From Photographer to Filmmaker: All You Need to Know in 16 Min | Dandan Liu | Skillshare

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From Photographer to Filmmaker: All You Need to Know in 16 Min

teacher avatar Dandan Liu, Filmmaker | Contemplative Creative

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Course Intro


    • 2.

      The Three Main Differences in Camera


    • 3.

      Shutter Speed


    • 4.

      Image Stabilization


    • 5.



    • 6.

      Differences in Visual Storytelling


    • 7.

      Intro to Audio


    • 8.

      Recording High Quality Sound


    • 9.

      Optimizing Your Sound Recording Space


    • 10.

      Essential Audio Tricks For a Smooth Edit


    • 11.

      Course Conclusion


    • 12.

      Exciting Updates


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About This Class

Are you a photographer wanting to get into filmmaking?

While you may feel intimidated by the filmmaking process, as a photographer, you already have most of the foundational essentials needed to make motion pictures. There are just a few other things you'll need to learn to make the photographer to filmmaker transition. This course presents this essential knowledge, from camera, to audio, to visual storytelling, and assumes that you have a firm foundation in manual exposure and composition. 

By the end of this course, you will have a complete roadmap and all the knowledge needed to go out there and start making films! 

Meet Your Teacher

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Dandan Liu

Filmmaker | Contemplative Creative

Top Teacher

Hi there! I'm Dandan, an Emmy award-winning filmmaker and contemplative creative living in Italy.

As a self-taught filmmaker, I love foraging for unique stories around the world that illuminate the interconnections among us. I started making films while on a 4 year journey living in monasteries around the world. One film led to the next, and after persevering for many years, I found myself working full time on film crews and streaming my films on Roku, Apple TV, museums, trains, and airplanes.

