Occasionally, we’re invited to challenge how we think about film narrative structures, and might just never think about plot and character interaction the same way again. Cult website XKCD manage this with aplomb – and manage to make us laugh out loud while they’re at it.
Halloween is fast approaching, and this might have started your creative juices flowing. No good horror film is complete without a good dose of gore special effects. So, here are some filmmaking tips and techniques to help you create practical gore effects, without breaking the bank. If you’re on a budget or are just a bit of a DIY’er, then you’ll have a great time with these.
If you’re creating the next Saw movie on a budget, you are going to need fake blood. There’s no better way to get exactly what you want than by making it yourself. You can make as much or as little as you want, and exactly how you want it. Here’s a great recipe for fake blood we found; it’s not harmful at all and you can tweak the recipe as you need!
If anyone is going to be wielding an axe in your horror film, open wounds are a must. You can fashion your very own open wounds with things you can find around the home. You can do this using toilet paper, glue and some makeup products. You use toilet paper and glue to create your wound shape and make it look realistic with makeup and some of the fake blood you made. Here’s a handy YouTube video which demonstrates how to do it. These wounds look great, and pretty realistic considering they’re effectively made out of loo roll.
Is it even a horror film if there isn’t an exploding head? I think not. This probably sounds like it’s going to be really difficult, but it’s actually one of those things that’s way easier than you might think. Thanks to a little bit of digital trickery, you can create an exploding head scene which would fool anyone. Take a look at this tutorial to see how it’s done, it’s got some great filmmaking tips and techniques. You’ll need a load of fake blood and a little bit of time to get that perfect blood spattered, horrified look from your actors.
If you want to ramp up the DIY and you are in need of a severed limb for your project, this tutorial shows you exactly how to create one. Beware: this is going to be time consuming, but it will be worth it as you horrify everyone with a super realistic severed hand. These filmmaking tricks will help you create some amazing effects.
Squibs and gunshots
You can’t give up easily when making a horror film, and if we’ve learned anything from spending hours and hours on zombie films (albeit often through fingers), it’s that the best way to protect yourself from an attack, is with a gun. To make your gunshot look effective, you’ll need to use a squib. This video shows you how to do this all yourself, in a relatively easy and very cheap way. It’s also really safe, meaning your actors aren’t going to get more than they bargained for.
If you have enjoyed reading this, take a look at our article on Breakthrough Technologies of 2017 which are set to Reshape Filmmaking.
Film animation technology began simply with pen and paper, that’s all. Over the years we’ve come a long way, now countless TV shows and films are made with either 2D or 3D animation, all aided by computers. In fact, Pixar was the first to create a feature-length computer-generated animated film, with Toy Story in 1995. This was not only a milestone in cinema but in technology. That is a common thread through a lot of filmmaking, although in particular with animation.
To predict the future of animation we have too look back on how it has changed with technology. From basic flipbooks, to computer aided 2D animation, to 3D computer generated animation, now to using CGI and data from the real world to create the most realistic and emotive animation yet!
Looking forward, to the future of animation technology, here are 4 new emerging ways animation could be ready for another revolution:
- Merging the real film with animation
This is no new technique, seen most famously in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but using real footage alongside animation has recently been a great space for innovation. This is most notably so with the recent film Kubo and the Two Strings, a 3D stop-motion animation with such ambitious set-pieces that the result is a beautiful example of the merging of the old and new techniques of animation – using both computer effects and traditional stop-motion animation techniques.
- Virtual Reality
A buzzword of the new age, virtual reality is still taking its baby steps and the applications for filmmaking are still being explored. VR offers exciting innovation opportunities including practical, timesaving preproduction, a rich narrative device for conventional film and dynamic storytelling medium. This extends to animated films – just imagine a VR 3D animation movie, putting you inside the CG rendered environment.
- 3D-Printing and scanning
From a production perspective, 3D printing could really revolutionise large parts of filmmaking, and animation is no different. Imagine designing a character out of clay and them importing a 3D scan of it into your CG world, or of course scanning a room and then using your data to create a full photo-realistic environment for your animation. This works in reverse too, stop-motion could be revolutionised by simply 3D printing your entire environment.
This kind of work has been done before, in Avatar for example, where large parts of the film are basically entirely 3D animated, but where real life images and scans have been cleverly and beautifully merged with the animation.
