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camera Camera angles as an art or science?

I'll say it flat out: I suck at good camrawork. It's bland and middleschoolish, just plain closeups on dialog and wideshot establishing. Snooze fest. Is there some good educational or inspirational stuff out the on the interwebs on making camerawork, especially angles, snap a bit more??
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
the problem is probably your light. theres lots of good lighting tutorials out there.


the other problem is likely your framing. practice still photography
 
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I'll say it flat out: I suck at good camrawork. It's bland and middleschoolish, just plain closeups on dialog and wideshot establishing. Snooze fest. Is there some good educational or inspirational stuff out the on the interwebs on making camerawork, especially angles, snap a bit more??
Do you have a example of your work?
 
I consider those of us in the entertainment business who are not celebrities but perform "support" roles to be Creative Technicals. As someone who does audio post I need to know about how sound works and how to creatively use the available technology to manipulate sounds. I use my technical knowledge to (hopefully) create something within the boundaries of the story and the directors vision that enhances the experience for the audience.

The same applies to all of the other film making crafts - cinematography, H/MU, wardrobe, set design, etc., etc., etc. The technical knowledge enhances your abilities as a creative.

As sfoster pointed out, one issue pertaining to your uninteresting visuals may be your lighting. It could also be your blocking/framing and/or your set design/dressing and/or your.... You get the idea.

The primary concept to keep in mind is that it's all about the story/plot and the characters places within that framework. Everything needs to support and enhance that. I'll give you an example from my bailiwick, audio post. A female character wears high heels. As a part of my Foley work I need to put in her footsteps. The technical aspect is to put on a pair of heels and record as I walk the scene. But the creative aspect demands that I also take into account the character. In the scene in question she is a State Police Investigator appearing at the sight of a murder investigation. She is smart and she is tough. So I picked out a pair of "hard" sounding high heels and made each footstep sound authoritative. As another example from a different project on which I worked there was a dream/nightmare sequence with the protagonist sitting in a rowboat. My design for the ambient sounds - birds, insects, water, etc. - were chosen to be just a little on the creepy side. I created a mix of that ambience, reversed it, used an unusual reverb algorithm which I recorded, then reversed the recorded reverb and layered it back in with the original ambience so now the reverb is what is reversed. The result was not overt, but merely conveyed the idea that the situation was not a part of the normal world.

All of this, still has to work in concert with the overall project.

The same needs to apply to your visuals. What is the scene about? Where are the characters in their arcs? And so on. These could - and should - influence what how you shoot the scene.

In Frank Capras "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" Jeff Smith meets a very pretty Washington woman. As a country bumpkin he is nervous and flustered. A very substantial portion of the scene shows only his hands fumbling with his hat (he even drops it a couple of times) as we hear the dialog. This concept is repeated later in the film when he again fumbles with his hat when she calls Jeff on the telephone, which he also fumbles and drops.

The film "The Changeling" directed by Peter Medak and starring George C Scott is a horror film. When Scotts character is in his "haunted" house the camera is always moving, giving the feeling that he is always being watched.

The BTS and commentaries of "Forrest Gump" provide lots if insights as to the sonic and visuals decisions made for the film; worth a look/listen.

I'm not a visuals type, but when I started out on my journey with sound-for-picture I also did some production sound, so got to see some very good, and some not so good, directors at work. On one project the director almost always had one character shot from slightly below to signify his position as an authority figure; we literally have to look up at him. When I did the audio post I made sure that his dialog was very clear and distinct. It was all very subtle, and unless you know that this was done you would never notice it, but it enhances the character.

When you combine your technical skills with your creative talents is when you truly start to create meaningful work. And don't complain about lack of... whatever.

An entire film genre/style was created out of small budgets. Without the budget for extensive set design/dressing a few directors overcame this by making extensive use of shadow and light. We now call this visual style Film Noir. Back in the late 80s and early 90s some aspiring folks used the cast-offs of other musicians and created Techno and Rap.

So don't complain about lack of funding. You need to adapt your story and how you tell it to your budget, or lack thereof.

Well, you got me up on my soapbox; sorry about that. Technical and creative work hand in hand. Look at all of the wonderful CGI work that's out there; a VERY technical craft that none the less can be extremely creative.

The entertainment industry has become quite technical, but the technology is there only to extend our creative abilities. Take the time to learn about applicable techniques. They are all tools to be used to enhance your storytelling. Don't be afraid to fail. Here in the USA if a baseball player fails at the plate "only" 70% of the time he's a possible candidate for the Hall Of Fame.

