Ashley PriceGeorgia Film Connection

All meetings with Steve Carmichael through the month of September Posted on 2013-10-01 by Ashley Price

Session 6 Tuesday, September 3, 2013 – 10:30 – 1:15

ISO controls the sensitivity of the light. If you were filming on a beach with white sand and sun, you would need to make your ISO a low number. ISO ranges from 320-20,000. Do not adjust the ISO speed or gain level while recording. Gain is giving a boost to the sensitivity of the camera which is not the same as changing the ISO. On the main display of my camera, you can set the white balance, the ISO/gain, and the shutter speed using the joystick. Gain ranges from DB0-DB25. The triangle in the middle of the bar shows where proper exposure should be. You could make it extremely bright if that’s what you want, but then you might be picking up noise which is grainy pixels. Noise is the electronic equivalent to grain on film. If you’re at the beach with a 100 mm lens, you’re camera wants the f stop wants it to be 22, so you put on your neutral density filter (a way of reducing the amount of light coming into the camera in a way that you don’t have to change the ISO) so that you can then start opening up your f stop and adjusting your shutter speed to 1/1000 of a second. For motion cameras you can shoot at 1/60 shutter speed or higher but not lower. When you set your shutter speed at 1/120 of a second, you are decreasing the amount of time the frame is exposed to light. 1/60-1/120 is the equivalent of 1 f stop. If you change from f4 to f5.8, you are cutting the light in half. If you change from f5.8 to f4, you are doubling the light. Motion blur (smear) is when the light sensitive media is exposed for a certain length of time (1/60 of a second). If you want to reduce motion blur, you have to decrease the amount of time the object is exposed when moving across the light sensitive media. Freeze frame=pause. You can adjust you shutter speed to be so high so that it looks too sharp to be real. People are used to seeing a fair amount of blur in movies. If you raise the ISO, you will be increasing your depth of field. Focal length gives you a number of the magnifying power of the lens. F22 – larger opening of the iris, smaller depth of field. Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung were philosophers. Archetypes – a primitive model; in our collective human history, we pick up stuff about the human experience. Much of storytelling comes from archetypes. Juxtaposition is putting two things together that have never been put together before, that are in conflict. Antagonist and protagonist does not necessarily mean bad guy and good guy. Redemption – you see somebody in a mess and they have to redeem themselves. A cycwall is a curved green screen installed so that you don’t have to worry about lighting the corner. Film noir – 30’s and 40’s genre. It is a style of lighting. It is dark light and a dark theme, but it is not horror. I filmed some swish pans to experiment with motion blur at my house and at my church. I used 1/60, 1/75, 1/100, 1/120, and 1/2000 shutter speeds.

Session 7 – 10:30 – 1:30 – Thursday, September 6, 2013

Steve showed me an example of redemption in the movie Crash directed by Paul Haggis. The movie has the over-arching theme of racism. We talked about how the shots and the actor’s emotion and dialogue affect the audience. Greek term – Deus ex Machina (might be Latin) – God out of a machine. It’s a derogatory term; basically a cheap way to end your conflict in act three by causing some big improbable thing to happen. An example of Deus ex Machina would be: if the story were the duck derby, an iconic super hero might come riding in on a giant duck and somehow end the conflict; or an old, long-lost relative that no one has heard from in twenty years might turn up unexpectedly at the very end and resolve the conflict. Actually, the Duck Derby’s conflict is resolved through the innocence of the children which is beautiful. The first and most important ingredient in all drama is the willingness to suspend disbelief. Willingness to suspend disbelief is the ability for the audience to accept for the entire length of the movie that the story is important, engaging, and real. It is the ability for the audience to suspend their disbelief that the movie is “real” and that it isn’t just actors. An anti-hero is a character who blurs the distinction between the hero and the villain. Oftentimes you root for them despite their imperfections and former evils. Monochromatic – no color, boring characters. An example of a monomyth is Romeo and Juliet – it has been done several times but with variation. The Maysels brothers were some of the greatest documentary makers of all time.

