The Art and Science of Filmmaking

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There is  a reason why movies have been called motion pictures; It is because they were pictures. Images were consecutively placed next to each other and shown at 16-24 frames per second to create the illusion of continuous movement. We can mimic this by drawing consecutive pictures on the pages of a pad of paper and then flipping the pages. The faster we flip, the faster the images move. Cartoons were made the same way. Etienne-Jules Marey invented the chronophotographic gun which was a camera shaped like a gun that could take 12 pictures per second. The term “shooting” a film seems like a relevant term. Marey’s interest in film was brought on by scientific curiosity about bird flight and resulted in the first series of images taken with the same instrument as opposed to multiple cameras.

We have come a long way since the rolls of film stock were used for making movies. Now everyone with a smartphone also has a video camera. Cinematography is the art of making films and there are a lot more aspects to the craft than pushing the record button. The aspect ratio is the proportion of width and height of an image. With an inappropriate ratio, images can look squished or stretched. Lighting is extremely important to visual story telling as it can determine the mood. Movement of not only the subject matter, but the camera itself will have an affect on the feel and fluidity of the movie. Slow motion scenes or a freeze frame can have a dramatic effect. Deciding how to use all of these tools to make a film is truly an art.

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Special effects are my favorite part of film. I like the older movies where I can tell the special effects are fake. That makes the movie feel more like a play to me. There are two categories of special effects, optical and mechanical. Mechanical effects are usually part of the live action shooting of the scene. That includes makeup, weather, set, and explosions. Optical effects are how they can place actors against a different background from where the film was shot. Computer generated imagery (CGI) uses computer graphics to create the special effects of a film. That is how they created the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and the planet from Avatar. There is no limit to what we can do with film now. The ideas that arise from the creative power that film has given us could have practical application in the science world and not just the science fiction world.

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