Pura Vida In Cinema

In the Film Connection Workbook is discusses the Director of Photography, or the one holding the camera on smaller shoots. The DP is there to ensure the highest visual quality, while not necessarily operating the camera. A Cinematographer will be the one operating the camera on larger shoots. DP has 2 assistants, one to Pull Focus and another for loading film and cracking the clapboard. A director’s relationship with a DP can be frustrating, but they are just looking out for the production. The color, composition, angles are all being thought of by the DP. You should choose your DP as carefully as you choose your actors.

Mise En Scene is everything in the frame. The set up of your mise en scene can be deliberate or random, but it’s just basically everything in the scene that is captured by the camera from subject to objects and props.

Light is used to highlight your subject and separate it from the background, providing depth to the frame. It is one of the most important steps when trying to reach a cinematic look. I’ve mentioned the 3 types of lighting before in the Camera Settings blog post, in the book they elaborate. Light things realistically, using the set to see where the light might Actually come form. The closer the light is to the camera, the flatter things will look. The Key shows the actor to the audience, the backlight separates the actor from the background and the fill reduces contrast on the face/subject. Start setup with the background, then the fill before getting to the key. Finally don’t use one light for more than one job, just get a different light. Gels & diffusers are things you use to change the tone of the light. There are also Bounces, like umbrellas that are used to diffuse light. My LED lights go up on stands, but bigger say incandescent lights will go on C-Stands. C-Stands are used for a lot of things on a set, similar to Apple Boxes. Tungsten lights are warm and yellow, HMI’s are blue like daylight. Fluorescents have a range, as do LED’s often times. DP will make the decision on which light to use, if you have a choice. Cinematic lighting is usually soft, so you may need to set up a sheet on some stands and bounce your light off of that, for a more even look.

There is a Golden or Magic Hour in the morning and evening when you have the best natural light. This is when the sun rays are warmer and not as direct as when they are beaming down from above. The shadows are much different and the light is sort of diffused, shortly after sunrise and right before sunset.

The different Cameras used movie to movie will be almost nothing alike, but you have to understand its functions. You can’t just film everything on Autopilot. The settings give you a large range of control over what you see from your footage in post. My Assignment also lead to an interesting example. Taking photos to show the differences in Brightness & Depth of Field. In a regularly lit room, with the ISO set at 400 and the shutter speed at 100. I took pictures of hatpins, slowly raising the f-stop up two notches. The example below is 2.2&7.1. The images get increasingly darker.

Setting the Camera to Aperture Priority though and ding the same thing, it illustrates the difference in the depth of field. Here are the same f-stops below.

Shutter speed can also help you achieve a cinematic look. If it is too fast everything will be well defined but choppy. You need some motion blur, so give it like 1/50 or 1/60 and your camera will begin to see things like you do. The lower the number the brighter the image, but you can fix that by lowering your ISO.
Frame Rate: as stated before tends to be about half your shutter speed, but here is a breakdown..
24fps is cinema speed
30fps is a little smoother
60fps is used for slow motion, as it is unnatural. film with this and slow it down in post.
It is too smooth to be natural, because there is no blur and the eye has blur. Think The Hobbit. That film felt unnatural to your eye, especially if you saw it on the big screen.

Werner Herzog on Cinematography :
Before you get a good camera, be proficient with a normal camera (or a shoe box with a hole and celluloid). Look through the viewfinder, not the lcd screen. Tuck your elbows when you hold your camera, moving your whole body. Don’t zoom in, physically move in – only using zooms to change perspective in between shots quickly. Favor momentum over style. No need to interrupt the shooting to fix minute details. Aesthetics should come naturally, not be organized. No coverage (1 camera, except in dialogue scenes), no shot lists or storyboards, making decisions in real-time and not in post-production, and attempting to shoot things in a single shot. It cannot always happen but if the actors know the dialogue and the crew knows the movements you can at least make it close. Don’t accumulate hours of footage mindlessly without considering every aspect of constructing a shot. Be flexible and quick but remember you can’t fix bad Acting in Post.
Dont treat any of your actors better than the others, from the stars to the extras. Dignity is a big thing to keeping them compliant. Don’t over rehearse. Everyone is different of course, so you may need to go round for round teaching someone, or you may even feel like you want to, but you dont need too. Over rehearsing can cause someone to lose that spark- so can too many takes. Try and switch it up, call action when they’re not rightly prepared or change something about the scene last minute and see if that draws something out of them. Keep everyone on their marks. Occasionally when actors are too into character they want to move or reposition and step out of frame. Dont adjust the frame for them, adjust them for your frame. Give simple direction, not too much motivational background. Not to say that motivations are not important, but constantly shouting the motivations can convolute their thoughts. A director can feel if he’s got it, so be reasonable and push the actors while having them understand where you’re coming from when asking for another take.

A Pan is when you move the camera left or right, giving a panoramic view. This can help establish a scene.
A Tilt is similar, only it goes up or down instead of horizontally.
A Dolly is when you are being pushed or drug on wheels for a smooth roll to or from your subject
A Tracking shot is when you are being smoothly rolled alongside the subject.
Zooms are sort of dated. Even phone cameras have zoom. But a dolly in/zoom out might not look so terrible.
P.O.V. is obviously 1st person camera in place of the subject. Think, GoPro on the head

Master Shot is a recording of the entire scene from start to finish, from an angle that keeps all the players in view. This in essence mixes a Long Shot (continuous filming of a scene with no interruptions) with an Establishing Shot (showing off location and context of the scene in a new setting)
Insert/Cutaway’s interrupt a continuously filmed scene by inserting a view of something else. Inserts tend to be from a different angle and/or focal length from the master
Over the Shoulder
. Over one characters shoulders you line up the back of their head in a third of the frame, catching the face of the other character in 2/3 of the shot, during conversation.
Face to Face: Also conversational, shows who people sitting wherever they are (at a table), talking.
A Two shot shows 2 people doing whatever, framed where they both take up about equal space in the frame.
You can play with focus to go from blurry shot to fully focused subject and vice Versa. This is a stylistic choice. You can also use that to play with your depth of field, having one thing in focus and switching to another. White balance also has a lot to do with the color you are drawing out of each shot. Properly adjusting for indoor or outdoor will help your images not be flat.

Werner talks about Spatial Orientation of the Audience. The Audience understands the room or location where you are filming. They have to understand where everyone is and that is done with to do with wide/establishing shots & never breaking the 180 rule (you draw a straight line and this acts as a boundary. You cannot pass this line with your camera but you can shoot anywhere on one side of it). If there is a conversation scene then one character stays looking left and one stays looking right because when you cross that line, it is disorienting to the viewer because both characters would be facing the same directon. There are always exceptions, but its helps people get an understanding. You can also help with their orientation via a line of dialogue. “Go downstairs and get the door” implies they are on at least the second story.
But a Herzog exclusive is what he calls the Kinski Spiral. It’s an action that moves the actor from standing next the the camera, facing the scene, to in front the camera, facing out of the scene in one movement. It is used for unsettling effect. This is used to show the disorientation of a character. This is an option when you want to use more than just a Dutch Tilt.

“Shut the camera off. Only shoot the intense and remarkable. We are filmmakers, not garbage collectors. ”


More from the Film Connection Blog:

Day 1
A lil on Editing
Event Planning
Motivation in Writing
Camera Functions
Lil on Crew & Budget
Setting a Story In Motion (w/ Audio)
Genre & Conflict
Stages of Production (+Lenses)

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