We recently wrapped the pilot episode of our new docudrama, Without A Scalpel. It is a sixty-minute 12 episode broadcast series with a large accompanying digital strategy. Each episode follows three to four patients and their doctors through ground breaking procedures that heal and transform their lives. Astonishingly, many times these patients are able to leave the hospital with just a band-aid. Click here to watch episode #1
Camera Angles and Framing
When thinking about your storyboard or shot list for either a corporate, commercial or feature project you need to remember that every single shot should support the tone and mood of your piece. There are many different ways you can use your camera to help tell your story whether it’s through distance, angle, movements or frame composition.
Getting your intended message across depends on every detail of your project. Each creative choice you make should be motivated by your intended message.
Outside of these tools there are also basic rules every filmmaker should follow while creating a shot list or story board. One of the most important rules being the 180 degree rule which definitely deserves it’s own post. For now, we’ll touch on just a few basic camera choices you can use to enhance mood and emotion. Your will be beautiful while also supporting the overall objective of the project at a higher level.
It’s important to not only vary your shot size i.e CU, M, MCU etc. but to also think about the effects of using different angles. Try moving away from eye-level to create different moods, you should choose each angle for a reason because in film the choice is always deliberate.
If you want to give your subject or product some importance you can try shooting from below with the camera facing upwards. This makes your subject appear bigger and gives the subtle feeling of courage or strength. Crouch down below the subject, hold the camera above your head, climb stairs or use a tall tripod or ladder. Also, low angles can give your subjects a sinister look if exaggerated a bit, this works well to designate her/him as an antagonist or villain.
On the other hand, you can step up on a chair or ladder for a high angle shot. This can lend totally different character traits and make the subject seem vulnerable or weak.
If movement makes sense, you may need a Steadicam or a slider to limit the inherent shakiness, unless you’re working on a project in which the unsettling feeling that handheld movement gives makes sense, like The Blair Witch Project for example. If you’re interested in this handheld approach and you’d like to learn more about it I’d suggest looking into the filmmaking movement Dogme 95 in which the style is completely hand held and without tools or special effects.
Here we’ll talk about more traditional camera movements. Sometimes, a bit of a slow camera movement can add more to a locked scene. The best way to get this effect is to use a slider while following the action or movement.
If you have the ability to move in and drop down on a subject with a crane shot, for example, the viewer will feel like they’re entering the character’s space or mind frame. If you start close and then pull away, the viewer will get a feeling of how vulnerable the character is or how large the obstacle he/she is facing is. This is also a great way to reveal an unexpected surrounding.
A quick push-in will have a shocking effect, whereas a slow dolly-in creates tension and brings the viewer in closer to the character’s inner state. You can also dolly or tilt to reveal a change of facial expression mid-shot or to introduce a product.
You can also convey mood and emotion to the audience through the distance you place between the subject and the camera. Close-ups (CUs) are mainly used to show a character express emotion or communicate because they allow viewers to form a close attachment to the subject. You can also use wide shots to establish space. A wide shot is commonly used in the beginning of a scene or video to establish location.
You can also use changes in distance, mid-shot, to tell the audience something about your characters and/or their relationships. A long shot can establish a context or sense of place in the same way a wide shot can. Repeated use of long shots in a scene tends to stress setting over character.
The most commonly used is the medium shot (MS). It creates a balance between character and setting and usually emphasizes a character’s upper-body, arms, and head. The medium shot is a general, all-purpose shot.
Frame Composition and Background
We run into background choices a lot in corporate video production and sometimes this choice can make or break your production. Most filmmakers choose to go with a subtly colored background to reduce distractions, in this case, and while that approach has some merit, with some thought and effort, your backgrounds can be used as a tool.
Your background should give the viewer information about your subject or product.
Even the tiniest of clues, which may not say much to the viewer at first, can help to beef up your characters and the viewers’ understanding of them as you continue to tell your story.
You can also use symmetry in your framing, or the lack thereof, to clue the viewer in on the mood or context of the scene. Many filmmakers adhere to the basic rule of thirds, which suggests splitting the frame into three vertical and three horizontal sections and then placing subjects or other important elements at the intersections.
The bottom line is, you need to make informed decisions when it comes to the camerawork on your film or video projects and, in order to do that, you need to have a firm understanding of the effects that different compositions, distances, angles, movements, etc., will have on your audience.
These details can be overlooked and effect the quality of your project and if used incorrectly, they can detract from the message you’re trying to convey.
Evolve Media just got back from LA where we produced a series of commercials with Alyson Hannigan and Jockey’s Skimmies. The four humorous spots were directed by Glenn Clements (Daily Show, Jay Leno Show). The series features Alyson Hannigan running to the rescue of women with embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions armed with a pair of Skimmies! You can read more about the campaign here at #SavedBySkimmies.
Our new clients, New York-based ad agency Laird + Partners, hired us to get in there and produce the series. We got the call and shot the project fifteen days later. Alyson Hannigan is hilarious, she made our job easy. The Evolve producers on the ground in LA were Marc Solomon, Marc Levy and Michael Mattes. Come behind the scenes to watch Evolve and Alyson Hannigan hard at work!
