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Read the review at Moviestorm
This is the third DVD camerawork course from expert Hollywood camera-man Per Holmes. The first, the Master Course, focuses on blocking and staging, the basics of camera technique. The second deals with special effects techniques. This set is all about getting those awesome shots you need for trailers or key moments. These aren’t what you fill your movie with. Most of the time you’ll need to film interior studio shots, and those are covered in the first course. These are the shots people will remember. The sort of thing he’s covering here are how to film cars, trains, and aircraft, and how to get incredible shots in dramatic environments such as on top of tall buildings, bridges, etc.
The Master Course was one of the original inspirations behind Moviestorm. The way it explained how you actually shoot a movie was what made us decide to create a virtual movie studio. No matter how many books you read, you can’t understand cameras until you see them move and understand the framing you’re getting at each part of the shot. Once you see it, it suddenly becomes crystal clear what you have to do. You can then go into your own studio and try it for yourself. The examples throughout are made with Maya, but you can use whatever animation tools you have, or even just practice with a cheap camera.
Although it’s very accessible, it’s not a lightweight course. It’s very technical, in the sense of going into great depth about explaining what the camera sees and how people interpret it. He introduces a lot of theoretical concepts such as grid theory, parallax, and stacked moves. Once you have those mastered, he goes on to show how to chain moves together, and how to use what he calls “sling” to exaggerate the apparent motion. There’s even a whole section on height and making it look scary.
When you watch him build up a move, it quickly becomes clear how two apparently similar moves are quite different because of subtle changes. Once you realise how many degrees of freedom you have in a move, you start to realise just how complex the cameraman’s art is. You can move the camera in all sorts of interesting ways, and produce some interesting effects. However, it’s not just about going through the motions. The underlying theme of the course is to teach you how the camerawork affects the story.
For example, he goes into great detail about dutch tilt (i.e. when you roll the camera to one side), what it means, and when you should use it. Tilting when you push in towards a character gives a disturbing feeling, as if something is wrong, while tilting as you pull out suggests a dream sequence. He shows why tilting on objects is different to tilting on people: an object at an odd angle is simply a compositional choice, while a person at an odd angle is a statement. And finally, he explains When you need to add roll to other moves to help the flow, and how to add small moves to a roll to make the shot look better.
It may seem daunting, but it’s more straightforward than it appears. It’s just a matter of understanding the principles and knowing when to apply them. As Per points out, “What is fascinating is that the vast majority of truly awesome and trailerworthy shots come from just a handful of techniques, which we explore in Hot Moves.”
One of the side-effects of the course is that it made me intensely aware of the freedom that comes from working in animation. Throughout, Per shows how to use cranes, dollies and so on to get the shots he’s demonstrating. For live action directors, he explains how to use green screen and how to blend live & 3D content. He shows you how to get shots that look dangerous, and warns you which ones are actually dangerous to achieve. This is one huge advantage of working in a virtual world, You can get high-value shots on a low budget without endangering your cast and crew!
This is a course you will want to watch again and again. Although it’s under two hours long, you can only watch a few chapters at a time as it’s so densely packed with useful information.
After each session, go and practice what you’ve learned. Once again, this is a great role for virtual movie studios. These shots are big, expensive numbers, and you can’t easily practice them in real life! The first chance you get to do them for real, you’d better get it right, especially if you’re using something like a helicopter, or you have a team of stunt drivers standing by. Animated cameras may not be as sophisticated, but the core principles are still the same whatever methods you use. “While it of course lends itself to very high-budget shooting, the majority of the techniques can be executed even on a very low budget, because it’s the understanding of motion that makes it a hot move, not the equipment you shoot it with.”
Hot Moves costs $69, which is incredible value for such a superb course. A very highly recommended addition to any film-maker’s shelf.
Matt Kelland, Moviestorm