Monday, August 3, 2009

Lights, Camera, Documentary?

Ok before you go on watch this video.

No - I mean it.  Watch the video.
(Sorry I did not embed it but there were no embed codes).

Ok - done?  Pretty good huh?  This is the kind of thing that Marco Torres and his students are putting out.  I was impressed.  A group of ex-students of his put together a company named Alas Media they also put on some really good sessions (and where a big part of Marco's sessions as well.)

Marco taught film making through documentaries.  Documentaries are a rapidly increasing genre in the film industry.  Keep in mind that these are not the boring old documentaries that we all have seen (and probably shown) in class - these are interesting, modern, and hip.  The best part about documentaries is that you don't need actors.

The good people at Alas Media talked about what they liked best about Marco's methods.  He started them off close to home.  They talked about themselves, and then their community.  Their assignments were stories that had personal connections.  The assignments worked in the order of:
  1. Us
  2. Our family
  3. Our community
  4. The world
Marco made some good points about teaching film.  Don't teach the tech.  When it comes to a new skill teach one student - then have that student teach the rest.  That frees up the teacher to focus on important things like composition and storyline.

Ok - now some of the meat and potatoes of what I learned.

The four P's of film making.
  1. Plan
  2. Produce
  3. Present
  4. Pheedback
Apparently 75% of the work lies in the planning section.  If you just shoot and hope to get something then you just have a jumble of cool shots but no cohesive story.  Remember - unless you are making the movie Twister then it is ALL about the story.  (Also - anything that takes away from the story - like unnecessary animation - has no place in the video).

Remember the Rule of Thirds.

How to Make a Simple Documentary Film

A Roll 
Start with the A roll.  The A roll is the interview itself.  It is the camera on the subject.  Marco described the A roll as talking heads - not much action - just talking.  One of the key's to this part is to get good quality audio.  Use a secondary recorder if your camera doesn't do the best job of recording.

B Roll
The B roll is the other shots that get mixed into the video.  They provide the context for the interview.  B roll shots are not different shots of the subject talking - they are everything else.  The key is variety.  Get lots of different shots - closeups, objects, even just the person staring off into the distace (especially if they are remembering a past story).

In this step you start putting things together.  Your A roll is the backbone of the piece.  Start there.  Then start splicing in parts of your B roll.  Leave in the audio from the A roll but show shots from the B roll.  Go back and forth from the subject to the context.

The key to a good interview is being able to hear what is being said.  This is why I suggested a secondary recorder.  Then you have two audio tracks to choose from.  Check out some of Marco's how to videos to find out how to sync up audio.  (You did remember to start with a clap didn't you?)

As you can see I walked away from these two sessions with a lot of information.  This is only part of it and already this post is way too long.  I guess I will have to end it with some links to more information.

And Finally my rough notes from the sessions are here and here (not that you really want to read them.  I place lots of emphasis on rough.)