Stonyhurst Literature & Film Festival’s quick and easy guide to shooting your film!
So, you’ve chosen the genre for your film, have storyboarded your ideas and now you’re ready to start making your film.
Here are some helpful top tips to help you to get going…
You will definitely need to use a good camera. There are a number of different devices that you could use. Any camcorder, DSLR camera or even a mobile phone can be used but make sure you change the settings so that you are filming in 1080p (full HD).
It is always a good idea to use a tripod to reduce image shaking. Sometimes shaking can be effective if you’re trying to create an atmosphere or mood but generally it’s always better to use a tripod. Using a tripod will help to stabilize your shot. Something called a ‘fluid head tripod’ is best as this allows you to record and pan the camera from left to right and up and down smoothly.
If you don’t have one then it’s fine to use a ‘photographic tripod’ but make sure you think about the shot you want to record as you won’t be able to pan it whilst recording. If you’re not sure, then test it out first to see if it moves or not.
We want to hear your film, so find out what kind of sound quality your chosen camera or device can offer. Test shoot something and play it back to check the sound. If you think the sound is too weak, or it’s picking up too much interference, you might need to connect an external microphone. It’s always a good idea to use external microphones where possible as a built-in microphone can’t be placed independently and can be prone to picking up background noise.
Any external microphone will make a difference to the quality of sound. Any microphone with a phono connection will give a better sound. Lav Mics (or tie/clip on microphone) are great. They are inexpensive, achieve a clear sound from the person speaking and can be easily clipped to their shirt or jacket.
Something to remember – the further away the camera is from the source of a sound, the worse the sound becomes – especially if you are using the internal microphone on your device. It’s always a good idea to keep your microphone as close as possible to the subject. (If that’s not possible, then think about recording the sound separately and syncing the sound when you come to editing your final film).
Lighting is quite a tricky thing to get right. If you position your subject matter in front of a light, they will appear as a silhouette. Likewise, the shot might be too dark and require extra lightning. If you are using extra lighting instead of daylight then it is advisable to use more than one light. If you have access to lighting, then the three point lighting set up works really well.
If you don’t have lights to work with, then you can always get creative. Use a reflector – it bounces natural light onto the subject you are filming to create a natural, even light. And if you don’t have a reflector, don’t worry as you can also use sheets of kitchen foil or large sheets of white card to reflect light.
Wide Shot (WS) is used as an establishing shot. By this we mean the setting of a scene, to show us where you are eg. a school yard.
Medium Shot (MS) can introduce your subject matter or can give the impression of someone walking towards you.
Close Up (CU) can be used if you are interviewing someone or if you are trying to show someone speaking to another person.
Extreme Close Ups (ECU) are great for capturing emotion as you are completely focused on the subject.
Framing your shot is key. All budding filmmakers or photographers will need to familiarise themselves with the rule of thirds. To simplify this, imagine that there is a grid on the lens of your camera. A general rule of thumb is that the person’s eye line should be in the top third and that the person should be in the first or last third. We want to see them, so make sure you don’t crop off their head!
Some devices allow you to show a 3 x 3 grid on the screen to help frame your shot before you take a picture of film.
Ensure you have the actors dress rehearse to get into character and always have a practice run before you film the shot. That way, you can make sure that you are completely happy with the shot, frame, lighting, sound, and of course the performance.
Piece together your film and keep within the competition time frame. Make sure your story is clear with a message. When using music and images, make sure that you are fully aware of copyright law!