Principal photography is different from routine photography. It is not still photography but aided footage that is used in filmmaking to make each scene complete in every aspect. It is also known as shooting which involves video recording with multiple cameras at the same time.
Purpose of Principal Photography
The main purpose of principal photography is to shoot footage to be comprehended in the overall film shooting.
Principal photography helps to fill the gaps in a film scene to make it more interactive, and meaningful and convey the story to the audience. It may include scenes with lead actors, stunts, or places that form a necessary part of scenes.
In essence, principal photography brings together the scattered parts of film footage. It connects the recorded videos in such a way that the audience satisfactorily receives the message intended to convey by the production team.
However, the purpose of principal photography may slightly vary depending on the nature of the film. Whatever the goal may be, technically, it enhances the beauty of every scene.
There are other types of video making such as interviews, documentaries, sports, etc. however, principal photography is the most commonly used for on-screen films or TV series production. It allows actors mutual interaction and depicts events more realistically.
Principal photography mainly captures raw expressions on the faces of actors while they are playing their scripted roles. Emotions are better displayed with close-up shots with long takes to so the emotions and reactions are recorded without any cuts.
Principal photography mainly processes in two units; the primary unit captures video footage of lead characters whereas the second unit captures background scenes or scenes which not require main actors.
Steps In Principal Photography
Principal photography is unlike photo-making with your mobile camera or any other dedicated camera. As it involves video recording, there are certain steps to be followed to get the maximum out of principal photography.
It consists of mainly three steps; pre-production (planning), production, and post-production (mainly editing) periods of filmmaking are all included in the principal photography.
1. Pre-Production / Planning
The entire production team sits down and decides what the story is and how they want to convey it. At this stage, decisions are made about the team members, locations, timings, duration of angles of footage, whether it would be with or without actors, background music, etc.
Planning is an essential part of principal photography. Without it, time and resources may get wasted as planning always includes alternative options of shooting in case of uncertain happenings such as rain, storm, or any unpleasant event at the set.
Therefore, it would be best to plan the entire shoot first before practically doing it if you are going to be a part of the production team by any means.
Mainly involves the following parts:
- Preparing Set
This is the first step before the shooting begins. The production team is always required to either modify natural settings to record footage or establish an entirely new one. Typically, the producer, director, assistant director, camera crew, and actors arrive at the set.
Shooting does not start abruptly. All the actors and photography crew rehearse their characters well beforehand in the presence of producers and directors to smoothly complete the shooting process without wasting time and money.
- Hiring Extras, Buying Different Items, or Renting Vehicles
As per the script, the production team always requires to hire extras that are actors i.e., to manifest passers-by, streetwalkers, vendors, etc. in the background of the footage. Similarly, costumes and vehicles are also obtained to fit the requirement of a scene. If some of the items are not available for rent, then they are bought anew to comprehend the footage requirements.
- Shooting and Wrapping Up
The second step consists of footage recording with a single actress or actor on set. It helps you to manage the lighting and cameras better as compared to shooting more than one person on set. Then all other related footage is recorded. After a day’s scheduled part is done, the entire crew wraps up their work and gets a good night’s sleep to begin the next day’s assignment.
Editing is the phase of principal photography that enables the footage to be viewed as it was intended. The footage is usually sent to the editor within one or two days after recording. If the editor sees anything missing, she can convey to the production team to reschedule the scene and capture the needed part of it. The process continues until the scene nearly perfectly tells the story for which it was recorded.
Similarly, there are other members of the editing team like the special effect specialist to enhance the feel of the scene for the audience.
What to Keep In Mind Seeking Career As A Principal Photographer?
You need to keep certain things in mind if you are seeking a career in principal photography. Time is the most important among them. You’ll get fired if you get even seconds late. It is because of the cost of services that are charged on a minute basis.
For example, the price of an average studio picture can be up to $500000 per day which is $50000 per hour and $833 per minute. It is a living illustration of the saying that time is money. So, be prepared and careful.
A-Day Life in Principal Photography
The producer or the first assistant direct sends the call sheet usually a day before the shooting begins. The team responded to prepare the set is known as the first crew typically reaches first. The lighting crew, technical assistants, and makeup artists are also called upon to the set.
After all the crews are on set the set is ready to shoot, and lighting is tested without involving the actual cast of the film. If anything feels inappropriate, whether it is makeup, lighting, angle, etc. it is revisited and then the actual footage begins with the lead actors.
After a day’s scripted work gets over, all the crews wrap up and get going. The next day they start from where they had left the previous day.
Best Practices in Principal Photography
It will be helpful for you to know the best practices in principal photography if you want to become either a principal photographer or a member of some filmmaking production team.
Filmmaking days are usually long and exhausting and the crew members hardly get time to eat or have snacks. That’s why some best practices are mentioned below to save you time and money:
Make sure you arrange water and some snacks to keep your energy up between small intervals. Similarly, it is important to make sure of the availability of bathrooms, tents, or shades for your crew member in outdoor shootings.
It’s good that crew members usually cooperate on set yet each crew and its members should not be assigned multiple duties. It may cause low-quality products as they won’t be able to focus on their assignment fully. Likewise, crew members should get proper rest to focus on the next day’s work. One shooting day should be less than 12 hours per day even in extreme times.
As a producer or director, it is necessary for you to be positive and appreciative of the hard work and effort of your team. It will motivate them and make you respect them more.
Unlike still photography, principal photography is a different phenomenon. It involves an entire team of experts to give a film or serial a sense of completion. It is necessary to plan carefully and decide on every little detail beforehand to avoid the loss of resources and disappointment.
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