Session 8 – 10:30 – 1:30 – Monday, September 9, 2013

The French New Wave was significant for introducing a more kinetic style of film-making. It was shooting on location; the style was documentary, but they were not documentaries. The shots were set up very quickly; they had an ambiguous ending where not everything was resolved. They were free of tradition and iconoclastic, breaking the rules. My camera does not have aperture priority. Aperture priority or shutter priority settings are on a still camera. When you are trying to take an action shot and you are not concerned about depth of field, you can set your shutter priority and the camera will automatically set the f stop. When you are trying to shoot a particular object, such as spoons, you can set the f stop at 28, ISO at 400, and the aperture priority would set the shutter speed at 1/120th of a second or higher. If I choose my aperture, the camera will choose my shutter speed – that is aperture priority. Shutter priority is when you choose the shutter speed and the camera chooses the aperture. On my camera, never go above 1/120 shutter speed or below 1/60 shutter speed. The standard number for ISO is 800. ISO stands for International Standards Organization. ASA stands for American Standards Association and is the old term for ISO. Bell curve looks like a bell dome on a graph with measurements and algorithms. 18% gray is the standard for gray. It reflects 18% of the light and absorbs 82% of the light. There are gray cards that you can hold in front of the lens to establish the gray. Grips come in and put net over the white light so that you can still have some black in the shot. Black without proper light is muddy and murky. You have to get some information from it. Generally the neutral density filter should be set at nothing. A DIT is a Digital Imaging Technician. Wave Form Monitor (WFM) is scope. Whites should be in the middle of the box, not crushed against the top or the bottom. Magnification is very handy for prime lenses. 70-100 is the standard of light for zebras. You should be able to delineate 128 shades of gray between black and white. Ansel Adams perfected the zone systems where he could get pure white, deep black, detail in whites and blacks, and an incredible shade of gray. He made a picture of a moonrise in Hernandez, New Mexico. To shoot the moon, you must have an f stop of 4, 1/250 shutter speed, and ISO 400.   

Session 9 – 11:30 – 1:00 – Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In the movie “The Matrix”, there is no way the writer would know about anything that happened in the film, but he may have had enough technical experience to come up with something like that. Just because you don’t know about it doesn’t mean you can’t find out about it. Expand on personal experience. Use what you know, but use your imagination also. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is one of the greatest films made into a movie from a book. It is a fictional story that is based on reality. The movie “The Hunger Games” has a strong female protagonist with a secondary male protagonist – that is the complete opposite from what the film industry had been doing. It’s not about the explosions, or the CGI, or fantastical settings; it is about the people – the characters – that draw you in emotionally. Toys are increasingly based on imagination – electric train vs. wooden train. A wooden train can be anything you want it to be. Boredom is the best motivation for creativity and imagination. You really don’t want your characters to be similar. Internal conflict – inward opposing conflict within a person’s character. Gone with the wind – you have the internal conflict within Scarlett, the external conflict between Scarlett and Rhett, and the external conflict of the civil War. Human need or desire is what the audience can relate to. A dramatic device – an actor will turn from the other characters and address the camera/audience. A different technique is when the main character narrates his/her life. If the characters feel sad sometimes the audience feels sad but not always; it depends on the situation. But if the character is embarrassed, the audience will always feel embarrassed. A huge part of writing your screenplay is understanding the language of imagery – how much dialogue, how many pictures? Writing a screenplay is very different from writing a novel. Do not write camera angles into your screenplay. You can put things like “cut to flashback”, but how you make the cut must be discussed with your editor.

