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5 KEYS TO CINEMATIC SUCCESS

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Every budding creative artist is dreaming of breaking into the foray of highly regarded filmakers. A star on Hollywood's Boulevard, an Academy award or to be known for creating powerful cinematic projects remain a mirage for most filmakers. While the elite group of filmakers and studios around the world, play a game of "whack a mole", the generic filmaker struggles to break into this "clique". Fortunately, there is a route which is broken down into 5 keys which are foundational to any filmaker's cinematic success:

KEY ONE (The Story): Beyond the special effects, glossy actors and all the ground-breaking soundtracks, every filmaker must realize that every movie is a story, and must be told in a way which people can understand. My golden rule for story telling goes like this: “if you can tell your story in one minute, then it’s worth telling it in 2 hours”. Telling your story to yourself, then to your family and friends and then to your co-workers will enable you to observe whether the world is ready for your story. If you get this first key right, you are ready to move on to the other keys.

KEY TWO (Team): The majority of filmakers know that a great team is a well-oiled machinery. Think of the collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon, Wes Anderson and Bill Murray, David Fincher and Brad Pitt, The Coen Brothers and Frances McDormand, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, and Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson. This goes for both actors, technical crew and the entire cinema production process. Choose your team carefully, otherwise they will come back to haunt you. It is a long term relationship.

KEY THREE (Production)
A lot more filmakers get this key right but often they miss the right balance between hiring top class equipment to buying and owning their own equipment. This balance can be easily realized when and if a filmaker thoroughly analyses what he aims to achieve with his/her film. Not all movie projects should be shot with a 4K HDR camera. A VHS handheld camera is enough to capture a “blair witch” type project whilst a SCI-FI movie may indeed require an 8K or 70mm origination. It is very important to discuss these important decisions with your cinematographer or DOP before shelling out thousands of dollars for a camera; and then skip on a 65mm prime lens because of costs. Furthermore, why shoot on 4K when aiming for a “direct to video” output?

KEY FOUR (Money)
Having the resources to make a motion picture is very important. It is important because money allows every filmaker the scope to choose and use the best for his/her production. The one thing studio films excel in, is their ability to pay well and on time. A filmaker’s reputation precedes his/her ability to fulfill this great feat. Having a well thought-out budget which allows you to confidently hire Alfonso Lincoln Ribeiro instead of debt and sleepless nights because you owe Brad Pitt a balance of twenty-million, is the right thing to do.

KEY FIVE (Social)
After all the hard work, you will need to tell people about it and no amount of money can get you the most effective advertisement possible - word of mouth. Luckily, social media, in the right and correct format will get people talking about your movie; most importantly - they will know: where it’s showing, how much a ticket costs, the language, format of the movie and a small snippet. Having a great marketing team will enable your film go places. Viva! Cinema!


About the author: Sal Souza is an International Designer (Cinema, Graphic, Visual, Multimedia, Broadcast Media, Industrial, User Interaction, User Experience) and IT Consultant with expertise in New Media, Web 3.0, IPTV, DTV, Media Production, Product Prototyping, Desktop Software, Interactivity, Mobile Applications, Traditional Knowledge, Geographical Indications and Cultural Goods. He lives and works in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Follow me on [@sldsouza]

ONE THING IS KILLING YOUR MOVIE

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You would be pleasantly surprised at what cinema goers are willing to tolerate; bad popcorn, loud foul-mouthed visitors, even terrible VHS quality projections, but there is one thing people will simply not sit around for. This one thing should be on every filmaker’s priority list.

In the age of CGI and special effects-laden projects, the majority of audiences are willing to accommodate blurry or not-so-great images as long as the “SOUND” quality and rendition is tip top. Audio remains the single most annoying element of the entire film making process and will drive people out of the cinema faster than you can say jack!

Filmakers are often busy with their creative process and neglect this important aspect of the project. Since the first roll of film was projected, the great directors of old, recognized how sound could shape the mood of a cinematic work. Charlie Chaplin was such as innovative thinker in his days and utilised sound to his advantage. He maximised the value of sound in his projects and dug deep into the emotions of his patrons.

