Become a Professional FilmMaker in 25 lessons
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Thanks to the continuous development of technology, which has simplified and slimmed down audio and video recording instruments, anyone today has the opportunity to create a video of professional quality. But if we all learn to just press a bunch of buttons in a hurry, very few of us will have the opportunity to learn the rules of cinematic language.The grammar and syntax of audiovisual communication, which allow you to describe things that others understand, are often confused and become a burden in editing courses and schools, and are more intellectual than practical. Our course is a complete and practical course that completely takes place on the set, “on the road” and allows everyone to create projects that are professionally correct. Yet, photography, video and audio each have a precise language, with a grammar and syntax that are still unknown to most users. Most of us today utilize these fascinating, powerful and extraordinarily effective tools in improvised, limited and often incorrect ways.
Our audiovisual recording course will provide you with all the basic knowledge of a language that will enable anyone who sends and receives an audiovisual to achieve a better and more satisfying use of these new tools of communication.
How to shoot a subject, how to compose a “framing”, how to obtain maximum results from these tools: lesson after lesson you will learn to “write” with an audiovisual, in a targeted effort to not only get the most from documenting an event in which you are the leading actors, but also to create a product of pure imagination. For example, if you are not aware of the rules pertaining to“angle of view” and“reversed angle” when (incorrectly) shooting two people talking together, to the viewer it may appear as if these two people were engaged in a conversation with other people rather than with each other. “Pan”, “point of view (POV) shot”, “sequence shot” and “cut” are all the elements of a language that has a precise expressive meaning. Mastering this language will enable you to better communicate your ideas and imaginations to others.
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|Section 1: Rules and tools of recording: from a pen to a microphone and video camera|
In this reading, and by way of several practical examples, you will learn about the important difference that exists between words that are read and then visualized in our minds,and words that are interpreted. You will study about the role words have in an audiovisual product. You will study and learn about the link between words, music, and audio and video effects. If we write:
“... the girl, approaches the bench slowly, one step after the next. It’s noon. She looks around. She sits down. Suddenly, behind her back, arms extended towards her, David appears”.
These two lines of text, as read by our eyes, have a meaning that is tied to the described context of the story and to its characters,and culminates with that narrative moment. In video, that same phrase can have a meaning or effect that is comic, dramatic or anything in between, regardless of the context and according to the expressions, movements, facial gestures of the actors, light, “sound effects”, “musical sound track”, “cuts”, “lens” used, video camera position, in short, all of the audio and video components of the shoot.
Carefully think about the video examples that we will introduce. Just as it is not enough to know Microsoft WORD to become a writer, at the end of the reading you will have learned that “shooting”does not mean picking up a video camera and starting to film. It means recording with audio, with video and with a very large number of tools,including performers, each having a precise, deep and unique expressive potential.
The director on the set has a “screenplay” to go by: he knows what he has “to shoot”. He prepares his “framing” and has no doubts as to what its center of attention should be. But if, say, we go to an event, turn on our video camera and look at what we have before us through the view-finder, the identification of our subject is not so immediate. Or rather, our attention is drawn to one or more people, to an animal or to other things: therefore, placing our subject at the center of our attention, that is, our shot is a task that requires some thought. In this case, too, we must take a moment to gather our ideas before pushing the REC button. I’m also talking to professional cameramen who often fill tapes and SD cards with endless and unnecessary shooting that only create confusion and loss of time during editing.The subject is not just the topic, theme or plot of a film, of a literary or theatrical work. In an audiovisual shot the subject is that person or thing that is the or is placed at the center of attention.The video camera of this Course will teach you step by step the identification, creation and determination of one or more subjects within a “story”. People, animals and objects are the focus of these tutorial shots that are all realized through natural “set decorations”; a couple, a boat, a house, a stone, a leaf...
Now that we understand that the SUBJECT is the person(s), object(s) which is (are) at the CENTER OF ATTENTION of the video camera, we learn that the “center of attention” is the FRAMING, or the delimited SPACE within which an ACTION takes place. The numerous video examples in this reading explain and demonstrate in a practical way why it is the same one framing that determines the SPACE and the TIME in which a certain action takes place. At the end of this reading you will have understood an important concept: given a certain subject – be it “random” like a boat entering a port or “set” such as your dog sitting on the grass – it is the creator of the audiovisual that determines what space, how much of it is to be placed around the subject, and how long the shot or framing will last. The video shots of this reading will simplify this important point which is the basis of audiovisual recording and of all cinema.
