Cinematography Foundation CUFCAM301A Shoot

Cinematography Foundation CUFCAM301A Shoot
Cinematography Foundation
CUFCAM301A Shoot Material for Screen
Student Handouts
“Cinematography is
infinite in its
possibilities... much more
so than music or
Conrad Hall
Refer handouts page X to X
Welcome/Housekeeping/Introductions/Trainer Showreel
Understanding Light
o Nature of Light
o Highlights + Shadow + Texture
o Different quality of sources – Soft + Hard
o Geometry of light
Developing an Awareness of Light & assessing available light (CUFCAM301A 3.1)
o Sensory awareness of everyday lighting
o Illustrations
o Photographs
o Films
o Paintings
o Comics
o Collaboration on scripts and concepts (CUFCAM301A 2.2)
o Complete appropriate documentation prior to shoots (CUFCAM301A 1.8)
o Practical application of a style
o Logistics of lighting on location
o Shot Selection
o Lenses & filters (CUFCAM301A 3.5)
Working as a Cinematographer
o Pre production briefings, production and post requirements (CUFCAM301A 1.1)
! schedules/set ups (CUFCAM301A 2.4)
! night shoots
! post-production process
! props and sets
! specialised equipment
! locations
o Prepare for shoot – shot lists, media and battery labels (CUFCAM301A 1.8)
o Set up on location, block through (on set rehearsal), Assistant Director’s
directions, safety on set e.g. operator, equipment, cables (CUFCAM301A 2.3, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3,
5.4, 5.5, 5.6)
Participate in pre-production meetings and block through, if
required, and ensure that final camera movements are understood
! Communicate with relevant production personnel during shoots
and position and move camera cabling according to rehearsal
! React to directions received from relevant production personnel
and ensure consistency of timing of rehearsed shots
! Work in cooperation with other personnel to achieve the desired
camera movements
! Ensure that camera operators do not collide with other elements
! Complete cabling handling operations without damage to
equipment or injury to personnel
Wrap up after shoot
! Ensure correct labelling of media (CUFCAM301A 6.2)
! Safe lifting techniques (CUFCAM301A 6.1)
! Fault reporting and completing documentation (CUFCAM301A 6.3)
! Location maintenance (CUFCAM301A 6.4)
Reviewing performance and noting areas for improvement
(CUFCAM301A 6.5)
Working during post production (CUFCAM301A 4.2)
Key Production Roles
Director of Photography (DOP)
The Director of Photography is in charge of the camera and lighting crews. The DOP typically
selects the film stock, lenses, filters, etc. to realise the scene in accordance with the
intentions of the director. The director will usually convey to the DOP what they want from a
scene visually and then rely on the DOP to achieve that effect. The DOP may also be the
camera operator.
Camera Operator
The Camera Operator works with the DOP to devise camera set-ups and camera tracking
moves to best interpret the director’s vision. When shooting the film, the Camera Operator is
responsible for physically operating the camera and for the composition and framing of each
Camera Assistant
The role of the Camera Assistant varies depending on the size of the shoot. A Camera
Assistant may be responsible for carrying and setting up the gear, pulling focus, clapper
loading and marking tapes. On low budget shoots the Camera Assistant may also be the grip.
Focus Puller or 1st Assistant Camera pulls focus during a shot to ensure that focus is always
on the critical area of the image to which the viewer should be focusing.
Clapper Loader or 2nd Assistant Camera marks shots/takes, loads stock/magazines to the
camera and ensures rolls of film or tapes are labeled and protected once “exposed” or shot.
Checks which tapes are to be printed.
The Gaffer is the head of the lighting department and is responsible for the design and
execution of the lighting plan for a production. The Gaffer reports to the DOP and will usually
have an assistant and may need a crew of rigging electricians. Experienced Gaffers are often
able to assist in the design of the lighting, as well as the implementation. In Australia a gaffer
is expected to own a truck complete with basic lighting equipment and may rent extra lighting
and light-rigging equipment if necessary. A separate Generator Operator may also be
Best Boy
The Best Boy is an assistant to the gaffer and part of the lighting department. On short or low
budget films the lighting team often only consists of a gaffer and a Best Boy. They are
responsible for the lighting of the set or location and take direction from the DOP.
The Grip is responsible for camera mounting and support, generally anything excluding a
basic tripod. Grips operate cranes, dollies and platforms as directed by the DOP. Set cutters to
prevent lens flares. Prep umbrellas before it starts to rain.
The stylistic element of Cinematography deals with all photographic elements of the
film. There are many tools available at the filmmakers disposal, but it is commonly
agreed by Cinematographers the world over that these tools should always be used to
best serve the purposes of the story they are telling.
This book focuses on the use of digital video as a tool for photographing the film.
The question of which is better – “film or video?” – is often asked by new filmmakers.
The answer is that they are very different mediums both with their own unique
advantages and disadvantages. The resolution of top end high definition video is now
approaching that of film, but will never be a truly optical image like film. Traditional
celluloid film involves light itself hitting a light sensitive film without any digital process
in the middle, whereas digital video involves converting the light hitting a sensor into a
digital signal. The clarity and quality of the digital image can be used to tell a story
which is suited to the “look of video”, and a softer, “film look” can be added to video
to more closely replicate the look of film. Film itself may still be a more suitable
medium for your film project both in terms of cost and look, and it is useful to look at all
your options when choosing a format on which to shoot. There is a rapid technological
shift toward video (and specifically tape-free, hard drive recording) which is likely to
streamline the process between production, distribution and exhibition.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the video recording media that are commonly available.
Note that a lot of the analogue formats are rapidly disappearing as digital formats take
Refer handouts page X to X
Meeting the Camera
o Battery & Capture Media management (CUFCAM301A 1.3, 1.4)
o Equipment Management, camera tests (CUFCAM301A 1.2, 2.5-2.6)
o Accessories Management (CUFCAM301A 1.2)
o Microphones (CUFCAM301A 2.7)
Composition (CUFCAM301A 2.1, 4.3)
o Positioning the camera (and related considerations)
o Composition techniques
o Framing for varied screen ratios incorporating principles of:
o Law of thirds
o Symmetry
o Drawing the eye to desired objects
Continuity and screen direction, coverage (CUFCAM301A 4.1, 4.2)
Exposure Control
o Shutter Speed
o Aperture
o ND Filter
! Limitations of video capture
! Principles of contrast
! Understanding Aperture
! Understanding Zebra Stripes
! Techniques to control contrast
Camera Movement, 6.1, 6.4, 6.5)
o Operating with tripod
o Handheld
o Developing an intuitive approach to camera
o Maintaining focus, working with a follow focus (CUFCAM301A 4.5)
o Other camera mounts professional & DIY (CUFCAM301A 2.3, 2.5)
o Working with crew and translators (CUFCAM301A 4.3, 4.4, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6)
This is a basic list provided for training and assessment for Certificate III in Media
students. Additional equipment from Open Channel’s full hire list may incur additional
charges. Students must provide own external hard drives for storage of media.
Laptops are not available for hire, however edit suite access can be made available
for off-location data wrangling.
Camera Kit
Panasonic P2 camera kit inc zoom lens
Canon DSLR stills camera (optional)
On board monitor (optional)
Lens hood and filters including graduated ND, polarising (optional)
Lithium ION Batteries x 2 and charger
Recording media P2 solid state cards x 2 and card reader
Slate (Clapper)
Lighting Kit
Redhead kit (3x 800W lights and stands)
Blondie (2000W light) (optional)
Spare globes
Extension cables, power boards, and RCDs
Sandbags x 3
C-Stand and flags (optional)
Gels and diffuser sheets (assorted including CTO and CTB)
Boom Mic Sound Kit
Rode shotgun microphone
Boom pole
XLR cables x 2
Lapel mic kit (2x wired lapel mics) (optional)
Zoom H4N audio recorder (optional)
Grips Kit
" Professional tripod
Video Recording Media
After the advent of videotape in the 1950’s, the number of recording formats expanded
exponentially, with leading formats developed by one of two major camps - Sony or
Panasonic. The term ‘format’ may relate to either the tape stock or other recording
media, or the recording specification itself, but not necessarily both. Some tapes can
be used to record more than one ‘format’, and some ‘formats’ can be recorded on
more than one tape stock and more than one medium. There is much room for
confusion! More recently, “tapeless” cameras are recording directly onto special
discs, cards or hard drives. Some of these require card readers and/or special
software to capture the recorded material.