Session 10 – 10:30 – 1:00 – Thursday, September 12, 2013

A chimera is an umbrella light. There are many different configurations of Chimera lights. There are metal rods that collapse into a ring which attaches to the light. It collapses and folds down like a tent. This material can get very hot. Chimeras throw light everywhere. Start out with an incandescent and put a frost and a silk over it. Grip stands or C stands are very sturdy and have an arm so you can put a flag on it so that you can light your actor with a C (century) stand as opposed to a backlight and the stand won’t be in the shot. Mole Richardson is the oldest lighting company. You will know it is Mole Richardson when you see the maroon color. Incandescent – tungsten – 3200 on the Kelvin scale. Step 1 – place the light, get it centered on the object. A good light has barn doors on it because it is easier to control the light. You can do the same sort of thing with a Chimera, but it will take a lot longer and grips have to put up C stands and flags everywhere. Florescent panel – a great big flat box with a whole bunch of florescent tubes in it. Black flags create a shadow and keep the light from going where you don’t want it to go. A Cucoloris casts patterns on the wall and is generally used outside. Red flags make the light 1 stop darker. Green flags make the light ½ stop darker. Silk softens the light. Scrims fit inside the barn doors and are the same principle as flags. There are half singles, half doubles, singles, and doubles. You can tell the difference between the singles and the doubles because of the thickness or density of the fabric. Scrims are placed in front of the light to reduce intensity. Light gets less with distance. You can put two scrims in front of the light. A gel frame usually has a clip and a hinge. Cut the gel, put it in the frame and do not use material that will catch fire. Chapter 4 – You don’t know what the location or sets are and you don’t know what the casting is going to be. Others on the staff and crew are artist storytellers also. One of the best examples of the intercut techniques is “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Look at how physical, emotional, and spiritual connection is formed and acted without having anything bad in the scene. A flashback is something that breaks away from the Greek established three act plot structure. Never write a five act story. It is complicated beyond imagination. Shakespeare and Robert Aldman wrote five act stories. When you telegraph to the audience, you are using the chorus techniques (practiced by the Greeks). The chorus technique does not have to be a voice. It could be an object on which the camera focuses at an important moment or it could be a sound/music. If the audience is paying attention, they will realize what is happening. You are, in a way, controlling the audience by keeping them interested and continuing to suspend their disbelief; but you are also preceding the plot point so that the audience is anticipating what will be happening next. Plot – what’s happening. Characters – people (relationships) within the plot. Setting – where are you? Time – You don’t have to explain the time period using dialogue, just show the time period on screen. Dialogue – also attached to the plot. Pace – do not place major plot points too early or too late. The Player is a Robert Aldman film. The first scene is ten minutes long. The Blair Witch Project was made fifteen years ago with 20,000 dollars. It was scary, innovative, and broke the rules. People who have success are people who have a different view of something.

Session 11 – 10:30 – 12:30 – Monday, September 16, 2013

The status button on my camera allows me to set/assign buttons. For example, if I wanted to, I could change the zebra button to control ISO. The peaking button on my camera adjusts the sensitivity of the zebras. You can push the one-shot auto focus button to check the focus. The EF lens is Canon’s definition for their lens. The time code is a counter – hours, minutes, seconds, and frames. Drop and non-drop frame – we run at 29.97 frames per second. I want my camera set on drop frame at 23.98. PF24 is 24 frames per second. 24P is 23.98 frames per second. The drop frame will automatically set itself. A frame drops every few seconds. Press the push auto iris button to determine proper exposure. LCD – Liquid Control Display. Changing the contrast would help you to see what you’re looking at if you’re shooting in bright sunlight. What you don’t want to do is start shooting and something come up on the screen that you don’t know what it is. Set it mic +48 v to get sound from channel 1. An XLR connector has three pins and confused with another connector because there is not another one like it. Do not confuse this terminology: Input level and Playback volume. Phantom power means that the mic runs off the camera’s battery. The audio tech will have two cables that attach to the camera, one on the left (channel 1) and one on the right (channel 2). The audio tech will be in charge of making sure the input level is not too high or too low. The director can have their headphones plugged in so they can monitor the actor’s performance. If the director has a shooter and an audio tech, the audio tech will have a wireless mic for the director and no one else gets a wireless mic. If you want to operate free of cables, you can go into double (or dual) system sound. The slate or clapper board is what they use to sync the sound when the sound is not being recorded on the camera. The audio tech or mixer is responsible for making sure the counter, the digital recorder, and the slate all have to be in synced. The time code generator on the camera has to match up with the time code generator on the audio. Most people use free run on the time code. It is easier to set it by the time of day rather than start/stop because when you playback, most of the time, you will know what time of day it was. The production, scene number, take number, camera person, and maybe the director’s name are all on a slate. If it is a close-up, put the slate close to the actor. The mic will also be close to the actor, so out of courtesy to them, gently tap the slate so that they can get into character without being disturbed by a loud whack.

