Thursday, October 14, 2010

Camera Work #4

A simple instrument:
Here I would like to introduce to you a good friends of mine; it is a simple instrument to help practice of camera work.

It is a simple frame which you can fix it with sticky tape on your eye glasses or on an empty frame of spectacles. In this way, one eye will be covered with one side of paper and the other eye will see through the frame which is designed on the other side.

It is really helpful because:

:Some important point:
Practicing with camera regularly or if not possible seeing through frame changes point of view

Slowly you will start to see things as you see in the frame as if there is an invisible frame in front of your eyes.  

It has two benefits for your work:
    1. Always you are practicing and learning camera and thereby getting ideas and more advance day by day. 

    2. It helps to improve power of visualization. After a while working continuously and for a long time with camera, you will see things as you see in the frame thereby always you will be in the process of cinematic visualization. 

It is a task of cinematographer to do “shot division” with director;  stabilizing such a point of view as I mentioned, helps you in process of shot division and seeing screenplays visually and to bring out better and innovative ideas and visuals. 

This process will work better when you do practice “shot division” parallel with practicing camera. You can always read scripts, visualize them, and maybe write them down.
The point is that after a while doing these practices, you do not need to visualize scripts or whatever but you will read them visually and visuals come to you while reading! You just need to write them and work on them for betterment.
Editing and Camera work:
In last article, I mentioned about some kind of cuts such as “cross cut.” Here I would like to give a brief about kinds of cuts. To write this, I have taken help of Wikipedia.

    * An "L-cut" is when video and audio are edited asynchronously. For example, the sound of approaching cars in an interior shot alerts the viewer that the next scene will most likely involve traffic or take place outside.

    * A "jump cut" is a cut in film editing in which two sequential shots of the same subject are taken from camera positions that vary only slightly. This type of edit causes the subject of the shots to appear to "jump" position in a discontinuous way. For this reason, jump cuts are considered a violation of classical continuity editing, which aims to give the appearance of continuous time and space in the story-world by de-emphasizing editing. Although the term is sometimes used in a loose way, a cut between two different subjects is not a true jump cut, no matter how jarring.

    * A
"cutaway" is the interruption of a continuously filmed action by inserting a view of something else. It is usually, although not always, followed by a cut back to the first shot, when the cutaway avoids a jump cut.

    * A
"cross cut" establishes actions occurring at the same time in two different locations.

    * A
"match cut" is any cut that emphasizes spatio-temporal continuity. It is a cut in film editing from one scene to another in which the two camera shots' compositional elements match, helping to establish a strong continuity of action – and linking two ideas with a metaphor. In a match cut there is the least chance of noticing cut by audience.

    * "Cutting on action or matching on action" refers to a film editing technique where the editor cuts from one shot to another view that matches the first shot's action. Although the two shots may have actually been shot hours apart from each other, cutting on action gives the impression of continuous time when watching the edited film.

To be continued.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Camera Work #3

For safety and especially if you are forgetful, better to have a list of important setting of camera e.g. setting aspect ratio to 16:9 (if desired) because usually default setting is 4:3. 

Take care of frame to be horizontal. If it is meant to be a Dutch/oblique angle shot, it should be oblique enough.

Keep one eye on frame/view finder and one eye free for surrounding; eye on the frame for keeping desired and planed frame and eye on surrounding to help the later and to make proper frame according to location specially while moving camera. 

Always preserve neutral level with keeping level of camera at the same height of eye level of character otherwise be clear about angle and level you are giving because each level and angle has specific significant. 

You need to dance and breath in harmony with the camera movement, to make a harmonious movement with body and camera to keep the frame fix or keep proper framing. You can practice to give wave to your body especially up and down as they do in Break dance.

For handheld movement, as I experienced, it is better to walk on toes; I mean to position first toes on the ground then resting rest of foot on the ground. For that, there are some points to follow: 

*   You need to have some strong toes, calf, and knee; so practice to walk on toes with bent knees.
*    Try to walk on one line like the way rope dancers do. What happens when we walk; we put our feet on    left and right and it gives a movement to the body and thereby the camera accordingly; to avoid it one must to walk on one line.
*    Take heavy steps specially while stepping forward. When we step back on the toes, naturally pressure will be on the toes and it will have weight and then the sole slowly leans on the ground without causing jerk. It must be same while stepping forward.

