Dissecting The Camera: Crash Course Film Production #4
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Dissecting The Camera: Crash Course Film Production #4

Hey, you! Yeah, I’m talking to you. But,
I’m actually talking to a camera. A camera is a collection of parts that can help you tell a visual story. It takes in
light through a lens and captures images, creating that illusion of reality we keep
talking about. You could even use your cell phone camera
to make a movie! But filmmakers usually have equipment that gives them a lot more control.
So, let’s look through the eyes of a cinematographer, and see how they combine camera technology
and the language of film to get that perfect shot [Intro Music Plays] Let’s start with the tool that focuses light
into a camera: the lens. Some cameras have a lens that’s permanently
attached, but others have a separate body with a lens mount, where you can swap out
different lenses for more creative control. For instance, low-budget filmmakers can rent
great lenses for cost-effective cameras to improve their footage quality. Or they might use older lenses to make a period piece feel more authentic. All lenses have either a fixed or variable focal length, which is the distance from the center of the lens to where the image is in focus. And focal length determines your field of view, which is how much you can see in frame.
It’s usually measured in millimeters, and a 50mm lens is generally thought to be closest
to how our eyes frame the world. A fixed focal length lens can be called a
prime lens. It tends to have higher quality glass because it’s specialized for just
one focal length. On the other hand, a variable focal length
lens is more versatile. It’s also called a zoom lens, because it can zoom in and out. Now, you can also control how much light gets into the camera body through a hole called
the aperture. It works like the iris and pupil in your eye,
becoming wider or narrower to let more or less light through the lens. Aperture is measured
in f-stops. That lowercase “f” stands for focal length, because it’s the ratio
of the focal length compared to the diameter of the aperture. An f/1.2 lens, for example, can open wider than an f/5.6. So when you “stop down”
your aperture, you’re making that diameter of the opening smaller, letting less light
in, and changing that ratio. But, as you stop down, you’ll notice that the number is actually getting larger. And to control how long the film or sensor
inside is exposed to light, you can adjust the camera’s shutter speed. You can think
of a typical shutter as a door in the lens that opens and closes really quickly. If you have an aperture that can open wider, like in a f/1.2 lens, you can let more light
in, and have a faster shutter speed. Usually your shutter speed is about double your frame
rate. So if you’re shooting 24 frames per second, for instance, your shutter speed would
be 1/50 seconds. But there’s one little problem with shutters
that work like a door: they click. Which can get noisy. So on some movie film cameras, you’ll have a shutter angle instead of a shutter speed. These shutters are rotary
discs that spin, to control the amount of light that enters an opening into the camera.
A smaller shutter angle works like a faster shutter speed: the image will be exposed more
quickly, and it’ll look crisper! With a larger shutter angle or slower shutter speed, the image will be smoother and have more blur from any motion. How light gets turned into an image depends on what kind of camera you’re using.
In a film camera, the light hits the chemical-coated film strip at an opening called the gate,
which exposes it so it retains an image. In a digital camera, the light heads to an
electronic sensor, which translates the light energy into a digital image. The camera that’s
filming me right now has what’s called a Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor, or
CMOS, sensor. Other digital cameras might
have a Charged Coupled Device, or a CCD, which uses more power, but produces better images
than earlier CMOS sensors. Both film and digital sensors also have a
property called ISO. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive they are to light. The name comes from the International Standards Organization, which created the scale filmmakers
use. Generally, the lower your ISO, the cleaner and richer your images will look. But, if you’re in a room without a lot of light, your image will be pretty dark. In this case, it’s
tempting to just bump your ISO way up to like 1600, to increase sensitivity to available light. You’ve gotta be careful with that, though.
Depending on the camera or film stock, raising the ISO to compensate for low light just brightens
everything in frame, and can result in grainy, lower-quality footage.
So, instead of raising your ISO, you might wanna add more light to the scene and open
the aperture to allow as much of it in as possible. Now, imagine you’ve put everything we’ve talked about to use. You’ve adjusted your
lens, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, and captured some beautiful footage. All that
footage is stored on what’s called the media. In a film camera, the media is the film itself. As long as you don’t lose or ruin it, you’ll always have what you shot. In a digital camera, the media is a data storage device like tape, drives, or cards. And you’ll
have to decide on a codec. “Codec” is a portmanteau of “coder”
and “decoder.” Because that’s what it does. It’s a program that can compress what
the camera has shot onto your storage device, and then decompress that footage when you
need to work with it in post-production. Basically, it’s like a little package of
digital information. You might recognize a codec like H.264. Or mp3! Shooting in raw