- Collaborative cloud drives
Teamwork is required for all film, but nothing more so than in animation. It used to be a hassle moving assets like character or motion data from one animator to another, but now the whole process is becoming streamlined by using collaborative cloud workplaces. With this new technology the access and sharing of content and assets has become incredibly easy, speeding up the whole animation process.
Also now filmmakers can work with production teams from different parts of the world. So lets say you need a small amount of animation for your indie film, now you can find just the right person from anywhere in the world and collaborate through the web to complete it.
Go back even 30 years and the idea or concept of low-budget (or no-budget) filmmaking was kind of unheard of, revolutionary even. Yet now it has become very common in the indie filmmaking community – in fact, it may even be the best way of making a statement and launch your career!
Diamonds can only be made under extreme pressure, so whether it is out of choice or necessity, here are 7 low budget filmmaking tips for turning your compromises into ways of making the most of your situation:
- Story first, everything else second:
Before you even start production, you have a story. With a low-budget film, there are three things to consider about the script before starting; firstly, the story needs to not only be feasible on a small budget but also suit the budget, there is no point in trying to create a blockbuster on just £3000; secondly, the story needs to be optimised for your budget, you can always change scenes to reduce the budget but preserve its essence; thirdly, the story needs to be good, unlike huge big-budget films, it can’t hide behind special effects and an elaborate production design, doubly so because the audiences which watch low-budget films are usually more astute about films generally.
- Find cameras for cheap:
The cameras used by big studios are expensive. For example, the cost of the 8K RED Weapon, which has been used for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Gone Girl, can range from $49.500 to $79,500, with options of leasing it for less.
However, it is highly likely that you or someone you know owns a DSLR or mirrorless camera capable of shooting HD or even 4K. If not, the app and site Fat Lama allows you or others to rent their valuables for a nominal fee, allowing you to rent out a camera for the duration of the shoot, rather than splashing out and buying one.
Of course you main focus should be on how to best use the equipment you have, as no expensive camera can replace talent. Here are some of our articles with filmmaking tips and tricks to help:
- Choose to shoot in free locations
A key part of pre-production is in location scouting. If you’re restricted by cost, then you can adjust your script to be in free locations. Also, use your network! It is highly likely that someone may own just the right kind of house or land to shoot your scene. If outside, consider public locations.
- Use Natural Lighting
Lighting can get expensive, so you can cut costs, save time and reduce equipment needs by simply using natural light – whether that be the sun, moon, or streetlights. Look for locations outside, choose sunny days, and consider using darkness – it’s always cheaper to create darkness than to avoid it.
This is a classic among low budget filmmaking tips, and that is evident in the overall style of indie cinema – where there is an abundance of using natural soft light, and if done well it can look even better than studio lighting.
- Be over-prepared:
A very detailed production script and schedule will help cut costs by helping you foresee and avoid unnecessary costs. However, as with any film, there will be unforeseeable setbacks you can’t prepare for, and will undoubtedly face. Which is why the right approach is so important and will help you cut-down costs in the face of dilemmas; this can be fostered along by over-preparing for the project and by having the right emotional intelligence to make flexible decision-making.
- Share ‘your baby’ to cut costs
With personnel costs being the largest costs for indie film productions, this is where it may be best to cut costs. This isn’t to say sacrifice the quality of your film for the sake of money, but working on favours, goodwill, and mutual benefits, (i.e. making it a collaborative process) can be the best way of dramatically reducing your overhead costs.
If this is the route your go, put your pride to one side, whilst this film might be “your” baby, there is no shame in sharing as much credit as possible. This can even create a much greater sense of ownership for everyone involved, increasing the quality of the work produced.
- Don’t lose sight of why you are a filmmaker
And finally, this shouldn’t need reiterating, but in this incredibly tough industry, we often lose sight of why we even do it. You can have all the filmmaking tips and tricks in the world but get lost in it all and don’t forget to make your project fun, honest, and significant. You’re creating art, and it’s either a break from reality or a reflection of it. If you can keep that idea running through your production then it’ll make the entire collaborative process much more enjoyable, as well as help your crew give their 100%.
Bournemouth University’s Film team are in some ways victims of their own success. In the last 2 years, word of their excellent BA (Hons) Film course has doubled fresher intake to 120 students.
One major challenge in this situation becomes: how can faculty staff continue to offer highly personalised and appropriate tuition for each and every undergraduate? How can they ensure students find the curriculum demanding and engaging when many come from different educational backgrounds?
And how can they make each interaction with every student more valuable, at a time when students face increasing sensitivity to the fees that they pay for tuition?
