Filmmaking Technique: Framing and Exposure

Rebecca opened today’s meeting with a discussion of our newly prepared call sheet – which lists, among other details, sunrise/sunset times for filming that will enable us to time our shoots within an hour of sunset. We have also developed production guidelines: a list of reminders and basic principles that will result in better films. For instance, the guidelines contain a reminder  to shoot in 16/9 (widescreen), and instructions on how to call up this menu setting on the camera and ensure that the viewfinder shows bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

We then transitioned into a discussion of The Train Driver, a play that many of us attended during the past week. Some people expressed visceral reactions to the racial elements of the play and to its portrayal of the interchangeability of character. One person remarked on the differences  between a text and its visualization, noting that it becomes harder for an audience member to make the story what she wants it to be when watching the director’s particular visual presentation of the text. We compared that kind of “difference”  to the differences between the original text of a law and its subsequent interpretations.

Next, we screened several films and practice interviews that students have compiled over the past week. The first round of films, from the immigration team, was shot in the YLS courtyard. The second round, from the criminal team, was shot in an apartment interior. During and after screening these films, we discussed framing (especially with regard to not allowing too much space about the subject’s heads), methods for keeping the camera stable without a tripod (including holding it on rested elbows), and exposure (which can be done when you’re zoomed all the way in on a face). We noted that there are two ways to zoom with the camera: the first is with the buttons on the top of the camera, and the second is by unlocking the lens and using a switch to quickly move the lens either very close or far away. We noted that when zoomed in on a subject, it’s good to have the background blurred.

Lee Faulkner, Associate Director of the Yale Digital Media Center for the Arts working with students on film technique.

Some other reminders and notes: Based on our earlier meeting with Lee from the DMCA, it’s good to set the “zebra” function on the camera to approximately 70%. And it’s important not to allow dead zones on the tape, which will pose problems for the recording’s timecode. And it’s important to pay attention to architectural signals that viewers know are supposed to be vertical, such as cabinets and other straight lines.

Students mentioned that filming generally went better than it had the previous week. This was taken to be a sign of great progress!

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