Week 11 Shoot Reflection

The Script (by Ineke Adamson): Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 8.54.26 pm

This week I decided to test run the method I had put together for my final shoot. This collated all of the techniques that I had found worked best for me in my previous shoots during the semester.

Fortunately, this amalgamation of shooting processes worked really well. Particularly my idea of:

“Shooting at least one alternative shot perspective that is completely improvised for each shot in a scene. This shot should overlap the preceding and proceeding shot. For example, if, in the original storyboard, shot 1 was meant to show a character saying ‘Hi, how are you’ and then shot 2 was meant to cut to another character saying ‘Fine, how are you?’, the alternative shot might encapsulate both of these lines of dialogue by framing the characters in a two shot. Having this ‘backup’ perspective will ensure that I can achieve a sense of continuity when editing the scene. The improvisation of these alternative takes will inject some spontaneity into the shoot, which could end up producing a better shot than the one originally planned.”

This was a technique I hadn’t yet experimented with in my other shoots. I had done exercises where I shot the ‘hell’ out of a scene by shooting the whole thing from different perspectives, but I had never covered a scene by simply recording single alternative perspectives for each shot. I think this worked well because it forced me to come up with new and interesting compositions on the fly, making the scene appear more dynamic. It was also greatly beneficial to have even just one extra perspective per shot to fall back on when I was editing; especially when I decided to slightly alter my original idea for the scene (i.e. cutting out the dialogue). In the end my edit didn’t look anything like what I had put together in the storyboards; nevertheless, I still think it would be worth drawing storyboards for my final scene because they help to guide me through a shoot (particularly because I am shooting in chronological order).


photo 1




photo 3

Although I did use a script, rather than a prose, which I was meant to do, I hardly followed it at all (particularly because there was only one line of dialogue). Instead of telling my actor exactly what to say, I just gave her a general gist of what the conversation was about and she improvised the rest. I also let her act the character in the way that she wanted to, which at the time I was a bit worried about because she hardly knew how to smoke a cigarette and couldn’t even light a cigarette lighter, and the character in the script was meant to be a full-time smoker. However, when I began to look over the footage, I realised that it didn’t really matter; in fact, it kind of added to the realness of the scene. Overall, I think that using a general prose for my final scene will work out well (hopefully anyway).

One of the best things about this shoot and the look of the final edit is the lighting. Finally, I realised that I am not good at dealing with natural daylight and instead, I should just shoot with artificial lights. The advantage of shooting with a ‘controlled’ lighting setup is that you don’t have to worry about continuity issues during editing, plus you can create a sense of depth and thus avoid boring, flat backgrounds (i.e. white walls). The changing lights from the TV also added a sense of movement to the scene, however, Paul suggested that I could have cheated the TV behind Sarah’s head in order to light the off-side of her face a bit more. I have become fond of this lighting setup and so I think I will try to employ a similar effect in my final scene.

The only thing I didn’t really do, that I had put on my list of techniques, was to have a first assistant director help me out during the shoot. I thought I wouldn’t bother to get someone to AD this shoot because it was a really simple scene with only one character and one line of dialogue. However, I now realise it would have been beneficial to have a helper because there were a few things I either forgot to do or couldn’t really pull off by myself. For instance, it was difficult to pull focus and tilt the camera up by myself. Although the shot (pictured below) is relatively smooth, there are a few little bumps that could have been avoided if I had have had my AD focus pull for me. I also didn’t realise that I needed to have my TV muted throughout the shoot (I only recognised that this would be a problem when I was recording the last couple of shots). This is an example of one of the times where it would have been handy if I had’ve had an AD to remind me of this issue earlier in the shooting process. It might also be beneficial to write a list of things ‘to remember’ before going into the shoot. For instance, for the shoot where I was using Woody Allen’s method of filmmaking, I wrote some notes on my storyboards so I wouldn’t forget things the little things I needed to do.
Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 6.34.43 pm Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 6.35.40 pm


Another process I want to add to my method, is showing someone else a rough edit of the scene before finalising the cut and beginning to colour grade etc. After I shot this scene I quickly put together a rough edit that was not colour corrected. I got Paul, Maddie and Tom to look over the scene and give me their thoughts about how I should go about finishing the edit. I think it is incredibly beneficial to get someone to look over a piece of work with fresh eyes. Because I am so involved with my own work, sometimes it is hard to separate myself from the piece at hand and so when I got the others to look at my work they were able to give me some really interesting advice. For instance, Paul told me to get rid of the dialogue, which I would never thought of doing because at that time I had thought that the conversation was the only segment of that scene that offered the audience any kind of meaning. However, this audience read the scene very differently to what I had initially thought, which meant that the dialogue became superfluous.

All in all, I was happy with the end product and I found the actual process of making this scene really fun. Without the stress of having to cope with changing lighting conditions, I was able to relax and enjoy the shoot. I felt excited while I was filming like when I shot my week 7 scene using Nicholas Winding Refn’s improvisational method. I think the method I have created works well in terms of mixing together a spontaneous approach to filmmaking and a more organised approach. Now that I have tested this process, I can’t wait to put it into practice again for my final shoot.

