- My BA Blog

Ian F. Hunt

By

Magazine – Make A Documentary

make a documentary

Make a DocumentaryCoastal Path

Why not have a go at making a documentary? It could be easier than you might think. There is generally no script just an outline, there will need to be a shot list, there are usually no actors and you can make one with the minimum of kit, in fact all you need is your DSLR and a Tripod to get started.

Where to Start? Research an idea; find a subject that you think will be interesting both personally and to a target audience. Alternatively find a client who needs to tell a story. Use your Networks to find a project.

At University we are encouraged to work with external organisations to get experience of working on real projects and briefs.  For the London Olympics 2012 I was lucky enough to be working with Southwest’s Inspire Programme filming an Arts & Sport festival. Thanks to the success of that project I had the opportunity to work on producing a documentary for another project also awarded the Inspire Mark the ‘Weymouth Bay’ Coastal Access Project.Waves at Swanage Beach

As this is a client driven project the first thing I had to do was to meet the client and ask a series of questions, for example what is the project, who is going to want to see the final documentary and what are the key points that they want to get across. In many respects it’s the answer to who will be the target audience for the documentary that is the most important as this sets the theme. An example would be if the audience is predicted to be young school children then you will need to keep the language simple so that they can understand it.

InterviewsCoastal Path Signage

Chances are you will be conducting a series of interviews. You’ll need to prepare a list of questions that you will ask the interviewee, remember to keep these simple and make sure they are not closed questions. I always get the interviewee to repeat back the question so that the audience knows they are answering a question otherwise this would be confusing. Conduct interviews in an environment that they will find comfortable but balance that with production value. By this I mean if you have the choice between filming them in a garden shed or a Cathedral choose the Cathedral.

Always pick experts as your interviewee rather than someone you just met on the street, we’ve all seen the news reports where they’ve managed to find a member of the public who has no idea of what is going on but happened to be in the area.

Keep it interesting, think about the backdrop behind your subject, try and avoid plain backgrounds but at the same time watch for inappropriate objects in the shot. Film whenever possible in natural light, DSLR’s are quite good at working in low light levels but watch for noise and colour balance in very low light conditions.Coastal Path Signage

A-Roll

The A Roll is usually going to be the footage from the interviews or of subjects directly related to the documentary. For example if your documentary is about local transport you should show footage of Buses and Trains. The thing about footage of interviews is that generally there is only a limited amount of time that you can engage your audience before they lose interest; this is where the B-Roll comes in.

B-Roll

Basically the B-Roll is everything else. Generally it helps if this footage is related to the documentary subject but not necessarily. While conducting the interview look for things to film that confirm their relationship to the subject. For example bookshelves filled with reference books on the subject, certificates on a wall or maybe just photographs. You can also use B-Roll footage to show the passage of time for example the Sun rapidly setting using time lapse. Time Lapse is a good way of showing something happening very slowly in real time, for example over a period of hours or longer in just a few minutes on screen.

Don’t limit yourself to images that are only relevant to the subject sometimes something just works, for example in my documentary I managed to film some dogs playing on the cliffs and this arguably is the most remembered scene from the documentary.

Location filmingDorset Cliffs

For this my first foray into documentary I had to shoot on location, in fact several locations along the Dorset coastline. As I was working on my own it was down to me what kit I carried and to make sure I had everything I would need with me. It would have been great to take everything but climbing up steep hills carrying a tripod and camera would be hard enough but carrying anything non-essential had to be avoided. So what should you take? A choice of lenses or at least a good Zoom lens, some filters (graduated filters for landscapes), backup batteries and most importantly take lots of water to help keep you going.

A Tripod is essential when filming in the open and probably a substantial one is needed, most of the Tripods, which are easy to carry are going to be too lightweight to remain steady in windy situations. Although I’ve found you can sometimes get away with this by keeping the camera low to the ground or position it on something off the ground so that you do not have to fully extend the tripod legs. Standing to one side to block the worst of the wind sometimes works but not it the wind is coming directly from the front. Remember to turn off lens stablelisation when the camera is tripod mounted, you can hear the lens constantly moving and this maybe picked up by the microphone.

Location soundPortland

When filming in the open, wind is your enemy when it comes to sound recording. Even the gentlest of wind can create that booming noise on your soundtrack so protect your microphone from this by filming from sheltered locations. This is even more important if like most DSLR’s there’s no way of monitoring the sound being recorded. My own personal experience is that the dead cat wind shield on your camera mounted microphone will have limited success, they help to limit the wind noise but they do not eliminate it. This is even more of a problem when trying to conduct an interview in the open, remember the golden rule have the microphone as close as possible to the subject. I use a camera mounted Rode Videomic but this struggles when recording interviews in open air on location. I’ve since had more success using radio microphones or if your budget will not extend to one of those buy a cheaper Lavaliere microphone and a 5-metre cable extension.

Editing & Titles

Editing for documentary in many cases will be simpler than for other genre videos generally there is limited reasons for using any special effects a simple dissolve fade between clips does the job. My preference is to insert B-Roll video clips for transitions between clips of the interviews or scene changes for example  different locations. For this documentary I used video clips of sailing boats moving from left to right to provide continuation between the clips even though they are not sequences of the same sailing boat, it still works well as a means of carrying the audience from scene to scene and location to location.Smugglers Inn Osmington

Use music where appropriate, it’s unlikely that a documentary will need a music soundtrack, an exception to that maybe a Wildlife documentary. You may also need to record a separate narration in order to explain to the audience the significance of what they are seeing on screen for those clips for which you have no soundtrack from the interviews to use for this purpose.