Practice to focus on a picture in front of you, placed on your eye level on the wall; step forward and backward keeping the picture on fix position in the frame. Try to keep it fix and without jerk. There will come a moment that you feel that the Camera is holding you as a fix point as if rest of body is hanged from it.

Some exercises which can help:
*    Tiptoe Posture (Samatvam Asana); (yoga posture)
*    Raised Arms Pose - Urdhva Hastasana; on the toes (yoga posture)
*    Jumping rope exercise

*    When you want to shoot a subject/character including reflective surface like spectacles, to avoid reflection of camera in them, you may go to distance and make your frame using proper focal length.
*    While moving camera from further subject to closer or vice versa, or while moving camera around with the field with subjects in different dept, to avoid losing focus, never use Auto focus setting; but manual.

An Experiment:
Leaping from one side to other side and crossing width of field such as width of street; gives a weird feeling of suspense, spy, horror…

A technique:
If you need special color tone, you may get it without using special lights or gels and filters or changing settings of camera too much (such as color temperature) that may result in loss of quality. It can achieve with cheating with white balance. This technique is based on complementary/opposite colors;
*    If you are shooting with normal lights indoors and you want an amber/yellowish color tone, easily go and do white balance outdoor and comeback inside. You will have a nice amber color tone.
*    In case you need any color tone easily you can do white balance with its complementary/opposite color; as a result you will have desired color tone; e.g. to have a greenish color tone you may do white balance with a red color paper or subject and so on. To have an idea about complementary colors you may refer to Wikipedia.

If possible, shoot in progressive mode, which gives a better quality. 

Editing and camera work:
As a cinematographer, it is good to be a bit familiar with rules and aesthetic points of editing and better to learn it practically with editing at least few movies short films and clips. It will give you a better sense of “mise en scene” such as framing, size, composition, movement, angle, level, color, etc; e.g. it is not easy to consider and follow the editing rule of “cut on movement.” Movement can be camera movement or movement of subject in or along the frame.

field of cinema and making fiction one thing, which can be neglected is “close ups” and insert shots. It is vice versa with TV programs where they pay more attention to close ups. It is not only that they can help at the time of editing, but a good and suitable close up or insert shot can say a lot and the can add a lot to the scene and sequence.

Do not neglect or underestimate importance of photography especially for the purpose of continuity.

Shifting to oblique/Dutch angle is not a problem but for coming out of it to normal angle, an insert shot, “cutaway” cut, or cross cut can avoid jerks. 

To be continued.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Behind The Scenes of "God's Cellphone"

Left to right; Rohan Chauhan, Alawi Shareef Ali, Ehsan Khoshnevis
left to right; Ronit Chauhan, Alawi Shareef Ali, Ehsan Khoshnevis
 left to right; Mac Donald, Prateek Sharma, Gyanendra Dev Mishra, Mahesh Gothwal

reaction to deafening voice of heavens

Mahesh Gothwal
Rahul Sehgal

Making of "God's Cellphone", A Report

It was middle of July 2010. I was working on a script, it was based on a real incident, which happened to my classmate; Ashok, in my film school.

We were in the college library. He started telling me about his dream: “I was a student; around 12-year old, In school, I fall in love with a senior girl who was around 22 years old and we slept together. My teacher learned about it and he called the police. Cops came and put me in jail!

The dream was weird for me. I thought that it is a bad omen and I told my friend to be careful. Few minutes later, he lost his mobile just inside library while he was talking passionately to one of graduated
students from our college who is a professional and a teacher now. 

We were searching for the lost mobile for around 2 hours and surprisingly we found it in the hand of a stupid thief!
I thought all the incident could be interpretation of his dream so I started writing a script based on it.
The story came out as a sixteen pages script with more than seven characters. I had only few days to get ready and shoot it. My friend “Bakhsh” who is an aspiring screenwriter believed that my story is a depressing and dull tale of meaningless actions. The fact of the matter was that even I was not satisfied with it and yes, it was not alive!

