November 12, 2016 was the first day of shooting of filmmaker Sharrie Mccain’s short film, “Collision Envision”. I am a funder and producer and was present on set for this major milestone. I love being on set.
This title is unusual and I had to look up the meaning of the word “envisage”. (Dictionary.com)
In the context of this film, the archaic meaning (from the French) is applicable: “to look in the face of; confront”.
I was a Production Assistant (PA) (Yaaaaay, another credit!). A PA in general can be responsible for various aspects of a film or TV project. My primary task was as the clapperboard operator (so I called myself the “Slate Guy”).
A clapperboard is a device used in filmmaking and video production to assist in the synchronizing of picture and sound, and to designate and mark particular scenes and takes recorded during a production. The sharp “clap” noise that the clapperboard makes can be identified easily on the audio track, and the shutting of the clapstick can be identified easily on the separate visual track. The two tracks can then be precisely synchronised by matching the sound and movement. Other names for the clapperboard include clapper, clapboard, slate, slate board, slapperboard, sync slate, time slate, sticks, board, and sound marker.
The clapperboard is marked with the roll number (SD card for digital), scene, take, director, photographer, and description of the physical location (interior/exterior, day/night, etc.).
The order of shooting a scene is as follows: Sound recorder is turned on (“Rolling” is often stated by the sound engineer to indicate they are ready) and digital camera is recording. I hold the clapperboard in front of the lens, I announced the film title, the scene number, and take number, and then “clap”. Then I get out of the way. Then the director yells “Action”.
In another set visit on a different project, I saw multiple cameras being used, so the clapperboard operation is performed separately for each camera.
There was one camera with its own microphone, plus a boom microphone. Therefore in editing one or the other sound source will have to be combined with the corresponding video.
The set was outdoors, so we had to contend with the wind and the sun. Even with the sun, there are shadows on faces, so a board reflector was used to shed more light on the face as required.
I learned that a scene consists of a particular subset of the script, but the same scene may be recorded from different camera angles. Therefore the scene designation is a number followed by a letter (A, B, …) for each camera angle. Example: Scene 3 has two people talking: 3A – Both in frame, 3B – One of the people in frame, 3C – Other person in frame. Each scene/camera angle could be repeated multiple times (a “take”) for various reasons, such as an undesirable extraneous sound (like a siren), incorrect dialog, or bad lighting.
In all two scenes were shot. It is so interesting watching the director, director of photography, and sound engineer collaborating on setting up a scene; and the actors rehearsing. Even a very short scene can take a long time to record.