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Old April 2nd, 2004, 09:17 AM   #1
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DPs & Operators: Film look is framing & Composition

DPs, Filmmakers, Videographers,

Here's a puzzle for you...

What guides YOU when you are doing framing and composition for film-like shots?

What is your objective when you are framing up a shot on some one's face for close up?

How about in a 2 shot?

I believe that more of the "film look" and better video quality comes from learning and using film type techniques for DV.
I was talking about this in another thread...

1) Like more control of light with lens filters, gels, diffusion, flags.

2) Better control of camera moves with tripods and dollies.

3) More use of shallow depth of field and rolling focus.

4) Composing your shots in depth with people and objects in front of your actor and behind your actor.

5) Framing your shots really tight so that only the most important action and most expressive facial features are in the shot.

I am really looking to learn from this and I am very interested in hearing how other camera operators think about framing.

I have even taken some of my favorite recent films / TV shows and broken up the shot sequences on my Vegas editing software.

I have a shoot all next week and I am really re-thinking the way I frame and shoot. I want to get more film type composition and framing.

Ed Hill
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Old April 2nd, 2004, 01:35 PM   #2
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Composition and framing are the same thing. I don't think you mean a "film look" as much as you mean a "professional look".

Composition can be learned by looking at art and studying composition books. There are some good composition photography books also.

Most of your points are valid but you shouldn't constrain yourself to them. Composition is an art form. A good photographer or artist would look at tone and abstract form IF he has the time to study the scene. This is why storyboarding is so valuable, especially if it is done by someone artistically inclined.

Such a person would look at a scene and see curves, triangles and lines. Also texture, shades of grey and color values. Not to mention the typical "rule of thirds", golden ratios and so on.

Then there is "good light" and "bad light".

Framing your shots "really tight" is OK for closeups but awful for action sequences or large areas and scenery. It's also not good to see a big nose and eyes across the screen. Much more interesting to include a background, a table with a flower.

And sometimes it just looks good and you can't say why.

So many scenes are shot and considered good only because they include the action. Even a little consideration to composition can turn a simple interview into an enjoyable sight.
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Old April 2nd, 2004, 03:08 PM   #3
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Old April 2nd, 2004, 07:50 PM   #4
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I agree with Rod to a point.

It is important to understand the basic rules/guidelines and general photgraphic practices. Once you have a solid foundation of these techniques, it is then that one can bend them, manipulate and sometime even break the rules.
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Old April 16th, 2004, 07:58 AM   #5
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Using shallow focus only because it looks more similar to midrange primes on 35mm is wrong. Shallow focus is something you use to tell a story visually. It should never be used just because it looks more like some thing we see on 35mm. We have to know why we use it. IMHO it's a directors job to know what the lens and camera placement can do to tell the story. It's the DP's job to light the emotion within the scene.

The one thing I miss the most with shooting on prosumer gear is the set of lenses. Each lens has a specific task and they are a part of a language that people like Eisenstein and Griffith created. When I shoot prosumer DV I still think (and often say out loud on the set) -"This is a 50 shot". And then I have to figure out how to simulate a 50 on PD150 Sony zoom. I always carry a directors viewfinder to frame it and then I know what a 50 would see and try to get as close as possible to it with the zoom. But it's never the same thing.

There was nothing wrong with the old workflow and video today is a very weird dialect of the language of cinema.
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Old April 16th, 2004, 05:09 PM   #6
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Martin, what about dv cams with replacable lenses like
the SonyDSR 250 and the JVC dy5000? or even the JVC dy700?

I've always wonderend why so few people talk about them in reference to prosumer gear. Seems you could at least come close to 16mm? Just wondering is all.
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Old April 16th, 2004, 06:58 PM   #7
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> I've always wonderend why so few people talk about them
> in reference to prosumer gear. Seems you could at least
> come close to 16mm? Just wondering is all.

I was thinking the same thing. I guess the main reason is they are not really 'prosumer'... they are expensive equipment and thus don't have much to do with the 'DV revolution' so to speak. There are a lot of people out there using the PD150/170 or PDX10, the Pannys and the Canon XL series and that's what most of use use. The people that afford more expensive camcorders are not usually after a 'film look' but are more from the ENG and TV studio worlds.
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Old April 16th, 2004, 07:42 PM   #8
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<<<-- Originally posted by Joe Carney : Martin, what about dv cams with replacable lenses like the SonyDSR 250 -->>>

Does the 250 have a removeable lens? I don't think so... I believe the lens is the same as the PD-150. But I've never actually seen one so I might be wrong about that...
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Old April 16th, 2004, 08:31 PM   #9
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The 250's lens is not removable. It uses Canon image stabilization, but I am not sure if it is a Canon made lens.
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Old April 17th, 2004, 04:44 AM   #10
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The 250 is a 150 with large cassette and a little bit better viewfinder. Same Sony parts all the way.