Videotape stock comes in a few basic types – Oxide, Metal Particle, Metal Evaporated
and Magneto-optical. Which stock and format you record to will often come down to
budget and the camera equipment you are using. If recording to tape, beware of
cheaper tape stocks as they can shed their emulsion and clog your deck or camera
Video Tape Formats
Domestic Quality Formats - Analogue
Lowband analogue formats have been largely phased out since the advents of digital
video, and include formats such as VHS, S-VHS, U-matic, Video 8, Hi 8.
Lowband (Domestic Quality) Formats – Digital 8
A versatile digital tape format with great quality at a low price.
Cameras using this tape format vary enormously in cost and capability,
from tiny handbag cameras through to mid-level professional cameras.
This tape is sometimes used for low-budget documentaries and for
some broadcast material when used in higher end DV and DVCam
cameras, because of the size of the cameras and the affordable price
of the tapes. In DVCam mode a standard 60 minute DV tape will only
record 40 minutes of footage as the tape runs faster through the
Prosumer Quality Formats – Digital
HDV acts as a bridge between the standard definition DV format, and
the higher end, truly High Definition formats. HDV tape stock is a more
expensive version of the MiniDV or DVCam tape, so cameras that
record to HDV can also record the HDV format onto MiniDV or small
DVCam tapes. Some HDV cameras can also record those Standard
Definition formats (DVCam and DV) and some record HDV onto a
portable hard disk. Sony camera record in true 1080 , whereas
Panasonic cameras record in 720 and convert to 1080 output so quality
is inferior.
Broadcast Quality Formats - Analogue
As with other lowband analogue formats, these are quickly being replaced by digital
formats. Some superseded formats include Betacam (introduced in 1982, used to be
the principal format for broadcast acquisition and editing), BVU and 1 inch.
Has been around since 1987 and largely replaced Betacam for
broadcast recording and editing. Standard Play (SP) Betacam is
declining in usage, but this stock is still available.
Broadcast Quality Formats – Digital 8
Very good quality tape stock. Popular format with large production
houses and acceptable to some broadcasters. While the DVCam format
can be recorded onto MiniDV tapes, DVCAM tapes are said to be more
robust, and offer the choice of 2 tape sizes (smaller DVCam tapes are
identical in size to MiniDV tapes). The image quality of the DVCam
format is theoretically superior to DV recording, regardless of the tape
stock used. Not all cameras that record DVCam format accept smaller
tapes. Very popular with low end applications such as Corporate or
Documentary producers.
An optical disk format (not a tape format), this medium records DVCam,
and HDV materials, as well as other formats called MXF and MPEG
IMX. A very versatile and high quality recording media, and recording
and playback systems to match. This Sony format lies somewhere
between Prosumer formats and DigiBeta.
High quality tape used for a variety of recording formats, including
DVCPro 25, DVCPro 50, DVCPro100 (also known as DVCPro HD).
Available in 2 tape sizes, most cameras only use the smaller tapes. The
larger tapes are used only in decks and the higher end cameras. Each
variant of the DVCPro recording format is progressively higher in
quality. As the format number doubles, duration of the tape halves.
DVCPro-HD is also being recorded to P2 Flash Cards (not just tape).
Panasonic sponsored the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and as a
result a large amount of this equipment still remains in use in
Melbourne today.
(Advanced Video Coding High Definition) is a file-based format for the
digital recording and playback of high-definition video. Developed
jointly by Sony and Panasonic, the format was introduced in 2006
primarily for use in high definition consumer camcorders. Favorable
comparisons of AVCHD against HDV and XDCAM EX solidified
perception of AVCHD as a format acceptable for professional use. In
2011 the AVCHD specification was amended to include 1080-line 50frame/s and 60-frame/s modes (AVCHD Progressive) and stereoscopic
video (AVCHD 3D). The new modes also allow higher system data rate
than existing modes.
Panasonic’s equivalent to Sony’s HDCam format, DVC Pro HD
records true 1080 at roughly a third of the price of HDCam. Often used
for origination, with mastering done on HDCam for delivery to
Digital Betacam is an extremely high quality broadcast
recording and editing format, with multiple generation editing and
dubbing, showing little (if any) image quality loss. Some decks can play
both Digital Betacam and Betacam SP formats, but the cameras only
record one or the other. This robust format has been very popular with
broadcasters and large production companies and is commonly used
for Mastering, however is slowly being replaced by HDCam with the
introduction of High Definition.
A digital version of the Betacam SP tape, introduced in the mid
1990’s, this was less expensive option than the Digital Betacam format.
Still a very high resolution format, with great colour reproduction.
Bright yellow cassette bodies make them hard to miss. The cameras
and decks have been superseded. Channel 9 in Melbourne still use this
format for news, however there is not widespread use of this format.
A High Definition version of the Digital Betacam range, this tape is very
high quality, with matching cameras and decks. This is currently the
preferred format for Mastering in high definition.
A further development of the HDCam series, this is also a High
Definition format in the Digital Betacam range, but it has even greater
colour resolution. This is a very pricey tape format, and is used at the
high end of the market, prized for it’s durability, hence its popularity for
archiving. Not commonly used for commercial applications due to the
hefty price tag, but is used to replace film stock on some feature films
(Lord of the Rings).
Expect more formats with ever-greater versatility, and a wider range of capture and
storage media types as technology develops. New formats are being released on a
regular basis. Some formats are available across the major brands, while others are
A basic DIY kit for wrangling data on set might include:
- Macbook Pro
- Card Readers
- Firewire Storage Drives x 2
- Backup Batteries
- Miscellaneous Cables (with extra backups)
In no way is this a super-professional high-speed kit, but it’s good enough to perform
basic data wrangling tasks. If you’re a camera assistant consistently working on
digital shoots, it’s a good idea to invest in some of these items. One note about hard
drives: it is standard for the production to buy them. Don’t ever use your own money or
money they are paying you to buy the drives. Once the footage is on them, the drives
will be filtered throughout the post-production pipeline. You are more than
encouraged, however, to recommend a few hard drive options. A professional Data
Wrangler will have much more expensive (and robust) systems for capturing and
mirroring data, known as “Data Carts”
P2 data wrangling with Adobe Premiere Pro
Equipment required
Panasonic AG HPX250 camera
P2 cards
Card reader & dual plug USB cable
Mac Pro laptop computer and power cable
2 x External hard drives, and cables
Camera card formatting
before you start shooting, make sure that your media cards have been
cleared by formatting (erasing) them (but make sure you’ve got copies of all
of your media on your cards before you format them)
Use the camera menu:
navigate to:
Operation > Format > Slot1 (for a card in slot 1) or Slot2 (for a card in slot 2)
Camera recording resolution:
The highest quality video resolution settings for recording on the camera is
AVC-Intra 100: 1920 x 1080,* 10 bit, 4:2:2 at 25P
This will give you high quality full-pixel high definition video images with
full colour sampling, and will allow you to record 128 minutes of video on
64gb card
You can set this resolution on the camera by going into the
Under the system menu:
System Setup > Rec Format > AVC-I100/25PN
P2 card copy / back up
Removing card:
When a card is full or nearing it’s capacity, eject the card from the camera.
When you remove a card, always activate the write protect button on the
(which is on the bottom right of the card).
Set this switch to protect.
This prevents any further recording on the card (until the switch is
manually reset), and protects the data on the card from being
accidentally recorded over.
Transferring data from card:
Use the dual USB cable to connect the Panasonic P2 card reader to the
Mac laptop (one USB cable supplies power to the card reader, while the
other USB cable is used to transfer data to and from the card reader)
Insert the card with recorded material on it into the P2 card reader
On the Mac Pro laptop, a new volume called “no name” will appear on
the desktop
On your external hard drive, create a folder called “media files”. This will
be your master collection of all media for your project
In this folder, create a new folder for the card that you are transferring (it’s
a good idea to label this folder by the shoot day number and card number;
eg: “shoot day 001, card 001”)
Copy the entire contents of the volume “No Name” (which is your
camera card) as it is! There will be a folder named “Contents” and a
file called “Lastclip.txt” – do not change the names of any of these files!
