LOCATION SCOUTING & TEST SHOTS

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Filming has been completed for scene one of “Screen Three” however, there is more to be done concerning putting the final scene together and this posts is all about LOCATION. Location for a scene is key, and is a vital choice due to its effect of the audience, the atmosphere and tone of the piece. It’s important to get right and so I took the time out to do a few test shots in areas I thought had potential for my group for use for our film.

Although a Ford Escort RS 2000 will be use for the scene, I had my car play the model for my photos and first set it up amongst a local car park. The location is nice but the surroundings lack the atmosphere I end in mind for the scene. Going from such a dark room of the theatre to a sunny area might be confusing, distracting and perhaps too big of a jump for the viewer, which may distance them from what’s happening in the film. This isn’t what I want but despite this, I continued to experiment with angles.

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I moved the car around to experiment with the lighting. The Sun was directly behind the car when I first set up however, I attempted shots with the Sun to the car’s side. I think this gave a nicer, more dynamic look with the shadows however, these may be a problem if they hide areas of the actor’s face.

Another issue I had premeditated concerns the car’s surroundings not being quite as I wanted. However, this can be solved with a shallow depth of field  through a lower aperture. I shot these images below at F 2.2 and to balance the exposure I set the shutter speed dramatically fast, but it looks like it works to some-what hide the background and focus on the foreground of the car.

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Next, I moved location to a more industrial side of town. I really like the atmosphere within this area as it seems to add to the isolated atmosphere I wanted for the scene through the tall fencing and the structures in the background that seem to tower over the vehicle.

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With this location I also admire the position of the Sun as well as the effect of the fencing as it casts shadows over the car’s interior to suggests something more sinister or perhaps underhand; a technique often used in film noir.

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I then tried out another location and tested a variety of lenses to experiment with the look of shots. I had been using a Canon 50mm prime lens however, I whipped out a Tamron 55-200mm zoom lens to see how certain close-ups might look. The Tamron lens has can’t achieve a very wide aperture which is a problem in getting the right exposure but it’s certainly a lens to use for a isolated, caged-in scene like this one.

I then went out to shoot some night photos in similar locations. I really wanted the scene to be at night to capture the dark tone of the film but it will make things increasingly difficult due to light and to shoot at a high quality.

SHOT LIST – SCENE ONE

  • Fades in to a close-up of Peter sat amongst the cinema’s seats as the film blares in front of him. The camera is still through the use of a tripod and faces him directly and on his level.IMG_8616
  • IMG_8617Wide-shot of the cinema, facing Peter again who lies on the left third of the frame. The youths enter from the right and the camera, which is positioned on a dolly, tracks them along. The camera stops its motion as the youths sit down. They are positioned on the left third and Peter is on the right.
  • A closer wide-shot of the characters as the youths become closer to Peter. Peter remains on the right, the youths remain on the left.
  • IMG_8625 (remember 2x)A close-up in front of Peter that reveals the youths over his shoulder. They lean over to speak to Peter and the hand-held camera follows them as they move. The kicking begins and the camera switches between Peter’s despair and the youths’ enjoyment.
  • IMG_8626Mid-shot from the side achieved from hand-held camera of youths and Peter and they torment him. The camera turns to reveal them throwing popcorn at him and Peter’s reaction.
  • Close-up of Peter from the side to show more of his reaction as he gets up and leaves.

A SCENE IN IMAGES – STORYBOARDING PART TWO OF TWO

In preparation for our final scene, we thought it would be wise to put together another storyboard to help us visually plan the shoot. This is really where Jannath and I worked as a team since I was the one who directed the frames however, due to her artistic skills, she took it upon herself to do the illustrations. I was more than comfortable for her to do this after seeing her work which I’ve featured below.

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We both got to work and she carefully “drew” upon ideas we both put together to get the result we did. I repeated the process of making a video consisting of the stills and the result can be seen at the top of this blog. Enjoy!

IF WE CAN’T GO TO THE CINEMA, WE’RE GOING TO BRING THE CINEMA TO US.

