From Beginner to Intermediate Filmmaker: 5 Things You Need to Know | Dandan Liu | Skillshare

From Beginner to Intermediate Filmmaker: 5 Things You Need to Know

Dandan Liu, Documentary Filmmaker | Cinematographer

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9 Lessons (24m)
    • 1. Course Intro

    • 2. Picture Profiles

    • 3. Focal lengths

    • 4. Shooting for the Edit

    • 5. Fluid Camera Movement

    • 6. Lighting

    • 7. Bonus: LUTS

    • 8. Thank you!

    • 9. Exciting Updates

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About This Class

Feel like you've mastered the basics of filmmaking but want to move to the next level?

This course guides beginner filmmakers who have done at least 1 film project to the intermediate level. It provides you with the essential topics you need to learn and practice to make this transition, featuring creative mini assignments to help get there. 

All of these techniques come from working on the field in the film industry. 


  • How to take advantage of your camera's dynamic range for a more cinematic image
  • How focal lengths affect other key factors such as depth of field, distance compression, and image stabilization. 
  • How to shoot for the edit
  • How to create fluid movement for your camera
  • How to light a scene
  • How to use LUTS for enhanced color grading


By the end of this course, you will have a concrete action plan with 6 applicable techniques you can use on your next film, to take your filmmaking to the next level. 


