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Over the next 5 days we¶re going to be adding new blog posts outlining the most common mistakes made by independent filmmakers. Today our post covers« White Walls Over the years we¶ve been asked by our students what the ³1 thing´ we think they need to improve in order to make their films stronger. Well, usually when mistakes are made in film or video, it¶s not just 1 mistake that¶s made (especially when you¶re first starting out). There are thousands of possible mistakes to be made in each area of development. For example, if you cast poorly then your film is dead before you start filming. If you use an unskilled DOP (Director of Photography) to shoot your movie then your production value will be compromised and you¶ll have a hard time getting audiences to sit through the mess that you put up on the screen. If you don¶t work with a good producer you risk finishing your film, but then having it sit on a shelf with no distribution deal. The point being, there are countless mistakes you can make during the entire filmmaking process. At Lights Film School we¶ve always encouraged our students to start building with a strong foundation. This is why our first lecture is on the art of storytelling and screenwriting. This benefits both fiction and documentary filmmakers alike. A great story and a great team (both behind and in front of the camera) are the two pillars of any great film. Without these two elements your film will have weak legs and will likely fall apart by the time you get to the end of the post production process. That being said, there are 5 problems that we¶ve noticed keep popping up in independent films time and time again. Working on correcting these 5 problems is a great start to helping you add a stronger sense of production value to your independent films. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Not even close to it. But it¶s a good start! 5 Common Mistakes Independent Filmmakers Make 1. White Walls Production Designers are hired for a film to help create the environment for the actors and the story. Many Hollywood productions are shot in studios so the entire set needs to be built from the ground up. In this scenario production designers, set decorators and art directors are all needed to help build the world the characters will inhabit. Independent filmmakers don¶t usually work in the studio environment. Instead they use natural environments. For example, a independent horror film may use a conveniently located forest for
You need to design your background. one of the biggest issues I notice repeatedly with independent films (the lower the budget the more common I find this practice). He uses both natural environments and studio environments. wallpaper (you can put it up with double sided tape so you don¶t ruin the paint on the walls). Allow me to take this moment to invent a filmmaking phrase: ³Not every living room was built to be in your movie´ Not a great phrase. That being said. is a great filmmaker to study from a production design standpoint. no doubt. Nurse your background into a life of it¶s own that compliments the mood of your scene. they lack a strong emotional element and audiences subconsciously associate white walls with bad filmmaking. curtains. Watch his films and notice the attention to backgrounds. they don¶t hold shadows well.one of their chase scenes. Or an independent romance film may use one of the actor¶s living rooms for one of their love scenes. Add mirrors. natural environments need to compliment your story. White walls are infinitely boring. Watch the following video to see an example of how to design interesting backgrounds using nothing more than color. is the use of white walls as a backdrop. In both cases he incorporates his love for color. painted walls and wallpaper. curtains. It¶s important not to be lazy with location scouting or set decorating. Wong Kar Wai. I would recommend you watch the films ³2046 and ³In the Mood for Love´. design and texture. but it communicates the point. At Lights Film School our students need to study color theory so they can actively think about a color palette for their set which complements their story. In the realm of production design there is a lot that needs to be considered. texture. They lack texture. It¶s also a great way to save money. One of the world¶s best filmmakers. your film¶s color palette and your design preferences. coat hangers. paintings. lights. However. Continue reading about common film mistakes below: . Using natural environments is a great way to add a sense of realism into your film.
middle-ground and background. This blog post won¶t explore how to use light to help mould shadows around your subjects to create the illusion of three dimensions (as this subject deserves a blog post onto itself). Don¶t forget that film (like photography) is a two dimensional medium. look at the use of a strong foreground in the following image. For instance. and instead trick themselves into thinking they are looking at a real environment with normal spatial qualities. Today we¶re going to discuss the topic of depth as it relates to films and documentaries. Many independent filmmakers (to their own demise) hyper-focus on one layer of depth within their composition. An object in the foreground helps the audience position themselves in the frame. Filmmakers need to incorporate depth and shadow to help create the illusion of three dimensions. For example. A strong foreground element helps give the audience the feeling of ³being there´.2. but we will discuss how you can incorporate a strong sense of depth by being aware of your foreground. This way audiences forget they are watching a 2 dimensional interpretation of reality on a flat screen. but also by poor production design. and now this blog post will discuss background and foreground placement. This is caused not only by the safe choice of ³fronty´ lighting. There is a sense of flatness and 2 dimensionality in many independent films that hurts the perceived production value of the film. Our previous blog post discussed the issue of designing your background. they may place their subjects in the middle of a room and put all of their attention into the middle-ground of the frame with no attention to the placement or design of their background or foreground. Lack of depth Independent Filmmaker Mistakes: Lack of Depth Welcome to our second installment of ³5 Common Mistakes Made by Independent Filmmakers´. Notice how it brings you into the frame? .
