How the “Kiss Cam” Works

We’ve seen kiss cams — but how do they work? Here’s a peek behind the scenes.

It’s easy to be captivated by the occasional kiss cam fail or kiss cam prank. But behind the humor of kiss cam compilations is the hard work of the people who make it happen. Ever wonder if the kiss cam challenge is real, or fake? This is how it happens.

Kiss cam

10 Cloverfield Lane’s Title is its Biggest Spoiler

Through social media I heard that John Goodman’s performance in 10 Cloverfield Lane was something to be marveled. I checked the reviews – most of them had glowing headlines and started off by warning readers that the review would not contain much plot description as that would ruin the experience of the film. Well the same warning goes here as the rest of this piece will contain major spoilers – but I might argue that the biggest one is right there in the title:

10 Cloverfield

I came at this film not having watched the original Cloverfield and knowing pretty much nothing about the film. I didn’t follow the press leading up to it – I even admitted as much to the ticket guy at the movie theater when he asked me if I was excited to see the film. I had no idea what was going to happen except the basic premise… and that it was connected to Cloverfield.

And that, when reflecting on the film, was a problem.

The dramatic tension of the film rests on the question of whether or not John Goodman’s character in the film is lying about what’s going on outside of the bunker. Is Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) being held captive or is she really being kept safe from the terror above. Unfortunately because we know it’s a Cloverfield movie, we know the latter is the truth. John Goodman’s character is still a monster in his own right, but the big finale sequence involving the alien monster doesn’t feel like a shocking twist but rather the payoff we expected from the title.

The film was adapted from an original script titled The Cellar – which I’m guessing was never originally tied to the Cloverfield universe. Judging by the loglines, the truth about what’s going on outside the bunker was meant to be a mystery and a source of dramatic tension. That tension doesn’t exist here.

But of course not being tied to a big name like Cloverfield would probably have scored the film $100 million less in box office sales. So I get why they drew the link. And I also realize that people have been tracking this film in the news as a Cloverfield successor so there’s really no way to hide that fact. But maybe this story wasn’t the right fit for the franchise.

Now reading this far, you might have gotten the impression that I didn’t like 10 Cloverfield Lane and that is far from true. I found it a very well crafted film which moved briskly apart from dialogue scene between Michelle and the Emmitt which I thought was just too slow and expository (I really was ready to nod off on that one which I can’t say about every other scene).

I really enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane, but I can’t help but wonder if I would have enjoyed it more had I not known what would be on the other side of the bunker door. 


New 9×16 Festival Could Showcase YOUR FILM at the Next Cannes!

In certain filmmaking crowds it is often expected of me, as a student of film history, to abhor the modern trend of vertical video or 9×16. But many people would be surprised to find out that I actually do not have a problem with the format at all. We take photos in portrait mode, we Facetime in portrait mode, we read articles in portrait mode… the simple fact is a smart phone is just easier and more natural to hold in portrait mode. So why not have video that’s designed to fit that natural aspect ratio?


Now a clear distinction must be made here – we’re not advocating that all media be produced at a 9×16 aspect ratio. That would be as silly as calling for all productions to use 16×9 or 2.39 – some things work better in one format or the other and it’s up to the filmmaker to choose.

Until very recently, the 9×16 aspect ratio hasn’t been taken seriously by content creators, employed only by well meaning amateurs just trying to capture a spur of the moment event. Well it’s time to change that. What if you used the skinny aspect ratio to your advantage? What if you could be one of the pioneering filmmakers creating new aesthetics in the 9×16 video world?

Nespresso Talents 2016 is offering just that opportunity! An international search is on for the three most innovative filmmakers working in 9×16 to be showcased at the Cannes Film Festival 2016.

So How Do I Compose 9×16 Anyway?

The narrower framing of the vertical video may seem alien at first but it really isn’t that unfamiliar. If you’ve ever taken a portrait photo, you’ve framed for 9×16 – now we’re just adding motion. Check out these three Nespresso commissioned films by the jury members for some amazing composition ideas.

Martin Scorsese famously asked how you would compose a close up in widescreen. It can be difficult as closeups in widescreen result in some sort of compromise between cutting off parts of the face or having lots of empty room on the side of the frame that need to be filled. Well the human face (and body for that matter) fit much better in a 9×16 aspect ratio.

Landscapes might be something you would think lend themselves better toward widescreen and you’d be right. You’re not going to get Lawrence of Arabia vistas in 9×16 but if you look for interesting compositions, you’ll find lots of stunning natural imagery that fits the tall frame:

Architecture almost lives in the 9×16 aspect ratio – seemingly perfectly suited for this documentary on Doors:

And of course in animation – you’re only limited by your imagination:

Keep in mind that with the vertical edges of the frame so close, where you place your horizontal lines becomes much more important. Also consider what’s in the frame and what’s not and use that strategically to tell your story. With less horizontal real estate you have to be more selective about what you choose to show which can make for some stunning compositions.

