Jump to content


Photo

from script to shoot


  • Please log in to reply
11 replies to this topic

#1 Tom Hepburn

Tom Hepburn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 341 posts
  • Other
  • Chicago-land

Posted 10 February 2009 - 05:21 PM

I have a couple of questions that are based around the process of planning and shooting. What I'm a little vague on is how folks actually plan and organize their shots and in what sequence. I'm also not sure where I should post this so I’ll start here.

Say for example I have an 8 minute narrative short. I have one 16mm sound sync camera and one light kit consisting of 2000 total watts.

This is what I would do:

Get the script (whether I or someone else wrote it)

Sketch out quick general storyboards to try to turn the words into pictures
For example, if I have a interior of a living room and two people talking, I'll have 3 basic sketches:
an establishing wide shot
a shot of actor "A" over the shoulder (or side) of actor "B"
a shot of actor "B" over the shoulder (or side) of actor "A"

I'll do that for each scene. So in the end I'll have each scene with the basic general layout of location, camera position, objects, and actor (s), based on the story being told.

Then I'll refine the storyboards and add more (to use an animation term, add the "in betweens") to have a board for each shot in the way I'd like to tell it.

Once I have each shot covered on a storyboard I make a copy of each (on a copier of course).
I arrange one set in the order of the story being told to make sure I have the flow of the story close at hand,
and
the other grouped in order of location. For example, "interior living room," "outdoor sidewalk, walking," and "on the park bench."

This is what I would do for the “on the park bench" scene going off of the story board of which there are three camera positions:
The establishing shot of two actors walking in the frame and sitting down on the bench.
actor "A" talking to of actor "B"
actor "B" talking to of actor "A"

Shoot the film in this way:
1)shoot The establishing shot of two actors walking in the frame and sitting down on the bench
change the camera position
2)shoot all of the shots of actor "A" for the scene
change the camera position
3)shoot all of the shots of actor "B" for the scene
Repeat for each scene in a practical order.

This is a purely hypothetical situation, but it's something that I think I really need to work on and understand to get to the next level. I never studied the idea of shooting out of sequence in school or on a job. I did mostly 3d animation, where I could build, design, and animate each scene in order and then recall it in a click.

So I am even close here or do I have my head completely up my #$^

Any help along these lines, be it advice, books, or whatever would be appreciated. This question has been on my mind for a long time, but I’m just now feeling comfortable enough to ask it.

Thanks as always,
Tom

Also, fyi, going back to school is not an option.
  • 0

#2 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7118 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 10 February 2009 - 06:06 PM

That sounds about right, Tom.
For me, I work from Larger to smaller, and try to finish up on non-key actors first.
There are circumstances where that changes, though (what if your key actors does best on the first take, or you need lighting which comes exactly at x or y time [if outside].) But essentially that's how one would work.
  • 0

#3 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5070 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 10 February 2009 - 06:19 PM

All that is extremely mechanical and could be a very boring film.
First know your story, what is the main character's need? That's the engine that going to drive your story.
What's conflicting with this need?
How does the character overcome this conflict?
Then how does the camera reveal all this?
Basically how do you tell your vision of the story?

Sorry for answering with questions, but you have to get into the characters' heads to find out what you need to show in their external world and so reveal their thought processes. There's no set way of shooting something, just some basic rules that you need to understand so the audience don't get confused about the geography.
  • 0

#4 Tom Hepburn

Tom Hepburn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 341 posts
  • Other
  • Chicago-land

Posted 10 February 2009 - 07:03 PM

All that is extremely mechanical and could be a very boring film.


Thanks Brian (and Adrian).

I actually am asking about the mechanics. If I understand your response, I was using the above as an example only, and in terms of mechanics, not as it relates to a story or character development. I would make different choices in regard to aesthetics and creativity. The work flow example is basic and rudimentary in hopes that our communication here is easy to follow and understand as it relates to the mechanics of shooting out of sequence and to reduce the amount of subjective ideas.

If I'm misunderstanding you, let me know. I understand that in one sense all of these things are tied together.

Thanks,
Tom
  • 0

#5 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7118 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 10 February 2009 - 07:10 PM

(your welcome).
When it comes to blocking out how to shoot, more often than not certain variables day-of will dictate it. For example, you may well have an actor who can only be on set till 1pm, well obviously, you'd want to get their shots done as soon as possible. Also, stuff with extras, hopefully you can get them wrapped before you have to feed them or pay them for more than a 1/2 a day.
  • 0

#6 Michael Collier

Michael Collier
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1262 posts
  • Gaffer
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 10 February 2009 - 08:04 PM

are you typically a DP on set? Or production? Or direction?

I don't usually handle the overarching order of shots on set. I will leave that to the production side. I will express my needs, for say 'by 5pm we need to be wrapping at this location, or we will loose light," or "we need to shoot this wide before lunch so the sun is on this side of the house", or what ever my camera concern is with regard to schedule. The producers usually have a lot more considerations to take into account from all departments, and a good producer will be able to write a schedule that's realistic and allows enough time to work.