Generate the opening and closing credits, it’s surprising how important this can be, take particular care not to miss anyone out. I asked the client to produce the list of contributors but I still had to add people or credit organisations into subsequent edits.

Another use of titles is to use these as transitions between video clips, which will also have the additional benefit of introducing the next scene or location. Handy if you do not have a sound bite or narration for the upcoming video clip, using a title can be enough to inform the audience of what the following clip is all about.

Contemporary editing practices call for rapid cuts between scenes and transitions are usually instantaneous not even time for a short dissolve.Rufus Castle Portland

Audience Previewing

Preview your creation to an audience; in my case this was the client. The client wanted some changes made which meant editing out scenes, changing the order or dropping more scenes in, which may mean shooting additional footage. If there’s no client involved ask a group of friends to watch and then ask them for their viewpoints afterwards, or ask them to complete a short questionnaire. It’s surprising what you may have missed especially after all those hours staring at the screen when editing.

Summary

Do your research – getting this right is important to the success of the documentary and make sure you have proof from several sources before committing to film. Getting the facts wrong will effectively make the documentary worthless and damage reputations including your own.

When filming on location check the weather forecast, travel times and facilities at the location. Be prepared to re-schedule for bad weather.

Get help, really this can be the most important decision you can make, an extra pair of hands to help carry your gear, hold a photographic reflector or microphone boom can make all the difference.

For your first documentary keep it short 15 minutes is a good target but be prepared, as for even such a relatively short time you will be shooting hours and hours of footage for the B-Roll.

Downloads

Download the orginal as a pdf – download Documentary

By

Magazine – The Student Perspective

the student perspective

The Student Perspective Ian F. Hunt

From Website Designer to Filmmaker

Two and half years ago I started at the Arts University College Bournemouth, which from 2013 became the Arts University Bournemouth as an undergraduate studying BA Digital Media Production. I was convinced at the start of my degree that I would concentrate my studies and project work on web related topics and eventually graduate some three years later as a website designer. But thanks to a chance meeting with a guest lecturer from the professional film industry; my studies, my project work and future career interests have taken a radically different path.Studio Film Shoot

This key first lecture had a very simple concept; divided up into small groups each group would write, create a storyboard/shot list and edit/produce a 2-minute short film by the end of the day using the lyrics of a song for inspiration. Our group had the chorus from KT Tunstall’s, ‘Black Horse & A Cherry Tree’. For the production the technical parameters were set as follow, we were restricted to using a mobile phone to film, but we would have access to a suite of iMacs all running Adobe Creative Suite CS5 for editing, which meant we could use iMovie or Premier Pro CS5. I remember my only concern at the time was ‘where are we going to find a horse’ but of course we found one in the end.Green Screen Filming

I wondered about the mobile phone restriction for the project when we had access to several Sony HVR-Z5E Camcorders, but now I can see that this limitation was put in place in order to generate creativity. It would have been so easy to use the camcorders with their zoom lenses to capture the image of a horse from afar. But with just a mobile phone we ended up sneaking up on a horse in a damp field armed only with a recently purchased apple from the University Refectory to tempt the horse close and so get the shots we needed. By the end of the day I was hooked, in less than a day we had created a short 2-minute film, filmed in HD (on my Sony Ericcsson W995), edited in Premiere Pro CS5 and which was also a faithful representation of the lyrics from song chosen to be the soundtrack for our short film.

We are extremely lucky at the Arts University Bournemouth with access to a large number of cameras and film/video equipment including DSLR’s consisting of several Canon 5D MII’s, Canon 550D’s, 600D’s and 650D’s. This switch to DSLR’s has revolutionised the way we students approach projects, for example you can work individually or in much smaller teams on a project. Video clips are captured directly onto Flash or SD memory cards, no more capturing from tape. Another bonus of capturing your footage direct to SD cards means it is so much quicker to get video clips into the computer ready for editing.

As a creative University, students cannot help but be inspired and to be creative; this is helped by collaboration between the courses. I have worked with Acting, Makeup and Costume courses to make films, in fact all the essential resources and skills that a filmmaker needs.Canon 60D Green Screen Filming

Student Films – the approach (Not just for students)

Pre-Production

From the very early days of the short film unit and throughout the course it has been instilled into us that preparation that is pre-production is the key to the successful production of a film. But I’m getting slightly ahead; the process actually starts with the idea development. Student films tend to default to films about the Homeless and most recently Zombie films, I’ve made or been involved in the making of both. So how do you come up with an original idea for a film? There’s the mood wall, or a scrapbook of things that interest or inspire you. This can be anything; examples could be photographs of people, materials or just ideas for colours. The social networking site Pinterest has updated this concept recently, Pinterest lets you pin images of things that you like and/or inspire you. You can share these Pins with your collaborators and hopefully out of all of this pinning and sharing that unique idea for a film just pops out at you.

Sometimes a client sets the subject for the film and so the challenge then becomes how to interpret the brief and come up with a unique and interesting way of fulfilling the brief. Again the mood wall can help, as will a brainstorming session either with team members or your friends.

Now that you have your idea for a film its time to start pre-production, which means everything that you need to do before you start the actual filming process. Included in that list of things to do is to first create an outline of the film, a script if there is any dialogue, storyboards/diagram and a shot list. You need a film location and almost certainly actors unless the team/crew are also happy to be on camera. For some locations you will need permission to film particularly if it’s in a public area. You may need a risk assessment; we produce one of these for every film production in fact without one of these you will be unable to book equipment from the stores. How long is the film is it a short or feature length? Finally or maybe this should be the first thing to consider, where is your film going to be viewed? Online YouTube and Vimeo, on a self-hosted website, DVD etc.

