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The technicalities of film

Week 3 was largely dedicated to the technicalities of filmmaking. Now that we had all sufficiently brainstormed and created a general idea of what we wanted our films to look like, the next step was how to bring this movie to fruition. To start it off, we did a group reading of a few pages from the screenplay of the hit movie Little Miss Sunshine. We deconstructed the anatomy of a page in a screenplay by covering the basics. “The basics” includes things like knowing that the top line contains location and time and specifies between whether the scene is being shot inside or outside. After the header comes action cues to dictate what the actors themselves are doing and finally the actual dialogue of the scene. After we read through the scene, we then watched the clip from the movie and compared and contrasted the difference between the scene on the page and the scene on the screen. This side by side analysis allowed us to see how certain things change in the filming process or how sometimes you have to portray things in alternate ways in order to get the desired outcome.

Next on the agenda was meeting the camera and understanding different types of shots. To introduce this idea of different shots to the girls, we showed them this clip [insert falling montage].

After viewing it, we asked the girls how it made them feel. Although this is sort of a broad question, it allowed them to understand how simple things like camera angles, music, and focus of shots can evoke different emotions from the audience. This clip was especially helpful because while it is a montage from different movies of the general same action (falling/jumping) all the different scenes made the audience feel different ways depending on different factors. These types of feelings are instilled by what we like to call visuals, and they are the foundations of film. The composition of a film refers to how elements of an image are arranged in a type of visual language. In order to give the girls an understanding of how to convey and utilize this language, we gave them a basic tutorial of different camera shots and visuals.

When thinking about film, people don’t always automatically think about things like how the camera moves or where it’s placed, but these small details convey as much emotion as the dialogue can. For example, placing the camera at a high angle takes away power from the subject and conveys an aura of weakness, versus placing the camera at a low angle and creating a sense of superiority and power. After learning about all the ways different camera shots and movements can evoke feelings, we focused on the actual care and maintenance of the camera. These basic rules revolved around mostly not exposing the camera equipment to dangerous environments (i.e. heat sources or shorelines), and also making sure the properly put together and take apart the equipment in order to ensure its longevity.

We then moved on to learning about camera settings and how to adjust them in order to get the best quality for your shot. Variables that effect picture quality include things like white balance, shutter speed, and frame rate – just to name a few. Tinkering with these settings adds another layer of intent to your film. For example, white balance controls the temperature of the picture. Making the colors cooler or warmer in terms of white balance allows for certain moods to be set, depending on the context of the shot.

The final lesson of our technical film crash course was a short lesson in sound equipment. Sound is an extremely important and sensitive part of the film process. When shooting with sound, you should always double up on sound or mic equipment just in case one recording somehow gets messed up. There are different types of mics that are all used for different situations and capture different sounds (i.e. dialogue vs background noise). It is important to test sound levels before you start shooting in order to make sure that you don’t have to shoot a scene over again because the sound recording didn’t come out the right way. Last but not least, don’t forget to press the record button!

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