Your Found Footage Film Shoot, Part 1
The Found Footage film is not going anywhere. It has become a Genre in the digital film making world because it is perhaps the most profitable one when done well.
The Blair Witch Project showed the world that this could be done cheaply and generate a huge profit. Many years later with the arrival of the Paranormal Activity franchise the Genre established itself for good.
Today is going to be about making your found footage film. Iwill try to avoid the good and mostly bad if the Genre. The only comment I am going to make that I hope you take this post and go out a do something original. Mix it up like the film End of Watch did. The footage can be found in the hands of a living person. Just think about that okay.
Now we will look at the basics.
First you will need a story. Not necessary a shooting script, but you will need a basic story with the situations clearly mapped out. Perhaps you will want to do some story boards. You need this because you as the film maker must know the locations that you will need. The equipment and the required materials. Since most found footage films are horror films you are going to need to plan ahead. What do I need in terms of FX makeup. Practical FX. Set ups for CGI in terms of green screens.
A good balance between script to improv is going to be 75% scripted to 25% improv.
Next we will talk about your cast. You will want to know every speaking part and the relationships involved. You will want to rehearse them as much as possible. If they are going to be playing family or friends or couples you have to do this. How many movies have you seen where the characters who are suppose to be married or in love or close family seem like total strangers to each other? Rehearse them. Take them out for pizza or to play board games or video games together. They have to have credibility. They will be acting in long takes together. Treat them as if they are going to be actors in a play more so than a film.
Next we are going to talk about cameras.
The camera is dictated to a certain extent by the one who you choose to hold it on screen and the reason why. Unless it is a film or news crew then I would forget about larger cameras. You will have two choices with the camera. You will shoot either with a camcorder or a Dslr.
I would recommend the camcorder for a few reasons. First, it is designed to record video. Second, it can record for a longer amount of time without battery replacement or recharge. Also the standard media tools used to record can hold more footage. The camcorders also are good at recording sound directly. You do not need a separate recording device to get quality sound recorded, just add a good mic.
Which camcorders should you look to and what are you looking for?
You are looking for a camcorder that can record in HD. You are looking for a camcorder that can record at 24p. 24 frames per second is what gives you that film look. The camcorders that best fit this model are the Canon Vixia and Canon HV series of camcorders. If I had to narrow it down to one of these cameras then it would be the Canon hv40. It is a beast of a micro budget film making tool. Stick a pistol grip or better still a monopod on this camcorder and a good microphone and you are ready to go.
The Dslr cameras record better footage. The video quality can rival that recorded by the six figure digital cameras. They have become the standard for shooting low budget films. They are easy to carry. You will need to add a secondary audio recording device to your shoot because even with an added mic these cameras record terrible audio. You will also need to add something to extend the battery life and the amount of video that can be recorded at one time.
The cool part about most Dslr consumer cameras is that they are hackable and have most hacks available on line or your can buy them already hacked on Ebay. You want a lower end camera hacked because it improves the video quality to rival the or expensive cameras. I have no favorite amongst these cameras to shoot a found footage with, but I will suggest a few. You can start with the Canon t2i. The price is good both new and used. Hacked, the camera is a winner and offers very vivid colors. I would use this camera if my film was going to be bloody.
The panasonic Gh1 and 2. These Dlsrs can be purchased used with hacks installed. They shoot great video footage and if I was going to shoot a micro budget feature then these would be the first cameras that I would look to.
This concludes part one of my look at making a found footage film. The next part will involve sound equipment, lighting and editing software. Also I will look at using a iPhone to shoot your found footage film.
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Bonus GH2 Footage below.