I will coordnate with the director to line the script. Not a full linning, just a few meetings that starts broad and gets as in depth as the director wishes to go. Sometimes I am furnished with complete storyboards, sometimes I have a pretty open pallet to bounce ideas and see what they like, and then fill in the details later.

Once a general plan is establish I will line the script completely. I don't usually work with story boards since I can't draw and for even a short film it takes way too long. All I need to know is what the general action is, what kind of shot (OTS, wide, medium, oner on dolly, etc) and go through until the whole thing is lined. Then I make a shot list breakdown based on that scene for scene. Storyboards, in my opinion, are best left to elaborate sequences, or productions that have the money and prep time to hire an artist to sit with me and the director and go over the shot list.

Then I coordinate with producers to see what kind of time limits I will have at a given location. If I feel I need more time to do more elaborate setups I will tell them that, and see if they can squeeze the schedule. Often it does mean trimming shot lists or seperating into the 'must haves' and the 'if theres time' shots. Then once the producers have the full shooting schedule, I order my shot lists to match the days, so I have a list for every day. Should something change during the shoot I have my master list so I can update any lists when something changes.

And like Adrian said, blocking always changes. Always changes. Best not to have put days into storyboards that might get thrown out on the day. If blocking changes, its easy to adapt a shot list to the change. Sometimes you sit on set as the blocking changes, crossing out some shots and adding new ones. A plan to be quick and flexible is best.


That said, I would love to hear other peoples proccess. I am sure its slightly different between different DPs and director combos.
  • 0

#7 Tom Hepburn

Tom Hepburn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 341 posts
  • Other
  • Chicago-land

Posted 10 February 2009 - 10:50 PM

are you typically a DP on set? Or production? Or direction


I probably should have given a bit of background Michael. I have no aspirations to go to Hollywood and become a DP. I'm a happy father here in Chicago and 48. At this point my experience is very limited and I'll go ahead and thank the many people here that have accelerated my pace on the learning curve. I do however have a good deal of experience editing video and working with sound (insert resume here :) I also like to think that I have an active creative streak and would like to use the medium of film to express that. I have the utmost respect for the processes involved in doing so. In time, I feel like I can become a competent short film maker.

Having said that, I'm as close to a one man show as I think is possible. Of course, I do have some great friends that have really helped and will continue to do so. For the most part I write the story, do all of the cinematography, create and manage the shot lists. I have others to help me set up lights, run the sound, including the boom, carry anything that needs to move. They have some basic experience, but like me are not professionals. So as you can see I'm at the very basic level. I don't have professional actors or anything like that at this point. I need to learn the skills necessary to confidently manage the mechanics of filming a short before that happens. So, I'm starting slow as I don't want to lay down a weak foundation.

Some great info so far gentleman. I think I have a handle on the timing involved in terms of working with schedules, actors, and trying to get a scene in before the environment changes. If you guys or anyone else can expand a little on taking your work flow from paper to production that would be great. I'm particularly interested in how one would do this with one camera. Obviously, I'm not able to do a two camera shoot live, then choose some of the best portions from each. Some may have to go back a few years to remember......

Also, Michael I don't rigidly tie myself to the storyboards, I think that I have them close by as I'm concerned I'll shoot all of my shots and miss a crucial one that will render the story incomplete. Or if I move the camera before I have what I need, then have to try to put it back exactly where it was to maintain continuity.

Thanks,
Tom
  • 0

#8 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5070 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 11 February 2009 - 05:44 AM

People have different methods of planning things out. It makes sense to work into the closer shots, it allows everyone to see how everything fits together both from a performance point of view and technically eg the lighting.

Order of shooting can depend on actor availability, changing daylight eg you start filming during daylight but finish at night. Back sure you finish all the shots facing one direction if you need to completely relight to shoot facing the other direction. Don't over complicate scenes in which you got extremely limited time at the location.

Working out on paper is a personal process. Know the location, draw a plan, mark out where you think the actors will be moving (bearing in mind that the actors might come up with something better on the day) through the scene. Work out the key story points that been to be covered. Plot on your plan where you need the camera to cover those points. Run the scene in your head and make notes.

For bog standard dialogue scenes, it could be argued that storyboards are a waste of time. You can write down the shots and it makes just as much sense as a series of over the shoulder drawings of two heads talking.
  • 0

#9 Thom Stitt

Thom Stitt
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 68 posts
  • Other
  • Vancouver

Posted 11 February 2009 - 06:28 AM

If it's such a small production, with you taking care of all the major creative work, there are few wrong ways to do things. Most of the big things have been mentioned here. I'll take you through a common practice in my experience doing short films with tiny crews.

First I sit down with the script and the director and we break down the entire script visually. We discuss shot ideas, take lots of notes, and at the end of the meeting, we hopefully both imagine the same moving picture when we read the script (as well as a full shotlist on a good day!). In your case, directing and DPing, this should obviously be the easiest part.

Next comes the scheduling. I actually prefer to work with one camera. multi-camera shoots, while they seem like they can speed things up, can be quite complicated. You're better off starting with just one camera.

