7 Ways To Leave Your Filmmaking Comfort Zone And Create Something Different

Filmmaking Out Of Comfort Zone

When you hit a rut in your content creation, as you most likely will do, there’s only one thing you can do: quit. You’re done. Tapped out. Creatively bankrupt. Give it up, because you’re throwing in the towel.

We‘re kidding, of course! The best thing to do is to try something new and get out of your routine. Switching up your editing style, your gear, or even your workspace can be great for hitting the reset button and getting you moving in a new, exciting direction. Here are some tips for getting out of your filmmaking comfort zone.

Create/Implement Restrictions

Right out of the gate, one of the best things you can do is to force yourself to work within parameters that you’re not used to having. This means if you’re used to open-ended videos, give yourself a 3 or 5-minute time limit. Bring along just a single memory/storage card on your shoot. Allow yourself to only shoot with natural lighting. Set an earlier publishing deadline than you’re used to. Only use b-roll shots that are 5 seconds or longer.

And you don’t actually have to see them as restrictions. You can just see them as another puzzle in which you need to fit all of your pieces. Whatever the restriction/limitation is, use it to your advantage during your project. You may end up feeling inspired and empowered as opposed to inconvenienced and embattled.

Improvise More

“I love you…I know,” “I’m walking here,” and “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” were all famously improvised. Even the iconic match cut from Lawrence of Arabia was called an accident by the editor, Anne V. Coates. Now, you may not be making “The Empire Strikes Back,” but the lesson is just that for all the planning you can do, some things can just happen that you can’t plan for.

This means that you can allow your actors time to improvise takes. You can write bullet points for your voiceover instead of reading a script to make it feel more loose. The camera can be attached to a gimbal to give a more fluid look to the footage; the same goes for going completely handheld.

In post-production, improvisation can be as simple as experimenting with jump cuts, match cuts, or other atypical transitions instead of standard cuts. Music can also be added or removed to see which makes a better impact. You may never know what will work until you try it, so be open-minded to going with the flow.

Improvise Less

If you’re already making videos without much planning, then it could work to really hash out as many details as you can before you start. Writing a script, storyboarding, scheduling, creating a shot list, using motion graphics templates, and picking out the music and sound effects tracks can all be done before a single frame of footage gets shot.

Much in the way that adding restrictions can spark some new creative fire, planning for certain compositions, shooting locations, and VFX can help you to set up some really creative shots. Techniques like deep focus, match/invisible cuts, and forced perspective can all turn out better if they’re thought out ahead of time. The same goes for location scouting–with a basic walkthrough of your shooting location you can pick out unique places to mount your camera, see which angles look best, and even look for objects or openings through which you can shoot.

Experiment With Different Gear

We are not advocating for buying a new camera, because the best camera is usually the one you have with you. Also, you may end up spending way too much time trying to learn a new interface or menu that could instead be spent shooting or editing. That said, renting is always a cheaper option than buying, and there are sites like kitsplit, sharegrid, and lensprotogo that make it pretty painless to get everything from cameras and lenses to stabilizers and accessories.

What we mean really is to try something you haven’t used before. If you’re always on a gimbal, try staying locked down on a tripod. If you typically shoot with telephoto lenses, try a prime lens and move closer and/or further away from your subject. You may actually prefer the sound of a lavalier microphone over a shotgun or on-camera mic. Instead of shooting and editing in high speed (50/60 FPS or above, typically) for every shot, try mixing up the frame rates to get different clips that complement each other.

Switching up your gear can help you produce shots or videos you never could before, and it can even literally change the look of your footage, which is a great way to break your habits and routines.

Change Your Scene

Altering the location of your shoot is a sure-fire way to make something new. Taking your camera outside and going on a hike or to a park can add some color and scenery to your videos. If you’re always outside, try setting up a very basic studio setup with an on-camera light or 3-point lighting kit inside a garage or empty room.

When it comes to post-production, you’re pretty much limited to where your editing machine is, but you can always try doing some aspects of the edit at a new location. If you’re a shreditor, coffee shops are the obvious choice here, but public libraries can be surprisingly great, not to mention quiet spaces to get some work done. And who knows, a new editing space could free up your brain from all the distractions you may have at your usual editing space.