1. Course Intro: The great thing about learning filmmaking online is that you have the freedom to design your own learning path. However, as I've personally experienced by taking this path myself, sometimes it's more challenging. If you're not enrolled in a film, school should know what steps to take next to advance to another level. So if you consider yourself a beginner filmmaker and feel like you've mastered the basics of filmmaking, I've designed this course to help get you to the intermediate level. I'm going to share five things I consider essential to make the beginner to intermediate filmmaking transition. Many assignments for every topic are included. Help make you make tradition. Let's get started. 2. Picture Profiles: number one picture profiles. So you probably already know about the dynamic range of your camera, which is a maximum amount of shades between the widest white and the darkest dark your camera can capture. This is why cameras like the Ari Alexa are so expensive and sought after. The's cameras have a high dynamic range, meaning that their sensors are able to capture more subtle differences in light, leading to more cinematic image. Even if you don't have a red digital cinema camera or an R E. Alexa, however, you can still take advantage of your cameras. Maximum dynamic range by shooting with what's called a flat picture profile. Keep in mind, though, that to do this, you'll have to do some color grading afterwards. So to do this, find your picture profiles or also known as picture styles tab on your camera menu and go through each of them. They will be named different things, depending on which camera you're using. Common picture profiles include S Log, Sina style and dialogue. Check out the picture profiles chart pdf on the Projects Tab, which matches the picture profiles to the camera brand when you choose a flat picture profile you'll see that the image looks dole. This is so the camera can retain the most amount of information in your image. So you can really finding things when you color grade. If you don't have time to do color grading. I like to take the middle route, which is to find the natural picture profile and turned down the sharpness, saturation, contrast and noise reduction down a bit. I find this can also take away the video we look and make your footage look more organic like film. So your assignment is to go through a camera and find the flat picture profile. If there more than one, do some experiments, shoot some images, review them and find the one that works best for you. 3. Focal lengths: to understanding the differences between focal links, so you probably already know that different focal lengths of your lenses give you different fields of you. However, focal lengths can also affect other critical factors such a step the fields compression and image stabilization. Let's talk about these three first with depth of field. The longer the lens, the more shallow your depth the field is. In other words, keeping your F stop and distance to the subject constant. With longer lens, you will have a blurrier background. This also means that with a longer lens, it's easier for something to go out of focus. So next time your choosing lenses use this knowledge here. Creative power. If you're wanting a shallower depth of field, try using the longer lens. If it frames your scene well next. Let's see how focal length affects the compression of an image. With a wider lens, you'll see that the distances between the foreground object and the background are enlarged compared to the distance perceived when shooting with a longer lens. If you shoot with a wide lens, you can distort the face where the nose and the foreground comes out and the ears are pulled back. This was used to create a comedic effect in a famous film family, where her face was shot with a 35 millimeter lens. An 85 millimeter lens, in contrast, is known as a beauty lens because it's seen in the industry as one of the most flattering lenses for faces. So next time, keep this distance compression in mind When choosing lenses. For example, in this shot, I wanted the actor to appear closer to the mirror, so I chose a longer lens use lens choice like they did in family to serve your story. And finally, let's talk about health focal lane effects image stabilization Because, you know now, the longer the lenses, the shallower that up the field, the easier it is for something to go out of focus. So if you're doing a moving shot handheld, I recommend doing it with a wide lens. I think the best way to understand focal length holistically and really get under your skin is to shoot with one prime lens until you really understand it. So your assignment is to take whatever primes you have, maybe even borrow them from some friends and shoot one face from the same distance with all of, um, Then compare and contrast the way the face looks shot from these different vocal wings. Post your photos on the project page so your classmates can also see the difference. 4. Shooting for the Edit: third shooting for the edit. Although this mindset can take time to develop, you can start acquiring it now. Shooting for the edit means having an idea of how the story will play out in the edit when you are shooting, even if you don't know what's gonna happen, maybe you're shooting a documentary. At least keep in mind and keep an eye out for potential establishing shots, closing shots, transitions and other shots that will help make your edit more smooth. Don't guess and shoot everything. I think critically and what I like to call critically feel and decide the shots that you are getting the best way I know to home this mindset. It's to set limits, so you have two options for this assignment. The 1st 1 is to shoot a short film with only a 16 gigabyte memory card. The second option is if you have a Polaroid camera and to shoot a complete story board with only one pack of Polaroids, then poster film warrior storyboard on the Projects page so your classmates can learn from your project and be inspired. Another great way to develop this mindset is to watch your favorite film with the sound turned off critically. Look at the sequence of shots and the function of every shot. See how they served the story. Doing this will help you intuitively get a sense of what types of shots are needed to tell a compelling story. 