while you look at this screen right now. If your background was completely blurred then your audience wouldn¶t have a sense of the environment. When people focus on something. Slightly softening the sharpness of your background helps you isolate the area you want your audience to focus on. In many films. your eyes have adjusted themselves to slightly blur whatever is behind your screen. Lack of design (makeup / hair / wardrobe) . Pay attention to his use of shots with a strong foreground. many filmmakers don¶t want to use extremely shallow depth of field because they want their background to provide context and important environmental information. foreground and background elements are in soft focus while the middle-ground (if that¶s where the actors are) is in sharp focus. For example. it¶s helpful to use a long lens and position your camera far away from your subjects. 3.Even if your main focus is in the middleground you can always use a shallow depth of field to help isolate that layer in paticular. The more space there is behind your screen the softer your focus will be. In order to get this soft quality to your image. This will allow you to zoom in and slightly and blur your background without loosing the context of the environment. However. our eyes naturally become selective. middle-ground and background. Watch the following Nuri Bilge Ceylan trailer for his film ³Three Monkeys´.
Big transitions like this help hide small continuity differences (especially when you cut on the action) which is great when you¶re shooting a film or documentary with only 1 camera. If you choose to use your camera¶s 1 default lens you¶ll undoubtedly be forced to compromise your visual story. You now have choices as to where to put your camera. However. when moving your camera between shots the camera should be moved a minimum of 25 to 30 degrees (with a maximum limit of 180 degrees) to avoid jarring transitions also known as jump cuts. However. If you currently have a video camera you may be thinking to yourself that this blog post is pointless because only more professional cameras have access to lens attachments. What does this all mean? Well. this . Between shots you can change your camera¶s depth. This is because lenses help establish depth. positioning and object priority to name only a few of the more obvious changes. a 25 to 30 degree minimum change in angle seems to be the agreed upon norm. This helps you seamlessly piece together a larger sequence of shots in a harmonious manner. Camera movement The 30 Degree Rule The 30 degree rule is rule used in filmmaking with the purpose of creating continuity between different shots within a larger sequence of shots. Weak story 5. It should also be noted that the 30 degree rule isn¶t a scientific standard. All of these changes should be motivated by your story and flow with the pacing of your film or documentary. Let¶s say for example that you have 1 actor in a scene who is lighting a cigarette under a tree. perspective and angle.4. Let¶s say in this scene we want to expose the facial expression of our main character so we might start with a wide shot to show context and then change your angle by 30 degrees and move into a medium shot or close up. Filmmaking Lesson: How and Why to Use Lenses in Your Indie Films Camera lenses have a significant impact not only on the look of your film or video but also on the mood you¶re trying to establish. You¶ll need to think both about the artistry of each shot and what the camera is trying to communicate but you¶ll also need to think about the technical fundamentals of each change in position. Many filmmakers use an ³anything more than a 10 degree change in angle´ while others say no less than 25 degrees.