A person who is not an expert in the field may be at the movies, see a beautiful landscape, and declare , “What a beautiful shot!” Or perhaps when captivated by a certain passage of the story, whether it be of love, suspense or action, the layman viewer might say “What a nice scene!” As you can see, framing and scene are words that have a very precise meaning in an audiovisual story. In this reading, we will first examine the concept of framing. We will learn that “framing” is not only the delimitated space within which a given action takes place in a given period of time. In order to get your audiovisual story or film going, we will learn that the framing is also that part of the video or film that goes from one CUT to the next. In the video examples provided in this reading the “cuts” are highlighted, and we learn that each “cut” is intended as a change of framing.Therefore, we will go from one framing to the next, and learn that many framings create a SCENE. And that is how – starting with the basis of the audiovisual and film recording (framing) - we arrive at the basis of the story (the scene).
In Reading 4, we learned that a scene is formed by one or more framings. We will now learn that more scenes form a SEQUENCE. Let's take a written example that will help you to better understand the video examples of this reading. In one of our hypothetical stories, a man runs back home to look for some document that he is afraid he has lost. This is our SEQUENCE. We decide that it should consist of three scenes. In the first scene we see the man running. In the second, the man races into the house. In the third, he rummages through the drawers of his desk. Let’s pay close attention now. Each of these scenes may be formed by one or more framings. Here’s what we have learned so far. In Scene 1, we see a man running towards the video camera (“framing 1”). So, the close up is of the panting man (“framing 2”). In Scene 2, the man goes across the garden of his house (“framing 1”). Then, the man crosses the threshold of the house (“framing 2”). In Scene 3, we have the man entering his room (“framing 1”), approaching his desk (“framing 2”), opening the drawers (“framing 3”), with eyes of anguish (“framing 4”), and hands that are rummaging (“framing 5”); etc. etc. In the video examples of Reading 5, you will learn to follow the actions of a character.You will also assimilate the expressive meaning of a “SEQUENCE SHOT”, which is a scene that consists of multiple framings with different spaces without “cuts”. Legendary scenes from Orson Welles to Jean-Luc Godard to Brian De Palma, just to name a few, have shaped the history of cinema.
|Section 2: THE FRAMING: types and expressive meanings|
At the basis of a story or any audiovisual product there must be an objective framing. The viewer observes our work through the eyes of the video camera. He does not sense neither its presence nor mediation. The camera is the “window” or “audience” from which our story follows. If the observation point is natural, the objective framing is defined as REAL. If it is not, such as a shot taken from a fish tank, the framing is defined as an UNREAL OBJECTIVE SHOT. All the first framings found in this reading are objective. We could say that they are moving pictures - that is, representations of reality, framed by an objective, seemingly discreet (as we shall see later on), impersonal, objective shot.
The framing objective shot may be preceded, followed or supplemented by the so-called SUBJECTIVE FRAMING, better known as Point Of View (POV) Shot. Our main character, and more precisely his eyes and movements, are represented by the video camera itself. Our viewer is seeing though the eyes of the character, he moves with the character and has the sensation that he himself is playing out a specific scene. The creator of the audiovisual story or, if you prefer, film uses this type of framing when he specifically intends for the viewer to live out the emotion or the tension of the protagonist.
Let’s go back to the example of the man who runs back home for the desperate search of an important document (see Reading 5/Section 1): our SEQUENCE consisted of three scenes. In Scene 3, the man enters his room (Framing 1), approaches his desk (Framing 2), and opens the drawers (Framing 3). We had hypothesized the turning of his anguished eyes (Framing 4) followed by his hands rummaging through the drawer (Framing 5). But after shooting his eyes anxiously looking in every drawer, we can decide to entirely shoot this frantic search as a Point Of View (POV) Shot. The video camera will then replace the main character. It will move like the actor and the viewer will experience this scene from the first-person perspective, with the same anxiety of the main character. This will become clear in the next video examples.