Many of Bournemouth’s intake, surprisingly, might not have taken a Film and Media A-level or BTEC. A non-vocational subject like film means creative spirits from all backgrounds are welcome as long as they produce a highly-convincing argument for being admitted, and have decent A-levels from a whole range of subjects.
Working closely with the Film Programme Leader, Dr James Fair, Quickclass has created a Quiz tool which allows faculty members to put together ad-hoc short tests of student knowledge of their subject in less than a minute in what they have described as ‘the easiest VLE they have ever used’. Student’s receive the quizzes through a dedicated, ad-free, privacy-assured personal learning app on their iOS or Android Smartphones and can be quizzed anytime, anywhere.
This ‘pre-assessment’ Quiz helps on multiple fronts. Firstly it helps the students recognise what they do and don’t know. Scoring poorly on the test highlights that they need to put a little more time into their studies. Secondly, it helps the staff shape the curriculum to devote time on the weaker areas of knowledge.
Flexibility is the key. A lecturer can decide to create a 30 minute Quiz testing everything about Practical Filmmaking, or a 3 minute Quiz on French New Wave. They can ask their students to complete the Quiz together simultaneously in class or independently over the weekend. The App ensures all students received the same questions but in a random order, so attempting collusion is pointless. Quizzes are set a time limit as well, so whether a weekend Quiz is taken Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon, everyone has exactly the same amount of time to be Quizzed.
Results are delivered to lecturers instantaneously as soon as the Quiz’s end time expires, and not only can the entire spectrum of results for each student be examined but also areas that the entire group might be struggling with can be quickly highlighted.
The real beauty is not only that Quizzes can be deployed frequently without requiring more than a minute’s preparation for teachers, but also that long term improvements in results can be monitored and provide clear evidence of learning and a steadily rising grasp of the subject throughout a student group of any size.
Bournemouth’s Film team and Quickclass will work closely to refine this new hyper-convenient and useful Quiz tool. We’ll together update you monthly on progress throughout this academic year, not only on Quizzes, but also other uses that Bournemouth finds for the steadily growing range of tools Quickclass can offer for all their teaching challenges and their student’s learning needs.
Great filmmakers have great stories to tell, which they demonstrate repeatedly for our pleasure. Let’s not forget that storytelling exists in a myriad of formats though, starting with the oral tradition and the written word, long before we cracked how to project images of light against the wall of a darkened room.
Its inevitable then that the great storytellers in film also have a thing or two to share with us in just words. Here are a few of our favorites…
Everything is in place – you have a great concept, the script is locked down, the talent and the equipment are on the way and you even have the shotlist laid out. But there are still plenty of elements of the production you need to consider – how is the film actually going to look on the screen? How are you continuously going to draw your audience’s attention to the screen and keep them fascinated?
Cinematography is more than just knowing where to point the camera for each shot or where to put the lights. There are a number of cinematography tips and camera techniques in filmmaking that will give the finished work a truly cinematic look. Without these, no matter the quality of the script or the talent, the look and feel of the film could end up appearing more like a local news report than an engaging piece of visual art.
Filters are one of the easiest and most inexpensive cinematic techniques to employ to lift the picture and give it real depth. But filters can also be a daunting prospect to a new filmmaker so here are some basic filter types that can be used on even the most inexpensive cameras to produce great results.
Neutral density (ND) filters – these allow you to shoot outdoors in bright daylight or indoors with strong studio lights without having to reduce the aperture of the lens. This is important because maintaining a wide aperture means you can use a very shallow depth of field and hence gain that professional, cinematic look. ND filters do this by reducing the overall amount of light across all wavelengths coming through to the lens without altering the colour of that light. ND filters come in a variety of densities to suit different conditions.
Polarisers – when it comes to cinematic techniques, polarising filters can produce some of the most dramatic results. They can darken the blue of the sky and greatly increase the contrast of the clouds. They can reduce the surface reflection on water so reveal any detail underneath and polarising filters can also help to eliminate reflections in glass and on metallic surfaces. Overall these filters can give a scene an almost hyper-real look which will elevate it above the mundanity of the news broadcast.
Diffusion filters – the image sharpness of modern digital cameras can detract from the idea that you’re presenting life through a lens to your audience, so this is where diffusion filters add to the toolbox of camera techniques in filmmaking. They’ll soften an image without reducing the detail within. Diffusion filters will bloom light sources and highlights, raise the image contrast and pick out shadows. By smoothing skin tones and giving a virtually unnoticed glow to actors, this type of filter greatly enhances the gorgeous quality of a shot to keep an audience enthralled.