Filming

To give you an idea of what is involved I produced a short film with another student of a Team GB athletes evening training session for the Long Jump. The pre-production, including the recce of locations took at least 10 days but the actual time filming was less than 2 hours. Most of this pre-production time was spent creating storyboards, shot lists and trying to come up with a unique way of producing a film that would make it more than just a video of an athlete training.

The key concept in the end was to try and capture the drama in the sport by showing the build up, the explosion of effort required to be the best at their sport. The filming took place on a very cold and dark Winters evening under stadium floodlights; this is where the DSLR’s low light abilities make it the ideal camera for the job. Having researched the key elements of the Long Jump, the dramatic build up at the start where the athlete psyches themselves up before starting the approach the run up to the launch point. These would be the scenes to capture and for dramatic effect using close ups and different angles.

During the filming process we decided to film additional shots not in the original shot list. This is always a good idea and this proved true for this film as we used most of these in the final film. Additional shots could include those taken at different angles and distances of the scene planned shot list but they could also be of anything. That is anything that adds to the films interest, for example a full Moon, wind in the trees a Sunset or Sunrise.Green Screen Setup

Don’t forget the importance of Sound

As important as the visuals are the sound has equal if not greater importance. Many problems with visuals can be fixed in post production but sound usually cannot, so this has to be captured right at the outset. This highlights a problem with DSLR’s most of which do not have a headphone socket and the means of monitoring the sound being recorded. There are ways around this e.g. using Magic Lantern but the only way really is to record using a standalone sound recorder like the Zoom H4N rather than record sound direct to camera. I personally use Magic Lantern on my Canon 60D which means I can monitor the sound being recorded from my cameras hotshoe mounted Rode Videomic.

Post Production – EditingStudio Shoot Canon 5D MKII

Premier Pro is a non-linear editing program and it is the preferred editing tool for our course although we do have access alternatives including several Avid editing suites in the University used by the Film Production course.

Remember those additional shots? I used these so that I could create rapid cuts to match the music soundtrack. Cutting to a different shot for each beat of the music. Modern editing trends mean rapid cuts especially in an action film, these cuts add to the dramatic effect, the quicker the cut the faster the pace of the film.

The choice of music is important to, I’d already researched the perfect soundtrack with a beat to match the movement building up to a crescendo at the end perfect for this type of on screen action.

Towards the end of the editing process is the time to add special effects (if required) and colour grading.

Get Feedback

It is always a good idea to preview your film to a group of friends before going public with your latest creation. I usually upload my film to YouTube as unlisted and then send the link to friends for their comments. Typically I fully expect then based on the feedback to have to do several changes to the final edit before the film is ready to go public. For University assessment we present our films to our peers for critique, this is when you find out if its good, could be better or it’s a real stinker. But no matter what the feedback is positive or negative learn from it, this can only help you to be a better filmmaker.

Downloads

Download the original article as a pdf – download Student Perspective

 

By

EMP Research – Idea development 2 – Fashion Shoot

Fashion Shoot

Building upon the Specialist Project

I felt the Specialist Project was both successful and at the same time enjoyable to produce. It was also always going to be a springboard for a similar but expanded project for the Extended Major Project. I’ve still to identify the subject for a documentary but I’m keen to work with another course on a collaboration to produce a video for this project, which at the same time could also be of interest to the course that I make the subject of my documentary.

Fashion Shoot - copyright Ian F. Hunt

This time around I would want to expand upon the basic idea of producing a documentary by including a new element. I’d be very interested in including my interest in Photography. My first ideas on this would be to include a photo shoot in the documentary, for example a fashion or costume show. This would supply me with the opportunity to work in at least 2 locations, the design/production location and a fashion shoot in a photographic studio or a fashion show location. This adds production value to the final video, the audience gets to see the same people but in 2 very different environments.

Extended Major Project – Action Plan

The first job is to contact people/departments that I think would make an interesting documentary and of course interesting/enjoyable for me to work on. My previous research on documentary in particular one quotation from my key reference source resonates in my mind, Lindenmouth. Kevin J (p14) says…It’s a good idea to pick a topic that you are familiar with or have a keen interest in, but it must also be a subject that you have access to and can tackle with your resources…

For this idea I can tick two important boxes

  1. It’s something I’m interested in.
  2. It’s a subject I have access to.

This is more than can be said for my first idea the Camden documentary where I have the interest but realistically I do not really have the access without some financial investment. For example I would have to find somewhere to stay in Central London for at least a week and there would be travel costs, which on recent experience are considerable.

Research – Studio Photography Slideshow

I put together this short slideshow from the photographs I’d taken in a recent studio and location shoot. They were taken in both natural and flash lighting conditions. For the actual project the plan at this stage is to shoot all of the video and photographic stills using interior locations, ideally a photographic studio, but I may look again at this if another location has something to offer to the production value.

Slideshow created in Adobe Lightroom 4 from DNG photographs.

[youtube youtu.be/gGDNbV_VdWQ&w=560&h=315]

Research – Costume Fashion Shoot Example

[youtube youtube.com/watch?v=UG4awV6HQI8&w=560&h=315]

 

Bibliography

Lindenmuth. Kevin J. (2010) the documentary moviemaking course: London: A&C Black Publishers.

