Alfred Hitchcock’s filmmaking techniques are just as relevant today in the age of Virtual Reality as they were prior to these technological advances. Although he was wrong when he guessed that the virtual reality elements wouldn’t be possible until the year 3000, he believed that eventually audiences could be transformed into characters and experiencing entertainment for themselves as if they were there, which is exactly what is developing in the VR filmmaking industry today. His progressive style combined with respect for the audience’s experience meant that he was ahead of his time and using the beginning elements that would develop into the 360 video viewing experiences that filmmakers have access to now.
He first dipped his toe into the VR filmmaking experience with his 3D adapted stage play called “Dial M for Murder” in 1954 but without falling prey to the artificiality of having items “leap” out to the audience. Instead he used the technology to draw in the audience and make them feel present in the moment and more committed to it, therefore enhancing the experience. Alfred Hitchcock was a filmmaking legend with a long and adaptive career and some of his filmmaking tips that you should consider when adapting to VR filmmaking include:
Develop the Story
Hitchcock was a firm believer in making a situation realistic and preserving the experience rather than compromising it just to do something specific with technology. For example, don’t create elements for the sake of having something floating out of the screen and if something doesn’t make sense don’t create a “rollercoaster sequence” or jump scare when the subject turns around in the 360 viewing if it doesn’t make sense. While you want to look for opportunities to enhance your filmmaking through virtual reality, first work with the story and develop it organically, you should be able to integrate it into the medium you are using rather than change it to suit.
Follow Real Time
The 360 views of virtual reality can ground the audience and create an atmosphere of suspense or drama in the moment so it is important to savour it. The difference with virtual reality is the tone and depth you can get across rather than short, quick shots you use in traditional filmmaking so you should use your time wisely, aiming to use real-time speed in scenes and adapting the long take, something that Alfred Hitchcock was very fond of.
Virtual reality viewing can be ruined with unrealistic music with no source as it can pull the audience away from the moment, so you might want to avoid this. Hitchcock noted this in his own filmmaking and instead looked for ways to incorporate realistic sounds from the scene or use the silence itself for impact and effect to avoid the subconscious questions of the audience that are raised by artificial sounds placed unnecessarily.
Use the Subjective Camera
Everyone’s first response for using virtual reality effectively is: turn the audience into a character and shoot everything from their point of view but this creates the opposite effect and creates a detachment between this character and the rest. By not exploring this character you are creating this third-party detachment that usually doesn’t succeed and Hitchcock believed that mastering subjective shooting can allow you to turn the audience into a voyeur instead. Doing this makes characters more relatable and only enhances the virtual reality by adding extra depth and layers.
Although virtual reality is far from the “mass hypnotism” that Hitchcock dreamed of, his enjoyment of the viewing experience and skill in creating films should not be ignored, particularly when working with virtual reality that so closely works with these ideals.
Most people get a little excited by the Winter holidays approaching and get into the spirit by decorating a Christmas tree, sticking a wreath on the front door, and heading out for a bout of present shopping…
A small minority get really excited though. We mean REALLY EXCITED.
The Halliwell family of Fairfield, Connecticut take things to a whole other level by annually decorating their house with over 350,000 bulbs and a variety of Christmas figures and scenes.
Hats off to them for drawing 30,000 visitors a year, but probably NOT the approach you’ll take to lighting your next set, right?
Regardless of your kitsch tolerance, try to enjoy the spectacle… and be thankful a) this doesn’t last all year round, and b) you don’t live next door to the Halliwells.
Its no secret here at Quickclass, we’re a digitally saavy bunch, constantly searching for and developing tools and features to improve the lives of educators and accelerating their learners’ mastery of their subjects.
This doesn’t mean to say that we don’t recognise the importance of ‘pre-digital’ skills like writing, building sets or performing… all of which have existed for thousands of years before the advent of the digital gadgetry that’s pervaded our modern lives.