It's crucial to maintain the file structure (the file names & folder organization)
of the original camera media when copying to a backup device and your
media drive. If you discard the metadata and folder structure on the card,
you can lose important information and face challenges when importing
spanned clips (video files which exceed the 4gb data file size limit or span
between two cards)
Copy this data to the newly created folder on your media drive; name
the folder with an appropriate name eg: “Shoot day 001, Card 001”
File copying can take some time. If you have a full 64gb card you can
expect this to take 35 minutes to copy.
Safety copy of media:
Once you’ve copied this media onto one external drive, you need to make a
safety copy of this data onto a second external drive (because hard drives
fail! Especially domestic hard drives).
It’s extremely important to always make a second copy of your media!
Hard drives fail, and are extremely expensive to fix (if they can be fixed),
so you’ll most likely need to re-shoot any data that you’ve lost from your
hard drive.
Having a minimum of two (preferably three) copies of your camera
media protects you from hard drive failure.
Re-using P2 Cards
Don’t re-use any P2 Cards until you’ve confirmed (checked) that you’ve
got two copies of the media contents of each card on each of your hard
Importing (ingesting) media into Adobe Premiere Pro
As you get more familiar with Premiere Pro, you’ll find that there are a
few different ways of doing most steps. This is an outline of one
method (that works), as you learn more, you’ll find there are other
methods that may be more appropriate.
Open Adobe Premiere Pro
Select your Media Browser window
In the column on the left of your media browser, select your media drive,
and navigate to your media files on your media drive.
Select one or more files from the list of files.
To select more than one non-contiguous file, Command-click the
filenames. To select more than one contiguous file, Shift-click the
Once you’ve selected your files to import, perform either of the
following steps:
Select File > Import From
right-click the file in the Media Browser and select Import.
For all supported formats, remember that they're imports, not
captured footage. Adobe Premiere Pro merely links to them.
Spanned Clips
Some formats (such as P2) will create multiple spanned clips to represent a
single video file. A spanned clip divides the material into separate files to
the length of any one file under a threshold (such as 4 GB – this is a physical
limitation of the camera technology to keep compatibility with Windows
based computers). Although spanned clips are physically stored as
separate files, they should be handled by Adobe Premiere Pro as a single
Here are some important tips concerning spanned clips:
• Select only one clip. The key to importing spanned clips is to only
select one of the clips in the span. If you select more than one
spanned clip, you will end up importing duplicate copies of the
• Keep the XML. The reason you cloned the entire card was to retain all
of the metadata. Without this data, spanned clips typically cannot
be reassembled.
• Jumped cards. If the clip spans two P2 cards, it's important to copy
the entire directory for both cards to your drive. The copies should
be at the same level in a media folder.
• Favour the Media Browser. The most reliable way to import spanned
clips is with the Media Browser. However, you can also use the Import
command (File > Import) in most cases.
When all of the sound, picture, and data elements of a production have been
completed, they may be assembled into a Digital Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM)
which contains all of the digital material needed for projection. The images and sound
are then compressed, encrypted, and packaged to form the Digital Cinema Package
A post production company such as Digital Pictures can assist with Digital Film
Mastering. Linear Tape File System (LTFS) refers to data recorded on magnetic tape
media. The LTFS Format specification, which was adopted by the LTO Technology
Provider Companies (Sony, TDK, HP, IBM etc), defines the organization of data and
metadata on tape such as LTO5 - files stored in hierarchical directory structure. Data
tapes written in the LTFS Format can be used independently of any external database
or storage system allowing direct access to file content data and file metadata. This
format makes it possible to implement software that presents a standard file system
view of the data stored in the tape media. This file system view makes accessing files
stored on the LTFS formatted media similar to accessing files stored on other forms of
storage media such as disk or removable flash drives.
For current information contact Film & Tape Sales (see Resources section).
Caring for Tape Stock
Get into the habit of clearly labeling tapes. Remove recording tabs from tapes to
prevent accidental erasure. Be sure not to touch the tape itself with your fingers.
Keep tapes away from magnetic fields such as computers, library borrowing systems,
generators, the back of televisions, stereo speakers and magnets. Tapes are coated
in magnetic emulsion, which can get scrambled by magnetic fields.
Rewind tapes after use to protect the tape from stretching and warping the image.
Store tapes vertically (standing up) to avoid the tape sagging on their reels. This can
cause dropouts. Wind and rewind tapes annually to avoid magnetic bleed through.
Long term storage should be in a cool (10 to 15 degree) spot with low humidity.
Extreme temperature variations should be avoided.
Hard drives or compact disk based recording formats also need to be cared for
Caring for Hard drive
The Disk Defragmenter utility is a very handy tool to make data retrieval faster on your
hard disk. The way it works is like this: it analyzes the hard disk to see where data is
fragmented (blocks of files are scattered) and where to allocate the data so it is "defragmented" (the entire file is written in one place).
The Disk Cleanup Utility is an efficient way of getting rid of garbage inside of your hard
disk. Temporary files on your hard disk accumulate and cause the disk to run slower.
Disk Cleanup Utility helps you get rid of these things, and makes it possible to store
other things, in most cases. If you have not used this utility before, chances are you
can open up a great deal of occupied space, making you able to have more storage
Most importantly, remember to eject the disk manually on the computer
before removing it.
Caring for Compact disk
1. Always handle the disc by its edge or center hole.
2. On no account scratch the CD on the label or play side. A scratch that penetrates
the label side will directly destroy a considerable amount of data, surprisingly a
scratch on the play side of the disc is often invisible to the CD player and if not can
sometimes be repaired.
3. Refrain from sticking paper or tape on the label surface. While it won't hurt the disc,
it could interfere with the CD player.
4. Do not write on the label surface with a ballpoint pen or other hard object. This will
damage the data layer. Also the solvent in a marking pen; could penetrate the label
and deteriorate the reflective layer (which would damage the disc beyond repair).
5. Do not expose a CD to high temperature or humidity for an extended period of time,
high temperatures can warp the disc and cause deterioration of the reflective layer.
6. Do not allow CDs to remain out of their cases for long periods of time and handle
only when placing them into and removing them from the CD player
7. Take extra care with CDs when using them outside. Sand or dirt can cause damage
to the label side (which can't be repaired).
8. Keep your CDs clean by gently wiping both the label and play side surfaces with a
non-abrasive (i.e. soft cotton) cloth prior to and after each use.
9. Use care when putting in and out of the case and player as that is where most of the
scratching will occur.
10. Do not store more than one cd per case or sleeve.
The Video Camera
Most video cameras are “Camcorders”. This means that the recording mechanism is
located within the camera itself. Whether you are shooting on a broadcast quality
Digital Betacam camera or a small MiniDV handicam, there are key functions either in
the menu on the camera’s body that can assist you to get a better quality image. Be
sure to familiarise yourself with whichever camera you hire and learn where to find
and how to use the following functions:
Audio Controls
White Balance
Focus Ring
Always set your camera to manual operation so that you have more control over the
quality of the image and so you can get the focus, exposure and colour balance you
want. Auto settings leave the camera to make critical decisions, taking away you’re
your informed judgment and control. This can also mean things like focus “wander”
during a shot. Check that the auto button doesn’t reset itself after turning the camera
White Balance
The White Balance balances the electronics of the camera to the colour of the
ambient light. Daylight is at the blue end of the spectrum, and light from a domestic
light bulb is at the red end. This means that if the camera’s white balance has been
setup in daylight, then records material under incandescent lights, the entire scene
will appear more blue than they appear to the eye. The white balance function adjusts
the main ambient light in a scene to appear white (See Colour Temperature in the
Lighting section of this handbook).
Each change in lighting conditions will require a new White Balance. Usually found
near the camera’s Iris, the White Balance can be performed by filling the frame with
white, usually a piece of paper or card, and then pressing the white balance control.
Wait until the White Balance symbol flashes, as per the camera’s manual, then stops
flashing - and you will have set the colour balance for the light you are in. You can
often save presets for particular conditions.
Focusing adjusts a camera’s lens to project an image that is ‘sharp’. To get quick
focus, zoom in as far as the lens goes, pointing at the subject you wish to look sharp,
such as an actor’s eye (no matter how dark, the eye reflects light and allows you to
see if it is soft or sharp) then turn the focus ring until the subject is clearly in focus.
Then zoom out to the frame size you like and the subject should remain in focus.
The most common manual focus mechanism is a ring at the front of the lens housing.