By

Specialist Project – The Conclusion

documentary

Specialist Project – Conclusion

  • I’ve gone into much more detail for each key stage of this project in related Blog posts – use the links at the bottom of this post to go directly to these Blog entries.
  • The Project Timeline is a weekly/daily diary of the project progress and is also available by selecting the MENU option Specialist Project Timeline option under the Specialist Project Menu.
  • Research Blogs can be found under the relevant menu option Specialist Project Research.

‘Ben’ Documentary (The Final Edit)

[youtube youtube.com/watch?v=xbiOuBTT6IA&w=560&h=315]

Specialist Project – Conclusion

I spent the summer break considering my options for the 3rd year and what I was going to do for the Specialist Project. It turned out to be an easy decision to make in the end that is to continue making short films and documentary. The three films I made for the 2nd Year Professional Project influenced this decision, the first was the Long Jump video and then the two ‘Art of Sport Festival’ videos for the Inspire Programme and the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Much Ado About Nothing – Rehearsals in the Boys Brigade Halls Winton

[youtube youtube.com/watch?v=MFX3XNo-zB4&w=560&h=315]

Then during the summer break I was contacted by the Inspire Project Leader to film a documentary about the Coastal Access project. I agreed to do this and began filming for the ‘Weymouth Bay’ Coastal Access documentary for Natural England and Dorset County Council, which I completed just recently.

In my second year at University I determined that I am at my most creative when behind a camera, whether it is for taking photographs or for video so it made sense to carry this creativeness through into the third year. I decided that I wanted to make a documentary but the question was what was I going to make a documentary on? I needed a subject and so I researched this both online and in the Library for ideas but what I came up with mostly were ideas on what subjects not to make a documentary on. One book I researched ‘The Documentary Moviemaking Course’ listed the most popular subjects and also identified some subjects to avoid. For example student filmmakers tend to default to making films about the plight of the Homeless or on Rock Bands. Fortunately my recent experience of Theatre with a local group of actors and acting students came to my aid from which I had the idea to make a documentary on students studying acting or a documentary about theatre in general. I researched examples of documentaries on students generally but my research produced few such examples most of which appeared to me to have been made to promote a College or University rather than about the students themselves.

Much Ado About Nothing – The Dance Scene, Tech Rehearsals – Studio Theatre AUCB

[youtube youtube.com/watch?v=l6z7TikqoVU&w=560&h=315]

Getting permissions and Pre production

I contacted a friend studying BA Acting, Ben O’Shea who agreed to take part on the proviso that I obtained the permission from the BA Acting course leader Doug Cockle, which I duly did by email and followed this up with a meeting to discuss what I was going to do and at the same time confirming that this would not encroach on their busy rehearsals. After getting the go ahead I thought about how I would approach this project. Much Ado About NothingI had several ideas in mind but I held off on these until I had attended several rehearsals. I did this so I would get a feel for the current production ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and to work out how this would fit into the final documentary. I then discarded many of these ideas, for example one of these was to film Ben in a dark room illuminated by just a single backlight and a keylight to one side leaving one side of the face in permanent shadow in the Film Noir style. Another example was to conduct the interview at the end of a rehearsal with Ben in full costume, but I discarded this idea because my experience of theatre productions told me that the adrenaline actors experience at the end of a performance means they are too hyper to concentrate on the questions I would be asking.

The scenario I went with in the end was to film Ben as if he was in a makeup session in preparation for the show. For this to work I looked for a location where we would have access to a makeup artists studio with the typical mirror surrounded by lights but without other people in the studio as I would be recording sound directly into the camera. Much Ado About NothingSurprisingly an initial search of the University makeup studios proved unsuccessful, as aesthetically I was not enamored with the fluorescent lighting now used to illuminate makeup mirrors. But during a chance visit to the studio theatre during rehearsals I discovered that the dressing rooms had their own makeup mirrors and these used the old fashioned tungsten lighting bulbs ideal for what I visualised. I obtained permission to use the dressing room for the interview but I would have to work around the actors and technical staff as they were in constant use up to the opening performance of the production and of course unavailable during the production itself.

Interview Questionnaire

I set about scripting some questions that I thought would be interesting and put these up for my peers to critique, which they did and after a number of changes I came up with a list of questions to put to Ben that everyone thought would be interesting to an audience. My pre-production notes were in place and I thought we were ready to go when I suddenly decided that I would need a makeup artist. My original idea was that Ben would be filmed applying his own makeup but I had second thoughts on this as I suspected that this would distract Ben too muchMuch Ado About Nothing. Therefore the responses he would give to my questions would not flow, as I would hope. There was no script, Ben would be giving his answers to my questions without seeing them first, an improv performance, which I hoped would create a better documentary. Fortunately this issue was resolved when Ben’s friend Paula, a makeup artist, came to our rescue and offered her services on the night.

Filming the Interview

Ben – The first full edit, with music and dance soundtrack/visuals

[youtube youtube.com/watch?v=PyIJn2av_3M&w=560&h=315]

I decided that I would use my camera in full manual mode for this project, recent experience gained on a photography short course meant I was much more comfortable using a DSLR in this way. Also one of the reasons I decided to go manual was that I knew that I would have issues with exposure, filming into a mirrored surface. I expected that the camera in auto mode would adjust the exposure for the mirrors light reflections meaning that Bens face would inevitably be dark, but with manual control I would be able to expose correctly for Bens face and over expose the mirror and the surrounding lights. On the night I can honestly say that all the hard work in preproduction was worth it. Filming came down to just adjusting the lights, setting up the camera in its various positions and following the questionnaire and the shot list. Retakes were limited to those spoiled by intrusive background noise as rehearsals and technical setups were taking place in the studio theatre and of course minor technical issues with camera.

