Independent Filmmakers Jane Wagner and Tina DiFeliciantonio
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When thinking about what goes into making a film or video, math is not the
first thing that comes to mind. Filmmakers usually begin the process of
making a film by dealing with the creative concept, the story line, the
characters, the dramatic arc, et cetera. We think about the foundation of
the filmwhat it will be about and how the story will be told.
As filmmakers we often want more time and money to be able to make our films,
but there is not an endless supply of cash to fuel our creative impulses.
The name of the game is to "put every penny on the screen." So we turn to
the more practical and logistical aspects of filmmaking. This involves
grappling with the budget and schedule.
You have probably heard of the phrase, "Time is money." It turns out that
math is used to make logistical and budgetary decisions that will directly
affect the filmmaking process. The better a person is at using math, the
better he or she can analyze budgets to create the best options and make the
wisest decisions. In creating and manipulating budgets and schedules,
multiplication and division are mostly used. As producers, we must be able
to effectively determine how many people can be hired and how much they will
be paid. As directors and editors, we need to know how much time we can
spend editing the film.
Besides being a business, which means producing a solid film on budget and on
schedule, filmmaking is also quite technical. Each department uses math to
help bring the film to life. The camera department uses math in designing
the look of the film by determining the which lenses, filters and film stocks
will achieve the chosen look—they use math to calculate exposure and the
depth of field using "f stops" and focal lengths. Math is also the basis of
sound recordingcalculating the sound patterns and recording levels.
Production designers, art departments, costume designer and wardrobe
assistants also depend on math. Sets must fit together perfectly and
clothing must be tailored to fit each actor. Everything has to be measured
and made to size.
Using math doesn't end at a film's "wrap". It continues into
post-production, where editors use math to calculate everything from trimming
shots, to creating fades and dissolves, to creating complicated effects. As
an editor gains experience, he or she can even learn the feel of different
calculations. For example, an eight frame dissolve feels a beat quicker than
a twelve frame dissolve.
Once a film is completed, filmmakers and distributors want as many people to
see the film as possible. Since people pay to see movies, audience is
equated with income. But it takes money to pay for the advertising and
publicity to get people into the theaters, and, it takes money to pay for the
prints that are projected into the theaters. (This is called P&A, and it is
usually deducted from the gross profits before anyone can start to
participate in the net profits.) Investors, actors, writers, and directors
can have points in a film, which means that they are entitled to a percentage
of the net profits, so keeping track of P&A expenses is important if anyone
other than the studio or distributor is to receive royalty checks.
As you might imagine, once one starts to pull apart the filmmaking process,
there is no end to the use of math! Its use is intricately involved in all
stages of the filmmaking process. Enjoy learning about math because using it
can be a lot of fun and it helps keep food on the table!