Turn the ring clockwise for focus on nearer subjects and anti-clockwise for focus on
distant subjects. You may need to “pull focus” during a shot, if the distance between
the camera and the subject varies, or if you want to use focus to direct the viewer’s
attention from one subject to another in this way. (See Depth of Field).
The zoom can move the point of view closer or further from the subject without
physically moving the camera. The zoom is used to set the shot size. As a rule, try to
avoid using the zoom during a shot as it can draw attention to itself and is generally
considered unprofessional.
The camera’s aperture is adjusted by turning a ring on the lens barrel or the body of
the camera. With professional cameras, the size of the aperture is physically altered
by a circular diaphragm made up of overlapping blades that slide apart to open, and
fold together to close. This diaphragm assembly is called the Iris, and is situated
inside the actual lens.
Adjusting the Iris (also referred to as Aperture) one step at a time, makes the image
brighter or darker. Finding the best Iris setting is necessary to make sure the details in
the picture are captured in both the lightest and the darkest regions of your picture.
The Iris is measured by a scale that indicates what fraction of light is being allowed
through the lens. Each step in the iris’ dial is known as an f-stop. The lower the f-stop,
the more light is let into the lens (and the narrower the Depth of Field), the higher the fstop, the less light (and the greater the Depth of Field).
Image sourced from reproduced for educational
purposes only.
The f- stop scale commonly found on video cameras is f 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22,
Be careful when checking the exposure on a flip out LCD screen, as it will look
different depending on the angle you view the screen from. (See Monitors for methods
to accurately set up and monitor the colour balance, contrast and brightness of your
camera’s image).
DV cameras are very light sensitive, so much so that you may run out of f-stops when
shooting in bright conditions. Even f 32 may have no effect to sufficiently darken an
over exposed image.
This is when you can use a Neutral Density filter. ND filters act like sunglasses for the
camera lens. They are manufactured in a way that won’t affect your picture’s colour,
only the brightness. The ND filter is often built into the camera and can be engaged
with the flick a switch. Some cameras require a separate ND filter to be attached to
the front of the lens.
A helpful way of checking your actual image brightness, if you don’t have a calibrated
field monitor, is to use the camera’s Zebra function. When switched on, you will notice
that black and white stripes appear over the brightest areas of the image in the
camera’s viewfinder or flip-out screen. This zebra pattern will not be recorded onto
the tape and is used for reference only.
Most cameras have a zebra pre-set option of either 70% or 100%. With a 70% zebra,
the lines will appear in the viewfinder when the image brightness reaches 70% of a
possible 100%. This is usually a good brightness to set fair skin tones at. By adjusting
the f-stop up or down, you can look through the viewfinder until the subject’s skin has
zebra lines, then you know that their skin is set at about 70% exposure. 70% zebra
usually won’t work for dark skinned subjects, depending on the foreground and
background of the image.
Gain is like an electronic light boost to be used when your light source is inadequate.
Through the camera’s circuitry, it increases the light levels across the entire image.
Gain is expressed in dB, and the common range on a video camera is 3, 6, 9, 12, 15,
and 18dB.
The dB scale can be used almost like an extension of the f-stop range, but it is in fact a
very different function. The problem with using gain is that it creates electronic noise,
degrading your picture quality. The higher the gain, the worse the noise.
Shutter Speed
As well as Iris and Gain, you can use the shutter speed to control the amount of light
entering the camera’s light sensors (also known as CCDs). Changing the shutter
setting affectively alters how fast the CCD records the picture.
Shutter speed allows you to control how sharp your subject looks when in motion. For
example, a fast car or a person running can appear still with a high shutter speed or
blurred with a low shutter speed. The default shutter speed setting for PAL video is
1/50th of a second.
A Shutter Speed scale on a video camera might range from 1/3 second (resulting in
the most light per frame of video, and blurred movement), 1/6, 1/12, 1/25, 1/50 (the
native shutter speed for PAL video), 1/60, 1/100, 1/120, 1/150, 1/215, 1/300, right up to
1/10,000 (resulting in the least amount of light per frame of video, and the least amount
of motion blur). Superspeed cameras allow images such as a speeding bullet to be
captured as a clear still frame.
Fast Shutter
Slow Shutter
Images sourced from or reproduced for educational purposes only.
Exposure describes the total amount of light allowed to reach a light sensitive device
over a particular time. In a video camera, this is a direct result of the amount of light
entering through the iris, and the amount of time the shutter is open, for each frame of
video. There is an inverse relationship between aperture and shutter speed, so when
adjusting one of these controls you may need to compensate by adjusting the other (or
increase / reduce the amount of light).
Colour Bars
It is a good habit to record Colour Bars onto the beginning of every tape you use. The
first 60 or so seconds of a tape may become stretched and often has dropouts. You
cannot rely on images recorded onto this section of the tape (nor the last 60 seconds
or so). The Colour Bars function is usually found in the electronic menu, though some
are hard to find and may not even be labeled. Ask the hire company or refer to the
manual. It’s important to have camera-generated Colour Bars as a reference on your
tape so that in editing you can set up the computer to match the exact colour intended
in each shot.
Time Code
Time Code is an electronic numbering system for professional videotape. It allows
replay and record machines to repeatedly find exactly the same frame. TC is usually
read as: hours, minutes, seconds and frames. Most Time Code starts at 00:00:00:00.
Many cameras allow you to manually key in your chosen start numbers. This is helpful
when you have multiple tapes. E.g. Tape four can be electronically labeled by its time
code starting at 04:00:00:00.
Make sure you don’t break time code, (this occurs often when rewinding then
forwarding before recording more material). Broken Time Code can make it difficult to
tell how much tape is used, and plays havoc with your editing when trying to digitise
the footage either side of the break. Computers prefer a continuous time code. So do
Record Mode/Format
Make sure you are recording in Standard Play. Some MiniDV cameras now offer
DVCam recording and/or Long Play. DVCam records at a higher speed than MiniDV,
and decreases your tape’s effective duration (a standard 60 minute DV tape may only
record 40 minutes in DVCam mode). Long Play allows you to get more time out of your
tape at a lower quality but with more chance of dropouts. This may seem like a
wonderful thing at the time, however, keep post-production in mind. Do you have the
money or access to machines that can play DVCam or long play when you want to log
your rushes, and again when you digitise the footage into the edit suite? Whatever
your decision beware that it will affect your edit.
The Panasonic HPX250 P2HD is a handheld camera incorporating high-sensitivity 1/3
type, full-HD 2.2 megapixel 3MOS imagers to acquire native 1920 x 1080 resolution
images. In addition to AVC-Intra 100/50 recording, the HPX250 records in DVCPRO HD,
as well as standard definition recording in DVCPRO50, DVCPRO and DV.
Aspect Ratio
Most analogue televisions are 4:3 in their aspect ratio, meaning they are slightly
rectangular. 16:9 is the aspect ratio that has been introduced for Digital Television in
Australia, and is closer to the widescreen ratios commonly used in Cinemas. Aspect
ratios can be gained at source (through the camera’s menu) optically (via a lens
adaptor) or in post production (by anamorphically ‘stretching’ the image. Some
methods result in better picture quality, than others.
When viewed on a 4:3 TV monitor, 16:9 images look ‘letterboxed’, that is black lines
appear at the top and bottom of the image, ensuring that none of the image is cropped.
Similarly, when viewing 4:3 images on a 16:9 TV monitor, the image will be ‘pillar
boxed’, with black lines on left and right of the image. (See Post Production for more
You should decide on the aspect ratio and maintain it throughout the
Image Stabiliser
Cameras often have image stabilisers that to some degree remove the shake of a
handheld image. Unless the stabiliser is specifically an optical stabiliser, then it
should not be used. Digital Stabilisers degrade the image too much, as they zoom
slightly into the image to allow for the wobble on the edges. High-end cameras usually
have optical stabilizers. Check the manual.
Lenses may be Zoom (variable focal length) or Prime (fixed focal length). Prime
lenses offer faster "speeds" (light sensitivity) and better quality.
With human eyesight, light reflected or emitted from objects is picked up by a lens and
then focused onto a light-sensitive surface called the retina. The variations in light are
transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve and translated into images in the brain.
The video camera works in a similar manner to the eye, with variations in light focused
by the camera lens and transferred via the optical assembly onto CCD sensors, which
then convert the light into electrical energy. A CCD, or Charged Coupled Device, is
also known as a Chip.
