Ctpr 290 cinematic communication fall 2014

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Fall 2014

(Section #)
6 units
Open to School of Cinematic Arts students only.
Class hours:


Instructor: [name]



Office hours:

SA: [name]


In this class students will learn to express their ideas through the language of cinema. The basic principles of cinematography, directing, editing, producing, and sound will be introduced, but the class does not aim to produce polished movies or moviemakers.
When you make narratives, we would like you to focus on the expressive potential of physical behavior; reveal emotions and ideas through what the characters do rather than say. Dialogue is used sparingly in 290; we make sound pictures, but not talking pictures.
Students are encouraged to explore alternative and non-traditional forms in both fictional drama and documentary, as individual filmmakers and as part of a crew.
The instructor and class will critique screened projects. The goal of these sessions is to provide constructive criticism that will improve the student filmmaker’s understanding of the process and skills required to produce and consume movies.
By the end of the course, students should display basic competence in conceiving and developing movie ideas and in using the techniques of cinema and digital media to express themselves and communicate to audiences.
•Understand and begin to apply the aesthetics of visual and aural communication through


•Use the creative interaction of image and sound for expressive purposes.

•Design and create cinematic structures.

•Introduce the basics of scriptwriting, producing, directing, cinematography, editing, and sound design, and their interrelationship in the creation of a cinematic project.

•Develop ideas into movies.

•Experiment with personal expression through cinema.

•Show skills in characterization and visual story telling.

•Recognize the potential of a variety of cinematic forms: experimental, documentary, animation, etc.

•Deliver and receive effective critiques of work in progress.

•Establish ethical standards for movie making.

•Show ability to collaborate, to both lead and take direction on a crew.

The individual projects will center on various themes that will change each


Individual Exercise

  1. One day shooting with available light and non-synch dialogue sound recording.

  2. Write, produce, direct, shoot, create sound for, and edit exercise.

  3. One week to edit exercise.

  4. Maximum length 3 minutes, including credits.

Individual Project 1

1. One weekend shooting with available light and non-synch dialogue sound recording.

  1. Write, produce, direct, shoot, create sound for, and edit project.

  2. One week to edit project.

  3. Length 3-6 minutes, including credits.

Individual Project 2

1. One weekend shooting with available light or light kit and synch dialogue sound recording.

2, Write, produce, direct, shoot, create sound for, and edit project.

  1. One week to edit project.

  2. Length 3-6 minutes, including credits.

Crew Project

1. One class day of shooting on location with lighting, and synch sound recording.

  1. Serve in one crew position.

  2. One week to edit project.

  3. Maximum length 5 minutes, including credits.

Written Assignments

  1. Completed scripts for Projects 1 & 2.

  2. Complete a Personal Critique and Crit on Crits for Exercise , Project 1 and Project 2. Personal Critiques are due at time of screening. Projects will not be screened without them. Crit on Crits are due one week after the project is screened. Forms for both are at the end of the syllabus. All documents are to be TYPED and SUBMITTED IN DUPLICATE.

  3. Five-minute script for Crew Project

When doing your fictional projects, cast actors, when you want performances, not roommates, friends, and family—use the casting sources at SPO. Since you must operate camera, you are not permitted to act in your own movies.

It is extremely important that you protect your opportunity to learn and not hand it over to someone more experienced. We expect you to operate your own camera, plan your own lighting, etc. You may not have people from outside the film school or in advanced classes crew or edit for you; this is the equivalent of asking someone else to write a paper for you, which is a violation of academic integrity. We DO encourage you to help out on each other’s shoots by carrying equipment, dressing sets, watching over safety, and so on; it’s more effective and more fun!