Filming for the B-Roll

Much Ado About Nothing – First Act, Technical Rehearsals, Studio Theatre AUCB

[youtube youtube.com/watch?v=AzLKCyQS3Wc&w=560&h=315]

For the B-Roll I had arranged to film the first act of the Technical Rehearsals for ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in particular I wanted to film the dance sequence as I originally intended to switch between this and the interview using the dance routine as transitions between the interview questions. In all I must have over an hour of video clips from this production, just to be certain that I had enough choice of video clips to use for the final piece.

The final documentaryMuch Ado About Nothing

I edited a number of videos trying out ideas only for these to be discarded before I was eventually happy with the final result, which turned out to be the simplest version. The idea of using extracts from the production did not work for me using these clips as transitions just unbalanced the piece and in the end I used very little from the production in the final documentary. The best edit was made from the footage taken in the dressing room of Ben responses to my questions combined with some close ups taken at the end of the interview. I also discarded the music soundtrack for the same reasons it was a distraction rather than a benefit adding nothing to the final video. I’ve put together some edits of the performance as it would have been a shame to have not done so but these will be standalone videos for my portfolio.

I concentrated my time on getting the final video sequence as visually perfect as possible, colour grading in particular took up a lot of my time, in the end I designed my own preset for this. I am really happy with the end result although a bit disappointed to have not used the hours of additional video I had taken of the performance but I will use this elsewhere and I do suspect without doing all this additional work I may not have the final piece exactly the way I wanted it.

The documentary although short has a very positive feeling to it. The performance is natural, the answers to my questions are real and reflect Ben’s personality well, on the whole just what I wanted to produce. Completing this project has enhanced my documentary filmmaking experience. I even used this new filmmaking experience to complete the ‘Weymouth Bay’ documentary by filming the final interview sequence, the missing part of the jigsaw in a single session using the same production values.

What would I do differently next time?

I’d try and remember that it is important to plan and capture the interview sequences in preference to concentrating on the B-roll, as I suspect that sometimes I place greater importance on this aspect of a documentary than I should. It is important but the clue is in the name B-roll, it is secondary to the key interview sequences, it should compliment rather than dominate the documentary.

Much Ado About Nothing – Rehearsals Studio Theatre AUCB

[youtube youtube.com/watch?v=jK2hNi0AAV4&w=560&h=315]

Word Count: 1613

Related Blog Entries

 

By

Specialist Project – New Edit

specialist project

Another New Edit

[youtube youtube.com/watch?v=xbiOuBTT6IA&w=475&h=315]

After tutorial I looked again at the final edit and decided to create yet another edit for the final submission.

I dropped some more of the cutaways from the performance footage and added in more footage from the interview filming.

I also changed the sequence of the questions/answers again changing the grouping of the questions, which seemed to be more successful. I changed the start and final title sequence were and I also changed some of the camera motions, scaling etc to improve the flow.

I removed some of the sharpening effects I’d originally used to remove Gaussian blur, which defocused some of the video clips but I felt this added to the visual aesthetic. As I’ve mentioned in my earlier Blog entries sometimes it’s OK to shoot film out of focus.

On the whole the changes were minor over the previous edits but I am much happier with the final result.

Final Renderrings

I created 2 renderings of the final edit, one in full 1080p HD to run from a hard drive and the other in 720p for upload to YouTube. Even with my Macs SSD upgrade the 2 renderings and upload to YouTube took the best part of the day.

By

Specialist Project – Last Minute Changes

specialist project

Specialist Project – Nearly There

Demoed one of the new edits I had been working on over the last few days for Phil in today’s tutorial. This was the edit that I’d agreed to produce following Liam’s tutorial the previous week, which since even though I had done everything suggested I had already decided did not work well enough and Phil basically confirmed this.

Another New Edit

I’ve looked at the interview footage again and have decided to change the order and several of the transitional elements and remove/add B-roll video clips. I have also changed title lengths and the timing of some of the cuts losing a full minute from the documentary length, which now has a 4 minute run. For this unit I think the 4 minute edit works the best although I may for my own interest produce the full version of the interview which has a 10 minute runtime – but too be honest even I think this would be too long and people would lose interest unless the B-roll itself was extremely interesting.

Latest Edit

[youtube youtube.com/watch?v=ePIZbktSUdQ&w=475&h=315]

I’m almost totally happy with this edit but I do plan to produce another as I think a change in the order of the questions may work better. I especially think an order change at the start of the video would work better as an introduction, but I’m happy to keep the end as it is now as I think this works really well.

Ben is fully committed to the latest AUCB production ‘Cementville’ so it would have been impossible to ask him to record a introduction to the documentary. So instead I have re-jigged the beginning so that we now hear Bens voice while the opening titles are running, which I think works really well and negating the need for an introduction.

I still need to make some minor changes to the final edit sharpening some clips and blurring others for dramatic effects but basically I think the project has reached a successful conclusion and I’m almost ready to make the final video live on YouTube once it has finished rendering in Premier Pro CS5  and I can upload it.

