Tips for Shooting Your Digital Film - dummies

Tips for Shooting Your Digital Film

By Nick Willoughby

Digital filmmaking is a fun art form. You get to make lots of decisions that affect how the audience will view your film. When shooting your film or trailer, here are a few tips to help enhance your shots.

  • Check for continuity mistakes: Have you ever watched a film and noticed that the actor has picked something up in his left hand then in the next shot has it in his right hand or there is a glass of coke on the table and it’s half full and then in the next shot suddenly it’s empty? This is called a continuity mistake. Continuity mistakes often occur in films and involve something in the scene changing between shots, like a prop or actor.

    On big blockbuster films they normally hire someone to look out for continuity mistakes, but even so, they still happen. If you ask your crew and actors to look out for continuity mistakes, this will reduce the number in your film.

    Check out these two shots from the same scene. In the wide shot the actor is holding his bag on his shoulder, but in the mid shot he doesn’t have a bag at all. This may have been because both shots were filmed at different times and the actor forgot to pick up his bag for the mid shot. Most of the audience may not notice this error, but there will always be someone who does, so it’s best to try and avoid it.

    Where did the bag go?
    Where did the bag go?

    Next time you watch a film, look for continuity mistakes where something is different from one shot to the next. Remember, however, to keep these observations to yourself because you don’t want to annoy other people watching the film so you end up having to watch films on your own, a common problem with directors.

  • Always get one more take than you need, just to be safe: You will probably find that you will end up shooting the same shot several times to get the right take, unless you have a perfect cast and crew. A take is one recorded performance in a scene from when the camera operator presses the Record button to when she stops the camera recording. When you do get a good take, you can either carry on to the next shot on your list or get one more take to be safe.

    You should always get the extra take, because your actors might deliver an even better performance or there might have been a mistake or problem in the last take that you didn’t notice. You might not be popular with the actors or crew for doing this, but it’s always better to have more takes to choose from when editing.

  • Shoot out of order: Most films are shot out of sequence, which means that the scenes are shot in a different order to how they appear in the film. The reason for this is to make the filming process as simple and easy as possible. For example, you may have two or more scenes that are filmed in the same location but appear at different times in the final edited film.

    Instead of filming one scene at that location and then coming back on another day to the same location to film another scene, you could just film both scenes on the same day in the same location. It may mean that your actors have to change their clothes to make it look like it’s a different day, but that is much easier than having to go back to that location and set up and film again.

    This also applies to locations in a house. You may have two or more scenes in the kitchen that appear at different times in the film. Again, you can film both scenes in the kitchen one after the next to save time having to move to another location and then come back to the kitchen and have to set up and film again. This is often done on big blockbuster films because it saves money as hiring locations can be expensive.