Sunday, 18 December 2011

Film Shooting Checklist

Do a camera test: depth of field, focal length, lens filters, white balance, and camera movement
are all cinematic tools that you have at your disposal when composing a shot. Good composition
involves balancing these choices along with the placement of your subject and background
within your scene.

Here, then, is a simple list that you should get in the habit of following when setting up your

1. Consider depth of field. Think about how deep or shallow you want the depth of field
in your image. If you want a very shallow depth of field, then you’re probably going to
need to use a longer focal length, so you might need to move your camera away from your
subject to get the framing you established in step 1. Remember also to manually control
your camera’s aperture, as described earlier.

2. Pay attention to the effect of your focal length. Whether or not you’re trying to control
the depth of field in your scene, you should take a minute to consider how your choice
of focal length is affecting the sense of depth in your image. Are you trying to create a
large sense of space? If you are, then you probably want a shorter focal length to reduce
depth compression. However, if you go too short, you might distort your actors’ faces.
There’s no right or wrong to focal length choice, but it is important to pay attention to
how focal length is affecting your image.

3. Double-check exposure and shutter speed. Most of the time, your camera will be
calculating at least one of these parameters, often both. If you’re manually adjusting aperture
to control depth of field, then make sure the camera hasn’t switched to a shutter speed
that’s too high. Or perhaps you want to make your images darker, or to expose them in
a particular way. Or perhaps you’re worried about your actor’s movements interfering
with your camera’s automatic exposure mechanism. If so, you’ll want to manually pick an
exposure that works well for the scene and set the camera to that aperture.
4. White balance. Assuming your set is already lit—and assuming you’ve decided to shoot
using manual white balance—it’s now time to white balance. Have someone hold something
white in an appropriate spot and take your white balance. You might not have to
do this every time, but remember that if your camera has shut off or been placed in standby
mode, or if your lighting setup has changed, you need to take a new white balance.

If you follow the preceding steps when setting up your camera, you’ll stand a better chance
of using all of the creative tools at your disposal.

Like any other tool, when you’re very familiar with how to use your camera, your hands will
simply do what they need to do without you having to think about it. With all of the other
things you’ll have to think about when on set, worrying about a particular camera setting is
a luxury you won’t be able to afford. As such, a thorough working knowledge of your camera
is essential.

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