Distance Shots

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

If you want to tell if someone is a beginner filmmaker its not that hard. All you really have to do is looks at their cinematography and you will tell. Super shaky shots without any sense of composition that go on for 45 seconds at a time make me close a YouTube video faster than anything else.

However a lot of people think that if they want to improve their cinematography they need to buy a better camera. NOT TRUE! In fact if you don’t know how to use the camera you have right now buying a more expensive camera with even more features you don’t use you will probably get an even worse looking shot.

There is good news though; there are simple rules for you to follow so that you can get great looking cinematography. After learning each rule you can gradually add onto it with other parts of composition to improve your cinematography.

The first thing that is important to know about is the different type of distance shots. You can either have a:

Wide Shot
Many times this is also called an establishing shot because it establishes the location of where the scene takes place. A great example of an establishing shot is in Seinfeld. Every time the scene switches to Jerry’s apartment they show a wide shot of an apartment complex. The best thing about that shot is that it is actually an apartment complex in Los Angeles even though the show takes place in New York. However the shot gets us to believe that it is in New York.
A wide shot when involving people shows their entire bodies or more. If possible get a wide-angle lens for your camera. When I had a hand held camera I got one for about $40. For DSLR users you can expect to pay a minimum of $300 for a wide angle.

Medium shots go are shots from the waist up of a person. These tend to be good shots for casual dialogue between two people. It allows for us to see both people and there is enough space in the frame for it not to feel that congested. I personally use this shot the most for anything I do.

A close up shows the shoulders to the head of a person. It is great for getting in close to the action and showing the details of what is going on. When used for dialogue it emphasizes what is said.

Extreme Close up
An extreme close up is a close up on steroids. With a person it is usually their eyes and mouth with the top and bottom parts of their head cut off. This creates a tense and uncomfortable scene. When not involving someone talking these shots are going to show the very minute details of what is happening.

All of these shots are great and good cinematography should include a variety of all of them. Instead of just hitting record on your camera think about the shot first and how you want to tell the story. A good example of how you can use them is like this.

Wide: A house on the corner. We start to hear people talk.

Medium: Inside of a house. Centered on two friends, John and Tanner are sitting at a table, each with a cup of coffee.

Medium: Facing on the John sitting on the left. He continues to talk.

Close up: Tanner’s face. He looks from John down to john’s cup of coffee.

Close up: John’s coffee. There is a packet of sweetener next to it.

Medium: John is still talking and reaches for the sweetener.

Close up: He begins to open it

Extreme close up: Tearing open the packet.

Close up: Pouring it into his coffee and stirring it

Extreme close up: Tanner’s eyes looking at John

Extreme close up: John is still talking

Close up: John stops stirring the coffee

Medium: John picks up the coffee and brings it up to his mouth to drink it.

Extreme close up: John drinking the coffee

Medium: John putting the cup down on the table.

Wide: The house on the corner. We hear someone falling off a chair. Tanner leaves the house with mug in hand.

Did you see how those shots go from wide to extreme close up? The camera is literally bringing you into the action.

Experiment with different shots and how you can arrange them to give a different mood to your film.  Once you mastered these shots you can move on to learning more about cinematography.

Time Lapse with EOS Utility

Saturday, October 1, 2011

So I've been getting a lot of people ask me about how exactly I did the time lapse with a Canon 60D using EOS utility.  I thought that today I would show you how to use EOS utility.

First step is to connect your Canon camera to your computer with the USB cord and open EOS utility.

Next get your shot set up.  You can click the live view button and it will show up what your camera sees.  Make sure to set the white balance and focus your image.  Once your image is in focus take off auto focus.  If you don't the camera will re-focus every picture it takes.  In this video you can see how it affects the image.