means the images don’t get packaged or processed. You get higher quality footage, but you need
a bunch of storage because those image files get huge. Now, understanding how a camera works is only part of a filmmaker’s job. Film sets
have an entire team of talented artists working to create the visual story of a movie. The Director of Photography, or cinematographer,
is the head of the camera department. They create the shot list with the director, to
plan how everything in the screenplay will be captured visually. The camera operator is the person who actually controls the camera and frames the shots. Sometimes you need a static shot, so the camera operator uses a tripod. The cool kids call
this a camera “on sticks.” Or, sometimes you want a moving shot, so the
operator uses a handheld camera, or attaches one to a mechanical cart called a dolly. There’s
also a device called a steadicam, which makes a shot smoother than handheld, but not as
smooth as a dolly. Now, the person who manages all this equipment
and sets up the camera is the First Assistant Camera, or 1st AC. They work under the main
camera operator. Sometimes, you’ll hear this job referred to as Focus Puller because
the 1st AC controls the camera lens to focus on the actors as they move through the scene. It might sound simple, but for decades focus pullers couldn’t look through the camera lens while doing their job, because the camera operator was looking through the lens. Nowadays, the 1st AC will usually have a monitor, but they also have to rely on detailed marks
from rehearsal and a whole lot of skill. The 2nd AC takes all the camera notes for
each shot and operates the slate, or clapper, to mark each scene. …ooof… Soft Sticks. They also haul equipment
around, from cameras to media. If you’re shooting film, a 2nd AC is the
film loader, who changes the camera magazines with rolls of film inside. And if you’re
shooting digital, the 2nd AC is responsible for getting any storage devices to the Digital
Imaging Technician, or DIT, who manages all the media. Now, you might understand the nuts and bolts of a camera, but it’s all for nothing if
you’re not using these tools to tell a story. Making the audience feel something because of moving pictures – that’s what makes movies magic! From a voyeur shot through a window in a horror movie, to the subtle push on the love interest
in a melodrama, there’s a language and an artistry to framing, angles, and camera movements. Take the rule of thirds, which is a general way to think about composing a frame. The
idea is to divide it up into vertical and
horizontal thirds, and then stick what you
want people to focus on where those lines intersect. What or who dominates a frame can affect how an audience views a scene. And what’s in
or out of focus can steer our attention even more. For instance, in the film Road to Perdition, the cinematographer Conrad Hall combined these
storytelling tools really beautifully. In one scene, a character played by Daniel
Craig is dominating the frame, but the other two men walking away from him, played by Paul
Newman and Tom Hanks, are the ones in focus. So our attention is on Daniel Craig’s character
because he’s front and center in the scene. But because the other men are kept in focus,
we can feel that he’s thinking about them – all through the visual storytelling. Even if you can compose what looks like the perfect frame, it’s important to remember that cameras
aren’t static! Camera movements have their own language
too. This is a pan, moving left to right. A push is when the camera is literally pushed
closer to the action in a scene. It’s like we’re leaning in, and builds intensity. And a pull is the opposite! The camera physically
moves back. This could reveal something that we couldn’t see before, or help us leave
a scene and lessen our connection. Pushes and pulls are often achieved by using
a dolly to move the camera closer and farther from the action. They have a different look
to them than just changing the focal length of a zoom lens. If you want to get really fancy, you can use
a tracking shot to move the camera with your actors, like by moving a camera on a
dolly parallel to the action. Now, even how a camera is set up can affect
the visual storytelling in a movie. A camera on a tripod is “locked down” and can make
a scene feel safe and stable, like when a character who craves adventure is sitting
at home in their regular life. But when they’re introduced to whatever’s going to rock their
world, and jump up, the camera might move too. On the other end of the spectrum are handheld
cameras. Think of those horror movies with shaky cameras – they’re harder to see
and understand, but feel more chaotic and unstable. The real job of the camera is to capture visuals that let us enter the worlds of movies, and
feel what the characters feel. Knowing how a camera works can help strengthen
your storytelling, but a lot of it comes down to becoming fluent in the language of film.
And that, like all of these jobs, comes with a ton of practice. Today, we talked about the guts of the camera and how they come together to make a versatile
piece of equipment. We learned about the positions in the camera crew, and how the poetry of
framing, angles, and camera movement are what make it a powerful storytelling tool.
And next time, we’ll talk about the counterpart to the camera’s visuals: sound. Crash Course Film Production is produced in
association with PBS Digital Studios. You can head over to their channel to check out
a playlist of their latest amazing shows, like Shank’s FX, The Art Assignment, and
It’s Okay to Be Smart. This episode of Crash Course was filmed in
the Doctor Cheryl C. Kinney Crash Course Studio with the help of these nice people and our
amazing graphics team is Thought Cafe.

