By Mono Ghose, Founder and Filmmaker, Mavericks Storm Entertainment
6. How to conduct a rehearsal
Due to the high costs of film production it’s really important to ensure you get everything right on the day of the shoot by practising as much as possible beforehand.
If you are shooting with actors, they will be used to rehearsing their lines and actions with a director, so this is a great opportunity to refine the script and become comfortable with each other.
You will typically have to pay the talent for the rehearsals and it is well worth the money, because you not only break the ice with them, but you can start to see what works and what doesn’t in your story.
If you haven’t run a rehearsal before and prefer an expert to handle it for you before passing the reins back to you for the shoot, you can always hire a freelance film director with drama and performance experience, or alternatively a casting director, for a day or two to secure a space and schedule and run the session for you.
7. Make a Shooting Schedule
On a film set the First Assistant Director (AD) will create a document called a schedule – which documents the director’s shot list into an order of shots and scenes for the shoot.
Their aim is to maximise the amount of shoot time but balance it with health and safety standards such as regular breaks and location moves. To maximise time they typically group similar shots together which may be out of chronological sequence, such as night or day shots, action and vehicle shots, interiors and shots with key talent.
For example, if you are shooting the CEO of your company and she is more than likely really busy, you have to ensure her interview is shot first, she has her talking points prepared, and that she is not waiting around for you to light the set and find the right camera angle.
The AD should help you schedule for ‘prep’ time before each set-up, where you can light, set up the camera and practice the shot with the talent (called ‘blocking’) or a stand-in, so it’s all ready once you call action!
Even on lower budget shoots I think it is vital to hire a good AD to ensure the smooth running of a shoot, maintain good time-keeping and create a professional and interactive mood on set.
8. How to Master Perfect Composition
This is what separates some of the greatest filmmakers from the rest and can make a big difference to the success of your film.
It’s quite hard to explain what makes good composition and there are artistic and mathematical theories about golden ratios and rules of thirds, but what is clear is that bad composition jars your mind. It can make a well-intentioned film look cheap, so you must be extremely judicious in your shot selections.
You may be thinking the DOP or Cinematographer “will just handle it”, and they very well may, but not all cinematographers are Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049, Revolutionary Road, Sicario) or are natural experts of composition, and regardless they will want some input and guidance from the director.
One easy solution is to find visual references – which can be shots or scenes from other commercials, competitor’s brand videos, TV shows, photography or movies that have the similar kind of composition and tone you want for your own film.
It’s a great way of getting the director, cinematographer and crew on the same page and more importantly, to understand your vision.
If you want to see the work of some of the great directors and/or masters of composition check out Akira Kurosawa, Annie Leibovitz, Stanley Kubrick, Jean Pierre-Jeunet, Wong Kar-Wai and in the commercial world Bruno Aveillan. Vermeer and Velazquez’ mastery of composition and light are great examples too – as is fine art in general.
9. Aspect Ratio and Resolution?
Anamorphic? Widescreen? 4K or 1080p?
There are many technical considerations to plan for, but first it is important to know where you will exhibit your video before you make these decisions.
The other thing to consider is workflow, the larger the file size, the more hard drive space is needed which will increase costs and post-production time and thus extend the scope and budget of the shoot.
If you are making a high quality film intended to look like a commercial or a movie, then you should aim for an image resolution (pixels per inch) of 2K and above in my opinion.
Always shooting at 4K or 8K just because the camera can do it, is pointless if the editor and post production team will be working at 2K to match their hardware capability.
Also certain cameras and frame rates will have limitations on their resolution: for example certain cameras, older camera software and shooting in slow-motion (high frame rate) – can all affect the resolution capability.
In terms of aspect ratio and screen format, I like shooting at 2:35.1 anamorphic, which is a cinema widescreen format that gives a film a more cinematic edge.
For interviews and corporate films a standard 16:9 HD ratio is useful because there is more headroom and, if the subject matter is not obscured, you can always apply black bars in post production if you want a more widescreen finish.
Increasingly Instagram is being used as a branding platform, and they have quite strict formatting standards. You should be safe shooting at a 1:1 square ratio like 1080 x 1080, Portrait 4:5 ratio 1080 x 1350 or for Stories at 1080 x 1920 (9:16).
Again these are questions you can ask the resident on-set camera expert, or your editor, but it’s better if you can do the research beforehand whilst researching the references.
One pro-tip is to shoot test footage with your camera and lens package either the day before or the morning before the shoot starts, and play around with different settings – you might find a new favourite set up.
Before you roll – just make a choice and be consistent!
10. Post Production
Find a Good Editor, Music and Colourist
You’ve got the film ‘in the can’ and now enter the final part of the process: post-production.
Like the cinematographer, I cannot stress how important a good editor is to your project. Like many of the skills in filmmaking, you don’t notice good editing but you sure as hell notice bad editing!
Editors are notoriously busy and experienced ones don’t come cheap. Research editor’s portfolios on Vimeo and Youtube, and look at the work of leading brands and your competitors to see the kind of style you are looking for.
You could also engage a specialist video editing company like our sister company Parrot Video (www.parrotvideo.co) who offer fixed price services through an online platform, or a full-service film production company like Mavericks Storm Entertainment to handle all of the post-production if you prefer to outsource it.
Editing? Motion-graphics? Animation? Isn’t it all the same?
Also remember that editing and motion-graphics are two completely separate skills. We are lucky at my company to have separate divisions that service our clients with editing, motion-graphics and animation, in-house under one roof – but typically these disciplines are found as separate services
e.g. offline editors focus solely on editing and cutting the story of the film. Motion-graphics artists specialise in animating logos, titles and visuals. Animators create 3D characters and backgrounds like Toy Story or Wallace & Grommit.
Now we finally come to Music and Grading; the icing on the cake!
Music Choice is Personal
I now ask my clients to start thinking of music as soon as we have locked the script and creative strategy, because it’s a very personal choice and must match the tone and character of the brand.
If you have a budget for a licensed track from a well-known artist then that is obviously great. But if you don’t, like most brands, then you could either commission a music composer to create a new track similar to songs and genres you like and thereby owning the copyright to that new song – or you can licence a library track from a really good library.
We have used a great online library called Musicbed for a few of our recent films for Clarks and BioCity and some library platforms will help by sending you suggestions based on your personalised requirements.
Grading your Film
A colourist is someone who creates the final visual look for your film, and maintains a tonal balance across the entire video.
They can also help mask, track and re-light certain production and lighting issues – within reason – and can make a good looking film look incredible.
They aren’t cheap either and if you are on a budget, you can ask the editor if they are comfortable grading the film or applying a high quality present look.
Many offline (storyteller) editors understand grading basics and some are actually quite good. Just make sure you know the type of look you are going for and ask the grader or editor for a choice of a few looks.
How do you know which colour grade to choose?
Make sure the look is both on brand and on message. The tendency is to go quite moody or really vibrant so why not try different looks and variations before deciding on the right one?
To help clients personalise their grade look, our fast turnaround post production division Parrot Video has bespoke online filter presets made in-house so clients can see what they want before they buy: https://parrotvideo.co/product/social-media-video/
The Last Act
As you can see, film production and brand storytelling is a highly demanding and involving process, which if done correctly and following some of the steps and advice given above, can be hugely rewarding.
Even if you find it too time consuming and end up commissioning a professional writer and director, storytelling agency or film production company, at least now you will have inside-knowledge of the film production process.
Now you can ask more informed questions and provide them with your invaluable input to ensure a better and more successful production.
By Mono Ghose, Founder and Filmmaker, Mavericks Storm Entertainment