Production mode and format decisions
Production style and budget are the factors that most often dictate format choice. With the increasing affordability of digital recording devices, filmmakers can now present their ideas in a range of film formats. Some contemporary filmmakers have challenged tradition by experimenting with film formats, presenting their ideas in an eclectic selection of colour, black and white, digital, video and animated film formats.
Today, there is a wide range of digital cameras available with corresponding quality and affordability.
There are four basic types of cameras:
- Basic DV (digital video) camcorder
- HDV (high-definition video) camcorder
- HD (high definition) camera
- Digital cinema camera
Cinematography and mise en scène
The camera has the capacity to drive the narrative intensity of the story. Although it is invisible to the audience, the camera engages the audience with the world they see on-screen. Decisions made by the director and cinematographer about camera techniques usually are based on their relevance to the situation, the subject and the intended reaction of the audience to that scene.
Aspects to consider during the shoot:
- Framing and composition - The way a scene is framed and composed has the power to direct and draw the audience’s attention towards essential details within the frame.
- Camera framing - Consider how your framing choices can help to reinforce reality, establish narrative intensity and reveal important information about selected characters to your audience.
- Camera distance - All shot types such as the wide-shot and close-up have a narrative purpose. The selection of shot type should be made in relation to the size of the subject in the frame and the intended response of the audience.
- Camera angle - The position of the camera can help to establish the relationship between the audience and the on-screen characters. Camera angles can create a scene’s mood and reveal power relationships between characters.
- Camera movement - This can be used to intentionally direct or move the audience’s attention towards a particular object or character within the frame.
Filming for continuity
Continuity techniques allow the audience to be drawn into the on-screen world of the narrative by projecting a believable illusion of on-screen reality. Often referred to as the ‘classical Hollywood’ mode of filmmaking, this approach relies on a number of conventions that conceal the film’s construction process and create a plausible story.
Some continuity conventions include:
- Filming at eye level or the use of a mid shot replicates the viewer’s height so that the audience feels they are viewing the experience first-hand.
- Performers’ looks and glances should preserve the illusion of reality. Eye-line matches and consistency between shots are essential – for example, a shot revealing a character looking to the right of the screen at another character should be followed by a second shot of that character looking back to the left of the screen at the first character. The same rule applies to characters looking up or down at each other.
The 180-degree rule
The 180-degree rule dictates that the camera placement and direction should remain consistent from one shot to the next. Regardless of shot type and framing, the camera must remain on one side of the action axis to prevent audience confusion. The decision to cross the axis must be done so with careful shot selection and editing techniques.
Lighting considerations are a high priority, and a significant amount of time may be required to experiment with a range of lighting set-ups to ensure that the desired mood, atmosphere and meaning of the scene is captured and conveyed. A cheaper alternative to professional lighting kits are large garage lights (available from hardware stores) positioned on tripods or stands.
Poor quality sound can seriously diminish the impact of high quality images. Conversely, high quality sound enhances on-screen visual material while at the same time conveying the desired mood and tone of a scene.
The director’s ability to experiment and manipulate sound adds another creative dimension to the successful realisation of their ideas. Care should be taken when capturing sound; as with lighting, much time and consideration should be allocated to microphone selection and placement.
When filming, microphone placement can either be on-camera or off-camera:
- On-camera microphones, traditionally used in reportage or documentary forms, are visible to the audience.
- Off-camera microphones are hidden or positioned outside the camera frame. Off-camera microphones can be suspended from tracks around the set or attached to a boom pole that is held just outside the camera frame.
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