A SCENE IN IMAGES – STORYBOARDING PART ONE OF TWO

We had our plot and script, and one of the steps film-makers often follow this with is putting together a storyboard. The purpose of a storyboard is to visualise a piece of film through a graphic organiser in the form of images. The illustrations are set in a sequence to detail the film and prepared shots to help us with our shoot.

The video above shows an in-depth look into the workflow of storyboarding by Film Riot’s Ryan Connolly, which I took inspiration from in directing Jannath’s drawings.

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ABOVE: The storyboard itself featuring the original, un-edited images by Jannath Hussain.

We’d finished our cinema scene regarding the storyboard thanks to my partner, Jannath Hussain, and her talent with creating such fantastic illustrations, which featured such things as an establishing shot, as you can see from our image in the top left corner, and extreme-close-up that’s positioned as the last image above. The storyboard worked great and what we put together for the cinema scene on paper has been featured above.

However, I took it upon myself to push the limits of what one can do with these drawings. Although I’d helped put together ideas for angles and images, a balance needed to be made with this area of pre-production and so because I didn’t illustrate I thought I’d put together a cinematic creation purely from the storyboard.

Stage one was photographing each image separately with my DSLR camera to get a great quality for each image. I laid out the storyboard and set up a mini photo-shoot with a single light illuminating the page so that the lighting was even. You can see the original photos below.

The next stage was to edit the photos and I did this using PhotoShop. They were all great images but I wanted a much darker look for them and did this using the “Burn Tool” which I think really made a big different in creating a scene that appeared to be in a movie theatre.

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I then took the images into Adobe Premiere Pro where I cut the photos together in the right sequence, added movement to them and often movement similar to visualised camera movements as well as adding atmospheric music for effect.

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The final stage was rendering and exporting the file as an MPEG-4 and uploading it onto my YouTube channel for my blog’s benefit.

The finished product can be seen at the start of this blog and although it took some time, the entire process paid off with giving me a better understanding of what’s planned for our shoot which gives myself and Jannath a huge advantage concerning making the best piece we can.

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SCRIPT

To view our short film’s script, click here: SCREEN THREE – SCRIPT

One of my favourite directors and writers, Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained), once said putting together a script is like writing poetry, where every line has a huge significance rather than being something one could throw away without any worries. I kept this in mind throughout mine and Jannath’s writing process. Every line, in my mind, suggested more about the characters and the story at hand. You can see our thought process below.

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As you can see from my blog concerning the escalation in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, Jannath and I wanted to creating a scene that had tension that slowly increases as the scene progresses. In this way, the ending will be more shocking and more intense. We did this by having a lot of dialogue that was accompanied by rising action, and you can see this in the script above.

HOW TO FILM IN LOW LIGHT CONDITIONS

CAMERA SETTINGS

From my visit to The Ritz I learnt that it was a surprisingly dark there and definitely in the need of the a lot of light for a shoot.

APERTURE. SHUTTER SPEED. ISO.

These three pieces of vocabulary are key for any photographer or filmer that needs to tackle scenes with low light. They’re camera settings, but how can these be manipulated to get footage with a good amount of light is something I thought was wise to research and study.

Apertures

Let’s talk aperture. An aperture is a hole or an opening through which light travels into the camera. The wider the hole means the larger amount of light gets in therefore creating a higher exposure and a brighter result.The hole differentiating in size can be observed to the right however, below is a diagram explaining the setting of how aperture is controlled in comparison to the f-numbers. The lens aperture is usually specified as an f-number, “the ratio of focal length to effective aperture diameter”. A lens typically has a set of marked “f-stops” that the f-number can be set to. A lower f-number denotes a greater aperture opening which allows more light to reach the film or image sensor. However, there is, what can be, a problem when messing around with f-numbers in that reducing the aperture size increases the depth of field, which describes the extent to which subject matter lying closer than or farther from the actual plane of focus appears to be in focus. This can be difficult to handle in that getting your subject focused can be a delicate process when shooting at a low f-number such as 1.8, 2.0 or 2.8.

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Next up; shutter speed. It is the shutter speed and the aperture that determine the Exposure Value (EV). Within photography, shutter speed is fairly simple to understand; a longer shutter will allow more light but may add motion blur while a fast shutter speed can freeze motion but cuts down on the amount of light entering the camera. The confusing part is how this affects video. When we are shooting stills with action, a slow shutter speed will have motion blur and a fast shutter speed will freeze action. When we translate this concept to video, a slow shutter speed will create a smeared look to the video. If the shutter is too fast there isn’t enough motion blur to smoothly transition from frame to frame causing a stuttering effect. This is clearly and cleverly illustrated in the video below.

