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Am I a lazy filmmaker?

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Nathan Luppino
Am I a lazy filmmaker?
on May 17, 2011 at 7:06:33 pm

Hello everyone. I just wrapped on a comedy production on Sunday and I have a question about shooting ratios. On our 5 day shoot we shot 360 minutes for an end product that will be in the neighborhood of 15 minutes which puts me at a 24 to 1 ratio.
Now, we shot in HD that we recorded to two SD cards (64 gigs total) that I double backed up on hard drives every evening after the day of shooting, so media cost isn't really a consideration. But, I was just wondering if I'm going about things in the wrong way. I mean, is a 24 to 1 ratio exorbitant? How does a fully professional production run? Do they do a ton of rehearsals on set before they actually shoot takes?
We did have several hours of rehearsal total.

thanks for listening,
nate


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Todd Terry
Re: Am I a lazy filmmaker?
on May 17, 2011 at 7:55:37 pm

Hmmm... no, I wouldn't say you are lazy.

Shooting ratio depends on lots of things... what the action is, what kind of cutting pace you are planning, difficulty of the scene, and ability of the actors.

I usually shoot anywhere from about 50:1 down to about 20:1, depending on the scene. Although it should be noted that I usually shoot only broadcast commercials. If I were shooting a feature film or other narrative project I would probably shoot a much much lower ratio.

Legend has it that Stanley Kubrick sometimes shot as much as 500:1. Now that's excessive.


[Nathan Luppino] "Do they do a ton of rehearsals on set before they actually shoot takes?"

Generally no... in fact, just the opposite. Some directors (Scorsese types, etc.) will do a couple or few weeks of rehearsals with the cast before the beginning of principal photography... just to make sure everyone has his or her character fully developed. But the uninitiated would probably be surprised to learn that most feature films are shot with very-little-to-no rehearsal. Usually the cast will run through a scene for camera blocking, then the cast will disappear (often into hair or makeup) while standins take their place for tweaking of lighting and camera moves). When the real cast comes back, they often (usually) just shoot it... sometimes with no rehearsal at all for the first take. There are a couple of advantages to that... usually on a big-budget film or TV show time is tight and time is money, and the faster the scenes are knocked out the better chance you have of "making the day." Secondly, it keeps talent fresh. An actor is going to give a fresher, rawer, more real performance on the first or second take than if it is rehearsed for hours and then you do 50 takes. Thirdly, in the big-budget feature world they usually have the luxury of hiring talent that is simply good enough not to require extensive rehearsals... rehearsals that, as I said, can often just make a performance look stale and, well, rehearsed.

It just depends on a lot of factors... the director and the actors being probably the deciding factors.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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john sharaf
Re: Am I a lazy filmmaker?
on May 17, 2011 at 8:09:38 pm

Nathan,

I don't believe there is any right, wrong, ideal standard "shooting ratio"; it really is a function of the director's wish and style, spiced with economic considerations (time is money). I think it is fair to say the episodic television in general has a lower ratio thtn feature films or commercials, because they only have 5-7 days to complete their 45 minute script. A feature film with a 50 day schedule may shoot only two minutes a day and a commercial might shoot all day, or even several days for a 30 second product (although there are often several versions involved).

In general I think the answer is that the work usually fills the time available. Also the ratio is affected by a common process of continuing past a "circle take" to make a "protection". This is a hold over from the film days, where it was always possible for the film to break in the processor, or the tape to be crumpled in the VTR; now with digital files these problems are less likely. It's more likely to loose an entire file than for one small part of it to be damaged.

On the set there are many individuals who can affect the shooting ratio in addition to the director; an operator who keeps missing the shot, an assistant missing the focus, an actor missing his/her marks or blowing a line, the boom dipping into the shot, etc., etc. Certainly in a professional environment these things are less common.

I'd suggest that you'd be a "lazy filmmaker" only if you choose to move on without being completely satisfied that you got the take you need/like.

JS



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Mark Suszko
Re: Am I a lazy filmmaker?
on May 17, 2011 at 10:02:57 pm

"It's not the time it takes to take the Take, that takes the time:
It's the time between the takes that takes the time to take the Take"
-Jack Newman, Director


It's not so much about being lazy, as it is about being paranoid and not knowing for sure that you have all you need to cover the scenes. I have the luxury of being the director AND the editor most times, so the two people in my head are having a continuous conversation, each from their own perspective. Editor Mark is telling Director Mark: "Man, I could really use another angle at this point".
Director Mark asks Editor Mark: "I don't need to shoot so much coverage from this angle, if all you'll end up using is take 'b' from the previous shot. So let's commit to that cut right now, on set, and move the schedule up a little bit on the shooting, to stay on time... And why are you always missing when the bar bill arrives?"


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Nathan Luppino
Re: Am I a lazy filmmaker?
on May 17, 2011 at 11:24:37 pm

Hey, thanks for all your in depth responses. In the case of this production I was a Producer, the Director, and DP. I suppose what it comes down to is I take a lot of takes because I'm looking for something specific from every scene and I keep going till I get it. And really, I find sometimes the 11th take is the keeper, and the one you shoot after that, just in case, is even better.
But hey maybe I'm wrong.
You guys seem to think I'm doing okay though, so that makes me feel better.
Oh, and I'm also the editor, and I don't mind a lot of options.
Besides, I've been working with a most of the cast and crew for so long that if I cut down my ratio now, they might think I've lost it.


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Mark D'Agostino
Re: Am I a lazy filmmaker?
on May 18, 2011 at 8:48:16 pm

John, you last lines nails it!

Mark D'Agostino
http://www.synergeticproductions.com


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Richard Herd
Re: Am I a lazy filmmaker?
on May 19, 2011 at 5:55:55 pm

Never say, "That was perfect. Let's do it again!"

Instead say, "That was perfect. Let's move on!"

If it is okay to take 50 takes, then it is equally okay to spend 60 minutes setting up lights for 1 take.


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