Post-production software can produce some of the results described here but there’s nothing like getting the look you want up front. Filters are a relatively inexpensive and it’s not difficult to experiment to get the right look for your shot. Check out Premium Beat’s blog for more examples of camera filtration techniques.
Producing a film can be one of the most effective ways of striking a chord with audience, starting a social change. This is because films can uniquely, as an art form, evoke emotions from the audience, whilst educating and persuading, and all at a mass scale – which speaks volumes of the importance of documentary films.
As two academics, a filmmaking career may seem like a strange direction for P.J. Marcellino (Canada) and Hermon Farahi (US) to go in. However, this is exactly what they decided to use to amplify their voice and present an emerging cultural context through indigenous musical storytellers and culture keepers across Canada.
In an interview Marcellino, speaks of 3 links between documentary filmmaking and social impact, as well as on how films can be used to gain a greater audience and evoke a response in a more profound way:
- People need to see your message for it to stimulate change,
The exposure one can get through film and digital media – whether at a film festival, local cinema screening, online or through education – is magnified compared to many traditional ways we try to incite change, such as street campaigns, protests, and petitions.
Festival exposure and awards often attract press attention, which is the best way of increasing your exposure, next to exploding on social media feeds.
As two forward-thinking researchers and policy analysts, most of Marcellino and Farahi’s usual academic/policy work never get the public and government exposure their documentary has achieved. Marcellino commented:
“My role was to provide policy-makers with information to allow them to make decisions in an informed manner. I often wondered if they ever read what me and my colleagues wrote – or if our reports ever got to the desks that mattered.”
- People need to feel your story for it to inspire change
Data drives decisions every day in what we do, but data alone doesn’t resonate in the part of our brains that can fathom complex issues, and hence move one to action through the emotional brain.
Put simply, data might tell us what to do but story tells us why we should do it.
“As a field researcher, I felt like I had a grasp of the human scale that was being missed by so many conference presenters, and when addressing a room of policy makers, I made an impassionate appeal to remember that when they’re distilling 100 stories into one spreadsheet, the human level of those stories is being lost in translation. That was the first time I remember feeling that film may well be a better tool to bring these dramatic stories to a broader audience.”
- You need to actually make something (and release it into the world) to inspire people:
In our world, the role of filmmakers is more than simply a creative one. We also need to share ideas and information – the beginnings of all change.
Whilst there are reliable and traditional channels of change, there are also channels that cut more directly into the core of who we are in this evolving society.
Marcellino comments: “Documentary film is perhaps the most ‘edited’ form of film there is. Of course we are filming reality, but how the director chooses to present it, how the narrative is crafted, shapes a new reality. So, the fine balance then becomes how to represent the ‘real reality’ truthfully, while also creating an engaging narrative with a story arc, that audiences can engage with.”
“If done right, film can be one of the most powerful tools to convey strong feelings to an audience. You can see faces, you can look in the eyes of characters, you can feel their emotions (which, of course, a filmmaker can enhance through colour and music). All this offers up a dimension that is unachievable even in the best reports packed with lively interviews. Sometimes you find similarly impactful pieces written by frontline journalists (think New Yorker, The New York Times, Vanity Fair), but film certainly has a power that is unmatched today.”
With ever advancing technology, it is also an ever more exciting time to be a filmmaker! Digital cameras are getting smaller, cheaper, and more powerful each year. Even smartphones are beginning to use 360-degree recording! We have already seen digital overtake film both in TV and cinema. All these new technological advances in film are sure to bring new revolutions to cinema, and make currently expensive equipment and methods affordable to independent filmmakers.
Whether you’re looking to enter the film industry or are already a pro, it’s essential to keep up with the latest tech that might be affecting the industry.
The following are seven of the most promising and hence impactful latest technological developments in cinema.
4K+ 3D Technology
4K and 3D technology have been available for years now, however only affordable for regular consumers more recently. Combining the two technologies into a viable filmmaking solution has been a dream for years, until now with Lucid VR’s ‘LucidCam’, touted as the “first and only 4K 3D VR live production camera”.
Also on a distant (and currently very expensive, $17,000) horizon is the Google-supported Yi Technology ‘Yi Halo 16-point 4k 3D action camera’ – quite a mouthful! Featuring sixteen spherically aligned 4k action cameras (plus a few extra facing upwards), this foretells some incredible technological advances in film to come – check out more on the Yi Halo website.
