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Cinematography - It's a cruel mistress

Discussion in 'Editing (Photo and Video)' started by LandYachtMedia, Jan 24, 2014.

  1. LandYachtMedia

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    Lets have a discussion about cinematography.

    I would like to start by saying that I'm not preaching or selling anything here. I'm not an absolute authority on the subject of cinematography. I am a life long student of the craft just like anyone else that chooses to take it seriously. I am sharing MY understanding of that craft as I have learned it over the years. You may have a different understanding. Your understanding is valid and perfectly OK if it is different from mine or anyone elses.

    Lets kick it off with a very basic definition:
    Cinematography is the art and science of motion picture photography.

    Sounds simple enough right? Like many things the devil is in the details.

    This first part here is going to be a bit philosophical. I promise to get more into the technical details in the next post.

    Creating a motion picture that flows from frame to frame where the edits themselves disappear drawing you into the story is a thing of beauty. It doesn't happen by accident. Regardless of how effortless it appears much planning and work went into creating that illusion. How a film is shot is a cornerstone of making the illusion possible.

    Many people that come into the world of moving pictures have at least a basic background in photography. That is a good thing. Virtually everything you learn about composing a good photograph works when composing a good "FRAME" in a moving picture. If you are looking to create good images I highly suggest reading up on image composition. Specific concepts to understand are - the rule of thirds, negative space, and eye-line. Have a good grasp on how to create a good composition with those attributes in mind and you will be on good footing for cinematography.

    So, how are photography and cinematography different? That comes down to a basic concept of "connected frames". In photography your image (or frame) may stand alone and be appreciated for what it is as a single entity. In Cinematography that is not the case. With cinematography you have to create a series of frames that all relate to each other. The first frame of the motion picture must flow into the next frame. That connection should not create discontinuity in your audiences mind or they will not get drawn into the story. If you want to challenge yourself with this I suggest going out and taking a series of photographs and mindfully use them to tell a story. Print them out and lay them on a table. Arrange them in a way where you convey information in a way that makes sense. You'll quickly see how difficult that is to do. That is exactly how cinematography is different from photography.

    Where to begin? We will begin with the rules. In the next post I'll offer some of the basic rules of cinematography and how your audience instinctively react to them.

    Thanks for reading.
    Chris Medico
     
  2. Shrimpfarmer

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    Cracking post and thread Chris ! I have been really looking forward to this so thanks for getting it started. When I put my films together and watch them back I can see when the cut to the next clip works and I can also see when it doesn't and the bit that's killing me is WHY? As you say, when you watch a well edited film your oblivious to the cuts.

    My wife and I love to watch films of all types. Whenever the film loses me but my wife is enjoying it I switch from watching the story to watching the visuals, the editing, the framing. I just love it. But I need to take the next step. I need to understand it.

    Thanks for posting.

    Shrimpy
     
  3. iResq

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    I'm still trying to wrap my head around talkies. Lol. Look forward to following.

    Sent from my DROID RAZR using Tapatalk
     
  4. xpower180

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    Subscribed
     
  5. LandYachtMedia

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    Stopping by to say that I've not forgotten about this thread. Things on the paying side of life has kept me quite busy.

    I'll have the next post on the subject up this week.

    Anyone having a specific thought or question you want explored be sure to post it up or send it via a private message.
     
  6. OI Photography

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    Great thread Chris! I can definitely back up your statement that cinematography is a whole different ball of wax than still photography...like comparing chess to checkers. Photography I've got down, cinematography I'm still learning...so I'll be digesting whatever insights you provide here.

    Are you going to cover storyboarding as part of this? That's one of the things I've learned so far that's been extremely helpful.
     
  7. Hiway

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    very subscribed
     
  8. LandYachtMedia

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    I was going to keep this one to cinematography or to be more accurate - the language of cinematography. What are you saying with your frames?

    Storyboarding is really part of the preproduction process. I can touch on it some though.
     
