Digital Film Production: Assignment 1 – Framing

I’m posting this a little out of sequence as there is one more exercise that I should complete from this part of the Digital Film Production course, but as I had the opportunity to film this before the exercise before it, I thought I might as well get it posted!

Introduction

For this assignment I was to produce a short sequence, of no more than 5 shots, telling a simple story, using the images only, and then evaluate my sequence critically, looking at the strengths and weaknesses.

Planning and Pre-production

The sequence I chose was similar to the one I storyboarded for the first exercise of the course – Project One Exercise: Telling a Story about a girl who was feeling a bit down so she went out for a run to cheer herself up.  I re-wrote the storyboard, changing the subject to a man, as I had a willing actor lined up, and I adjusted the location a little, to be able to be able to use my 5 shots effectively.  If I were to have my subject starting from inside their house I would have needed to show them leaving the house, so I decided to start off somewhere outside.

Equipment:

  • Nikon D800 DSLR
  • Tamron 28 – 75mm f/2.8 Lens
  • Manfrotto tripod
  • Pen and paper for taking shot notes
  • Spare battery
  • Spare SD and CF cards

Filming

I’ve photographed my actor Andrew before, he’s a professional dancer and model, so I knew that there would be no problems with direction – he’s a natural in front of the camera! As luck would have it, the weather was on my side, with it being a sunny autumn day.  Although I didn’t have a firm idea when I storyboarded it, as to where to film my first shot, I’d decided to use one of the shelters on the seafront.

 Shot 1

Shot 1:

Although I had storyboarded a mid shot I decided to go for something between a mid and a long shot to show a bit more of the subjects surroundings, without showing too much.  I positioned the camera above the subject, to look down on him, and composed it with him off to the side, looking into the screen, rather than straight on looking towards the camera position.

Shot 2

Shot 2:

I wanted to get the subject out of the shelter he was in and onto the beach so went for a long shot to reveal a bit more about exactly where he is, and to give him a bit of space to move into and out of at the end of the shot, I used the pillars to create a little bit of a frame, and they came in handy as a prop for him to lean on whilst stretching.  We also took the opportunity to use this shot as a tool for the subject to remove his jacket as he was leaving the shot, allowing us to lose it during the next shot of his feet only.

 Shot 3

Shot 3:

Although I storyboarded a close up of the subject tying up his laces I decided to change it to a close up of him starting to run.  As I wanted the running shots to be on the sand, I realised I wanted to show the transition from being on the concrete prom, to running on the sand, and also show the transition from standing/walking to running.  I filmed two versions of this shot, one was a much tighter shot, but this meant that the feet weren’t on screen long enough so I tried this version.

Shot 4

Shot 4:

I wanted this to be a long shot to show the sea and beach, and to also allow the subject to be on screen for a little while, to show a bit of the run. I framed it up to show the sinking mud sign, as I felt the balance worked well.

Shot 5

Shot 5

A mid shot, with a low camera angle to make Andrew look empowered by his run, we set up the spot that I wanted him to run into, as I wanted his final position to be with the sun over his shoulder, and he did it spot on in 1 take!

Post Production

With all of the shots I tried to pay attention to the matching/overlapping action to make the edit easier.  The action carried out at the end of one shot, were repeated at the beginning of the next shot, to enable me to edit the shots together easier.  I also kept an eye on the direction that Andrew was moving on the screen, to ensure that I didn’t cross the line, which would have jarred the edits.

Having controlled both of these elements in the filming meant that the edit flowed very well and caused no headaches at all.

Self Assessment

Looking at the assignment, in relation to the assessment criteria set by the Open College of the Arts, I need to assess myself on a number of criteria.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Although I’m still trying to get the hang of DSLR filming, I’m reasonably happy with the technical aspects of the piece, although I do need to clean my lens before filming towards the sun!  I made a decision to use the tripod for the whole piece, rather than handheld, which although it restricted any camera moves, it ensured that the shots were all stable.

Quality of Outcome

Controlling the screen direction and overlapping action has given the piece a flow, although as I’m used to longer pieces, it feels too short, and over too quickly.  As it needed to be contained within 5 shots one other option would have been to make one or more of the shots longer, possibly by having a handheld moving shot of him running, moving alongside him, or positioning the camera more head on so he ran towards the camera, although that could have led to a very long, boring shot.

  • Shot 1: I feel that maybe I could have raised the camera even higher above the subject, to emphasise the powerless feeling more.  Alternatively, ad the shot size itself is neither a long shot or a mid shot, perhaps a very wide shot could have made the subject look even more depressed and isolated, although that might have been emphasising it more than is needed.
  • Shot 2: Compositionally I’m reasonably happy with this, although it is a bit of a long, slow shot, which was needed to make the stretches look a little bit more like real life, rather than a 1 second stretch!
  • Shot 3: A bit loose to be a true close up, but it needed to have enough space for him to start running and run out of shot.
  • Shot 4: As mentioned above, although long enough for a static camera shot, I think it needs a bit more of the run, so I would possibly reshoot it with a camera move.  Unfortunately I don’t have a fluid head for my tripod, so would need to try and pan it very carefully.
  • Shot 5:  Other than the dust spots all over the filter, this came out pretty much as I envisaged and I’m happy with the feel of the shot.

Demonstration of Creativity

I’m still trying to find the artiste inside of me, and although technically I’m relatively comfortable, (although still learning all the time) I hope that as the course progresses I can relax into the artistic side of it a bit more.  Although I don’t think I will ever find myself producing wildly abstract work!