He interpreted the dream in a different way which was more dramatic as well and by means of hermeneutics method wrote a movie idea which according to Bakhsh was the true dramatic expression of Ashok's dream.

Bakhsh’s idea attracted me a lot. He told me that I could write a script based on his idea.
In fact, I was a bit tense due to lack of time and I was hesitant.

So I wrote a script based on his movie idea and sent it to him. 

It was at a time that I was bombarding my only actor with changes of scripts and finally a new one all together! -Which went through changes also- He was slowly losing his temper though he was not complaining much because he liked it also. 

Finally, Bakhsh came up with his version of script just at the night of shoot! It was very different from mine.
It liked it a lot and any how I decided to make it. 

Here I would like to write a synopsis of the story:

“A student of a film school comes out of library. He sits in the garden; gets busy with reading a book. Trying to lean back with the support of his hands on the ground, he finds a girlish pink color mobile behind him between grasses. He decides to find out the owner of the mobile; having that purpose, he calls a number from its call list. Every time calling with the mobile, weird things happen around and slowly he notices it and gets suspicious if it is the effect of the mobile or not! Now he starts calling out of curiosity. Happenings get more and more weird and even scary. Finally, the mobile stars ringing. He answers it with hesitation and fear, a loud and heavy voice comes from sky saying that put the phone back where you have found it… He gets shitlessly scared and does according to the commands of the voice and finally runs away…”
Everyone was against the new decision. They had no hope that a movie can be made based on a script prepared just the night before shoot. Even my best friend “Ashok Yadav” -with whom throughout the college time, we were working together - was against, and he was trying to change my mind. 

Same night I made the shot division with the help of the writer who gave me key suggestion that how I could make it possible.
The story was going to happen in our college but the matter was that in addition to all the issues mentioned above, there were some difficulties with the script. However, there was just one main character in the script, but he was supposed to be surrounded by a big crowed here and there inside the campus. How could I arrange and manage this group of people through out the shoot?

Bakhsh came with the suggestion that I can use tight frames and close ups and make it cut to cut. In this way there is no need to keep the big crowd in front of camera for a long time, but we can take shots individually and finally few long and establishing shots.

I got to know that this movie is a one mostly based on shot division and specially editing. It was interesting; I was practicing editing for a while; now it was a chance to bring them to practice. 

I had a long discussion with my friend hopping that he can help me in direction but no result! He could not even connect to the story and there was no time for more discussion.
I was a bit afraid because in fact, it was the first real experience of direction after a long time being behind camera and computer desk.
Finally, I realize it is me who has to do directing and do whatever necessary. To be honest, I was confused and tensed; then how could I expect others to cope with situation! That night I could not sleep.
First day of shoot was a waste because things were not prepared. From second day but things started to go better. 

Weather was really hot and humid and especially it was difficult for my only actor; “Ronit Chauhan”; why? Because he is a man of action roles with a lot of physical activity. This role was boring and too fine and sophisticated for him, throughout the shoot he was restless,

every minute he wanted to go for 5 minute rest! and I had to keep him anyhow. The only exception was for the end sequence which was a running scene !
Ashok was saying it is a work of one-man army as there was no pre-plan and I had to take care of everything and work in different posts; Direction, Camera,... After all, he was the one who though being against my decision, helped a lot to manage things specifically copping with actors and arranging for the crowd! which was a great help. 

Editing of the movie was a bit complicated but interesting as the movie was an editing based one and especially sound editing was different and interesting. 