We have a subject in front of us. Where is it located? At the center of the framing, is it alone, are there people nearby, is it lit or in a “back light”? Do we see it from above or below, is it in profile? We could go on and on with these questions. If the subject we have in front of us is random, we simply shoot it in the best way possible. But if we are the ones who place the subject in front of our video camera, we also have to decide where exactly to place it, its distance, and everything else. We are also the ones who decide, angle and tilt of our video camera in relation to the horizon line. Decisions on Points Of View have a precise narrative meaning. With respect to the horizon line, a framing is defined as NORMAL when the video camera is placed at eye level of the protagonist. Or at the center of the subject being shot. This framing will not want to give a description of anything different or more than what it shows. It should not be interpreted by the viewer nor be subject to analyses. The so-called “normal” or “horizontal” framing does not convey different or complementary meanings or emotions to what the video camera is simply showing and to what the viewer is observing through the video camera. So, the normal framing is very often the beginning of a sequence or the first of a scene. It helps the viewer to find his bearings. It’s the curtain that rises and the story that begins. If in a horizontal framing the axis of the video camera is parallel to the horizon, in an oblique framing the axis will be tilted towards the right or the left. In a vertical framing the axis will be perpendicular, in that the camera will be turned over and upside down. We must remember that the point of view of the camera will become the viewer’s point of view. If we want to instill fear with the framing of a monster, or uneasiness with a framing of an important character, our angle will be from down low. But we will shoot a subject from up high if for example we want to describe loneliness, despair, tenderness and submission.
We are at the movies. The subject we are watching is a girl. We perfectly distinguish her entire figure; or, in yet another framing, the girl appears very close: we only see her face, the movement of her eyes.The distance of the subject from us viewers depends on two factors: the actual distance of the subject from the video camera and on the lens that is shooting the subject in full length or in the foreground. If from a point of observation we see a boat far away at sea, with a “tele lens” that boat will appear closer. If we use a “wide angle lens”, we will have a much broader view and the boat will seem even further away.
“Full Shot”: the subject is shot in full, leaving a bit of “air” above the head and under the feet, or a little bit of space before the border of the frame.
“Medium Full Shot”: the standing subject is “cut” at the level of the knees, that is, he is framed from the knees up.
“Medium Shot”: the subject is cut at half length, just below the waist. If it is a little closer or at waist height, it becomes a “Medium Close Shot”.
“Close Shot”: This is the framing of the subject’s head, shoulders and up to where the chest begins. In general, we refer to it as a Wide Close Up. The framing of just the subject’s head and shoulders in Italian is known as aPrimo Piano Stretto, while in English it is known as a “Wide Close-Up”. Even a Close Shot cut at the base of the neck has an English term: “Full Close-Up”, while in Italian it is known as the generic term Primo Piano Molto Stretto.
“Medium Close Up” or “Extreme Close-Up”: This is the framing of just the subject’s face which fills the entire screen, leaving air under the chin.
“Extreme Close-Up” or “Detail Shot”: This is a framing of a detail or a detail relating to a subject who we have described or we are about to describe.
ATTENTION: The terms listed above can be specified with different words depending on the language, places or customs of a particular production or crew. It is especially important for our reader to understand the expressive meaning of each shot. And the video examples of this lesson will help you - rather than just memorize the different definitions - to understand why a framing is created in one way rather than another.
We have taken note of the meaning of the term “framing heights”. Let us now turn to the concept of “shot size” and then of the term FIELDS.
A shot size is everything that is near or around our subject (that is, at the center of attention) that we want or do not want to show our viewers. If the subject is not random, we are always the one to decide what we want to show or tell with our video camera.
“Extreme Long Shot (ELS)”: It is a descriptive field that indicates all of the shot size possible of a place that is related to our story. It is a setting of hills, homes; it is the immensity of a desert or sea. In an Extreme Long Shot the human figures, cars or horses are just seen.
“Medium Long Shot (MLS)”: This framing will present the protagonists of our story in full-length, in the environmental context in which they are located. We will follow the actions, gestures and movements within the surrounding confines in which they are located.
