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Narrative: Camera Techniques

 

Camera techniques are one of the most fundamental parts of cinematic narratives. In films, the way the camera is moved, makes a big contribution to the story. Filmmakers put considerable thought into how camera movement contributes to the narrative.

 

Shot size

Shot size refers to how far away the camera is from a subject. There are six basic shot sizes:

Extreme Long Shot/Establishing Shot

 

 

LONG SHOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEDIUM SHOT 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extreme Close up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Establishing shots are often used at the beginning of scenes to establish the setting. At the beginning of a film, for example, you might see an extreme long shot of a city or rolling hills. Then, we cut to a closer shot of a street, building and finally the character inside. Extreme close ups are usually an attempt to draw the viewer’s attention to a particular detail. For example, the director may choose to cur from a mid shot of a character to an extreme close-up emphasizing something about that character’s appearance.

 

 

 

Camera Angle

 

Camera angle refers to the angle at which the subject is shot. Camera angle can have a particular effect on the audience.

Overshot. The camera is positioned directly above the subject. This is often used in establishing shots, where the camera flies over city streets. Alfred Hitchcock used an overshot in Psycho when Norman Bates carries his mother out of her bedroom and down the stairs.

 

High Angle. The camera is positioned above the subject, looking down at an angle. This angle makes the subject appear smaller, powerless and more vulnerable.

 

Eye Level. This is the most commonly used camera angle in film and television. Whereas most other camera angles are highly stylised, an eye level shot creates a sense of normalcy and realism because this is how we see the world. In Jaws, Steven Spielberg used eye level shots to engage audiences, choosing to shoot characters in the water from eye level rather than from above. Cinematographer Bill Butler developed a box which allowed the water to lap up against the camera, effectively putting the audience in the water with the actors.

 

Low Angle. The camera is positioned below eye level, looking up, to imply a sense of power and dominance.

  • The camera is positioned directly beneath the subject, looking up. Often coupled with point-of-view shots when the character is looking up at something.

 

 Camera Movement

 

Dolly. A dolly is any sort of moving platform that a camera is mounted on. Professional camera crews often lay down tracks which the camera can be moved along. Sometimes, the camera is mounted in the back of a car. Skateboards, office chairs and supermarket trolleys are the dollies of choice for low budget camera crews. Dollies are often used in very subtle ways. Throughout the course of a conversation, for example, you may notice that the camera very subtly moves closer to the characters. In M Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, for example, there is a scene where two characters - portrayed by Bruce Willis and Robin Wright Penn - are sharing dinner at a restaurant. The camera gradually dollies in on the couple to suggest a rekindled sense of intimacy.

Tracking Shot. The camera follows a moving subject.

 

Pan. The camera turns horizontally when mounted on a tripod.

 

Tilt. The camera tilts up/down when mounted on a tripod.

 

Crane. The camera is mounted on a crane, helping filmmakers to achieve dynamic overhead shots.

Handheld. Handheld camera movement is often used to achieve a sense of realism. Films like The Blair Witch Project, The Bourne Supremacy and Syriana. Handheld camera movement achieves a sense of realism partly because audiences associate this sort of camera movement with documentary film.

 

Steadicam. A device that allows camera operators to achieve smooth, fluid camera movement.

Zoom. The lens of a camera is used to magnify an image.

 

Focus

When composing a shot, filmmakers also consider what will be in focus. Depth of field is a term which describes how far the camera can see into the distance. Narrow depth of field is when only part of the image is in focus and much of the background or foreground is out of focus. Deep focus is when everything, even distant objects, is perfectly in focus. A pull focus is when filmmakers shift the focus from one object to another.

 

The Script

A script is a written document which explains a visual story such as a film or a television program. It includes mainly dialogue with some instructions about how a scene should look and where the action should take place.

A script follows a specific layout. It is usually broken down into scenes (which can be compared to the use of chapters in a book) to break up the story.

 

A script can go through many drafts as it is refined by the writer/s. This first draft script and second draft script,

These drafts are adapted and ultimately result in a final draft called the shooting script. The shooting script is what the director and the crew will use to shoot the film or television program. As the program goes into production, any amendments are printed on different coloured pages which are slotted into the existing shooting script so any changes are obvious to the cast and crew.