In fact filmmaking, from its earliest days, has always been a necessary marriage between the very latest technology of the day and skills that came from theatre and more traditional trades stretching to the dawn of civilisation.
One skill that can not be overstated in importance on a practical level is the ability to tie a KNOT! Yeap, that’s right, the skill to manipulate ropes in ways that can bind remote objects, support bulky weights, hold things in place or host things into the air are ESSENTIAL on any filmset of minimal sophistication.
The gurus at Premium Beat filmmaking site have taken the mystery and complexity out of 4 essential and extremely useful knot configurations for our viewing and learning pleasure. From the Bowline, to the Trucker’s Hitch, via the Clove Hitch and the Double Sheet Bend, the four knots you have to know are not only described for their individual uses, but are demonstrated for you to easily copy and learn them yourself!
So, arm yourself with millenia-old technology that can do just as much to enhance your set craft as knowing how to operate a camera or direct an actor’s performance. Solid knot skills will definitely spill from filmmaking into many unexpected other areas of your life, so learn something new on Premium Beat’s excellent tutorial below!
It is an often-shared ‘fact’ that modern smartphones have more computational power than NASA did when they landed a man on the moon. This is clear from Moore’s law: that computational density doubles every two years. This relentless, radical change has affected all aspects of society, including the role of filmmakers (we’re already seeing the slow decline in practical effects).
Technological advances ranging from Machine Learning to Computational Photography, are poised to revolutionise filmmaking. We’ve already witnessed this in past revolutions spawned from new technology in the film industry, ranging from 3D cameras to CGI. Currently, the future points to Computational Photography (CP) (creating a single photo by integrating multiple images) and to machine learning techniques called “Generative Adversarial Networks” (GAN). Perhaps we will soon discover a new form of filmmaking that equally balances photography and digital image creation, which some are labelling “Computational Filmmaking”.
How does this differ from ‘ordinary’ filmmaking? Simply put, in ordinary filmmaking there’s always one phase for live-action photographed and another distinct phase for digital effects. In the Computational Filmmaking all of this happens at once, on the fly as it were.
So over time how has technology changed the film industry and where are we…
The iPhone has been able to do CP with its HDR camera function for a while now. With the iPhone 7, Apple also added a second camera that can be used for optical zoom and for a Computational Photography technique called “Portrait Mode”. This simulates, in some way, having a larger sensor and a bigger, more expensive lens, hence allowing the iPhone to do what your DSLR does, but with much less hardware!
In the foreseeable future:
At Adobe MAX 2016, they unveiled ‘SkyReplace’ – in a technology demonstration that showed just how many post-production jobs could be replaced by AI. Sky replacement is nothing particularly new, it’s been done by artists on every single print ad, film, commercial and TV show you’ve ever seen, and for a long time, frame by frame, by hand. SkyReplace is poised to automate this usually manual job through Machine Learning.
In the unforeseeable future:
GAN (Generative Adversarial Networks) is a statistical probability model that can generate realistic looking images – sounds amazing right?
This means you show a neural network millions of images of a tree, and then it can recognize a tree when it sees one, but more interestingly, it can generate original tree images all on its own – let that sink in – original images. This is still in early days, so the images are small, but as Moore’s law has shown, it’s only a matter of time before this becomes powerful new software and widely available. How long until a photorealistic image can be generated just by typing a sentence, or by writing a script?
Adobe’s ‘Voco’ and DeepMind’s ‘WaveNet’ are both ‘neural network’ systems that use text and audio samples (just like GAN uses images) to produce speech indistinguishable from actual human voices. One possible application to filmmakers might be that the software could compose its own, original music!
Dubbed ‘Photoshop for audio’, whilst this is still a demo, it will likely be available to consumers soon. Maybe you’ll be able to use Morgan Freeman or David Attenborough to narrate your own movies.
