Category Archives: Dave Neal

Reverse Engineering Scenes

If you’ve got to make a particular type of scene, how do you know what to do? You go and look at what other people have done. All filmmakers copy other filmmakers; it’s called inspiration.

Except in the case of Quentin Tarantino, when it’s called “Love Letters to ‘Sonny’ Chiba.”

Let’s say you want to make a chase scene. What do you do? You watch The Bourne Ultimatum and you take notes.

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM – Waterloo Chase Scene

  • Basically all tight shots.
  • Nothing really from the chest down.
  • Loads and loads of edits
    (some too fast. They break the P.S.E. barrier – The PhotoSensitive Epilepsy standard is no edits faster than 9fps.)
  • Lots of edits on people walking in front of the camera to help with ‘continuity’.
  • Shot on a telephoto lens to keep distance
  • Whip pans
  • Edits during movement, so the camera is already moving when the edit is made.
  • Lots of ‘Revealing’. Pans and tracks that ‘reveal’ something.
  • If something is close up and fast paced, you can get away with a lot of continuity errors.

Word of the day: Parallax

– Something that gives perspective and context to the shot, helping give a sense of space.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD – ‘I am an oil man. This is my son.’

  • Very slow camera work
  • Slow tracks, very slight panning
  • The entire film is slow, which works on big screens, but not necessarily as well on small screens. Consider your medium.
  • Slow ‘push in’s can be used to intensify a situation.


More notes on using Cameras

First things first! When using a RED camera,


Then reboot it.


Lighting Types

Filter TypesThis references Full CTB and CTO. They also come as 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8.

Using the RED

Even though you are (probably, and should be) filming in RAW, the nature of RAW is such that it captures the maximum amount of information possible, and thus has a tendency to look a bit crap on the monitor. Fear not! Using RedColour, it whacks it through an L.U.T. (look up table), so what you’re seeing isn’t what’s being recorded, but means you don’t over or under expose anything. Basically, it optimises what you are seeing, so that you can film in RAW but still know roughly what you’re shooting, and grade it to maximum effect later.

Red cameras also have their own format. You will have the option to shoot in RedCode 28, 36 or 42. 36 is the default and is just fine. Feature films have been shot in 28, and 42 is just insane for the moment. Wait until you’re releasing serious box office stuff. Right now, you won’t even notice the difference, but it will eat your hard drive.

RAWAbove: How the monitor appears when viewing in RAW.
Below: RedColour optimisation.


While playing about with the cameras, we found this rather handy feature. Is shows you which areas are over or under exposed, so you know just what sort of picture quality you’re getting.

Under Exposed Above: Under exposed areas appear in purple.
Below: Over exposed areas appear in red.
Over Exposed

There’s a bunch of other useful features and things that the Red cameras can do, but given that the setup option map is three pages long, I’ll come back to them at a later date.

Notes on using Cameras

  • The space in the centre of the iris blades is known as the ‘Effective Aperture’, or f stop.
  • The Φ (phi) mark on the camera body indicates the position of the image reader or film.
  • Some camera-people like ‘Pure’ lenses, such as Arri lenses, but many also prefer ‘imperfect’ lenses, such as Cooke lenses, because their imperfections can have pleasing results, such as odd artifacts or differences in bokeh.
  • To measure the stop value, one must calculate the area of the effective aperture by using πr² (where r represents the radius) to calculate the area.
  • Aperture area is also calculated as:
    Area = π (f/2N) ²Where f=Focal length and N=f number
  • 1 stop is equal to a halving or a doubling of the light allowed to hit the image reader (or film/celluloid).
  • To calculate the f stop, the equation looks like this. 

                        focal length
F stop [N] =  —————————–
                        aperture diameter.


  • So, for example, if our focal length (the distance between the Φ mark and the lense) is 80mm, and our aperture diameter is also 80mm, then 80/80=1, so our equation looks like:

  N = —– = 1


N = 1

  • So our f stop is 1.
  • To calculate the next stop down, we use:


So, if D=80,

             —– ~ 56.56

So our next stop down is 56.56mm. On an 80mm lense this means that:

         ——– ~ 1.4

and so on, the amount of light being let in each time being half that of the previous stop.

  • Neutral Density (ND) filters also keep out a certain amount of light, and can be used in conjunction with aperture contractions to subdue the amount of light being let in.
    Optical Density (OD) means the same thing, in essence but whereas ND is measure in: ND1, ND2, ND4, ND8, ND16 etc. OD is measured in: OD 0.3, OD 0.6, OD 0.9, etc.
    Where:ND1 = OD 0.3
    ND2 = OD 0.6
    ND4 = OD 0.9
    ND8 = OD 1.2
    etc.Neutral/Optical density measurements are also equal to 1 stop per increment:ND1 = OD 0.3 = 1 stop reduction
    ND2 = OD 0.6 = 2 stop reduction
    ND4 = OD 0.9 = 3 stop reduction
    ND8 = OD 1.2 = 4 stop reduction
    ND16 = OD 1.5 = 5 stop reduction
  • Certain cinema lenses will refer to their aperture values as T stops, which adjusts for Light Transmission Efficiency. This allows for refraction and reflection inhibiting the amount of light allowed through (usually about 75%). This is measured similarly, except that:f1.2 = T1.4
    f2 = T2.3