Updated: Jun 12
If you've been wanting your way into filmmaking, it's extremely important to have some (or even most) basic knowledge regarding the technical elements that are involved in the production of a film. This blog aims to provide that information in a nutshell. So let's get started!
You know when you're talking to someone and trying to explain how you feel about a recent film or a TV show that you watched? But you can't articulate the argument in a way that can express your concerns and interests. Well, if not a film-maker, this blog should at least give you enough information to have a healthy and informed opinion and/or conversation about a movie. Nevertheless, if you're an aspiring film-maker, then the information that you're about to read here might be some keywords that you want to jot down for yourself (or you can probably bookmark this blog!)
What are the key elements involved:
Sound or Audio
Film types are divided into three categories; realism, classical, and formalism.
Most connoisseurs of the art of motion pictures feel that the greatest films are the artistic and personal expression of strong directors. The cinema exists, however, for many social functions, and its “art” has served many types of film that do not set out to be artistic. - Brittanica
When it comes to the shots involved, there are 10 main options out there that are then further broken down into their variations.
Extreme Close-Up (ECU)
Medium Shot (MS)
Long Shot or Wide Shot (LS)
Extreme Long Shot (ELS) or Extreme Wide Shot
Shots are the building blocks of film, and shot selection has a significant impact on the way a viewer interprets the action on screen. It’s important that we choose the right shot to communicate our film effectively. - Into Film
Each scene of a film is broken down and dissected as a combination of the shots mentioned above. Various combinations of shot usage can affect creating a different mood or directional intention. Appropriate shot usage assists the director in his/her storytelling.
There are four main angles involved in filming.
The camera angle helps the creator to establish different relationships between the subjects and even between the audience and the subjects. It’s very important to master these techniques if you want to become a pro filmmaker! - Vliz
Every camera angle mentioned above has its own importance and usage in the art of storytelling through video. These angles are also applied to evoke the sentiments of the spectator. So be sure to understand the key differences between each of them and what each one is conveying for their appropriate use for your next project!
There are four main kinds of lighting involved:
High Key Lighting
Low Key Lighting
A specific type of lighting produces a mood. Take into consideration the genres of movies that you love. Comedy and Noir films tend to be more lit with different ways to invoke different moods.
Without good lighting, the best camera in the world can’t capture a perfect picture. Learn how a film crew uses lighting to enhance images, create depth, and support the story’s mood and atmosphere. - David Lynch, Masterclass
In film-making, the use of color plays a significant role to communicate the audience the tone of the scene. To be a renowned visual artist, you need knowledge of the color palette. Many of the greatest Directors, Cinematographers, and Production Designers have comprehensive backgrounds as visual artists themselves. There are many ways to use color in film.
The use of color in the film doesn't only come in during the color correction and color grading stage. It begins with the production design. If you want to make a scene resonate with the audience emotionally, try using the color associated with the emotion you're trying to evoke. With raw shooting cameras so readily available, many filmmakers opt to shoot raw as much as possible. Just like shooting raw still images (instead of JPEG). Shooting raw video delivers a final image that has maximized dynamic range, detail, and overall image quality.
Shooting a video in RAW can also help in the coloring as you are allowed to capture what the sensor sees, meaning that no white balance, ISO, or color adjustments are applied to your footage. RAW footage proves to be incredibly valuable when color grading your project as it allows the colorist to manipulate the colors in post-production with fewer restrictions.
There are two main kinds of color:
communicates optimism, fantasies, love, or some pleasant scenery
communicates the past, strife, sorrow, or some other dystopia scenery
There are two main kinds of sound; diegetic and non-diegetic sounds, which are what build up the sound design for film. The key difference between both kinds of sounds are broken down below:
Sound whose source is visible on the screen or whose sound is implied to be present by the action in the film; also characterized by offscreen or on-screen.
Types of Diegetic Sound:
Character dialogue is the most obvious example of a diegetic sound.
Object sounds give a film more realism. For example, the sound of the crushing of the character's footsteps in the snow or the sounds of the traffic when the character is shown to be walking on a busy street.
The music originating from within in the film helps the audience in becoming engrossed within a scene.
The source of diegetic sound doesn't necessarily need to be seen on screen, as long as the audience understands that it is coming from something within the film. - MasterClass
The sound whose source is not visually noticeable on the screen nor has been applied by the action occurring in the film; basically, any sound that does not come from inside the story itself.
Non-diegetic sound, also called commentary or nonliteral sound, is any sound that does not originate from within the film’s world. The film’s characters are not able to hear non-diegetic sound. All non-diegetic sound is added by sound editors in post-production. - MasterClass
Types of Non-Diegetic Sound:
The film’s score is used to set the film’s tone. This sound is used to plan and evoke audience emotions, add to the drama, express doubtfulness, or present an element of surprise.
Sound effects added for dramatic effect.
Narration or voice-over is used by the director to assist in the explanation or reinforcement of the plot.
Again, these are things ONLY the audience hears, and the characters involved in the story do not.
Film editing is one of the aspects or parts of a film that usually tend to go unnoticed (at least in Hollywood films!). The main job of the film's editor is to put together the shots involved in the storyline and make their flow as smooth and fluid as possible to ensure the audience can fully engage in following the film's plot. Some editors may also purposely break this fluid smoothness from the storyline if the plot requires (or if they're terrible editors).
Continuity: a breakdown of time and space while preserving fluidity.
Classical: This style bounces from long shot to medium shot to close up for invoking a dramatic effect.
Radical Subjective Continuity: cuts of different time and space for dramatic effect.
Thematic: edits that are theme-driven.
Associative: the juxtaposition of two shots that when combined serve a purpose (but separate, they do not).
Dialectic: edits that are driven by expressing a contradiction.
Mise en scène, pronounced meez-ahn-sen, is a term used to describe the setting of a scene in a play or a film. It refers to everything placed on the stage or in front of the camera—including people. In other words, mise en scène is a catch-all for everything that contributes to the visual presentation and overall “look” of a production. When translated from French, it means “placing on stage.” - MasterClass
This is why directors have to be smart when organizing furniture around a room (this is also where art director's come in place). Because everything that is showing on the screen matters. Mise-en-scene can be broken down into the following:
Placement around frame
Face to the camera - Quarter Turn, Half Turn, Three Quarter Turn, Full Turn, Back
Territorial space - Background, Mid-ground, Foreground
Tight - conveys the subject’s intensity, importance, and inability to escape.
Open - conveys desolation, space, freedom, or insignificance.
When analyzing films for projects, or creating a film, you may be required to use some or all of the characteristics above. Linking all these elements together can help you to create a logical explanation of the film. Try to think of the film as a whole and how the elements mentioned above work together to bring out the main message of the film.
The art of storytelling through film and the many artists/talents involved in creating a film generally tend to go unnoticed. We hope that this blog has helped you to understand the basic elements of what goes into creating a film. At Cinemagic, we believe that motion pictures have the power to humanize, educate, promote, and do so much more.