But what about shutter speed in relation to LIGHT. Well it’s simple. The longer the time the shutter’s open, such as if it was set to be open at 1/10 of a second, one would have a far brighter image than if it were set at, say, 1/1000 of a second, and there is indeed a big difference and so this will have to be noted and taken into consideration.

Last but not least it’s ISO. ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The same principles apply as in film photography – the lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain.

Higher ISO settings are generally used in darker situations to get faster shutter speeds. For example an indoor sports event when you want to freeze the action in lower light. However the higher the ISO you choose the noisier shots you will get.

iso-1-tmAbove are two images shot each with a different ISO setting. The image on the left is shot at 100 ISO and the one on the right is shot at 3200 ISO and you can clearly see the difference in quality due to the abundance of grain in the right image. I’ll have to choose the right ISO wisely so that I get a bright image but keep the amount of grain to little and if not, none.

The above is all detailed in this great tutorial video by Fenchel & Janisch where I learnt to a few rules to follow by when filming at night:

Rule #1

When filming, never go higher than ISO 1600. Any higher and the image gets noisy.

Rule #2

Shutter speed should range from 1/30s to 1/50s. Higher shutter speeds may cause some lights to appear flickery.

Rule #3

Aperture should remain from F/1.2 to F/5.6.

Rule #4

Change the picture style of the camera to make no contrast.

It is said if these rules are followed, good results should follow. This research would be pointless of course if we didn’t apply it to our film opening and so hopefully if we remember these points the footage should turn out well. The tutorial video can be viewed below.

THREE POINT LIGHTING

BRIAN HALLI’m currently taking part in the British Film Institute’s programme at Lincoln University studying filmmaking and as part of this process I got chance to speak to cinematographer, joint programme leader and senior lecturer Brian Hall. I asked him about lighting a scene and discussed mine and Jannath’s short film and ways we should light the scene in the cinema and this is where I first heard about “Three Point Lighting”. By using three separate positions, the photographer can illuminate the shot’s subject (such as a person) however desired, while also controlling (or eliminating entirely) the shading and shadows produced by direct lighting.

sketch tplDuring our discussion, he drew out a quick sketch of how three point lighting would be incorporated into a filmed interview. The “<” drawn represents the camera whilst the two circles are the interviewer, who remains behind the camera, and the interviewee. The “Key light” is placed facing the subject as you can see in the sketch and can be move to create more or less shadow depending on its angle. It shines directly upon the subject and serves as its principal illuminator; more than anything else, the strength, colour and angle of the key determines the shot’s overall lighting design.

The fill light also shines on the subject but from a side angle relative to the key and is often placed at a lower position than the key (about at the level of the subject’s face). It balances the key by illuminating shaded surfaces, such as the shadow cast by a person’s nose upon the rest of the face. It is usually softer and less bright than the key light (up to half), however, not using a fill at all can result in stark contrasts (due to shadows) across the subject’s surface, depending upon the key light’s harshness.

The back light shines on the subject from behind, often (but not necessarily) to one side or the other. It gives the subject a rim of light, serving to separate the subject from the background and highlighting contours.

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Here you can see my own use of two point lighting. Notice how in this “after” photo there’s a shadow on her nose which needed to be avoided through another light.

ORGANISING ACTORS

head2I wanted to make a change with this short film to improve it and to make it more professional through including only experienced actors to play the main roles. Although I did not know of these actors I was looking for, I took the time out to contact members of the Red Lion Theatre Company that’s located in my hometown of Horncastle to get hold of some people who might be interested. Luckily I knew a member and asked for her help concerning communication.

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I spoke to Shannon Woodley who’s a member of the group and has been for many years and after explaining my request she posted in the group’s private page on Facebook and I managed to get a positive reaction. Three actors and an actress expressed their interest and it was great to have this so we could pursue our film quickly and efficiently in an attempt to get a good result. One of the actors was far too young for the role in mind however, the other two were ideal. They both were of the age I imagined the “YOUTHS” to be around which is around twenty years old. One was short and slim whilst his companion was tall and broad and this arrangement was something I had in my mind beforehand to add a variety to the goons in the plot. I didn’t want them all the same but rather each having their own unique personality, manner and look.

