Have your lighting reflect the mood of your movie
A good place to start is by using a soft/diffuse light source in front of your subject and a stronger, more directional light behind your subject. How you arrange these lights will dictate the mood in which you want to create. Especially in moodier films, shadows are your friend, play with them!
Setting up lights is the most time-consuming process in a film shoot. When covering a scene with a shot and reverse shot, instead of moving the camera and lights for the reverse shot, simply switch the actors around and move the camera to the other side of the eye-line in order to maintain the correct eye-line relationship. This allows you to use the same lighting set-up for two or more pairs of shots. Depending on the situation, it may help to move some props around too. It generally works best when the backgrounds of the two actors cannot be distinguished. This technique is not always appropriate, but in the right situation it can be totally convincing and a huge time-saver.
Mix color temperatures
By using different color temperatures, you’re not only expanding the range of values within the composition of your shots, but you can use the associations that are attached with color in an interesting way. For example, in James Cameron’s shot below, he uses a futuristic blue with a metallic orange that gives the right amount of intensity and boldness to this scene.
Depth of Field is everything
For maximum depth of field and when shooting outside and lighting conditions are most likely bright, use a wide aperture a neutral-density filter. Neutral-density filters are essentially color-neutral (grey) filters, which reduce the brightness of the light reaching the film or CCDs. The point is that you reduce the intensity of the light by using a neutral-density filter and then compensate for it by using a wider aperture.
Use a wide lens
It enhances parallax, which is the effect in which objects closer to the camera move across the field of view faster. This works very effectively for street scenes.
And use a long lens!
Long lenses also work well with camera movement, but this produces a very different look because the visual planes are compressed. You should familiarize with the look produced by lenses of different focal lengths.
Use foreground objects
This will also enhance parallax regardless of focal length, but different focal lengths will produce different looks, so play with them! This works especially well with sideways tracking shots.
Zoom & Tilt
Ridley Scott has come up with a wonderful technique that he sometimes uses: he zooms in as a subject approaches the camera, and simultaneously tilts up, since the camera is quite low down. It is quite striking because the zoom, which has the effect of magnifying the subject, is combined with the subject walking towards the camera, which also has the effect of enlarging it in the frame.
Don’t be afraid to zoom
Beginning filmmakers are usually told to avoid zoom shots, but the truth is that zoom shots can be extremely cool if done properly. There is a fine line between a zoom shot that is tacky and one that is visually compelling. The difference lies in the execution and in the context. Combining the zoom with translational motion (tracking) can work very well.
Want more tips?
On Sunday, October 20, Indie Film Club Miami brings you an affordable hands-on digital/DSLR camera, lenses and lighting workshop.
This one day intensive workshop is suitable for the beginner and the intermediate level. You will be instructed on all aspects of shooting – camera, lights, lenses and motion. Whether you are an aspiring filmmaker, a filmmaker who aims to transition into shooting, a film student or a passionate amateur, this workshop is for you. You will walk away with new creative and technical knowledge for your next creative project.
Instructor Pezhman Jatala is an experienced independent filmmaker and cinematographer and teaches film production at the Miami International University of Art and Design.
You are encouraged to bring your camera and lenses, though we will have equipment on hand and owning a camera is not necessary.
$35 in advance/$45 at the door
$30 for IFCM Members
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