Week 11 Preparations

My original plan for this week was to research another director’s shooting method and incorporate this into my own filmmaking process. However, I realised that I’m only one shoot/less than two weeks out from my final scene where I will be using real actors. Thus, I think it would be beneficial to do a ‘test run’ of the method I am going to use for this final shoot instead of experimenting with a new one yet again. I have thoroughly enjoyed trying out all of these different ways of going about creating a scene, and it is hopefully something I will continue with for the rest of my life, but for now I think I have investigated enough to understand what end of the ‘improvisation’ spectrum I favour.

I have decided to collate all of the best elements from the filmmaking processes I have explored over the last four weeks and turned this into one ‘super’ method, which means it will be uniquely tailored to me. Thus, by the time I do my final shoot I will already know if there are any problems with the method I am choosing and I can try to solve these beforehand. Listed below are some of the techniques I have found most helpful:

  1. Shooting chronologically. This helps to ensure continuity and provides a sense of flow to the shoot. When improvising any content or camera work this method is essential so that the scene can develop organically in terms of aesthetics, tone and story.
  2. Setting up as much of the equipment as possible before introducing actors onto set. I found this process beneficial because it lessened the time the actors had to wait around for me to be ready. As a result, I felt less rushed than usual, which enabled me to think through things clearly.
  3. Using a prose rather than a script. Although both have their advantages, a prose generally elicits more interesting camera coverage because it is not so concentrated on speech. I have found that a prose gives me more creative license with setting the tone of a scene. In saying this, it might be beneficial to also have a script version on set, because some actors prefer to have more direction, even if they end up changing the wording of the dialogue slightly.
  4. Drawing rough ideas down on paper before shooting. This is a good process to do straight after reading the prose of the scene as it helps to record initial concepts that come to mind. It can help to identify the type of location that will be needed and can inform later storyboards.
  5. Taking test shots within the actual location. This can help to spur ideas for the final storyboard and will give me an idea of the amount of space I have to work with.
  6. Drawing clear but not definitive storyboards before shooting. They need to be legible so that the cast and crew are able to understand what is going on in each shot. These drawings act as a guide to how the shoot will run, however, if a better idea springs to mind on set they do not need to be followed to a tee.
  7. Having a first assistant director. This person will act as an ‘all round’ helper. They will work off the storyboards to ensure continuity throughout the scene, look out for changes in light (particularly if the shoot is relying on natural daylight), ensure I have set up the camera correctly (i.e. ask me: if I have correctly exposed the shot, if the subject is in focus and if I have set my white balance), make sure the shoot is running on time, ensure that the actors are happy and well fed, look out for safety precautions on set, call the shots and help with the setting up of equipment. This will allow me to primarily concentrate on the camera coverage.
  8. Shooting one more take than needed, even after the shot appears to be perfected. This is a just a precautionary strategy because often the tiny screen/viewfinder on cameras is hard to see; thus sometimes there are things in the shot that don’t get picked up on during the shoot. Recording an extra take guarantees that there will be at least one shot that is usable for the final edit.
  9. Trying to get the first take of a shot perfect. The first take generally appears to be the most natural and thus believable. Subsequent takes often appear overly rehearsed because the actor has had to repeat his or her lines. Therefore, it is important to have the blocking and camera work prepared before pressing record.
  10. Shooting at least one alternative shot perspective that is completely improvised for each shot in a scene. This shot should overlap the preceding and proceeding shot. For example, if, in the original storyboard, shot 1 was meant to show a character saying ‘Hi, how are you’ and then shot 2 was meant to cut to another character saying ‘Fine, how are you?’, the alternative shot might encapsulate both of these lines of dialogue by framing the characters in a two shot. Having this ‘backup’ perspective will ensure that I can achieve a sense of continuity when editing the scene. The improvisation of these alternative takes will inject some spontaneity into the shoot, which could end up producing a better shot than the one originally planned.
  11. Making sure the script/prose facilitates interesting camera coverage. Ultimately if the content of a scene is uninteresting and does not offer me any creative license it will limit my ability to construct an engaging scene.
  12. Shooting with one camera unless a multicam setup is vital. Multiple cameras should only be considered if there is a lot of movement/action in a scene.
  13. Enabling improvisation from actors. If they have a good idea, take this on and be open to changing the original plans for the scene.
  14. Shooting using own camera. Although there are some downfalls to filming with DLSR cameras, I have had the most experience with a Canon 7D out of any camera model and thus I know how to exploit its capabilities to the fullest.My next shoot will amalgamate all of these techniques into one method. Hopefully it will work well, however, having an extra week up my sleeve to refine this process will allow me to change anything that becomes problematic. In essence, this weeks shoot will be a practice of my method for the creation of my final scene.