In the near future, filmmakers might be able to tell their computers what they want their movie to look like, what mood it seeks to portray, and the plot. The computer, using all the newest CP and GAN technology, will generate a watchable result.
The real world that cameras are capturing will begin to be merely a starting point – soon computational filmmaking could really revolutionise the way we think about and approach film and the whole creative process.
We know music can make a movie. You can hear a piece of music and instantly link it to a film. Those iconic pieces of music make a film memorable, but how do you get that music into your film? There are lots of things to be considered when it comes to music licensing for film, and selecting your music is the tip of the iceberg.
There are some really important things you need to know when you’re choosing your film’s soundtrack. You need to be aware there are two rights for every song. There are “publisher rights” and these are held by the person who wrote the song. There are also “master rights” and these are held by the person who recorded the song. For instance, Justin Bieber sang Love Yourself, but did you know it was written by Ed Sheeran? In this case, Ed Sheeran holds the publisher rights and Justin Bieber holds the master rights.
If you’ve found a song or a piece of music you want to use, you need to figure out who owns the publishing and master rights. Once you have found out who they are, you need to contact each of them and ask for permission to use the song in your film. The more people you have involved at this point, the longer it will take and the more difficult it can be. If you’ve selected a song which has four publishers, you’ll need approval from all four writers and the musician.
You can’t use the music until everyone has said yes, if one person says no, or if they don’t respond, you can’t use the song. One of our top filmmaking tips is to select a piece of music where the publishing and master rights are held by the same person. This not only saves you a load of time, but saves you a load of money too.
That brings us nicely on to the monetary aspect of music licensing for film. How much do music rights cost? Excellent question, and a hard one to answer! It depends on the kind of music you’re after and what you are going to be doing with it. Some songs used in advertisements can cost well in excess of $200,000, but there are also times where music is free to use. If you have music in a scene – let’s say you are in a coffee shop and a tune is playing in the background and no one is paying it any attention – this could cost you nothing.
As a standard, you can purchase the rights for a song for around $1500; that’s $750 for the master and $750 for the publishing rights. It’s worth remembering that these fees can be negotiated. If the artist you are talking to likes your film, or wants their music to be in it, you might be able to negotiate a better rate (and you know we love to cost-save).
Now you’re well on your way to securing music rights for your film, it’s time to start thinking about sound mixing and editing. Take a look at our article on Sound Mixing Vs Sound Editing to brush up your skills, and remind yourself of Filmmaking Trends of 2017 whilst you’re there too.
So, what’s is a micro documentary anyway? It’s a short film in documentary style, which is anything from a couple of minutes in length, up to ten minutes. They get to the point quickly and are impactful, making them a great way for documentary filmmakers to quickly and effectively communicate with their audience.
How are they changing the face of digital documentary filmmaking?
Gone are the days where consumers have time to sit and watch hours of documentary on one subject. Granted, feature length documentaries still have their place, but watching one is a big investment of time, and people don’t have that time anymore. Micro docs are taking over when it comes to information delivery; they give you what you want in five minutes. People have five minutes – they don’t have an hour. They are used to consuming information in short, snappy packages. They can be watched over a tea break, on a train or on the toilet. In this day and age, where we are so time poor, being able to get the information you need in your five minutes of dead time, is important and critical to understand if you have a story to tell.
Micro-docs probably feature more in your life than you’ve realised. If you scroll through your feeds on Facebook and Instagram, I guarantee you will come across one. They are becoming more and more prevalent as a tool for marketing as well. Consumers in 2017 don’t respond to direct and aggressive marketing. We no longer want to be told to buy something. We want to be given information; to be informed and excited about a product, so we can make our own decisions. Micro documentaries are an excellent way of marketing products, marketing brands and marketing lifestyles, and more and more organisations are using them as a tool. They give you the information, and you make the decisions.
How do they grab our attention?
