Reading and Writing:
Reading #1: The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Audio
Chapter 1: Basics
This chapter discussed the principles which govern how a camera works. Just like the chapter on audio, the author begins with a human analogy by comparing the camera to the eye. Both cameras and eyes collect light and direct it to a sensitive surface which can relay differences in the light signals to an interpreting center. Since both the eye and the camera lens are convex in shape, they pass the light signals upside down. These images are turned around in the brain and the viewfinder, respectively. There are different types of cameras that take a different number of pictures per second. When they are put together at a fast pace, we as humans perceive them to be continuous, because of “persistence of vision”.
The author then discusses the concept of exposure, which is the amount of light coming through the camera lens that comes in contact with the CCD (charge coupled device) chip. Exposure is affected by the size of the lens aperture, which you can control on your camera by changing the f/stop. Since they are expressed as fractions, a large f/stop will let in the most light, and a small f/stop (1/16) will let much less light in. He then talks about color temperature, which is the concept that when objects are heated they emit different colors of light, depending on which temperature they are at. There are different filters you can apply to your camera to capture different colors of light. The author also mentions ISO (international standards organization) which tells you how fast and sensitive your film is. A low ISO number tells you it is slower, less sensitive and also needs more light to get a good picture.
Finally, the author discussed different lenses that a camera has to shoot different angles. Every camera has a “normal” lens, which lets viewers see the footage as though they were seeing it with their own eyes. Then there are wide angle and telephoto lenses that can exaggerate depth or compress depth respectively. The last topic talked about was depth of field, which is the area where everything looks in focus. The author stressed that depth of field and focal length are inversely related. His final heuristic was that you will have more depth of field behind the object you are focusing on opposed to in front of it.
Chapter 2: Composition
This chapter discussed basic principles of composition of camera shots. It is important to plan your shots out because in the final product, viewers can only see the information that you choose present through your camera. The author cites a shaky camera as a main distraction to viewers, and something to avoid by using a tripod. He then introduces the concept of the Rule of Thirds, which divides a picture with 2 horizontal and 2 vertical lines (9 boxes in total). The center box is composed of 4 points along its corners. The object of interest of the camera shot should be placed on one of the four points where the lines cross. This helps the viewer easily interpret what they are seeing.
Balance is another important principle to achieve with both masses and colors. Manipulating camera angles can imbue a sense of depth to the objects you are recording. Angles can also convey importance of a subject, for example, if the camera is lower than the subject, then it will make the subject look larger and thus seem important. The author also talks about “leading lines” which are lines present in your shot that can distract from the main object if they are pointing away from it, or can help point out the important object if they are used correctly. Finally, the author discusses the importance of background. If a background is distracting, it should be altered or moved out of the way (you can also move the subject). When you are shooting at a location, it is always good to consider the composition and rearrange as necessary.
Chapter 5: Camera Moves
In this chapter, the author discusses 3 basic camera moves: Zooms, tilts and pans. A zoom-in is when the camera transitions from a wide shot to a close up shot. This directs the viewers attention to the object being zoomed on. A zoom-out will usually add new information to the scene. Similarly, pans, which are horizontal movements, and tilts which move vertically will also usually add information to the scene. A good rule of thumb for making moves with the camera is to start and end every move with a static shot. It is important that this static shot have good composition. The author suggests that a cameraperson start a camera move in an uncomfortable position and move to a comfortable one, to make the transition smoother. The author then stresses the importance of moving the camera only with purpose; otherwise it will interfere with the editing process. Finally, it is important to start a pan or a tilt move just before a zooming move to make it appear smoother.
Chapter 6: Montages
In this short chapter, the author describes what a montage is: a collection of related camera shots that can serve to summarize something, condense a large amount of information or generally set the mood of a piece. He stresses the importance of each shot being different in its subjects, angle and composition so it doesn’t look like you tried to stitch together different images of the same thing.