5. Fluid Camera Movement: fourth camera movement. So at this stage, you probably can already set up a tripod with your eyes closed. The next step is to learn how to create fluid movements of your shots with a gimbal. If you don't have a gimbal now, it's time to be resourceful and call friends of Friends of Friends or call a rental house and have them teach you, because the gimbal is a Roman. But I find they're very heavy for DSLR use and often require another person to help focus. Instead, if you're shooting with a regular dis alarm, I recommend the pilot Fly H two, which is lighter weight and allows me to run and pull focus at the same time. Whatever gimble you use, the principles are the same. You're gonna have to learn how to balance your camera on it and learn how to control it. Believe me, knowing this skill will really set you apart from the beginner filmmaker and increase the production value of your film. Just make sure that you're using the gimbal with purpose, and not just because the shots look cool. 6. Lighting: and fifth lighting. This was the most intimidating aspect of filmmaking for me, but it is really essential toe learn how to control as an intermediate filmmaker there thousands of Dettori als on lighting out there. But if I had to design a lighting curriculum first, I learned about types of led lights. Then I learned about shaping light, and finally I learned about playing with color temperature. The only way to truly learn, however, is to play with these lights yourself, however, to get you started, the following videos will give you a good overview off all of these three areas. First, let's check out a video by my friends at Aperture who give a great overview about the categories and led lights in the same way that you'd use wide lenses and telephoto lunges for different types of shoots. You also want to use different types of lighting fixtures for different uses. So with that said, let's go through the six most common types of lighting fixtures, and when you use a number one single source lights, single source lights are called single source because, well, they come from one source. There's only one light on the picture examples of single source life's include the average one or the many 20 when UN defused single source. Life's are hard and have clear, crisp edges. Generally speaking, you want to use single source lights when you want a strongly defined shadow, harsher light or more directional. Now you can defuse a single source light for a softer effect and turn it into area light, which will also soften the shadows. Intellects quality. This is very common in corporate interviews and photography. Number two multi source claims. Multi source lights have multiple life. Some multi stars panels like the Ellis one can have up to 1536. These types of life's generally have stronger outputs in this single source counterparts. It's not a direct correlation, but generally speaking, the more sources of light right of might be. Now, some filmmakers actually don't prefer multi source lights because of the multi shadow effect that comes with having too many sources of light. Now. To counter this effect, most filmmakers and photographers will diffuse multi source lights through a silk sheet or frost to eliminate the shadows and make it appears, a single source balancing a multi source. Light is another effective way to do this. Still, multi source lights have many useful applications and filming photography as they're some of the most powerful lights. Number three volumes. While you might like China Bowls and space, life had soft luminous leading to your overall. See. While you might have a very soft wrapped around your subject, you can have lots of overall filter center now. Because volume lights are so omni directional, they have a huge variety of uses. Many photographers and filmmakers will use space life's toe like their green screens, as it can provide extremely clean and even leading to a background. You can also try using an array of volume lights over white psych or for portrait shoot for you want soft beauty lighting Theory of volume Lights will mimic the effect of one super large soft sores from above, ensuring that your light is clean and without shadows. Number four and area late is the opposite of single source area Lights are achieved even from bouncing or diffusing single or multi stores light and adding to signs. An area light generally has a wider beam angle and can illuminate an entire room or environment. Soft boxes, silks and phone court bounce boards are all common ways between your hard light into an area area lights are soft and have shadows that are much less harsh than a single source. Light. Well, it's easy to make a hard spotlight into area light with a few tools. It's not that easy to making area light into a hard life unless you move like really far away to have seemingly being a single source. But then that makes your relative size much smaller, and you would almost never number 52 bites, two bites or sort of similar to aerial there, an array of ladies or a single force in that he usually house in a frosted plastic tube that provides very many photographers and GPS will actually take two or three of these tubes and shape them into squares or triangles for developed. Now. Because two bites are smaller, they tend to have less. I'll put in their larger or single source counterparts, but because they're more mobile and usually hidden, they have many practical uses. In addition, many to blood to nowadays are RGB, making them extremely versatile as affect lights both on screen and off, allowing you to make bars of lights and club seems or music videos allowing for some really fun and size. Speaking of practical is number six is practical lights. Practical lights are the lights that are visible in your scene and are part of your projects. Narrative. Practical aids can be a simple as an open face. Tunks involved lamps, screen of a TV set, candles, Christmas tree, a chandelier. The list goes on while lighting your scene well is very important. Practical can add visual interest and adds to the believability of your film. Many GPS shoes replaced onset practical with film lights, such as using the two flight simulator fluorescent or having a large single source daylight balanced lights to simulate the moon. Whatever the case, practical lights are the lights that are part of the screen and the narrative with film and help add depth over a lighting. Next, you'll need to learn how to shape this light. This is where diffusion bounds a negative. Phil comes in which Josh Knoll at Sun Duck films effectively shows. So we'll take a look at our first shot here, which is hard light, which is basically the light is shining directly on Ashley right here. And right off the start, we can see that the light is casting a shadow from her nose. And it's a hard shadow. So we have basically these even straight edges right here. You see it right here. And also we take a look at the I light right here. We can see the you know, the circle that's completely sharp. And also another thing I want to look at is more of the hot spot on her face here. So it's kind of, you know, you see some speculator elements that are just kind of brighter than the areas around it. And that's typically what you can get with a hard light is a little bit more reflective and stuff a lot more harsh. Oh, before we jump over the next one, take note off the Boca back here, which really isn't a factor of hard light issues because we don't have a dimmer on it. And we're shining a very bright source. At are subject. So now the light is a soft light, and we did that by putting a diffuser right in front of the light and right off the start. I'll talk about the Boca and we can see that the book is definitely bigger in us because we had open upon the lens. And that's only because when you defuse like, you are gonna go into seem cut delight down by a little bit. So we had open up in Lens and our bocas bigger over here. But that's not really what I want to look at for the soft light. When we look at some of difference to see yourself brothers start, we can see that the shadow from her nose is a lot more soft, and there's no, like, really defined edge. There's like a nice look, radiant, and obviously the light is wrapping very nicely along her side of her face here. And we can take a look at the I light right here and we'll see that's a little bit bigger and doesn't have