Life Behind The Big Screen

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While most people try to avoid school as much as possible during their summer holiday, this past summer I actually went in search of it.

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The school in question however is no ordinary school. It is in fact Capilano University located in North Vancouver, BC.

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You might be wondering why I came to a post-secondary campus in the middle of summer, but there was a very good reason for that, one we’ll touch on shortly here.

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On a side note, this was my first time here so I was a little lost at first. This school basically has its own forest!

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I went exploring by myself a bit and there was evidence all around the mini forest that students (hopefully) have been using the surrounding area to their advantage.

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Although I don’t think everything there was placed by students…

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Eventually I finally made my way to the opposite side of the campus, where I immediately knew that I was in the right place.

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This is the Nat & Flora Bosa Center For Film & Animation, a 30.2 million dollar building dedicated for the purpose of preparing students for the world of motion picture production, cinematography, and basically anything and everything else that is related to the film industry.

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I was lucky enough to get my own personal tour of the facilities here and was very excited to get started!

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Before we begin, and this may sound like an excuse, but I had only brought one lens with me during my tour around the building. A good chunk of the time I wish I had a wide angle lens with me, but I didn’t have time to be fiddling around with switching lenses and what not. Oh well!

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Even before I entered a single room, I was already surrounded by so much. Some of you may notice a small award on the top right there as well.

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To give you an idea of how big this place is (not necessarily physically, although the facilities are quite substantial!), a number of the graduates from Capilano University are now spending their days at Disney and Pixar, while some have made the hike down to Hollywood in Los Angeles. Another one in particular is a location scout for the TV show Supernatural, while a certain few have recently been awarded for their work on an animated film, one you may know as Disney’s Frozen!

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Clearly this place was the real deal, so without wasting any more time, let’s get right into it.

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First off, each room I’m about to show you has a name, none of which I remember, so you’ll have to bear with me here.

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This large theatre is used for students to showcase their work at the end of each year. Many friends, family, and fellow students come to enjoy a night of what is essentially an in-house film festival!

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Obviously there are many computer labs on sight, whether you prefer PC…

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…or Mac! Most of these labs are open for students to use at their convenience as well, so they can work on their projects pretty much whenever they need to.

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Oh and they have Wacom Cintiq’s. Lots of them.

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There are two main sound rooms available to students as well, and I honestly don’t know much about soundboards…

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…but I can tell you that the room with the smaller soundboard has a full Panasonic 3D TV! With this the students here at Capilano University are able to shoot in full 3D, something that the industry’s been playing around with a lot more for the past few years.

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Another type of “lab” here at the school is of course for drawers and drafters.

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Drawing is a big part of the film industry for many different reasons, storyboarding being one of the biggest and most well-known. Oh and look, more Cintiq’s!

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Another form of “pre-production” that is utilized is clay modeling. With this you can make small to life-sized models of pretty much anything you need, something that can be important when working with abstract and concept ideas.

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Of course there are also “normal” rooms that aren’t computer filled for use as well.

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And this simple looking room here? This is for actors and actresses to prepare and relax before performing in front of the camera!

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There’s a few different editing rooms as well, all equipped with all hardware and software necessary to put a full feature film together. The white board really comes in handy when having to draw out storylines when editing.

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This is the main sound room with a much larger soundboard and screen. With the room pretty much being completely sound proof, it’s amazing what you can actually hear in here!

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Once again I don’t really know much about sound recording as it is my main weakness, so let’s move on…

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…to yet another sound room! This time it’s a room used for voice and sound effects recording.

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The floor is even lined with various materials to get pretty much any sound that may be required.

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There’s a proper term for this type of room of which I don’t remember, so lets leave the sound stuff behind completely now!

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Down in the basement is the props room, which is exactly what it sounds like.

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There’s a ton of stuff down here ranging from clothes to furniture…

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…to even vintage fridges and vending machines!

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Everything down here is completely open for use to students for any of their projects that they need.

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It’s not all just large items however, as there are also many small objects available for use as well.

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Just down the hall from the prop room is the equipment room, more my kind of thing!

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Everything from microphones, tripods, cameras, lenses, wireless transmitters, sliders, Glidecams, pretty much anything and every piece of equipment out there can be found right here in this very room. Gear junkies rejoice!

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I’ve worked at some of the largest camera retailers in Alberta before but never have I’ve seen so many Manfrotto’s all piled into one place before.

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To be honest I was a little overwhelmed by just how much gear there was here…

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…as every available space was occupied by some sort of equipment!

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I’ve always wanted a clapboard, but maybe I’ll save that for when I start shooting a lot more short films.

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Oh and over on this wall is a bunch of random cases.

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Just kidding! In fact each case houses a single video camera, but as you can see, there’s a lot of them!

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What’s interesting about the film project here is that each year students will use a different camera. Basically first years will start with more basic cameras, and fourth years will use something much more advanced as their skills progress over the years.

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It’s not just lenses however, as there is a very large selection of cine lenses available to use as well!

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Probably the most impressive room inside this building though would have to be the main sound stage area. Yup, it’s huge.

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The sound stage spans a total of 8,000 square feet and when I was there it was currently split into three separate stages by the retracting wall you see here.

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The first stage was looking pretty empty with the exception of this steampunk looking machine…

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…whereas next door has been completely transformed into a bar setting!

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Once again the sound stage is completely open for use for all students and there are pretty much no limits as to what you can do in here. Basically if it can be built one way or another, you can shoot it in here.

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What’s more is that the bar setting can be modified in any way, shape, or form by students, as long as it is reverted back to its original state. That means you can completely repaint it, as long as you paint it back the way it was!

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Over next door there was an apartment setting in place, which reminded me of the TV show Friends!

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While it was looking a little bare at the time, this is a perfect example of where the prop room comes into play.

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You can turn this into a modern looking flat, or a messy teenagers apartment. It’s entirely up to the director!

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Just outside of the soundstage, the main wall has recently been transformed into a New York style block, something that the staff is very excited about.

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The set is built with a bit of space from the wall so that extras and lighting may be utilized to help fill those windows as well.

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Last but not least, I want to show you all a bit of the costume department.

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While it’s pretty self-explanatory, the job of a costume designer is to come up with various costumes for actors and actresses to use.

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It’s not as easy as it sounds however, as sometimes you and working with different eras or cultures in which you’ll have to do some research to better help understand what you’re working with.

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After that is all figured out, you also have to make sure that the outfits work on camera and give off the look that the director is looking for. Because of each individuals own style, directors/producers generally choose the costume and makeup artists that they want to work with. Oh and did I mention that each outfit has to also match the personality of the person wearing it? I bet girls don’t even put this much thought into their outfits of the days!

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For those of you who have never seen what goes on behind motion picture production, I hope this helps show you just how much work is involved for something as simple as a ten minute clip. For those that are interested in entering the world of motion picture production, I hope this has motivated you as much as it did for me!

-brandon.

Click HERE to view the full photo set on Flickr.

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