How many times have you started watching a video on Facebook and then scrolled past it because it didn’t get to the point quickly enough? Yeah, we do it all the time too. If you’re going to dedicate minutes of your life watching a video, you need to suspect it’s going to be worth it. Micro-docs grab our attention right away. Within the first few moments, they’ve given us enough information to decide whether we want to keep watching. They pump you with information right from the get go, so you are hooked and you carry on viewing. They pique our interest. Because of their nature, they make excellent learning materials. Take a look at our post on Introducing Documentaries In The Classroom.
What does this mean for documentary filmmakers?
This new way of digital documentary filmmaking gives greater freedom to filmmakers. It means a film can be as long as it needs to be. There is no need to flesh out a short documentary to make it up to feature film length, and this new way is giving the green light to filmmakers to produce films at their natural length. It also means documentary filmmakers need to think more carefully about their content. It needs to be engaging, it needs to move fast and it needs to deliver. Just as much thought will go into producing a six-minute documentary, as goes into a sixty minute documentary. Remind yourself of our top Documentary Tips if you are feeling a bit rusty, or are thinking about your next documentary project.
Loglines are born simply from the necessity to be economic. They are how you sell your film, to friends, viewers and producers – think of it as an elevator pitch, but you’re only going up one floor!
We normally think of just movie loglines when discussing the subject, however loglines for short films and documentaries play just as vital a role!
It should essentially be a one-to-two sentence summary of the plot of your film first, and if possible, the main characters and themes second.
Let’s take a look at some great examples from famous films and TV shows:
Nine noble families fight for control over the mythical lands of Westeros, while a forgotten race returns after being dormant for thousands of years.
Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown.
These are two fantastic examples in two very different styles, showing the variety with which you can write a logline, the former being plot focussed, and the latter being character focussed.
We’ll share one more example which we find particularly potent and interesting, from the film In the Mood for Love;
Two neighbors, a woman and a man, form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs.
This is dramatically different from the other two in that, whilst it essentially explains the plot, it is theme-focussed.
Also check out Five Modern Filmmaking Techniques To Use With Your Students?
Making just any logline is easy; however making a great logline is very hard. So let us dissect how to best approach it in these 10 easy tips for writing loglines:
- The protagonist, their goal, and the antagonist.
A logline doesn’t need have these things; however starting with them can make it easier for you to progress with writing,
- Consider carefully if you want to use a character’s name!
Few films can really pull off this: Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Back to the Future (as mentioned earlier), Die Hard.
However if your film really just follows one character’s journey, and you believe their name helps cement the tone of your film with the reader, then why not try?
- Descriptors that add to the story!
Using a strong, specific adjective to describe the main character can help show their wants and desires, and how it fits in the plot.
- Make sure you show your character’s goals early on.
This drives your story and it will drive your logline too.
- Describe the Antagonist
Using the antagonist and (more importantly) their place in stopping the main character’s journey to their goal adds substance to your logline and script, making readers want to find out how it ends!
- Active protagonists
As the centre of your plot, a protagonist should be pro-active, as their actions are ultimately what drives the films.
Some films interestingly make the protagonist reactive, in order to explore a particular problem, place or theme (however this is really just a different means of being active).
- Include the stakes at hand and/or the “ticking time-bomb” restraints on the story.
This is a very useful narrative device that adds urgency and drive to your film, without which, why does this story exist and how is it worth telling?
Depending on your script, you may need a brief setup in order to explain how the world operates and whether it has different rules to our own, for example, in most science-fiction stories.
This can be physical laws of the world or a personal or psychological history of the driving character, depending on whether it is crucial to the story.
- The End
Obviously don’t include the ending or any surprise twists. Any surprise should be a lovely bonus to the reader.
Note: Plot twists should be explained in the treatment.
- Don’t tell. Sell.
All selling is about creating a desire. In this case it is to see the script or watch the film. Loglines are like poetry in that every word counts and that there aren’t any rules. There are many ways to do it, it’s just about taking your time and trying lots of different things until you find what works best for you and your film.
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%.