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.