Filmmaking for beginners

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If you’ve ever wondered how to make a movie, then you are in the right place. Even though you won’t be learning film techniques just by reading this article, we can give you a few tips to get your feet wet on the amazing art of making movies. 

There’s no doubt that films can transport us to a different reality and immerse us in a world created by a team of filmmakers. This is why creating any type of visual content, whether it is a 5 minutes video or a 2 hour movie, requires a lot of work and preparation. 

Pre-production for beginners

Before you turn on your camera, you will have to do some planning. It can take a bit more time but it will definitely help you down the road. 

First of all, you will need an idea. Sounds easy, but with so many things around to shoot, narrowing everything down to just one topic can take a while. Think of the idea as the spine of your movie. From it, everything else will come out to make the film function. 

Here’s another tip: think about the end before the beginning. This is a tactic many screenwriters do, because once you know the final outcome it will be easier to trace back the story. 

Knowing the video’s format and final destination is also very important to make a ton of other decisions. You should definitely decide this before you start creating your film. For example, making a short film is very different from creating a video for YouTube and, of course, even more different than making a 2-hour-long movie. 

Same thing with the format: it is not the same to create a piece that will be shown on a big screen with certain visual and audio requirements, than making a video to post online. This can affect the resolution in which you record and, afterwards, edit. 

You should always edit your video at the size you want to produce it at. Even if while recording you have more flexibility than when editing, they have to be larger or the same size as the final video output. This will save you a lot of headaches moving forward.

1. Make a plan

Once you are set on an idea, you need to write a script. Whenever you are writing your script, keep in mind your final goal: what will the ending be. Write down some sort of map with the main actions and situations that will take you to your desired finale. 

Another resource filmmakers use is the storyboard. This is a visual representation, often illustrated, of the script. With it you will start planning other things aside from the actual story, such as shots, scenes and more.

Having a script and a storyboard doesn’t mean that you will have to strictly stick to it. You will still have time to improvise as you see your story come to life, but with this planning it would be easier to adjust any details during the process.

2. Find your talent and locations

Any kind of film is nothing without its actors. Just think of any movie you’ve ever watched, it is most likely that you remember at least one person acting in it. These are the people that will bring your story to life, so you need to find the right ones. 

Thanks to the internet, nowadays it is easier to make online castings. You can create an ad asking for actors and meet them via video call. Or you can even contact drama schools as there are many aspiring actors out there looking to participate in projects. 

You will also have to plan in advance where you are going to shoot. Is it going to be in a studio or you will film on location? If so, will it be in one place or several? These are all things you will have to think about and decide before shooting. Finding the right place to film is crucial for production. 

3. Gather your filming gear

Part of pre-production is making sure in advance that you have all the equipment you need to film. Have a list of all the things you need ready before you start to create your video. Test your cameras, microphones, tripods and more to avoid any surprises later on.

Production for beginners

Before you start, check that your camera is ready. Make sure the battery is fully charged, the lens is clean, and there’s enough free memory. Sounds like a basic thing, but you will be surprised how many times things like this have happened to even the most professional filmmakers.

Once you hit the recording button, there are even more things you have to keep in mind:

1. Use a tripod

Try to record using a tripod, unless you want to intentionally give the scene an unstabilized feel (a resource many filmmakers use).

2. Make your shots dynamic 

Make as many variations of shoots, angles and perspectives as you can. This is important not only to give dynamism to your story but it will also help you a lot when editing. Having as much material as you can will make things easier when editing. 

3. Don’t zoom in

Avoid using zoom and instead leave that to post-production. Try to film in the best possible quality so later on you will be able to arrange things while editing. If, for example, you want to shoot a closeup, then come as close as you can to the actor or object, instead of zooming in.

4. Check the light

As much magic as you can make in post-production, always try to arrange things while actually filming. Such is the case of lighting. Even though while editing you can alter colours, contrasts and more, if you don’t have good lighting to start with, the end result won’t be good.

5. Check the sound

Even more important than checking the lighting, is being sure that the sound is perfect. This is even more difficult to fix in post-production, so test it before, during and after shooting a scene. Be sure to read our article about diegetic sounds to see which ones you should record while doing the scene and which ones you should add later on.

6. Go manual

Modern day cameras have many automatic features, but nothing better than doing things manually. Check and set the exposure and focus yourself to avoid any inconveniences while recording.

7. Hold the shot

Always record a few extra seconds before and after a scene. It is important to have those extra frames to help you edit afterwards and to avoid, for example, cutting a dialogue. In general, you should film ten seconds extra for a shot with no action, or five seconds before and after any action or speech.

Video post-production for beginners

Good news is that this is the part you can leave for professionals. Film editing is an art for itself and it can take many days, even months in case of films, to have the final product ready. 

A few things to keep in mind while editing:

1.Be patient

As we said, editing takes time and you have to be very detail-oriented. So if you are going to do it yourself, have a big cup of coffee and get some breaks to clear your mind during the process. If you want to know how to edit a video if you are not a video editor, here are some tips:

2. Choose a software

Use an editing program that you feel comfortable and confident with. It will be your main tool in this part of the process, so choose wisely. 

A quick search around the internet will show you several options. Try as much as you can and ask fellow editors to decide which one is better for your needs.

3. Keep the best, delete the rest

Once you have all the material in front, you will realize that most of it you will have to delete. But, remember, it is better to have less great shots than many bad ones. Per scene, you should choose one or two shots, to end up with the best bits of each. Remember to include as many variations of angles and perspectives as you can, in order to make your story more dynamic. 

4. Final touches

Once you’ve decided on a timeline and organized your story, then you will get to the details. Move things around, cut, paste and beyond. Here you can add any colour corrections, adjust the audio and most importantly add music and sound effects.

5. Choose the right music

Music is a big part of any type of film, so choose it right. Keep in mind that no matter where you are going to publish it, you need to either have the copyright (an original track made for your production for which you own the rights) or have royalty free music. Luckily we can help you with the last one, so if you are looking for background music for a video or movie, take a look at our library.