11. if you look on the ring of a lens you may see the following sequence of numbers. These are the lenses that have a small number as their widest possible aperture opening. If you¶re using a depth of field adapter for your video camera then you¶ll already be experiencing a loss of light since the light will need to travel through more layers of glass. If you are buying lenses from Ebay the seller may post their lens with the following classification. There are many types of lenses that you could use in your films. In the examples above the lens that starts with 1.6. One other thing to take into consideration is the ³speed´ of the lens. for the sake of simplicity we¶re going to outline 3 of the most common. but if you¶re just starting to build your lens kit then these lenses are not as practical for everyday shooting. When you attach a lens onto your adapter. You can read this post about 35mm depth of field attachments. . The larger the number to more powerful the telephoto capabilities are. 32 The smaller the range of numbers at. the lower the number the lens starts at. 8. documentaries. To overcome this you should look for ³fast´ lenses. In the future you may want to experiment with them. The smaller the number. Let¶s continue. 1.8 is ³faster´ than the lens that starts at 4. 2. If you add these three lenses to your filmmaker¶s toolkit you¶ll have newfound visual flexibility when you¶re composing your scenes.8. lenses going below 50mm starts to become wide angle. 22. the wider the possible opening of the aperture. However. For example. It may also make low light shooting conditions more challenging. For instance a 100mm is less exaggerated than a 500mm lens. Extreme wide angle lenses would be 17mm or 14mm. 11. The three lenses we recommend are: 1: A ³regular lens´: This is a 50mm still camera lens 2: A moderate wide angle lens: 24-35mm still camera lens 3: A moderate zoom lens: 80-200mm still camera lens As a general rule of thumb. 4. the light needs to travel through even more glass and a smaller lens opening. Therefore you run the risk of underexposure if you don¶t set your exposure manually.8. the wider the lens is opened and therefore more light can come through. but for now they are not necessary. 8. Lenses going above 50mm would be considered telephoto lenses. In less technical terms. 14mm would actually be considered a fisheye lens. Now even the most basic video cameras have the ability to use and change lenses.simply isn¶t the case anymore.6. 5. 5. There are other lenses such as extreme wide angle lenses or extreme telephoto zoom lenses. shorts and music videos. 16 or 4. 16. the more exaggerated the wide angle lenses.
the smaller the f number.8 This means it¶s a 50mm (regular angle) fast lens with an aperture opening of 1. the larger the opening. Example: Wide Angle Lens (24mm f/2. So how do all of these details affect your video footage? For starters.50mm f/1. distance and space much differently. different lenses communicate depth. Although it¶s counter intuitive.4) . Zoom lenses on the other hand make objects appear closer together than they really are and these lenses exclude more of the surrounding environment. 50mm normal lenses are meant to communicate to the viewer images that reflect roughly the way the human eye sees. Let¶s look at practical examples of how these differences affect your footage.8 (wide).8) Example: Normal Lens (50mm f/1. A wide angle lens exaggerates depth and the distance between objects and includes more of the surrounding environment.
Example: Telephoto Lens (85-200mm f/4) Notice the differences between the 3 images. This is important to know because if your shooting dialogue scenes you may want to make your characters seem . Nothing changed other than the lens used. The wide angle lens includes the most information both vertically and horizontally and the zoom lens includes the least amount of information both vertically and horizontally. A tripod was set up and the positioning and the camera settings remained the same for all three images. Notice the mountains look closer to the buildings than in the wide angle shot. Notice the difference between the amount of landscape shown in each image. It¶s also important to notice that the zoom lens squeezes the objects in the image closer together.
as you can see from the visual examples above. It¶s not uncommon to shoot your over the shoulder (OTS) shots using telephoto lenses. Color simplicity is the process of limiting the array of colors that make it into the 4 walls of your image.either further apart or closer to one another depending on the mood you¶re trying to establish. lines. Lights Film School recommends that our students read books on painting and photography to better understanding the expressionist period. This blog post will focus on color and the benefits of color simplicity within a frame. They allow you to show more of the environment which is something normal lenses don¶t allow you to do. isolation and last but not least color and color theory. Wide angle lenses become useful when you¶re shooting in small spaces. . However. the entire film was very well thought out from a color theory standpoint. The Cohen Brother¶s last film ³No Country For Old Men´ started out with a breathtaking montage of landscape images that used a minimalist approach to color. In fact. Older lenses can be picked up for reasonable prices off Craigslist or Ebay. shapes. How to compose for color simplicity To compose your footage for color simplicity you really need to understand what the colors ³say´ symbolically and how they interact together. You¶ll need to choose your lenses based on the specific location and the mood you¶re trying to set. Filmmakers have an even bigger challenge because our cameras move. in the future we hope to add additional blog posts covering the wide spectrum of other topics mentioned above. Wide angle lenses make your characters seem distant and cold. many filmmakers have found great compositional strategies that allow them to keep their frames organized from a color standpoint. That being said. However. Please look at the color wheel below. which means the colors in our backgrounds and foregrounds will always be changing. lenses make a dramatic difference on your image. the impressionist period. composition. Photographers spend a lot of time trying to find color simplicity in our visually chaotic world. The lenses use in the examples above cost a total of $175 for the three of them. Search around for good deals. while zoom lenses make your characters seem close and welcoming. You¶ll be happy you did! Cinematography: Color Simplicity Cinematography is such an important part of the filmmaking process it¶s a shock that more independent filmmakers don¶t spend the necessary time to fully understanding the artistic and technical components of color that aid in the construction of breathtaking footage.
