He who has eyes, let him read.
After the stress, the disagreements, personality and creativity clashes, hot sun, rain storms, wind, snow and whatever natural disaster that came to destroy your shoot has passed and you realise you have all the raw footage you need you can breathe a big sigh of relief. You get the awesome opportunity to say “That’s a wrap!” while your crew and cast applaud your hard work that did not go unnoticed. Or if your production team was anything like mine you wipe the sweat off your brow and say “Thank God we done shoot.” (I’m saying this in Jamaican creole, just so you know.)
Yes, it is a time to throw your hands in the air and praise baby Jesus, but don’t celebrate for too long as you’re only half way there. Editing accounts for the other 50% of the work you are doing and trust me when I say editing can be a real pain. Also, this is when you back up all your footage on an external hard drive. And when I say all, I mean ALL. Leave nothing to chance. Nothing is more depressing and frustrating when you lose footage because somebody deleted it by mistake. Or when you are half way through editing and your editing software crashes and you didn’t get to save what you had (This happened to me just the other day.)
So, to avoid having to reshoot unnecessarily, save, save and save again. Every step of the way, every time you make an adjustment, save it. While you are working on your computer or laptop, be saving to an external hard drive simultaneously. Trust me, it takes nothing to save the work an extra time but it takes everything to have to reshoot because of lost footage.
When you have finally completed the post production stage and your work has been uploaded or burned to a DVD, then you can truly celebrate your hard work and success. So if you have completed a production recently and made it all the way through without going to jail or throwing a crew member off a building, pour yourself a glass of wine, put your feet up on the sofa and smile. You deserve it.
When shooting for a production it is best to factor in time for reshooting as you will most likely be doing a lot of it. Sometimes during the shoot you don’t realise how off the lighting or angles were or that the camera was a little shaky or how certain footage may not flow with the rest of your video. Some of these things can be fixed in editing, but others are best left up to reshooting.
My own personal experience, especially with things such as bad lighting has taught me that editing cannot fix everything. It is always better to get the best you can during production rather than to wait until post production to try and fix it. Reviewing footage to ensure that everything flows and the lighting is fairly consistent is very important and will save you much more time.
When shooting for cutaways you must first consider your script and how the structure of your script will affect your shots. Cutaways are usually medium close up shots, close up shots and extreme close up shots, as the show more detail than a wide angle or medium shot. This is where storyboarding can really come in handy. If you have your storyboard at hand, you are able to see the initial shot plans and this will not only correspond with your script, but also aid in camera direction.
Cutaways not only add interest to your work but also help to emphasise and corroborate what your narrator or interviewee is saying. It allows for dimensions in your production and helps your viewer to feel more involved with the production.
Shooting cutaways for this documentary made me realise just how heavy the camera really was. Carrying around a Sony HXR2000 on my shoulder to shoot different footage for cutaways was a lot less fun than it looked. Along with the weight of the camera, getting the camera to shoot steadily while trying to balance it on my shoulder was a laughable task, as my colleagues so proved.
Regardless of how challenging, I recommend cutaways be used in every production as it not only show your multidimensional videography skills, but also adds oomph to the end product.
I remember one of the first things my photo-journalism lecturer told the class in my first year of studies was that Jamaicans either really love the camera or are really paranoid about it. I have proven this to be true time and time again when trying to get somebody to speak on camera. Trying to convince students to do the voxpop section of the documentary was next to impossible, but not impossible. Luckily I tend to surround myself with people who are very outspoken and will speak publicly on almost any issue they are experiencing.
After a very short conversation my friend was ready and willing to speak on the past conditions of the student’s activity centre. She was comfortable in front the camera, to the point and spirited.
When getting untrained persons to speak in front the camera, you as the director or videographer should ensure that they are comfortable and well versed on the subject. If your interviewee is uncomfortable it will show in your video. If they lack knowledge on the subject it will take more time than is necessary for the video to be completed and when you are shooting time is everything.
Doing voxpops in Jamaica doesn’t have to be annoyingly hard, you just need the right ingredients.
It is coming down to the end of the semester and we are feeling the burn of final projects. Groups are being formed and group work is being handed out. Before the field work begins our group has a sit down meeting to discuss who has what task, how each task will be carried out and so forth. It is interesting the things I learned on this production. Such as the 1-2-3 steps we sometimes take for granted. 1 – Being the first official group meeting. 2 – being scouting and recce and 3 – being the production itself. Without 1 we could not have 2 or 3.
Our first official meeting was called to order right after the group was formed. Personally, I am not a huge fan of task meetings. They usually end up being very long and end in some sort of argument with at least one person not being happy with the task they were assigned. In my mind the meeting went something like this:
Me: Yes sir!
Captain: you will be in charge of the script and the vox pop. Can you handle it soldier?
Me: Yes sir! *salute*
Simone: Yes sir!
Captain: You will help Aliceia with vox pop! Do you understand?
Simone: Affirmative. *salute*
Now this is not to say I see my group captain as a drill sergeant, she was actually quite nice. That was simply my mind’s way of turning a boring group meeting into something that would last in my memory. I say all this to say that in the business you will have meetings you consider “boring” or meetings you will not necessarily like that you will still have to attend. Just because you think a meeting is boring does not mean it is unimportant. Do whatever you must internally in order to get through the meetings, but make every meeting. Brainstorming can be a lot of fun, but to get to the brainstorming aspect you first need to decide among your crew (if the tasks are not already assumed) who will be responsible for which area of the production. If this meeting does not happen, production cannot move forward. First meetings are just as important as the first shoot.
Whenever I get placed into groups to do group work, I am always somehow left with the writing task, whatever it may be. It is one thing to conjure up your own supernatural world and include people with super powers, as you can throw that story into any direction you want it to go. It is another thing to have to research facts and then rewrite these facts in chronological order, make it interesting and still have it make perfect sense.
Writing about the past state of the UTECH’s students’ activity centre while keeping in mind that it was not an essay but a documentary, was a little easier than I thought it would have been. Mind you, to be honest the past state of the student’s activity centre at my school is really neither here nor there to me, but at the same time I was not completely bored with the information. Being as inquisitive as I am, it was interesting to find out what that portion of my school fee was really being used for and this project forced me to dig through that information.
I love writing – both fiction and non-fiction – so though writing for documentary was a little different it wasn’t all bad. The most challenging part was really finding the correct information and wording it in a way that would not bore the viewer/listener. And my co-writer did a tremendous job of editing the script to make it fit the documentary perfectly. If I may say so myself: it was a pretty decent first attempt at documentary writing.