Session 12 – 3:00 – 5:00 – Monday, September 23, 2013

The DP is responsible for the gaffer. The Key Grip is head of the Grip department. Both the key grip and the gaffer have a best boy. The best boy is the second person down in that hierarchy. 1, 1, and 3 – gaffer, best boy, and three operators (electricians). The DP is over the camera crew. The camera crew is the 1st AC, (Camera Assistant) the 2nd AC, and the camera operator. The DP is an executive in charge of executing the artistic aspects of the picture. The Director will make a tear sheet which is a book of pictures from magazines or other literature for examples of what he wants a scene or a character to look like. The preferred take is the “bye”; the backup is the backup take. The Loader takes the recorded film, makes sure there are camera logs, and reloads the new film into the magazine. 2nd AC measures the distance from the camera to the actors. When they figure out the blocking, he goes through and when the actors stop, he puts a “t” shaped ¼ inch thick piece of wood or tape on the floor. It is shaped like a “t” so that the actor can arrange their feet to stay in the same spot every time. The 1st AC puts marks on the barrel so that they can adjust the depth of field as the actor moves. 2nd AC is also responsible for the slate as well as making camera logs. The editors sync the picture and the sound based on the scene and take numbers and the whack of the slate. Dailies are bye takes on a reel or a card. The DIT does trans codes where they transfer the footage from the camera to something you can watch it on. You have to convert the files to a MOV so that they can be read on anyone’s computer. Then, either the DIT or the editor’s assistant will sync the sound to the picture. The first AC threads the film on the camera and takes off the magazine. The 2nd AC does the loader’s job on a break if it is not a big budget production. 1 light print – you watch the footage where the light is only set one time. The DP is highest paid, then operator, 1st AC, 2nd AC, DIT, loader. DIT and loader’s pay varies. They basically have the same job except the loader deals with film and the DIT deals with cards. 600 amps = 60,000 watts of light. The formula for knowing how much light there will be is 1 amp per 100 watts of light. Extension cords are called stingers. The Grip has two major jobs. They are responsible for anything that goes in front of the light that doesn’t touch the light such as flags and C-stands. The second major job is any camera support: dolley, tripod, jib-arm, high hat…A high hat is a stainless steel platform with plywood and sandbags with a fluid head that the camera sits on for a really dramatic low shot. Low sticks is a low tripod. They are called sticks because tripods actually used to be made out of wood. Grips also do any jobs that do not fit tightly into other job categories. Chapman (Leonard Chapman) is the oldest company for cranes, dolleys and jib-arms. When you have a camera on a crane or a jib-arm, you must have a counter weight for the camera; you don’t want gravity to control your shot. With cranes, there are tons of mercury going up or down to balance out the weight. A Shotmaker Camera Car is a silent car (truck) that holds the camera. A process trailer is a platform that is low to the ground on which sits a real car with actors. It is attached to the camera car so that you can stay in focus while filming and the actors don’t have to worry about driving and saying/memorizing lines at the same time. Also you don’t have to worry about resetting in the same place. The camera car can just drive around in circles for each take for continuity. You have to backlight rain and smoke in order to see it. Key light is the main light that sets the tone. You start your lighting from the furthest point from the camera. Light the background first. “Let God light it”. Find the source of the light – lamp, window, chandelier, etc – and mimic it. A common lighting ratio is 2 (light) to 1 (shadow). 1 to 1 is flat and uninteresting.

Session 13 – Friday, September 27th, 2013 – 11:00 – 1:00

I took my father’s camera because it had a zoom lens. We put the lens on my camera and experimented with zoom, focus, and f stop. William Faulkner – Editing is the process of killing off all your darlings. Darlings are your ego. Read your script aloud over and over to try the phrasing and rhythm to see if it is working. You would set aperture priority to reduce the depth of field so that the subject pops from the background. If the focus marks are engraved on the lens, they are called the Vernier Scale. On my father’s camera AV is aperture priority, TV is shutter priority, and M is manual. Simple sequence of shots – wide, medium, close, medium. You can hire a showrunner to pitch your script.

Session 14 – Monday, September 30th, 2013 – 10:30 – 1:00

I had a call from Steve saying that the Film Connection was considering me as a candidate to film Brian Martin and Worship 4 Life as they go on tour through Atlanta, Nashville (Dove Awards), and Birmingham. Because of this, Steve chose to prepare me for this event instead of covering the material in the book. We mainly went over what equipment I might need and proper etiquette for working with clients. Steve and I went to Showcase to look at shoulder rigs (Ikan), zoom lenses (Tamron), a monopod (Manfrotto), and lavaliers (Sony). Jack let me try several products. I bought:

  1. monopod
  2. zoom lens (25mm-70mm, f 2.8)
  3. lavalier kit with handheld transmitter
  4. 20 ft. XLR cable

Another shopping spree…I will at least look professional and like I know what I’m doing.

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