A Release Script or Post Production Script is made from the finished production. It records the characters' dialogue against a time code and there are no descriptions of actions. This is used for marketing purposes when selling the program and for dubbing into other languages.

 

 

The Storyboard

Storyboards are drawings of the sequence of shots for a script. It helps to pre-visualize how the director wants the screenplay to be shot. As an image says more than a thousand words it is very useful as a basis to communicate the director's ideas to the crew and the producers. Some directors will storyboard every scene and camera angle to save time and money when they are on set. Others however feel that this can inhibit their creativity and will have very few graphic representations done before shooting commences.

 

To get an idea of how you can storyboard your movie, grab a comic book off the shelf at a bookstore. Many large productions will have storyboards that are somewhere between stick-man quality and full comic book illustrations. If you can draw fairly well yourself, it may seem tedious, but you will gain a lot from trying to draw out a few of the most complex sequences. Every time you storyboard you will take that moment to see the shot through the camera. It's a heck of a lot less expensive than having a cast and crew waiting for you to "discover your vision" right there on the spot.

 

Storyboards for films are created in a multiple step process.-- They can be created by hand drawing or digitally on the computer. If drawing by hand, the first step is to create or download a storyboard template. These look much like a blank comic strip, with space for comments and dialogue. Then sketch a "thumbnail" storyboard. Some directors sketch thumbnails directly in the script margins. These storyboards get their name because they are rough sketches not bigger than a thumbnail. For some motion pictures, thumbnail storyboards are sufficient.

 

 

However, some filmmakers rely heavily on the storyboarding process. If a director or producer wishes, more detailed and elaborate storyboard images are created. These can be created by professional storyboard artists by hand on paper or digitally by using 2D storyboarding programs. Some software applications even supply a stable of storyboard-specific images making it possible to quickly create shots which express the director's intent for the story. These boards tend to contain more detailed information than thumbnail storyboards and convey more of the mood for the scene. These are then presented to the project's cinematographer who achieves that

 

Taking the time to plan your video before you shoot will save you heaps of time in the filming and editing process. Once you have your story, sit down and draw it out shot by shot, briefly describing what you see in each shot, the main action that takes place, etc. Here's examples of what a story board might look like.

 

Shooting a Scene

    

Shooting a scene that involves dialogue professionally requires a great deal of skill, knowledge and planning. The following advice will explain how you can shoot and edit a scene for your films in a professional manner.

 

 

Before the Scene

Establishing Shots. At the beginning of your scene, you will need several establishing shots to show where the scene is going to occur. It is also necessary to use establishing shots between scenes to convey a change in location or the passing of time.

 

Master Shot. A master shot shows all of the actors in the frame at once. It is necessary to establish where your characters are. For example, the master shot might begin with one character sitting on a park bench and shows another character moving into frame to sit beside them.

 

Framing the Conversation

When framing a shot, it's very important to take the following into consideration:

 

Rule of Thirds

 

The Rule of Thirds is an aesthetically pleasing way to compose the frame. If you divide the frame into thirds, the points of interest should be positioned along these lines or at their intersections. Close-ups like this are a terrific way to shoot dialogue.

 

Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is an aesthetically pleasing way to compose the frame. If you divide the frame into thirds, the points of interest should be positioned along these lines or at their intersections. Close-ups like this are a terrific way to shoot dialogue.

 

 

Look Room

When framing shots for a conversation, ensure that the characters have enough ‘look room’ which suggests to the audience that they are speaking to someone out of frame.

 

Headroom

Too much or too little space above the actor's head will make the shot look poorly framed. The example here and above all show appropriate uses of headroom.

 

 

Look Room

When framing shots for a conversation, ensure that the characters have enough ‘look room’ which suggests to the audience that they are speaking to someone out of frame.

 

 

Over the Shoulder Shot

If you don't want to frame a conversation using the tight close ups shown above, you can always use an over the shoulder shot, in which you can see the head and shoulders of the person the character is talking to in one side of the frame.

 

Two Shot

In addition to shooting every line in close up, get as much dialogue as you can in a two shot as well. This will give you greater variety when you're editing the scene.

