The world of entertainment is covered in a cloak of mystery. It is the only industry that is responsible for creating exciting new worlds, filling us with emotion and dragging us into story lines that viewers can’t bear to leave until the very end. Movies have entertained people for a little over a century, yet television shows are becoming more popular as services such as Netflix are creating original programs to entertain viewers.
One would think that everything is filmed using similar procedures, with complicated camera tricks and talented actors reciting lines from a memorized script. Nevertheless, shows are filmed differently to full-length movies for a multitude of different reasons. Perhaps it is time we lift that cloak of mystery, peek into the world of entertainment and explore the differences between filming a movie as well as a show.
A large difference between shooting a movie and shooting a program is the budget. Unfortunately, money tends to be a core reason for why certain approaches to filming are taken in both movies and shows. In general, most cinematic movies tend to have a bigger financial budget. There are exceptions to this, Game of Thrones being the most obvious one, but as an overall rule, movies will have bigger budgets than that of a series. Movies will have enough funds to build a set from the ground up. Directors along with set designers will collaborate and build a wall or part of the city just so the camera can capture the perfect shot.
This is not applicable to a show, as television shows tend to only build sets if it is a location that reappears in every episode. Such as the inside areas of the houses in Modern Family, which are set inside Fox studios, while the outside areas of the houses are real properties. Often, a series will use structures that are already built, for example many acts in Grey’s Anatomy are shot in a real hospital, The Veterans Administration Ambulatory Care Center in North Hills.
Using a structure that is already built limits the number of options for new angles, lighting and modifying the set as a whole. A lower budget results in less funds for high-quality equipment. Usually television shows won’t use helicopters, cranes or expensive graphics, which is why viewers will notice a difference in the precision of a cinematic film and a long-running show.
Time is another factor that causes a change in the way movies and shows are filmed. On average, a movie will take three and a half months to film. From there, footage can take months in post-production where tapes are shifted through, extracts are edited or a musical score is composed.
A series will not have that kind of time, as an American sitcom or show can have anywhere from twelve to twenty plus episodes per season. Therefore, shows don’t have enough time to shoot complicated elaborate scenes as they have multiple episodes to shoot should they want to complete a season. Programs can change how they film, but if the crew on a show wants to include complicated cinematic shots they inevitably have to cut down the amount of content they make. Such as the show Sherlock, which includes some cinematic, beautiful shots, although there are only three episodes in each season.
Television shows have to film to cater to a structure of their network’s choosing. For a program that includes a large cast and multiple locations, a studio audience is unlikely. This means that a crew can shoot scenes in whatever way is easiest, depending on the actors who are available at any one time, much like movies do.
Programs that have a studio audience have to film sections in the correct manner for the story line to make sense to those watching. Shows can change their methods as they see fit, which movies they are unable to do. Each season needs to be developed, and reactions that writers receive from audiences from the previous season of the show can help them tweak a story line, move locations, or change their filming methods, depending on what audience members want. This technique cannot be used in movies as there will be a set number of writing sessions, a filming period will take place and eventually the movie will be released once the production is complete. There is no opportunity to further cater to their audience or change any filming procedures used.
Film and television is an incredible way to escape into something beautiful. Whether it’s a gripping show or a film, the magic of the entertainment industry is perhaps the best way to experience art. But sometimes, it is just as fun to peek behind their curtain and discover the methods behind the magic.