On the right you'll see that you can adjust the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture.  Set it up how you want it and then close the window.
From there you need to specify where it will save each picture you will take on your computer.  This is a great feature because you can take as many pictures as you want (if you have a lot of hard drive space).  Click the folder icon above the the aperture setting to specify the destination.
After that click the time watch icon and this will open up the intervalometer window.  You can specify how often you want it to take a picture and how many pictures you want to take.
If you want a five second clip at 24 fps you will want to take 120 pictures.  If you want to take six hours and make it 10 seconds long at 24 fps you will want 240 pictures, which is 40 pictures an hour, or one picture every 1 minute and 30 seconds. Whatever you want you may have to use some math.
After you have taken all of your pictures you can bring them into Picsa or Final Cut for the video.
Although this works great there are some problems with it.  First off you can't take a picture less than every five seconds.  Secondly it isn't that portable.  I don't like taking my computer around outdoors and setting it up for three hours.  However if you want to do a time lapse video somewhere that you can bring your computer this works great.
Also here is the final video

If you have any questions on how to take your pictures into a video check out the video turorial above for more info.
If you have any other questions leave it in the comment section below or email aspiringfilmmakerblog@gmail.com.

Kindle Fire - What can a filmaker learn from Amazon?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Today Amazon announced their new tablet, the Kindle Fire.  Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon said on the home page:
"There are two types of companies: those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less. Both approaches can work. We are firmly in the second camp."
This new kindle fire seems to be a glorified kindle, but with a price tag of $199.00 it seems to to follow their commitment to charge customers less.  The tablets have been growing in popularity but there are still many people who don't have one.  With the price tag it has I can see more people having tablets.  
I'm also excited to see what this does to other tablets out there, especially the i-pad.  Granted it doesn't have access to the itunes app store which has the most apps on the market (about 450,000) but it still has plenty of features to make Apple worried.

-Free cloud storage for anything from amazon
-Dual Core proccesor
-Instant streaming to over 10,000 tv shows and movies (if you have amazon prime)
-One month free of Amazon Prime
-The new ultra fast (their words) web browser Amazon Silk

Ok, so Amazon just released a pretty cool tablet that is super cheap.  What does that mean for filmmaker?  Well for one thing there are still many things that a Kindle Fire can't do that an Ipad can.  Indie2zero mentions 10 ipad apps here specifically for filmmakers and FilmmakerIQ has 22 more apps for filmmakers.  My personal favorite is this one.

If anything though, Filmmakers can learn from Amazon.  They took a product that every company is making and then revamped it and made it in a way that no one else has.  They have stepped up their web browser and introduced cloud storage along - and that is all free for you.
Take a look at a genre or style of film that has been done over and over.  Now think about it and keep thinking about it.  How can you change it up to make it different and do it in a way that has never been done before.
My favorite zombie movie ever is Shaun of the Dead.  First off because I love Edgar Wright and his movies.  Secondly because Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are hilarious.  More importantly than any of those was that it was something never done before. Although we have all seen movies of people trying to out last a zombie invasion we had never seen it with an actual romantic comedy element to it.  Thus the Rom-Zom-Com was born.
Now you probably won't buy the Kindle Fire to help you with your filmmaking but you can apply the same principals that they used to make their product.
Make your films in a way that no one has done before.
Make it work better.
Make it so more people have access to it.
Now go out and make it.

P.S. If you are still interested in the Kindle Fire here was a video I saw on how they designed the new web browser - Amazon Silk.

What makes a great film?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I'm in charge of organizing the Film Festival at my school.  I'm pretty excited for it.  I got the poster done tonight and I'm already hearing about what films people are working on. Tonight we had an informational meeting.  There were a few people that came that were new to filmmaking but wanted to start.  They started to ask me about what cameras to use and what mics they should get so that they could have a good film..

I feel like many new filmmakers get stuck in this situation, focusing on equipment first.  They then let their equipment hinder what they do.  Whenever they have a project that they want to do they say they can't because they don't have the right equipment.

Now although it is important to get the best equipment you can afford, it should be a secondary thing. Before Aspiring Filmmakers focus on getting amazing equipment they need to make sure that they have something more important - a good story.

Story should always come first in any film.  There are so many Hollywood films out there that have amazing special effects and have ginormous budgets.  But they still suck. Then there are super low budget films that win Sundance.  The Blair Witch Project costed $60,000.  The movie Clerks only costed $27,000. El Mariachi (Robert Rodriguez's first films) only costed $7,000.

Now that is all more money than most of us have.  However there is one thing that those movies had that  we all can have - a good story.  Instead of working on trying to get better equipment, work on getting a better story.  Instead of focusing on production and focus on pre-production.  Work, and revise, and work, and revise again until you get an amazing story.  When you get a great story it won't matter what type of equipment you use.