Week 10 Shoot – Alfred Hitchcock Method

Script by David Dreimann (edited by me):

IMG_9708 IMG_9709

For Week 10s shoot I decided to employ Alfred Hitchcock’s method of filmmaking. Thus, I underwent an intensive pre-production process, where I storyboarded every shot and every camera and character position for my scene. (I decided not to include lighting specifications in the storyboards because I was mainly focussing on camera coverage for this shooting exercise). I chose a script that would be easy to shoot in class because it had a ‘boardroom’ setting that could be constructed using an RMIT classroom, table and chairs. I printed out edited down versions of the script for the cast and a shot list examining framing, character actions, dialogue and camera movement for my DOP to work off. During the shoot, I found that the storyboards were actually a more efficient way of explaining what I wanted to the DOP in comparison to the shot list. The shot list helped me to get my head around the scene, but it was not much use during the actual shoot; the storyboards were much more visual and gave an exact representation of the framing that I wanted.




Hitchcock method shot list

I decided to shoot my scene during class time, because I needed (at least) three actors and a DOP. Ultimately I would have liked a sound operator as well, but there wasn’t enough people in our group, so we ended up just plugging the microphone straight into the Sony EX3 camera and I held the boom, which I don’t think impeded on my ability to direct at all. On the whole, the shoot went rather smoothly. There were a few lighting problems because the room we were shooting in was west-facing and it was late afternoon, so at times the sun was shining directly into the camera and by the end of the shoot (and the scene, because we were shooting chronologically) the room had become quite dark. This was a slight problem during the editing process; we weren’t refreshing our white balance throughout the shoot and so the colour of the light changed quite a lot from the beginning to the end of the scene. This made it difficult to keep the colour tone, brightness and contrast consistent throughout all the shots when I was grading.

One of the requirements of this shoot was letting someone else be in control of the camera. This was difficult for me and I found myself wondering how Hitchcock ever shot a film without looking through the viewfinder of a camera. I definitely don’t think I have Hitchcock’s instinctive talents or his level of trust for camera operators. Nevertheless, having a DOP made things relatively stress-free for me as a director. I was able to concentrate solely on coordinating the shoot and trying to get it all done efficiently (acting as my own first AD). Although directing is quite an odd concept when you take away the fact that I wasn’t in control of the camera at all and the actors pretty much had free reign over how they wanted to play their characters (aside from abiding by the script), I still felt like I had plenty to do. Mostly I was just talking to the camera operator and the actors – explaining how I wanted the scene to look, sound and feel. Although I really liked the process of filming when I didn’t have to worry about the technical aspects of the shoot, I don’t think it created the best possible results. The problem I had with it was that even though I was trying my hardest to communicate to the DOP exactly what I wanted, no one would have ever been able to completely grasp the idea I was picturing in my head. I don’t think that this was the only reason the scene didn’t turn out exactly how I had wanted it to, but in the future I have decided that I would rather control the camera on my own shoots. This way I will be able to keep tabs on the framing and exposure throughout the whole process and watch each shot as it is being recorded so I know if I need to do another take. Instead of a DOP, I think I need a first assistant director. If I had a first AD I would be able to pay close attention to the camera work and not have the added pressure of making sure the shoot runs smoothly. I think it would also be helpful to have a second set of eyes on set (that aren’t an actors), helping to point out discontinuities in character movements and lighting. As much as I would love to be a one man band, I think a shoot runs much more smoothly and the end product is much more polished, when I have people helping me behind the scenes.

In looking at this finished sequence as a whole, it doesn’t feel like a unified, cohesive piece of work. Ultimately, I put this problem down to the fact that I ‘crossed the line’ mid way through the scene. As I was storyboarding I was aware that I was going to break the 180 rule, however, when I looked at it on paper it didn’t look like it would be much of a problem. I had already crossed the line in a couple of shoots during the semester and I had been watching a few films that had completely disregarded the rule, so I thought, why not break it myself? I really wanted to create a dynamic composition, by having each character on separate visual planes; and crossing the line just happened to be the only way I could think of achieving this. Unfortunately my rebellion against traditional Hollywood continuity filmmaking backfired on me and I ended up with a selection of shots that felt completely disconnected from one another. I probably could have gotten away with putting shot 1 and 2 next to each other, however, when you chuck shot 3 into the mix (crossing the line for a second time), it becomes all too confusing to watch. Particularly because shot 3 begins as a closeup of the phone, the audience is not able to gauge a great sense of space and so it almost appears as if the character holding the phone has magically switched the way he is facing between shots.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.15.55 pm





Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.16.52 pm





Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.17.09 pmScreen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.56.21 pm Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.56.35 pm Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.56.46 pm










