Over Cranking Beauty Shots

Hop On The ChestHave you ever wondered why the female lead always looks stunning during an intimate heartfelt moment in a Hollywood film, but not in an independent film? It has a lot to do with the type of director at the film’s helm – artistic or techie.

There are several clear distinctions between the talents of a director with a techie background and one with an artistic background. The techie guy typically has a history of using technology to glitz up his film with cool imagery, while the artistic guy focuses on story, emotions, and rhythm.

When its time for close-ups, the techie director uses the same lighting and lens set up as he used for the medium shot or the over the shoulder shot. The artistic director hates to see the camera team just tighten the shot and instead suggests a significantly heightened set up to explore the feelings of the moment.

One of my favorite techniques is over cranking the film. Or, for those with a video only background, shooting more frames per second. The technique is ideal for those heartfelt moments when the director needs a beauty shot or a graceful close up of the female lead.

I tend to ask my DP (Director of Photography) for a more muted lighting set up to help enhance the over cranking shot. The softer lighting bends gently around the woman’s face and diffuses any harsh shadows that would otherwise be present. A soft filter might also be added to the camera to makes sure that there are no sharp edges.

If the camera is shooting at 24 fps (frames per second), I have the DP bump it up to 32 fps. This increases the clarity of the shot, while taking off the rough edges. By clarity, I’m not referring to sharpness of image, but rather the avoidance of extra blur inherent in capturing motion.

More importantly, by adjusting the speed by about 30% the image is captured with more detail within the actor or camera’s motion. This translates to an image with a great fluid movement during playback. Directors all have their own set of percentages for capturing a beauty shot, but I’ve found mine to be emotionally effective for all audiences.

In post-production, the 32 fps are then played back at 24 fps to generate a far more graceful shot of the female lead than was present on set. That ideal graceful cinematic shot can only be achieved with special diffused lighting, slightly soft focus lens and adjusted speed of film with readjusted playback.

The techie director tends to avoid the elaborate set up for the beauty shot by just slowing down the image in post. However, he can never get close to capturing that same dreamy and graceful effect that comes from the in camera artistry created on set by the camera team.

This one difference between a techie director and an artistic director is magnified when considering all the other techniques artists master that techies rarely learn.

The cumulative sum of these parts or production elements is what creates the uniquely different look between a Hollywood produced picture versus an independent picture. This focus on detail requires time and a budget for talented people in order to capture the beauty shot that everyone remembers from the film, but can’t explain why.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers

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