"Master Shot": It is frequently used in TV filming to indicate a scene together, for example, a host with all the guests and competitors or an aerial view of an entire studio.
From the concept of “field” we pass to the definition of “DEPTH OF FIELD” and "OFF SCREEN". The “depth of field” is everything that is in focus in the framing . Once again, if we have suitable filming instruments, we will be the ones to decide what our viewer must see. And in what way we want them to see it. We will have a greater or lesser depth of field according to if our subject will be far away or close to our lens. But a broad or reduced depth of field also depends on, as we shall see later, the “focal length” of the lens.
Some more on the concept of fields. The subjects are either already “on camera” or they can enter “on camera” or go “off camera”. We must also be careful here. To make sure these entrances and exits give the effect of continuity that we desire, we must not mistake the directions from one framing to the next. He who exits to the right of the frame, in the immediately following framing (if any) he must enter from the left, and vice versa, he who exits to the left must enter from the right. If you attempt to do the opposite you will realize that your subjects will proceed in different directions, precisely without any continuity.
|Section 3: The "SUBJECT" and the "LENSES"|
The framing of our subject varies according to the lens we use to frame it. And depending on the focal length, we have only three main types of lenses available: the “wide-angle lens”, the “standard lens” and the “telephoto lens”.
As you can see, all these elements lead and direct the attention of our viewer towards our subject that is being entertained in the way that the framing, focal length and diaphragm can express at their best. If we change just one of these elements, (which are not yet all of them as we will see later), if we vary just one of these factors, we will also vary the expressive meaning of our framing.
The angle of view, namely what the lens shows or captures, depending on the focal length, is expressed in degrees.
A lens is defined as wide angle if the angle of view is more than 65° (focal length of about 35mm).
In general, landscapes and architecture are well described by a wide angle. But this lens is also useful when you simply don’t have enough space to move away from the subject in order to frame it completely, or when a moving subject is coming towards our video camera and we want to give it more speed, or even when we need more contrast in a given framing, or more depth of field.
A lens is defined as standard if it has an angle of view between 45° and 50° (focal length of about 50mm). This angle of view can be compared to that of the human eye. (Although in reality our field of vision is about 220°).
Remember: the more closed a lens is (11, 16, 22), the wider the depth of field you will have.
Consequently, the more it is open, the narrower the depth of field is. For this reason, a very bright standard lens is the most suitable lens for shooting on the road, improvising and where conditions of light are less than optimal.
A standard lens of 50mm is also an ideal lens, if used with skill, for moving shots with “handheld cameras”.
“Tele” is defined as a lens that has an angle of view between 34° (70mm) and 2° (focal length of about 1200mm).
A telephoto lens is not just a lens that allows one to view and describe subjects that are far away up close.
A telephoto lens has a depth of field that is reduced; it is perfect for portraits and has an objective vision of what is shot.
Brightness is the weak point of these lenses. To achieve satisfactory values you would have to invest a lot of money.
There cannot be multiple centers of attention in a framing.
Seeing our audience moved, laughing or applauding our work of art is a truly immense joy.
|Section 4: The "SUBJECT" and the "SHOT"|
In our framing, once our subject is in the field, we can move and position him as we please. But even our video camera can be moved around in order to follow our subject.
If the framing has been set and the video camera on the tripod is shooting without being moved, we define this shooting with the term “Static Camera”.
The Camera Dolly is a machine movement of the video camera with a high narrative potential.
All masters of cinema have made memorable films with the use of it.
The camera movements analyzed so far all call for the use of a tripod.
The camera is in movement, but is also perfectly balanced on its axis, fixed on the tripod.
The shoulder held camera, the steadicam, has all the advantages of the freedom of movement.
But thanks to a balanced harness, there are no more tremors, twitches and narrative anxiety.
The camera-car is a stand that allows you to mount a video camera on the hood or on the doors of a car.
Today, there are very sophisticated systems available for shooting this kind of shot. But for our filmmaker, for his kind of video camera, a good “spider” is already a very effective solution.