Other than the continuity problems, the camera coverage of the scene is okay. My favourite shot is shot 3 that tilts up from a high angle of the phone to a closeup of Tom and then pans around past Maddie to a mid-shot of Michael. Nevertheless, the shot was not perfect. I think the pan could have been a bit faster in order to quicken the pace and dramatise the scene a bit more and it also would have been nice to have Maddie in focus along the way. Aside from this shot, the camera coverage for the scene was pretty mainstream. Essentially it just begins with an establishing long shot of all the characters and then there is a couple of over the shoulder shots. Partly I think this conventionality stemmed from the script which did not leave much room for creative camera work (because all the characters were relatively stationary throughout the scene). For my final shoot I think it would be worth reading through a few more scripts/proses and considering ones I have worked off in the past to make sure I find a scene that will enable dynamic camera coverage. In saying this, I also think part of the reason the scene does not look altogether interesting is because of the method I used to shoot the film. Having everything prepared on the day did not give me any room to be spontaneous, as I was solely concentrated on getting through the shots I already had planned out in front of me. Although Hitchcock believes that there is plenty of time to be spontaneous before you actually shoot a scene, sitting at a desk and writing/drawing out shots is very different to physically walking around with a camera in the real shooting location. Personally, I seem to create more interesting pieces of work when I am able to employ a more ‘hands-on’ approach to shooting. I like to be looking through the camera on set and have the option to try out a number of different shots before shooting the scene. However, this does not mean that I couldn’t storyboard as well as improvise some of my camera work. At this point I am just trying to figure out how much of the scene I would need to storyboard and at which point in the filmmaking process this needs to happen.

Similarly to the Woody Allen shoot I struggled with editing this scene because I had shot it without doing any ‘coverage’ (i.e. I had only filmed each shot from a single perspective). I thought that because I had preplanned the shoot in advance, I would be able to get away with essentially editing in camera. However, this wasn’t the case. I don’t think that an entire scene worth of shots needs to be filmed from every different perspective possible, but it would be beneficial to have some alternative options in the editing room. Often my original shots do not work out as well as I had envisioned them, so it would nice to be able to have another perspective to work with. For example, it would have been great to have filmed ‘shot 2’ of this scene from a couple of different perspectives (where I didn’t cross the line), to see if this would have helped to unify the scene in any way. This concept of shooting ‘more’ coverage of a scene does not necessarily mean that I would shoot the ‘hell’ out of it (filming the entire scene from several different perspectives). Instead, I would shoot one or two extra shots from alternative perspectives, just so I have the option of including them when I start to edit. These ‘extra’ shots need not be planned out, they might just be improvised test shots, but at least this would offer me the opportunity to be a bit spontaneous on set and provide me with ‘backup’ shots if my original plans fail.

In conclusion, Hitchcock’s method of filmmaking had its advantages and disadvantages for me. I think having clear storyboards on set is beneficial because it was the best way that I could explain what I wanted from my cast and crew in a polite and efficient manner. Drawing my scenes before shooting is definitely going to be something I continue with, however, my plans might not be as definitive as Hitchcock’s were. From here on in, I think I would rather take control of the camera and have a first AD help me run the shoot. Over the last couple of shoots, particularly this one and the Woody Allen one, I have realised that a better edit is achieved when there are more options (in terms of shots) to chose from. Thus I think it would be advantageous to have multiple takes and shoot at least one alternative perspective of each shot. Overall, this process of shooting was about as far away from improvisation as you can get and I think this was one of the reasons the end product was relatively boring to watch. Ultimately, a bit of spontaneity helps to spice things up a bit. I didn’t find that I was getting excited on set watching any of the shots for this scene, like I had been when I used Nicholas Winding Refn’s method. Paul has said that every cut in a scene should make you cry because it’s so beautiful. I think this is the same with framing, performance, lighting or any other filmic element. Ultimately I want every creative decision that I make to evoke a positive emotional response, even if I’m the only one that feels it. I think this is what makes the filmmaking process so much fun and so satisfying.

Week 9 Shoot – Akira Kurosawa Method

The edit:

The script (by Ineke Adamson):

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 8.50.11 pm Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 8.49.52 pm

The scene I made based on Akira Kurosawa’s method of filmmaking was mainly an investigation into ‘multicam’ shooting. Thus, I was not worried about the audio quality, the narrative or the ‘definition’ of the visuals. For the shoot I used two different DSLR cameras (a Canon 7D and a Canon 650D) and this is why the two perspectives I shot from appear dissimilar in terms of colour and quality on screen. Nevertheless, it didn’t really matter because I just wanted to get an idea of what planning, shooting and editing a multicam sequence might be like.

Before the shoot, I drew up a storyboard and a floor plan which mapped out where the characters and the cameras were going to be positioned.


I then tested these ideas by looking through the cameras in the actual location, to make sure I could construct the compositions I wanted, without one camera being able to see the other. I used two lenses that had a substantial zoom, so that I could position the cameras as far away from the actors as possible. This was because I wanted to test Kurosawa’s claim that actors feel more comfortable and thus perform more realistically when they don’t have a camera in their face or know which perspective is going to be used in the final edit. However, the balcony where I was shooting was not spacious and so the cameras ended up being only a metre or so away from the actors. Ultimately this investigation would have worked better in a larger space, but I still think that having the camera that little bit further away was less daunting for the actors.