Joe: When I shoot 16mm I have to go through the same process on the set - so getting close to 16mm doesn't help. How do I recreate the language of the prime set with 16mm optics. A 25 in 16mm is not simply equivalent to a 50 in 35mm in practice. Only in theory. Shooting 16mm is very different from shooting 35mm. Just having interchangeable lenses is not going to do it. Using a mini35 is the best option right now but it's a crude solution and a bit to pricey considering it's still only SD resolution video.
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Old April 17th, 2004, 11:29 AM   #11
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Martin, I see your point.
>>Using a mini35 is the best option right now but it's a crude solution and a bit to pricey considering it's still only SD resolution video.<<
I guess I was hoping there was somehing similar for the dy5000,dy700,DSR500 and the other cams I mentioned. Wondering why the folks making the mini35 haven't offered it for other than the Canon. Market share?

I've heard that with the 2/3 inch CCD cams using 2/3" mount, at least in theory, you can attach HD prime lenses (though the lenses cost a heck of a lot more than the cams themselves).


Oh well, have to wait for NAB to find out if anything truley great and affordable is coming out.

btw I've seen '28 Days' on DVD which used the setup you are talking about and it was impressive.
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Old April 19th, 2004, 11:38 AM   #12
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There is a converter for 2/3" cameras. It's called PRO35digital and it's really expensive (something like $20K). And the regular mini35digital works on XL1, PD150, PD170 and DVX100/A.

http://www.pstechnik.de/datasheets/d_pro35.htm

Market share is a big issue. There's not a lot of DP's that are tempted by the P+S Technik solution simply because it's far from perfect. Most DP's and shooters finds image sharpness to be of higher priority than having a correct set of primes at their disposal.
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Old April 19th, 2004, 07:05 PM   #13
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Getting back to Ed's question there is a difference between a film look and professionalism, the things that your'e discussing would add to the professionalism of a project though that doesn't necissarily make it the right thing to do. The most important thing you can do is use the shots that you're setting up to tell a story. For example if soemone is telling the story about how the grandfather Jack Daniels died in that horrible wheat thresher accident (always playing with that wheat thresher I told him a hundred times...) it would be beneficial to have a rather tight shot on the story tellers face (perhaps preceded by a dolly in) if someone is pulling out a gun and you want to let the audiance feel the tension of the gun it would benefit you more to have a wider shot with the gun in the frame. If you can truly reinforce the stroy telling with the camera work it won't matter what professional elements you have (or don't) because that will make your story better.

That being said...

I worked on a show once where the director wanted a lot of depth off of a pd150 because he believed that would make it look like film. Of course when I told him we'd have to remove the wide angle screw on attatchment to get better depth he wanted to leave it on because the wider angle looked like film. Then he wanted movement (because that looked like film) but we couldn't take the camera off the tripod, because it had to be on a tripod if it was to look like film. Next he wanted a lot of light because it had to look like daylight in a room with one window (that doesnt' usually get any light at all) but I couldn't close down the iris, or change the shutter speed because it had to be open and it had to be a specific (magic) shutter speed so that it would look like film (he also wouldn't spring for a mattebox so I supplied one but my nd filters hadn't arrived yet) Eventually he just took the camera and did the shooting itself and suprisingly enough when he tried to cut it together and watch it on the screen it didn't look like film, even though he'd done (or made me do) all of the tricks that he had read made video look like film. The entire project (well what was shot) looked like crap and the whole thing got canned (I left the 2nd day because of "creative differences") Anyhow any of the suggestions listed do often come into play when shooting but if you concentrate more on a film look then on storytelling with your shots you'll discover that everything you shoot still ends up looking like bad video. (though I'm not saying all video's bad)

Also there's a couple o fpeople in atlanta who are really good with that stuff especially on digital I know the dailies projects out of push push are reallyt supposed to be turning some good things out (though they're reluctant to let outsiders join in... at least ones located in CA) and the guy who runs item6.com has done some pretty good work as well.
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Old April 20th, 2004, 03:40 AM   #14
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Always nice to start of the morning with a good laugh. Great story. Thanks Nick!
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Old April 20th, 2004, 10:36 AM   #15
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So now I break this down in a fundamental way.
I'm trying to get to the most crucial priority when I set up a shot.

Why do I shoot like I shoot?
What am I trying to accomplish?

So from what you are saying the key elements are:

1) exercising total control over what the viewer sees not because it's something I saw in my favorite film, but because it tells the story.

2) framing, camera moves and focusing are tools to focus the viewer on the most crucial or most expressive elements of the story ( For me each shot should reveal action, character or reaction to story events).

3) Maybe I try to build cool, complex compositions that maybe show the main action
between two foreground characters who are reacting to the action. And I build a sequence of pieces that make up the whole visual story.

4) So what I'm after is to make my composition and framing capture that crucial emotional reaction of an actor. Or some revealing detail in the action.

5) So I want the story telling sequence of my images to clearly tell the viewer the action and REVEAL the personality of story characters to the viewer.

6) Maybe my script and shooting can build a "pay off shot" that reveals something new about the picture sequence that came before. Or reveals some twist or unknown factor that changes everything about the previous shot sequence.

I am sort of thinking out loud here about how shooting effects the story. Some of these ideas are obvious, but I am trying to rethink them so they will make sense to me ( and help me) when I am actually setting up the next shot.

Thanks,

Ed
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