From there it's all about squeezing every strategy and ounce of common sense you have. You're going to have lights, you're going to have a scene to shoot, you're going to have to worry about a number of problems (like sunlight, scheduling issues, etc). Plan your shots in the most practical way possible. Someone mentioned shooting all your shots facing one direction - this is GREAT advice - it's easy to go down your shotlist and forget about a certain shot, and find yourself having to recreate a lighting setup looking back the OTHER direction (which you thought you had finished). So try and shoot looking one direction with one lighting setup, and then turn around, relight, and do the rest.
Obviously, this is not always practical, particularly when it comes to actors. If it prevents compromising a performance, the extra work of relighting is always worth it in the end. The cinematography is there to SUPPORT the performance, so it won't pay off to say to your actors "can you just suck it up on this one? It's going to take forever to re-light..."

One way to help plan this out is to do overheads. Draw an overhead schematic of your set, and draw in every single camera position (usually the camera is represented like a V, with the open part of the V being the lens). This gives you an at-a-glance look at every setup, what you'll be looking at, and what needs to be dressed and lit for each shot.

And don't forget that being there in the space with the actors can change things (as mentioned numerous times already). The first thing you should do, before setting up the camera, before putting up your lights, is to run a blocking. Take the crew and the actors, and explain exactly what's going to happen in the scene. Let the actors go through all the motions (but make SURE they don't earnestly play the scene, they should not invest any emotion into performance on a blocking/rehearsal - just the positions for practical purposes).

After that you can start putting up camera and lights for your first setup.

Really, the list of things that can dictate the schedule of shots can be varied and different on each shoot. The main one that's always consistent is lighting setup. You don't want to have to re-do a lighting setup you've already done if you don't absolutely have to. But it does happen.

Honestly, once you have a shot list and a schedule of scenes and days, it's a fairly easy process of breaking down each day one by one, and putting all your shots in a sensible shooting order. On set they'll change, but as a blueprint your shotlist will be a great guide.

Edited by Thom Stitt, 11 February 2009 - 06:30 AM.

  • 0

#10 Karel Bata

Karel Bata
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 487 posts
  • Director
  • London - a rather posh bit

Posted 11 February 2009 - 06:57 AM

I strongly agree with Brian's first post, and would add that you should never aim to light the set (though many do), you light the script.

At film school I'd lit several productions before an operator with some industry experience asked what the 'master shot' for a scene was. The director and I were curious about this and asked him to explain. I'll never forget our expressions of horror when it was spelled out. After all, did Hitchcock ever do that? No way. Later of course I saw it everywhere. I hate it, but it's fast and it's safe, but when a director talks about the master shot I know I'm not working with (in my opinion) a true film-maker.

Certainly starting wide and then moving in makes life a lot easier, but that formula of 'master shot' followed by close ups could easily be the opening of a TV studio chat show! If you're a newbie then at least it's safe, and may be a good idea until you learn which way up the lamps should be rigged :o ! But as soon as you can try to find other ways of doing it, ways that subtly express what's going on in the script. You're telling a story, not just shooting some actors.

Stuck above my desk I have a couple of quotes, one by Picasso "Good artists copy, great artists steal." Look at the work of others, copy what they do, and then make it your own. Formulas strangle creativity.

My 2p. ;)
  • 0

#11 Satsuki Murashige

Satsuki Murashige
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3510 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • San Francisco, CA

Posted 11 February 2009 - 01:02 PM

... when a director talks about the master shot I know I'm not working with (in my opinion) a true film-maker.

That's unnecessarily harsh, IMO. Most experienced filmmakers use the term "master shot" loosely to mean the main angle for a scene, not implying that they want textbook coverage of two overs and two singles immediately after. If you look at Steven Spielberg's method of coverage for example, he tends to use a very fluid master shot that comprises the bulk of the scene combined with a few cutaways than can be inserted into the master. Same with Orson Welles. In fact, a director who takes the time to stage a scene to camera and allows it play out in a master as opposed to cutting in for no good reason has to have great command of the medium in order to hold the audience's attention.
  • 0

#12 Tom Hepburn

Tom Hepburn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 341 posts
  • Other
  • Chicago-land

Posted 13 February 2009 - 01:23 PM

These are great responses. I appreciate the help.

Tom
  • 0


Metropolis Post

Glidecam

CineLab

rebotnix Technologies

Rig Wheels Passport

Ritter Battery

FJS International, LLC

Tai Audio

Broadcast Solutions Inc

The Slider

CineTape

Willys Widgets

Visual Products

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Opal

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Technodolly

Abel Cine

Aerial Filmworks

Paralinx LLC

Wooden Camera

Visual Products

Wooden Camera

Opal

rebotnix Technologies

FJS International, LLC

The Slider

Willys Widgets

CineLab

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Abel Cine

Tai Audio

CineTape

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Technodolly

Aerial Filmworks

Ritter Battery

Rig Wheels Passport

Paralinx LLC

Glidecam

Metropolis Post

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS