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T351 Week 10 - Spring 2015

Misc Announcements / Reality Check

  • Lab This Week: We'll pitch Drama/Storytelling projects first thing and then watch Art Videos.
  • Drama/Storytelling - 2 Week Film Contest
  • Please have an proposal & treatment in the Oncourse Resources folder called Drama/Storytelling. Ideal projects will be shprt, have few actors, and have minimal dialog. This is a chance to tell a short story with style and finesse. Since it's a group produciton you'll have help to set some nice lighting and use the slider o jib for camera motion. There's not a lot of time to turn these projects around. Think of it as a 2 Week Film Contest. You have 1 week to plan & 1 week to produce/execute. We'll pitch these first thing in lab, pick groups, and then give groups 15 minutes of lab time to come up with a strategy for the coming weeks.
    • The next step: Before next week's lab (or the start of production) each group should revise the treatment/story as needed and create either a 2-column script or a drama script with key sequences storyboarded. Please turn in via Oncourse and make sure all of your team members are on the cover page. This is a group grade! (You are individually graded on your original proposals & treatments.) Feel free to share your revised stories/treatments with me if you want advice. You'll shoot these the week after next.
      • Remember KISS - Keep it simple!
      • Get real actors (not fake ones)
      • Avoid unnecessary dialog.
      • Make sure you have strong production values (good camera, blocking, lighting & audio)
      • Everyone in a group is expected to edit their own version. You can make a case for sharing an edit if you have a plan that provides everyone with activities and input to the final edit.
  • No lab next week (to give you time to work on your Drama Storytelling videos)
  • Final Projects - I'll continue meeting with each of you in the coming week about your final project treatment. Your final pre-production work is due in two weeks.
    • Your Final Project is worth 65 points:
      • 20 points: Project design which includes: program proposal, treatment, script & other supporting pre-produciton material.
      • 40 points: Production & legal paperwork (releases, music clearances, etc.)
      • 5 points: Critique.


  • Art Videos (cont.)
  • The Art of the Short Story (cont.)
  • Intro to Advanced Production & Editing


Art of the Short Story (cont.)

The short story has many virtues. Because it's short, it's relatively easy to produce especially when compared to a feature length film. The format is recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. There's an Oscar for animated and live action short films.

Your upcoming storytelling projects are a way for you to experiment with the genre.


What is the perspective or who is telling the story? Most films are told in the 1st or 3rd person.

  • 1st person stories are told from the "I" or "we" perspective.
  • 2nd person is told from the "you" or the reader's perspective.
  • 3rd person is told from the "they" or narrator's perspective.

Conflict- The essential ingredient

The essential ingredient - Many know that conflict (challenge or struggle) is the essential storytelling ingredient. Many make the mistake of interpreting this to mean there should be violence.

The "aha" moment - A good story strings the viewer along and makes them curious as to solving the puzzle (Memento, Fight Club, ) or resolving the essential conflict.Sometimes just figuring out why they chose the title for a short is enough.

  • How They Get There (Spike Jonze short film) With no dialog this short reveals the reason for its title.
  • The Black Hole - short film with 1 actor and no dialog. Karma comes into play.
  • Shovel Ready (Winner of the 2010 48-hour film festival) Elements: Character: Marco or Muffin Gabbowitz, a person who works with animals, Prop: a horn
    Line of Dialogue: "Do you think you can do that again?"
  • Cake (Winner of Greensboro 48 hour film festival) Often breaks the 4th wall.
  • Sparks (Winner of the 2012 Campus Movie Festival)

There are lots of good examples at Short of the Week.


Story Types

Some assert that there are only a handful of story types, which are retold in infinite variation. In their book, The Art of Technique, Douglass and Harnden describe the following:

  • Jack the Giant Killer
  • Prince & the Pauper
  • Clash of the Titans
  • The Peacemaker
  • Triumph of Courage
  • Tempting Fate
  • Role Reversals
  • Fish Out of Water
  • Strange Bedfellows
  • Buddy Pictures & Love Stories
  • Ship of Fools
  • The Quest
  • Portraiture

They contend that all stories essentially fit into one or more of these categories.

Consider the story you pitched last week. What category does it fit into?

Structure - Make sure you have a beginning, middle and end

Framing, Blocking & Sequencing

Hitchcock's rule: The size of an object in the frame should equal its importance in the story at that moment.

Many have a tendancy to open with a wide shot, as the importance of establishing characters intime & space is vital. However many times starting with a wide shot is not the most cinematic or interesting choice.

As storytellers one of our goals is to make viewers wonder "What's going to happen next?"

Sometimes simply re-ordering shots in a sequence can make it stronger and change the meaning.