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The social network Facebook acted as a huge help in contacting my actors. Through the website I could not only speak to them but get a good idea of what they look like and how well they suit the role I had in mind for them. As so I got to speak to everyone! They were all super excited about working on the film and it’s great to see such passionate actors. I communicated their role such as saying to Sam Colley, who I had in mind to play Youth One, to act as the biggest and meanest bully he can imagine. I think this will important in his role and encourage him to be proactive.

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Our main character played by Peter Glanfield owns a local music shop and so I thought it would be suitable to visit him personally and hand him a copy of the script in person. We discussed the film is great detail and he gave me plenty of things to think about concerning line delivery since he has directed actors in productions in the past. With the other actors, I sent them the script as a PDF through the messaging system on Facebook and they were delighted to finally see the script they had been waiting for.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?

A lot has been done so far regarding pre-production for our short film, which at the moment has been named “SCREEN THREE” due to the location in which the majority of the film unfolds. Actors have been chosen and given the script to study and learn whilst the location has been scouted out and visited by myself and a photographer. While we handle the side of production revolving around scripts, shot lists and storyboards, we also had organisation to focus on locations and getting our actors to the spot at a suitable time. And so, this is “what needs to be done” with the memorising the script and mastering the direction for the scene.

UNDERSTANDING AND PREPARING FOR SOUND RECORDING IN FILM

It’s a rare thing to see a professional team of film-makers recording sound in-camera and not using an external microphone. It just doesn’t get the quality you need and in my own work you can see this lack of quality in “PRAY”.

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The microphone. This is what records the sound than surrounds it and can be plugged into the camera itself.

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The cable. Its purpose is to get the sound recorded from the mic’ to the high-quality sound-recorder.

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The recorder. Sound can be recorded just from using but with either technique audio is saved onto an mini SD card.

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IMG_8516As you can see from above, to use this equipment in unison to get a great quality of sound, one must plug in the RODE microphone with the cable and connect it to the recorder. Wherever the mic’ points is what will be recorded. And so it should be aimed towards an individual’s mouth if they are talking in a scene. However, it’s not easy to get it close to the actor/actress without being in the camera shot and this is where the boom pole comes in. The microphone is attached the the end of the boom pole and the wire flows to the recorder which is held by pole’s operator. It is their job to direct the pole, follow actors but simultaneously remain as quiet as possible. It’s a difficult job especially since I have no experience doing it before and also I’ll be focused on actors and what’s going on behind the camera rather than what quality of sound’s being recorded.

A single person cannot put together a film. It has to be a group of understanding, experienced individuals who all know what’s going on. As a director I have to hand over the responsibility of recording sound to someone else, prepare them well enough and hope for the best!

SCREENPLAY – FORMAT AND STYLE

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Screenplays are essential when planning and communicating a film. They narrate the movement, actions, expression, and dialogues of the characters and my group’s piece began as a rough copy on paper. However, a bunch of scribbles on a page won’t cut the professional level A2 Media Studies demands and so it was my job to digitally produce a screenplay and I did so with the help of the program “Celtx”.

celtx02xCeltx is a free, downloadable program that allows its users to “tell better stories” and makes producing a screenplay an easy and efficient process. A legitimate screenplay has to adhere to certain rules and a specific format and I found it was my responsibility to research, learn and apply these rules to work.

It is mandatory that writers use the Courier type face in size 12 point which the standard of one page of text per one minute of screen time is derived and the paper size of A4 should be featured.

The dialogue must be centred and the names must be capitalized. A script usually begins with “FADE IN:”, followed by the first scene description. It might get more specific, e.g. “FADE IN ON AN ECU (extreme-close-up) of Ricky as he explains the divorce to Bob.” A script will usually end with “FADE TO BLACK”, though there are variables, like “CUT TO BLACK” for abrupt endings.

I was lucky enough to find a detailed guide about how to professionally format a screenplay. Here, I learnt how to put togethe scene headings.

INT. HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM – NIGHT

The above is  an example of a scene heading. Interior is always abbreviated INT. and exterior is abbreviated EXT. Next is the location of the scene and a small dash separates this location from the time of day.

Characters, to show who’s speaking, are formatted in the middle of the page while parentheticals and dialogue have a placement of their own.

Luckily, Celtx is super easy to use and here's me explaining the basics.

Here is a screenshot of my own work on our A2 short film to show the basics of the program.

1. This is the option that allows users to open a drop-down menu to choose between things like Scene Heading, Dialogue or Character.

2. Here is where the user will spend most of their time as it’s where the text is placed into the document.

3. This tab on the side shows your scenes, depicted by your scene headings, and allows you easy navigation amongst your screenplay.

4. A set of tabs that allow you to choose upon a range of things, such as your title page.