Cinema school is intense. One important aid in coping is managing one’s time, energy, and health. This translates into: scaling projects to do-able sizes; having back-up ideas, locations, equipment and actors in case of problems (weather, accidents, camera break-downs, etc.); realistically estimating time; protecting time to eat and sleep!
If you are feeling stressed out, please talk with your instructors or SA. USC also provides a Student Counseling service which has helped pull many students through rough spots; you can reach them at (213) 740-7711. Chances are that as the semester progresses you will be amazed at how much you are capable of and how quickly you are becoming a seasoned filmmaker.
Final grades will be issued only upon completion of all required movies and documents; grades will be calculated on the following percentages:
Individual Exercise 10%

Individual Project 1 20%

Individual Project 2 20%

Crew Project (Final Exam) 25%

Documents* 15%

Class participation 10%

*The 15% of the overall grade for Documents is based solely on the percentage of times the student’s scripts, Personal Critiques, and Crit on Crits are delivered at the requested time. Blank or nonsensical documents will be considered late.
We do not grade “on a curve.” Each student’s grade reflects his or her individual work during the semester. Attendance and punctuality will also influence your final grade. You will be graded down one notch (e.g. B to B-) for every three unapproved absences and/or every five times you are late for class. If you are absent, the circumstances of your absence must be approved by your directing faculty.

Turn your phone all the way off during class. This applies to ALL PERSONAL ELECTRONIC DEVICES (known or unknown throughout the present or any expanded universe). This is under grades because the success of this class is depends on every student's full presence. Or, as Ram Dass said, "Be here now." Students will receive a downgrade of one notch for violation of this policy more than two times.

Recommended Texts
Producing and Directing the Short Film and Video, Second Edition, Peter W. Rea and David

K. Irving. Focal Press, 2001

The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video, Tom Schroeppel. Self-published.

Practical Moviemaking; A Handbook for the Real World, Joe Wallenstein, McFarland & Company

Recommended Viewing
DVD: Visions of Light, The Art of Cinematography

DVD: The Cutting Edge

Week-to Week (see accompanying calendar)

Meeting 1

Introduce the course and discuss class goals, organization and assignments.

Divide class into A, B, and C Groups.

Directing- Introduce story telling techniques, character, plot.

Meeting 2

Producing- Introduce basics of production: script and story development, aesthetic, fiscal and physical management. Discuss production continuity from script through post-production. (3hrs)



Meeting 1

(Labor Day, no Monday class)

Tuesday Class: Cinematography- Checkout and introduce tripod and camera (Sony NXCAM), including an in-class demonstration of menu settings.
Meeting 2

Wednesday Class: Cinematography- Checkout and introduce tripod and camera (Sony NXCAM), including an in-class demonstration of menu settings. Assign Project 1.
Thursday Class: Directing- story structure.
Assignment (all groups): Shoot Exercise.



Meeting 1

Editing: - AVID LAB Introduce basic editing and post production, including High Definition workflow. Conduct Avid instruction in lab. Begin editing Project 1. Tech led (3 hrs)


Meeting 2

Directing- Introduction to Scripwriting. Script Format. Discuss beats and three act structure, Connect with character, motivation, blocking
Assignment: Edit Exercise. Group A Project 1 scripts due Sunday 6PM.

Group A preps Project 1.


Meeting 1

Directing- Screen and critique Exercise, Group A & ½ Group B: 9 @ 3 min ea.

Conduct Group A Project 1 script conferences.
Meeting 2

Directing- Screen and critique Exercise, Group C & ½ Group B: 9 @ 3 min ea.

Directing- Experimental and documentary
Assignment: Group B Project 1 scripts due Sunday 6PM. Group B preps Project 1. Group A shoots Project 1.

Meeting 1

Editing- Basic Avid editing, insert, overwrite, match frame, track management (2 hrs)

Conduct Group B Project 1 script conferences.
Meeting 2

Sound- Introduce sound design. (3 hrs)

Assignment: Group C Project 1 scripts due Sunday 6PM. Group C preps Project 1. Group B shoots Project 1. Group A edits Project 1.


Meeting 1

Editing- Discuss aesthetics of editing, concepts of character and story shaping. (2hrs)

Directing- Conduct Group C Project 1 script conferences.

Meeting 2

Directing- Screen and critique Group A Project 1. Announce script assignment for Crew Project.