Professional cameras use three CCD sensors, one for each of the three primary
screen colours: Red, Green and Blue. Lenses are made up of a series of curved glass
discs in a tube-shaped metal barrel. These allow a measured amount of light to reach
the CCDs.
Inside the lens is the iris, an opening through which light passes. The aperture may be
made wider or narrower by an adjustable ring on the outside of the lens. A wide
aperture allows more light to pass through the lens, while a narrow aperture restricts
the amount of light. (See Iris)
The focal length of a lens is measured in millimeters and represents the distance from
the camera’s image sensor to the optical centre of the lens, when focused on infinity.
There are three kinds of Prime Lenses:
1. A Wide Angle lens (less than 35mm) covers a larger area of view. Useful for
handheld work in crowded or confined areas, wide angle lenses exaggerate
the apparent size of the space, and are less sensitive to the camera’s
movement. Wide Angle lenses magnify depth, making objects appear more
spaced apart than through the human eye. Focusing is less critical when using
a Wide Angle lens.
Image: ©
2. A Normal lens (35mm – 50mm) replicates objects with a similar perspective
to the human eye. It’s about 25mm long and covers a horizontal area of about
25 degrees. This is the most natural perspective for humans.
Image: ©
3. Telephoto (or “Long”) lenses (75mm – 250mm+) allow the selective
separation of subjects within a scene, based on distance from the lens, thanks
to the narrow depth of field. Telephoto lenses compress depth, slowing
perceived movement toward and away from camera. Movement of camera is
exaggerated and tripod based only. Holding focus becomes much more critical
with a telephoto lens.
Images: ©
The majority of today’s video cameras are equipped with variable focal length zoom
lenses that combine normal, wide angle and telephoto capabilities. A zoom lens can
operate at any focal length in its range. Zoom lenses are commonly described by their
zoom ratio. For example, a 14 X zoom means that the focal length of this model at its
narrowest angle (zoomed in) is 14 times what it is at its widest (zoomed out).
Therefore it has a ratio of 14:1.
Depth of Field
When the camera’s Iris is opened, not only does more light reach the camera’s
sensors but the Depth of Field is reduced. Depth of Field describes the range of
depths / distances from the camera which are in focus.
For example, if the Depth of Field is found to be from 1.8 metres to 4 metres, this means
that anything within that 2.2 metre distance will be in focus. If the subject moves
closer than 1.8 metres to, or further than 4 metres away from the camera, he or she
will appear out of focus.
The way the lens is used will affect the depth of field. Following are some rules about
this optical phenomenon:
Depth of Field increases as the focal length of the lens decreases. A
camera operator using a wide-angle lens has a far deeper area in focus.
Depth of Field decreases as the focal length of the lens increases. The
area in focus is much more shallow when using a telephoto lens.
As the iris is opened to allow in more light, the depth of field decreases.
The more the aperture of the lens is closed down, the greater the depth of
field. Generally there is less depth of field in low light because the iris will
need to be open.
Depth of Field can by used as a stylistic device to direct the viewer’s gaze to very
specific areas of the picture. A shallow Depth of Field offers the ability to selectively
focus on subjects who are at specific distances from the camera, while subjects at
other distances are intentionally out of focus. A great Depth of Field allows picture
sharpness to be held over longer distances. Each of these choices can create a
particular mood/ psychological effect for the film.
Grip Equipment
Grip equipment includes anything used to support or move the camera including
Tripods, Dollies, Cranes, Car Mounts and so on.
Become familiar with the tripod you are using. It will help you to achieve steady, wellframed images. Here are some points to remember:
Always store and transport the tripod in its case as this
will prevent dust, water etc. from getting into the
mechanisms and for the movements to remain smooth
for tilting and panning.
Always be sure the tripod is stable before mounting the
camera on it. Use the spreader and sandbags to help
secure the legs as needed.
Never leave the camera unattended while mounted on
the tripod. When not actually filming, make sure you
loosen off the horizontal action. This can mean the
difference between swinging the camera around, and
knocking the whole tripod over, if it gets knocked.
Don’t ever force a tripod to tilt, pan or slide. If it is tight, loosen the appropriate
drags and locks until the tension is released and there is no resistance to a
If the head feels stiff, after removing all the locks and drags, warm up the fluid in
the head by working it in either direction a few times at different speeds.
Always set your spirit level last, after adjusting the legs to the height you want.
The spirit level will help to keep the vertical lines vertical in your shot, even
when you pan and tilt.
Always check that you have removed the base plate from the camera and
returned it to the tripod. If you lose the base plate, it can be quite expensive to
Field Monitors
Field Monitors are used when shooting critical images,
to provide a broadcast quality picture on set. Monitors
give the Director and the DOP an accurate indication
of the frame size and an ability to view the action
without looking through the camera’s viewfinder. A
monitor also allows the Director to check the action
went to tape with the correct framing and focus
(however remember that the Director’s focus on actors
during a take can be more critical in obtaining the right
performance than watching a monitor). They are
particularly essential with crane shots, moving shots,
fast action shots, or any remote control situations etc. where precision is vital, or
where the camera operator can not look through the camera lens.
When working with film, a Video Split is often used to transfer the optical view of the
film, and translate it into a video signal. This is then fed both into the Field Monitor,
and into a VTR and or hard drive, for instant replay. When working with video, the
picture’s colour and tonal range can be clearly viewed, to check that your white
balance is accurate and that your iris setting looks right. Seeing the setup on a larger
monitor than the camera’s viewfinder of flip out screen can save you hours of ‘fixing’
poorly controlled images in the edit suite or the colour grade.
Setting Up a Colour Monitor
Video Monitors, if not set up correctly, do not accurately reflect the qualities of what is
being recorded. The steps below will ensure the monitor is set up correctly:
1. Set the monitor to colour bars or feed bars in from the camera. Turn colour
down so colour bars are seen in grey scale.
2. Adjust the brightness until the black bar is completely black, but other tones
are well spread across the tonal range.
3. Use the contrast control to set the white bar.
4. Adjust the hue. Turn up the colour and make sure the yellow bar (2nd from the
left) is lemon yellow (not orange or green) and the magenta bar (5th from the
left) is magenta (not red or purple).
5. Chroma or saturation. Most monitors will have a factory-set level.
6. Monitors must be professionally calibrated from time to time as their
components go out of alignment, and lose their ability to represent colour
Shooting Techniques
Camera Movement
Moving the camera horizontally from left to right (or vice versa) from a fixed position
Moving the camera vertically up or down from a fixed position
A way of changing the shot size without physically moving the camera (see Zoom in
The Video Camera section)
A Dolly is a platform on wheels that is
used to support the camera and also
often the tripod, to achieve smooth
movement within a shot. On low budget
shoots, innovative people have been
known to use skateboards, office chairs
or wheelchairs – anything with wheels to
achieve the same effect as a dolly.
By laying special tracks on the ground and putting a dolly, crane, jib or any other
tripod/ camera support on top, the camera can move smoothly towards, away from,
alongside or around the subject. Plastic plumbing pipes are often used on low budget
Hand-held shots can give images a more natural feel, or alternatively, may drive an
audience out of the cinema. Often used in documentaries or in police dramas to give it
an authentic, rough around the edges feel, much can be said for using a steadicam to
make this a more subtle, less nauseating affect (see Steadicam). This is often an
aesthetic choice, but may also be a budgetary one.
A device worn by the camera operator to prevent extreme movements of the wearer
from being transferred to the camera, thus allowing for a smooth image. Steadicams
operators might walk, run, move up and down steps, and swivel the camera around,
yet still achieve a smooth, free-floating look. Most steadicams are very expensive to
hire, and require a specialist to use them.
Camera Angles
Shooting from different angles can affect the way the image is perceived. If used
effectively, unusual angles can affect the dynamics of a scene, enhancing dramatic
tension and character.
High Angle (HA) shots are taken from above the subject. These shots can be used
to make the subject appear small or vulnerable.
Low Angle (LA) shots are taken from below a subject. These shots are traditionally
used to make a subject look more powerful or menacing.
Eye Level (EL) shots are taken from directly in front of the subject. These shots are
neutral and used most commonly.
Point of View (POV) shots show the audience the image through the subject’s
eyes. Often POV shots are hand-held to enhance the illusion that the audience is
seeing what the subject sees.
Bird’s Eye View shots are taken from directly above and can help to establish the
landscape/setting of your film, and also your subject’s relationship to it.
