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Need some advise~How can a amateur shoot a professional film?

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I am still new to cinematography. Really need some advises from you.

How can a amateur like me shoot a film as professional as possible? Is it more important in equipment or in skills?

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The bare minimum for equipment to simply enable you to show off your skill level pertaining to a feature film is about $2000 (assuming you're a degenerate software pirate). That'd cover basic audio gear that isn't hopeless, as well as a DSLR, steady tripod, lights, and lenses. Going past that funding point, skill is the only thing that will take you farther. Once you feel your skill has outgrown your set-up and feel you have enough money coming in, get better equipment. Rinse and repeat until you have The entire Arri arsenal.

 

That's a very condensed version but it's 6am and I'm regretting being up this late.

Edited by Macks Fiiod

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The bare minimum for equipment to simply enable you to show off your skill level pertaining to a feature film is about $2000 (assuming you're a degenerate software pirate). That'd cover basic audio gear that isn't hopeless, as well as a DSLR, steady tripod, lights, and lenses. Going past that funding point, skill is the only thing that will take you farther. Once you feel your skill has outgrown your set-up and feel you have enough money coming in, get better equipment. Rinse and repeat until you have The entire Arri arsenal.

 

That's a very condensed version but it's 6am and I'm regretting being up this late.

 

Thanks so much! Any equipments for recommendation? If I don't have a high budget of $2000 for now, what should I get first...?

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Try a used t3i (or any cheap DSLR with a rotating screen) for about $300. Some prime lenses are another $250 if you're frugal. Just get your hands on any kind of tripod for like $50. Use house lamps for your lights until further notice. Once you're there, just worry about competent audio gear. NEVER GET A RODE VIDEO MIC THEY SUC-- wow sorry that slipped out jesus christ. Grab an audio interface along with a decent condenser mic (a little under $200 for a whole set up) and learn the process of ADR early on. Use the microphone that's built into your camera for syncing audio. I've met so many film students who don't know how to do this and it holds their quality back for years. To me, audio with effort is more important than a quality picture. 55/45 in the favor of audio. A Walmart camcorder with a great mix of audio feels better than the best camera on the market using its built in microphone (if it has one).

 

Once that's established and house lamps have you on the brink of suicide, invest in a light kit (starter one's like another $200) and a shoulder rig for more flexibility with your camera.

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As someone who is also learning the art of cinematography, one thing I've picked is that it's less about the camera as it is the time spent making the lighting look good, making the audio sound good etc. It seems like the peripheral elements of movies make them what they are ... not the mega-10k-super ultra wide camera.

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The camera is super important, but I personally think skills are far more important. You aren't going to make something look cinematic, unless you understand what it takes to do so. Adding a cinematic looking camera, only helps sell what you're already shooting.

 

Lighting, depth of field, field of view, composition/framing and how the camera moves in the shot, are all critical elements. If you've watched a lot of movies, you will have seen how cinema is done. Emulating your favorite cinematic scene in order to understand what went into making it look so good, could be a good methodology for learning how to work in these situations.

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Get a hold of a cheap lighting kit and start by playing around with it to see what types of lighting placements do what as far as looks go. Learning the basic 3 light structure is always a good place to start if you know nothing about lighting. Key, fill, and back light can be a start toward looking nice. Even those three right there can create quite a few different moods depending on how intense each light is and where you focus them. Utilizing practicals in the room also can add to the mood.

 

Cinema has a few oddities about it that are not like real life though. One thing that still urks me when watching a film is how sofas are always pulled so far away from the wall. I know it is a choice that helps with lighting but I have never been to anyone's house who actually did that. I find it distracting but it is deFacto expected in films.

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Perhaps a broader view:

 

Equipment don't matter, skills matter somewhat, but what matters more than anything else is taste. Your taste has to be aligned or ahead of the curve for your work to get noticed. You have to have good taste. And good taste is not a constant. It's arbitrary and varies with time and person. "Film is fashion", as David Fincher once said. He's absolutely right. If you light a film like they did in the 90's today, you won't have a career. In another 20 years time, if you light a film like we do today, you won't either.

 

Light and frame with conviction. If you feel strongly that it's right, then it probably is. Even if convention says it's not. Try to avoid cliches and don't copy too much. Just do these things and all will be fine.

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I am still new to cinematography. Really need some advises from you.