About Ralph Robinson

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100 thoughts on “Dissecting The Camera: Crash Course Film Production #4

  1. It is always useful this type of videos. I loved the videos of film history, but this ones are equally entertaining. Thanks!!!

  2. Why would it be a smart decision for anybody to go to a 60,000K film school when they have the internet instead?

  3. Weird that the illustrations for f-stop show3ed the way it changed the depth of the field that is in focus – which is later mentioned as a critical element in story telling – but she didn't mention it at all.

  4. Thank you so much! I am soon going to start shooting one minute films using my 100D and this is really helpful.
    Love from India❤

  5. Got way too technical for me, but still fascinating! I know there are technophiles that would love this aspect of movie making. A+ for highlighting different jobs/fields/needs of the industry…it takes all kinds!

  6. Hey love the things you do on this chanel but i wanna give an idea i think for the next educational program you shoud do music theory i think that could be exiting

  7. Can't find where you guys talk about angles. Lots of great detail on framing and movement, but there wasn't any direct discussion of how camera angles work. Did I miss something, or is it just not there?

  8. How much of the language of film is universal and how much is arbitrary and learned? Could film have evolved differently and have different conventions of what different types of shots mean, or is there some underlying basis for why these are what the shots mean?

  9. Well, that was disconnected and had no clear purpose. Seriously, do you have an instructional design-trained person? This wasn't a lesson, just a collection of film facts.

  10. You have to keep in mind that 50mm is only equivalent to human eye vision on a full frame (25mm) film/sensor size. With APS-C sized sensors, a 35mm lens is equivalent to human vision.

  11. Isnt the standard for cine lenses t stops rather than f stops? F stops measuring the opening of the aperature and t stops measuring the amount of light that is let through the aperature

  12. I was super excited that you featured Lily Gladstone in this! I dunno if this is a one time thing, but it made me that much more interested in the video!

  13. Make a video about renting gear for a production! Talk to KitSplit.com, they’ll be pumped to help with something like that!

  14. You forgot to mention the person resposable for putting up the so called "Video Village" and put up all the different monitors for the crew and also is responsible for recording playback and providing instant playback to the director.

    The so called Video Assist Operator, or Video Assist for short raises hand

  15. As a film student, as far as theory regarding this topic goes, this is pretty much what you need to be as good as anyone going to film school. Just remember most of it is actually going out there, make short films and share them with the rest of the class. Everything explained here might take a day of class at most, the rest is hard work. Also they lend you the equipment. But as far as explanation goes, CrashCourse has enough good stuff to get you started.

  16. emulsion-film cameras are still cool, cos you can use lasers to capture a holographic bifringence pattern, for like holograms and stuff; or so I hear.

    Imagine a feature-length holographic, Stop-motion film…
    …with my limited understanding, I feel like it could be projected through a traditional projector yet result in a movie that appeared 3D without the need of glasses; and it would be a true-er 3D, because instead of just 2 overlapping images: it would be a near infinite number of near-identical images that are of the scene veiwed from different angles [instead of just the 2 (normally used) (which would also be more inclusive to one-eyed people, cos they could still look/glance side-to-side to get that fun illusion of depth without the two eyes that are normally required (I guess if a mono-cloptic person were The Flash and could move each lense of a pair of 3D glasses back-and-forth really impossibly super faster-than-sound fast while they tilted their angle of veiw slightly, they could still get some 3D but, it wouldn't be as fun nor easily achieved) in a hologram, there is better parallax, so you have more freedom to explore the image)] — again, my knowledge is limited, but it's fun to think about!😁

    I want it so bad!!!
    It would be SOOO cool!!!!!!!!

    Someone could entice Nintendo to make more of those little stopmotion Pikmin shorts, but film them under a holographic RGB set-up, and then have them released as little 1-reelers for home projectionist/hobbyists, and also for special events and whatnot, WOULDN'T THAT BE COOL!!!!?????

  17. I subscribed to Crash Course for history and you guys have expanded into film, which is the BA I just acquired. I am struggling mightily to find work, these lessons help a ton. keep it going!

  18. You're wrong about ISO. It's from the International Organization for Standardization, not the International Standards Organization. Because 'International Organization for Standardization' would have different acronyms in different languages (IOS in English, OIN in French for Organisation internationale de normalisation), its founders decided to give it the short form ISO. ISO is derived from the Greek isos, meaning equal. Whatever the country, whatever the language, it is always ISO. And it's pronounced "ISO", not "I-S-O", for the millions of people who always get that wrong.

  19. I'm thinking on becoming a YouTuber. Will this information be useful to me when I make videos? Will I need to know this stuff? 🤔

  20. I’m loving this video series! Comment for 3:10, the shutter SFX was distracting from your voice, which was supposed to be the focus. I would have only added like 2-4 shutter sfx 😊 thank you for the content! Excited for the rest ! I’m currently lead producer/screenwriter for a short film and I’m excited to see it come to life

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