DIGITAL FILMMAKING GUIDE 101
DIGITAL FILMMAKING GUIDE 101
1. BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Whether you are making a fiction film or a documentary about real life, the point of any film is to tell a story. In fictional films the story is created in advance as a script and told through actors. In documentary films, the story comes from the people you interview and from the places you have access to.
What to film?
The best way to choose a story or subject is to think of something you feel passionate about. If a subject fascinates you, you will be able to make it interesting for other people. Your passion will bring the subject to life.
Is it feasible?
Once you have an idea for your story or subject, find out if it’s possible to make it into a film. To do this, ask yourself questions like:
- Do I have enough time to shoot everything I want?
- Will I be able to find enough actors?
- Will I be able to access and film the locations and events I need in order to tell the story?
- Will I be able to find people to interview who can speak about my subject?
If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions, you are ready to begin!
2. USING A MOBILE PHONE CAMERA
Shooting your film on a mobile phone has a lot of advantages. With a pocket-sized camera you have the mobility and freedom to go anywhere you want. Because mobile phone cameras are quick and easy to set up, you can capture action right as it happens. Let’s get started!
All cameras will need to be turned to ‘video mode’ before filming can begin. This can usually be done by selecting the ‘options’ or ‘menu’ button on the phone and scrolling down from ‘camera mode’ to ‘video mode’.
How to hold the cell phone
- Locate the camera lens. Be careful not to touch or cover the lens with your hands.
- Hold the phone firmly, using two hands
- Always hold the camera straight – do not let either side drop downwards
- Be careful not to block the mic with your fingers
- Always hold the camera still
- Try not to move or shake the camera while you are shooting
3. RECORDING SHOTS
A film is constructed from a series of individual shots. There are several different types of camera shots, and each one has unique effect on the audience and a specific purpose in the film.
In a Wide Shot, the audience can see the subject’s entire body. Wide Shots are used:
- To show locations and landscapes which tell us more about the subject, or to situate the subject in their environment
- To show action that is important to the subject
A Mid Shot shows some part of the subject in more detail, usually showing them from the waist up. Mid shots are used:
- To focus on something in particular
- When we want to show gestures or a bit of movement
- To deliver information when the subject is not showing too much emotion
- For interviews, but only when using a microphone
In a Close-up a certain part of the subject takes up most of the frame, usually their face. Close-ups are used:
- For all interviews without a microphone
- When we want to show the emotion on a person’s face
- To draw the audience in to the story When we want to show great detail
4. ESTABLISHING SHOTS & CUT-AWAYS
Using a variety of shots will make your film more interesting and can also provide important information to the audience. Here are two important shots to use in your film.
Establishing shots are tell the audience where the following scene is taking place and/or who is participating. They can be used to mark transitions between locations, speakers, and time. We use establishing shots:
- To identify the subject and location of a scene
- To give information about the environment
- To set the mood
If you saw this establishing shot in a film, what would you know about the location and the action that will follow?
A Cut-away is a shot of something other than the current speaker or action. They are used to illustrate something a person is speaking about, to adjust the pace of the film, to visually engage your audience, and/or as a buffer between shots. We use cut-aways:
- To provide a visual illustration during an interview or dialogue
- To give the audience more information about your subject
- To make your film more intriguing and interesting
- To cover up the places where you have removed footage you don’t want to use
- To interrupt a very long shot
- What do you think came before this cutaway?
5. TIPS FOR SHOOTING ON A MOBILE PHONE
Because are small and easy to use, mobile phones are a great tool for making short-films. Here are some tips to make the most of your mobile phone camera and get the best shots possible.
Avoid the Zoom
While the zoom button is an easy tool for getting a close-up, the image will often appear grainy and pixilated. For the best close-ups, move closer to your subject instead of using the zoom.
Silence is Golden
Try to film in a location that does not have a lot of background noise. Unless you have an external mic, your mobile phone will record all the sounds around you. Remember, the closer you are to your subject, the better your mic will pick up their voice.
