's and accessory's weight—so windy days are not good when using this tool outdoors. Instructions can be found there as a PDF file: Ken Yui's setup for his wedding shoot includes these settings they only make sense for Merlin users who've read the manual; see Figure 1. Redrock Micro may also offer a more affordable way to go, but if you're really on a low budget and want the steadicam look, the do-it-yourself steadicam may prove useful http: In some ways, the DSLR system for me simply represents a better camera, not a fundamental shift in video storytelling.
Over the years, I've changed cameras when technology changed and quality got better but my style has more-or-less remained constant. I could deal with the lack of timecode, the audio fixes, and the overheating, but I simply couldn't handhold the thing steady and interact with my characters at the same time.
In the end, I ended up saving money and getting a fit I could deal with. I splurged on the other bracket it was a hundred bucks , which holds the audio gear and balances the camera out by moving weight to the back of the camera. As soon as I headed out in the hot Haitian sun I was soon confronted with a series of new issues to work out.
The biggest surprise was the overheating. I had worked with 5D in the Chihuahuan desert in July, so I thought I was prepared, but in Haiti the 7D would shut down sometimes only after 30 minutes of shooting in the heat of the day.
Fox, T. The Franken-Camera. Travis Fox Films. The Tactical Shooter has since been replaced by a newer model, the Target Shooter.
Unlike the Merlin, where we see how Ken Yiu engaged smooth handheld movement while walking, Bloom stands still, allowing for a slight bobbing movement of the camera as the tactical Shooter is braced against his body see Figures 1.
He's in full control of his 5D Mark II camera. Checklist for Camera Movement and Stabilization 1. What does your story demand? Your story—the emotional intention you're trying to express in your shot—should indicate whether the shot should be locked down on a tripod or contain smooth movement such as with the Pocket Dolly or a little bit more rough perhaps the Zacuto Target Shooter.
Also, take note at what point in a scene the camera should move or stay still. This should convey the emotional shift in the story. What angle of lens are you using?
What kind of shot do you need? If you want the handheld look, providing a sense of immediacy or presence to the scene, then utilize a handheld stabilizer—such as the Steadicam Merlin—with a wide to normal lens. If you need a stable shot, no matter the lens size, then lock down the camera on a tripod. Are you short on time? For video journalists and documentary filmmakers on the move, the handheld stabilizer, such as Zacuto's Target Shooter or Striker, or Redrock Micro's nano—RunningMan will be best for quick setups and to get in and out of a scene quickly.
Bloom, P. Cherry Blossom Girl. Attach a Z-Finder, and you'll have an essential eyepiece for outdoor shooting. It not only adds another point of contact to the body when shooting for better handheld stabilization , but allows for better viewing of the LCD screen because it includes either a 2. Shooting in Haiti: Documentary Tech. VW Spec Ad posted with behind scenes video.
Vincent Laforet Blog , accessed Chapter 2 Lighting Your DSLR Shoot If the composition, blocking, and camera movement shapes the visual look of your film, lighting determines what the look feels like.
No matter your lens choice, proper exposure, and ISO setting, a lack of understanding how to utilize light will destroy your cinematic look. A cinema-like camera will not provide a cinema look alone. Lighting is your most powerful ally in helping you sculpt a film look. It helps provide visual depth to your picture.
If you shot an off-white subject against a white wall, there's not much contrast—not much light and shadow—and the picture appears flat. If you shoot somebody white against a dark background, the person stands out, and if you add background lighting to the scene, the depth increases. DSLR cameras maintain a strong advantage over HD video cameras because they have the capability with larger chips and ISO settings to shoot in natural and practical low-light situations, so fewer lights are needed on set.
The quality of light refers to what it looks like and what it feels like. What it looks like is what you see on the surface. The feel, on the other hand, conveys the emotion shaped by lighting. You can craft the look and feel of a film by paying attention to: Light quality Light direction Light and shadow placement Color temperature Craft the look and feel of a film by paying attention to: Should It Be Hard or Soft? Hard light is direct, producing harsh shadows, and results in a high level of contrast.
This can come from a sunny day or an unshaded light pointed directly at a subject. Hard lights are especially effective as backlight and rimlight sources, such as the example in Figure 2. Figure 2. Lights from headlights of a car with a white reflector were used for this shot.