I think that the multicam idea as a whole makes actors feel more comfortable, and this is not just because the cameras are further away from them than usual. Although I really shouldn’t have acted in my own scene (I should have been behind at least one of the cameras), it was a useful exercise in terms of seeing how I felt as a performer in this situation. Overall I thought it was great, because usually on shoots where the filmmaker is practically editing in camera, you don’t feel like you can move around so much, because you have to be cautious of continuity issues. However, when you get to do the whole scene in one go, you can let the dialogue flow a bit more, you can react to the other actors more naturally and really get into the scene, without having a director stopping you to change camera positions or do another take of the same shot. I was also able to play with my hair, move my head from side to side and lean on my hands at various points in the scene spontaneously, because I knew that the graphic continuity of the scene was not going to be an issue during the editing process.

For me, this was probably the most interesting investigation so far because it defied all of my expectations. Originally I had thought that because I was using a script (rather than a prose) and had already planned out my framing, there would be no room for improvisation during the actual shooting process. I thought that because we had to strictly ‘abide’ by the script and construct the timing in real and reel time there wouldn’t be much room for creativity. However, this idea of time is really where the spontaneity and creativity came in. Although we had specific lines we had to say and we were positioned in particular places, we (the actors) had the freedom to decide how we would deliver the lines, what hand gestures we used, how we utilised our body language and most importantly, how we would ‘time’ the scene. Although these ‘elements’ of acting have also been quite improvised in my previous shoots, it is this idea of ‘real time’ that generally becomes superfluous on set because it is altered in post production. I think it would be interesting to do a similar investigation using multiple cameras as well as using a prose instead of a script. This would really open up the opportunity for the actors to improvise. (This exercise will only eventuate if I feel like I want to keep going down the multi cam path and discontinue my exploration of other shooting methods).

Even though this freedom for the actors was great using this method, I don’t think it was of much benefit for the filmmaker. There was much less room for creativity during the editing process, which surprised me, because I thought this method of shooting would cause me to make most of the decisions about the scene in post production. Although I got to decide on the pacing of the scene and which perspective would be shown at particular moments, the editing process was rather limited. It was practically like trying to edit a single shot/take because there weren’t really any ways for me to elongate or shorten time; I was essentially just stuck with the scene as it had been performed on the day.

Overall I thought some parts of the scene worked out well, but there were other things that I wasn’t happy with. Originally I thought it would look visually appealing to film the back of the characters heads; as Jean-Luc Godard did in Vivre Sa Vie (1962, France).
Anna Karina pictured above in Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie.
Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 6.53.05 pm

However, I don’t think the shot really worked aside from the fact that it highlights the disappearance of each character as they leave the frame. I actually think this scene would have worked better if it had have just been a long single shot from the side profile (pictured below); but, for the purpose of this investigation I edited both perspectives together.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 6.53.29 pm

I think this angle (above) works well, because the framing is quite dynamic with each character on a different plane (I should have had a deeper depth of field though, so that each character was in focus). The bold red-brick background and the trees on the right side of the composition create an interesting setting and also contrast against the actors’ skin tones. I think another camera angle from the opposite side of the characters or from below would have added to the scene, because we don’t see much of their faces from either of the positions I shot from. However, this shoot was difficult because I had a limited number of crew members, a constrained location and I couldn’t really have any camera movement or place another camera on the opposing side of the actors because otherwise the audience would be able to see the camera equipment in the frame.

One of the advantages of editing multi cam sequences is that you get an unbeatable sense of continuity and flow. The cuts are as seamless and as unnoticeable as you’re ever going to get them. One of the main issues while editing a shoot that has been shot with one camera from several perspectives is the idea of continuity. It is practically impossible to create a perfectly continuous cut, because there is often a discontinuity in a character’s movement or appearance. This is why I think this shooting method would be greatly beneficial for action sequences or any type of scene where there is a lot of movement. In reality, I don’t think the scene I shot really demanded a multicam setup (it probably could have been as easily edited with the use of just one camera). All in all, I believe that the use of multiple cameras only really needs to be used when the continuity of a sequence is absolutely vital.

In conclusion, I found that the multi cam setup was beneficial for the actors’ performances, but was limiting for the filmmaker in terms of camera positions and editing.

Week 9 – Woody Allen Method Shoot

The edited scene:

The prose (by Sunday Sommerfield):


The morning after NYE, Meg gets a call from her and Jo’s Mother. She wants the sisters to come home to discuss a family dilemma. Meg is wearing a dressing gown, her hair in a perfect twisty clip, and drinking a cup of coffee; seemingly suffering no affects from the night before. She tells her mum that she and Jo will be there as soon as they can; no longer than an hour. She opens Jo’s door and Jo is half dressed, lying horizontally across her bed. She wakes up with a grunt and has makeup all over her face, a party hat crumpled on her head and glitter all through her hair. Meg corrects herself; better make it two hours.

For the convenience of actors, I decided to do two shoots in one day – the Woody Allen method shoot and the Akira Kurosawa method shoot.

