There are a variety of different ways to build tension in a film. Learn how to properly introduce sound and visuals to an audience and you’ll have tight control over their attention. Let’s take a look at four techniques in particular from Jennifer Kent’s 2014 film Babadook that will keep viewers in anticipation of what’s coming next.
A perfect introduction to the world of suspense, the film focuses on Amelia, a widow struggling to raise her unruly six-year-old son, Samuel. Grappling with grief, insomnia, and depression, Amelia is only further distressed when Samuel begins to complain of a monster hiding in his room. When a sinister children's book mysteriously shows up on Samuel’s bookshelf, however, Amelia begins to question her own sanity. The first hour of the Babadook succeeds at slowly building tension through a variety of different methods. Let's take a closer look at these methods.
Making a movie is like making a good stew. Sure, that may not be the first analogy you’d jump to while racking your filmmaking ethos, but for Robert Schwartzman director of The Unicorn, one of 2018’s best comedies, it just makes sense.
Every good stew requires fresh ingredients. Your cast and crew are the meat and potatoes. But that stew can't just be about the ingredients. Without the proper mixture, it would just be a bunch of vegetables. You've got balance them out in a way so the flavors come together as a harmonious whole. And that’s the real job of the director. They’re the head chef. The captain.
Filmmaking might be a creative art form, but it's also incredibly technical, which can be pretty intimidated for those who are taking their first dive into the process. If you're new to filmmaking, especially if you're inexperienced at working with cameras, a good place to start is boning up on all the essential camera terminology. In this video, the team over at Apalapse goes over 25 key terms that will help you hit the ground running when it comes time to shoot. Check it out below:
Granted, this is super basic stuff, so if you're an experienced filmmaker you can probably skip this article. However, this is going to be an essential lesson for beginners who don't know much, if anything, about important concepts like the "Three Pillars of Photography" (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO), depth of field and bokeh, and dynamic range.
Who is your favorite cinematic father? Empathetic and troubled George Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life? Goofy and selfish Clark Griswold from National Lampoon's Vacation? Regal and courageous Mufasa from The Lion King? If you're like me, you gravitate toward on-screen dads that remind you of either your own real-life dad or your closest parental figure, whether they play the hero or the villain. (My dad is equal parts Atticus Finch and Vito Corleone.)
So, on this glorious Father's Day, let's take a closer look at one of the most complex father figures in film, Marlin, the anxiety-ridden helicopter parent in Pixar's Finding Nemo. In this video essay, ScreenPrism explores how the overprotective clownfish overcomes his many fears to not only save his son from certain death but to also become the father he needs him to be.
If you have any experience working in Adobe Premiere Pro, or any NLE for that matter, the crop tool is probably something that you're at least somewhat familiar with. You might traditionally use it to zoom in on your footage a bit or even change the aspect ratio of your frame, but there's actually a lot of really cool things you can do with this effect that you might've never heard about before.
In this video, Jordy Vandeput of Cinecom goes over five creative ways you can use the crop tool to make your edits more creative and dynamic, from animating text to creating sleek transitions. Check it out below:
While Vandeput certainly shows you how to pull off a handful of great effects, there is a myriad of interesting things you can do with the crop tool inside of Premiere Pro. His tutorial will not only provide you with a few new tricks that you can bust out the next time you work on a project but it will also, hopefully, get your creative juices flowing so you can come up with your own ideas on how to use the crop tool in more creative ways.
Night exteriors pose unique lighting challenges to cinematographers. Not only do they have to paint light on the blank canvas that is darkness but they also have to mimic the look and feel of the moon, a light source that is often not powerful enough to produce a decent exposure. If you're unsure of how to approach a nighttime shoot, you should check out this video from Aputure. In it, Ted Sim talks with DP Julia Swain as she details her lighting process and techniques, from how to recreate moonlight to taking advantage of practicals.
Because there aren't really any hard and fast rules about lighting, not all DPs are going to light a scene in the same way. However, Swain's three different lighting setups can give you a great primer on exterior night shots, as well as a great place to start your education on how to light them. She demos a "bare moonlight" setup, moonlight with practicals, and finally, just practicals, which introduces you to some of the most common and important concepts in lighting night exteriors.
It's difficult to define what makes an image "good". Is it the composition? The lighting? The use of color and texture and depth? The answer is yes to all of that—and so much more, not the least of which, as some would argue, resolution. As the industry standard continues to get higher and higher, with 4K making way for 8K and beyond, many filmmakers have no doubt wondered about the correlation between high-quality images and resolution, including DP Geoff Boyle, who in this interview with Cooke Optics TV, expressed his stance on the debate in one of the more colorful ways we've seen.