My highest work is helping others craft an authentic, creative, and mindful life- your unique work of art. I believe that knowing who you truly are is the foundation for flourishing in every area of life. So, I founded Unravel, a playful journey of self discovery, which has... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Course Intro: You are a photographer wanting to get into filmmaking. As someone who's been there, I know how easy it is to feel intimidated by all of the gear departments and a lot of planning schemes you see on film teams. Well, I have good news for you. As someone well-versed in taking images, you already know most of the essentials to go and make films. There are just a few other things you'll need to learn to go from picture to motion picture and you can learn all of these in under an hour. Unlike other filmmaking courses, which start from ground zero with camera basics, this course is designed for photographers who already know how to compose and use manual exposure. I will teach you step by step all the things you'll need in cinematography, audio, editing, and shot planning to make the photographer to filmmaker transition. These lessons stem from my years of working as a professional filmmaker in the industry and all the lessons are designed to be applicable and get straight to the point. By the end of this course, you will have all the knowledge you'll need to go and make films. Believe me, making this transition is much easier than you think. Let's get started. 2. The Three Main Differences in Camera: Let's dive right into the camera department, where we will look at three main areas of difference between photography and film-making. These are exposure, image stabilization, and camera movement. To manually expose for an image in film-making, the principles are the same as in photography. You have three elements comprising the exposure triangle: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. With film-making, there are two important differences to keep in mind. However, the first difference is frame rate. Now, this is found in photography, but it is a crucial element in film-making, because a motion picture is basically a string of photographs played over a short period of time. Frame rate is basically how many frames or photos your camera is taking per second. You set frame rate before you set the other elements of the exposure triangle. The higher the frame rate, the more choppy your film will look. Some films, such as Saving Private Ryan, creatively use a higher frame rate to make the film looks stuttery. However, for motion pictures, the standard frame rate is 23.97 or 24 frames per second. This will give you a natural organic motion blur you find in cinema. 3. Shutter Speed: The next important difference is shutter speed. In film-making, shutter speed is fixed at twice your frame rate. If you're shooting 24 frames per second, you will set your shutter speed at 148th of a second. Since you cannot change your shutter speed when you are filming, this makes ND filters an incredibly useful tool because you cannot increase the shutter speed too dark in your image. If you want to keep your shallow depth of field, you would need to put an ND filter on. So in film-making, to set exposure, you would first set the frame rate and then the shutter speed, which would remain constant, then set the aperture and ISO accordingly, keeping in mind, video cameras usually have a native ISO or optimum ISO determined by the camera manufacturer to preserve the maximum amount of dynamic range. 4. Image Stabilization: Now with exposure in check, let's talk about the second major difference between photography and film making, which is image stabilization. Because you're creating a continuity of frames by making emotion picture, keeping your shots stable and steady is incredibly important, unless you are intentionally going for the handheld look. To do this, make sure you keep your camera on a tripod and level it. For shots that move or follow a subject, use a slider or gimbal, which electronically compensates for any shake your camera is experiencing. 5. Focus: The last main difference between photography and filmmaking in the cinematography sphere is focus. This is probably one of the most difficult parts of the filmmaking process and it's why the unsung heroes of cinema, called focus pullers, are specifically hired for this job. Especially, if you're using lenses with higher focal lengths and therefore, thinner planes are focused. Keeping your subjects, especially while they're moving in focus can be especially challenging. Here are a few tips: One, know which direction you focus ring turns to keep the focus nearer or farther. Two, practice setting focus a few times before you start rolling. Third, there is also a function, or most cameras nowadays called focus peaking, which outlines which area of your frame is in focus. Just simply turn it on and it will help guide you. 6. Differences in Visual Storytelling: Now that we've addressed exposure, let's take a look at another area, shot planning and the main differences between photography and film-making. Unlike photography, which takes shots frozen in time. In film-making, you're really taking a sequence of images played over time. You have to tweak your visual storyteller mindset to take into account the role of time. Really think about how to link your shots to create continuity so that we do not see your story as a sequence of separate shots, but as a smooth and continuous one. Here are two tricks to keep in mind in your shot planning that help create continuity. One, close-up shots. The biggest mistake I've seen in beginner filmmakers is shooting all the shots as wide shots or mid shots to get coverage, but not enough close-up shots. Not only the close-up shots look more cinematic and give key detail on your scene or character. They also serve a crucial function in creating a sense of continuity when you cut between two shots. Key takeaway. Make sure you record at least 50 percent of all your shots as closeups. Two, shot length. Another mistake I see in beginner filmmakers is pressing the record button right when the main action is happening and stopping right after the main action has stopped. However, this often makes the shots too short to use for smooth editing. Instead, keep shots a minimum of 10 seconds for editing handles. By doing this, you'll have enough times in your shot to create really cool transitions in the edit like slow dissolves. Third, shooting for the Edit. I think this mindset is really what sets filmmakers apart. Although acquiring this mindset takes time, you can start developing it now. Shooting for the edit basically means that you have in mind how the shot can be used when you shoot it. Even if you're not sure what's going to happen, perhaps you're shooting a duck, at least keep your eye out when you're filming for potential shots that will make your edit a lot smoother. Critically think and what I like to call, critically feel the shots that you are getting. Check to see if you have at least a good establishing shot, which will give viewers a sense of place and time. Closing shot, transition shots and close-up shots. Believe me, this skill becomes more automatic as you practice it. 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 serve the story. Doing this will help you intuitively get a sense of what types of shots are needed to tell a compelling story. 7. Intro to Audio: So the last major difference between photography and film making is audio. In the industry, we have a saying which goes, "Audio is the king of video." This means that the perceived quality of your film is more influenced by the quality of your audio, then the quality of your visuals. So first, I'm going to teach you how to use your mics to record great sounding audio. Then I'll teach you how to enhance your audio recording space and finally, I'll show two essential tricks you'll need to smooth out your audio in the edit. 8. Recording High Quality Sound: To use the lav mic, it's simple. Clip it around the sternum, six to eight inches below the mouth, and point the mic up. Be careful not to have any cloth, jewelry, or hair around there mic, because these can bump against the mic and muffle the sound. To record what is being said from your lav mic, you will need an external recorder. To use the external recorder, first make sure you have a memory card inside. Then insert you lav mic, and set the recording format to WAV 48 kilohertz, 16 bit, which is a higher-quality file, then the MP3. Next, notice your audio meter. This records the decibel range or loudness of what is being picked up by your mic. You want your audio levels to bounce between negative six and negative 12 decibels. To set your audio levels, do a test with your subject before hand. Tell them you're going to check the audio levels. Ask them about how their day went, and press the up and down input level buttons on side of your recorder until the audio levels bounce between negative 12 and negative six. When in doubt, it's safer to keep your audio on the lower decibel range, since it's almost impossible to fix sounds that are too loud. If your sounds are too low, however, you will hear static. To use a shotgun mic, it's simple. Just hook the mic into your camera and turn it on. If you're shooting outside on a windy day, make sure to cover the mic with a wind buffer, which looks like a cat tail. You can adjust the audio level of your shotgun sound and camera. Just make sure it's not hitting the red marks in your in-camera audio meter. 9. Optimizing Your Sound Recording Space: For your audio recording environment, you ideally want to choose a quiet place. Before you start your interview, listen for competing sounds. You want to make sure that there are no noises coming from windows. You want to close doors, turn off electrical appliances, turn off your cell phones, turn off the fridge, clocks and the AC, whatever that will leave a subtle hum in your audio. Another thing to watch out for is echo. Echo comes from sound bouncing around on hard surfaces when traveling from your subject to the microphone. It sounds like this: In the beginning, I think it's helpful to have an overview of the whole video production process. As you can see, it waters down your sound. So recording in a carpeted room with soft surfaces is a great idea. Because soft surfaces will absorb the echo. If that's not possible, you can try to cover the hard surfaces such as tables and floors with rugs, pillows, and thick fabric. 10. Essential Audio Tricks For a Smooth Edit: Now we will learn two central tricks in audio recording to make your edits a lot smoother down the road. Number one, room tone. Is an empty room completely silent? If you're by yourself, close your eyes and listen. Even if the room sounds quiet, you'll hear that there's still a distinctive sound to that room or filming space. Although the sound is low, this sound, or what we call room tone, will come in handy when you want to smooth out cuts in the editing room. For example, when you want to take out a few words in an interview, you want to under-lay the deletions with room tone to make it sound natural. Key takeaway, make sure you record 30 seconds of room tone before you start your interview or scene and right after your scene ends because room tone can change with time. Number two, clap in the beginning of your scene. You know those iconic Hollywood slates. Well, you might know that they mark the take in the scene, which helps film editors keep track of everything. But these slates also serve another crucial function, creating allowed mark so editors can easily sync audio with video and post. Key takeaway, clap in the beginning of your scene for easy audio syncing later on. 11. Course Conclusion: Congratulations on finishing this course. I hope that by now you feel excited to go out there and make the photographer to filmmaker transition. If you have any remaining questions, please send them my way as I am here to support you. If you'd like to develop your film making and storytelling further, please check out my other courses on my teacher profile page, like my ever popular Power video editing course, Adobe Premiere Pro in 45 minutes. Which takes the traditional three-hour class and condenses it down to its golden essentials so you end up with polished refined edit in a fraction of the time. Thank you so much for taking the time with me and I wish you all the best for your film making journey. 12. Exciting Updates: Hey 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, you can confidently advance as a filmmaker. The second update is that I've started a one-minute newsletter which shows curated inspiration and high-value insights on filmmaking, creativity, and the art of authentic living. Check out both of these on my course instructor page.