Before the actors came to my house, I set up the camera positions and sorted out how many different shots I would have to cover the scene for the Woody-Allen-inspired shoot. Although I initially framed up my shots without using storyboards, I found myself noting down my plans for each shot by drawing them. Thus, I ended up having storyboards without really meaning to. I used tape on the floor to mark out various positions that the actors needed to hit and I stuck tape to the focus rim of my camera so I could mark where and when I needed to shift focus. Even though I thought I was really prepared, everything fell apart during the actual shoot.


I wasn’t focusing on lighting in this investigation, but I was still becoming very frustrated with the change of light every two seconds while I was shooting. It was a windy day outside and so the sun was rapidly disappearing and reappearing from behind the clouds; yet I still wanted to use the sun as my main source of lighting (my ‘key’ light). After shooting this scene and my week 7 scene (link), I have realised that it is impossible to completely ignore the filmic element of lighting when shooting. Even though it might not be my main focus when covering a scene, it still plays such an important role in the overall look of a piece of film. Despite it not really mattering to my individual investigation, ‘bad’ lighting still annoys me so much, to the point where I will spend a lot of (often wasted) time on shoots trying to control it. For instance, in this shoot I was constantly running around opening and closing blinds and doors and altering my camera settings so the shot wouldn’t look blown out or under-exposed. I would try to compensate a lack of light with artificial lighting, which would then mean I had to change my white balance again. And even though I was doing all of this, the lighting still didn’t look great when I got my footage onto a larger screen to edit. Particularly tungsten lighting, which has a yellow colour, is difficult to fix in post production. Whereas cooler whites can be warmed up quite easily, yellow is difficult to ‘correct’ (to get it back to ‘true white’). The lighting problems also weren’t helped by the plain, white wall backgrounds (pictured below). In Wednesday’s class of week 9, Paul told us that almost all film sets have walls that have been painted a colour other than white, because it helps the character’s ‘pop out’ from the backgrounds. He also explained that more interesting compositions are created by having several different planes within a frame. In other words, a shot will seem more dynamic if there is a clear foreground, midground and background, than if a character was placed in front of a flat wall. This is why filmmakers often have something like a window or door in the foreground, which helps to frame a character in the mid ground, with an expansive and complex setting in the background. Although I attempted to frame the character in the doorway pictured below, the plain walls make the shot seem aesthetically boring and they also highlight the yellow stained lighting behind her.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 12.00.01 pm

After all of this, exactly what I thought would be avoided by using this shooting method, was not. I thought that by setting up all of the equipment in advance I would be able to concentrate on the actors and they wouldn’t have to wait around for me to be ready to shoot. Although it probably did save a bit of time having everything marked out before introducing actors, I still felt like I was primarily concerned with how everything looked through the camera. However, maybe this is inevitable, unless you have a really good DOP that you trust.

One of the ‘requirements’ of this shoot was only doing one or two takes per shot. Woody Allen believes that the first take of a shot is generally the most realistic and is usually the one he uses in the final edit (as found in my Week 8 research). When looking back at my own footage, I realised just this. All of the first takes of my shots seemed the most naturalistic in terms of performance. I didn’t give my actors much direction at all; I purposely did not tell them exactly what to say or even give examples of things that they could do. You can see in the first takes of some of the shots that the actor is struggling to think of exactly what to say (as with the shot below). I like this because it doesn’t seem scripted or pre-planned, it looks and sounds spontaneous, and I think this is what makes the scene believable. This also illustrates one of the benefits of using a prose rather than a script.

However, in my final edit I actually didn’t use a lot of the first takes of shots because, most of the time, the second takes had had better composition or smoother camera movement. It was difficult to decide which one to favour (framing or performance) during the editing process, but ultimately I found that poor framing was more distracting than rehearsed-looking performances. In retrospect, I think I should have been even more prepared with my camera setup before I brought my actors onto set; that way I could have made sure that the framing was perfect for the first take of a shot and then used that version for the final edit. In saying this, I’m still not the best camera operator, particularly when I have to pan/tilt/track/zoom/pull focus, so having to do a few takes is relatively unavoidable for me to be able to perfect a shot. I think I will try to use this method (setting up the equipment prior to introducing characters onto set) in later shoots, because I think it facilitates more natural and genuine performances. Although it’s best to get the shot perfect from take one, I don’t think there should be a limit on the number of takes I do per shot. It still annoys me that there is a slight camera tilt down at 23 seconds into the scene. This distracting camera movement could have been avoided, simply by doing one more take.

In terms of ‘coverage’, I tried my best to stick to my original plan and only shoot each shot from the ‘prepared’ perspective, like Woody Allen. However, as much as I had tried to pre-plan my shots, some things just didn’t work when I introduced the real actors into the frame. For instance, I was meant to have a panning shot of Sarah walking from her bedroom to the other bedroom, which would turn into an over the shoulder shot of her opening Michael’s door and looking at him asleep in bed. However, Sarah was a lot taller than I had expected and so she did not fit into the frame from the camera position I had planned. She also blocked the audience’s view of Michael’s bedroom in the scene. I ended up shooting this part of the sequence in three different ways, until I settled on a static mid shot, where Sarah walked into the frame (with Michael’s door already open, enabling more light to enter into the space). By the time I actually shot something that I liked, the spontaneity of the performance had definitely disappeared.


Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 12.26.12 pm

Overall, I think the realism of a scene can be heightened by using a prose, rather than a script, because it encourages the actors to improvise. By having the equipment ready before the actors come onto set, I can make sure that the first and thus most spontaneous take can be used in the final edit. However, I don’t think it is beneficial to have all of the camera positions set in stone before shooting. Although the framing might have been thought out beforehand, there needs to be room to ‘improvise’ or ‘play’ with different shot constructions. Thus, although it is beneficial to have an idea written down and camera and character positions marked, it might also be useful to get more ‘coverage’ than originally planned. As discovered in my Nicholas Winding Refn shoot, this ‘playfulness’ on set can sometimes spawn some really interesting and unexpected shots that would have otherwise gone un-filmed.

Investigation Plan

Week 7 (20 – 26 April)

Investigate Nicholas Winding Refn shooting technique

  1.  Shooting chronologically
  2. Using a prose (enabling the actors to improvise their lines
  3. Not using storyboards or pre-planned framing
  4. Using cue cards with drawings of general ideas to give some guide to shoot.

Week 8 (27 April – 3 May)

Investigate Woody Allen shooting technique

  1.  Using a prose (enabling the actors to improvise their lines)
  2. Pre-planning shots on location with camera, rather than using storyboards
  3. Setting up all equipment, camera and character positions before bringing actors onto set
  4. Only doing 2 takes of a shot
  5. Only shooting shots from a single perspective/camera position

Week 9 (4 – 10 May)

Investigate Akira Kurosawa shooting technique

  1. Using a script (no improvisation for actors)
  2. Using storyboards and floor plans
  3. Having multiple cameras recording a shot or scene
  4. Using cameras with long lenses at a distance away from the actors
  5. Deciding the order and length of shots during the editing process

Week 10 (11 – 17 May)

Investigate Alfred Hitchcock shooting technique

  1. Using precise storyboards (which include the type of lighting) that map out the scene shot by shot
  2. Only shooting shots from a single perspective/camera position
  3. Using a script, but letting the actors play the characters as they wish to
  4. Not looking through the viewfinder of the camera (have a DOP in charge of the shot construction while on set)

Monday 11th – Plan shoot (organise script and create storyboard)
Wednesday 13th – Shoot using the Hitchcock method during class time
Thursday 14th – Edit scene
Friday 15th – Write reflection on Hitchcock shooting method

Week 11 (18 – 24 May)
Investigate another shooting method.

Monday 18th – Research shooting method
Tuesday 19th – Complete any pre-production for shoot & cast actors for final shoot
Thursday 21st – Shoot scene using researched method
Friday 22nd – Edit scene

Week 12 (25 – 31 May)

Monday 25th – Write reflection on previous week’s shoot and decide on method that will be used to shoot final scene.
Tuesday 26th – Plan final scene (prepare script and any storyboards/floor plans and book equipment needed for shoot)
Friday 29th – Pickup hired equipment for shoot
Saturday 30th – Shoot final scene with actors casted from Starnow
Sunday 31st – Edit final scene

Week 12 (1 – 5 June)

Monday 1st – Write final reflection/contextualising blog post
Tuesday 2nd – Collate the best parts of shoots into short video
Friday 5th – Post final reflection and video

Week 8 Epiphany

Even though Paul and Robin think that learning the technical skills surrounding filmmaking is ‘boring’, I think a lot of us enjoyed and were actually quite productive in Wednesday’s class. For the two hours, we solely concentrated on the technical functions of video cameras. We investigated controlling the exposure/aperture, neutral density, white balance, focus, focal length and gain in a number of practical exercises.

I have had some experience with controlling the exposure of shots, more so on DSLR cameras though, so it was good to learn the slight differences there are when dealing with aperture on cameras built solely for the recording of moving images. On my digital camera you only change the F stop on the body of the camera (not on the lens), so I liked having a play with the iris rim on the EX3s.

Recently I have been using one of my dad’s old manual cameras from the 70s, pretty much just as a learning tool (and because of the grainy aesthetic that it creates). This has been an invaluable exercise, because it has taught me to really take notice of the individual camera settings. With film cameras there is always going to be an element of taking that little bit more care and time with setting up a shot in comparison to digital cameras which allow you to take numerous shots, very quickly to ‘test’ the exposure. I brought the analogue camera overseas with me earlier this year, so I would force myself to use and learn the manual functions (I often end up just taking photos on auto if I have my digital camera because it’s easier and quicker). This camera actually had a very small ring on its lens that controlled the aperture, which was helpful for this week, because it meant that I wasn’t totally unaccustomed to the idea.

