More on Looks
One of the most elemental questions in determining the look of your show is if you shoot on sticks or go handheld. Handheld is a very hot look lately. It gives the events of your story a sense of immediacy and an unrehearsed kind of look. Shooting with a tripod, steadicam, dolly, and a techno-crane or two, however, is a much more polished look. A lot of shows switch back and forth between the two, falling back on the handheld look only during action scenes when the craziness explod-eth. But if you’re going for a look, I say go for one or the other and stick to it. If you’re going to transfer between the two it better be very story motivated.
Of course, for episode 2 of The Platoon of Power Squadron, we were switching back and forth due to our shooting format. We weren’t shooting in a high enough resolution to give that handheld look to the multiple Sebastian shots so they had to be locked off on sticks, thereby compromising my concept, but sometimes you have to make do with what you have available to you. For episode 1, everything in the apartment was supposed to be locked off and smooth while everything outside the apartment was supposed to be handheld, establishing that their secret was safe within the walls of their apartment. We stuck close to our guns on that one. Now that they’re venturing out of the apartment more and experimenting with their powers, everything is handheld as they leave their comfort zone, except for when time is frozen. But that’s a concept that’s been built to evolve as well.
You want to see great handheld? Check out Doug Liman’s action movies like the first “Bourne Identity” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” or Len Wiseman’s “Live Free or Die Hard,” everything is shaky as hell and very visceral, but you’re never confused about what’s happening. You want to see the worst kind of handheld? Watch Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” movies. I know it’s “a look” but it sure looks sloppy to me.
Other than that, the biggest hurdle facing a no budget series is production design. Namely, that there’s no one there to do it. You don’t have to take it to the extreme like Wes Anderson, where every facet of the background is meticulously planned from wallpaper to the titles of books on a shelf, but you do have to make sure that the background isn’t barren. If you look at our first episode, you’ll see that we paid WAY too little attention to production design. It’s mostly floating heads in front of completely blank walls. Not very involving. But it did teach us a valuable lesson. From that point on, the backgrounds of scenes are far more interesting. Just hang some pictures, add some clutter, and make sure the space you’re shooting looks lived in. I think it ended up working out okay for our first episode as a mini-visual metaphor for the characters’ sense of purposelessness, but it does look a little too low-budg for my liking.
Next week we’ll tackle the brand new, age-old debate: Film versus video.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them.
I hope you all have some wonderful time with your families this weekend.