October 24, 2017

5 Easily Avoidable Errors New Filmmakers Make When Shooting

You're going to make mistakes as a filmmaker, but these common technical no-nos are really easy to avoid if you know what you're doing.

Errors and missteps are bountiful at the beginning of every filmmaker's career. In fact, your first few years of shooting films are really just you running around with a camera making all of the mistakes and messing everything up. It's a beautiful time of learning and embarrassment and recording with your lens cap on, but there are a few blunders that are definitely worth learning right away so as to avoid the frustration of not getting your images to look the way you want them to. In this video from B&H, you'll not only get to learn about five common mistakes new filmmakers make but also how to avoid them (you know, so you can move on to making other very common first-time filmmaker mistakes).

Okay, I know the video is aimed at photographers, but each tip translate perfectly to filmmakers, as well.

  • Not knowing your camera: If you want to get the most out of your camera, you've got to get real chummy with it. It's especially important to know your way around your settings when you find yourself in difficult or unexpected shooting situations. 
  • Choosing the wrong lens: You've gotta know how different kinds of lenses affect your images, because if you don't, you may be communicating something to your audience that you never intended. 
  • Shooting in poor lighting: Just don't do it. Lighting is everything, so use lights, modifiers, or whatever you have to in order to make your shot look good. A common mistake new filmmakers tend to make is blowing out their shot by shooting outdoors during the brightest time of day without any diffusers or flags to lessen the intensity.
  • Not paying attention to composition: It's simply not enough to set your camera up anywhere and hit record. If you're new to framing, use the Rule of Thirds. It's not the be-all-end-all in composition, but it's a great place for beginners to start.
  • Ignoring 4K: Okay, the video talks about shooting RAW, but for new filmmakers, this could translate to shooting in 4K. (A better equivalent is probably S-Log or other powerful codecs, but remember, we're talking about new filmmakers here and that's something beginners probably don't have to worry too much about yet.) If your camera has 4K capabilities and your post workflow can handle it, you may want to take advantage of the added creative options it affords you. (You can always downsample later on if you want, anyway.)

If any of us made a list of mistakes we made in the first year of filmmaking, it would be miles long. And honestly, making good films isn't even about not making any mistakes. In fact, wonderful things can spring up from technical errors and unintended consequences—just ask In Cold Blood DP Conrad Hall who accidentally captured that famous "crying" effect in Robert Blake's "Hopeless Dreams" monologueor Gordon Willis whose "lighting error" created Marlon Brando's iconic shadow-eyed look in The Godfather.

However, because it's best not to rely on serendipitous favor, the more you know about your art form the better. Besides, knowing the rules makes breaking them all the better.     

Your Comment


"A better equivalent is probably S-Log or other powerful codecs" afaik S-log is not a codec lol

October 25, 2017 at 6:00AM


How about thinking they HAVE TO shoot in a Log format to get a good image. So many people don't even know how to use their camera yet, but all they want to do is shoot in log..Log...LOG, because it gives the greatest dynaaaaaamic raaaaaaange...while shooting in their 8-bit codec in near pitch blackness with no lights and little understanding as to WHY and when to shoot in Log, instead of just specs, specs, specs, tech, tech, tech. And they care more about noise in their shadows, while paused and zoomed in 300% in the bottom left corner that means NOTHING, because their subject is on the other 1/2 of the screen. If your viewer is looking at the shadows instead of your actor's face, you could be shooting on an ARRI with a 50 man crew instead of your GH4 alone and it wouldn't make a lick of difference.

Rant over=)

October 25, 2017 at 8:34AM

Motion Designer/Predator

Using low data rate h264/h265..

October 25, 2017 at 11:30AM

Wayne M
Director of a Life

A little tip. In the old days, with an early 720p camera, or full HD, or 4k, a truck was to shoot in the higher resolution for higher datarate and downscale to the delivery resolution. The 720p to SD, fullhd to 720p or SD. But with Ultra HD it evenly scales to full HD. In that, you got a higher datarate pseudo fullhd mode. With the others you just get oversampling unless the resolution is evenly divided by the target resolution.

Let me explain. 1) 4k 4:2:O divided up into pseudo 4:4:4 full HD, which is more than the 4:2:2 people desire professionally. This can lead to interpolation issues unless handled right. 2) The extra pixels provide more light level information, if only somebody would write software to use them to produce 10 bit of more fullhd from 4k 4:2:0 8 bit. The low pass filter on 4k maybe less aggressive than a fullhd sensor. Many are single chips, and the low pass filter can blur your light far and wide spreading the missing light in the gaps inbetween the pictures, the first facture, and the light from the missing colors at each pixel in the Bayer single chip color pattern oftern used. Sometimes this spread is tight, sometimes wide spread, and sometimes they don't use a low pass filter. But, on a pixel 4 times smaller, the gaps between pixels, and the gaps if the missing colours, and the spread needed us 4 times smaller, making between end downscaled resolution, and more accurate pixels.

But the problems are, you need hardware fast enough to handle post for the resolution, otherwise you are going to downscale first then further post process, or just spend time waiting (simple enough, you might not need that time to go and film the next starwars). You also need to store all that data, and buy camera storage fast enough.

October 25, 2017 at 11:53AM, Edited October 25, 11:53AM

Wayne M
Director of a Life

Great tips for the beginners...!!

October 26, 2017 at 2:52AM, Edited October 26, 2:52AM

Sameir Ali
Director of Photography