So learn, learn learn, learn. Then, when you finally get to your project, preproduce, preproduce, preproduce.

Good Luck!
 
I sadly have very little portfolio to show, as I have only recently started down this path, after years of doing tedious presentation and crude concept work for people as a side gig (and also ghostwriting). None of that is worth showing. I do have a Youtube channel, though it is still a mess of loose thoughts and test drafts. Please donot yet judge me by it, it's very WIP.
I am not at lighting yet. That is a field of expertise all on its own. Right now, I just need to ready up for my fourth draft of an animated movie, and as part of that, I want better camerawork, and I have no training with that. Regarding technical expertise, that is exactly what I wish to gain, but I feel that thorough study is needed to move from my current point.Then, experimentation and growth can blossom!
 
making camerawork, especially angles, snap a bit more??

TLDR: You don't fix boring with a new angle. A turd shot from great angles will still be a turd.

Have you considered it's the material that's being shot that needs more snap, than the angle itself?

When editing a scene that needs more "snap", I can't think of a time where I wished the angle was better to save the scene from "Snooze fest". Every time, I'll take the uninspired, master, mid, cu, ots, reverse, cutaways of interesting material instead of interesting angles/shots of boring material. I'd rather work on a diamond in the rough rather than a steaming turd pile. Of course having it all is your cherry on top, but if you want your content to be great, you need to pay attention to the meat and potatoes before you worry about the razz.

While good camera work can enhance a scene, in the end, it really does come down to what's being caught on camera. Camera work can't polish a turd. Blocking, camera movement, performance, lighting, story, editing, location, sound, dialogue, music, pace, spectacle and so on, is what will help lift your "Snooze fest". Magic is created when everything fits together well.

I just took a look at your third draft video after I wrote all the above, so don't take the above as personal criticism of your work. It's more general ramblings. Your angles aren't too bad. Your material... It's just flat. That's probably what you're feeling.

PS. I really wanna learn Blender. I just haven't made the time to learn anything more than cubes. YET!
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
If you want to study cool camera angles and movements then watch old michael bay stuff
The Rock, Bad Boys 2, Armageddon

The editing is really awesome too. I am still studying these films.
 
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I just took a look at your third draft video after I wrote all the above, so don't take the above as personal criticism of your work. It's more general ramblings. Your angles aren't too bad. Your material... It's just flat. That's probably what you're feeling.

PS. I really wanna learn Blender. I just haven't made the time to learn anything more than cubes. YET!
I'm not trying to polish tirds, don't worry. The draft is flat because it's a draft of a technicaltest (i.e. the script was picked for ease of animation, not to impress on its own). I am using this project solely to learn the basic skills needed, and I feel that I need to learn things like camerawork better.
 
As I have noted previously I am an audio type, not a visuals type, but as a former working musician if I had uninspired material it was tough to make it sparkle; as you said, polishing turds. A great vocal or a great solo over an bland song only highlights the mediocrity of the material.


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An inspiring project makes you more, well, inspired. Perhaps you should try your tech-test on something that is meaningful to you; it just could be that you will find your creative juices flowing more freely.

 
I'm not trying to polish tirds, don't worry. The draft is flat because it's a draft of a technicaltest (i.e. the script was picked for ease of animation, not to impress on its own). I am using this project solely to learn the basic skills needed, and I feel that I need to learn things like camerawork better.

There's something called blocking. It'll probably be your best bang for your buck. While it's not technically camera work, it intimately involves the camera. Basically speaking, it's the movement of talent, props and camera in the scene. If you learn to use this skill well, you can (kind of) get inanimate objects like manikins to feel like they have emotions. Once you learn that, your more fully built out projects will start to automatically feel more alive.
 
My suggestion is to start taking photos.

And take them for the fun of it - to test and trial your creativity, to practice, to show no-one or everyone.

Don’t give yourself any limits - take photos for fun of whatever you like from any angle you like. Then actually look at them later and think about what it is you do or don’t like about them. What kind of story that particular perspective of that particular photo is telling.

Then you can start to bring that to your moving work.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the ‘rules’ of how to do something that we forget how to experiment with something new. Taking a step back into a similar, but ultimately different medium can help you to reset. It’s also easier to be more creative when you don’t have to worry about covering action or dialogue.

You can use your phone if you don’t have a stills camera.

And yes: watch things you like and don’t like and try to think about why you like or dislike a particular shot, or coverage, or whatever. Consume and steal screen grabs for an inspiration board.
 
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