How can a amateur like me shoot a film as professional as possible? Is it more important in equipment or in skills?

How can you shoot a film "as professional" as possible? That's easy. Work with a film crew who bring equipment to the table. Then you get to focus entirely on your shots and lighting plans. Doesn't mean a ton of people, but at least an A.C. and a grip. In your case, it sounds like you'd want to find an A.C. with a camera/lens package and a gaffer/grip who owns a lighting package.

 

I would strongly advise paying these people for their time and a little something for the gear they bring. I would say you're far more likely to get professional results this way. Assuming you know the basics of how to shoot and light which you should if you're going to be credited as the DP on the project. The crew won't do it all for you. They are only there to help.

Edited by Michael LaVoie

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How do you get to Carnagie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

 

I asked the same questions as a beginner -- I used to shoot my short films in Super-8 and ask myself "doe it look like a REAL movie?" (in terms of lighting, composition, editing, storytelling in general, etc.) And I kept at it. And I read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies, and then I went back to shooting some more.

 

There's no simple path, no magic bullet, you just have to keep at it.

 

Skills are important, but when it comes to skills with equipment, that sort of suggests a bare minimum amount of equipment -- nothing elaborate, just the basics to get a foundation.

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Cinema has a few oddities about it that are not like real life though. One thing that still urks me when watching a film is how sofas are always pulled so far away from the wall. I know it is a choice that helps with lighting but I have never been to anyone's house who actually did that. I find it distracting but it is deFacto expected in films.

Exactly! Interior decorating in movies resembles high end luxury real estate. Living rooms are always big enough to have the sofa in the middle of the room and there is always appropriate shooting friendly window dressing, practical lamps everywhere. Headboards on all of the beds, nightstands.

 

I did some volunteer work years ago on an ambulance corps for a few years and had to visit average suburban homes and apartments when people weren't expecting company and I got to see the reality of how most people live and it's pretty depressing. Not something you'd want to see in most movies at all.

 

Yay for movie magic. It's a good point though. A professional looking movie does contain a lot of professional set design and art direction. Cause most people do NOT have that in their homes by default.

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In my opinion, you're confusing the terms 'amateur' and 'professional. The term 'amateur' has come to mean a producer of low quality work, when in fact all it means is that it's your hobby or passion, and/or you don't make a living off of it. A professional is someone who makes a living off of their work. Nothing more, nothing less. I have seen many amateurs produce much better work than professionals.

 

I think your question relates to how to make something 'look' professional while you're still an 'amateur' at it. The answer, as others have said is: practice. You don't need to be a professional to get professional results, but you do need to know what you're doing.

Edited by Landon D. Parks

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From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Full Definition of amateur

1: devotee, admirer
2: one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession
3: one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science
I agree that the negative connotation of the term "amateur" is unfortunate, though Definition #3 is proper usage.

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From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Full Definition of amateur

1: devotee, admirer
2: one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession
3: one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science
I agree that the negative connotation of the term "amateur" is unfortunate, though Definition #3 is proper usage.

 

I find it interesting that #3 is legitimate when many people in the Olympics are amateurs yet the best in the world at their craft.

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Top sports people at the Olympics have hardly been amateurs .. the word originates from latin Amare "to love",for a long time now.. I think the basic distinction for our industry.. is those who do it as their primary source of income.. not that someone doing it for "love" is not as good as someone who is a professional.. by just the definition is if they make their living from the pursuit or not.. somewhere there must be a line between a low budget film i.e. professionals working for a low rate.. and a film crewed by people doing it for no pay.. or say food/gas money.. because they love to do it,hope to make their living from it in the future and are gaining experience ..

Although of course their results could be any bit as good or better than a professional crew.. its not ability level,but wether its their actual job or not.. although generally I guess you could say that those who do it for a living have more experience and "tend" to be more proficient. also depends on what your role is.. some things are more technical or really need,benefit from alot of practice than other jobs on a film set. focus pulling and operating for sure..

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"can a amateur like me shoot a film as professional as possible?'

 

Of course you can! Beyond the basics of "Lights, Camera, and Action!", you really don't need much else. Daylight will do for lighting, take your pick of cameras, and have a story to tell. You don't even need sound. (It's been known to work before!)

 

If you want to make a film professional, then you need to have knowledge of what makes a professional film. That's what being a student is all about. Learn as much as you can about all aspects of movie making, and don't stop learning. It is fabulous to have the internet, and forums like this.

