In this post, I will cover the basics of the preproduction process up to the very first things you should know as a video editor/cinematographer. Notice that I use the word cinematographer interchangeably with video editor. This is absolutely my subjective application because I’m of the opinion that this exponential technological explosion has created a subculture of prolific cinematographers, movie makers and more. Feel free to rebut, but if you know someone who has posted a video, picture, or a boomerang on Instagram just this last minute using a few screen taps then you best be aware that they have gone through the entire Pre-production, production, and the post pre-production process in less time than you and I typically will. As much as I would like to form a dialectic on that, it is not what I have dedicated this post for, but don’t fret or despair, when a dedicated post on that topic is up on this blog I’ll make sure it is easily accessible to you.
While a cinematographer’s job is essentially the pre-production and the production phase, this post will also cover the unlisted job description that has become second nature to cinematographers like you and I, Video editing. I know it is quite the challenge to take on all these roles simultaneously, but if you are pinned down in this position, you should consider reading the entire material. In addition, I urge you to ask ton and tons of question in the comment section, and use all the external link as resources to your advantage.
Before we get started, here is how I will Index this post DIY lessons/tutorials.
What is Pre-Productions, and what are you to do in this phase?
What is Production, and what are the keys to a great production result?
What is Post-Production? *This part needs more details so I would only write an intro, whereas subsequent posts will cover the rest of the materials.*
Let’s dive right in!
Anyone can make a movie, no puns intended, anyone means anyone. It takes a few simple clicks/screen taps to create a compelling story that is worth sharing with your friends, family, or the internet at large. However, crafting an elegant and visually complete story takes an ample amount of skill, planning, and patience, more emphasis on the penultimate and antepenultimate. As for skills, the secret is repetition, so you definitely will pick up on some neat tricks over time. However, it is unethical for you to produce contents that do not meet any professional standards just because you could no take the time to plan aptly. Or that you decided that patience in your work is overrated. Don’t be of that folly! Instead, follow these easy clause to beat the odds.
The pre-production phase of any project, be it creative, business oriented, or some other thing you can think of is the part dedicated to planning the entire project, again in our case movie making. To produce a quality message, this critical step cannot be avoided. Although, you moot that it is occasionally overlooked by the typical point and shoot video maker – your friend who just uploaded a rehearsed clip of them having a good time, skipping this is an implicitly ‘No,No!’ for you if you want to maintain professionalism and produce an awing continents .
What then do you need to do at this stage?
Rob Garrott says “If you can not explain your idea in a complete sentence, then it cannot be done.” The first thing you need to do is know your Logline. A Logline is a summary of the entire script, movie or scene that can provide a concise enough information for the scene you will be shooting. This technique is used in TV network, Cable, or Hollywood typesetting because it streamlines the preparation time and can potentially cut cost. You will understand why in the next few sentences and example.
To explore the importance of a Logline clearer, let’s us consider a hypothetical movie scene to be shot two weeks from today. What would you need on set for the day of the shoot? Ideally, things like some lights, cameras, talents, a few crew members and perhaps a makeup artist is needed, how do you decide the number of the whos and the whats are needed? A professional workflow would is to take a look at the Logline, then the script from which you can deduce exactly how to plan for the shoot coupled with saving time and money on that project. So as much as possible, create your own Logline before you go out planning for a shoot.
With the Logline bellow, see if you now have an inkling the necessary checklist for this hypothetical shoot:
“Sara is an 18-year-old MIT graduate who since after graduation has been struggling with agoraphobia. She falls in love with her 21-year-old neighbor, Josh, who she has never interacted with physically, yet she has managed to invade his privacy, repeatedly, over the internet. When Josh finds out that Sara has been the sources of his technology troubles, he made it his mission to inflict as much pain as she’d caused him. But when he learns of her condition, he shows compassion, ultimately falling in love with her and helping her overcome her plight before finally marrying her at age 21 and 24 respectively.”