By

Specialist Project – Blog Updates

specialist project

New Menu Settings

I’ve gone back through my Blog entries and added new categories so that it will be easier to find Blog entries which are Timeline or diary entries by creating a menu item for this category. I’ve done the same for those Blog entries which are Research related. I’ve done this basically to reduce the number of Blog entries loading but also to help identify which are Key Project posts and which are Timeline or Research Blog posts.

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing Trailer Edit

I made a start on creating a Trailer for the production footage I’ve taken for Much Ado About Nothing. I began by researching the production itself online and using keynotes to put together some title cards to go between the video clips.

I put this on hold though as time is short and I decided I must prioritise the actual Specialist Project documentary and revisit this edit after the crit and most probably over the Christmas break.

By

Specialist Project – Researching Magic Lantern

magic lantern

Magic Lantern – SD Cards

As I mentioned previously I used Manual Settings for my Canon 60D using Magic Lantern, a 3rd party firmware application that offers much greater control over the video settings.

I installed the firmware on 2 SD cards for this project – the following extract re. formatting cards is important as I made the mistake of formatting the cards and removing Magic Lantern. It is also important to wait until the operation has fully completed before ejecting the card otherwise it may cause your Camera to freeze. This happened to me and the only solution was to remove the Cameras Battery – not for the faint hearted as I thought the Camera had become bricked.

News: For those of you waiting for the Canon 7D version, I believe it’s in the development stage and is or will soon be available.

Extract from the developers website Accessed 10/11/2012

http://www.magiclantern.fm/bestpractices

Always format the card from the camera

Since Magic Lantern runs from the card, you may be asking yourself: “what happens if I format it“?

Answer: Magic Lantern first reads all of its required files, including your custom configuration files, and then copies itself back onto the card!

We strongly recommend you to format the card before every important shooting session! This helps maintaining performance when recording files, and prevents the filesystem from becoming fragmented.

A lot of stability and performance issues reported by Magic Lantern users went away after they started to format their cards on a regular basis.

Formatting the card from the camera will make sure your file system is exactly as Canon software and Magic Lantern expect it to be.

Tip: to format the card and remove Magic Lantern, go to the Canon Menu / Format screen and press the shortcut key indicated in brackets, as in the screenshot – on most cameras it’s the [Q] button.

By

Specialist Project – Editorial Decisions

specialist project

3 edits done and counting

The reworked 1st Edit

[youtube youtube.com/watch?v=PyIJn2av_3M&w=475&h=315]

After a tutorial with Liam I agreed to have another attempt at the edit with the music soundtrack to see if I could make the cuts/transitions flow better and to also look at creating edits that do not use the dance sequence for the transitions between the interview cuts.

Of the 2 edits I’ve since created I’ve decided to drop the dance sequence altogether and go with just the interview footage using the planned cutaways of closeups and hand movements for the transitions. I looked at using a number of effects but decided these would be inappropriate for this style of documentary and my research into documentary styles confirmed this. Such effects are considered unnecessary and indeed distracting in most documentary styles.

Final Edits

I now know what I am aiming for and its now just a case of putting it together and getting the quality of the final edit the best I can.

By

Specialist Project – Post Production

post production

Editing Decisions

Post production isn’t only about the editing tools used, but also about the look and flow of the final piece. It’s also the time to make decisions on the content, narrative and the visual look of the documentary. For example the questions asked in the documentary and therefore the answers to those questions maybe work better in a different sequence? For my final edit the I have changed the order, grouping answers so that they follow each other in a more cohesive manner. A simple change can have a dramatic effect on the final documentary, even though the answers are the same, the sequence can change the context and narrative.

The editing process can also change the pace of the documentary. Rapid and I mean by this short cuts say of 1-2 seconds increase the pace, whereas decreasing the number of cuts say of 5-10 seconds slow the pace of the documentary. For my project I feel the pace should be slow and so there are fewer cuts. I did create an edit with lots of cuts and it just did not work for this subject.

Premiere Pro CS5 – Post Production

My tool of choice is still Premiere Pro CS5 for editing my videos even though we have access to CS6 at University. I use CS5 mainly as I believe they got it right with this version and subsequent updates have added little, except for some changes to functionality, which are annoying rather than of benefit and the move to a Cloud based option, which is a bad idea when considering the poor access speed I have to the internet at home.

Post Production – WorkflowPremier Pro CS5 screenshot

Note the use of Colour Balance in the above screenshot (see below for description)

This is my workflow process and may not be what is recommended or the best but it works for me.

First step is to copy all the footage to a directory which I call Video Projects then create sub directories for the each stage of the FIlming schedule so for example the Interview footage goes into the Interview sub-folder, rehearsal footage in the Technical Rehearsal sub folder, repeat this for each filming session of stage in the documentary process.

The 2nd step is to create ‘Bins’ for my media files in Premiere Pro that directly relate to the project for example the ‘Interview Footage’ is dragged into the ‘Interview Bin’. The footage taken during the productions ‘Technical Rehearsal’ dragged into a Bin of the same name. Music into aother Bin and so on.

The 3rd step is to review each of the movie clips against the shot list and confirm which ones to use. I usually drag them into the Preview window and make rough edits for in and out and make a note of the sequence and a short description relating to the clip number.

The order that I use these clips, dragging them onto the Timeline is per-determined by the shot list which for this project ran in sequential order.

Premier Pro CS5 screenshot 2

4th Step:- I should mention the B-roll, this is the clips I would use keep the viewer interested as there is only so long you can have video of talking heads before the viewer loses interest. You need to film interesting images or add photographs relevant to the documentary for example I filmed close ups of hand movements, extracts from the performance, close ups of just the eyes of the interviewee.