Change What You Can Control

Some of the earlier points may work for you, but if you’re creating videos where it makes sense to have the same tone, look, and style throughout, (like, say, a tutorial series) then you may not be able to change much.

In these cases, you can try your best to experiment with your subjects. If you make nature videos primarily, try exploring an urban setting. If you make cooking tutorials, try another subject that utilizes relatively small spaces and hands, like sewing, weaving, blacksmithing, or building. Nothing about your workflow or video style has to change, yet you can open up whole new topics to cover and keep your videos fresh.

Get a Fresh Set Of Eyes On Your Video

If all else fails, you can get some outside perspective from a friend or coworker, or just take a 30-minute break and come back to your project. The outsider could catch a plot hole or they could pick up on any habits that seem repetitive. Taking a short break from your edit can actually work wonders to reset your thought process and see your footage in a new way.

Change can be scary, and doing something new or different can be intimidating. However, shaking things up can not only get you out of a creative rut, it can challenge you to find new ways to tell stories and even establish your storytelling and brand as versatile as you are as a filmmaker.

Top Image: Photographer On Cliff. Nature Takes Photos With Mirror Camera Peak Of Rock. by Standret .

Working With Green Screens: Tips For Your Production

Working With Green Screen

Green screens are everywhere in filmmaking. They’re arguably the most-used visual effect in storytelling outside of credits or title sequences, and they can open up infinite options for your project. But you’ve got to be able to use them correctly to get the best results and minimize the amount of time and money spent adding VFX to your film.

Video: Nab 2016: Camera Filming Model Green Screen Background Chroma Key 4K Uhd by logoboom

We won’t get into the history* of the green/blue-screen technique or what’s going on within the camera and why it works, but this blue/green technique is called “chroma keying” (using black/white is “luminance keying” or “luma keying”). Essentially, you’re choosing a color for your background (or foreground, screen, or body part) that is completely different from anything and everything else in your frame (usually green), isolating it, then making it transparent.

*Note: If you’re interested in learning the history of green/blue-screen techniques, check out this incredibly fascinating video by FilmmakerIQ.

Screen Time

There are many options for green screens, so research to see what’s best for you and your budget. You may not need a huge screen if you’re shooting a stationary subject, nor should you get a small screen if you’re shooting an action scene with a lot of movement.

If you’re planning on shooting in the same place for every project, it may be best to just buy green-screen paint and paint your background wall, which is what many production houses and movie studios do. If you’ve already got a couple of light stands or c-stands, it may be easiest to buy a piece of green fabric and clamp it between them.

The bottom line is, think about your projects and buy a screen accordingly. (On a personal note, make sure you buy a quality screen, because many times you get what you pay for).

Lighting Is Everything

If the screen is No. 1 on your equipment list, lighting is No. 1a. You MUST have even light (or as close to even as you can get) on your green screen to make the whole thing work. This lighting could either be from natural light or studio lights, but the first rule of chroma keying is making sure the key is the same color throughout, to make your post-production much more streamlined. Here’s a basic breakdown for getting dialed in on lighting the screen:

Check for Imperfections

Make sure there are no wrinkles, scuffs, tears, or stains on your screen, to avoid any shadows that can throw off your keying. Remove them by ironing, steaming, or letting the screen hang vertically for a few hours. (If you’re using paint, just make sure you clean or re-paint any scuffed or chipped areas.)

Position the Lights

Two lights of equal wattage should be positioned 15 degrees from the green screen on each side, pointing toward the screen. This is very important. Each light should be far enough away to light the entire screen to create an even color.

Check for Evenness

As I mentioned earlier, even lighting is crucial. Move your lights around to the best position to get the most even lighting on the screen; it will make your life much easier in post.

Light It Up

Be consistent and stick with one type of light, whether it’s LEDs, fluorescents, or tungstens. LEDs use less power and don’t get nearly as hot, but they are also much more expensive. Fluorescents are cooler in color temperature and actual temperature. Tungstens are cheaper, but use more power and get hotter to the touch.

Check for Zebras

If your camera has zebra bars, use them and slowly adjust the iris to identify hot spots on the screen. When you start to see the zebras, you know you’re overexposed.

