Neszis' Top Ten Ways to Make Your Fanfilm Look Professional (for those on a budget)

Discussion in 'Fan Films, Fan Audio & SciFi 3D' started by Neszis, Aug 16, 2002.

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  1. Neszis Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 23, 2001
    star 4
    Now, I'm no professional, but someone asked me a question about how to make their fanfilm look professional. It seems the topic is has been coming up a lot recently, so I wrote up what I knew. Here you go!

    Actually, it was a year ago, so I actually didn't get my movie to stop looking like a home movie, but Ive learned a LOT since then. I used a VHS-C POS camera :).

    Here are some hints that have worked WONDERFULLY for me.

    1. Have a MiniDV camera. The higher quality makes it much better.
    2. If you need to, make a checklist of things to make sure to do before taking a shot. Compose your shot well.
    3. Take off auto focus. Just dont forget to focus every time.
    4. Take off auto exposure, and any ProgramAE (AutoExposure) controls you may have. Do exposure manually, and set it a little darker than normal. This gives it a nice "Lord of the Rings" look where the shadows and light have clearly defined edges...I LOVE this look.
    5. White balance is a difficult topic, but you must do it well. If you dont have a manual white balance, make sure to set up your auto or programmed white balances PERFECTLY. Sometimes I like to leave it on the tungsten light neutralizer (AKA Indoors setting) to give it a bluish tint. It also looks kind of cool. But be careful how you try to use it creatively. If you do something on purpose for an effect and it doesnt come out right, it will look ameteur rather than cool.
    6. Widescreen. Make sure you have a true 16:9 ratio on your camera as opposed to simply putting the bars on.
    7. Camera and Lens are extemely crucial parts of this, but normally there isnt much worry over that. I would HIGHLY recommend a Sony from B&H Video, it is the best deal you can get for the best camera. Shy away from JVC or no name companies if possible, unless you are on a very tight budget. You will get tired of the limitations of these brands VERY fast. As for lens, try not to go for the one the camera came with; they tend to be shoddy. The lens can possibly make the biggest difference in picture quality. I like Carl-Zeiss, but there are MANY options.
    8. Lighting is a field I am not very experienced in, but I can try. Lighting also makes a HUGE difference in your picture quality. Dont go to huge lengths to light your movie unless you're going for total professionalism, though. There is no need for 800 dollar lights, but Flashlights wont do, either. Get a nice halogen light or two, then practice with hues and fluctuating lighting by using gels (light coloring) or a much cheaper alernative of reflecting the light off of a material the color you want the light to be. Trust me, it works. Put a red folder angled so the light hits it and bounces off like mirror onto your subject, and you WILL get that hue. Try other sources of lighting as well, such as computer monitors with whatever color you need (for darker scenes). Lighting in the dark is quite easy and fun, and also makes a very cool shot for your movie. This is an aspect of the professionalism area that the audience probably wont notice if you do it right and will completely notice and hate you if you do it wrong.
    9. This have to do with video quality, but is important nonetheless. Buy a microphone, you will not regret it. Get an external mic; the internal ones tend to pick up the sounds of the camera. If you have enough people or too many people that want to have a part, have one of them be a grip to operate the boom if you can get that kind of mic. Research it well; the mic quality can make or break the movie's realism. This is another thing that if you do it well the audience won't notice and if you do it badly they most definitely WILL.
    10. Get a stabilizer. Tere are two types I would recommend; a tripod or a steadycam. I would actually recommend having both handy. You cannot have a shaky video and still look professional. For a tripod, make sure it is fluidhead (not has a fluid Level on top, although that is also VERY handy) because tripods that arent fluidhead ha
  2. Animaster Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 12, 2001
    star 4
    Sweet Neszis! This is pretty cool. A helpful resource to most people, noobs and veterans alike.

    But the widescreen one bothers me. I really don't think that widescreen is needed to make a film look professional, it's up to the director. But if you do choose to go wide in a film and your camera is regulary standard TV size, it's best to plan out the shots in the widescreen, but shoot it in 4:3 or what have you and then crop it in post. This way, you have much more control over you shot compared to using a 16:9 feature on your camera or just adding black bars.
  3. Golden-Y Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 18, 2000
    star 3
    Has a film ever been filmed at 4:3? Just wondering.

    And cropping it in post is what I would also recommend. Because 16:9 isn't "Star Wars" widescreen ;) , it's 2.35:1.
  4. Animaster Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 12, 2001
    star 4
    I meant in fanfilms, in which most have been filmed with consumer cameras at regular TV resolution (4:3). There haven't been many professional Hollywood films filmed in Consumer 4:3 MiniDV cameras that we have access to, with the exception of Full Frontal, which was shot on (beleive it or not) an XL1!

    But enough of what I have to say...
  5. darth_kohai Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 30, 2001
    star 3
    I think the old silent movies were 4x3, or close.

    I agree about doing the 16x9 thing in post. Since most cameras we can afford have 4x3 CCDs, there's no difference in quality, and you can adjust up/down framing in post, too. Just put a guide on your monitor during shooting so you know approximately where the final frame will be.
  6. FX_guy Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2002
    star 3
    I think the old silent movies were 4x3, or close.