Midterm conferences A Group
Assignment: Group C shoots Project 1. Group B edits Project 1.


Meeting 1

Directing: Blocking, the 180 degree line, use of camera angles in story telling

Meeting 2

Directing- Screen and critique Group B Project 1.

Midterm conferences B Group
Assignment: Group C edits Project 1. Write scripts for Crew Projects and circulate to class on-line.

Meeting 1

Producing- Analyze procedures and problems in preparing a script for production. Discuss basic production techniques: script breakdown, identifying shooting sequences, location concerns, and scheduling methods. Describe responsibilities of crew positions. (3 hrs)

Meeting 2

Directing- Screen and critique Group C Project 1.

Midterm conferences C Group
Assignment: Group A Project 2 scripts due Sunday 6PM. Group A preps Project 2.

Class reads Crew Project scripts and votes for top 3 by Noon Sunday, SA announces selections by 6PM Sunday.


Meeting 1

Editing- Filmic editing styles will be presented using existing film clips: fragmented editing, parallel editing, non-linear storytelling, pacing, montage, use of music, jump cutting; import and demonstrate the use of sound and music. (2hrs)

Directing- Conduct Group A Project 2 script conferences.
Meeting 2

Cinematography- Introduce lighting kits. Demonstrate 3-point lighting on stage sets. Discuss, lenses, depth of field, and color temperature. Brief boom kit demonstration (2hrs)

Students bring cameras and tripods to class.

Directing- 3 producers selected for Crew Projects

Assignment: Group B Project 2 scripts due Sunday 6PM. Group B preps Project 2. Group A shoots Project 2.. Project 3 light and boom kits available for student checkout.


Meeting 1

Directing- Directors for Crew Projects pitch to producers and writers of selected projects. Directors selected. Other crew positions for Crew Projects filled. Producers and Directors assigned casting call times.

Conduct Group B Project 2 script conferences.
Meeting 2

Sound- Introduce editing and mixing concepts in Avid lab session that covers how to edit sound, specific elements of the track in Media Composer, level, panning, and use of frequency. Introduce selected audio tools in Audiosuite.

Assignments: Group C Project 3 scripts due Sunday 6PM. Group C preps Project 2. Group B shoots Project 2. Group A edits Project 2.

Crew Project- producers, writers and directors work on rewrite. Producers & directors casting call

Meeting 1

Directing- In-class casting sessions

Conduct Group C Project 2 script conferences.

Assignment: Producers and directors of Crew Project begin casting call.
Meeting 2

Directing- Screen and critique Group A Project 2.

Assignments: Group C shoots Project 2. Group B edits Project 2. Crew Project producers, writers, and directors work on rewrite of Crew Project scripts.

Meeting 1

Cinematography/Directing- Vagabond Stage Rehearsal- Students light, shoot, build sets and record synch sound with students serving as crew and talent. (3 hrs)

Meeting 2

Directing- Screen and critique Group B Project 2.

Vagabond scout
Assignment: Group C edits Project 2. Directors and producers polish Crew Project scripts.

Meeting 1

Directing- Prep and rehearse crew Projects in Vagabond

Meeting 2

Directing- Screen and critique Group C Project 2.

Voluntary extra rehearsal of Crew Projects

Meeting 1

Directing- Shoot Crew Projects.

Meeting 2

Assignment- Crew Project editors do first cut

Meeting 1

Directing- Screen first cut of Crew Projects

Meeting 2 -

Directing- Screen final cuts of Crew Projects.

Wrap party- last class
All students MUST attend the SCA Safety Seminar and present proof of attendance to their instructor before any equipment may be issued.
Students must adhere to the USC School of Cinematic Arts Safety Guidelines as well as professional, ethical and safety standards that will protect everyone on the set. They can be found at https://scacommunity.usc.edu/resources/physical production/pdf/SafetyRulesHandout.pdf
The following policies are applicable to CTPR 290.