the harsh edges like we talked about in the last one. And the speculator highlights are definitely a lot larger, and it's it's a lot more even across her face here, so that's really nice for using a soft light. So using a soft light over a hard light can be great for interviews or when you really make people look nice. Of course it's, You know, heart light is gonna be great in a lot of other situations, so don't always discount your hard light for certain projects. So take a look at negative field. Essentially, what negative field does is any time you add a dark object like the blackboard, or what I'm using right now is a floppy cutter. Basically, it will absorb light. So in the previous shots, the light was bouncing off of the walls and filling up her right side of her face here, which I'll call the hillside and by adding a floppy cutter or a D. I Y black art card, which you can get one at, like WalMart or local art store like $3. Essentially, when you put it next to your subject, they're Phil Side is going to get a little bit darker. And, as you see from the previous shots that you know the light is a lot more contrast, id on her right side of her face and just adds a little bit more depth into your shot. So in the shop, what we're doing is we are taking the light and shooting it into the diffuser. And basically the diffuser is the primary light source. And what's happening here is that, you know, we get even softer shadows compared to the soft light. And he's even, you know, rapping in the face a little bit more. And we definitely have a lot less speculator elements on her face here. And it's really what I would use this board is if I really want an extreme use soft light on our subject's face, like you know, if there's been a lot examples where maybe so. It's been a hot day. Someone's face has been sweaty. We don't have a makeup person, and just I want to make sure that we don't have any those hot spots hitting their face so for the shot were still balancing the light. But instead of using a diffuser as a light source, were using a white board that you can pick about Walmart like to $3 or you can use, like nice and white bounce. But basically this is my favorite look overall. So essentially, what's happening here is you're still getting a nice you know, soft light here but you definitely turning delight into a larger source because you know the card is definitely bigger than light. So essentially, what's happening here? We still get these nice soft shadows, so wrapping around the face and we take a look here we can see the I light is now a rectangle because we are using a small art card when we definitely see that the light is nice and evenly spread along her face, and that is looking really nice. So just one example. I want to show you guys just another use of bouncing light with different materials. So for the last shot, we are bounced in the light off of the ceiling, and the ceiling is the light source, and this is something else I wanted. Ad in the video just kind of get you guys thinking about how else you can use the light other than just having you know, reflectors or diffusers. Anything like that, you can use the roof as a light source. Now, to me, right off the bat for an interview, kind of said it like we are right now. We never do this, but maybe for a narrative or whatever, I mean, I would even suggest about adding a nice little reflector down here and bouncing it up. You know, another chin and all that. So but we take a look at top of her head stuffing a little bit more hot just because the roof is closer to the top of her head and obviously down here. But we're definitely getting more of a dramatic lighting set up, and it's still kind of a soft light because we're not getting those harsh edges that you would get from a hard light, even though it's not necessarily a, you know, a primary soft light, but still you know they're diffusing the light a little bit. Finally, you will need to understand how color temperature plays in with lighting. So as you probably know, all light comes with the color temperature associated with it, which is measured by Calvin. The two we work with in film are daylight and tungsten, and you want to memorize the respective color temperatures. I always by my lights daylight balanced. Once you choose your main line, you can convert into different color temperatures by using color gels. The's are transparent pieces of thin colored film that you put in front of your lights to achieve a desired color temperature. The two most common Our CTO, which converts daylight balanced light into tungsten lights, and C T B, which does the opposite. Converging tungsten lights into daylight balanced lights. If you would like an overview of lighting equipment, especially for those on a budget, check out my lighting equipment. Pdf. The best way I know to refine and home the skill is to light a scene based on a painting, For example, here I chose one of Ramirez paintings, women holding a balance, and played and tweak my lighting until I was happy with the resemblance. So I picked out four paintings with different moods and qualities of light that I feel is feasible for a one person set up. Your assignment is to recreate the scene, using whatever lighting you have. Diffusion. You know you can even use a shower curtain for this negative fill. You can use any black cloth and try to recreate the mood and the quality of the light found in the painting. Feel free to replace the props. I'm only interested in the quality and the mood of your lighting. Then post a photo of your lips seen on the class page for review 7. Bonus: LUTS: bonus tip Lutz Here's a quote trick. If you're using a flat picture profile lots, which stand for look up tables, the's air users film sets so directors can have a reference for what the footage will look like with more saturated colors instead of seeing just a flat, de saturated image that comes from the picture profile, which freaks many directors and producers out. So in essence, lots are basically color grading formulas. You can use lots to create a starting point for your color grading, saving you time or use thumb to create a stylized look. There are thousands of free lets out there, So do some fund research and find some styles like to apply a lot at the loo metric color effect onto your clip in Premiere, then scroll down through the luck menu, which already comes with built in Adobe Premiere Pro Lutz and apply if you downloaded your own. But make sure to hit, browse and click on your luck download to install it 8. Thank you!: I hope that by now you feel like you have a concrete action plan to make the next transition from a beginner to an intermediate filmmaker. You have any remaining questions? Feel free to seven my way as I'm here to support you in the meanwhile, I send you all the best for you. Still making journey. And I will see you next time. Actually, I will see you on the other side. Take care. Bye. 9. Exciting Updates: Hi, everyone. I have two exciting updates. The first is that I've created a course map that links all of my filmmaking and editing courses in sequence so you can confidently advance as a filmmaker. The second update is that I've started Ah, one minute newsletter, which airs curated inspiration and high value insights on filmmaking, creativity and the art of authentic living. Check out both of thes on my course instructor page.