Filmmaking Guide for Beginners: The Essentials.

If you get really excited watching those amazing movies created by extraordinary directors and want to get into the filmmaking industry to produce some unbelievable movies, HOLD ON!

First of all, you must master some basic aspects of filmmaking. Luckily, we are here to help you. Follow this master guide to start creating your own professional-like movies!

It’s all about the story.

The process of creating a good movie starts long before you even touch the camera. It starts inside your head, goes all the way to the tip of your pencil and ends on paper. The most important aspect on filmmaking is the story you’re about to tell.

You must come up with interesting characters, intriguing stories, compelling situations and a nice sequence of events that will happen on your story. All of it to keep the viewer interested.

We’ve all been through that situation where everything looked fine but something about that movie was boring. And that’s its story. That’s why you must start using your creativity, read a few articles, watch several movies created by different directors to refine your arsenal of techniques and references.

Usually your story follows a sequence of parts that compose a good narrative (take a look at it here).

Find a good location

You must find the perfect spot for your scene. Look for places with features that enhance your frame. For example, if you’re shooting a scene about big-cities-routines, you may look for busy places where people are rushing to work.

Be aware of the best times to shoot on the spots you choose. Some places may get too dark to record, too many people passing by, too much noise, too much cars and the list goes far! If you can, try visiting the place ew days before you actually shoot to get the perfect time for you to record and avoid unexpected problems.

But always remember, many places requires a permission for you to shoot on that place — e.g.: if a specific building appears on your movie, you need a permission from that building’s manager — and most important ALWAYS ask for people’s permission if their faces show up on your movie.

Lights

To record your scenes properly, you always need some light. Your image gets much better if you have a little bit of light even if you’re shooting a dark scene. It’s better to record with light and darken it while editing than recording in the dark with low light

Remember: the light is your friend. Use it in your favor. If you want more dramatic scenes, search for a light direction that creates the contrast you want — record perpendicular to the light. If you want dark, scary and creepy scenes, play with the shadows — record against the light. And if you want very bright and very clear images, leave the shadows for the next time — record in the same light direction.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)

When recording outdoors, you may pay attention to the sun position — if you’re using it as your main source of light — as it influences the amount, color and direction of the light. But when you record indoors, you can position your main source or sources of light to create the lighting you want.

Audio

It’s known that a watching experience is basically composed by two things: the video — obviously — AND the audio — not so obvious. The audio helps to create the mood of the scene. Imagine watching a movie without the background sounds, the soundtracks and the sound effects — that would be B-O-R-I-N-G. So pay attention very closely to the audio elements that you use on your scenes.

Video and audio must be synchronized (obviously we’re not talking about “lip sync”). If you’re shooting a happy scene, you better not add a creepy soundtrack to it. If you’re shooting a sad scene, you better not add a happy and catchy song. But if you add a dramatic song to a dramatic scene then you’ll be offering a full and proper experience to the person who is watching it!

Be aware of the moments where the soundtrack must or mustn’t overlap the voice’s sounds. You can assign different levels of relevance to them depending on which one is louder.

Scenario

The scenario. Oh the scenario. Have you ever watched a movie and wondered how everything on the shots were in harmony? Everything was all purple-toned, the colours were complementing each other, the objects were filling the scene and directing your look to the important part of the scene. Well, that’s a planned and well-done scenario. But don’t think it’s just “I’m gonna put some things here and there with this color and the magic will happen”. No, it’s not like that.

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)

As we said before in regards to the lights, the color will influence on your scene’s mood. Darker colours tend to represent more tense, scary and creepy scenes. Brighter colours tend to represent more happy and fun moments. You may want to search for “Psychological properties of colours” to understand a little bit more about how colours can influence your mood. And start playing with it!

But sometimes your color scheme is limited by the objects you have at your disposal to be used. Also, all the objects in the scenario must fit your scene’s theme. For example, if you’re shooting a person studying at the library, itens like coffee mugs, books, pens and paper will fit perfectly.

And WAIT! Don’t start thinking “I’m gonna put every object I have that is related to my scene” — it won’t work. To shoot a balanced scene, you must find the perfect composition of filled-and-empty spaces. Too much secondary stuff on the scene will pollute it and will take away the viewer’s attention from the main aspects. But too few stuff will give the sensation of “something is missing there” that bothers everyone and, also, offer less information to the viewer — that could be used in your favor.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Shot-Size

This is an extremely important aspect about filmmaking. Depending on the scene you might prefer to emphasize the person’s reactions and expressions and to do that, close-shots would be the ideal choice since everything on the frame is focused on the person’s face.

But sometimes you’d prefer to add as much information as you can to situate the viewer rather than focusing on the person’s emotions. For this you should use long-shots and extreme long-shots.

If you want to understand a little bit more of “Shot-Sizes, you might want to take a look at this page: shot-size

Conclusion

So if you’re starting at filmmaking you might want to apply these principles to every video you create and compare each one of them to keep up with your development. As you can see, shooting awesome scenes is not as simple as we think and it requires a lot of practice and effort. It’s extremely important to practice your shooting skills at every time and everywhere because it’s the only way for you to consolidate the theories and tips you hear or read about.

Also, it’s important to share the videos you create with friends and family asking for their opinion and feedback so you can find ways to improve you abilities.

Bonus Tip

If you’re looking for easy ways to quickly consolidate all the learnings from this post you should definitely use Vliz app.

Vliz is an iPhone app in which you quickly record 50-sec videos and easily put them together into an single-video. It’s perfect for testing out all the variables mentioned above (e.g.: color scheme, objects layout, shot-sizes, lights, audio). It was made for smartphone to help people shooting anything they want wherever/whenever they want. This way you won’t miss any opportunity to practice your filmmaking skills.

The videos you create stay on your Vliz profile where other people can watch and comment on it. Also, you can share the videos you create on your social medias or send them by messages to friends and family asking for their feedback!

You can download the app at: vliz.tv/download

See you next time!