    1. NO FILMING in or around a moving automobile.

    2. If you have scripted a moving automobile shot film you must use a “Poor Man’s Process” technique on private property or on University property. Your faculty will instruct you how to do this.

    3. Stationary car work requires permission from your faculty and a Hazardous Shooting Form from Physical Production.

    4. You may not place a camera or a crew member on a street.

    5. You must have written permission to be on any property.

2. Minors (actors under 18 years of age) require the presence of a studio teacher and legal guardian, along with valid work permits.

3. No guns of any kind may appear in a 290 project. Productions are only authorized to use rubber knives, swords or bayonets. Squibs are not al­lowed.

4. Stunt coordinators are mandatory for any action that could in any way injure your actor.

5. USC Insurance never covers any vehicle of any kind.

6. Jib arms, cranes, scissor lifts, camera cars are not allowed on student projects.

7. No creature may be harmed during the filming of any USC Stu­dent Project. The American Humane Society must approve use of all animals.

8. The use of motor boats/speed boats is prohibited, as are helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

9. Students are authorized to use 290 light kits and practical lights (300 watts and under) only. No lights are to be rented or donated from vendors. Generators are not permitted.

10. Fire is limited to the use of LED candles and cigarette lighters. Candy Glass (a special stunt glass) must be used when glass, plates, mirrors, etc. are broken as part of a stunt or when these objects present a possible danger to an actor.

11. The maximum shooting day for USC projects is 12 hours. The minimum turn around time before the next shooting day is 12 hours.

12. No open-toed shoes on sets, stages, or around any heavy equipment.

13. Students may not go beyond the 50 Mile Studio Zone.

Failure to follow these policies may results in:

1. Confiscation of the student’s film.

2. Lowering of the student’s grade. Serious violations will result in a grade of F for the project.

3. Suspension of the student’s production number.

4. Class failure.

5. Appearance before the SCA Academic Violation Committee of both peers and faculty members.

6. Appearance before the University Judicial Affairs Committee.

All students must consult with the instructor on any shot that might raise a safety issue. The hazardous shooting form can be found online at:
You must have Hazardous Shooting Conditions Forms, signed by your instructor and the Head of Physical Production, prior to shooting in any situation or location that might be considered

dangerous or when using weapons, projectiles, or stunts. This process must be completed by the Thursday before shooting. If you cannot complete the process before shooting, you must cancel whatever would require the form. Students are expected to work with others in the class whenever on location. Everyone (crew and cast) is responsible for safety on the set.

Do not store equipment in your car, even in a locked trunk. It is not insured for loss if stolen from a vehicle.
All 290 projects MUST be shot on the camera provided to students by the School of Cinematic Arts and edited in the SCA AVID labs.  Use of personal or rented professional cinema equipment is prohibited in 290. No Exceptions.
Projects not shot on SCA camera and/or edited outside of the SCA AVID labs will be graded as an "F" and confiscated by the class instructor.
The School will provide digital cameras, tripods, and editing stations. Students must pay a Lab Fee of $500 and also an Insurance Fee of $300.
Students will provide their own:

  1. Headphones (required) for Avid lab. We recommend Sony MDR 7506, which are available at the USC Bookstore.

  2. SDHC Memory (16 GB) cards for NXCAM. (Class 10 rated) SCA APPROVED SDNC CARDS:

  • Kingston Ultimate X 16GB SDHC Flash Card: Model # SD10G2/16GB

  • SanDisk Extreme 16GB SDHC Flash Card: Model # SDSDRX3-16GB-A21

  • SONY 16GB SDHC Flash Drive: Model # SF16NX/TQ

  • Lexar Professional 133x 16GB SDHC Flash Card: Model #LSD16GCRBNA133

  • PNY Professional Series 16GB SDHC Flash Card: Model # P-SDHC16GB10- EFS2

  1. One of the following approved External Hard Drives:


  • G-TECH: G-DRIVE (500GB Single Drive)

  • Glyph-Technologies: GT-050Q (1TB Single Drive)

A second drive or 16GB flash drives are highly recommended to back up material in the case of drive failure.

