Learning how to direct your camera is as important as anything you do in the production of your film.
Having a great look that conveys your overall vision boosts your production value and adds to the overall quality, energy, and flow of the picture especially as a student filmmaker. This is even more key when you start to move away from being a "one-man-band" and start using a cinematographer. It's one thing doing it yourself, the hard part is conveying what is in your head to your DP and that is where Directing the Camera opens up a whole new chapter of possibilities.
Author Gil Bettman's philosophy is a simple one:
"The beauty of directing the camera is that given a certain input, the camera always produces the same result. Almost the
opposite is true when it comes to directing actors. Given a certain input, each actor will react differently, and the ability to gauge this unique reaction and make just the right modification to the input cannot be taught. It is intuited in the heat of the interpersonal exchange between director and actor. Similarly, a brilliant student can be taught and learn all the rules of screenwriting and never be able to write a truly great script. That takes God-given talent. But the camera is an instrument and so given the correct input it will always produce the correct result. The only gift that one needs in order to achieve great proficiency at directing the camera is the ability to picture in the mind's eye how each camera position changes the way objects look in relation to each other in the frame. Using this gift, you can make the movie in your head before you make it
on the set. If you were good at geometry in school, this will come easily to you. If not, not to worry. Directing the camera, for the most part, is a science with rules that describe how a given input will produce a given result. So, like math, it can be learned."
The first half of this book is devoted to teaching a systemized approach that can be used to design the very best moving shot for any dialogue scene, no matter how complex or long. Bettman’s “Five Task” approach enables the aspiring director to quickly grasp this difficult element of directorial craft. In the second half the reader is taught how to shoot action sequences using moving and static cameras and the gamut of lenses to achieve the magic trick essential to shooting action — making stunts that are highly controlled and neither violent nor dangerous look completely mind-blowing.
The book is half images and half text. The images provide an explication and analysis of how different directors have gone about applying these rules to the unique needs of selected scenes from their films. The images serve as case studies in how a skillful application of the rules can be used to produce the best visual design for a
There is a "For Teachers" section at end of Chapters 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Each contains an exercise designed to test the student's mastery of the elements of craft taught in the chapter.
As a filmmaker, studying these detailed analyses has helped me hone my craft as well as given me some new ideas to help me raise my films to a higher level.
About the Author
Gil Bettman is a director and a Professional in the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University in Los Angeles. He studied creative writing with Robert Lowell at Harvard and, in 1970, was awarded the Harvard Prize for literary excellence. Bettman has directed three feature films: Crystal Heart, Never Too Young to Die, and Night Vision, as well as multiple episodes of the television series Knight Rider, The Fall Guy, and BJ and the Bear. He has also directed numerous music videos for a variety of artists including Chicago and Sammy Hagar, in addition to two feature documentaries for Hagar: The Long Road to Cabo, and Go There Once, Be There Twice.
More information about Gil Bettman is available at:
Foreword by Robert Zemeckis
How to Use This Book
PART ONE: WHY TEACH HOW TO DIRECT THE CAMERA?
Chapter 1 The Importance of Directing The Camera
PART TWO: SHOOTING DIALOGUE SEQUENCES WITH A MOVING CAMERA
Chapter 2 Why Move Your Camera?
When Do You Move Your Camera?
Bob’s Rule: The Three Kinds of Camera Movement that are Invisible
• Externally Generated Camera Moves
• Externally Generated Camera Moves – Seamlessness and Eye Candy
• Internally Generated Camera Moves
• Moving Establishing Shots
Those who break Bob’s Rule and why they do it
The Rise of the Snoopy Cam
Dogma Picks Up the Snoopy Cam
The Snoopy Cam Today
Chapter 3 The Good Moving Master
A Model Moving Master and Coverage – Jerry Maguire
• Task 1- Establishing
• Task 2 – Seamlessness
• Task 3 – Eye Candy
• Task 4 – Drama
• Task 5 – Coverage
The Default Pattern for Designing the Best Moving Master
The Master for the Mahjong Parlor from Conundrum – Following the Default Pattern
The Master with Warren Feur from What Lies Beneath – Seamlessness to the Max
• The Master with Warren Feur – How Seamlessness to the Max Adds Eye Candy
• The Master with Warren Feur – How Seamlessness to the Max Helps Reveal “Everything”
The Master of Norman’s Confession – A Unique Master for a Unique Scene
• Norman’s Confession – Opening Beat – Why Zemeckis Departs from the Default Pattern
• Norman’s Confession – Middle Beat – Why Zemeckis Departs from the Default Pattern
• Norman’s Confession – Final Beat – Why Zemeckis Departs from the Default Pattern
Where to Design the Best Moving Master
Never Settle – The Key to Designing the Best Moving Master
Fifteen Walk and Talk Scenes
PART THREE: DIRECTING ACTION SEQUENCES
Chapter 4 Directing Action Sequences
How to Put the Camera in the Right Place
How to Put the Right Lens on the Camera
How to Get the Right Number of Pieces
Chapter 5 Lens Selection
Why Force Perspective?
Lens Selection as a Joint Responsibility Between Director and Cinematographer
The Basics of Perspective
Extreme Telephoto and Extreme Wide-Angle Versus Normal Perspective
Lenses – Field of Vision and Depth of Field
General Application of Different Lenses
• General Applications of Field of Vision and Depth of Field
• General Applications of Perspective
How Lenses Affect Motion
• Motion to the Lens or Away from the Lens – The Z-Axis
• Motion Across the Lens – The X-Axis
• Motion Across the Lens – The Y-Axis
A Good Way to Learn How Lenses Affect Motion
Chapter 6 Breaking Down Your Action Sequence
The Theory Behind Storyboarding and Pre-Visualization
The Storyboard in Practice – The Story in the Storyboard
The Storyboards for the Ambush from Never Too Young to Die
What We Actually Shot
Chapter 7 Directing A Chase Sequence
The Basic Rules
The Story of the Chase
Strategy #1 – Wide-Angle Lenses – Pogo Cams – Narrow Spaces
Strategy #2 – Long Lenses in Open Spaces = More Eye Candy
Geography in Chase Sequences
Shooing Action/ Chases with the Wide Lens Versus Shooting Action/ Chases with the Long Lens
Chapter 8 Directing A Fight Sequence
The Basic Rules
The Two Setup Rule
Segments and Coverage
The Importance of Mastering Fights
The Importance of Good Operators and Good Assistants
The Joy of Stunts
About the Author
Paperback, 183 Pages
Libby Blood, Associate Editor
Libby Blood has a passion for all aspects of filmmaking. Throughout her four years in Advanced Media Production at El Dorado High School, she created countless PSAs, commercials, spot features, live events, music videos, and two award-winning short films. Now graduated, Libby is currently working on two feature films with well-known producers, as well as working with MTV Verge and Nick Cannon's Celebrity High TV. She is also stretching her wings with a full length documentary as well.