Colors that are located opposite to one another on the color wheel are complementary colors. look at the following two photographs. For example. Example of Analogous Colors Example of Complementary Colors . These colors. When complementary colors appear next to each other they provide more of a dramatic and high contrast look. but it is easy to both see and feel that the response from the viewer will be much different when they look at each image. Neither color strategy is correct over the other. when they appear together.Analogous colors are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. provide a smooth and continuous tone.
This is how you color simplify an image. By simplifying your colors you help isolate the more important areas of your footage. understanding color. Distracting colors. Look at the following photograph for example. add unnecessary visual confusion and clutter to a scene. color psychology. Cinematography is such an important part of the filmmaking process it¶s a shock that more independent filmmakers don¶t spend the necessary time to fully understanding the artistic and technical components of color that aid in the construction of breathtaking footage. Playing with color highlights is a great way to add interesting color components to your film footage. If you¶re a filmmaker. just as much as distracting objects. color theory. You simply limit the assortment of colors that make it into your footage which allows you to control both the mood and tone of the scene as well as provide color symbolism. color simplicity and color balance is a must in order to be able to effectively set the tone of your scene as well as isolate your main areas of interest. Lights Film . To help enhance color simplicity you might also want to play around with color balance and color highlights. Notice the image is predominately cool (blue) with only a warm (orange) highlight.
Please look at the color wheel below. How to compose for color simplicity To compose your footage for color simplicity you really need to understand what the colors ³say´ symbolically and how they interact together. When complementary colors appear next to each other they provide more of a dramatic and high contrast look. in the future we hope to add additional blog posts covering the wide spectrum of other topics mentioned above. Photographers spend a lot of time trying to find color simplicity in our visually chaotic world. Analogous colors are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. shapes. However. the impressionist period. lines. many filmmakers have found great compositional strategies that allow them to keep their frames organized from a color standpoint. when they appear together. which means the colors in our backgrounds and foregrounds will always be changing. Filmmakers have an even bigger challenge because our cameras move.School recommends that our students read books on painting and photography to better understanding the expressionist period. Colors that are located opposite to one another on the color wheel are complementary colors. These colors. composition. In fact. the entire film was very well thought out from a color theory standpoint. Color simplicity is the process of limiting the array of colors that make it into the 4 walls of your image. . This blog post will focus on color and the benefits of color simplicity within a frame. The Cohen Brother¶s last film ³No Country For Old Men´ started out with a breathtaking montage of landscape images that used a minimalist approach to color. isolation and last but not least color and color theory. provide a smooth and continuous tone. That being said.
. You simply limit the assortment of colors that make it into your footage which allows you to control both the mood and tone of the scene as well as provide color symbolism.Neither color strategy is correct over the other. To help enhance color simplicity you might also want to play around with color balance and color highlights. For example. look at the following two photographs. Playing with color highlights is a great way to add interesting color components to your film footage. Notice the image is predominately cool (blue) with only a warm (orange) highlight. Look at the following photograph for example. but it is easy to both see and feel that the response from the viewer will be much different when they look at each image. Example of Analogous Colors Example of Complementary Colors This is how you color simplify an image.
