film-format I made a short film that takes place entirely on a computer screen. Here is what I learned.

Quick backstory:
About 3 months ago I bought a 15$ toy camera and challenged myself to create something at least half decent with it. No actors, no budget, just me and the silly toy camera.
The very first day I got it, I already knew I fucked up. I was expecting the video quality to be bad, but oh boy was I in for a treat. Even though it was supposed to record in 1080p, I'd say in reality it is about 360p, and a frame rate of maybe 15fps.
So right out of the gate I had to figure out a way to use the camera without the crappy quality standing out too much. Maybe it is a security camera footage? Or a dashcam? Or a hidden camera? But is that enough to carry a short film?

Eventually the idea of the short film taking place on a computer screen seemed like one of the very few real options I had.
The benefit of that approach was that I could have the characters message each other without the need to show them. It also allowed me to give more context and backstory through the browser, folders, and other elements on the desktop.

One thing that particularly stood out to me was how important the mouse cursor was. By the end of the film, it almost became a character itself.
Thanks to the cursor I could show one of the characters second guessing decisions, his reaction to things. Depending on how fast pr slow it was moving, or if hovered somewhere for a longer period, it conveyed different emotions.

The best example of that was at the end scene where thanks to the cursor I could imply what happened to the character. That last scene in fact is my favorite because of that. We don't see what is happening, instead it is left to our imagination. It is almost like that saying that the scariest things ion the movies are the ones we don't see.

I also turned the disadvantage of the crappy video quality into advantage and had some fun with a few simple practical effects. I mean since the quality is bad, you can also hide quite a lot.

I spent roughly 3 months creating all the elements from scratch and hand animating them. If I do it again, I'd be definitely more organized, as by the end I had way too many layers with things and it could get messy if I wanted to change something.

My 5 key takeaways are:
  • Creative limitation is a real thing. Sometimes the best ideas come from necessity.
  • If a film takes place on a computer screen you have a whole new set of tools to play with in terms of framing.
  • The cursor is very, very important
  • Short films are really hard. To establish a world, theme, characters, backstory, conflict and resolution in a limited amount of time is very challenging, but a great exercise in pacing and storytelling.
  • Be organized when editing. Your later self will thank you
All in all, this is my very first short film and a lot of mistakes were made, but I genially enjoyed the whole process. Looking forward to making more and sharing what I learn along the way.

I am not sure I am allowed to share link here, but if you are curios to check it out, get in touch and I will send it to you,
Turning the video quality limitation into an advantage and using practical effects sounds like a clever move. It's all about working with what you've got, right? Your key takeaways are spot on, especially the bit about short films being challenging but a fantastic exercise in storytelling. Staying organized during editing is a lesson we all learn the hard way! If you're into cinematography, I recently stumbled upon this cinematography course. As for me, it's like a journey into the world of visual storytelling, and who knows, it might add even more depth to your future projects.
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