5th Step: Time to add some music and check those volume levels. I’ve learn’t that you need to playback the sound from your edits through a number of audio sources. What I mean by this, is that the sound you hear from the speakers built into the Mac may be different when played back through headphones and different again when played back through a home cinema system. Watch out for those Bass settings in particular they can be non-existant on the Mac but overpowering on the Home Cinema System with its built in Sub Woofer.

6th Step: Colour grading – this is something I will do if required sometimes the video as shot is what I intended to see on screen but sometimes it is necessary to get the visuals you want for example video from 2 cameras may not match. But for this project I decided that purely for aesthetics I wanted to reduce the mid and high red tones and enhance the blues and greens. I used the colour balance option there are others you can use for example curves but I like to see the number settings so that I can make notes of what setting works best. Having  created this colour balance setting I saved it in Presets so that I could access it for other projects.

7th Step: This is optional but I planned to create 3 edits in total so I needed to create 2 New Sequences and then repeat the previous steps to create the other edits in the same way.

Post Production – Alternative Edits and Experimentation

The screenshot above is taken from an experimental edit I put together from the videos taken of the same dance routine but at different times and using different cameras – the Black and White sequence was shot using an iPad 3 and the Colour sequence shot on a Canon 60D DSLR. I then overlayed one on top of the other adjusting the Opacity of the overlayed video to just 45%. I then attempted to matched the visuals as closely as possible but not too closely to get this Ghosting effect.

View the Rushes

It makes sense to put together some rough edits initially and get people to watch these for feedback purposes. My 1st edits for this project were not received that well, the feedback was the music levels were too high, the clips I’d used for transitions were distracting rather than enhancing. On a positive note they liked the subject and the visuals particularly my use of colour grading. This is very useful feedback when creating the final edits.

Related Blog Entries

 

By

Specialist Project – Colour Grading

specialist project

Post Production – Another Full Edit

The first edits of the complete footage were Ok but I felt that the clips used for transitions did not work as well as planned and that the soundtrack, while perfect for the dance sequence did not fit the interview sequence. Therefore the full video had a sountrack that effectively jumped between +6Db and -32Db effectively On/Off between cuts.

On a positive note however I successfully created a colour balance preset for colour grading the interview clips. This visually appealing effect reduced the overall saturation and also reduced the negative effects from the blown out regions of the video created by the mirrors and the numerous bulbs.

I also decided to drop some of the interview questions firstly as I felt they added little to the overall result and secondly by dropping these the overall length of the documentary was reduced down to just over 5 minutes.

By

Specialist Project – Filming

filming

Filming the InterviewRadio Microphone

I’d arranged with the course leader for BA Acting to use the dressing room in the Studio Theatre. When originally planning for the documentary I’d always thought the ideal location would be to conduct the interview in front of a makeup mirror and this location appeared ideal. In fact better than I’d originally planned as the room has opposing mirrors. I also changed my original concept of filming in a room darkened except for the lights around the mirrors and instead went for a high key lighting approach overexposing where necessary to get this lighting effect.

My setup needed some modification as the lens I’d originally planned to use 50mm F1.8 did not have a wide enough angle to get the shots I had visualised so I switched to my 18mm to 55mm Zoom lens, which at its widest angle worked well. I set the camera to Manual and set Aperture to F4.0 and ISO to 3200. My Canon 60D uses Magic Lantern firmware, which allow greater control over the settings. I went with using my Rode Videomic for sound recording directly into the camera. I’d experimented with using Radio Microphones using Lavalier microphone or lapel microphones as they are more commonly known. These work surprisingly well but I felt they were unnecessary for this project as the interviewee would be close to camera and the ambient sound levels very low and any sound heard would be appropriate for the type of recording we were making.Radio Microphone

The Radio Microphones are actually allocated to Film Production but are available for us to use. You need to confirm frequencies that can be used as these have recently been changed/limited by the Digital Switchover. When I set these up for camera use I suspected they had been previously setup for stage management as the levels were much too high for camera use as was sensitivity, resetting these removed sound distortion and hum/hiss, in fact after adjustment the sound was of good quality picking up just the voice of the person wearing the Lavalier microphone excluding the ambient noise from other conversations in the room where the test had been conducted.

Camera Setup

Ben O'Shea

As the camera was aimed directly at the mirror, which was brightly lighted I decided to overexpose the mirror and set an aperture to give a shallow depth of field. I did this so that only Ben would be clearly in focus while Paula the makeup artist would appear blurred except for her hands and makeup brush. One of the effects I was aiming for was to get the seemingly endless images you get when positioned between two mirrors, which I got and as expected produced an interesting effect.

One negative with my setup was due to the wide aperture and shallow depth of field it was easy to lose focus. I could not set the focus once and lock the camera off but instead I was constantly adjusting the focus. Sometimes the focus was not as I’d wanted but instead of this being a technical issue this instead gave a warm/artistic effect that seemed to work well especially after colour balancing. Sometimes being out of focus works!

Armed with my set of questions and the shot list the interview progressed quickly but as expected even with few retakes I had to make the interview filming still took almost 2 hours to complete.

Filming the Technical Rehearsals ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

[youtube youtube.com/watch?v=l6z7TikqoVU&w=475&h=350]

I’d arranged with the course leader for BA Acting to film the technical rehearsals of their production of Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

I planned to film the dance sequence in its entirety with the idea to use this footage as transitions between the video clips from Ben’s interview while at the same time the music would be used as the soundtrack for the whole documentary.