Find Your Light
The best shots are filmed in well-lit locations. If you are shooting indoors create as much light as possible by turning on lamps and opening windows. Always be sure that the light is shining on your subject’s face. If the light is behind your subject, they will appear in shadow.
Steady as you go
Hold the camera as still as possible while recording. If you want to pan, make sure to move slowly and steadily. This will avoid blurry, jittery footage.
6. TRANSFERRING VIDEO FILES TO YOUR COMPUTER
Now that you are done filming, it’s time to move the files onto your computer so you can start editing. There are two quick and easy ways to do this.
To use this method you will need a USB cable.
- Connect the cable from the phone to the computer
- Create a new folder for your video files on your desktop and give it a memorable name
- Go to ‘My Computer’ and double click on the phone icon. Or you can double click the phone icon on the desktop
- Open the folder on the phone that contains your video files. Select the video files you would like to transfer
- Either: Copy the video files and paste them into the new folder on your desktop
- or: Drag the video files from the phone icon to the folder on your desktop
This method does not use any cables to transfer files.
- Make sure bluetooth is activated in the phone and on the computer. This can be done by opening the ‘Network Settings’ folder or similar.
- Open the ‘Video’ folder on the phone and select the video file you want to transfer.
- Press the ‘options’ button or similar.
- Select ‘send via bluetooth’.
- Choose the computer you to which you would like to transfer the video file.
- If the phone asks for a password key in order to ‘pair’ with the device, type in a simple combination of numbers such as 0000. You will then be asked to enter the same password key on the computer. Type the same number.
- Press ‘send’ on the phone.
- Press ‘accept’ on the video file which has appeared on the computer.
- When the file has downloaded, open it and save it.
7. EDITING USING WINDOWS MOVIE MAKER
Most computers come with free video editing software installed. Here we show you how to edit using Windows Movie Maker, which can be found on almost any PC.
What is Editing?
Editing is when you take shots you have recorded and put them in the order you want them to be in. It is like cutting up material to make clothes – you cut the shots to the size you want them, and then stitch them together in the order you would like them to go. In the end you have a film.
Importing shots into Windows Movie Maker
- In the MENU bar, click ‘Import Media’
- Browse the folder that contains your footage and any music you want to include. Select the files, or hold CTL down to select multiple files.
- Click ‘Import’
- In the MEDIA/ CONTENTS pane, select ‘Imported Media’. You will see thumbnails for all your video clips.
It is a good idea to rename your files so you can find the shots you need quickly while editing
Tips for Renaming:
- Use the shot number
- Use abbreviations. If the character’s name is Jonathan, use ‘J’ or ‘Jon’
- Say what type of shot it is – – mid / wide / c/u
Moving shots onto the timeline
The timeline is where you construct your film. To place a file into the timeline, just select the file you want and then drag it to where you want it to go on the timeline. You can select the files from the timeline afterwards and drag them over to other parts if you wish. You can also delete them from the timeline by right clicking and selecting remove from timeline/delete.
- Use the buttons ‘Next Frame’ and ‘Previous Frame’ to get to the exact frame where you want to split the clip. The frame that is being displayed on the screen will be the first frame in the new clip.
- Press the ‘Split’ button at the bottom of the player.
- Click the mouse-arrow on the part of the shot that you do not want to keep
- Right click on the mouse Scroll up and click on ‘Delete’ – that part of the shot will disappear
- Click on the part of the shot you would like to use and drag it to the place on the timeline you would like it to be.
Effects and Transitions
There are a lot of different effects and transitions you can use in Windows Movie Maker. You may wish to experiment with some of them until you find the one best suited for your film.
1. An effect changes the way a shot looks, and gives it a specific feeling. For example, you can use effects to change the colour, brightness, or sharpness of the shot.
Examples of effects like this are:
- Brightness Increase – this makes the shot brighter
- Sepia Tone – this makes the shot yellow, giving it an older feel
To Add and Effect:
- Click ‘Effects’ under the ‘Edit’ section of the MENU.