  9. OI Photography

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    Understood, and that's a good point (and a good focus to maintain). I sometimes need to refer to my overall scene plan to help with setting up framing and composition and such, but I've just been flying (ha!) by the seat of my pants with it in general so far.
     
  10. Hiway

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    ...and probably my nemesis as I am a piss poor planner- I tend to shoot spontaneously and then am forced to make chicken salad out of chicken **** since there was a story in my head, but the footage never covers it as I go in with no preset requirements for scenes. I lack discipline in everything but the fun part- flying and watching the stuff I shoot. I used to like editing until I found out it is the single most tedious thing you can do in life next to counting woodgrains in tiger maple on lsd while in a holding cell. (I had a view of the sheriff's desk)
     
  11. Shrimpfarmer

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    Filming without a plan leaves you with tons of rubbish footage. No wonder you don't enjoy wading through that.
     
  12. Hiway

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    My hardest amateur lesson to overcome thus far, and yes- a metric **** ton of tossed footage. I get maybe 10% of what I shoot. I want to be a perfectionist, but lack the skill and knowledge- and then I will go watch videos and movies where truly ninja skilled folks are hacking out awesome stuff, and my mind wraps around what they did, but cannot reproduce it.

    So many factors present themselves in the editing stage that show how bad the video is, or how it could be better. I also have a terrible habit of constantly thinking of new ideas and then forget the original plan- then the entire project is disjointed.

    I know what a storyboard is, but I lack basic understanding of how to utilize it as a tool because I lack basic understanding of how to structure a video... but I read everything I can, and I slowly put it all together, and it will come. This thread is certainly a case of me placing the cart before the horse, but I jump around in my self study.

    I'll shut up now.
     
  13. Shrimpfarmer

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    To be able to get the right shots for a video you have to try and imagine how you want it to look. I use post-it notes to plan mine. Then when I am there I just make sure I film everything I had imagined and noted on my post-it notes. When they are all done I grab anything else that comes to mind. Example of storyboarding using post-it notes in this post viewtopic.php?f=6&t=5875
     
  14. LandYachtMedia

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    For sure don't shut up. This is the kind of feedback that will help me better communicate the concepts. Once we start going through the language of cinematography things should make a LOT more sense. You will see that specific shots create specific (and automatic) responses in your audience. Once you know what the shots mean to your audience they become another layer in your storytelling. As an example a slow push towards your subject at the right time can create increasing emotional connection with your viewers or increase dramatic tension. Adjusting the camera higher while keeping your subject framed the same (tiling down) creates more emotional weight. This is the kind of thing I want to communicate in this thread. I've been working on the best way to convey the ideas so they don't go into page after page of boring exposition. Its a lot of stuff to put out there and digest.

    To speak to how to end up with a good video is simple but not easy. You have to start with a good story. You have to start with a sequence of thoughts and ideas that will make sense when laid out together. A very common construct used in movies and commercials is the 3 act play. Act 1 is introductions of the characters/objects and setting up the scenario of the story, Act 2 is where the characters go on their "journey of discovery" or explore the scenario, Act 3 is reconciliation and resolution (and where most stories get derailed). I know this is a bit off the subject of cinematography but its important as well.
     
  15. Hiway

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    Excellent tips, and thank you for the link- you can be sure the effort was not wasted.
    I have the perfect device for it in my hand, and it never occurred to me to use it that way. It's called a frickin cell phone with note pad ap, doh!