Other creative considerations in
Consider the tonal range and contrast in the image
Film processing effects, grading or timing effects to affect the final look of the
Speed of motion - camera movements, slow or fast speed shots, or “ramped”
shots where the speed (frame rate) changes during the shot
Other special recording techniques such as motion control and stop motion
Consider point-of-view, and how the camera works as a component of
blocking (alongside actors or other moving objects)
Length of a take – for example, a shot can range from one frame to the
duration of an entire scene, or even an entire film!
Shooting Styles & Considerations
Out of Sequence
The storyboard illustrates to the DOP the shots and angles that the director requires to
create a complete scene. The AD can then organise a shot list to cover as many of
those shots as possible, from each particular set up or position. This minimises
changes of camera position, lights etc. Shooting out of sequence in this way is an
economical way of getting all of the necessary shots. Sometimes however for the
actors’ sakes, and to save time with make-up and wardrobe changes, shooting out of
sequence isn’t the most desirable option.
In order to provide the editor with enough visual information to construct the story, the
same action is shot from different angles. This allows the editor to produce a
sequence of action with correct continuity. For example, one scene has a family
eating and talking at the table. One shot, the master shot, covers the whole scene
from a wide angle so that everyone is seen. Another shot covers just the Dad talking
and nodding close-up. These two shots can be cut together to help the audience get a
full idea of all the characters and the situation.
Cut-aways are shots that are outside the frame of the main action. These are useful to
cover omissions or mistakes in the continuity of the shoot, and provide the editor with
visual options. Often consisting of details previously off screen, they can also be used
to inform the audience of a key point or clue. A common example of a Cut-Away can
be seen on a current affairs interview, where talking heads are interspersed with
shots of the interviewer nodding, or the fidgeting fingers of the interviewee. Closeups, wide shots or details of the action can make useful cut-away material.
All shots are linked together in sequences that tell a larger story. The way in which
any two shots are linked together is called a transition. Camera work is very important
in creating successful transitions, and you need to think about how every shot will fit
with those before and after, both within a scene, and between scenes.
Action Safe Area
Early televisions varied in their displayable area due to manufacturing tolerance
problems as well as a process called blooming, where the image size increased
slightly when a brighter overall picture was displayed. Because of this, TV producers
could not be certain where the visible edges of the image would be. In order to cope
with this, they defined three areas:
Title safe: An area visible by all reasonably maintained sets, where text was
certain not to be cut off.
Action safe: A larger area that represented where a "perfect" set would cut
the image off.
Overscan: The full image area to the electronic edge of the signal.
A significant number of people would still see some of the overscan area, so while
nothing important to a scene could be placed there, it also had to be kept free of
microphones, stage hands, and other distractions. Studio monitors and camera
viewfinders can be set to show this area, so that producers and directors can make
certain it is clear. When activated, this mode is called underscan.
Composition & Framing
Framing the Image
Understanding how the brain relates to shapes helps the DOP construct the most
appropriate placement of objects within the frame. Composition and Framing will be
influenced by the practicalities of the situation, but good composition is essential for a
story to be told at a visual level.
Headroom, eye lines and angles all directly affect the meaning of the image, and these
aesthetic considerations can affect the mood of the film.
Headroom, Looking Room and Leading Room are terms that refer to the amount of
room in the frame that is strategically left empty. Headroom is the amount of space
between the top of the subject’s head and the top of the frame. A common mistake in
amateur video is having far too much Headroom. The shot of someone walking has
some Leading Room for them to walk into, while the shot of someone looking, will need
Looking Room, for them to look into. Without enough of this empty space the framing
will look uncomfortable.
Use of shapes within the frame can help to produce aesthetically pleasing shots. For
example the use of diagonals and triangles can accentuate perspective and distance.
The Rule of Thirds
The rule states that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two equallyspaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. The four points formed
by the intersections of these lines can be used to align features on the screen. This
technique of aligning an image with these points creates more tension, energy and
interest on screen than simply centering an image.
The application of the rule of thirds to photographs and film is considered by many to make them more
aesthetically pleasing and professional-looking. The rule of thirds can be applied by lining up subjects
with the guiding lines, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line instead of the centre, or allowing
linear features on the screen to flow from section to section.
Crossing the Line (Continuity)
The line of action or the Axis of Action is an imaginary partition running through the
space in front of the camera. It was originally devised to ensure multiple angles of a
scene could be cut together without a confusing reversal of left and right screen
space. For example, when two people are facing each other, if person one looks left
to right (on screen), the audience expects the second person to look right to left. If the
line is crossed, it appears like one person is looking at the back of the other’s head.
The direction of the line can be anywhere the filmmaker chooses but usually it runs
through the line of sight between people featured in a scene. Once the line is
determined, a working space of 180 degrees is established on one side of the line. For
that scene, the only camera positions allowed are within the established semi-circle.
The result is that screen direction will be consistent.
Person 1
Person 2
If the line is crossed, the screen direction will be reversed and the result will confuse
the audience. The diagram below gives an example of crossing the line. The camera
is still filming person 1 from one side of the line, but person 2 is shot from the other
side of the line. The result when these two shots are cut together is that person 1
looks like they are staring at the back of person 2’s head. Cutaways could be used to
link shots from one side of the line and the other, but it is best to avoid this during
Person 1
Person 2
Aspect Ratios & Resolution
Aspect ratios are the ratio of image width to image height which for television are
either 4:3 (standard) or 16:9 (widescreen). Theatrical cinema also feature a range of
options in regards to projected aspect. Resolution refers to the horizontal pixels and
vertical scan lines (detail) which make up the picture.
In the digital realm, you also need to be aware of pixel aspect ratio you're using in
your graphics program and whether your final video project requires you to work with
square or non-square pixels.
• Non-square pixels: Use this for projects that are going to standard definition
tape in NTSC (America) or PAL (Australia).
• Square pixels: Use this for high definition video projects, as well as multimedia
video that will be played back only on computers and doesn't use any captured
video footage.
If you were creating graphics for a standard 4:3 PAL video screen (768 x 576) you
would select square pixel size, and a resolution of 720 576 in your graphics program
(such as Photoshop) to ensure the image appears correct when imported as video to
the non-square PAL format.
Fig. Common screen aspect ratios and resolutions
PAL HD 16:9 (1920 x 1080)
PAL DV standard 4:3 (768 x 576)
PAL DV widescreen 16:9 (1024 x 576)
Watch for some cameras which offer a fake widescreen option that letterboxes
(chops off the top and bottom of a 4:3 chip, rather than being a true widescreen CCD
(chip) camera. You can use an anamorphic lens on a 4:3 camera to shoot widescreen
and use the full breadth of the CCD.
The Clapper Board
A slate is a board that has information on it so that the details of each scene, shot and
take are recorded onto film or videotape/disk. A Clapper Board is similar to a Slate,
except it has a hinged piece on top that claps together to make a sound. Often slates
are electronic, showing the Time-code generated by the DAT or Hard Disk recorder.
The clap on the top is used to help during the edit, to synchronise the sound recorded
separately form the images, and to show which material is being viewed.
It is important to fill out the Slate/Clapper Board correctly so that you can clearly see
which Take you are looking at in the edit suite. This will help make your edit faster and
easier, and therefore less costly.
© “The Jammed”/The Picture Tank
A mute recording has the Slate or Clapper Board image recorded at the start of the
shot, with fingers (of the clapper loader holding it in front of the camera) clearly seen
blocking the clap or over the top of the clap. Sometimes people wriggle their fingers
to alert the editor not to search for synch sound.
An End Slate or Tail Slate is used when it is too difficult to get the Slate/Clapper Board
at the start of the shot (perhaps the camera is up too high or too close to an actor).
When the shot is finished, the camera keeps rolling and the Slate/Clapper Board is
shown upside down at the end of the shot. It is upside down to remind the editor that
it is the Slate for the previous shot, and not the one coming up. Always remember to
hold the Slate/Clapper Board in the light, in focus and within the frame, so it is easy to
read in the edit suite. Make sure that continuity sheets, shot lists and/ or log sheets all
match what is written on the Slate/ Clapper board so that there is no confusion.
Tips for Camera Hire
Check the camera before your hire. See if it actually does what you want. Also
check its power supply and batteries. Ask questions if you need to, and make
sure the rental house allows you to take a copy of the manual, with the hire.