- Select the effect you want
- Find the frame you want the effect to start on in the PLAYER
- Drag the effect onto the frame in the PLAYER
2. An effect between shots is called a transition. This type of effect can make the edit smoother and can also add to the mood of the film.
Examples of effects like this are:
- Fade to Black – the shot will become black before the next shot plays
- Ease In – the shot will appear slowly on the screen
- Fade Out, To White – the shot will disappear slowly and the screen will become white
- Star, Five Point – the incoming video clip will appear as small stars that expand to cover the outgoing video clip
To add Transitions:
- Click ‘Transitions’ under the ‘Edit’ section of the MENU.
- Click the transition you want to use and drag it to the box between the two shots on the TIMELINE
- You will be able to see the transition in the PREVIEW MONITOR window.
Titles and Credits
A Title is the name you give to your film. You may wish to include the name of your school or, if you have a production company, the name of your company.
The Credits are the names of all the people who made the film. This includes the Director, the Producer, the Actors, the Script-writer, the Camerawomen and Cameramen – everyone!
To make Titles and Credits:
- Click on the ‘Titles or credits’ tab under the ‘Edit’ section of the MENU
- Click on the place where you would like the title or the credits to be
- Write the title or the credits in the box
- To change the font and color for your title, click ‘Change the text font and color’, and then choose the font, color, background color, size, and position of your liking.
- Click on ‘Done, add title to movie’
- The title or credits will appear in the relevant place on the Timeline
Exporting your final film
Congratulations! You have completed your very own mobile phone short film! Now you should export it from Windows Movie Maker so that you can burn it onto a DVD or upload it online.
- Under the ‘Publish to’ tab in the TASKS pane, click ‘This Computer’
- In the ‘File Name’ box, type the name of your film
- In the ‘Publish to’ choose where you want to save your movie. The Desktop is easiest
- Choose the settings you want to use to publish your movie.
- Choose to publish your film as an Audio-Video Interleaved (AVI) file if you want to upload it online or play it on a device that does NOT support Windows Media Player.
- Choose Windows Media Video (WMV) file if you want to burn your file to DVD or play your movie in Windows Media Player.
- The quality for each setting generally falls into one of three categories: high-quality, goodquality, and medium-quality.
- Click ‘Publish’. Your film will now appear on the Desktop.
8. TIPS FOR EDITING
Like most things, editing takes a bit of practice. Here are some tips to get you started!
Edit in Stages
Chances are you will have a lot more footage than you need for your final film. Follow these three steps to trim it down to a solid final film.
Start with an Assembly
Don’t worry about the length of your film or using any effects. Just create the structure by finding the beginning, middle, and end of your story.
Do a Rough Cut
Tighten up the film. Look at each shot and ask “Is this moving the story forward?” If it’s not, cut it. Start to add in your establishing shots and cut-aways.
Do a Fine Cut
This is where you make difficult but necessary decisions. Leave only the most powerful shots and those that are relevant to the story. Shorten your shots. Remember, you can cut from one thing to another very quickly and the audience will still understand what is happening.
9. SHARING YOUR FILM
Now that you are an accomplished filmmaker, there are plenty of ways to share your film with the world!
1. Arrange a screening
Invite your friends and family over to watch your film. Or, if you want to reach a wider audience, look for a local movie theatre, gallery, or community centre that has Short Film screening nights. Put up flyers around town and use your Facebook or MySpace page to let people know about it!
2. Put it online
The Internet is a great place to distribute your work to people all over the world for free. Upload your film to YouTube or Vimeo and share the link with all your friends on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Embed your film on filmmaking websites and blogs.
3. Submit your film to festivals
Film festivals are a great opportunity to reach wider audiences and make connections with other filmmakers. Go to www.fest21.com to find festivals anywhere in the world. Submit your film to festivals through Withoutabox (www.withoutabox.com), which offers some discounts on festival fees for students and young people.
If you send a link to your film to World Film Collective (firstname.lastname@example.org) we will post it on our website!
Keep moving, keep filming!