    Wow. Your education is not complete, young Jedi's... :)

    Movies (with a very few rare exceptions) were all 4:3 (or 1.33:1 if you prefer) until the '50's. That's why television is 1:33, it simply used the same aspect ratio of film.

    All the various flavors of widescreen were developed in the 1950's, in order to offer audiences a "bigger" viewing experience at the theater... because too many people were staying home watching television. :)

    (Not long ago, I saw a newsgroup posting bemoaning the lack of a "widescreen" DVD version of the 1933 King Kong... pretty amusing, since there ain't no such animal and never was.)

    ANYway, back to the actual topic -

    I propose an expansion of Tip #9 (good microphone) to the more all-encompassing "have good sound". Good mic's, good mic placement, good recording, good sound fx, and good mixing are vital to the overall effect of a film. As stated above, a great looking movie with a crummy audio track is much harder to watch than the other way 'round.
  7. Neszis Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 23, 2001
    star 4
    Quite true of the 16:9 thing, Animaster, but I was saying for those who may think that they film in widescreen (so they dont cut anything off and have all things in the shot etc.) just to make sure that if they choose to film in wide, it is TRUE 16:9 as opposed to just black bars over the video.

    Also, very good point about the good sound, but I was just giving a general top 10. I also said that 16:9 would HELP make it look more professional as opposed to 4:3. I mean, I prefer the wide DVD over the fullscreen, and when you have a QT file that opens in 16:9 as opposed to 4:3 and play it in total fullscreen, you think "I'm at the movies" more than something that looks like its ratio came right from the camera, you know?

    ~Neszis~

    ~Neszis~
  8. Darth_Gehenna Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 2, 2001
    star 3
    Old films were in 1.33:1 (3:4 or whatever it is). Then Television came along, so to get the film audiences back Panavision was created. Seven Samurai is 1.33:1 I believe.
  9. darthdastoli Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 4, 2000
    star 3
    French director Abel Gance demonstrated a wide screen process in his 1927 film 'Napoleon.' The emphasis on sound limited other technological advances in the 20's (although Technicolor was used in the 20's for example, certain scenes in Ben-Hur 1925). During the 50s movie attendance steadily decreased because of television. In 1953 and 54 there was a brief upswing when the industry introduced wide screen processes such as CinemaScope and Cinerama. CinemaScope was developed by Fox. It is the CinemaScope extension by Alfred Newman that is played while Lucasfilm appears in front of the Star Wars films. Obviously, Fox didn't want to give away their technology to other studios, so Warner Brothers developed VistaVision. Cinerama is an interesting one. It was used in How the West was Won. I belive it has three seperate cameras that are arranged in a semi-cirle. I have only seen it on television where you can see the lines in between the three seperate screens and there is a lot of distortion, like when someone walks across the screen, they get larger in the middle.
  10. EagleIFilms Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 6, 2001
    star 5
    Has a film ever been filmed at 4:3

    Yeah, aside from old film, James Cameron likes to film in 3:4, but it slips my mind at the moment which films he's done that with. Termonator is one, I think.
  11. Neszis Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 23, 2001
    star 4
    Can we keep this on the topic at hand? Not to be commanding...just want to keep it on topic.

    ~Neszis~
  12. Neszis Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 23, 2001
    star 4
    Is there a reason this died so fast? A lot of people post on "getting rid of the video look" and so I posted this to help...doesnt seem like anyone wants it anymore. :(

    ~Neszis~
  13. EagleIFilms Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 6, 2001
    star 5
    Another thing to do to make your movie look professional is:

    USE A STEADICAM

    Don't have the $600 to cough up? Then use the $14 steadicam!!

    I'm gonna build one very soon, but by the video the guy made, it can make some darn smooth video!
  14. Neszis Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 23, 2001
    star 4
    EagleI...look at step 10 :).

    ~Neszis~
  15. EagleIFilms Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 6, 2001
    star 5
    Yeah, yeah. So you say.

    I guess this is the thread I found the link.

    But still, it needed to be highlighted. NO MORE STILL SHOTS OR JUMPY HANDHELDS!! Yay!!!
  16. Neszis Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 23, 2001
    star 4
    Actually, Eagle, ibuilt one of them ,and i can say that either I dont know what Im doing or something is flawed. I get VERY smooth in every direction but roll (y axis). It seems to jerk that way about every second. I modified it heavily but I still cant figure it out. They key is in the sideways handle, I think, but the counterweight is gonna be difficult.

    ~Neszis~
  17. DarthVader79 San Francisco FF Chapter Rep

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Jun 16, 2001
    star 4
  18. Lord_Homer Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 30, 2002
    star 4
    I love you too ;) ;) [face_shocked] [face_plain] [face_plain] :p
  19. EagleIFilms Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 6, 2001
    star 5
    You're not getting my Bud Lite.
  20. lokmer Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 15, 2000
    star 4
    Stanley Kubrick was a big fan of 4x3. Dr. Strangelove, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, and Lolita were all shot 4x3 and intended eventually for 4x3 presentation. Spartacus, Paths of Glory, and 2001 were all shot widescreen. His theory (and it bears out) is that 4x3 is more intimate, and gets under the skin quicker, where widescreen is more grandiose and is more appropriate for spectacle films.