Scene 1 (INT) cam zoom slowly towards Sara at the window
Sara takes in detailed observation on the manner in which he is walking towards the building. Something about him was odd to her. It did not take long before she brushed gazes with him. Her heart sunk into her stomach like she had swallowed a metal ball, as Josh who had always smiled whenever their eyes met now has an icing desert in his eyes. His luminous radiant and passionate look now masked with an expression similar to an African masquerade. At this point, she drops to the ground (Pedestal shot). Momentarily distracted by her computer chime – she crawls to view the message. “I will ruin you, Sara.” She clamps her mouth as another metal ball add to the already present load in her stomach…
Now that you know your Logline and have reviewed the script, here is a basic checklist you will need for your shoot:
- Whose scene is it? Sara’s, she must be able to make it to the set/stage.
- Do we need to edit or rewrite the script? It depends on who is directing this movie and the producer.
- How many crew members do we need? Makeup artist for Sara whose mood will change; light for Sara who is indoors. camera crew to get your shots simultaneously or take by take
- How many shots do we need? Long; Wide; Medium; Close-up; Cropped; Dolly and or Trucking
- How long do we need the set/stage for and will it be available? Prep time plus overtime must be included in your planning
- Do we need extra help/talents? No! as a matter of fact, you can shoot just Sara’s on that day.
- Would we need motion graphics? Only if you can not afford it, can’t get a proper stage/set reservation, or there is a need for effect in post-production.
- What does the director think the set needs? This is important because sometimes the director may just feel the need to do something different. Always check with them first.
- What mic types do we need for out shots? Which of the mics you have is excellent for taking Sara that in that set?
*Be sure to make all your tools the most convenient ones for you. Keep in mind that you may be taking multiple roles on set that day*
Well if you get into the habit of doing this basic kind of checklist you will always be set for the production day. Think of it this way, if you can confirm that everything you need on that day plus extras and subs are available, there will be no cause for alarm. This becomes more important if you shooting alone, or you are working with an inexperienced crew. At LaVideoFilmmaker there are more detailed steps to the preproduction process than the ones I have made into questions or checklists. So be sure to visit the website.
The production phase is what you have patiently worked towards since when you first subscribed into your project. It is the day for transcribing scripts to moving images and audio in a retrievable and usable digital format. Since you have gone through the laborious task of getting everything in order, it is likely that all the armamentarium needed have been accounted for are in their rightful place. Regardless, it does not hurt to double check. I recommend you do so four days prior and two days before because if anything is missing on the day of your shoot it may cost you extra to find alternatives, or it might be utterly impossible to find. You want to avoid this at all cost. At LaVideoFilmmaker there are more detailed steps to the production process than the ones I have made into questions or checklists. So be sure to visit the website.
What will generate an excellent production?
- Audio and Video sync: Check that your audio recorder and camera are running before you call “action.” Again, recall that you may be the director as well as the cameraman. Tough luck! I know, I have been there but you can be successful if you plan in accord.
- Styling each shot and maintaining consistency: Each scene has it own unique feel and look, so plan ahead to achieve consistency or uniqueness before rolling your cameras. Will it be slow motion? Then you want to check your lighting and camera’s frame rate setting. Always save agreed upon preset for reuse to keep each shot in semblance with its antecedent. You will thank yourself for this during the postproduction.
- Rehearse: Always have your talents, camera and light crew, and mechanical operators rehearse. Most actors/operators, professional or a volunteer are, particularly, exception at that their roles until when you roll camera, so do not take chances. Take pride in your work, always rule out the possibility that they will get it right on the first take. My humble suggestion is to make your first take sort of like a rehearsal. If it turns out great keep it. Otherwise, feel free to toss it out. In which case, you now are informed that your team need a little more prep time to get their lines and cues right, so allow them. It is never wise to rush them regardless of the circumstance. Besides, this is one of the reasons why you made arrangements for the extra time during your pre-production phase.
- Audio: Last semester, my moving image class T.S’ mantra was quality audio can make or break your craft because your audience will forgive a terrible image quality but will not excuse bad audio. So, keep your audio constantly monitored. If available, were monitor hear phone. More so, it is easier and less demanding to retake a scene than it will be to fix or overlay your audio in post.
You may think of this phase as where you do the finishing touches. But that premise is not entirely complete. A story is told in three ways: the script, the shoot (Production), and the editing. This is why I will go through this process block by block in my next few post. In the meantime, do familiarize yourself with some production terms. For example:
- Edit shot
- Wide Shot(WS)
- Slating | slate
- High angle
There is a lot to cover, let’s not waste any more time.
Congratulations! you made it to the end of this post. The next step in this process gets me excited.