Context

I think I need to ensure that I carry out more constructive research, although I am constantly watching television and films with my instructional eye from when I taught video to military photographers and looking at the technical aspects of screen direction, matching action, camera moves etc…., I need to look more at the creative aspects.

Conclusion

Overall I’m quite pleased with how this worked out, although there are minor points that I would adjust, if I were to repeat the exercise, such as maybe lengthening the running shot a little, perhaps by using 2 shots to cover the run, and combine two of the other shots into one.

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Project Four: Examples of Camera Angles

The angle that the camera is positioned in relation to the subject can help to give a particular feeling to a shot, and turn a possibly mundane shot into something much more dynamic.  As we see most things at eye-level, positioning the camera at eye height just replicates how we see the world on a daily basis, and whilst this might be suitable for most things, there are times when moving the position of the camera will assist in the narrative.

Eye-Level

a camera positioned eye-level (to the subject, not the camera person) denotes a neutral status, and can be a little bit too "normal"

a camera positioned eye-level (to the subject, not the camera person) denotes a neutral status, and can be a little bit too “normal”

Camera positioned eye-level to the subject, putting the viewer equal to the subject.

Camera positioned eye-level to the subject, putting the viewer equal to the subject.

High Angle

A high angle can show a weakness in the subject, making them seem smaller and less powerful, making the viewer feel superior to the subject

High camera position looking down on the subject, making the subject seem smaller, weaker, less powerful

High camera position looking down on the subject, making the subject seem smaller, weaker, less powerful

A high angle can also be an information shot.

High camera position also provides an information shot, and overview of events that wouldn't normally be seen from eye-level

High camera position also provides an information shot, and overview of events that wouldn’t normally be seen from eye-level

Low Angle

A camera positioned low to the subject, looking up, can make the subject appear more powerful, or dominating, making the view feel inferior to the subject

Low camera position looking up, making the subject seem larger, stronger, more powerful

Low camera position looking up, making the subject seem larger, stronger, more powerful

Extremely low camera position showing the power and dominance of the subject, scarily so!

Extremely low camera position showing the power and dominance of the subject, scarily so as in this menacing dentist shot.  The Point of View (POV) of this dentists unlucky patient, also serves to make the viewer feel uncomfortable – we;ve all been in the position where we’ve been sat waiting for the dentist to start work, and many have a fear of the dentsit.

another camera angle mentioned in the course materials is the “Dutch angle”, a canted, wonky shot, although I have a few reservations about including it in this learning log post for a couple of reasons.  Firstly I don’t think it falls into the same category as the camera angles I’ve already listed, and secondly, I have never (intentionally!) filmed anything during my career at a ridiculous angle, and no matter how much I drag my hidden “artiste” out, I don’t think I’ll be shooting many Dutch angles now!  I do have a couple of stills that I have shot though (intentionally!)

This was shot like this purely to fit the pier and the Red Arrows heart in the frame!

This was shot like this purely to fit the pier and the Red Arrows heart in the frame!

The canted angle in this shot, combined with the low position of the camera makes the subject appear more dominant and powerful.

The canted angle in this shot, combined with the low position of the camera makes the subject appear more dominant and powerful.

Project Three: Exercise – Shooting a short sequence

For this exercise I was to plan and produce a short sequence along the lines of the following:

You are an alcoholic alone in your home
• You look around your empty room
• Nothing interests you
• You notice a bottle
• You hold the bottle and unscrew the lid
• Something attracts your attention, you look round
• Nothing happens
• You look back at the bottle and pour yourself a drink.

Firstly,as it was to be shot in the first person, POV (with the camera as my eyes) I decided to change the scenario a little as I don’t drink, and didn’t fancy having to take a drink, so I changed it to a biscuit addict 🙂

The main information that I wanted to convey, was of someone looking for something, and needed to highlight finding something that wasn’t wanted, followed by finding the wanted item. (if that makes sense!)  I carried out a couple of rough run throughs, before I committed pen to paper for the storyboards, to clarify in my head the shots that I wanted.  Below is my storyboard:

I wanted it to be properly a point of view shot, so didn’t want to use a tripod, and wanted a touch of the “shakycam” that I have never been a fan of, but I felt that being on a tripod it would be too static, and not emphasise the point of view enough.

I shot two versions – one was done as a single shot, with no cuts, to emphasise the first person, changing the shot size by walking towards a subject.  The main problem with this was keeping the focus when going from wide to close up shots, it’s not easy when shooting on a DSLR with one hand, wholst using the other hand in the shot to open a biscuit barrel! Luckily I do have a cheapo should rig so I was able to use two hands to unscrew the barrel lid.

In this version I didn’t do shot one, with my hand opening  the door, I felt it added an extra complication.

Version One: Single shot POV

Although I think this works to highlight the POV style, with lots of movement, my background still causes me to struggle with the shakiness of the shots!

Version Two – Edited POV

With this version the cuts are dipping to black to look a bit like when you blink, and you temporarily lose sight of whats in front of you.  I felt that this worked as a good tool to get me (or my character) from just inside the room, to a cupboard, then to the biscuits etc…. (Apologies for the blown out exposure, I didn’t look quite that bad when filming and editing, something I’ll need ot look at to make sure my colour/exposure management is okay across the board from camera to YouTube!)

I think I do prefer the second version, eliminating the moves between shots and shot sizes makes it look a little less jumpycam.  I could improve this dramatically with a steadycam rig, but unfortunately my budget doesn’t stretch that far.  I could have maybe also used another shot or two of rooting through cupboards, to build up the panic of the subject not being able to find the biscuits!