Soft light is indirect, created by reflecting or diffusing the light—an overcast day or a scrim or sheet dropped between the light source and the subject, or simply bouncing light off a white art board, or even reflecting light off a wall or ceiling. This type of light provides low contrast to the image see Figure 2. A rear three-quarter key highlights her hair and cheekbone in hard-quality light, while her face and chest are filled in with soft red light—actually lit from the taillight of a car to get the desired effect.
See Figure 2. One of the counterintuitive properties of light is the fact that as the lighting instrument is brought closer to the subject, the softer the lighting gets, while farther away, the harder it is because it becomes more of a point source, causing the hard light quality to stand out. A diffused light source from farther away may convey a harder light quality than a low-watt Fresnel lamp up close.
Light Quality 2: Direction The direction of the light will determine the placement of shadows and, consequently, the physical texture of objects and people. There are fewer shadows when the lighting is on-axis of the camera the front. Shadows increase as the light shifts off-axis of the camera and to the rear of your subject.
Light from the side will increase the texture of the scene. In the medium close-up of the woman in the still from Laforet's Reverie see Figure 2. Background streetlamps provide ambient lighting, while fill lights from the front—lights either bounced or scrimmed—provide a soft look and feel on the woman.
Although the red light isn't necessarily motivated, it conveys an emotion Laforet wanted in the scene. The saturation of color is more prominent when the source is from the front, while colors become desaturated when the lights are placed in the rear. Light Placement Terminology Key: The main light source of the scene a window, a table lamp, overhead lighting, a fireplace, and so forth. Know where your motivated light source is and add lights, if needed, to reinforce it accordingly. Can be hard or soft quality.
Lights used to fill in shadows caused by the key light. Usually a soft quality. Back and Rim: Lights placed behind characters to separate them from the background.
A rim light specifically is placed high with the light falling on a character's head, her hair lit in such a way as to differentiate her from the background.
Lighting occurring in the background of the set, designed to separate it from the foreground, giving the scene visual depth. These could be street lights, lights in a store, a hallway light inside, and so forth. Following are a series of stills from a variety of DSLR shooters' work, each one illustrating a different light source direction.
Light Source Direction: Side A side key light on the front of the face brings out the main features of the character, the emotions expressed by the face see Figure 2. See Bloom, P. San Francisco's People: Canon 5DmkII. Side Figure 2. Cumbria's Last Traditional Rakemakers featured in Chapter 9 we see how Schroer utilizes side lighting to highlight the features of her subject. Side lighting brings out texture because it reinforces shadows, as we can see with the man's wrinkles on-axis light will lesson shadows.
Fill light reflects back onto the man's screen-right face to help ease out the shadows light from a window. Backlighting provides a sense of depth to the frame. See Schroer, R.
Cumbria's Last Traditional Rakemakers. Back Figure 2. Some of the light spills into the room, providing detail on the workshop table, but with no additional lighting we do not see details of the subject. Yui, K. Still fromWedding Highlights. Front Figure 2. Notice the eyes have a glint in them.
Frontal lights make characters come alive through these types of tricks. Some cinematographers will add an eye light to bring liveness to the shot.
A Day at the Races. If you're shooting in the daytime and need to make it look dark, use blue gel filters with a high hard light representing the moon and desaturate the colors. Backlighting is shaped from available practical street lamps and also causes shadows to fall into the foreground of the shot. The higher the backlight, the shorter the shadow on the ground but not the face. Vincent Laforet, screen right, sits behind the camera, while we can see the breaklights on the vehicle casting red light onto the model.
Photo courtesy of Vincent Laforet. Light Quality 3: Light and Shadow Shadows bring out drama and are essential when creating a night scene see Figure 2. Related to light direction is the placement of shadows. The direction and height of the light determine how shadows fall in the cinematographer's composition.
Lights from the front will minimize shadows, whereas lights from the rear will increase the amount of shadows seen on camera. The higher the light source, the shorter the shadow.
If you want long shadows, shoot at sunrise or sunset, or place your lights low, instead of high, in the background. Side lighting will increase texture. Soft light with a blue gel to color the scene from above left lights the actor's face, while one from the front hits his feet.
The light is tightly controlled, minimizing spill, so as to enhance the shadows in the space. The lack of a backlight also helps accent the darkness and provides the night-time feel. Light Quality 4: Their computer chips are not as smart as human perception and have a hard time adjusting precise and subtle differences in color caused by different kinds of light sources.
Different chemicals burn at different wavelengths, producing different color qualities depending on whether the lamp is halogen, tungsten, fluorescent, sunlight, and so on.
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