By this experience, I learned an important lesson in the process of film making specially in key positions such as direction. Director should see himself the only responsible person for the project. He has to keep atmosphere pleasing for crew while keeping focus on the process and its progression. Creative work can become
easily  messy, breaks down, and stops. Losing temper means losing the game. It is like being father and mother at the same time; to be serious and focus inside and soft with crew and situation.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Behind The Scenes of "The Preacher" - part two

left to right: Ehsan Khoshnevis, Daniel Echeverri
left to right: Ehsan Khoshnevis, Daniel Echeverri
left toright: Abhishek Vishwakarma, Sampada Malla, , Ehsan Khoshnevis, Abhishek Kashyap, Rusho

left to right: Daniel Echeverri, Akshay Ajit Singh
left to right: Deepak, Abhishek Kashyap, Daniel Echeverri, Sampada Malla, Ashok Yadav, Naga Sudharsan, Akshay Ajit Singh, Abhishek Vishwakarma, Rusho

Friday, August 13, 2010

Making of "The Preacher": A Short Film By Avage

During month of May, a friend of mine, came up with his new idea for a short film “The Preacher”.

The Script got finalized in few days. The group decided to work on the script to make a short film out of it. Initially it was a decision and agreement between "Ashok Yadav" (Director) and "Ehsan Khoshnevis"(Cinematographer).

It took us about one month working almost whole nights and some time even days to finish shot-division and we divided the seven page script to about 200 shots with all aesthetic and technical details.

Finally pre-planning process got over and we started shooting from 11th of June and we finished up to 19th after 5 days of shooting.

It happened in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India. It was really a challenge and yes, a fun and great experience for all of us:

  The writer whose detailed shot division was mostly based on his innovative and creative ideas, was not in India at the time. He could not be present on the set. The only way was internet and he was supporting us and keeping in contact via internet.

Here, in India, we started rehearsals with our two main actors "Akshay Ajit Singh" and "Daniel Echeverri" who is a Columbian guy, and we made a group of ten which at times was going up to fifteen. It was our first independent project and also the longest one in comparison to all other projects that we did in school. We shared money for production and we started the shoot with minimum equipment we could provide. We managed to hire a camera (Sony PD170). We had a plan to use track and trolley but we decided that it is not possible. One of the main reasons was that it was going to block the road which we were not allowed to do. Finally we took all the shots hand-held. We started the shoot with a single camera and two umbrellas.

We had difficulties to finalize the location because it was totally out-doors shoot. Such a situation demands control on the location at the same time we needed permission from local authorities. Finally we could manage it in Sector 30 in Noida. Despite of all difficulties and rejections from local authorities, finally we found the mentioned location suitable for shooting the script where welfare association of the sector and neighbors were really cooperative and helpful. Even the head of welfare association himself and some neighbors were coming on the set time to time and supporting us with providing us cold water, chair, etc.

It was a long road at a side of the sector - by Delhi Public School - where there is not much traffic. In fact mainly only neighbors use that road.

It was climax of summer in north India when temperature was reaching to 45°C with more than 90% humidity. Interestingly heat in this year was a record since decades back. Literally it was a hell. Worth saying that our main actor "Akshay Ajit Singh" had to wear proper suit as custom in such a weather and the actor in second role "Daniel Echeverri" was from Colombia and new to this environment! and our cute actress "Pooja" had difficulties as she is just around eight years old and we were really worry for her.

I would like to say something about "Pooja" who played the role of "Grace" in the movie; she is about eight years old and of a Nepali ethnic origin. Her father is a camera man in the film school in which we study. All her family is living by the school. Being in such an environment, she is very comfortable in front of camera and she is a natural actor. She is not at all camera shy! and usually plays her roles so well.

During production, we were supporting the crew with homemade food to avoid food poisoning and to reduce cost of production and we were supporting them with cold water and cold drink such as lemonade during shoot to avoid dehydration though in few cases after all precautions it occurred.

It was the initiating work of the group “AVAGE Team” and there were so many points and matters to discuss, decide and to get into a conclusion and common point. After all discussions, we decided that our editor, "Sampada Mala" should not be present on the set or to be involved in the process of production so she could remain neutral and to be able to edit them without any personal attachment or preconceptions, a view closer to unconditioned spectators. However she was the only lady between crew so she was caring for the crew with providing them cold drink, lemonade, glucose, etc and therefore she could not be completely neutral observer.

