I was pleased to be accepted by Photofusion onto a free video making course designed for photographers who want to extend their skills. The course was financed by the European Union. There was a range of different sorts of photographers there, such as journalists, both freelance and contracted employees with well-known publications, fashion photographers, jobbing portrait photographers, and artists. I was pleased to be included in the group if not a little daunted too.
The course was split into 4 days;
Day 1 – preproduction, storyboarding
Day 2 & 3 – filming days
Day 4 – editing, (yet to take place)
We spent the day discussing the sort of planning which ideally needs to take place, prior to making a film or video – or rather, learned how this stage is an integral part of the making. Yesterday when I spoke with Wendy, one of the things she said to me about moving image, is that I will be forced to plan beforehand, which will be good for me. Planning, I must admit, feels daunting because it requires thinking through hundred of details before you’ve even shot a single frame. (Saying that one of my jobs used to be all about planning and I did it well – but it didn’t entail exposing my creative ideas at the same time, so it was far less scary. And it was also before I had three children to think about it, which seems to have dismantled my brain entirely). I can see, however, even after doing a small number of potential cutaway shots for a tiny five-minute film I’m attempting to make, how having some kind of vision and practical outline will save time in the long run. But I feel like I am faced with a dialectical problem here; on one hand, I need to ‘let go’, learn to play more (as I always did need to, and the cause of much distress at drama school) but I also need to start with a vision which requires actions to bring it into being. Combining those two aims feels rather difficult to me. Starting with a vision is something I have tried to avoid in creative work, even when such visions come thick and fast at times. A director who worked with me a long time ago told me it was good to be an intelligent actor but I that I needed to let go of my intellect in rehearsal and allow instinct and ‘un-thinking’ to take over. My head was getting in the way. A director has the vision, he implied. An actor is a puppet in that vision in many cases (but not all). A photographer recently asked me if I’d started the Oxford House work with an overall vision and I said, no. Phew, she said, as she also didn’t begin with a vision of what she hoped to achieve, and instead felt her way through. I think with me it depends on what I am working on, and the more commercial, the more of a fixed vision I might allow myself.
As well as having an overall plan, we discussed all the many, many technical, legal, budgeting, and staffing issues, amongst many others we might need to consider. After day 1 I had a stab at a storyboard: Storyboard Photofusion (minus pictures though) for a two-minute narrative. I’m not intending to make this film but it was a start.
Day 2 & 3
We spent the first of these days listening to a presentation and being shown various clips to illustrate points. One of the most memorable and pertinent to what I’ve been thinking about was how film is ‘impressionistic’, even though we might not always recognise it as such. This is because we are used to seeing 25 fps (frames per second) since that is how film has been recorded since its early days when it became the standard due to limited technology. Modern technology can easily cope with more fps and the industry is trying to move us towards accepting it, but our eyes/perception miss the slight albeit imperceptible jumps in time as the image is relayed back to us. When we see 35 or 40 fps we perceive it to be ‘cheap’ because it looks like video rather than film. We have a choice how many fps we use on our SLR but must be aware of how our choices affect the final look. We also need to set the video system appropriately for UK or US use and I think this may have had an impact on YouTube but I need to recall or look into it further to fully comprehend what is required here. I will definitely need to play around with all of this to make sure I take it on board.
Must remember – shutter speed needs to be set at double the fps rate for a smooth recording. And 1/4 ss will give you the effect of CCTV.
We went through the various camera moves available as well as discussing all the equipment one might able to use, plus the realistic ideals we might aim for, to begin with.
Pan; POV, subjective POV = fast, unstable, a more objective POV – slow, steady; Tilt – on a vertical axis; Zoom – this does not replicate a human action; Trombone effect – zoom in and dolly out at the same time, not fashionable at the moment; Static shot; Pedestal (I think – can’t read my writing, and have no idea what I mean by it other than it says close-up nearby); Tracking/dollying; Handheld.
A list of vaguely expensive items was recommended as part of a basic kit if planning to provide video services regularly, although everything can be hired.
In addition to a decent SLR which offers video capture, the following would be useful; a sound-recording device, a contraption to help steady the camera when moving – there are several available; a monitor such as a Black Magic Video Assistant, and lots of battery packs. Reflectors and boards are always useful and, of course, continuous lighting.
We have been asked to take some footage and recorded sound in for the editing day in December, where we will learn how to use Premiere Pro. I wanted to try and do something that ties in with the work I’m attempting to head for here on this course but felt overwhelmed. So I’m beginning with something a bit more manageable. I will interview a couple of people and edit a short informative film for someone I work with. Then I will have had a bit of a practice and will begin to put together some work I’m hoping to do for A3. I’ve planned to shoot very short clips for that in January and will hopefully be able to edit that together with relative ease, having had some practice first!
I did the course because I really want to take my previous experience in acting, also teaching drama, and my love of writing and combine it with my photography in some way. I ended Day 3 wishing I were younger and could go to film school.