My friend, Evan Luzi, over at The Black And Blue, has put together 20 pocket guides for digital cameras. These are little guides that you can stick in your pocket or view on your device, like your phone or tablet. Really convenient when you are on set and need to quickly figure out something about your camera.
When you sign up for these, you’ll get automatic updated information if the pocket guides are updated.
Full List of Cameras
Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera
Canon 5D Mark III
Phantom Miro M/LC-110
Phantom Miro M/LC-120
Phantom Miro M/LC-310
Phantom Miro M/LC-320S
Evan has these setup as “pay-what-you-want,” meaning, if you don’t want to pay anything, well then, don’t pay anything. But, the amount of time and effort he has put into these deserves some cash. Head on over to his site to get these awesome little pocket guides.
Let me start off by saying that “The Hunger Games” was a great movie. I loved it. It was very well done, and created by very talented people.
The goal of a cinematographer is to bring the audience INTO the story and make the viewers feel so connected, that they cry or laugh when something happens, feeling as though it’s happening to them at that very moment.
While watching “The Hunger Games” for the first time, I was completely absorbed in the story and the plot and for the most part, I LOVED the camera work, and kept finding myself complimenting certain aspects of the cinematography. There are just a couple things that I found that should be obvious no-no’s. Things that stood out to me as I watched, and did not keep me immersed in the story. Things that are basics in film class and should be taught first semester. Things that the director should do everything in his power to reshoot and fix.
I’ll explain 2 scenes with “errors” that I noticed in this film that should have been addressed.
1. The camera crossed the line of action, and broke the 180 degree rule.
The 180 degree rule is basically this: imagine a line going through your scene that the camera cannot pass. To abide by the 180 degree rule, the camera must stay on 1 side of the line and on one side of the action, keeping the character in relative position to the camera. Look at the picture below for an illustration.
The camera should not cross the “line of action”
The subject on the left should remain on the left throughout the entire scene, even with different camera placements. This is to not create confusion in the scene. Even slight, subconscious confusion will take the viewer’s emotion out of the scene.
Now, of course, rules are made to be broken. In alot of action films, or scenes with alot going on, you’ll notice that the “line of action” gets crossed quite often. That’s ok, because there is alot going on and it’s ok in that scenario to show different perspectives like that.
But, in “The Hunger Games,” that line was crossed during a very simple dialogue scene. Two characters, face-to-face, Primrose (the younger girl) on the left, and Katniss (the older girl) on the right. Then, on a close-up of their hands (at 20 seconds), they were all of a sudden flip-flopped, with Primrose on the right. WHAT!?
Watch the video below to see what I’m talking about. First, is the original, how it was shot. Second, edited to show how it SHOULD have been shot.
During the over-the-shoulder-shots, Primrose was always on the left. So, I could only assume that on the close-up of their hands, she would still be on the left. When I watched this for the first time, I was honestly puzzled for a few seconds. I wasn’t sure who’s hands I was looking at, and it is VERY important to understand what is happening in the scene at that time.
ORIGINAL ANGLE: Primrose on the left, Katniss on the right
ORIGINAL ANGLE: Primrose on the left, Katniss on the right
ORIGINAL ANGLE: Katniss on the left, Primrose on the right
In scenes like that, it is VERY important to maintain the 180 degree rule. As a director, make sure you are always thinking about where the camera should go, and how it affects the scene.
2. The camera cut from a “shaky” shot to a “steady” shot.
It was another simple dialogue scene where two characters were talking face-to-face. The angles were similar, over-the-shoulder shots going back and forth to each character. The problem was, that one character’s angle was handheld, and the other’s was completely steady, not making for a smooth cut between the two.
Watch the video below. First, is the original, how it was shot. Second, edited to show how it SHOULD have been shot.
It’s a subtle difference between the two cameras, but it’s enough to bug the viewer and take their attention from the emotion. It makes much more sense to just run both cameras handheld. There is no justifiable reason to switch it up in a scene like that. Most of the shots in this scene were handheld, I think that’s why the sudden “tripod” shot was so distracting. Sometimes, it’s not a problem going from a handheld, “shaky” shot to a locked-off, “steady” shot, but in this case, it was.
Fixed (added shake to 2nd shot)
Everything has to serve a purpose to help tell the story. If the “steady” shot would have helped to convey an emotion, such as the character feeling calm and steady, or coming to a certain intelectual realization, that would have been ok. But, that was not the case. As the director or cinematographer, try to keep that in mind when shooting a scene with multiple, similar angles. Make sure your cameras don’t distract your audience from the story.
I’m not sure why they decided to shoot the two over-the-shoulder shots differently, but it could have been very easily avoided.
Overall, “The Hunger Games” was an amazing movie, even with these small cinematography blunders. If you haven’t seen it, I strongly encourage you to change that. As a cinematographer, we’re always meticulously dissecting scenes and camera moves during movies. It’ll let you see what good shots look like and get some ideas of your own, but it’ll also help distract you during the movie. A beautiful disease, if I do say so myself.
Have you ever wondered what exactly a polarizing filter does and how it effects your footage? Here is a great article by Shane and his team describing the many uses for pola filters. He includes examples and tests that really show the difference a pola filter adds.
Polarizing filters are filters that you can rotate to block out certain light. This can achieve things like blocking reflections, or bringing up saturation for certain colors.
Here’s one test showing the difference it makes with the reflections on skin.
In Shane’s tests, he used a pretty expensive rota pola filter from Tiffen that requires a matte box. You can find some cheaper ones on Amazon, and some really cheap ones eBay.
I few weeks ago, I ran into a couple of guys here in Austin talking about their new product, the “Stabil-i.” It’s basically an iPhone stabilizer, that doubles as a case. The creators, Nathan and Brent (don’t get him confused with me), were in the process of filming their Kickstarter video, and let me play with the prototype for a bit. And let me tell you, this thing is awesome! Seriously, it felt like I was using a professional Glidecam in a tiny package, balanced perfectly with the phone.
Like you see in the video, it’s a case that transforms within seconds into a stabilizer. Pretty stinkin’ ingenious. They’ll also have a few colors to choose from once they hit production.
Photo from Kickstarter
You can grab yourself a Stabil-I by donating to their Kickstarter campaign. Their goal is $80K.
Below is a video from them shot entirely with the iPhone and the Stabil-i.
Here’s another fancy video from them.
Go help them reach their goal! And, as a bonus, if you’re an earlybird donator, you can snag the Stabil-I with a t-shirt for pretty cheap. Hurry!
In our college ministry at First Lubbock, we have done alot of baptism testimony videos. Students would decide that they wanted to be baptized, and we would record a short testimony about how they got to this decision. Very powerful videos.
Last year, I started a new setup. Basically, 2 people having a conversation in a black/dark room with emotional lighting. Not too dramatic, but still emotional. We usually used 3 cameras, sometimes 4. A couple of Sony EX3′s and a Canon 5D mkII.
I usually set up 4 lights on the 2 subjects. One overhead, 2 in front, and 1 behind (which is visible and creates cool looking flares in the camera). There is a rough sketch-up of the setup below.
Sketch of lighting setup. Click the image to enlarge.
As a cinematographer, it’s easy to get caught up in using fancy camera moves with jibs and sliders. Depending on the content of the scene, an elaborate camera move would only be distracting and pointless. That’s why it’s important to remember the little guys; the static camera shot. A static shot is basically a shot that does not have any tilts, pans, dollies, or trucks. Sometimes, we forget how important a simple camera shot can be. If used correctly, the static shot can be very powerful.
Every shot in this short piece was filmed static and straight on at the subject. Yes, they are hendheld, but there are no dramatic pans or tilts.
So, when you’re shooting a wedding or a spec commercial or whatever it may be: don’t forget about the simple shots.
Simple, a shotgun mic is a microphone that has a directional pick-up pattern. The microphone itself is known as a shotgun microphone, due to the “shotgun” type of polar pattern. They can also have cardioid and super-cardioid polar patterns. They are the most common type of mic on a film or tv set.
A boom mic is any microphone that is at the end of a long, extended pole, also known as a “boom pole.” It doesn’t matter what type of microphone you use, if it’s on an extended pole, it is a boom mic. It is the technique of using the microphone, rather than the microphone itself. A boom pole is used to get the microphone in as close as possible to a subject, without getting in the camera shot. Most boom mics are used with shotgun mics.
So, if you have a shotgun mic, and you put it on a boom pole, it becomes a boom mic, as well as a shotgun mic. Kapeesh?