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.
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.
As a film teacher, many of your students will look to you first for advice on how they can achieve their dreams of filmmaking. Instilling film theory, filmmaking skills and history in your students will help propel them a long way in a film career However, it’s also advantageous to teach them about the best routes to go about achieving their dreams and putting their best foot forward when it comes to a career in film.
1 – Time is of the essence
It’s common to hear the phrase ‘don’t give up your day job’ when talking about pursuing creative careers. Your students need to know that, despite their passion and talent, what will most bring them success is dedication and experience. Filmmakers need to learn the tools of the trade and with that comes dedicating one’s time. However, your students are probably not in a position to dedicate all waking hours of their days to filmmaking. Encourage them to spend as much time as they can with film: writing; directing; watching; reading. All the time spent in the trenches of film knowledge will help set them on the path to achieve their ambitions.
2 – Embrace any film job
Encourage students to accept any job on a film set, whether it coincides with their immediate passions or not. In film, you’re constantly learning on the job and whether that’s as a production runner, costume assistant or gaffer, the experience and knowledge your students will gain through hands-on work will make all the difference in their careers. The best filmmakers are well-rounded, and the knowledge you accumulate from different facets of filmmaking will only help.
3 – Network, network, network
We’ve discussed the importance of networking before but it’s as crucial an aspect as any of an aspiring filmmaker’s future. By encouraging students to attend networking events, you’re only helping them make the connections they need for a future in the industry.
4 – Study your options
Filmmaking is a tough career and it’s nearly impossible for students to understand how much is required of them on a day-to-day basis. By encouraging students to learn about every aspect of filmmaking: from finance to production and distribution, your students will feel more confident to voice their visions and push themselves to be the best filmmakers they can be, in a huge variety of roles in the industry.
5 – Get excited
Studying classic cinema and what has paved the way for generations of filmmakers will help your students better understand the medium but their true passion will spark when they find excitement in film. Encourage your students to read and watch films that excite them! Try to find local film festivals and screenings of films, commercial and independent, that will give your students a wider understanding of film diversity as well as helping them find the films and stories that make them want to jump out of bed in the morning!
With these five encouragements, your students will feel better equipped to go out in the world and pursue their dreams. Well-rounded students are the key to a flourishing and engaging film future.