SHOOT: don’t do what almost every film maker does when there starting out and start obsessing over gear. ‘Oh I need this to shoot this and I can’t do that shot with out this e.t.c.’ This cycle will never end so its good to snap out of it quickly. If you cant get the gear FIND A WAY AROUND IT. If its your first film then it’s probably not going to look brilliant, get over it everybody starts like that. Take the experience as a practice for that one big film your working towards, the one that’s going to really show of your creativity. Shoot regardless of anything, get the practice and once you have shot, don’t stop. Go out and shoot something random, practice with your camera, you need to get to know it like the back of your hand. STAY PASSIONATE!
COMPOSITION: Think very carefully about composition, the rule of thirds is generally the best rule to stick to but don’t just think about positioning your object or character, think about what it is your actually looking at. This includes all background elements, pay attention to this because a lot of beginners end up with their tripods in shot in the background at one stage or another. Use Shallow depth of field to your advantage, pull focuses and light flares look good and add real value to your production, try positioning your frame so the object or actors are against some lights in the far distance, open your Aperture and watch those light flares really illuminate your image. In the video below by Caleb Pike, along with Guy Silagi you get a nice introduction to some of these basic principles:
AUDIO : I cannot stress how important good audio is to your film making. An audience will normally tolerate bad video if the audio is clear, but never vice versa. Invest in external audio devices like the Zoom h4N, don’t just use your on-board mic. If you can, get lapel mics as well, these always come in handy and they pick up super crisp voice recording. As a rule always aim to get your audio levels peaking about three-quarters the way up your levels bar, and, it’s very good practice to pre-set 2 settings of audio when your out shooting in events e.t.c, the normal three-quarters setting and a setting about half that so you can quickly switch to this when things get loud all of a sudden.
GET CREATIVE: shoot your safety shots first (establishing shot, mid shot, close up) then if you have time get as creative as you can. Change angels, use the rule of thirds and make objects and lines within the frame draw your attention to your actor. Play around with camera moves, add in a slider movement or even go hand-held. Movement in a scene always makes the audience less board with what the are looking at. Get in close, don’t be afraid to get that super close up, it makes things personal and you can see that raw emotion. If you have to stick the camera right in their face then tough, it’s what you’ve got them there for in the first place.
LIGHTING: Today with all the amazing low light capabilities the new HDSLR’s feature, professional and carefully considered lighting is being considered a lot less important. This is bullcrap, before consumers could use low light and shallow depth of field to create depth to their images they relied on lighting. Lighting creates depth!. Consider it a tool for finishing the illusion you are trying to create, if your shooting a bar scene get the cheap LED light and throw a red gel on it to mimic a bar light, don’t get lazy and rely on the ‘natural light’ in the location. Exaggerate the lighting for important scene’s, by this I mean find a light source that is in the location and add a ‘kicker’ light to it, making it a more prominent light source in the scene. Use background lights like mentioned in the composition section above so you can make light flares. Always make sure your characters are the key focus point, properly exposing them and using three-point lighting and give them separation:
EDIT: learn to be an editor, even if you don’t plan on editing your film or you are a camera man for a different shoot, LEARN TO EDIT. This way when your filming your automatically editing in your brain, if your shooting something you can tell your self , ‘am I going to use this shot’ if not why?. When you learn to edit you learn what works well in film, what shots can match in a cut and the best way you can cover the content. There’s no point just keeping your camera rolling and rolling its just going to massively waste your time. Film your content as if you where shooting using film reel (very expensive), as a rule follow the three takes then your out rule, but, don’t leave something you’re not happy with and say stupid common terms like ‘fix it in post’. Do it right on set whilst your there and if its taking more than three takes consider going back to it, your probable just over covering the content.
I hope this post has given you enough confidence to go out and start shooting, feel free to post you video’s to me by following me on twitter . I regularly update my Films section with my monthly picks and I would happily consider your films.