Students will be required to bring their projects to class on their drives from time to time.
The School will provide:

  1. Sony NXCAM HD Cameras and tripods.

HD 1080/24p FX
Setting can be found by clicking on "Menu"

Toggle down to REC/OUT SET then select "Exec"

Toggle arrow to the right and down to select "Rec Format" then select "Exec"

then choose: HD 1080/24p FX and select "Exec"

To verify you've selected the correct format at the main screen select the "Display" button until you see HD 1080/24p FX on the viewfinder screen.

  1. Access to lighting kits after the 5th week of classes

  2. Limited grip/electric equipment for the crew project.

Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to me (or to TA) as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301 and is open 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The phone number for DSP is (213) 740-0776.
USC seeks to maintain an optimal learning environment. General principles of academic honesty include the concept of respect for the intellectual property of others, the expectation that individual work will be submitted unless otherwise allowed by an instructor, and the obligations both to protect one’s own academic work from misuse by others as well as to avoid using another’s work as one’s own. All students are expected to understand and abide by these principles. Scampus, the Student Guidebook, contains the Student Conduct Code in Section 11.00, while the recommended sanctions are located in Appendix A: http://www.usc.edu/dept/publications/SCAMPUS/gov/. Students will be referred to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards for further review, should there be any suspicion of academic dishonesty. The Review process can be found at: http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/SJACS/.
SCA Post Lab Policies

***Anyone using the Post Labs must adhere to Post rules, regulations, and hours of operation.***


  • No food, drinks (including bottled water), or gum in the labs, Edit Suites, Sound Suites, Color Suites, or on the floor outside any of these rooms.

    • Violation of this rule will result in suspension of Lab or Suite privileges.

    • Food/drinks found on the floor outside of a lab will be disposed of immediately.

    • Locker area is available for food and drink storage.

  • No skateboards permitted in any lab.

    • Skateboard rack available for use in locker area.

    • Please do not lean skateboards against walls.


  • You must sign in at the Front Desk to use the facilities.

    • Workstations are numbered, indicated on both the CPUs and corresponding monitors.

    • You must use the station assigned by the Front Desk. Any change must be assigned through the Front Desk, even if you are switching stations due to a technical problem.

  • Students MUST have Student ID in order to use a workstation.

    • We do not accept any other form of identification.

    • If you must use your ID while remaining signed in (e.g. to grab a snack at the Coffee Bean) you must return your ID within 30 minutes or lose your station (see “Bumping” rules below).

  • Stations are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.


  • Stations are dual-boot and offer both Mac OS and Windows.

  • Applications available for use support all divisions (CTPR, CTAN, CTIN, MAP).

  • Additional applications, plug-ins, codecs, drivers, etc. are not to be installed.

  • Laptop connectivity via HDMI, VGA, DVI, etc. is not available.

  • SxS and SD card readers are located on top or bottom of CPUs in machine rooms.


  • If you are having technical problems with your workstation, contact a Tech through the Front Desk (B100) or Help Desk (B139).

    • Please be patient. Techs can get busy, and it may take a few minutes to get to you.

  • Outside footage/material is not supported.

    • If you operate outside of the approved workflow for your course, you are on your own.

  • SCA Help Documents are located at http://knowledgebase.sca.usc.edu/


  • Closing time is strictly enforced; you will not be permitted to stay late for any reason.

    • Begin saving and doing outputs early enough to finish before closing.

  • Techs will give warnings as closing approaches.

    • If you miss the Tech’s warnings, it is still your responsibility to leave on time. There is a clock on every computer, so there are no excuses.

  • SCA Post-Production Hours for the entire semester can be found posted at the Front Desk, Help Desk, and online at https://scacommunity.usc.edu/ under Student Production Resources.


  • You must use SCA-approved Hard Drives in the Post Labs.

  • Use of any other brand/model negates technical support; you’re on your own.

  • SCA does not provide power supplies.

