A Study In Film Production Techniques

I created this product to create a synthesis between the written page and visual representations of topics learned in filmmaking. By writing this essay over what I have learned, I hope to bridge the gap of understanding on basic concepts that viewers may have had. Each of the clips in the compilation to compliment this writing came from a project that I have worked on recently and will provide a snapshot of what I have done so far.

To start, I divided my reel into three basic categories; color, cinematography, and technique. Ordering each by section did not feel right or flow well in my opinion however, so the shots will not be ascending or descending in a particular "order".

Where this will start is with color. It should be noted that each of the shots in this compilation was captured at the same resolution and with the same white balance, just for the sake of consistency. This simple element plays a very important role in all video of any format, whether it be cinema or broadcast. The colors on the screen can greatly influence the audience and their attitude toward the work. As demonstrated with the shot of the railroad tracks it is shown that dropping the saturation of a shot and adding a brown tint to it will make it look as if it is older than it actually is. For an example of cinematic look, such as in Hollywood movies, the shot of the anthill exemplifies crushing the blacks and raising the highlights to make the shot "pop" out of the screen. Many major motion pictures use this tactic as a starting point to make their movie as graphically pleasing as possible. By giving the picture a warmer tone, such as oranges or yellows, feelings of compassion and ease can be conveyed; whereas cool colors will create a feeling of longing and distance for the audience. An example of warm tone is both in the shot of the well and the shot of the girl in the grass. The main point to be made with color is that all color can be manipulated to look as good as the shot possibly can, but it is better do as much in camera as possible. In having the flattest image you can obtain, you set yourself in a great position, it may not look nice to begin with but it preserves many details for later. The last point to be made is that there is a difference in color correcting and color grading. Every shot in this reel has been color corrected, but only a select few have been truly color graded. Correcting is matching colors to each other and trying to make it look natural; matching the videos whites and blacks to the actual values of white and black and using that ratio as a reference for the rest of the color spectrum. Color grading however is the process of processing your footage to look nice, to push it further than natural boundaries, such as the railroad tracks or the well. Grading is all about style and pushing it that extra mile.

Following right behind is cinematography, more specifically the way a piece is shot. Composition is what I focused most on in this section and really took it to heart. My main friend with this was the "Rule of Thirds" which states that, to make a composition visually appealing one should place the subject on a focal point of an intersection on a three by three grid. If a subject is simply in the middle of the screen, that will draw the audiences eyes only to the subject and they will ignore everything else around them, ruining the composition. The rule of thirds prevents this and provides the best solution of subject placement. Next is the type of shot, such as wide or close up. This will determine the distance of the subject and give you more information on the area around them. In a narrative this could stand as a piece of vital information that only the audience can see, or could convey how alone a character is by the openness of a shot. Lastly is the timing of a shot. This does not entirely fall within cinematography, but greatly influences the impact that a shot will have. If a shot is relatively quick, it will cause the audience to be more interested in what will be shown next and will greatly progress the story that is being told. A long shot however, drags out the piece and will only make an audience wish the piece was over, unless it is the midst of a dialogue scene, and even then the more shots with less time is safer.

Lastly is technique, a very important subject. If the camera is moved in the wrong way or is not moved at all, the perfect shot can be ruined or even missed completely. Mainly the camera man worries over this responsibility, but a cinematographer must give the directions to be executed. These can include dollies, pans, tilts, and crane shots. A dolly to the right can be seen in the shot with the butterfly moving across the screen. A dolly is the movement of the camera in one straight line without turning the lens, this can be in any position such as front to back or left to right. Pans and tilts both are very similar to each other. A pan is the movement of the camera (on a tripod) from left to right, or right to left, to cover the entire length of a desired area without moving the camera from its fixed location. A tilt is the same method, but differs in the direction covered, as a tilt is up and down or the opposite and can be seen in the shot of the close up of the small leafed plant. My last point is the focus pull, also known as rack focus. This is the method used to bring a subject in the background into focus and take a subject in the foreground out of focus, or opposite. This is viewable in the well shot, the shot of the small leafed plant, and the shot of the Christmas lights.

I learned many things from my time in TPSP and thoroughly enjoyed each of the projects that I used each of these clips for. This has become a nice snapshot of my work and what I have done so far. I am glad to be able to share this and hope that one may learn from what I have provided here.

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