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Myself and the Ritz had a email conversation concerning filming that ran throughout October. We discussed the films content, organising a date and things we needed for the shoot such as a piece of film being projected with no sound to run during the shoot. However, towards the end of the month there seemed to be a communication breakdown and I learned the establishment was extremely busy through undergoing big changes to its theatre. Jannath and I wanted to get a date sorted however, we both agreed it was important to not be pushy and apply pressure to the already busy Pete Genders who runs the “community driven project” of the cinema. I sent a few emails every so often but got no reply and Jannath thought it would be a good idea to contact that a different way.

facebook pageWe came across there Facebook page and managed to contact the boss about filming then but it was not good news.fb convo ritz

The Ritz not being available to host as a location until December seemed like a huge problem at first but soon we realised it might turn out for the best. Shooting in December wasn’t really an option as we wanted to get filming on the road as fast as possible. We both knew the editing process can often take far longer than the production process and so we need as much time as we can to do a good job with that.

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And so we had a challenge upon us. Unless we contact another movie theatre, how are we going to make the scene in the cinema work? Peter Glanfield who plays our main role as the “Old Man” in our short film luckily has strong connections with Horncastle’s Red Lion Theatre which , from a previous film project, I know has an ideal seating arrangement that consists of many rows of stylistic red seats facing a stage.

But what about the cinema screen? If we are to have a film being projected in the scene there’s no way the scene will be convincing if my group don’t do anything about the lighting. Together, Jannath and I came up with an idea involving the light from a projector bouncing of from a reflector and onto the characters’ faces. I did a camera test and here are the results!

I think they’re convincing and turned out great in that we see the movie in Jannath glasses and she looks forward to where the screen is imagined to be. Thanks to her standing in as a subject, we got a great feel for what we had to do during the shoot and was definitely a big and valuable part of pre-production.

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Concerning “three point lighting” the projector almost acts as a backlight for our shoot and creates a great look for me that it replicated right when we’re in the theatre will be fantastic. Additional light are to be added to set a more atmospheric scene and to distinguish what’s going on in the frame.

All this preparation would go to nothing if we couldn’t get to a theatre and so through our links with the Red Lion Theatre in Peter, our main actor, we contacted Shirley Moffat who confirmed our shoot after numerous emails describing the details of the shoot.shirley email2

Before arranging a date I spoke to all my actors through Facebook and we all came to a date we were all available to make, as well as a date likely for the theatre to be free. We’d realised through Peter that many dates would be taken up by the theatre company. Below you’ll find an extract from my conversation with the four actors involved in the production.

actors dateLike I said, with thanks to Peter we had an advantage. Being a member of the theatre for over a decade he knew what was going on behind the scenes concerning rehearsals and guest appearance and was kind enough to personally email me these details.

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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.

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.

ON LOCATION – THE RITZ CINEMA, LINCOLN

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After a series of very casual emails, I arranged with the man in charge of The Ritz, Mr Pete Genders, to visit the location for a number of reasons. Lighting is a big concern in filmmaking and needs to have a lot of attention to make it right and so shooting in a place where you have no idea about the lighting is a big mistake. Also I was concerned about spacing and size and so a small photo-shoot of the place would serve as a practise for framing shots and a reference for later on.

After arriving at The Ritz it turned out Pete wasn’t around however, myself and Amy Westwood, who I asked to help photograph with me (being a photographer herself), were kindly toured around the entire establishment. This was great in that I got a real feel for the potential the place had.

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The first thing that surprised me was the lack of light in the cinema. Light was only supplied by the two big lights you see above. This means light sources have to be supplied by us, the filmmaking, which won’t really be a problem seeing as we have a few lights at our disposal. Here you can see a range of photos we took from our visit of the location.

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In the past I’ve found it very helpful to take pictures similar to shots I have in mind for my film. It helps me understand the composition at the time and after the shoot and you can see this done here with me blog detailing the preparations I made for my short film, “PRAY”:

https://a2bellmqegs.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/st-marys-church/

As you can see a lot of work needs to be done concerning light. I set my camera at ISO 800, shutter speed 1/50 of a second with an F-value at 1.8 to let as much light in a possible without really sacrificing quality yet, the shots appear very dark and this needs correctly with the right light. There’s still a lot of work to be done but it’s jobs like this visit that will help us very much when it coming to principal photography.