Low Budget = High Production Value?

With our second short film One Eight Seven, we knew we had to step up the production value. The only way to do this on a low budget was to learn how to make my DSLR look like it was shot on a film camera. Although DSLR will never be film, you can come close with these tricks.

-Film at 24 Frames Per Second (or 23.976)

This will give you the motion blur you have come to know and love from film. Try it out, film something at 24fps and then 30fps and see the difference. 30fps will be a smoother, more “video” feel.

Here is the same setup with the same action, filmed at different frame rates. You can see there is slightly more motion blur on the 24 fps shot. The difference will be more noticeable with faster moving objects.

 

-Shoot Flat

Shooting your shots “flat” (with low contrast) will help your camera retain as much color information as possible, which will give you more detail in the dark and bright areas. What this means is you can push the colors much further and achieve a better result during color grading. An extra step, but it is worth it.

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On the left we have the RGB Parade of an image that was shot flat. The right shows the same shot’s RGB Parade after it has been graded. You can see how much more room we have to work with when you shoot with a flat picture profile.

 

-Use an ND Filter

Don’t compensate for bright light by cranking up the aperture unless a deep depth of field is what you want. Put on an ND filter and you can achieve that shallow depth of field look that is closely associated with film. I like to use a variable ND filter so I don’t have to fiddle with 5 different strengths.

-Locations!

We pointed out in our last post how crucial location scouting is in the process. Having a good location goes hand in hand with the next point.

-Shot Design Is Key

Shot design encompasses a lot of things. Depth, color, contrast, symmetry, placement of objects, and lighting are all things that can make a big impact on how your shot not only looks, but “feels”.

-Camera Movement

Camera movement is usually subconscious to the viewer (if done right), but it can make a great impact on how your audience feels. Things like camera height, direction, type of movement, and speed all play into the feeling of the movie. We will go deeper into this in a future post.

-Lighting

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Lighting is arguably the most important aspect of cinematography. A movie with bad lighting almost always seems low budget, so you want to avoid that. We will go deeper into lighting in our next post, since that deserves to stand on it’s own.

Read more about production in our next post, which will be about lighting! Learn how you can use light to set a mood and invoke emotion in the viewer.


Comment below with some of your tips on stretching the value of your budget!

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One Eight 7 is out now!

Here it is, Lift Entertainment and It’s Brandon Allan Productions’ second short film! This is by far our best work yet, and a major step up from our first film! We put a lot of time and hard work into this one, so check it out! If you want to know what it took to make this film, check out the blog series we have been posting, and keep updated on the production/post-production side, which will be coming out next week.

Remember feedback and shares are always welcome! Just #LiftRI on all social media to be in the loop!

Process of Making a Movie – Locations, Storyboarding and Scheduling

Step 2 – Location, Location, Location

Location scouting is an essential part of the pre-production process. In a low budget shoot like this, you may be limited to where you can shoot. It is up to you to find locations that you will be able to use and will serve the story, as well as fit the mood. If you want more detail on location scouting, read our past post! LINK HERE

Step 3 – Storyboard/Shot List

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If you want to execute your vision to a tee, make either a storyboard or a shot list. Although it is possible to show up to a shoot and wing it, having a set plan will help everything run smoothly, and ensure you get the results you want. I like to have a storyboard since it helps me see the shot I envisioned in a visual form. This can also be very helpful if you are relaying your shot ideas to a cameraman. Sometimes a shot list will be all you need if you are the cinematographer and cameraman, just make sure it is detailed. For example:

-WS jib down from left to right as Character A walks into screen from camera left

Having your shots already planned will help you get things done quickly and efficiently, which will also allow you to come up with new ideas on the spot, based off of what you have already.

Step 4 – Shooting Schedule

A shooting schedule can be your savior on set. Things like scheduling conflicts, weather, locations, and time of day can all affect the way your shots will look, and when you will be able to shoot them. Having your schedule planned ahead of time can relieve a lot of stress, and makes sure everything you planned on shooting that day gets done. Some things to think about when making your schedule are:

-Plan by location: Are there only certain times of day you can use a location? Will sun, or other time sensitive situations determine how you shoot? Also, to speed up the process, plan your shots according to location…no sense in shooting in script order if that means you will have to go back and forth to locations. Finish all of the shots you need at one location, then move on.