Defined the principal camera movements and their relative significance, we know that today, thanks again to the reduced weight of the equipment and its exceptional maneuverability, we can move a video camera around in any direction we want and at any height we desire.
In fact between a Dolly, Crane, Gru or Jimmy Jib there is not much difference in relation to the type of shooting.
|Section 5: The definitive writing|
We have seen that the story, the script, the position of the camera, the position of the subject, the lens we use, the depth of field and the camera movement are all the essential constituent elements of the audiovisual or film story.
How will our photography be? How will our subject be lighted?
Let’s imagine that our film, our audiovisual story, in other words, our movie is finished.
Before presenting it to a festival, to a client or to our friends, our work has experienced numerous passages. Let's see what they were.
Suppose that we are telling the story of Camilla, an inadvertent young girl who is a dreamer, uncaring of the opinions of others, who after a long walk “sees a bench – as written in a script - lies down and gently falls asleep as if she were in her own bed at home”. This is the length of time that is indicated in the script. In the following reading we will see how this length of time is interpreted during shooting.
What is written in our script is: “Camilla sees a bench; she lies down and gently falls asleep as if she were in her own bed at home.”
Let’s put into practice what we have discussed so far.
The editing is the definitive script of our story.
It will be the editing that will give rhythm to your work, boost the emotions that your footage will create, and give a “sense” or, if you prefer, a “value”, a “meaning” to all your work.
Before drawing out our conclusions, let’s reflect on one last fundamental aspect of audiovisual writing: the "audio".
L'autore del corso:
Director, Writer, TV producer
Alessandro Ippolito, director and television producer, is enrolled in SIAE as an author and Italy’s Order of Journalists as a publicist. He started as a literary journalist working for the cultural department of RTSI, Italian Swiss Radio Television, as an author, screenwriter and director. After an extensive training completed at New York, studying the productions of “One Life to Live” and “Search for Tomorrow”, he wrote, directed and produced the first Italian soap opera (“L’altalena”) for Mondadori. He has worked with RAI1, RAI2, RAI3, Canale 5, Italia1, Rete4, RTSI and Odeon TV. After Nanni Loi he was the first in Italy to bring candid camera to television (“W le donne”). He wrote and directed the first cabaret on the road (“Help – Tuttoperdenaro” with the Gatti of Vicolo Miracoli). He was the author of a successful program on Italian language for RAI1 (“Parola mia”). For two years he was the writer, director and conductor of the external link-ups of Mike Bongiorno on Canale 5 (“Telemike”). He created, wrote, directed and conducted “Barzellette”, a program from which “La sai l’ultima?” was created. He created, wrote and conducted the first Italian “narrated” news program (“Fatti di cronaca vera”). He adapted, wrote, directed and conducted the first Italian reality show (“Stranamore”). He is a master of candid camera (“Scherzi a parte”, “La stangata”, “La strana coppia” and “Italiani in vacanza”). With “Telecamere a richiesta” he was the first to propose a prime time live candid camera show that brought great success. He was the first to create a docu-show (“Pianto tutto e me ne vado”) of which he was the writer, director, producer and host. He was the writer, director and host of a very complex and big show that shot around the world (“Italiani nel mondo”). In recent years he has directed a company of international television productions. Passionate and also experienced with the Internet since '95, he created the first project of the Mediaset portal ("Mediasetonline"), and as a writer, director and producer he developed the first two Italian web fictions for Excite (“Girls” e “La grande sorella”). As a producer he ran a RAI TV fiction in Milan of the longest running and most complex medical television series ever produced in Italy RAI1 (“Terapia d’urgenza”, 18 episodes of 90’ each). He has created numerous working groups and shaped several great Italian professionals.
Alessandro Ippolito currently continues to work as a writer and director, but devotes most of his time to teaching. He founded and managed for three years a school of practical television in Milan (“Professione.TV”), placing his students in direct contact with the biggest names in Italian television. He has produced and directed 15 live streaming episodes for IED (“Broadband”). He produced a reality show for young people (“-18”). And he now enthusiastically devotes him self to e-learning which he considers the excellent future of education (professionalfilmmaker.com). These days he opened a channel on youtube dedicated to filmmakers (FilmMaker Channel)