Category: Film Making

Film Stock

Grain, Gauge & Speed

Probably one of the most important developments in the history of word cinema production was the development of first film stocks; it gave the film makers the freedom to photograph scenes which were once considered impossible.

Earlier without the use of huge, expensive arc lights film making was considered impossible, but with the introduction of film stocks film makers could use the available light to shoot, at night or indoor.  First came the color stock and then the black & white, which gave the film almost the same sensitivity that our eyes have. The exposure speed of a film stock is closely linked with its definition or grain, and varies inversely. Faster films are grainer; slower films give sharper, fine grain images.

A standard frame of 35mm film has an area slightly more than half a square inch. If it is projected on to a screen which is 40 feet wide, it has to fill an area that is 350000 times larger than itself – a prodigious task. And in case of a 16 mm film the magnification is 1400000 times more. The graininess of the film stock which is unnoticeable if the enlarged range is kept with 8×10 inch prints. Then the question rises how a 35 mm or a 16 mm film will be projected on to a 40 feet wide screen, sharp and clear. The distance between the image and the viewer comes into play at this point of time. From the back row of a very large theatre with a small screen, the image of a 35mm movie might appear in the same perspective as in an 8×10 print held one foot in front of the observer. In that case the grain would appear to be more or less equivalent.

35mm film stock has been there for a number of years now, most suitable for the amateur filmmakers, where as the 16mm stock has been useful for the television work. The ‘super 16’ format developed in the early 1970s was measurably having a little more area in the frame and the definition of the image. But whatever problems of definition and precision exits in 35mm will be multiplied by a factor of 4 in 16mm and a factor of 16 in a 8mm film stock. But by the same logic, a grater or wider film stock (say 70mm) will greatly ameliorate those problems. Hence 70mm film stocks are valuable for productions that need a feeling of panoramic details and power on a large screen.

Lastly, regarding the cost, 16mm stock is two to four times cheaper than 35mm stocks. But the most important thing to notice is the gauge of a film stock, which is a double variable. As because with wide screen processes the gauge in which the film is shot need not to be the one or same gauge in which it is distributed. For the most part, the gauge of the projected print is important in accordance with the size of the screen it must fill, while the gauge of the negative camera original will affect the clarity of the film throughout the several processes it will undergo.


Script Writing

Developing the script is quite important as it holds the root to a good end product. But before we move into script, let us clear a doubt. Many people often mix up script and screenplay together, or which is a done first.  Make this absolutely clear that script is a very old concept, and even wider in use if compared with screenplay.  A script is a simple text formatted in dialogues, whereas the screenplay is a mix of formatted dialogues that also includes the visual descriptions. Like when & where a scene will take place, what are the props that are to be used in the scene etc.  A script can be written for a play, radio broadcast, film, etc. Whereas screenplay are mainly written where visual art is concerned. And there is no such mandatory rule that script comes before the screenplay or vice versa.

As far as I believe in case of film making a screenplay is more important than a script. The main reason behind this is the fact that a film is a visual form of art; it’s not a story or novel. Secondly a screenplay also holds a script within it. So what’s the use of doing a work twice?  Remember, time is money in film making, wasting time is simple wasting money, and in a big budget film the producer will never ever allow that. Hence start developing the habit of minimizing the wastage of time as much as possible from the early stages of your learning.

Another important part in screenplay writing is its format. Film making is a team work, bigger the film bigger the team. Many people get involved in different stages of its making, and it is very important that all those people clearly understands every scratch of the screenplay.  Right at this point a good narration/ read-through can prove very effective and helpful too.

Let us consider a very small portion of a screenplay.

The following portion of the screenplay is from the film ‘The Sixth Sense’ by M.N Shyamalan.


A NAKED LIGHTBULB SPARKS TO LIFE. It dangles from the ceiling of a basement.


Anna is the rare combination of beauty and innocence. She stands in the chilly basement in an elegant summer dress that outlines her slender body. Her gentle eyes move across the empty room and come to rest on a rack of wine bottles covering on the entire wall.

She walks to the bottles. Her finger tips slides over the labels. She stops when she finds just the right one. A tiny smile as she slides it out.

Anna turns to leave. Stops. She stares at the shadowy basement. It’s an unsettling place. She stands very still and watches her breath form a TINY CLOUD IN THE COLD AIR. She’s visibly uncomfortable.

Anna Crowe moves for the staircase in a hurry. Each step faster than the next. She climbs out of the basement in another burst of LIGHT, QUICK FOOTSTEPS.




Carefully note the following points –

  • Scene Heading (It must describe the place & timing for the occurrence of the scene, must be in capital)
  • Action (It sets the scene, describes the surrounding, also introduce the character(s) of the scene)
  • Character Name (Note that the character name has been formatted in capital letters. That’s the way of introduction a speaker must get before the scene starts)
  • Dialogues (Although there is no dialogues in the above extract, but dialogues are mainly placed in the centre of the screenplay, with the name of the speaker at first/on top of the dialogue)
  • Parenthetical (It is the mood/style of the actor in that particular dialogue. It’s written in brackets just under the character name before the dialogues)
  • Extensions (These are the technical notes that are added into the screenplay, so as to clarify the actor’s voice or may be an off scene voice. It is placed directly to the right of the character’s name)
  • Transition (It denotes how the following scene will move on to the other/next scene. It is written on the extreme right side as a scene ends)

All the above seven points are very important white drafting a screenplay. Each point has its own significance and role to play in making the film an effective one.

Written by Sourav Dutta

Cost Cutting

In case of a feature film, with proper financial support, the budget depends on many aspects, like, level of artists, director & actors to be hired. And if it’s not a digital film then the cost of linear production adds up with it. But there is one thing that is common in both low/high & digital/non digital film making, and that is the ‘tactics of cutting cost’.

These tactics may include –

  • Avoiding night scenes.
  • Use of unknown actors
  • Filming in another region/state/country
  • Avoid filming at famous/popular spots
  • Use of small & dedicated crew, minimal makeup, natural light

Remember, the concept of digital film making came into act when people started thinking about the fact that how can film making be done in a more cheaper, faster and friendlier way.

There are talented people among us, but, that doesn’t mean that every one of them was born with a silver spoon. Hence we must utilize the sources of digital film making as per our need and requirement. A big budget film can easily afford their need, but , in case of a film which has to be made under a constrain budget, we must meet the need within that budget line.

Films like Spider-Man 2($200 million), Terminator 3($187.3 million), Lara croft($118 million) are some very big budget films. It’s okay to get your inspirations from such films, but trying out something like that will be an act of a fool. Instead of making something original, you may end up with a pathetic mixed up messed up film of no value. You may find these words a bit harsh but that’s the truth. Today if you visit a film fest of upcoming directors you will definitely see some films trying out their best on sci-fi & action with lots of effects & colours. Even some of them may stand out quite good. But after all it won’t be a quality product. Hence we must get our basics right first. Simple making with strong subject is more effective than strong edit and weak subject.

Written by Sourav Dutta

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