    As far as movement, eagleI said:
    "But still, it needed to be highlighted. NO MORE STILL SHOTS OR JUMPY HANDHELDS!! Yay!!!"

    Now, not to put to fine a point on it, but you are so full of it it's coming out your ears. Judicious use of steadicam is very nce, as is judicious use of crane. But static, pans, zoom, and dollies are the basis of good filmmaking. If you can't tell a compelling story with those, you ain't gonna make it. Now, if you can, and you add the steadicams/cranes/etc, you're going to look good. And, handleld shots by a skilled operator are much more versatile than steadicam. The floating of a steadicam conveys certain feelings, and to use it just for the hell of it is quite amateurish. Trick shots with poor content are the hallmark of a DP that grew up watching MTV and The Matrix, not someone who's studied the art.

    Go back and watch the original Star Wars, you'll notice that there are very few moving shots (I think there were 10 or so dolly shots and one crane in the entire original version of the movie, not including the space battle sequences), and no steadicam work. Did that make it unprofessional? Not in the least. The content was good, the composition was good, and the editing was good, and that's how you tell a story. It's much better to understand the rules of art (lighting, depth, composition) than it is to use a steadicam. Art history and theory is basic to all cinematography and photography.

    That's what makes your camera technique look professional, not the moves or the steadicam.


    -Lokmer
  21. EagleIFilms Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 6, 2001
    star 5
    His theory (and it bears out)

    I disagree. I don't like 1:1.33, I feel that widescreen draws me into the film.

    But, that's just my opinion. I have disagreed with Kubrick on many occasions, so this doesn't nessesarily suprise me.
  22. lokmer Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 15, 2000
    star 4
    You may not like 4:3, I generally perfer widescreen myself. But the human mind takes a 4x3 image in a different way than a widescreen image. It interprets 4x3 as more immediate, more quantifiable, and more intimate. It takes 16x9 and wider as more immersive and engrossing. These are basic art principles based on centuries of observation of the perceptive state of human beings. Even back to the old artworks, landscapes were almost always done in "widescreen" canvas, portraits on something more approximating a square. One subject should be immersive, the other should be intimate. That's what I meant by "the theory bears out."
    -Lokmer
  23. EagleIFilms Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 6, 2001
    star 5
    As far as movement, eagleI said:
    "But still, it needed to be highlighted. NO MORE STILL SHOTS OR JUMPY HANDHELDS!! Yay!!!"

    Now, not to put to fine a point on it, but you are so full of it it's coming out your ears. Judicious use of steadicam is very nce, as is judicious use of crane. But static, pans, zoom, and dollies are the basis of good filmmaking. If you can't tell a compelling story with those, you ain't gonna make it. Now, if you can, and you add the steadicams/cranes/etc, you're going to look good. And, handleld shots by a skilled operator are much more versatile than steadicam. The floating of a steadicam conveys certain feelings, and to use it just for the hell of it is quite amateurish. Trick shots with poor content are the hallmark of a DP that grew up watching MTV and The Matrix, not someone who's studied the art.


    Well, you edited your post after I responded, so I need to respond again.

    While I'm tempted to go running to a moderator for your flaming, I will not. I will simply overlook that part, and respond to the later portion.

    Judicious use of steadicam is very nce, as is judicious use of crane. But static, pans, zoom, and dollies are the basis of good filmmaking.

    I agree. But my films today are just tripod shot after tripod shot, and the feeling of it is quite boring.

    Steadicams allow for smooth movement, movement that feels like a static shot, but lets the actor move a little, and the camera to move with him.

    While it is true that static shots are needed in some cases, as are handheld shots (and dollies and pans and cranes and (ough) zooms), sometimes the camera needs to move smoothly. And at the moment, all I can do is pick up the camera and do a rather jumpy handheld shot, when I really want a smooth shot. And that's all I was referring to with my (I admit) rather newbie-sounding post. I was just rather happy that another tool would be added to my aresenal to tell me story.

    No, I'm not saying every film should feature long, sweeping steadicam shots (ala KnightQuest), what I'm saying is that when I need the camera to move, I won't have to jury rig an office chair or have a shaky handheld shot.

    I'm suprised that you hold so little faith in me, lokmer. I know a lot about film-making for my 3 years I've been looking into it, obviously more than you give me credit for.
  24. lokmer Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 15, 2000
    star 4
    Knowledge and understanding are two different things. Your first reply belied your true intent, so I was responding to what sounded like a sweeping statement. Now that you've nuanced it, it makes more sense and does more credit to your knowledge and understanding :) Thanks for the clarification :)
    -Lokmer
  25. Lukesfilm Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 17, 2002
    star 1
    Here's another steadicam idea!


    It is for the XL1, but I am sure than it would work for any other camcorder, once the weight balance was sorted out!

    http://www.videouniversity.com/xlstablz.htm
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