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Cinemtography Exercises

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Jeremy Casper
Cinemtography Exercises
on Jan 10, 2010 at 7:44:01 pm

Hi all,

I am a professor at a small college in LA where I teach a crash course in Cinematography. I have students at every level of expertise. Some have been shooting for four years at their home universities and others have never picked up a camera.

I am looking for suggestions of helpful IN CLASS exercises I could do with my students to make it an effective class period for everyone.

I have them for 2 hours once a week, so anything that can be done within that time period would be great.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.


Jeremy Casper
(2D Animator-Editor)


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Mark Suszko
Re: Cinemtography Exercises
on Jan 11, 2010 at 5:09:31 pm

Composing a meaningful frame is something they don't just wake up knowing how to do. Start with exercises on the rule of thirds and in identifying how it is applied in some famous paintings, photos, and films. Easy and cheap to do with some cardboard framing squares to look thru.

just last week I viewed "The Grapes of Wrath" for the first time in ages, and the grid system and rule of thirds just jumps out of most every shot there ( Greg Toland was the DP on that, he taught Orson Welles everything Orson knew about the camera and lenses, and was the DP on Citizen Kane) You could do an exercise with a densely populated still life in the classroom using three students standing around, or perhaps a still photo, and play with how framing changes the inferred relationships in the scene.

The next exercise might be the line of action, how you do and don't cross it.

An important one my school profs tried to impart but failed at, is to really demonstrate the differences between a shot made by zooming in versus one done by a dolly-in. How the spatial relationships are changed or compressed, how distance is shortened or enhanced.

And show an exercise showing how to control depth of field, using the relationship of lens opening, camera distance, and zoom factor.

It goes without saying to show these kids how to use a tripod:-)


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Diane Reid
Re: Cinemtography Exercises
on Jan 11, 2010 at 6:50:19 pm

Excellent suggestions, Mark.

I'd also like to add that along with the rule of thirds, you explain the proper framing of a person in a CU, MS, LS and the emotional depth and reasons for framing a person in a MS versus a CU.

Also, leading the action: giving lead space to a character who is moving in the frame. And a simple tip for going hand-held, without stabilizing equipment is to zoom out all the way but stand closer to your subject to minimize camera shaking.


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Rick Wise
Re: Cinemtography Exercises
on Jan 11, 2010 at 6:56:00 pm

All the above are excellent. I find that my beginning students have a terrible time understanding correct exposure. Whether they shoot film or video, I suggest you devise repeated exercises on how to handle exposure in ALL kinds of conditions, including when the actor moves from shade to full sunlight. They need to do this over and over for the learning to sink in. We forget how many times we goofed until we learned how to do all this.

Just let your imagination play and you will never run out of exercises. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwise
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Ryan Mast
Re: Cinemtography Exercises
on Jan 11, 2010 at 9:16:33 pm

The best exercise I got in school was working as the C camera op for a documentary shot in an elementary classroom for two hours a week for a semester and a half. The director gave me feedback every week on what I shot, and he took the tripod and monopod away from me after a few weeks. It forced me to at least get quick at framing decent shots at a rapid pace.

--
Meteor Tower Films
Video creations for music, art, & theater.
http://meteortower.com/


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mark brisenden
Re: Cinemtography Exercises
on Jan 14, 2010 at 2:16:56 pm

Hi .. First and foremost teach them the crossing the line theory . It ruins so many shoots when takes don't match of people talking to one another . I have a very good book called Script Supervising And Film Continuity . by Pat P. Miller . Has a great deal of very relevant advice in it for those who need to know something of the art of cinematography without necessarily being one. All the best.


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Hunter Mossman
Re: Cinemtography Exercises
on Jan 24, 2010 at 10:24:52 pm

As far las lighting is concerned. Set up a camera in class and hook up to a monitor. Bigger the better. A class room with windows that you can control with thick curtains or hung douvatine would be great. Put one person sitting in a chair in frame. Bring in as many different kinds of practical sources as your can. Desk lamps, china balls, and a couple c stands etc. Keep it simple and start with the windows. Teach them how the Sun light effects a persons face through angle, intensity, and diffusion. open and close the curtains then hang a sheet in front of them etc.

Then close the curtains entirely and teach them basic 3 point lighting using only the lights they would have available to them at home. Set the key, fill and back and then flick them on and off one at a time to show how each effects the subjects face and how different combinations evoke different emotions or themes. The key could be a china ball or a strong halogen desk lamp with a little diffusion in front. You'll have to experiment at home a bit yourself first with the fixtures you find. Bring some different wattage's of bulbs to switch out for a stronger source.

This is also a great way to teach them about exposer, color temperature, and focal lengths and how they effect depth of field etc.

Hunter Mossman
Director of Photography
http://www.huntermossman.com


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