Tag Archives: Cinematography

#3 Within 40 Hours (2012)

This was the first documentary I was involved in. And it was based on the students of Kamla High School in Mumbai.

1. Pre-production: It is important to invest a good amount of time in pre-production. But that does not mean we can spend 90% of the time on deciding what to do. In our case, the school that we worked for was supportive by all means. We could shoot wherever we want, we could go in a class in the middle of a lecture and interact with the students very easily. So we were sure at least there are no hindrances from the organisation. We could focus on the creative aspects. We chose the right organisation.

2. Best time to shoot: In photography it is known as the Golden Hour. Luckily enough for us, to match the timings of our college and the school, we had to shoot either early in the morning or just before sunset anyway. And in the month of February, the climate was just beautiful for a shoot. I’ve taken some of the prettiest shots out of sheer co-incidence just because the time was right.

3. Some people are camera conscious: Some kids are natural in front of a camera. Some are not. And that applies not only to kids but to everyone. As this was a documentary we could get away with the hesitation as it acted as a character trait to the person. Also, the subject was psychology so we actually used this to convey our point more convincingly.

4. You don’t need to get it right in the first take: We were interviewing ourselves. We were making a presentation where we were telling the audience about our experiences and what we learnt during these 40 hours of work we did at the NGO. So we had the liberty to note down the points so that two people don’t repeat the same ones. And we did so. That worked so well while editing the film. But on the other hand, it made everyone very conscious while they were talking. The best way to deal with this was to cut the shot a line before they fumbled and then ask them to start again just before the line they said incorrectly. I added a movement in the middle so that I could get a cutting point. And it did not appear as a mistake while everyone watched it.

5. The above only works when the subject is ready to coordinate: As we interviewed the professors, we were running short on time. We had to do it in one go. So we had to settle for a simple cross fade to cover up.

6. Double tap: We were using Lapel Mics for recording the interviews. It is important to check that there is no necklace or any element for that matter which is constantly banging on the condenser.

7. Shoot a lot of inserts/ cut-aways.

8. Cinemascope (2.35:1 ratio) adds a really professional look to your film.

9. Music can make or break your film

10. The film was awarded as the best project and it marked the end of our first year in BMM. It left me on a high and inspired my next Documentary, Pardes. More about it soon!

#3 My Creation – Some notes on composition

There is a plethora of information available on the Internet but knowledge of something is different. For me, knowledge is the kind of education that you can make use of in actual day to day life. So here I am, compiling some information hoping to convert it into knowledge for myself and maybe for the rest of the world!

Few pointers that make a good composition:

1. Grouping

2. Balance

3. Ratio/ Proportion (one of the best things I learnt today!)

4. Rule of thirds

5. Lines and curves

6. Figure and ground

7. Harmony and contrast

8. Light (soft light and hard light)

9. Colour

On reading all these articles, (if someone is passionate enough to do so) you will understand that there is a lot going through the DoP’s head before he even presses the record button. Does he carry a book with him referring to every tiny detail? Not anyone I know of. This is the homework one often does subconsciously. At first you might have to try hard, push yourself looking at one frame for hours before you decode it. Later on it becomes a part of your daily life.

As we move forward in time, most of our functions as a cinematographer will be submerged under the term automatic. I feel there is nothing wrong in putting your camera on P mode when you doubt your exposure settings. Ultimately, the results matter. However, I feel it is very less likely that a camera will be able to compose a shot as well as we can. You may be using a cell phone or a DSLR or a cinema camera, if you don’t make use of your frame, you will end up with an average looking image.

So if you don’t have a camera and you still want to be a DoP or even a better photographer, try this: cut a 4 inches by 3 inches rectangle in a cardboard and start ‘framing’ the world around you. When you have a limit to your field, you will understand how a simple change in your position can make the frame look better. I feel at every level, a visual artist should carry out this exercise.