The team had a lot of fun shooting this commercial in Los Angeles. We cast the talent, except for Alyson and we’re really happy with the outcome. Casting last minute can be a daunting task without enough time to really sift through your best options for the project. Our talented team made sure we had solid talent to work with and Alyson Hannigan was a great lead.
Free Storyboard Templates for Filmmaking Projects
Wether you are trying to share your vision with your crew or a client it is always best to storyboard your script out in an organized template.
There is really no better way to portray the details of your shots than through a storyboard. While there are other important steps to take in planning your shots and production day, like creating a shot list or a detailed script, we believe a storyboard definitely has it’s place.
There are a few different ways to utilize a storyboard.
What is a storyboard?
A lot of the time a storyboard will have most of the information a cinematographer would need to shoot a specific shot. You can tell a document is a storyboard by identifying the squares on the page, these squares will contain your vision for each specific shot. In some big budget features there is a whole team of people working to create the most insanely detailed and stunning drawings to fill their storyboards. These can help to inspire the whole filmmaking process from the very beginning. In smaller production projects you can use stock photos to portray the framing information for your Director of Photography (DP), Cinematographer, Gaffer or set designer. Or if you feel confident in your stick figure drawing skills you can create the stills yourself. There is also the option to hire a specialized storyboard artist for your project and depending on budget and scope you can get a really great artist to help you visualize your story. You can expect to pay anywhere from 30.00-100.00 an hour for your artist, you can choose to illustrate your story in color or black and white. Below are a few examples:
In addition to these squares, storyboards often have important camera information like which lens to use, stabilization preferences, and a lighting diagram. Depending on the size and scope of your video project, a storyboard can be as simple as a collection of squares with scene numbers, or as advanced as a highly detailed diagram of the entire production layout. There are a few different templates out there, some more detailed than others. Below you can find a few places where you can get a free download of different storyboard templates if you want to create one on your own:
Shiva Kumar, senior producer for Evolve Media in NY recently directed and edited a feature length documentary titled Memory After Belsen. This film was written and produced by Shiva’s long time documentary production partner, Joshua M. Greene and executive produced by Henri Lustiger Thaler. Memory After Belsen premiered at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York on Nov. 20th to commemorate the approaching 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
The film follows the granddaughter of a survivor as she discovers the reality of her grandmother’s concentration camp experience. Her journey to Bergen-Belsen serves as a springboard for exploring issues of memory. Voices of leading scholars and educators contribute to this unique program on the future of Holocaust memory and how it is portrayed in contemporary culture through film, the arts, human rights initiatives and education.
Evolve Media and Clayton Douglas collaborated with Kumar on the look and feel of the film and provided key visual effects to enhance the mainstream appeal of Memory After Belsen. Memory After Belsen has been accepted by Discovery Education for distribution to classrooms nationwide. Evolve Media is currently working on negotiating distribution rights for the film for national and International release. The Huffington Post wrote about the film and touches on the subject of remembering the Holocaust after the survivors are gone.
Check out the trailer for a peek into the documentary.
Origins Project Trailor – New York’s Founders
Evolve has partnered up with Origins in New York to help create a series of projections, holograms and light sculptures of New York’s founders. Check out this Origins Project Trailer – New York’s Founders. The Founder’s life stories will be projected around Battery Park on buildings, fences, walls, airshafts, trees and the Hudson River. Accompanied by lively recordings based on the experiences of the early settlers, Origins will provide visitors with a dynamic step back in time to the beginnings of New Amsterdam/New York.
Meet some of New York’s (or New Amsterdam’s as it was called until 1664) early settlers:
American Indians – the original settlers of ‘Mannahatta’, or ‘Manahatouh’ in the Munsee language: ‘the place where we get bows’
Henry Hudson – (England) who dropped anchor in NY Harbor early September 1609 with his ship ‘Halve Maen’ (Half Moon)
Jan Rodrigues – (Dominican Republic) New York’s first non-native American settler
Asser Levy – (Poland or Germany) Jewish activist, merchant and a successful mediator
Manuel – (West coast of Africa) survivor of a public hanging, one of the first freed slaves in New York and a farmer on what is now Washington Square
AdriaenVan der Donck – (Dutch Republic) lawyer, landowner and activist, whose nickname ‘Jonker’ lives on in the name of the city of Yonkers
Griet Reyniers – (Dutch Republic) New Amsterdam’s infamous prostitute, wife of the Moroccan pirate Anthony van Salee
Petrus Stuyvesant – (Dutch Republic) New Amsterdam’s one-legged, powerful and last Governor
Margaretha van Varick – (Dutch Republic) a 17th century businesswoman
Jacob Leisler – (Germany) an influential business- and political figure who was pardoned shortly after being executed by the British.
Please contact us if you know of other historic characters who should be immortalized. Through their life-stories Origins Project Trailer – New York’s Founders celebrates New York, the amazing and diverse City of Opportunity.
From Sept. – Dec. of 2015 every night, from 7:00 pm to midnight, Battery Park will be transformed into a living open-air light exhibition. Visitors will come face to face with some of New York’s first settlers. Through their life stories we celebrate New York, originally called New Amsterdam, the enlightened and diverse city of opportunity. If you want a preview of this awesome project, check out this Origins Project Trailer – New York’s Founders video Shiva Kumar directed.
For more information on the enlightened Origins sponsor and partner benefits contact Evelyn Ellis or Gerard Jongerius.