Time Lapse In Your Films

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I have recently gotten addicted to the TV show "Breaking Bad."  One of the things that I love most about it is the cinematography.  The show is very raw and the camera matches it.  Rarely will you see a stable shot on a tripod.  Even the establishing shots are handheld.  It adds a great aesthetic to the show that goes with the theme of unbalance in the main character's life.

One thing that I have also noticed about their cinematography is their consistant use of time lapse.  I can't think of another TV show that uses this technique.  The thing I like about it is that it looks amazing and it conveys the passing of time a lot easier than other techniques.  For some reason not a lot of people use it.

I have started getting into time lapse video to see how well I could do.  This was my first attempt at it.

In this one I plugged my camera (Canon Vixia HF20) into the wall outlet and hit record. I filled up the 32 gb hard drive of the camcorder with about 11 hours of one continuos shot. I then imported it into Final Cut and sped it up to something about 1,000,000%. It took a lot of time to export and it wasn't worth the time I spent on it.

This was the next one that I tried doing.

It was with a Canon 60D hooked up to my computer through EOS Utility. This took a picture every 15 seconds for about 6 hours. Once again I put it into Final Cut and exported it. This was a lot easier because I didn't have to work with a 30 gb file. However the problems I faced in this one was that I left it on autofocus on so every picture the camera refocuses. Each picture then looks a bit different from the other.

The other problem with this method is that you are bound to your computer. There are many places that I would like to do a time lapse but don't want to bring my computer there. With DSLRs you can buy an intervalometer that controls how often your camera takes a picture.

Finally my latest test was with a GoPro. I set the time lapse feature on the GoPro for once every five seconds on the shots outside and once every two seconds on the shots inside.

The easiest out of all three of these methods was definitely the GoPro. A full tutorial on how to do a time lapse with a GoPro will be coming shortly. The thing I also liked about it was how tough it was. If you look at the video of the GoPro at :21 you notice that it starts leaning. What you don't see is that the camera actually fell off the roof because I didn't secure it right. Even though it fell from a two story building it still works great with no problems.

What ever way you do your time lapse make sure that it adds to your film other than a beautiful camera shot. A great Aspiring Filmmaker can properly balance camera shots that add to their films aesthetic and look amazing.

I also found this site that has a pretty good tutorial on how to do time lapses. He talks about how to improve your photography so if you want to learn more about that go check it out at www.improvephotography.com.

Patience as an Aspiring Filmmaker

I saw this video and had to share it.  If there is anything that I have learned from being an Aspiring Filmmaker, it's that it takes a lot of time and work.  Patience is a true virtue of anyone in the filmmaking industry.  I have been doing this for almost eight years now.  I plan on doing it for a lot longer.

I like what Ira Glass has to say though, stick with it and do as much work as you can.  If not you will never get better.  Instead you'll become what I call the "Nobodys".

What is a "Nobody?"  It is someone who has the skill/equipment/"how to" to do something, but they never do.  You've heard and seen them before.  They have an awesome camera but they never use it.  They have done a lot of test videos but never anything else.  Anytime anyone asks them to film something for them they say they can't do anything for free (I'm going to talk about doing things for free later on) because they are a professional.  

Listen to Ira and don't be a nobody.  Get out there, be patient as you work to improve your skills and talent.

Go out and film.

Get In Motion Tour

Monday, September 26, 2011

I just got an email about the Get In Motion Tour.  The Get In Motion Tour is a conference going to 40 different cities teaching people about doing:

-Web Commercials
-Birth Announcements
-Family Films
-Senior Music Videos

You're saying, "Wait, those almost all sound like things photographers do!"  Well you're right.  The Get In Motion Tour is geared towards photographers new to video, but the principals learned will still be useful to an Aspiring Filmmaker.  They plan on focusing on story telling, camera movement, lens selection, audio, editing, and creating emotion.  Those all feel like things I would like to learn.

So it looks pretty cool and I am going to try go.  For $49 also that is a pretty good deal.  I once was temped to go to a conference with Vincent Laforet and Phillip Bloom, but then saw the $750 price tag.  So for $49 I can't complain.

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