Make sure the camera fits on the tripod you will be using. Sometimes the
thread or base of the tripod is only suitable for smaller or larger cameras.
Check every item of the camera as it may be set up quite differently from what
you require. Make sure you understand each and every menu item before you
make changes. Read the manual rigorously.
Make sure you read the hire agreement before signing it. Know what your
responsibilities are when hiring. Does the hire agreement automatically
include insurance cover? If so, under what conditions might you not be
covered? What is the excess on the insurance?
If you are not clear, ask questions.
Bend your knees when picking up equipment; it’s not worth hurting your back
for a film.
Do not leave equipment unattended or in the back of a car, as most insurance
doesn’t cover this.
Standard Shot Sizes
WS – Wide Shot
Wide angle – establishes the setting
or location
MLS – Medium Long Shot
Human figure occupies the screen
from head to knees
LS – Long Shot
Human figure is full screen height
(head to toes)
MS – Mid Shot
Human figure is on screen from head
to waist
MCU – Medium Close Up
Human figure is on screen from head
to breast pocket
CU – Close Up
Human head to shoulders (common
shot for dialogue)
BCU – Big Close Up
Part of head only. Enlarges features
beyond life size
ECU – Extreme Close Up
Isolating shot for extreme detail
(larger than life)
Refer handouts page X to X
Introduction to Lighting on set
o Prepare, set up and pack lighting equipment – see Camera and Lighting
Equipment List (CUFCAM301A 1.5, 2.3, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4)
o Mount and position lighting equipment following safety guidelines
(CUFCAM301A 3.2)
Cable management
Understanding power usage, and circuit loads
Why we use RCDs (CUFCAM301A 3.2)
Tagging and care of equipment (CUFCAM301A 3.2)
Reporting equipment faults and relevant documentation
Safety on set (CUFCAM301A 2.3, 3.2, 3.3)
! Set up equipment and accessories to ensure the safety of
personnel on location
! Mount and position lighting equipment following safety
! Run lighting cables and connect safely to power sources
Three Point Lighting (CUFCAM301A 3.1)
o Lighting for Interviews
o Alternative light sources eg: prac. lamps
o Subtractive lighting
o Natural lighting
o Key, fill, backlight
o Creative lighting 6-point checklist
Further Lighting Principles (CUFCAM301A 3.1)
Lighting Strategies (CUFCAM301A 3.1)
o Portraiture
o Light placement for maximum modelling
o Creating the illusion of 3 Dimensionality
o PRACTICAL EXERCISE: Single source portraiture.
Mixed Colour Temperature Lighting (CUFCAM301A 3.1)
Lighting Manipulation
o Achieving dramatic lighting (CUFCAM301A 3.1)
Lighting provides a production with a vital element: the ability to see the action!
Successful lighting focuses attention and creates atmosphere. Lighting works with
levels of Brightness, Contrast and Colour Temperature. Light also has qualities that
can be defined as Hard and Soft.
Hard Light
Light that is transmitted directly from a small point source results in parallel rays, and
gives the light a hard, crisp, sharply defined appearance. The lights from a clear,
unfrosted light bulb, a focused spotlight or the noonday sun in a clear sky all represent
hard light sources. Hard light casts sharp, clearly defined shadows. When used to
illuminate a face, imperfections in the skin stand out. If it is used to illuminate a
delicate vase, the details are enhanced.
Soft Light
Soft light is created when the rays of light are diffused, giving a different feel from
hard light. Soft light tends to hide the surface irregularities and details of an object.
Soft light sources are used to create a broad, uniform area of light. On location,
reflectors can help to create a soft lighting effect. Light bounced off the silver, gold or
white fabric of a reflector toward the subject, softens strong shadows from a hard
light source. Materials such as spun, can be clipped directly to the front of lights or
suspended from C-stands, to diffuse and alter the quality of the light. Flat light can be
created by having soft light sources close to the subject, thereby minimizing shadows.
Three Point Lighting
A very common lighting set up is called three-point lighting. It includes a key light, a
fill light and a backlight. This lighting design is effective at controlling shadows in the
scene, while enhancing the three dimensionality of the set.
The Key Light
The Key Light provides the main source of light in a Three Point Lighting setup; and is
the light that most defines and effects the appearance of the subject. This light should
normally be in the mid range between hard and soft light. The Key Light is placed at
an angle of between 30 and 45 degrees from either the left or right side of the camera.
45 degrees is best because it brings out more texture and dimension in the subject.
Does it matter if the Key Light is to the right or the left? Possibly. There are four things
to consider before making the decision:
1. Motivation. Is there any obvious, ‘real’ source of light in the setting such as a
window or table lamp? If so, the key should come from this direction.
2. Place the Key Light on the subject’s ‘best’ side to emphasise their positive
facial attributes (or the opposite if that is the desired effect).
3. Consistency. In most settings it will look a bit strange if two people are sitting
next to each other and one is lit from the right and the other from the left.
4. What is most practical? If there is a wall or obstruction on one side of the
subject, you will need the Key Light to be on the side that allows a 45-degree
The horizontal angle of the Key Light is usually set approximately 45 degrees to the left
or right of the subject in relation to the camera. The other light angle to be considered
is elevation. The vertical angle of the key light is also commonly at 45 degrees to the
Shadows from boom microphones can be minimized by positioning the boom parallel
to (directly under) the Key Light. By not placing the subject too close to the
background, the boom shadow will end up on the floor rather than creating distracting
shadows on the background.
The Fill Light
The purpose of the Fill Light is to partially (but not entirely) fill in the shadows created
by the horizontal and vertical angles of the key light, whether from a redhead in the
studio, or the sun. The Fill Light should usually be placed about 90 degrees away from
the key light, in relation to the camera. This means that if you draw lines from the key
light to the subject and then to the Fill Light you’ll create a right angle. The Fill Light
can be placed at any position that best reduces the shadows from the key light, and
sufficiently lights the scene.
However, by lighting a full 90-degree area, an important margin of safety is created in
case the subject unexpectedly moves or camera angles need to be changed slightly.
It saves time not to have to reset the lights.
The vertical angle of the Fill Light is less critical than the 45-degree horizontal angle of
the key light. Usually the Fill will be placed just above the camera height, lower than
the key light. The Fill Light requires softer light than the key light. Sometimes a
reflector is all you need for bouncing the spill from the key light onto the subject.
When using Three Point Lighting, make sure there isn’t a second catch light in the
subject’s eyes, caused by the Fill.
The function of the Backlight is to separate the subject from the background by
creating a subtle rim of light around them. Also called hair light, where possible, the
Backlight often looks best when placed directly behind the subject in relation to the
camera. This would mean from overhead, you should be able to draw a straight line
from the camera through the subject to the Backlight. If using a stand for your
Backlight, it is not always possible to keep this alignment without getting the stand in
shot. In this case a 45 degree angle is workable if the light is directed and focused
The elevation of the Backlight is dictated by conditions on set, but a 45-degree angle is
often most desirable. If the Backlight is too low, the light itself will be visible in wide
shots. If it is too high it will spill over the top of the subject’s head, lighting up the tip of
their nose.
By carefully balancing the strength of light between the key and the Backlight, you
can add a three-dimensional quality to a shot. By using a Backlight only, you can
create a silhouette effect to disguise a subject’s identity.
Tips for Lighting
Depending on the mood, the story, the location, and the technology at hand, the art of
lighting a scene offers many options. One light source may be all you need. Avoid
placing too many lights in an effort to wipe out shadows from every conceivable
camera angle. You will end up with too many sources of light (also called tennis court
lighting). Many types of light are used on film sets: below are descriptions of a few of
the most common types.
Redheads and Blondies
The term Redhead refers to an open-faced light, usually 800watts and
often in red casing. A Blondie has a larger head than a Redhead,
and is usually fitted with a 2kw lamp. These are good for flooding
or lighting across a larger area, they often have yellow casing.
Both these lights use tungsten lamps and can be adjusted to focus
or spread the light. These terms are not brand-specific.
Fresnel lights are a type of spotlight, consisting of a lamp, a reflector and a
Fresnel lens which has concentric ridges on the outer surface. This special
lens is thin, allowing most of the light to penetrate. The ridges help to spread the light
evenly, creating a soft beam edge. Changing the spacing between the lamp and the
lens can vary the field and beam angles.