"Don't worry about the color space, don't worry about the resolution, just worry about the images."
While many films that could be called "war films" depend on loudness—in imagery, dialogue, and action—to get their ideas across, The Yellow Birds is not one of those films. Based on Kevin Powers' novel of the same name, Alexandre Moors's debut feature grapples with the Iraq war, PTSD, romantic attraction, dishonesty, and fragile masculinity, among other subjects, and yet it maintains an even keel throughout, moving us through without ever seeming too frantic, even when its characters are in the midst of battle.
Tye Sheridan, Alden Ehrenreich, Toni Colette, Jennifer Aniston and many others give mature performances here, as inpiduals wrestling with vast problems. The story hinges on the disappearance of an earnest young soldier, Murph (Sheridan) and his close comrade's (Ehrenreich) knowledge of that disappearance, as well as the fallout with the soldiers' respective families. Despite its intricate storyline, one gets the sense that the loss here is meant to be more existential.
David Lynch has inspired more articles on this site than almost any other filmmaker. His uncompromising vision and twisted cinematic tales have had us breaking down his aesthetic choices, eagerly anticipating the return of Twin Peaks, and, of course, obsessively theorizing about Mullholland Drive. But it wasn't until last year's documentary David Lynch: The Art Life that we really started to get to know Lynch as a person, and understand where those dark fantasies emerged from.
[Writer's Note: This article contains Season Two spoilers.]
Few shows shift tone as much as Atlanta did in its second season. Earn (Donald Glover), Alfred "Paper Boi" (Brian Tyree Henry) and Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) all reappear in a story arc that feels a lot like dread. For returning cinematographer Christian Sprenger it meant developing new color treatments, framing rules and visual styles that reflected the storyline's darker mood. From "Alligator Man" and "Teddy Perkins" to "FUBU", the DP breaks down the methodology behind the episodes.
"Nothing is off limits–anything that can improve the story should be part of the conversation."
NFS: Series can find themselves in a sophomore slump. Did you hesitate to return to Atlanta?
Vimeo has crowned its first animated champion. The Vimeo Staff Pick Award took its act to Animafest Zagreb in Croatia last week where they awarded Rachel Gutgarts a shiny new piece of hardware for her short A Love Letter to the One I Made Up.
The film begs the question, does the '"perfect" partner exist or can they only live on in our dreams? A Vimeo curator explained that it's the way Gutgarts crafts her film, "utilizing repetitive images, carefully chosen words and a limited, but deliberate color palette," that drew the team to A Love Letter.
"This short film explores the recesses of our need for connection and our most seductive relationship fantasies. Poignant and frustrating, this abstract and painstakingly animated silkscreened piece manages to be immediate, meditative, and fleeting all at once," they expanded.
The Flies Collective is a production company and storytelling collaborative, including the likes of Daniel Patrick Carbone, Matthew Petock, Zachary Zedd, and Jordan Bailey-Hoover. They make films. They are also offering a grant for the second year in a row so you can make films, too.
"Like most filmmakers, we split our time between our passion projects and the work that pays the bills," Flies Collective told No Film School. "We’ve been fortunate in both areas and collectively realized a while back that we wanted to do more to support the work of other independent filmmakers. We thought financially supporting projects in need was the most direct way we could have a tangible impact on filmmakers we believe in. So many people have helped us over the past decade, from sage advice, to donated meals, to crew members working for no pay — looking back, it’s pretty amazing how much of a family our little filmmaking community is. We wanted to do our part to help foster the work of others in the family."
"My wife has one of those. She loves it."
"A 360 camera?"
"No, an Instant pot!"
I was holding in my hands the Insta360, the hot new 360-degree camera that everyone was talking about, and of the two filmmakers who happened to be around while I was opening its shipping package, one was more impressed that it had been shipped over in a box that originally held an instant pot. The other bystander, an avowed 360 fan, was excited to play with it. We then tried to find a time in the next two weeks to get together and test it, and we couldn't.
Which isn't something I'm used to. If I get my hands on an early EVA1 or Ronin 2 or crazy LED light, people appear and want to play with it. The Insta360 was interesting, in that it is something that everyone I showed it to claimed they wanted to play with, but the effort wasn't really made.
It's a return to the days of 2.76x1 ultra widescreen with new lenses and a host of other updates from Panavision.
Many aspect ratios were experimented with, but 2.39x1 was eventually settled on as the "standard" widescreen aspect ratio in the heydey of trying to get viewers away from their TV and back in the theaters. One of the most famous was Ultra Panavision 70, which gave viewers a native 2.76x1 aspect ratio, known for celluloid shot projects like Ben Hur and The Hateful Eight.