This article described an 11-step checklist to plan for a video project. The first step is to create a specific business objective for your project which will embody what you want people to do after they see your video. Next you need to define your audience and research what is important to them so that you can tailor your product to their interests. Then you need to define and further develop your message, which is the main takeaway from your video. The more messages you have, the less likely it is that someone will both understand and remember all of them, so only pick a few at most. Then, figure out your budget and plan your shoots accordingly. Then plan how you will distribute the final product. It is important to think of a simple and doable concept to execute your idea. The next step is to write a treatment and a storyboard. A treatment is a condensed single page document that captures the main idea and shooting techniques. The storyboard goes into detail about what each scene will be and the materials required for it. Then you need to decide how long your video will be – it is better to have a short video so that your points are clear and it costs less. Then you need to get approvals from all necessary parties. Pre-production meetings are a good idea to communicate and collaborate with a large amount of people to get your idea across. Finally, schedule and plan your production. This may include backup plans for inclement weather, scheduling talent, obtaining permits and scouting the location. Overall, planning is an essential part of success for a video.
This article discussed some important camera shots to know. The first is the aerial shot, which is when the shot is filmed from the air, usually to establish the scene. The second shot is the establishing shot, which can come after an aerial shot, and serves to introduce the scene and actors. The third shot is a close-up shot, which zooms in close to emphasize a subject including just their face to emphasize changes in expression. The fourth shot is the extreme close-up, which zooms in the most to emphasize an extreme emotion on a small body part, like an eyelid twitching. The fifth type of shot is the medium shot, which typically includes the actor from the waist up and is used when there is a dialogue scene. The sixth shot is the “dolly zoom” which is when the camera will zoom out from the background while tracking forward with the actor. This shot was pioneered by Alfred Hitchcock to have a dizzying effect for the viewer. The seventh type of shot is the over-the-shoulder shot, which is when the camera is behind an actor’s shoulder . This is usually used for filming conversations. The eighth type of shot is the low angle shot, which is when the camera points up at the subject, which makes them loom over the camera and appear dominant. The ninth type of shot is the high angle shot, which is when the camera is higher than the subject, and it makes them appear small. The tenth shot is the “two-shot”, which is a medium shot that includes two characters in the same frame. The eleventh shot is the wide/long shot, which helps set the scene by framing the subject from their head to their feet and capturing the environment around them at the same time. The twelfth shot is the master shot. This is like an establishing shot, but instead of focusing on the overall scene, this type of shot captures the actors.
Reading #4: Storyboarding:
This article discussed what storyboarding is and why it is important. A storyboard is a place for your ideas for each shot to be illustrated before you take them and put them into your movie. The author emphasized that you need not be artistic in these portrayals; that even if you can draw a stick figure it will be enough to form a concrete plan for your film. The author emphasized that your storyboard can and will change, but it is vital to plan before you shoot. Finally, he shared important components to consider when making your storyboard, including: technical details, visual content, verbal content, set details and time of day.
Researching to Inform:
The following are examples of video clips that I thought demonstrated proper visual composition. I hand-wrote the URLs so that the videos would not embed directly onto my blog, since they are all from movies.
#1: Clip from Finding Nemo
I thought this demonstrated the rule of thirds nicely because while the shark is in the middle of the shot, the true object of focus is Dory and Nemo which are in the bottom Left corner. Watch the first ten seconds of the clip:
#2: Clip from Mr. Nobody
I thought this showed the property of depth very clearly. Watch the first ten seconds of the clip to see one character in focus and the other character blurred out in the background, which adds to the drama of the scene.
#3: Clip from the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The first thing I noticed about the shot was its amazing use of color. The girl in the scene has vibrant red hair which is also mirrored in her outfit. Some of the books in the background also have beautiful color that reinforce the red ambiance. This all occurs within the first 5 seconds.
Below is my pre-production plan for my video montage. This includes my pre-production planning document with my storyboard and my document with shots demonstrating proper composition techniques.
It was fun trying to take pictures with the proper composition principles. It can be hard working with a moving subject like my dog, but when you get the shot, it’s all worth it! I found balance to be something hard to achieve, especially when you have a lot of objects in a busy frame. Below is my document with the pictures I took.
I chose to do my montage about the renovations happening at my house. I thought this would be a good topic for a montage because you can tour different rooms and see the progress happening in each place. Below is my pre-production planning document.