One of incidents which happened during shoot which is itself an interesting story to say was a fire which happened on the location; there was an electricity transformer from which there were coming about ten high voltage wires (around 11,000 volt) which were lying on the ground. Due to high temperature on that day a spark caused wires to ignite. Everyone’s knees were shaking out of fear. Some of the crew were going to Extinguish the fire with water!!! What a foolish idea! Luckily our production manager "Abhishek Vishwakarma" who is a technically astute person was available on the set. He stopped us and suggested to extinguish the fire with purring soil on it and it did work. Everyone was running and bringing soil from here and there and hand to hand we were putting it on the burning wires. The fire was spreading fast through hot wires but finally we managed to put it off. I wish we had some photos or footage of the scene but no one could even think about taking pictures in that dangerous situation.

In the movie when we see point of view of Preacher while he is on the ground after last slap, we see an insect. It is passing the frame on the asphalt. The original idea was to use a millipede. We spend long time during production to find a millipede but I guess no insect was daring to come to surface in that heat or to act in our project in such a condition! One day by chance we found a millipede on the location during lunch time but it ran away! Finally this small but daring insect came to our way and we decided to give a chance to him.

First day of shooting was a day to get into the mood of production and to adjust to the situation. It was somehow disappointing for we could manage to take only few shots. From the second day however the work was promising. Despite of all difficulties everyone was working hard and in fact the spirit was soaring even higher during the filming of the movie.

Job of some crew was only to control the environment and traffic. As demanded by the script and for the sake of continuity; location was supposed to be empty of crowd and any traffic. We had to stop shooting or retake shots due to this reason.

Every morning we had to call neighbors and ask them to move their vehicles out of set. It is a story for itself as everyone response was different and any way, it had to be done.

Editing of the movie took us about one month. One reason was technical disadvantages. We had to finish shooting of the movie according to our schedule therefore we had to shoot the movie from morning till evening during which lighting conditions were changing a lot; even at times scattered pieces of clouds were changing the mood. Another main problem was with sound. Recording sound with the camera itself by the help of a gun-mic; considering all the disturbances of surrounding such as cars, people, wind, etc, made sound editing a difficult job.

After all, the movie is made and it is our hope that it will reach the audience and be entertaining and inspiring for them.

In next post you can see some photos of production. 

here is a link in IMDb for "The Preacher":

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Camera Work #2

Interval photography;
5 second intervals is approximately a good timing for interval photography of clouds. It means that you set interval time for 5 second and your camera will capture one photo (frame) per 5 seconds. So if you want to have 1 second interval photography of moving clouds you need to shoot 120 second that is to say 2 minutes. That is in case that you are shooting with 24 frame per second format.
Proper interval timing for capturing interval photography of shadow of fix objects is 60 seconds intervals. According to my experience this timing gives a good result and speed of moving shadow of fix objects in sunlight. 

Camera movement:
2 kind of movement: 
  * keeping focus on character and keeping the character almost at a same point in frame.
  * keeping camera (camera angle)fix and sweeping the area.
Dance of body with practice is needed; to step smoothly and make or keep desired frame especially in movement. It is possible to have a good shot even without tripod, track and trolley or steady-cam. You will learn it only with practice. Then after your breath, body movement will be in harmony resulting desired shot. We have to learn different style of waking rather than normal style. There are 3 points noticeable in this regard:
*  While stepping, jerk can easily come in camera.
*  While stepping, first your camera moves at the same direction and speed accordingly, and when stepping is done, camera will stop moving. This has to be take care of. You need to learn to give a smooth and continuous movement all the time by the help of movement of body and hand accordingly.
*  After stepping forward, naturally as we put one foot on the ground and start to lift the other, there will be a cease in body movement and accordingly camera -if not additionally a movement to right and left: observe your/others walking!- Or there can be probably a pause as well. It has to be taken care of. That will be same with stepping backward.

Shot division:
Doing proper shot division has multiple advantages: 
* It makes your work easy and increases quality.
* It makes your mind free cause you have plan and you already you know what you got to do
* At the same time it gives free space to your mind for innovation and spontaneous ideas.
Always review your shot division at the night of shoot.
Doing proper shot division and practice of it, give you a vision and makes a mind set by which you can see scripts visually!
If you do not have light meter, or a professional assistant, be alert about lighting condition and never trust any body but your instinct.