Barn Doors
Adjustable black metal flaps known as Barn Doors are attached to the front of some
lights. Barn Doors mask certain angles, preventing light from spilling into areas where
it is not wanted. Barn doors provide a soft cut off (edge) to the perimeters of the light.
Flags / Cutters
Flags or cutters consist of any type of opaque material that can block and sharply
define the edges of a light source, and can be used to create the illusion of specific
objects eg. Prison bars, chapel windows etc. They are often tailor made for a scene,
using double or triple layered black aluminium foil or thin plywood. They are either
clamped to a stand or clipped to the outer edges of barn doors. The further away they
are from the light source, the more sharply defined the light cut off will be.
Spun is a semi-opaque fabric that is used to diffuse light, thus removing any hard
edges, and softening details. Spun is often clipped to the barn doors, filtering any light
that it emitted. Spun comes in various densities, which cut down the light to a greater
or lesser degree.
Colour Temperature Gels are the most commonly used Gels on a film set, and blue and
orange CT Gels are the most common of all. These transparencies are used to
balance the light from mixed sources (usually daylight and Tungsten), so that the light
all conforms to the same ‘white’. Blue gels make light from Tungsten sources bluer,
while orange gels make light from daylight sources more orange (see Colour
Temperature diagram). Gels can be clipped onto the front of a light for a subtle effect
or the camera can be white balanced to the gel for extreme colour effects.
Reflectors can be gold, white or silver surfaces used for bouncing light sources onto
specific areas of a scene. Sometimes white polystyrene cards are used to bounce
light. Sprung-framed foldout reflectors are often referred to by their various brand
names, and have a choice of reflective surfaces on each side. (To absorb excess
light, black cards or fabrics are used.)
Safety with Lighting
Electricity should always be handled with the utmost care. If you are in doubt about
what you are doing, consult an expert. Do not overload your circuits. Check the fuse
box on location to see how many Amps the fuses are rated at. Most Australian homes
run 10 or 15 Amp fuses. To calculate the Amps you are using you can complete this
simple sum:
Watts =
Volts (Australia runs on 240v)
Example: 2 redheads use 1600 watts, divide this by 240 volts and it equals 6.7 Amps
Power connections should be kept dry and should not undergo stress.
If leads are run across areas where crew walk regularly, then they should be securely
taped down with gaffer tape or have appropriate mat or cable ramp placed over the
top of.
If shooting near a water hazard, use power leads with safety cut-off switches,
(residual current devices).
In all work areas - filming or not, on location, in a studio or on set - all electrical
equipment that is to be used should be connected to systems with residual current
devices fitted (earth leakage devices). Otherwise, safety switches will need to be
All power cables, cords, lights, appliances and equipment must be tested by
appropriately qualified persons every six months and tagged. N.B. equipment or
appliance having only two pins and marked “double insulate. Do not earth” need only
be externally inspected and tagged.
All C-stands and light stands should have sand bags to secure them. Cutters and Cstands should have bright tape on any dangerous, protruding edges. C-stands should
be tightened in such a way that if an arm were to fall it would tighten the knuckle, not
loosen it.
When shooting in windy conditions lights must be strongly secured and may even
require a crewmember to stand by them constantly.
Most lights can handle very light rain but anything more would require umbrellas on
stands. Make sure the umbrellas are not touching the light and that they’re actually
keeping the rain off.
Think of airflow around lights when setting up. The heat projected from lights can set
off smoke detectors and fire sprinkler systems or melt anything too close to it.
Do not handle lights when hot – not only can you burn yourself badly, but hot globes
are more likely to blow and can shatter, spreading tiny glass particles.
Open-faced lights must have safety-mesh covers to prevent exploding bulbs from
injuring anyone nearby.
Never touch a globe with bare hands – the oil in your skin will cause the lights to
overheat and explode when turned on. Use clean tissues or tissue paper.
If positioning lighting equipment overhead, use safety chains / wires with appropriate
rating. Ensure use of safety chains / wires for barn doors, frames etc, anything which
has potential to fall.
Refer handouts page X to X
Meet the Gaffer
Lighting for Exteriors (CUFCAM301A 3.1)
o Contrast control
o Diffusing the sun + use of reflectors to fill shadows
o Choosing optimum time of day to shoot
o Principles of DUSK + DAY for NIGHT
Lighting for Interiors (CUFCAM301A 3.1)
o Tungsten Lighting
o Using available light
o Adding light to enhance a situation
o Balancing interior and exterior
o Use of Soft vs Hard sources
o Use of diffusion material
o Neutral density gels
o Colour correction gels
o Logistics of lamp placement
Understanding Light
Light is the basic element in every phase of photography. Of all the wavelengths
shown on the scale (fig. A), our eyes are only sensitive to a very narrow region that is
called the visible spectrum. A closer look at this region reveals that the human eye
can perceive wavelengths from about 400 to 700 mini-microns and can distinguish
different wavelengths as colours (fig B).
Cosmic Rays
Ultra Violet
Gamma Rays
X Rays
Ultra Violet
Short Radio
Deep Red
Long Radio
If more than one wavelength is present,
the eye and brain will mix the two
wavelengths and come up with an
intermediate colour. For example, blue
and green will be perceived as cyan, red
and green as yellow and red and blue as
magenta. If all wavelengths are present,
white light is perceived. Objects appear
wavelengths and reflecting others. If
white light falls on an object that absorbs
blues and
greens but reflects red, the eye will see a
red object. This may seem elementary, but
the DOP or cinematography should be
aware that the only way the red object can
appear red is if red light is included in the
original light source. As an extreme
example, take the same red object and
illuminate it with bluish-green light (no
Neighbouring objects that are blue or
green will appear normal, but the red
Visual Spectrum
object will appear black, because there is
Figure A
Figure B
no red to reflect. Thus, the colour balance
of the light source will determine, to a
large extent, the colour of the objects on
the film.
This plagues many DOPs and cinematographers because the light sources we call white
really vary greatly in their spectral energy distribution or, more plainly, all colours are
present, but the relative amount of each colour may be different.
This problem is compounded by the fact that the human eye will automatically
compensate for even the grossest deviations in the colour balance of a light source, thus
a source may appear white to the eye, but the results on film could be disastrous.
Describing a light source as white is not sufficient, therefore the colour temperature scale
was created as a method of rating white light according to its spectral energy distribution
(the relative amount of each colour).
Colour Temperature
The colour of a light source is measured in
degrees Kelvin, and is called the Colour
Temperature. The following is a range of
identifiable colour temperatures and their
sources. High Colour Temperatures have a
blue colour and lower Colour Temperatures
are red/yellow. Most light sources we
encounter are incandescent; the light
results from heating an object until it glows.
Colour temperature of a light source refers
to the balance of colour that is radiated by a
non-reflective body, heated to a specific
temperature. If a piece of steel or a
tungsten filament in a bulb (which can be
considered a non-reflective body) is heated
to about 2500 degrees K, it will glow reddish.
It is actually radiating all colours (white) but
the amount of red energy is far greater than
that of blues or greens. At 3200 degrees K
the glow will take on an orange hue due to
the increased green energy (red plus some
green yields orange). If the tungsten is
heated to 5500 degrees K, the glow will
appear pure white / colourless. This is
because the amounts of red, green and blue
are all about equal. At 7200 degrees K, the
radiation will appear bluish because at
higher temperatures there is more blue
energy. It is interesting to note that the eye
will perceive light from about 2800 degrees
K to over 10,000 degrees K as white light. If
a 2800 degrees K light source were placed
alongside a 10,000 degrees K source, the
former would appear to be orange and the
latter blue.
Common Connectors used in Video Production
Computer Cables
This page includes production stills from the Australian feature film
The Jammed, directed by Dee McLachlan and produced by Andrea Buck.
All images © 2007 The Picture Tank
Fig. 1 Cinematographer Peter Falk ACS (ladder)
films a scene with actor Sun Park. Director Dee
McLachlan is in the background.
Fig. 2 Cinematographer Peter Falk ACS lines up a
shot with Director Dee McLachlan. Producer
Andrea Buck films publicity footage in the
Fig. 3 Actors Emma Lung
and Sun Park on set.
Fig. 4 Director Dee McLachlan and Cinematographer Peter Falk ACS frame Actor Masa Yamaguchi
while Sound Recordist Rob Hornbuckle holds a microphone boom in the background.
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