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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Making your films more interesting by using some simple techniques

Bismillah ar-Rahmaan ar-Raheem,

Space is with well-planned cutaways. A cutaway is a shot that quickly takes you away from the subject, allowing them to jump ahead in time and space. For example, it might take you two minutes to walk from your car to the mailbox and into the house.

You can shoot that same sequence in twenty seconds (or even much less) by getting a shot of your subject by following this sequence:

1. Shoot a shot of your subject opening the car door.
2. Cut away to her feet hitting the pavement.
3. Cut to a long shot of her closing the car door.
4. Cutaway to her dog barking and dancing in front of her (from her point of view).
5. Cut to a medium shot of her nearing the mailbox.
6. Cutaway to a close shot of her hand reaching inside and grabbing the mail (maybe even from inside the mailbox).
7. Cut to a medium shot as she walks and holds the mail up to the sun to peak at what’s inside.
8. Cut to a shot of her dog going through the doggy door.
9. Finally, cut to her opening the door and walking in.

Nine shots that condense time and space and tell a story in half the time it would take to shoot one long shot. Moreover, the piece is much more interesting for the viewer. You don’t even need to use all nine shots if you don’t want to, depending on how important the scene is to your movie. The secret to making this work is to maintain screen direction by always shooting on the same side of your subject (shoot from just their right or left side). You can also use neutral shots without direction, like the extreme close-ups of the mail or shots of the subject walking directly towards the camera.

We did something similar to this and demonstarted the difference between the "home movie" style vs. the cutaway style. Click HERE to read the post and watch the two video clips

Condensing Time and Space: In-Camera Dissolves
By using the following camera techniques, you can actually condense time and space. In other words, turn something that usually takes hours, days or weeks into a series of believable shots that take seconds. While condensing time and space techniques usually use an editing system’s dissolves and wipes, you can create very nice substitutes right in your camera.

To create a dissolve-type transition, tightly focus on your subject and slowly defocus. Then, pause the camera and change subjects. Now, hit record and slowly bring your new subject into focus. If you are careful to defocus your subjects so that nothing is readily recognizable, the resulting effect will seamlessly fit together. The closer the color, shape and lighting, the more seamless the transition will appear.

A variation of that same shot begins with a zoom in to the subject and defocusing the camera before you get to your desired close up. Then, pause your camera, set your next shot up, tightly zoomed in on your subject and defocused. Finally, hit the record button and slowly zoom out while refocusing the shot. This shot works extremely well if it is focused on the same object to create the sense of a passage of time.

Natural Wipes
Wipes are another way to condense time and space. One interesting natural wipe uses a pan-to-still shot. To do this unique wipe, pan your camera with the subject until he passes behind a large object such as a wall, post or other object. Stop your pan when the subject disappears behind the object (i.e. the object is between the camera and the subject) and pause your camera. Set up your next shot, hit record and pan with your subject as he reappears from behind the obstruction wearing new clothes or looking like he’s aged ten years.

You can also create a wipe using a large moving object as well. You can create a wipe-in by panning with your subject until they are totally obscured by a large object, such as a truck or bus moving in the opposite direction. When the subject is fully covered, pause tape, go to a later shot in the scene and the wipe effectively allows you to jump ahead in time and space. A wipe-out is exactly the opposite. For this shot, you begin with your subject hidden by the large moving object and then suddenly revealed. By combining these shots and using the same or similar objects, you can have your subject change location during the cut. The cut appears seamless if you carefully time the pause point and then record when the large object is in the same position and moving the same direction and speed.

Match Cuts
Match cuts are another way to convincingly condense time and space. To do this, you need two objects that are very similar such as two plates of food. In the first scene, you show the PERSON sitting in front of the television, its audio blaring into the night, competing with the sounds of a dog barking and someone having an argument nearby. On HIS lap is a paper plate with a half-eaten sandwich and a pickle. Cut to a shot of just the plate. Record for three seconds and then pause the tape. Set up your next scene: It’s a lavish dinner party. Cut to a shot of a shiny plate with a steak in place of the sandwich and asparagus spikes in place of the pickle. Shoot it for three seconds and then pause. Then record a long shot of the person enjoying his meal in the of the dinner party.

You can also create this series of shots using a pan and zoom in, pause, change scenes, record, zoom and pan out. The director of the animated movie Shrek used this technique effectively throughout the film.
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