Sample 2 shot scene (a sharply dressed gal in a business suit is on her way to meet someone:

Version #1:

  • MS girl walking down hallway
  • CU low angle tracking shot of high heels

Version #2:

  • CU low angle tracking shot of high heels
  • MS girl walking down hallway

In version 1 we immediately see where we are and what's going on. The 2nd shot (CU tracking shot) provides the viewer with no more information except showing off her fashion sense. It also inadvertently brings into play "Hitchcock's Rule making us wonder how the shoes are important.

In version 2 we start with the CU high heels. This immediately causes the viewer to wonder who they belong to and where we are. These questions and then answered by the 2nd shot where we see who the shoes belong to.

A good storyteller knows how to string along their audience.

Quick exercise: A man has an engagement ring in a small box that he plans on giving to his sweetheart. He is waiting for her on a park bench. You have 3 shots to start the scene. How will you approach and frame this?

On framing action - the closer the camera is to the line of action and to your characters, the more depth you will have and more dynamic it will be.


People are expected to act rationally and believably. If the characters don’t follow the rules it can be intriguing, but must be explained otherwise it's random nonsense and detracts from the story.

First action - There is a concept in filmmaking called first action. The first time we see a character we get an impression. This is shaped by the character's first action.

On how to be cinematic:

  • More thought as to composition and design within the frame (this is what cinematography is all about)
  • Consider the mise-en-scène. Everything that appears within the frame should be there for a reason. Costumes, props, blocking, lighting and everything else within the frame all contribute to the viewer's perception. Guilermo del Toro is a master of this.
  • Placement of camera / motion of camera
  • Attention to lighting
  • More close-ups
  • Shallow depth of field & Rack focus shots
  • Avoid zooms (draws attention to the fact that someone is operating the camera)
  • Attention to sound design
  • Attention to color correction / finshing

Using vectorscopes, waveform monitors and TBCs:

Video signals can be broken down into two components: luminance and chrominance. Luminance is the brightness component & chrominance is the color component.

A good editing suite will have a vectorscope and waveform monitor set up, so that the video levels and color can be objectively monitored. It's easy to make graphics in Photoshop too bright, but if you keep your eyes on the waveform monitor, you can tell when the signal reaches 100 IRE.

Waveform Monitor - A device used to examine the luminance portion of the video signal and its synchronizing pulses. The scale starts at –40 – goes to 0 then up to 120 IRE Units (IRE = Institute of Radio Engineers). One f-stop translates into about 20 IRE units The major setting to be aware of are:

Digital (ATSC) Black shold register at 0 IRE.
White White shouldn't be any hotter than 100 IRE on a waveform monitor.

Adobe Premiere tutorial on using the Waveform monitor

Vectorscope - A vector display measuring device that allows visual checking of the phase and amplitude of the color components of a video signal. They are especially useful when used with color bars, as the display face has targets that show both proper phase and saturation.

NOTE: You can't adjust or manipulate a video signal with just a waveform monitor and vectorscope. They simply let you examine the signal. You must use a TBC, a camera control unit or other device to modify the signal.

TBC (time base corrector) - A piece of equipment used to correct instabilities in analog video signals, provide synchronization between video signals, and adjust phase differences in signals to correct color or make them consistent with other signals. TBCs usually have a "proc amp" (short for processing amplifer) which lets you adjust the video's brightness, hue, saturation and setup.

  • Basic proc amp adjustments include
  • Chroma (amount of color)
  • Phase / Hue (actual color)
  • Brightness (amount of gain or brightness)
  • Contrast (on some)
  • Setup (aka pedestal) A signal elevating the black level and all other portions of the video signal

If you have a copy-protected VHS tape or DVD that you need to dub, you can run the video through a TBC. It strips the old sync, which has been modified to create dubbing problems, and replace it with new sync.

FCP, Premiere, and Avid provide computer-generated waveform monitors and vectorscopes. This provides an excellent way to check levels for graphics and when applying video effects (these are often too bright for legal video).

Note that when capturing DV footage in FCP's log and capture tool, you can't control the proc amp settings (color, brightness, setup, etc). You'll find that the "clip settings" are greyed out. This is because you are transferring footage that's already been digitized. However, when you are wokring with a third party capture card (Like an AJA or Cinewave) you can modify the video signal through the proc amp settings.

If your footage is too dark or needs color correction, you must do this by either applying color correction or a filter.

Color Bars are electronic reference signals generated by cameras or post-production equipment. They can be used for matching the output of two cameras in a multi-camera shoot and to set up video monitors. In general there are two types of bars full field and SMPTE (split). The SMPTE bars are more useful.

When capturing source footage, it's always good to capture some of the bars. This lets you check the captured footage to ensure color accuracy.


Vocabulary (Know and be able to define these terms)

  • Color bars
  • First Action
  • Hitchcock's rule
  • Mise-en-scène
  • Pedestal / Setup (interchangeable terms for the starting level of the gamma curve. Where the black level resides.
  • Proc Amp (short for processing amplifier)
  • Story types
  • TBC (time base corrector)
  • Vectorscope
  • Waveform Monitor


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