The main difference with controlling exposure on the EX3s in comparison to other cameras I have used, is the zebra patterning function. In previous exercises this semester I had used cameras where the zebra patterning had been turned on, but I had no idea why the lines were there, I didn’t even know how to get rid of them. On Wednesday we were taught that the lines indicate the parts of the frame that are over-exposed. I found this an extremely useful tool in terms of getting the exposure just right. Sometimes those tiny display screens on the cameras are actually quite hard to see properly – especially when looking at details. Quite a few times this semester, when we had thought the exposure looked fine while shooting, when we started editing, parts of the frame were actually blown out. The zebra patterning is helpful, because it gives you a digital (and thus relatively reliable) indication of the exposure, which can inform your aperture settings.

Prior to this class I didn’t even know a neutral density function existed. We learnt that it was like putting sunglasses on top of the lens. This can particularly help when your shooting outside; in addition, if you want a shallower depth of field, you can open up the aperture and put your ‘sunglasses’ on, so the frame doesn’t look over-exposed. On Friday, we also learnt that because the ‘sunglasses’ are a neutral grey colour, they do not change the overall colour temperature and thus changing the ‘ND’ will not affect the white balance.

During these technical exercises, we had a DOP, actors and a ‘focus puller’. Although I knew big film productions had crewmen who would solely control the focus of the lens, I never thought we would actually get to isolate this role at university. Although we weren’t doing it quite how the professionals would because they work with prime lenses (instead of lenses where you can change the focal length), it still felt like a very ‘real world’ practice. We blocked our shots by marking the positions the actors had to hit at various times in the shot with tape.  By doing this we could make sure the subject was focused at all times. We noted the focal length and the focus range for each position and marked and numbered the points onto tape (which we stuck onto the focus rim) with pen. I am hoping to take this practice into my own filmmaking. Although this would be quite a hard exercise to do individually (it would be difficult to control the movement of the camera and the focal length), I think it would still be possible with a static shot. Overall, simply learning to stick a piece of tape to a focus rim was my biggest epiphany this week. Why have I never thought of doing this before? In the past I have always just fluked pull/rack focus shots or just done numerous takes until I have gotten it right. By using tape you can almost guarantee that you will get the focus perfect from take one.

In Friday’s class we also practised pulling focus over a long distance with people running towards the camera. This proved a lot harder than the exercises we had done on Wednesday where we could direct the actors to move as slowly as we wanted. For shots like this I think you would need to have a mechanised focus pulling device, so that you could control the timing of the change of focus more closely.

Week 9 Research

Akira Kurosawa, who made Seven Samurai (1954, Japan), was a very ‘hands on’ director, as he was involved in every aspect of the filmmaking process. He wrote or co-wrote his scripts, oversore the costuming and prop design, rehearsed the actors, set up all the shots and then also edited his films.

He would sit down with the writers of his scripts and thoroughly go through each page of the text with them, re-writing and taking notes as they went. Prior to becoming a filmmaker he had been a painter and so he would paint his storyboards (Kurosawa based his compositions on geometric shapes, thus his arrangements of characters and objects needed to be meticulously planned out in advance (Shetty 2015). However, he did not storyboard his films shot for shot as the order and length of shots was generally decided in post production).


Kurosawa’s painted storyboard’s from Ran (1985, Japan).

When shooting he used long lenses that enabled him to film from a distance away from the actors, which he proclaimed made them feel more comfortable. He also had multiple cameras running at once, so that the performers would have no knowledge of which perspective he would choose for the final cut (Smith 2013, p. 74). Even though Kurosawa exercised ultimate control over the actors (he demanded that his cast followed his instructions and script precisely), he believed that the way he utilised the cameras spawned ‘naturalistic’ performances (Dickinson 2012).

Kurosawa often remarked that he shot a film simply in order to have material to edit, because the editing of a picture was the most important and creatively interesting part of the process for him (Smith 2013, p.74). This is the same for me and it is one of the reasons I was drawn to investigating Kurosawa’s method of filmmaking. I think that one of the best parts of creating a film, or a scene, is that sense of satisfaction when everything comes together to make a unified, finished piece of work.

Doing a shoot with multiple cameras would be an interesting exercise because it would mean that the majority of my improvisation would happen during the editing process. For this shoot, I will use a script (rather than a prose) and create a storyboard and floor plan which will map out the positions of the cameras and actors. Because this is only a ‘mini’ investigation, I will just be testing the ‘multicam’ idea with two cameras. I will most likely only be shooting from a static position (i.e. no panning or tilting) because I will be the only camera operator.


Dickinson, R 2012, Film directors, Geni, viewed 4 May 2015 <http://www.geni.com/projects/Film-directors/1679>.

Shetty, S 2015,The Stunning, Geometric Style of Akira Kurosawa, Browbeat, viewed 4 May 2015 <http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/01/28/every_frame_a_painting_kurosawa_style_tony_zhou_explains_the_geometry_of.html>

Smith, E 2013, The Roman Polanski Handbook – Everything you need to know about Roman Polanski, Emereo Publishing, Aspley, Queensland, pp. 73-77.