2001: A Space Odyssey is a magnificent film and more so because of its use of sound; beginning with the introduction sequence and “building music”. The power of sound was made spectacularly evident by American experimental composer John Cage with his Four thirty-three composition. The score instructs performer(s) not to play their instrument(s) during the entire duration of the piece and throughout the three movements. The silence, so to speak is made surreal by people’s willingness to sit through the muteness.

“No sound is better than bad sound”. This would be the appropriate way to describe the issue of sound. Fast-forward to today and the plethora of cinema projects of which sound is so poorly used. A quick view into the problem reveals a trend; whereby filmakers invest money into powerful sound equipment and personnel with the “guarantee” that: “all would be well”, only to find out later that the sound “sucks!”.

Whilst a filmaker can hide bad sound with background music and scores, they cannot hide badly recorded DIALOGUE. Conversations in cinema projects is important in storytelling and for people to hear all the subtleties, innuendos and jokes. The budding filmaker who wants his creative project to stand out from the rest should take sound very serious, especially dialogue. Luckily, the big studios have shown us how to achieve this objective. It is called ADR (automated dialogue replacement). The process usually takes place on a dubbing stage and can be easily emulated in any garage or small studio.

Including ADR in your film making process will enable you to differentiate your project from others. With ADR, sound editors will re-record dialogue, prepare all necessary tracks and most importantly BALANCE all of the elements into a top-quality soundtrack which will render perfectly in a cinema and on a home-screen. If you were ever wondering why your movie sounded weird in a cinema hall, even though you used a professional microphone, then you missed one more step. ADR is laborious but is too powerful to ignore. Viva la Cinema!


About the author: Sal Souza is an International Designer (Cinema, Graphic, Visual, Multimedia, Broadcast Media, Industrial, User Interaction, User Experience) and IT Consultant with expertise in New Media, Web 3.0, IPTV, DTV, Media Production, Product Prototyping, Desktop Software, Interactivity, Mobile Applications, Traditional Knowledge, Geographical Indications and Cultural Goods. He lives and works in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Follow me on [@sldsouza]

STORYTELLING DEPENDS ON FRAMING

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Movie making tools are now commonplace and fueling the democratization of cinema production. Added to this revolution is the growth in homemade movies geared towards the YouTube generation. The principle of fixing it in POST is a common dilemma plaguing new filmmakers because of their inability to use the camera to "tell the story" and are quick to dismiss proven storytelling techniques.

The camera in cinema is a powerful tool and pointing this device towards a scene in the "wrong way" will carry a different mood and language. No where in the cinematic recording process is this more evident than in the practice of framing a shot; to express a mood.

Framing will make or break a movie's ability to nail a scene. This language is best understood and fluently "spoken" by cinematographers. DOPs are able to turn any scene into a masterpiece. Allowing specific amounts of light to bounce of an actor's face while slowly moving the camera up close is enough to capture and establish a shot. Be it anger, arrogance or the defining moment in the movie, framing that shot is central to the storytelling.

To bolster a movie's framing, cinematographers know their lenses thoroughly because they are keys to their artistry. A great prime lens will enable a movie to bring focus to a particular "setup" with a later "pay off". Framing can be even more powerful when combined properly with a depth of field to tell of an intimate moment. Fantasy and dreamy moments in a movie are made more profound when combined with a "bokeh" effect and a tracking shot.

Framing a scene is equally important when shifting focus from two opposing characters and has been used very well by Quentin Tarantino and The Coen Brothers. Furthermore, framing is a great technique to use in stitching dialogues or action fight sequences together.

Cameras, lenses, sound, lights and locations are given more gumption when filtered through the art of framing. It is central to storytelling and should play a significant role in the movie making process. A simple blur, bokeh or dof in combination with the right panning or tracking will ensure that your movie tells its story.

THE FUTURE OF CINEMA

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Recently, the founder of Napster, Sean Parker proposed a revolutionary idea: a set-top box called 'Screening Room' where viewers can pay to watch a movie as soon as it's released. Ignoring it's $50 watch it once in any 48-hour period, and a settop box price tag of $150, it is worth considering this novel idea.

Sean Parker is no ordinary man. His committment to shaking the entertainment industry is ledendry [See wikipedia]. Today, Tidal, Apple Music, Deezer and Spotify, and indeed ordinary folks are benefitting from his resolve to disrupting the status quo.