 

And then, as David said "Practice, practice, practice." Make mistakes, refine your skills, and shoot some more. Digital cameras are great for this. There are all sorts of work-arounds for when you don't have the best equipment. Experiment and have fun!

 

Kevin

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I find it interesting that #3 is legitimate when many people in the Olympics are amateurs yet the best in the world at their craft.

 

Dictionary definitions are based on the meanings when a language is used. Being a dynamic thing, these meanings do change over tiime with usage, just as other words die out. So the 3rd use stands up when the word is being used in a less than compilimentary way. Some words do have more than one meaning, depending on context.

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I find it interesting that #3 is legitimate when many people in the Olympics are amateurs yet the best in the world at their craft.

 

There's a difference between 'un-professional' and 'not a professional'. The Olympic competitors are 'not professional', per the rules of the games.

 

'amateur' in the modern sense, has as it's core meaning, 'not paid' activity. As such, the 'quality' of work can range from Olympic performance... to Youtube worst of the worst... and then there's Uwe Boll... who seems to do better as an amateur boxer against his critics than as a filmmaker impressing said critics...

Edited by John E Clark

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I think this really depends on what result you are trying to achieve. Can someone learn to make short films like Philip Bloom? Yes, because it is more or less a one-man show. Can one person make a blockbuster?`No. This requires a gathering of people highly skilled in their field.

 

But it is very much possible to make something look expensive with a decent camera, good use of light, sound and actors. It also helps a lot with a good grade. As people have stated already, it all comes down to practise. I find myself growing so fast these days that I constantly remove stuff I recently made from my portfolio. That's how I know I am moving in the right direction.

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Can one person make a blockbuster?`No.

 

'one person' cannot make anything professionally. You'd need a minimum crew of, at least 4 or 5. Director/DOP/Operator, Boom Assistant, Camera Assistant, First AD. Probably at least a script supervisor as well if you're working in fiction. Sure, anyone can take a camera and stick a rode video mic on the top and go around filmmaking things, but you'll never get a fully professional result doing that. MAYBE for documentaries, but even then I don't think so.

 

As for one person making a blockbuster. I'd also say no. The main reason is because blockbusters have $100 million dollar budgets, and as such if one person made a film by himself or with a small crew, it would not be a blockbuster. Now, can one person make a slick looking action / adventure / scifi / fantasy film? Yes. Films like that are made on small budgets all the time. If the director is good at post and knows visual effects (or is will to spend a year or two learning before doing it), then it's totally possible for a tiny crew to shot a green screen movie and then for 'one guy' in post to matte paint, model, and composite the whole thing. Of course, most directors don't have the skill to do this, and often times those that try fail - resulting in shoddy products. BUT, it is certainly possible - if not highly improbable.

 

PERHAPS you could reduce the crew you need by shooting on a green screen, and then doing tricks like lapel micing the talent (rather than booming them), or putting your boom on a holder stand close to the actors... You could slate your own camera... You don't really need an AD I guess.... But the point is, once you start getting smaller and smaller, things become much harder for you - taking you away from your actors, thus the performances will suffer dramatically.

 

The most I'd ever suggest a director do on set is DOP and operate the camera.

Edited by Landon D. Parks

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As for one person making a blockbuster. I'd also say no. The main reason is because blockbusters have $100 million dollar budgets, and as such if one person made a film by himself or with a small crew, it would not be a blockbuster.

 

 

There's the budget of the film which gives a level of 'excellence' that can't really be achieved by 'free labor'. But even if someone did make a professionally finished product on a shoestring... the reason a blockbuster is a blockbuster is because of the marketing... which can be fore international coverage many times the 'production' budget.

 

The often forgotten 'lesson' the 'El Mariachi' story is that there was extensive reediting for release after being bought for distribution and sent to the various fests, and Rodriguez getting an agent and a good deal with Columbia/TriStar... in other words... a number of dominoes lined up before the 'hit' occurred... and even then it was not 'blockbuster' status... but was good to show that he could make more films... and has...

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Have a look at the crew list for "Monsters", which had a small production crew of 6 during the location shoot, but a much larger post production crew.

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1470827/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

 

Having made a fiction film with a small crew I suspect you can't go smaller than 3 or 4 people and in sayng that, you can't have really tight shooting schedule.

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