Dual Camera VR
With augmented and virtual reality becoming one of the new emergent visual technologies of 2017, new VR cameras will soon be commercially available. The ambitious Kickstarter-project ‘Two Eyes VR’ is one such new VR camera. The team behind it believe immersive 360 viewing and recording is the way of the future – it is, after all, how we experience the world daily.
While there have been supposed “autonomous” drones on the market for years now, in truth, they have simply been a sensationalist, play-toy beginning to what true fully-autonomous drones are going to be: sentient drones with knowledge and algorithms on everything from filmmaking techniques, such as shot sizes, viewing angles, and screen positioning, to obstacle avoidance and even open source technology available to developers wanting to create the drone cinematographers of the future.
This may sound like a ‘SkyNet/terminator’ kind-of future, but the only thing these drones will be shooting is footage (hopefully).
Smartphone Filmmaking Gear
To film purists, the idea that entire feature films will be shot on Smartphones might seem dystopian. However, it has already happened, multiple times, and to great success!
In fact, the market and industry has already begun to shift to accommodate up-and-coming smartphone filmmakers, offering new, cool and innovative gear and technologies.
The idea behind drone goggles is basically combining a regular VR headset, like the Oculus Rift, and a controllable drone into one single package. The hope is that this will allow the users to see the world through the eyes of a drone, and as with any device, this will bring technological advances in film as filmmakers come up with innovative ways of using the equipment.
DJI recently unveiled their current drone goggle offering, at NAB, now on the market. Although there are significant limitations to many of the the current products available, POV drone operation is growing in demand, and hence investment in the technology is increasing!
3D Printing Your Own Gear
3D printing has been a very exciting area for many years now, with promises of revolutionising just about everything! The hope is that there will come a day when shipping gear across the world will be a thing of the past, however currently speed, quality, and affordability, all limit that dream.
That said, small and simple items for filmmakers, like follow focuses, lens rings, tripod plates, will soon be easily obtainable and even customisable through new 3D printing technology.
Likely the most abstract and least known of these new technologies is algorithmic editing technologies. MIT researchers are developing this new software, which may replace many film and video editing jobs or, depending on how you look at it, will simply make those jobs much less tedious. Regardless, the breakthroughs in facial recognition, automatic labelling, and idiom-appliance may seem frighteningly innovative, and all bring into question the role of technology in filmmaking and how technology has changed the film industry.
The title may be a misnomer – the revolution is already well under way, digital is mainstream and is everywhere. All aspects of our lives now contain some hint of digital. From grocery shopping, weather forecasts and transport to every facet of entertainment, there is some part of it that relies on and benefits from digital connectivity.
For younger generations, this is the norm – those born since the mid-nineties have not known a world without the World Wide Web. Children born in the last 10 years have grown up with the sum of all human knowledge at their fingertips. For those of us who were born in earlier times and who have seen these changes happening, it is an unfamiliar concept to try to hold to.
We may wax lyrical about the time before digital but let us not allow this to distract from what is in the here and now. Broadband speed and quality has been added to the list of essentials to check when moving house, not just gas, water and electricity. Digital has allowed us to enhance what we as humans have always done – communicate, collaborate and create.
Education is a sector that has not been the quickest to embrace digital technology – but it is now catching up and fast. Many educational establishments are using online learning platforms for schools as standard and interactive whiteboards are increasingly found in every classroom from primary school upwards. The children being taught today are already as savvy with this tech as their teachers and all levels of education must keep up with the pace of development or risk being seen as irrelevant by their students – it’s a difficult enough task to hold a classroom’s attention without this added burden.
This is why digital learning platforms and more specifically virtual learning environments are key to giving educators the best opportunities to engage and teach their students. There are things that a digital education platform can just do better than a traditional one. Channels for communication between student and teacher are part of the package and this is paramount when so much of a teacher’s time is taken away from students with non-teaching duties. Completed work is instantly accessible to teachers without students having to physically hand it in – all backed up and safe from hungry dogs. Dynamic digital learning platforms allow instant feedback for students with adaptive learning to give help where and when it’s needed. They also allow for seamless changes to the learning material and presentation for teachers. And don’t forget all that human knowledge can be embedded in most online learning platforms for schools as well as external links created to whet the appetites of the more curious so they can explore further.
More specifically for those teaching filmmaking – digital really does have to be the platform of choice. Get your students used to working this way from the very start – after all, almost every part of filmmaking happens in a digital environment, the only analogue parts happen in front of the camera.