Video: Music Video Shoot by observe

Now that you’ve got your screen lit, you need to light your subject. The most important thing to know here is that you have to light your screen and your subject separately. The more separation you can have between them, the better your end result will be. With proper separation, you won’t have to worry about shadows as much, and you’ll minimize the amount of green reflecting or spilling from the screen onto your subject. If you don’t have a ton of space, however, you need to get more creative with your lighting and move the subject’s lights outward, so that the shadows are cast out of frame. Here’s a basic breakdown for lighting your subject:

Video: Guy Calling on Green Screen by cinemates.

  • Turn Down the Lights: Turn off your screen lights so they won’t interfere with your subject’s lighting.
  • Position the Subject: Keeping your subjects in the frame, position them as far away from the screen as possible, to give them some separation. This will also ensure the two green-screen lights aren’t hitting the subject. Have your subjects practice to make sure their whole body stays within the green screen.
  • Use Basic Three-Point Lighting: A key light should be positioned about 15 degrees to one side of center and raised 3-4 feet taller than the subject, mimicking sunlight. A weaker “fill” light should be placed on the opposite side of the subject, and backlight will be your third light (positioned behind and to the side of your subject), providing a “rim” light around your subject. This will help further separate your subject from the background.
  • Light It Up, Part 2: This works the same as with the screen. Choose a consistent type of lighting you want on your subject and use it only for your subject.
  • Minimize Spillage: If your actors are standing on part of the green screen, have them stand on a different colored mat to prevent green light from reflecting onto them from below. If you’re still getting green spilling, reposition your lights or move the subject further away from the screen.

Image: DSLR Camera in Photo Studio by Maxxyustas.

Those are the basics for a standard lighting setup, but there are times when you may need to match a certain scene, mood, or lighting arrangement based on your background. Think of how much different sunrise looks from mid-day, or the variance between an office building’s light and a candle-lit church. These are the best ways to light for a mood:

  • Mimic the Natural Light: If the background for the green screen is an outdoor scene, keep in mind the direction of the natural light. For example, if your scene takes place at sunset, make sure the direction of the lights on your subject are positioned at the same angle as the sun. Also keep in mind the color temperature, as it will vary along with the time of day. Indoor scenes are very different from outdoor scenes as well.
  • Use Gels: Match the color tone and temperature of your backplate by covering your lights with gels. If it’s a sunset, use warm gels on your lights to mimic the actual light in the scene. If you’re set in a winter environment or a doctor’s office, use cool gels on your lights, and so on.
  • Refer to the Background: Whatever your background image/video is going to be, make sure you use images of it for reference. Having a visual aid will make it that much easier to light for the background scene at the time of shooting, instead of having to re-shoot for consistency.

Okay, your lighting is set! There are a few more things to consider, specifically for your subject, and then you can start shooting:

  • No Green Clothes: Make sure your talent isn’t wearing anything green, teal, aqua, seafoam green, forest, or any color close to the color of your backdrop. The same goes for anything blue on a blue screen.
  • Put on Some Makeup: Makeup is necessary for green-screen shooting, unless you’re filming a Dawn of the Dead sequel.
  • But No Shimmery Makeup: Avoid using shiny lip gloss, eyeshadow, or blush on your talent. The lights will reflect off of this makeup and mess up your key.
  • Look for Flyaways: Use a shine spray to get rid of fine hairs that are sticking up. This will make it easier for keying.

What to do next?

Basically, if you‘re happy with the result even without further edits, you can go ahead and upload your green screen footage or photo straight to Pond5. You can also process the image with chroma keying tools in your editing software and export your media as alpha channel or alpha matte. Alpha channel is very easy to recognize – it contains its well-known checked background which indicates that it‘s a transparent background. Alpha matte on the other hand contains the original footage and the black and white mask. You can upload both types of alphas. Here are the examples of alpha channel and alpha matte footage:

Alpha Channel Video: Smoke Transition 2 by louderick.

Alpha Matte Video: Time-Lapse Of Opening Blushing Akito Rose In Rgb + Alpha Matte Format by zygistudio.

Top Image: Recording Interview With Politician Using Professional Tv Green Screen Studio by CausPlanet .