Useful Tips

How special effects were created in the era of silent cinema

While my impressions are fresh, I decided to describe everything in the name of our son with pleasant memories. After many years, we will enjoy watching the film and smile again. I hope that my readers will also find something useful for themselves. Who knows, maybe one more “Year of the Cinema” will someday be repeated, and in every school, in every class from the 1st to the 11th, the funny shootings will begin again, and here you have a ready-made idea.

Our film took 1st place among school films, so I am proud to present you the result at the end of the article.

There were three mothers in the creative group: I (the author of the script), a music teacher (director) and an economist (cameraman and editing director). Professionals were not invited.

How I was looking for an idea

I never wrote scripts for films. And now I can’t imagine how this is done, but the teacher saw creativity in me, and I really tried to justify her trust.

I began to think ... So ... The film should last 5-7 minutes, so it’s not worth it to start a complicated story. All this at school started by the year of the movie. What else needs to be considered ... Not all children in the first grade have good diction, they are embarrassed to speak cunningly, there is no time for long rehearsals.

It is important that all 32 pupils of 1 ″ A ”and the teacher Larisa Anatolyevna act in films. And you also need simple and affordable costumes.

It will be necessary to shoot close-up so that the sound is immediately recorded tolerable. We will not force first-graders to voice their own dialogs after installation.

I took all this into account and came up with this:

  1. Most of the film became "dumb." We sent first graders to silent movies! All remarks were written on the screen, and the children had only to perform actions to the music.
  2. We divided all the children into 4 groups to make it easier to deal with them during the shoot: 8 inventors, 8 actors, 8 spectators, 8 retro characters (make-up artist, taper, dancers, Lumiere brothers, etc.)
  3. Accessories of the 20s of the last century are now quite simple to find. Thanks to the mothers who picked up retro dresses, beads, gloves, hats and feathers.
  4. There were no problems with music either - I easily found and downloaded suitable songs from the Internet. In the finale we have the music of Charlie Chaplin himself!
  5. As a retro-background, I was going to use draped fabric, but suddenly it turned out that one mother (economist) knows how to shoot chroma key and mount the footage in a special program. A person has such a hobby. Lucky! You will see in our cinema a real restaurant, dressing room, stage and dressing room.

For the filming, I prepared a very detailed plan with a description of the scenes, and here I will tell a brief summary of our film:

There is a usual technology lesson that seemed to Vova to be boring. He falls asleep ... Then I wanted to hint at the immortal film "Ivan Vasilyevich is changing his profession," so Vova has a dream about the invention of a time machine. More precisely, a temporary portal through which you can go to the past.

Oh yes ... Vova is my son)).

8 bespectacled inventors begin brainstorming. They shout, interrupting each other, then summarize the discussion and launch a temporary portal.

From 2016, children fall 100 years ago. At the height of silent cinema - 1916. The frame suddenly becomes black and white ...

Here are the Lumiere brothers, beautiful actresses, taper, dancers, Charlie Chaplin with the famous dance with rolls, visitors to the restaurant with a heart-rending scene ...

... and very emotional viewers. They cry, laugh, really scared of the gangsters they see on the screen.

Suddenly, the black and white movie ends. Class again, lesson again. The teacher wakes Vova. Vova frantically begins to prepare for the lesson and finds Charlie Chaplin's bowler in his briefcase.

“Bravo to the great masters of silent films! Applause! The end!"

Cues and captions in silent films are written between frames on a black background in a frame. We tried to imitate everything, so I prepared more than 30 frames with text. As replicas I took famous phrases from films of different years: “Mexican Tushkan”, “... and just a beauty”, “Beauty is a terrible force”, etc.

How did the shooting go

Oh, it was harder than we thought. There were no experienced directors in our creative group, ideas came along the set. Sometimes we contradicted each other, and the children could not understand whom to listen to. For the first time excusable, conclusions were drawn.

Our little actors were embarrassed and worried. It was difficult for them to look at the camera when there are so many advisers around, prompting and persuading to be more artistic. They forgot the course of action, dropped the props and fell themselves along with the background of the chroma key.

As a result, there were many small pieces of the film that needed to be carefully watched in order to mount the final version of the film.

Now our first graders are familiar with cinema terms and boldly talk about editing, script, props, props, episodes and scenes, makeup and costumes.