  • Supported Hard Drive document can be found at http://knowledgebase.sca.usc.edu/


  • Headphones with 1/4 inch adapters are required at each workstation in the labs.

  • SCA does not supply headphones or adapters.


  • You may be removed if your station has been vacant for 30 minutes or more. In this event, a Tech will save your project and take your materials to the Front Desk to be reclaimed upon your return.


  • If every station is in use, a Vulture List may be started by the Front Desk Monitor.

  • The Vulture List is first-come, first-served. When a station becomes available, the next person on the Vulture List can sign in to that station.

    • You must be present at the Front Desk when your name is called by the Monitor. If you are not present, the Monitor will move to the next name on the list


  • Locker checkout for eligible classes; fill out locker form in B144.

  • Lock must be approved by Post Management prior to locker being assigned.

  • Students sharing a production number will share a locker, and all signatures must be on the form.

    • Classes structured as duos/trios will share with group members, not production numbers.

  • No food or drink may be kept inside the locker at any time.

  • On the final day Post is open for the semester, your lock and all contents must be removed.

    • Failure to do so will result in the cutting of the lock and disposal of all contents within.


  • Available for advanced projects only (eligible classes listed at Front Desk).

  • Please see reservation and vulture policies at the Front Desk.

    • When reserving/signing in, entry must be initialed by Front Desk Monitor before it becomes valid. DO NOT merely write your name in a reservation/sign-in slot and walk away. If your reservation appears without a Monitor’s initials, your reservation will be erased by Staff.

  • Please refrain from using excessive speaker volume in any suite.

  • Students using the suites must check out a Key Card for their specific suite upon signing in.

    • A $50 fine will be incurred if the card is not returned.

    • It is your responsibility to return the Key Card to the Front Desk at the end of the editing session. The return of your Student ID relieves you of the responsibility of the Key Card.


  • Available primarily for CTPR 310 & 508 color correction (editing not allowed).

  • Students allowed one 1-hour block reservation per day per trio.

    • When reserving/signing in, entry must be initialed by Front Desk Monitor before it becomes valid. DO NOT merely write your name in a reservation/sign-in slot and walk away. If your reservation appears without a Monitor’s initials, your reservation will be erased by Staff.

  • Students using the suites must check out a Key Card for their specific suite upon signing in.

    • A $50 fine will be incurred if the card is not returned.

    • It is your responsibility to return the Key Card to the Front Desk at the end of the color session. The return of your Student ID relieves you of the responsibility of the Key Card.


  • If you arrive at your station and there are personal items that have been left by the previous user, please be courteous and take them to the Front Desk to be kept in Lost and Found.

  • Lost and Found items at the Front Desk will be forwarded to DPS after a week or two.

  • High value items that have been lost will be kept in B144 until taken to DPS.


  • Keep your workstation clean as a courtesy to other students.

  • Please handle all equipment and computers professionally.

    • It is forbidden to move equipment or to attempt to re-patch any cables.

  • We understand the need to collaborate with classmates, but please keep your voices down as others are working. Loud conversations, laughter, or noises will result in being asked to leave.

    • Phone calls, Skype, etc. are not permitted in the labs.

  • Please treat fellow students, student workers, and staff with respect.


Movie-maker: Date:

Title: Project No:
NOTE: TWO PRINTED copies to be turned in with project.
INTENT: (How you want to affect us)

SYNOPSIS: (What we see)

STRENGTHS: (List by priority, one line per item)

WEAKNESSES: (List by priority, one line per item)



Movie-maker: Date:

Title: Project No: ____________
(Due ONE WEEK after screening)

Statement of Understanding

I have read and understand the policies and procedures outlined in the CTPR 290 Syllabus, and the Student Production Office Handbook, and have attended the SCA Safety Seminar.

I agree to conference with my instructors before creating any situation that might put my actors, crew, bystanders, or myself in jeopardy.
I am equally committed to protecting and enhancing the reputation of the USC School of Cinematic Arts through my actions.

Print Name:


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