I also filmed as much of the first act of the production as possible, with the idea of editing these together with some suitable Title Cards as a retrospective Trailer for the production and also to satisfy personal requests I’d received for video clips to be used in showreels.

Filming the Technical Rehearsals was both a benefit and a problem, the benefit was being able to film the cast in full costume and the problem was filming under the lighting levels available as these were generally too low really. I had to ramp the sensitivity of the cameras ISO up to 3200 again, which meant I was almost certainly going to get some visible noise on the video captured. Fortunately I overcame much of this by using big apertures F1.8 to F4.0 but this then brought it’s own problems by creating a very shallow depth of field. What this shallow depth of field means is that only a small area or part of a character in the production would be in focus. Those some distance away from the focus point would be blurred. I personally dislike moving DSLR’s to follow the action but I had no choice, this did mean that there would be some juddering movement. I also had to perform the almost impossible task of adjusting the focus while following the action.

Fortunately experience told me which parts of the performance to concentrate on in order to get the shots I would need for the documentary and for any other video edits I decide to make, for example a production trailer.

Screenshots from the video of Much Ado About Nothing

Click on an image for the Slideshow, which is best viewed in Safari, Chrome or Internet Explorer

(Early versions of Firefox do not support this version of slideshow – update to latest version CLICK HERE)

Related Blog Entries

 

By

Specialist Project – Pre-production

pre-production

Unlike pre-production for a short film, documentary requires a slightly different approach to pre-production.

Pre-production Storyboards

For example it would not be possible to create full Storyboards for the complete documentary as without knowing in advance the subject and the location it would only be a guess at best but it is possible to do create some storyboards as a guide to the type of shots I would hope to record in an interview. It would also be possible to create storyboards for some of the B-roll.

Personally I find that when working alone, having total and sole control of the camera and filming I do not really need Storyboards as I’m very good at visualising what I want to see on video. I can really work just from a shot list, however if a team was involved I would use storyboards to convey my visualisation to the other member’s of the team so that they have an idea of what I am trying to achieve.

Pre-production Interview Questions and Shot List

What is important is going armed to the interview with a list of questions and a shot list. You may have to be prepared to take the interview down a different path depending on the answers you get to your questions but make sure you get answers to your planned questions and get those shot list video clips.

I created a first draft of my interview questions and forwarded these onto my interviewee and to my classmates for feedback. From this feedback I then created another set of questions and again forwarded these on for feedback, which after some minor changes all agreed were acceptable and relevant.

Ben Interview Questions 2

  1. Did you always want to be an actor
  2. If not acting what was your second choice
  3. What influenced you or inspired you to study acting
  4. Who is your acting idol, who would you, love to work with.
  5. What’s it like being a Student and studying acting
  6. What have been the really good things – making new friends, social life etc.
  7. And the not so good – money worries, cost of living etc.
  8. What’s been your favorite production, what role did you play.
  9. What about the social life is it better than you expected
  10. What would be your ideal job at the end of University
  11. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Ben interview shot list

  1. Mid shot – from side at reflection in the mirror (Majority of Shots will be like this – vary the distance?)
  2. Close up – Bens Face
  3. Extreme Close Up – just Bens eyes – make up being applied
  4. Extreme Close Up – just Bens lips – make up being applied
  5. Close Up – of Bens Hands
  6. Close Up – Paula’s Hands and makeup brush
  7. Close Up – Paula’s Makeup Kit

Related Blog Entries

 

By

Specialist Project – First Full Edit

specialist project

Editing the first full edit

[youtube youtube.com/watch?v=PyIJn2av_3M&w=475&h=315]

With all the planned filming completed I began editing together the footage taken from Ben’s interview and the Technical Rehearsals of Much Ado About Nothing.

The original plan was to use the footage from the dance sequence from Much Ado and use this as transitions between the video clips of Ben’s answers to my questions. After rendering though and reviewing the result I decided it just was not going to work as planned in pre-production, I even tried changing the cutaways to Black & White and while some clips benefited from this change the dance sequence did not.

I would have to think again and try some more editing ideas but this would be for another day.

By

Specialist Project – The Rushes (Technical Rehearsals)

specialist project

Rough Edit – Technical Rehearsals for Much Ado About Nothing by the AUCB

[youtube youtube.com/watch?v=AzLKCyQS3Wc&w=480&h=315]

I had a look through and made a very rough edit from the video taken of the Technical Rehearsals.

I planned to capture the complete dance sequence to use in the documentary but also to capture as much as the first act in case I need or see anything interesting to use as B-roll. I also plan at some point to use this video to create a short trailer and I have requests from the actors who would like to use some of the footage in their personal showreels, which I am happy to do.

I am pleasantly pleased by much of the video footage taken on the night as I expected light levels to be too low particularly for some of my Zoom lenses, which have F4 to F5.6 maximum apertures. The 50mm F1.8 worked extremely well in the low light but of course this would have limited all my footage to mid shots had I only used this lens.

Health & Safety

On a personal note it became really uncomfortable to stand/sit behind the camera for an hour or so following the movement on stage. I’m not sure exactly what the problem was or a what the solution maybe except possibly have another person filming so that a break could be taken? The camera was Tripod mounted and I was using my camera with its swivel screen, so it may have been the effect of concentrating on the subject and inadvertently assuming a bad posture behind the camera?

So if you have a bad back or you want to avoid having a bad back/stiff shoulders take a break in filming.