It comes as no surprise that major studios like Universal, Fox and Sony are expressing "serious interest" in Screening Room. This service might become a mega revolution in the cinema experience, considering how several factors are making it possible for a fruitition of this idea.

To begin with, there is a large and growing middle class which is fuelling access to better, sharper, and higher-quality 50+-inch 4K UHDTV devices with Samsung and LG leading the way. Included in this new generation of appliances are a crop of powerful surround systems like the [Monitor Audio R90HT1] and [SONY's BDV-N7100W] which are able to render crisp, cinema-grade sounds in the comfort of any home; and for under €1000. To top it all, internet speeds (2G, 3G, 4G, LTE, Fibre-optics) have quadruppled their speeds within the last 4 years and have bolstered the bandwidth capabilities of small streaming devices.

In addition to these changes, the movie-going experience has sunk to a terrible low, often due to their high street locations and it's residual challenges: parking costs, fuel costs, movie ticket costs, refreshment costs, uncomfortable seats, annoying people and seating with no care for personal space(s). A night out to the movies is nowadays more expensive than it was about ten years ago.

If movies are shot on 4K and projected in cinema halls at 2K|4K, then it makes sense to enjoy movie releases in the comfort of your home, on a 4K ULED / OLED smart television, without all the hassles of going to the cinema.

Notwithstanding, there are some studios (Disney, Warner Bros.) and filmakers (Christopher Nolan and James Cameron) who are against this idea. It is interesting, in the sense that the calibre of such studios and their projects are very often large format movies. Both Disney's Star Wars: The force awakens and Christopher Nolan's 70mm shot Interstellar are powerful cinema releases and primarily made for the cinema setting (larger screens, sublime experience, expansive surround sound).

Technology is enabling people to have more choices and as such, a part of the movie-going audience will be happy paying for Streaming Room or other such home releases; while the other consumers will prefer to go to the cinemas.

In order for cinemas to stay relevant and to serve a new and quality-demanding public, the cinema experience will metamorphosise into a PREMIUM technology fueled experience (Active 3D, IMAX 3D, 8K, UltraWIDE...and so forth). Furthermore, the number of seats in theatres will diminish and will be more flexible or spaced-out to better cater to "cliques" (couples, families, buddies, loner and students). When this process emerges and becomes a standard, the general public will also notice some aesthetic categorisation of movies. For example: Comedies and Dramas may be shot on 4K and released on home cinema streaming systems like Streaming Room, whilst Action and Sci-Fi will be shot on IMAX / 70MM formats and released in IMAX 3D in a cinema hall.

The future of cinema looks bright and the continued reshaping of its diverse offering(s) being dreamed up in Hollywood, Bollywood or Nollywood will appeal to all types of consumers.

In the future, there is a high probability that home and cinema offerings will be launched concurrently and the quality of experience(s) will be near-similar; a duality of some sorts. This is absolutely perfect. Viva cinema!


About the author: Sal Souza is an International Designer (Cinema, Graphic, Visual, Multimedia, Broadcast Media, Industrial, User Interaction, User Experience) and IT Consultant with expertise in New Media, Web 3.0, IPTV, DTV, Media Production, Product Prototyping, Desktop Software, Interactivity, Mobile Applications, Traditional Knowledge, Geographical Indications and Cultural Goods. He lives and works in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Follow me on [@sldsouza]

THE ONE MOVIE EVERY FILMAKER SHOULD SEE

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Movie making is a great art of love and filmakers are deeply involved in their trade to the extent of their detriment. One of these pitfalls is not having the ability to "learn" and compare notes with what the greatest minds have created.

The artistry within every filmaker sometimes overshadows their willingness to see beyond their visual minds. Some resort to never seeing another movie made by someone else in order to prevent it's influence on their artistic psyche. No matter what type of filmaker, there is one movie which you must and should see. This movie although made a long while ago, is the single most profoundly great film ever produced.

If you are an aspiring filmaker who desires greatness, then you should watch Orson Welles's Citizen Kane. This movie is an amazing piece of creative work every made, even in today's super-hero saturated cinema. Orson's first feature film was packed with ground-breaking cinematic artistry beyond anything words can write. This motion picture was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Welles.