Panavision has a new line of lenses to make capturing natively in that aspect ratio easier than ever with the new Ultra-Vista lenses designed to work with the DXL2 line of digital cinema cameras. These use a 1.6 squeeze, since the original aspect ratio of the native sensor is no longer 1.33, and are sure to be popular not just on massive cinema epics but also music videos and commercials looking for a more diverse look. On top of that, Panavision rolled out new Primo-X sealed element lenses with no rings and an LCD screen, and more at a huge Cinegear for the Woodland Hills-based firm. See it all in the video above.
We've all seen a color in an image and wanted to recreate it. To take ourselves back to a magic moment in history, to capture a perfect sunset and bring that light to set. With the new features from the MIX line of lights from Rosco and DMG Lumière, we can do that more easily than ever before, by taking a photo or loading one in our phone, picking the color, and then bang, it should be recreated by the light.
Of course, factors like original camera, recording camera, and subject all play into it, but even if it can't perfectly match your original subject, there will be countless times this is useful on a set. An advertising creative director could dial in a specific lighting scheme for a campaign and roll it out through a variety of commercial spots. A DP and a Gaffer can share color schemes. This kind of technology will make life easier on set, as will the myMIX App, which not only allows you to control your MIX LED fixtures from your mobile device, but also to share your color mixes with anyone else who has the app.
Jon Fusco, and yours truly, Liz Nord discuss the absurd reality that pits a film star against a TV star on the geopolitical stage, and why we will miss Anthony Bourdain. Charles Haine joins us for gear news, including a move from ShareGrid that could change the gear rental market for the much, much better. Charles and Liz also answer an Ask No Film School question about what to do if you’re feeling stuck and having trouble moving forward on your films.
As always, the show also brings news you can use about gear, upcoming grant and festival deadlines, this week’s indie film releases, industry wisdom, and other notable things you might have missed while you were busy making films.
Please note: if you or someone you know is suffering, here is the list we mention of international suicide crisis lines by country.
There's nothing quite like the feeling of bringing home a brand new friggin' camera. As you carry that sweet li'l thang over the threshold, I know the first thing you'll want to do is get it out of that packaging, run your hands over its smooth, beautiful body, and just go to town, but don't. A good camera is like a diesel engine; you can't just take it out and expect it to be ready to go when you are. You need to warm it up first. In this helpful video, Caleb Pike of DSLR Video Shooter goes over ten things you should do before shooting with a new camera to ensure that it's primed to capture the images you want.
Set life is absolutely 100% bonkers. There are people zipping all over the place, you've got voices flooding the walkie, and there you are struggling to stay on top of the bazillion tasks you were entrusted to complete. To help you manage the pandemonium, Robbie Janney of Shutterstock lists three things that you can bring with you on set that will make your day of shooting a whole lot easier. Check out the video below:
The list of things that could help make set life easier is endless. With so many different tasks that have to get done in a day, every filmmaker could benefit from having comfy shoes, Sharpies, and other seemingly random supplies lying around somewhere. However, the items on Janney's list go after some bigger fish, the most common stress-inducing issues that are infamous on a film set, like transporting gear, unpreparedness, and organizing your shoot.
So, here are the three things Janney says can help make your life on set easier:
Let's face it: many filmmakers are trading in financial security to make our films. Especially early in our careers, we tend to get by with freelance work or day jobs and spend our free time and resources doing whatever it takes to get our films made. This means that, when an emergency strikes, we are often ill-prepared to handle it. Obviously, we all wish this were not the reality of the situation, and several institutions like the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the International Documentary Association (IDA) have been working across the field to find solutions for a more sustainable industry.
While Zeiss has long had a full frame cinema option with the Compact Primes, the new Supreme Primes aim for the top of the market.
Zeiss has chosen Cinegear 2018 to roll out the new Supreme Primes, the lensmaker's answer to the burgeoning world of full frame cinema production. While Zeiss has long had cinema lenses that could cover full frame sensors, the Compact Primes, those lenses don't necessarily offer the features that top end DPs are looking for as full frame takes over the top of the market.
To address that need, Zeiss has brought its century of experience into the creation of the new Supreme Primes. Despite covering a larger area, these lenses are impressively quite a bit lighter than the Master Primes and feel very comfortable in your hand. With a package price of more than $100,000, these will be rental items for most of us, but as more camera bodies roll out larger sensors it's exciting to have more lens choices, especially from a maker with such a storied history in the cinema space.
Check out all the Zeiss lenses at Adorama.