 

Headroom

Too much or too little space above the actor's head will make the shot look poorly framed. The example here and above all show appropriate uses of headroom.

 

 

Eyeline Match

When framing shots for a conversation, ensure that the characters are looking in the direction of the person they’re talking to. When the shots are cut together, it appears as if the characters are looking at each other.

 

180 Degree Rule

When filming a conversation, if you start filming the actors from one side, it's important to stay on that side. If you cross the imaginary 180 degree line, the characters will not appear to be looking in the right direction.

 

 

Over the Shoulder Shot

If you don't want to frame a conversation using the tight close ups shown above, you can always use an over the shoulder shot, in which you can see the head and shoulders of the person the character is talking to in one side of the frame.

 

 

Two Shot

In addition to shooting every line in close up, get as much dialogue as you can in a two shot as well. This will give you greater variety when you're editing the scene.

 

 

Eyeline Match

When framing shots for a conversation, ensure that the characters are looking in the direction of the person they’re talking to. When the shots are cut together, it appears as if the characters are looking at each other.

 

 

180 Degree Rule

When filming a conversation, if you start filming the actors from one side, it's important to stay on that side. If you cross the imaginary 180 degree line, the characters will not appear to be looking in the right direction.

 

Shooting the Conversation

Being able to film dialogue successfully is very important when you’re making a film. Shooting dialogue out of sequence is very useful because you may not be able to have all actors on location at the same time. To do this, you need to set up the camera and shoot one half of the conversation. Once you've framed the actor up, press the record button and get them run through each of their lines. It's very important that they look in the direction of the person they're supposed to be speaking to for a few seconds before and after delivering their line. Using this approach, it's possible to stand off camera and feed lines to the actors which means they don't have to learn their lines perfectly before filming. When the actors has said all of their lines, remember to get some noddies, cut ins and cutaways. Turn the camera around and film the other half of the conversation.

 

 

Common Problems

 

Sloppy composition.  Framing the shots carefully is crucial. Before you press record, make sure the shot is composed using the rule of thirds and the actors have adequate headroom.

Inadequate lighting. Check that your character isn't backlit

 

Poor sound. It is a good idea to take a pair of headphones to the shoot so you can monitor the audio levels while you're recording. Before you start shooting and the actors arrive on the set, listen to the ambient noise through your headphones. Often there are sounds - like refrigerators or air conditioners - that your ears don't pick up but can ruin the quality of your audio. Perform a few tests with the actors. The sound of their voice should be clearly audible above any ambient noise. Poor audio quality is very difficult to fix in post-produciton. Using close ups like those shown above necessarily means you have to get the camera and the microphone close to the actors. 

 

Dirty lens. Check the lens for smudges and dust. Clean if necessary.

 

Distracting background. Make sure there isn't anything distracting in the background or any trees growing from the character's head.

 

Other Useful Techniques

 

Noddies. When you're shooting a conversation, it's a good idea to capture thirty seconds of the characters pretending that they're listening to the other person speak. If there are any problems with the footage of someone speaking, you can cutaway to the person who's listening, then back to the speaker.

 

Cut Ins. A cut in is something related to the action. When you're editing, it's good to have a cut in that you can use if there's a problem with other footage. In your scene a character might be holding a coffee mug. Film thirty seconds of this and, if you run into any trouble, you can always cut in to the coffee mug, then back to the action. 

 

Cutaways. A cutaway is something unrelated to the action. If you're filming a scene on a busy street, might capture thirty seconds of the 

 

 

 

Tasks for Year 11 Video Production    

 

To commence during the Term Two Break 

 

         

Group Production

 

1   Complete   an 8 -16 shot storyboard. Create your own  story  chosen   from one of the following titles :

 

Awkward:   How Embarrassing: Oops I did it Again    Running late: The exam: The Missing Mobile phone:  The Accident: Love and other Catastrophes   A Funny Thing happened:  Oops I did it again:

 

2. Write  a script for a 5-10 minute short film

 

3.Organise casting, costumes (if needed) and locations for your production.

 

4.Film your production

 

5 Edit your production Students may use their own editing program or use Adobe Premier on the school computer.