Thursday, March 27, 2008

#78 Wk58 Preproduction II

Whether to use the Canon XH-A1 or the Panasonic DVX200 is more than just HDV versus HD, or tape versus P2 solid state. It comes down to what you know, and I know the Panasonic better than the Canon. Brand wise, I'm all over Canon. The first film SLR I purchased with my own money was a Canon FTb. Tough as a tank; I loved that camera.

It's just that I believe that it's easier to create when the tools being used are transparent, that is, they're so familiar that they're effortless to use, acting as an extension of your body. At this point I can't say this is true for any video camera I've used, but the Panasonic is the closest. In the show I give a little detail on the advantages it has over the Canon.

One of them is the ability to shoot in true slow motion. I've put some examples on my YouTube page of slow motion and accelerated motion footage and as well as a video demonstrating rack focus.

We've spent a lot of time in class reviewing the data forms we need to fill out to create our production book. The book, which is a collection of forms signed, lists of names and shots, drawings, sketches and other information that represents the roadmap to our final destination, the finished film. It's a work in progress, but we do have to something to show before the end of the module.

Don't forget to send me questions you want answered while I'm at NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters conference, coming up in mid April. I'm available for meetups if you're in Las Vegas at the same time.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

#77 Wk57 Cinematic Storytelling

In this show, proposal creation and the review process, developing your pitch and getting started.

I forgot to mention a conversation we had during class about the documentary - narrative continuum, so let me talk about it now.. We looked a a variety of documentaries that range from straight talking head to what appears to be a narrative feature.

Errol Morris has long used the technique of dramatizing reality in order to advance his narrative arc. It's very different from something like the History channel where they dramatize a scene within a documentary. And of course there are a lot of feature films that try very hard to represent an event as meticulously and accurately as possible, not only in the look and feel, but also in staying very close to documented record. Zodiac is a good example of that. Certainly there are fictional elements, but the story revolves around the written record of the events as they happened. As a result it has more of a fictionalized documentary feel to it

There is a divisive sentiment in filmmaking, as there seems to be in all things where people get passionate, of choosing sides over either/or - better/worse. Either you are a narrative sell out feature filmmaker, or a libertarian socially conscious documentarian.

Of course there is a middle ground, and it isn't a separated from either extreme . There are documentaries that have strong narrative arcs and there are narrative films that have a cinema verité character.

The reality is that there is no best, truest form of filmmaking; you choose to do what you like. Cinematic storytelling is a continuum. How you tell a story, either through fiction or documentary is a matter of degree. Each has components of the other and the polar opposites are just in a different location along the same path.

To me, that means I can at least mentally escape the label of being one kind of filmmaker and be free to tell a story in the way that best suits it.

Errol Morris


cinema verité

zodiac, cinema verite, documentary, proposal, pitch

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

#76 Wk56 Cinematic Storytelling

Lots of loose tangents of thought this week. I'm continuing the refining process for my documentary proposal. We didn't spend much time talking about scriptwriting since it was covered in previous modules. You can review previous episodes for more information about that practice. Check out the Grim Reader podcast (be aware that this link will open iTunes) for quick, but insightful advice about preparing your script.

Here a link once more to some video that I produced on my company's website.

Some of the topics this week are about creating a proposal; a written document that describes the film's goals and outlines production responsibilities. Others topics are more personal, illuminative. Such as,

You, the client and the film - always choose the film first. There's always going to be conflict, and the client is going to think they can add just one more thing, or they'll insist you act on a really bad idea. Instead of coming back with what you, IYHO as a "professional" would do and further alienate the relationship, take the middle ground. Come in on the side of the film. When you advocate what's best for the film, you demonstrate that you care about the product. That gains you a lot of respect and keeps the focus off what individuals want.

I've included some ideas about interviewing people. Lots of places on the web give advice about interviewing people. I like to listen to podcasts on the subject, they give me insight into different approaches and as well as something to compare my own skills against.

Relax and ask a lot of questions. Listen to the person and instead of running down a bullet list of unrelated questions. Tie each answer to the following question, or ask them a question that expands what they're saying. Find subtle ways to direct the speaker along paths you want to explore, so it feels as though they are a part of the conversation.

It continues to surprise me how willing people can be to talk if you demonstrate you're interested.

A brief note about the minimum for producing video for the web. Don't go too bare bones in production or post if it's going to reflect poorly on the client.

Finally, I'm going to NAB. It's a great training conference and a chance to see the latest and greatest hardware and software for digital film and video. I'd love to meet up, if anyone listening is going to be there. If you're not, you can send in requests for information I can report on. Let me know either way.

I posted a couple shows last year, #21 and #22. I plan on posting a show each day this year.

Monday, March 10, 2008

#75 Wk55 Cinematic Storytelling

Once again I'm starting another module. This one is called Cinematic Storytelling and its about using visuals to tell the story. The final product for this class is either a script, if we're creating a narrative film, or a documentary proposal.

I just got a Zoom H4 and I have few things to say about it. I'm using it for the next few episodes, so you can expect me to update my impressions.

We've learned some important details about the requirements for our final project. More importantly the class is given a couple of writing exercises that, for me at least, releases me from writer's block. It all comes down to collecting ideas and then refining them until they're in sharp focus.

Grammar Girl has a great episode on writing tips and dealing with writer's block. Check out episode 56. I like this show because it's interesting and practical. I learn a lot about writing clearly and it's pretty painless.

I also heard on a recent episode of Digital Production Buzz a link to an HD Production Workflow Tips. This is a great show to listen to if you want to know what other people are doing in digital video production right now. I haven't had a chance to review the tips yet, but the guy who produced it sounded experienced and knowledgeable.
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