Always remember you are responsible for visuals not anyone else.
Always keep microphone toward the character who is speaking. Never keep microphone between them out of laziness.
Keep “action safe area” in mind if you are shooting for TV, then you got to make framing inside it that is to say outer frame designed in viewfinder or LCD.
Always clean the lens.
Never stop working/practicing with camera. If you continue every day, it will come a moment when frame will get embodied in you and you will have a view as you see in the view finder. It is the time when 24 house you can live with your view! And do not be worry about it; because this view is better that shallow view we have in normal life so it is going to help you in normal life as well to see things better and in focus!

Every night after shoot dump your footage and check it is done well or if there is any problem with it.
Do learn editing as well; basics of editing as well as getting familiar with editing facilities and tools. It is going to help you in shot division, making frame, movement and lighting. 

To avoid jerk in cuts, there is a rule which has to be taken care of at the time of shooting; Keep characters in cuts at a same part of frame specially if there are 2 characters facing each other. It is as if you are putting a point on the frame and putting characters there. 

To be continued.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Camera Work #1

Shooting with camera in my view is like shooting an arrow toward a target.

There is a moment while moving eye/camera or while making frame when for a fraction of time you see what you expect or what please you. That is it. Close your eyes and shoot it.
It demands alertness, activeness, speed and focus.

There are some certain points and setting about camera that should be noticed before starting shooting.

• Aspect ratio: either 16:9 or 4:3.
16:9 is wide screen and is preferable. It is more natural according to human vision and more pleasant esthetically.
• Checking lens to be clean.
• Checking battery charge if it is sufficient.
• Checking tripod if it works properly and smoothly.
• Recording 10 seconds color bar.
• Recording 5-10 second black.
• Set the proper ND filter or any filter needed.
• Check boom mice. At times they are loose and it makes jerk and noise while recording sound.
• Deciding if you want to shoot in manual mode or auto.

If manual;
• Do the white balance.
• Set the shutter speed.
• Set the gain.
• Set the aperture.
• Check connection of microphone and also headphone.
• Set the volume.
• Do focus on your subject, make your frame.

For the last time, check your frame. It happens many times that part of boom, shadow of boom, glare or any unwanted subject or light may come into the frame.

Turn off camera and keep in shadow and safe area whenever you finished shooting or there was a considerable gape in between.

Do setting such as white balance, etc after turning off and on the camera.

Use "Polarizer" filter when shooting out doors in sharp sunlight where camera receives reflection of light from different places. Sharp reflection causes over expose in some part of picture which reduces quality of picture and harms continuity.

Take care of continuity of light. Especially when shooting out doors, one a while do white balance and set the aperture according to the lighting changes.

***** Never neglect your instinct and ideas. *****

If an idea clicks in your mind, grab it otherwise you will lose it; whether technically or esthetically;

If you think to change the lens from wide to telephoto to capture a close up –or vice versa- do it. If you think using tripod or taking hand held do it.

They may seem difficult or time consuming, there may be pressure from the Director of crew to take it fast, but do not forget that you are the one who brings our drama from the action and you are responsible finally.
Do any change and any idea that comes to your mind for the betterment of the take till you get the shot you expect and which makes you satisfied.

A point: Get ready as much as possible but at the time of shoot be spontaneous. You are the one who sees what is going to be on the screen finally. Listen to Director and producer, get their point and demand of the shot and finally do your job. Some time you need to keep rolling after hearing cut, some time you need to take extra shot or make a bit of change in framing or movement.

It is good to have some practice every day and necessary to have some practice before going for shoot. Even if you are a master of a sport, you have to warm up your body with basic exercises. AND before shooting, spend few minutes in peace with camera to get easy with it even if you know each other...

Practice has 2 aspects: Physical and esthetical; Keep both ready and strong by practicing regularly and before any shoot. Give some time to yourself before shoot and prepare yourself physically and mentally. It is good to do some exercise to make body awake and flexible. Same with mind; you may like to do some game for mind like computer games. Keep it awake and playful and flexible.

To be continued...