-Characters: Who do you need for the shot? Planning around everyone’s schedules can be tricky, especially if you’re a non union independent production that probably can’t afford to pay everyone. Find out what actors you will need for each scene and plan accordingly to that. Do your best to make sure that nobody is sitting around for hours on set, and they only come when needed.

-Equipment: What kind of equipment will you need for the shoot? Will you be renting something that will force you to get everything done in a certain time frame? If I’m switching between jib, tripod, slider, shoulder rig etc. I like to plan according to that as well. Nobody likes breaking down a jib and switching to a shoulder rig 20 times in one day. Shoot all of your booming exteriors first, and you won’t have to worry about that.

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There are other things to consider of course, but trial and error will lead you to your preferred method. I like to create a spreadsheet that contains the shot type, characters, equipment, time of day needed, and any other considerations. Another helpful trick is to color code. I usually color code by location, so when I look down at the schedule it is easy to find what we need to shoot at that location, and so on. There are apps to help you with this whole process, but of course a simple pen and paper will do as well.

One of the last things to consider is any tricky shots or effects you will have to pull off. Do some testing to make sure you can pull it off the way you want! Make sure you have the technical skills, and your equipment can give you the results you need. There is nothing worse than having a big grand finale shot with tons of effects, camera movements, and choreography that falls flat the day of shooting because you weren’t completely prepared. Get out there and recreate that shot ahead of time, edit it together, and make sure you have what it takes to make your big idea a reality!

Once you have gotten this far, you should be just about ready to shoot! Of course there are a few steps we left out such as auditions and rehearsals, but that will vary by project size and budget of course. Starting out casting your friends will rarely give you the best results, but at least it will give you an outlet to get out there and get your feet wet!

Part 2 will be all about production, with some examples from One Eight 7! This is where the real fun begins, so don’t miss it!


Again, feedback and shares are more than welcome! Just #LiftRI to join the community!

Process of making a movie – Part 1 : Pre-production

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One Eight 7 was a big learning process for us, and although we made great improvements since our first film, we have a long way to go. We put a lot of time and effort into every aspect of this movie to achieve the result we were looking for…more so than we’ve ever done before.

 

Filmmaking is a lengthy, complicated process with many aspects involved that the everyday viewer might not even realize. Some people are surprised to find out how long it took us to complete this nine minute short, not realizing just how much we put into it. Nine minutes…you should be able to make that in about a week or two right?…WRONG. Sure, you can make a short film in a week…if you want it to be crap.

 

Let’s go into detail on all the little meticulous details that go into making something shot on a shoestring budget look like it deserves to be on the silver screen. Hopefully this will give you a better understanding as to why this is such a lengthy process, especially with such a small group of people. We are focusing on a small budget film here, but the same rules apply to any professional production.

Step 1 – The Idea: From Thought to Script

 

Every idea for a film starts out as a diamond in the rough. When Brandon came to me with the One Eight 7 script, it was only the first step down this long road. First of all, if you are the only one that has read your script, you probably shouldn’t produce it yet. Having multiple sets of eyes go over your script is invaluable. Spelling and grammatical errors are only the tip of the iceberg here. Other opinions are extremely important, since the plan is to show this movie to a large group of people. What you think is a good idea might not be so clear to someone else! Revisions are a big part of script writing, so don’t be discouraged if your script goes through 10 revisions…that’s normal! What that means is your idea is being improved upon over and over, which will make the outcome that much better! Remember that it is best to spend a ton of time in pre-production, where risk is low and you’re not wasting anyone’s time or money. Make sure your script is nailed down, and all the details have been worked out BEFORE you start filming!

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When writing your script, there are many things to consider.

-What is the feeling/emotion of the story as a whole

-What is the feeling of that specific scene?

-How does this scene help drive your story?

-What are your character’s personalities? How would they interact with each other?

-Does each character serve a purpose in the story/scene?

-What are the “beats” of the scene?

There are just some of the things to think about when writing, and we will go into more detail in a future post. For now, we are going to focus specifically on One Eight Seven.

Part 2 will be coming tomorrow and will be about location scouting, storyboarding and creating a shooting schedule. Stay Tuned!

Do you want to learn more? Feel like we left anything out? Or maybe you think something should be changed? Feel free to leave your feedback, ask questions and share! #LiftRI