with award winning documentary team tony wilson and leo sullivan


setting the PD150 sound inputs correctly
preparing to watch the sound techniques DVD material


It's the most popular short film festival in Australia and an undeniable catapult for finalists. It's Tropfest season again and, like previous summers, there are hundreds and hundreds of filmmakers preparing to tell their stories. Whether you're a beginner or more advanced filmmaker, part of a crew or working solo, The Camera Class wishes you the very best of luck.

We've compiled these essential pointers, just 20 or so, to help you avoid the most common pitfalls and give your film a fighting chance. Cheers, Tony and Leo.

Tip: Telling the story

Your audience hasn't spent the hours, days or weeks planning the film with you so their capacity to follow your story will only come from what you present to them through the lens of your camera. Make telling the story your focus, not just getting 'pretty' pictures.

Tip: Equipment

Get familiar with the controls of your camera before starting to shoot so that on location you can focus on the creative side of the job rather than worrying about the technical aspects of it.
If using unfamiliar camera, shoot a camera test. Possibly even shoot some at the location and at the time of day you intend shooting to see if the light will be okay.
Make a checklist of all the equipment you may need: lights, cables, tripod, reflectors etc. Check that batteries are fully charged and ensure you have enough tape PLUS a cleaning tape!

Tip: Pre-production

Read the script and talk with the director about their 'vision' for how they want the film shot. Discuss style: low key lighting (dark shadows); tripod or handheld; 'edgy' framing etc.
Do a 'block through' with the director and actors to get some sense of how you might shoot the scene.
Do a location recce, checking for direction of light, power-points, background noise.
Estimate how much time you think you may need to set-up, particularly if using lights and/or grip equipment. This will help in scheduling the shoot and give the director a realistic expectation of how much they can shoot in a day.

Tip: The shoot

Be conscious of backgrounds and use lens size to include or exclude elements irrelevant to the story. Shooting the subject with a wide-angle lens puts background objects further away, whereas shooting them with a telephoto lens will bring background objects closer.
Look for interesting angles, don't shoot everything from eye level!!
Think ahead, particularly of the light and whether it will remain long enough for you to complete the scene.
Be aware of the difference in 'mood' between shots of the same size done either on a wide-angle or telephoto lens. There's a sense of being an onlooker or voyeur when looking at something shot with a longer lens and intimacy when shot from closer in.
Focus on getting the essential shots first and be prepared to compromise. Prioritise first, compromise later! Continued - Sound and editing, general techniques and techo tips