Monday Prescriptions – Speak the Tech Lingo

Hi Film Folk!

Today the Film Doctor Team would like to plunge you into the nitty-gritty of technology/equipment talk: all those words and abbreviations that sometimes sound like rocket science.

Some film folk (often Writers, but also some Directors and Producers) are happy not to explore the “techie” side of their project – leaving the “lens -aperture-resolution-speed” talk to those in charge of equipment and production flow.  But in our ‘Digital Age’ it is almost compulsory to have at least a vague grasp of technological processes.

So don’t get thrown off by digi jargon. Learn to converse with your Editors/Camera Department/Equipment hire companies, etc.






 

Here is a list of essential terms and tech concepts you should be able to use, explain and discuss – some basic, some not so:

1. Shot Framing // Shot Angle – In particular as a Director, it is essential to be able to discuss professionally what you want to see on camera – the distance between the subject and the camera (the length of the shot, i.e. your long/medium/close-up shots), the angular correlation / point of view.

 

2. Depth of Field // Aperture // Exposure – When composing your film’s shots, you’d be dealing with:

Exposure – How light or dark is the picture captured by the camera. It is controlled by Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed. The shutter speed and the aperture determine how much light enters the film or the sensor. With the aperture, the size of the opening is specified in f-stops. The number relation is slightly counterintuitive – the bigger the “opening”, the smaller the f-stop number. The ISO defines how sensitive the camera is to incoming light – increasing the ISO brings more “noise” to the image or film grain, so keeping the ISO low is usually desirable (unless you’re after a specific look).



Depth of Field– This is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image (i.e. in focus). When the focus is set at a given distance, there is a range in front of and behind that distance which remains in focus. Although a lens can precisely focus at only one distance at a time, the decrease in sharpness is gradual on each side of the focused distance, so that within the Depth of Field, the unsharpness is imperceptible under normal viewing conditions. In some cases, it may be desirable to have the entire image sharp, and a large Depth of Field  is appropriate. In other cases, a small Depth of Field may be more effective, emphasising the subject while de-emphasizing the foreground and background

3. Offline // Online Editing – The offline/online workflow allows the use temporary, reduced-quality copies of the footage to edit with, and then finish the project with full-quality media. Reduced-quality media files require less hard disk space and less computing power to process transitions and effects. This means that the first edit can be on an inexpensive computer or a portable computer, and then have the finish at full quality on another system.

The offline edit is where the shot footage is transferred, assembled and trimmed accordingly. It’s the creative cutting stage, in the sense of this is when the story line is created. The transitional link between the offline and online edit is an Edit Decision List (EDL) – created as a sort of a “draft” of what shots to be used; what goes where. In the online edit the footage is reingested at full quality and, in accordance to the EDL, the storyline is assembled once again. The online editing phase (also referred to as the finishing phase) focuses on image quality, colour correction, proper broadcast video levels, and so on.

 

4. ADR // Foley // Atmos – When it comes to audio post production, do you know what you’d need to deliver for your editor? And, equally, do you know how to ask for certain things? Some notes:

ADR – Your “additional dialogue recorded”. An expensive ‘treat’ to have – you’ll need to hire a post production studio, with staff knowledgable in ADR work (it needs to be perfectly synced), pay the actors to come in extra day(s) for the recording, etc. – so don’t rely on it as a crutch. Instead, choose your filming location very carefully (noise-wise) and your Sound Recordist/Designer (experience-wise).

Atmos – Don’t forget to record some atmospheric sound – if you risk getting caught up in the production on the day, just make the sound recorder run for a few minutes before the very first take of the day.

 

5. Which lenses to use? – Before any brands, comes the simple distinction between prime and zoom lenses. As the name suggests, zoom lenses are the ones which allow you to “zoom in / zoom out”, whereas primes have fixed focal length. In general, prime lenses offer better optical quality, although if you invest enough money, you can get great pro zoom lenses. Prime lenses are more favourable for shallow depth of field.

You can also choose between macro – specifically designed for shooting objects up close – and wide-angle lenses – enabling a very wide perspective (great for sweeping landscapes).

‘Monday Prescription’ No.28 – Embrace the technical aspect of filmmaking, not just the artistic side.

 
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Any questions/thoughts/experiences of your own??? Leave a comment below!
 
Have a great week!
 
The Film Doctor Team
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