A crucial point to understanding and appreciating Citizen Kane is to place the movie within it's time (1941) and to watch it with a curious mind. It stood out particularly for its cinematography and the perfect manipulation of light, music and its narrative structure were so cleverly done and powerfully paced. It was the first time any film had purposefully utilised flashback storytelling and character-based narration, in a dark biographical style.

Citizen Kane's use of unfamiliar angles in photography to establish the tone of a scene is palpable. Some scenes are overwhelming and sublime, to say the least. Orson was a master of "lens bending", a technique where lenses are used in unusual ways and for purposes not designed for. The use of film-noir photography helped the film in showing off its monochromatic gradients during interior shots and highlighting individual characteristics.

Orson creatively applies escalation in violent rhetoric to move the audience through the exponential change in personality of the main character, Kane, as his idealistic persona gradually evolves into an insatiable power hungry individual. What is gratifying for every filmaker is Orson's use of dialogue, tone, language and lights to broaden and narrow the view point of Kane.

Even though the filmakers of today have perfected the techniques from past filmakers, it is significant that every filmaker takes his/her time to watch, study and imbibe the ethos of Orson's filming style. It will go a long way to visually representing and presenting movie ideas in a powerfully coherent movie. Viva la Cinema!


About the author: Sal Souza is an International Designer (Cinema, Graphic, Visual, Multimedia, Broadcast Media, Industrial, User Interaction, User Experience) and IT Consultant with expertise in New Media, Web 3.0, IPTV, DTV, Media Production, Product Prototyping, Desktop Software, Interactivity, Mobile Applications, Traditional Knowledge, Geographical Indications and Cultural Goods. He lives and works in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Follow me on [@sldsouza]

TONALITY IS THE DEFINING ELEMENT

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In the early days of cinema, when great visionaries like Albert Hitchcok successfully pushed the barriers of cinematography, there came defining moments where directors established themselves with a trademark style. Out of this era of experimentation came styles like film noir and bleach bypass techniques; defining examples of unique film "tonality".

Tonality is a great way for a film maker to differentiate him/herself from the crowded space of creative artists. From The Matrix' green crushed tone to LARS VON TRIER's use of ultra slow motion, diverse filmakers are now known for their trademark styles. For example, JJ ABRAMS is recognised for his use of lens flares, JOHN WOO for his heroes wielding double guns, CHRISTOPHER NOLAN for his live actions and MICHAEL BAY for his over the top use of explosions.

Recently, cameras and other creative tools are enabling filmakers to breakout into their own unique styles or tonalities. From Sounds, Visuals and FX, there exists diverse methodologies to creating a defining tone. No place is this more evident than in POST PRODUCTION and in particular COLOR CORRECTION and specifically 3D LUTS.

The simplest way to describe 3D LUT (LookUpTables) is that, they are small files containing specific instructions about how to treat color schemes of video clips. LUTs require an NLE or Editing tool in order to interpret the information. LUTs work best on RAW video files and can shape the final look of a clip or an entire movie. For professional and powerfully unique styling of your video production, there is a tool from Blackmagic Design called [DaVinci Resolve]. It comes in both hardware and software, and gives the colorist complete control over every aspect of your video project.

Resolve isn't cheap and might set a couple of people back but the power behind this tool is absolutely superior and the support from BLACKMAGIC is awesome. For the budget filmaker, multiple solutions are offered by vendors around the world. [OSIRIS] by Vision Color is one such package with an amazing selection of preset LUTs which instantly transforms any video clip into a world-class project. Checkout [RAMPANT DESIGN] and [GROUND CONTROL] for other groundbreaking 3D LUTs.

Studios together with their creative producers have enabled us to see the power of LUTs, embodied in films like Zack Snyder's 300, Wachowski's MATRIX, Frank Miller's SIN CITY and Danny Boyle's TRAINSPOTTING. 3D LUTs are amazing creative tools. It will enable a filmaker to produce unique visual tones. The most powerful LUTs are the ones designed by colorists for a single project, with a specific look, nevertheless preset LUTs are equally powerful.

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