Ready to Shoot?
2) Make Sure Your Actors, Locations, and Dates are Secure
–For casting, please refer to our Casting Guide. Again, make sure you contact every actor you audition, regardless of whether you choose to cast them. Be especially polite and nice to your second and third choices! If your first choice were to drop out, these are the people you want to still be interested in working with you.
–If you need to reserve a location on campus (a classroom, the steps, etc), you can talk to the university’s location manager Joseph Sabbat. He’s in charge of all film shoots on campus, from professional to graduate to undergraduate film shoots–and he’s extremely nice and helpful. If he can’t personally get you a location, he can refer you to whomever is in charge. **If you are going to film in your friend’s dorm room, or your dorm room, you do not need to ask Mr. Sabbat’s permission. Additionally, no one (not even a professional production) is allowed to use the libraries, because, duh! libraries are for studying.
–If you want to film in New York City, it is perfectly legal to shoot with one camera without a tripod on any public property. If you want to do something fancier, you need to request a permit from the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting. Permits need to be requested well in advance, so get on this early! If you can make do with just a camera, know that sometimes local law enforcement is not aware that it is perfectly legal to shoot per the Mayor’s orders. Bring a copy of the Mayor’s website with you to show police if necessary.
3. Get Ready to Shoot!
Below is CUFP’s Guide to Cinematography, compiled by Director of Production Max Rifkind-Barron. Remember, although the DP sets up all shots, the Director chooses what those shots should be, and therefore should be just as knowledgeable on all aspects of cinematography.
1) Familiarize Yourself with Video Basics
Video Basics include: Zoom, Focus, White Balance, Shooting Modes (Automatic, Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority), Steady Shot, and Blacking out Tapes. If you are unfamiliar with these terms, one option is to volunteer on a CUFP shoot and ask to work with the DP! All CUFP sets are learning sets and we’ll be happy to make sure you learn what you are interested in.
2) Learn Your Film Grammar
i. Extreme Wide Shot/Extreme Long Shot (XLS): Angle depicts the subject with extra space in every direction.
ii. Wide Shot/Long Shot (LS): Head to toe. Less head-and-foot space than an XLS.
iii. Medium Wide Shot/Medium Long Shot (MLS): Knees to head.
iv. Medium Shot (MS): Waist to head.
v. Medium Close Up (MCU): Upper half of torso to head.
vi. Close Up (CU): Head and shoulders.
vii. Extreme Close Up (EX CU): Even tighter than the BCU. Hones in on a particular facial feature or set of facial features.
ix. Insert: Picks out a particular detail.
i. Low Angle: Camera aimed up to the subject (A more extreme version is called Worm’s Eye)
ii. Eye Level: Camera aimed directly at the subject’s level.
iii. High Angle: Camera aimed down at the subject (A more extreme version is called Bird’s Eye).
i. Pan: Horizontal rotation from a fixed point.
ii. Tilt: Vertical rotation from a fixed point.
iii. Boom: Free vertical movement (up and down).
iv. Crab: Free horizontal movement (left and right).
v. Dolly In/Dolly Out: Free movement towards/away from the subject.
vi. Push In: Moving toward the character, usually to depict him/her in tighter framing (frequently involves a slight tilt up to maintain the eye line).
vii. Zoom: Changing the focal length of the lens from shorter (wide angle), proving a larger view, to longer (telephoto), providing a more specific view.
i. Master Shot: Provides the most information about the scene (usually allows us to see most or all characters).
ii. Two Shot (TS): Depicts just two characters in the same frame.
iii. Single: Depicts just one character.
iv. Over-the-Shoulder (OTS, Over): A shot of a character composed with another character’s head and/or shoulder in the foreground.
v. “Shooting at 90 Degrees:” A staging and shooting technique similar a OTS. By staging two characters perpendicular from one another, we see more of the subject in the foreground, even though the shot is “about” the character in the background.
vi. Point of View Shot (POV): Angle from close to the eye line of a character in the scene.
vii. Long Take: A single, uninterrupted shot.
ix. Deep Focus: Everything is in focus, providing lots of detail (using the short focal length of a wide angle lens).
x. Shot-Reverse Shot: Cutting pattern that alternates between A and B shot: two opposite, matching angles.
i. 180 Degree Rule: Set the “line,” an imaginary 180 degree line down the set, and do not cross it for any of your shots. If you cross the 180 degree line, the audience will feel disoriented when watching the edited footage.
ii. 45 Degree Rule
iii. Always cut on action: but let action run longer than you will need. Wait at least five extra seconds after you think you should call cut to actually call cut.
(check out this resource online for quick guides on how to manipulate light)
i. High Key Lighting: No shadows, suggests an upbeat mood.
ii. Low key Lighting: Darker, moodier lighting adding shadows and more depth to a scene.
iii. Three-Point Lighting
—-Key Light: The main light source.
—-Fill Light: Fills in the shadow left from the key light and adds texture to the subject’s face.
—Back Light: Lights the shoulders and back of the subject, making him/her stand out from the background.
5. Tips for Shooting on Video
How to decide what shots to use
–a)Think about mise-en-scene. Provide visual interest in every frame. Unless it’s absolutely essential don’t shot against a white background, which decreases the perceived depth between a subject and the far background. Rather than centering the subject in the frame, divide the frame into thirds of fifths to make the composition more dynamic (use symmetry sparingly, and always for a specific effect).
–b) Shoot subjects from far away in order have selective focus.
–c) Make a shot list in consultation with the director – try to plan which shots you’ll shoot first (this will help with concerns for continuity).
–d) It’s easier for the editor to have more footage than less, so always try to cover all bases during principal photography (this means: shoot as much as you can, from as many angles as possible).
–e) Only use hand-held camera for a reason: don’t assume that freeing the camera from the tripod will give you more freedom. Hand held camera can be quite effective if its use is motivated, rather than arbitrary.
–f) Use CUs sparingly. Always make sure they are motivated and necessary.
–g) Always keep the idea of distance in mind when reading a scene you’re supposed to shoot. The distance between the camera and subject should change depending on the beats of the scene and the level of connection or distance we’re supposed to be feeling.
–h) Think about shooting a scene from the angle you’d most like to observe something in real life. Walk around the actors during rehearsal and try to find this “sweet spot” – more often than not, this will come about naturally and intuitively
–i) Don’t keep the tripod fixed, unless it’s for a specific reason; if a character moves, follow him/her and his/her movements – this keeps the visuals dynamic and interesting, even during dialogue.