Setting your white balance will allow your camera to identify the color of pure white. Distracting colors. color theory. Correcting white balance before you start shooting ensures that you do not have any unsightly or unrealistic colors tones in your footage. Digital filmmakers are becoming increasingly interested in understanding the technical components that their film ancestors needed to know in order to create professional looking films and documentaries through the Hollywood studio system. One area of growing interest to filmmakers is color temperature and white balance. Digital Filmmakers are starting to realize that in video productions the devil is in the details. They seek the stylistic qualities of the ³film look´ but they don¶t know what to do to achieve that level of cinematic professionalism. Our eyes have a decent ability to correct white balance just as they have the ability for . Proper image control plays a large part in professional looking footage and white balance plays a large part in image control. By simplifying your colors you help isolate the more important areas of your footage. add unnecessary visual confusion and clutter to a scene. The problem is that the human eye is much more advanced than even the best digital and film cameras. They hope to achieve a similar professional look to the films we¶re all familiar with created with the technical (not always artistic) expertise of the large film studios. color psychology. Digital filmmakers are slowly becoming less interested in the speed of digital technology and the quick point and shoot capabilities of their digital cameras and are now deciding to slow down and learn how to push their digital cameras to their technical limits.If you¶re a filmmaker. Footage is often uninspiring and doesn¶t lives up to the filmmaker¶s expectations. just as much as distracting objects. Therefore the purpose of this exclusive Lights Film School blog post is to discuss the importance of white balance and inform independent filmmakers how to change this setting to enhance the look of their final product. understanding color. color simplicity and color balance is a must in order to be able to effectively set the tone of your scene as well as isolate your main areas of interest.
Once you¶ve set your white balance you don¶t need to change it after each shot unless the color of light changes. color temperature is measured in Degrees Kelvin (K). Color Temperature It¶s important that you understand color temperature before we start discussing white balance any further. However. When you white balance you are telling your camera to treat any object with similar chrominance and luminance as white. In this case. What white balancing does is it identifies what is white in your footage. Higher color temperatures (over 5000K) are considered ³cool´ (i. your camera will correct your camera¶s settings to ensure that white appears white. Cameras do not yet have these same automatic capabilities. Lower color temperatures (under 5000K) are considered ³warm´ (i. That is all you need to do to set your white balance. orange¶ish). Simply put. Without this understanding your true white colors may appear unnaturally blue¶ish. Blue¶ish).e. You can often do this with AWB (Automatic White Balance). The last thing you need is your film subjects looking green and sick or having consistency problems in the colors of your shots. Therefore it is important that filmmakers understand white balance and how to effectively change their camera settings for optimal outcomes. These are the two numbers you¶ll hear over and over again.000 Light Source Candle Sunrise and sunset Tungsten lamp Natural daylight Overcast sky Shade on a sunny day Blue sky The two color temperatures you¶ll hear most often discussed are outdoor lighting which is often ballparked at 5600K and indoor (tungsten) lighting which is generally ballparked at 3200K.selective focus. Now what we have is a mixing of color . That is why you may choose to manually change your white balance. These technical errors draw your audience out of the illusion of your story and lower the perceived production value your films. orange¶ish or even green¶ish. Your camera will either have an indoor 3200K auto option (even the most basic camera¶s have this option) or you can choose to set it manually. things get complicated if you¶re filming indoors during the day under tungsten lighting while the outdoor light is coming through a window. It doesn¶t know what white is until you tell it what it is. Color Temperature (K) 1500 3200 3400 5500 6000 8000 12. but the results are not always desirable. Therefore if you are shooting indoors under tungsten lighting at 3200K you will set your white balance for indoor shooting at this color temperature.e.
It¶s best to try and keep the color temperature of the shoot the same. Afterwards you can set up lights above or below that temperature to add lighting highlights.temperatures. If you¶re shooting a film you may want to rearrange your setting to choose one color temperature over the other. Alternatively you might consider blocking out the window with duvetyne or black velour and then just use your tungsten lighting. For instance if your shooting an indoor scene under tungsten lighting but you want to create some blue highlights on a bed you would use the following steps. If you set your white balance to tungsten 3200K the daylight colors will appear very blue. 1. If you¶re interested in further reading consider joining our film school or buy our following book recommendation on film lighting: Set Lighting Technician¶s Handbook: Film Lighting Equipment. What you need to understand in this situation is that there is no perfect white balance setting in a mixed color temperature setting. and Electrical Distribution (Paperback) Filmmaking: White Balance and Color Temperature . You will need to make a compromise on one end of the spectrum or the other. What if you want to add color highlights? Adding color highlights easy once you¶ve set your white balance. Set your white balance 3. Set up your lighting for your desired color temperature 2. If you set your white balance to optimize for daylight 5600K then your tungsten lighting will appear very orange. If you wanted to include a blue highlight you could use 5600K lighting and / or blue gels. you might consider using gels to change the color temperature of the tungsten lighting to the color of daylight. However. if you¶re shooting indoors during the day and you have outdoor lighting coming into through your window but you only have tungsten lighting to light your subject. Practice.
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