Always remember: it’s what’s in the image and what isn’t – that’s the only thing that matters.

Technical Considerations

You can create your 9×16 film in anyway you want. Shooting video on a phone held in portrait mode would be the simplest but it may not be the most creatively interesting. For mounting GoPros and small DSLRs you can look into ball head tripods. These are designed for photographers who  shoot stills in portrait mode – however they are not great for shooting pans and tilts. In those situations you may need mount the camera on an L bracket on a fluid head tripod to get the sideways shot. You can purchase them premade or make one of your own:

L Bracket

You don’t have to always shoot locked off on sticks. Handheld is always an option when shooting 9×16 but there are some things to consider. CMOS sensors capture the scene from top to bottom – the resulting “jello effect” causes vertical lines to slant in a pan. In vertical mode, the “jello effect” will cause things to stretch-and-squish when performing quick pans. Because of the claustrophobic nature of vertical video – excessive camera shake or fast moves may cause motion sickness in the audience so either avoid that or use it sparingly and always with a purpose.

When it comes to editing you’ll want to create a custom timeline in your editing suite (like a 1080×1920 timeline) so you are filling the entire frame with your 9×16 image. Things like cuts, dissolves and other transitions will have a little different effect when working with 9×16 versus widescreen. The best approach is to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t for your idea.

How Do I Enter?

The Nespresso Talents 2016 contest is open to international entries starting on March 7th and closes on April 10th, 2016. The top three filmmakers will be selected to have their work screened at the world famous Cannes Film Festival in May.

Head over the Nespresso Talents 2016′s submission page to submit your entry- the deadline is April 10, 2016!



Why the Fan Cut Ghostbusters Trailer is Better than the Studio Version

A few days ago I joined the throngs of the internet in my lukewarm reaction to the new Ghostbusters trailer. Then today I watched a Fan Cut version (by filmmaker Bevan Bell) that makes me actually want to see the reboot:

Here’s the studio version which as of this writing has 58% thumbs down:

So what did the fan trailer do right right? Well if you’re cynical about the actual film, you might say they just showed A LOT less of the film: the fan cut trailer weighing in at less than half of the studio version. But let’s take a neutral approach to the film and study the trailer itself as a mini film and marketing piece.

There are two other big differences between the fan and the studio version: First – the fan trailer doesn’t treat the audience like a bunch of idiots. We have ALL seen the original Ghostbusters. We don’t need text to remind us – and we certainly don’t need to reminded that it was 30 years ago (where does the time go?). In the first few seconds the studio trailer already puts our thoughts immediately toward the original. You just can’t live in Bill Murray’s shadow. It’s all going to be downhill from there. On top of the visuals we also get this haunting piano version of the theme song – even further tugging on our nostalgia strings.

Ghostbusters Graffiti

What the fan trailer does differently is start with a “monster mash” creepy but corny type sound track – and we get only a flash of the Ghostbusters headquarters – a flash of the Ghostbusters graffiti. We’re not idiots – we know what those are without a text scroll to tell us. What the fan trailer gets right is to just give us a glimpse – enough to recognize the symbolism but not enough time to linger and recall the original. The Ecto-1 and Slimer get similar treatment – it’s in the film all but 10 frames or so – it’s enough to spark recognition but not comparison to the original.

In other words: the studio trailer says, “Hey, you remember that film you loved that came out 30 years ago? We’re going to completely redo it!”

Whereas the fan trailer says, “Hey check this film about Ghostbusters, it’s a new crew but you might recognize some things”

It’s a slight difference but it’s enough.

The second advantage the fan trailer has is it has a consistent tone. After the introduction, Ray Parker’s Jr’s iconic song runs throughout keeping things moving and light hearted. The studio trailer is constantly switching tones: from nostalgic, to dark, to funny, to exposition, to funny, back to exposition, back to funny and nostalgic, to epic action special effects, to funny, to epic again with more exposition, to funny, to epic, to scary, to action film, to funny and then cut to logo. Each of those transitions is pounded into our skulls with abrupt musical cues – it’s just way too over produced.

Now some on the YouTube comment section point out that the film itself is still awful – that is something we do not know and won’t know until the film gets released. But just as a good trailer can make a terrible movie look good – a bad trailer can make a good movie look horrible. Hopefully Sony’s trailer falls in the latter camp because I’m still rooting for all those involved. Those overwrought jokes in the studio trailer may actually work well in the context of the film once we get to know the characters better. After all comedy is all about timing and recutting jokes for a trailer throws everything off.

But in this case of studio vs fan trailer it’s really amazing how less is infinitely more.

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