    ...and thank you for allowing me to ramble. I do see the scenes in my head, and I have come a long way with exposure and not recording total garbage in a variety of conditions- I have an indoor studio with a Fresnel and some side and back lighting- there is where I am doing a lot of trial and error based on information gleaned online. My desire and plan is using 3 to 4 cameras in the studio at varying angles, but my dilemma is I am trying to develop the shots with thin lighting techniques to suit the feel of some of the projects I am working on. I also am cramming tutorials on how to do voice-overs, and I am learning to use color correction software, and editing custom art in photoshop, and digging for free use music... I am one of those people that would have been prescribed ritalin if I had been born inn the 80's instead of the 60's.
    My outdoor and aerial shots, and action shots off the Harley have been much improved now that I have crossed the threshold of proper fps and utilizing a proper filter in extreme lighting conditions- albeit still far to go but only to the trained eye- I am not trying to be a pro in a year- just not so damned obviously amateur. I am also a writer, so story telling is not too much of a stretch even though my work was mostly technical manuals and industry trade articles. Fortunately, most of my projects are stories already lived or events already unfolded, so it is a matter of relaying info and establishing mood, and reinforcing emotions and intent in persons and places. I do extensive research that would be comparable to doing a thesis, but only to make a 5 minute video- 9 t the absolute longest and I don't want to go that long. It is hard to summarize big ideas, and deep thoughts and happenings, and certainly people in such short fashion... but the audience today is no better than this undiagnosed add/hd sod who roams these historical warrens along the Appalachian trail.

    So please my kind sir, learn me up some mad cinematographical ninja skillz... I'll put 'em to solid use. :ugeek:
     
  16. Shrimpfarmer

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    And so will I so, whenever you can find the time to work on this thread please let us in on the secrets. I would imagine that in most of my future videos the 'actors' will be buildings, landscapes and people enjoying the countryside. My first real project with the Phantom is going to be trying to capture the essence of the New Forest in the South of England. I have two weeks there and I hope the weather is kind to me. I am already building a shot list of the locations I love the most. Will your future tips be applicable to non human actors or is that yet another area of the subject?

    Really looking forward to future posts on this.
     
  17. LandYachtMedia

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    Creating a discussion for cinematography in the context of a flying camera has been a lot tougher than I expected. The issue is with the normal learning convention you don't discuss moving camera work until after you cover the basics of stationary camera work. The "rules" change a bit when the camera starts moving. It is also a different thing that happens emotionally when you film objects that are more likely to be filmed by our Phantoms (objects without eyes such as buildings and landscapes).

    It is going to take a bit longer to get it where it is ready to publish.

    In the meantime here are a few film making terms to read up on and get familiar with. Understanding these terms will make it much more efficient to communicate concepts.


    Perspective
    Single Point Perspective (or One Point Perspective)
    Dolly (Verb, Horizontal camera movement)
    Boom (Verb, Vertical camera movement)
    Pan (Verb, Rotational camera movement in the horizontal axis)
    Tilt (Verb, Rotational camera movement in the vertical axis)
    Pivot (Verb, A turn around a subject of interest)
    Parallax and reverse parallax (a possible result of camera movement)
    Jump Cut
     
  18. Big Ben

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    Umm.... not wanting to sound pedantic but shouldn't these two

    Pan (Verb, Rotational camera movement in the horizontal axis)
    Tilt (Verb, Rotational camera movement in the vertical axis)

    be

    Pan (Verb, Rotational camera movement in the horizontal plane) or
    Pan (Verb, Rotational camera movement around the vertical axis)

    Tilt (Verb, Rotational camera movement in the vertical plane) or
    Tilt (Verb, Rotational camera movement around the perpendicular horizontal axis)

    Apart from that I'll certainly be following this thread and hope to learn some useful stuff about this subject.
     
  19. LandYachtMedia

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    Any of that works. I was describing the camera movement relative to the camera itself.

    To be more specific - A pan is rotational movement that results in a direct left or right movement of objects within the cameras frame (even the camera isn't horizontal relative to what it is shooting). A tilt would be a camera rotation that results in objects in the frame moving directly up or down.
     
  20. Hiway

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    Coincidence you mention this- and here I will stay on topic and on point:

    I am currently trying to develop a set of images where I use time lapse footage and then pan or tilt within the footage (if anyone has seen the opening credits or intro for Netflix "House of Cards" then I want to emulate that but in a different manner)

    I assume this would be an example of that?