About how the installation was done, I have no idea. I only know that it is long and difficult. Thanks to all members of our creative group for their work, my idea has found a worthy embodiment! That rare case when reality exceeds expectations!

The premiere took place in mid-December. The success was tremendous.

Safety is the least! (1923)

What do we see: Harold Lloyd hangs over the city, holding on to just one clock hand.

In fact: in those days, the chromakey technology using the green background was not yet used, but tricks with the prospect were already known. The "wall" along which the hero climbed was raised on the roofs of houses and removed from buildings across the road. As the hero rose, the structure was moved to higher houses.

New Times (1936)

What do we see: Charlie Chaplin roller skates through the department store, risking falling down.

In fact: part of the background, on which the lower floors were visible, was depicted on glass, which when shooting was placed directly in front of the camera.

Application description

Available for a long time in the App Store, Silent Film Director received an update in which not only its name was changed to Vintagio, but also several new effects were added. As its former name indicates, this application allows you to record video without sound. That is, with music and style a few decades ago!

With Vintagio, the user can create a completely new silent movie or properly process and edit already found in his library. In the beginning you have to choose one of seven graphic filters (Newborn recommended), video quality and speed, and the most suitable background music. Built-in songs sound exactly as you would expect from a silent movie editor, but here you can download your own music.

Settings before recording

Ella Sinders (1926)

What do we see: Actress Colin Moore turns her eyes in different directions.

In fact: two halves of her face were shot separately, but on one film. First, one half of the face was removed, covering the second with glass painted over with black paint, then the film was rewound and the second half was removed in the same way.

Work with Vintagio

Thanks to an intuitive interface, the program is very easy to use. The process of creating a movie takes place in minutes.

After the choice, you can only record the film itself and after a short time spent on rendering, including various little things on the screen, you can enjoy your mini-production in the style typical of the first films released in the world. As already mentioned, the process of creating your own silent cinema is very fast and the biggest merit here is a simple and intuitive interface.

Vintagio has two operating modes. Express, in which we can create a film consisting of only one shot and use the limited editing capabilities, as well as professional, in which you can create more diverse images. The advanced version of the application offers the ability to record video, consisting of several separate pictures and allowing you to add characteristic black boards with descriptions of the situation.

After finishing work, the created films can be saved on the device and then uploaded to YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

Video post processing

Here you can choose one of several different graphic filters - not only black and white.

Little Lord Fontleroy (1921)

What do we see: Mary Pickford kisses herself on the cheek.

In fact: in earlier films, frosted glass and frame overlays, allowing the actor to appear in the same frame twice, were already used, but this technology did not allow the hero to move freely from one part of the frame to another.

But the famous cameraman Charles Rocher still allowed the heroine to move, being behind his own face. He created a carefully detailed portrait of Mary on glass, so that she could calmly depict a kiss. However, it took about 15 hours to shoot this three-second scene.

Who is Vintagio for?

For lovers of cinema in the previous edition, lovers of cinematographers, as well as for those who need not only practical mobile applications, but also giving a lot of fun!

Worth it. The application is relatively inexpensive and enjoyable to use, and also offers an easy and quick way to create movies that you can then show to friends. A standard camera cannot do this.

PS: For Silent Film Director owners, an updated application called Vintagio can be downloaded for free.

Black Pirate (1926)

What do we see: Douglas Fairbanks glides down the sail, braking with a knife.

In fact: The idea for this stunt belonged to Douglas’s brother, Robert, who was an engineer. He attached the hero’s knife to the lifting block with a counterweight, which was hidden behind the sail, and the shooting itself was made at an angle.

Sherlock Jr. (1924)

What we see: aCaster Buster Keaton easily passes through a ruined post on the roofs of trucks.

In fact: just as with the eyes of Ella Minders, the upper and lower parts of the frame were shot separately. At first, the hero was shot, passing over a whole bridge, which was hidden under the dimming. Then part of the bridge was dismantled and removed by passing trucks. But the very end of the scene is a real trick, which the actor performed independently.

Ben-Hur: The Story of Christ (1925)

What do we see: Jesus miraculously heals two leper girls.

In fact: In order to achieve this effect, the famous operator Karl Strass invented a technology in which color filters were used. When these filters were applied, the makeup of the girls, made up as lepers, ceased to be displayed.