Recently the video business has had its share of upheaval. First the DSLR revolution put cameras capable of producing near film quality 1080 video at 24p. While most video professionals had upgraded to HD long before then, the DSLR revolution opened the floodgates of HD video. In the midst of the HD transition, Kodak filed bankruptcy.
The sudden flood of HD forced vendors of video editing software to up their game. Sony and Adobe reacted well and got their products working with both H.264 and AVCHD. Only Apple fumbled with the redesign of and disastrous release of FCP X. And then there were two.
The advances in computer power and NLEs in turn put pressure on VFX and post houses, to the point post houses are listed in the top ten of dying businesses.
Through all the turmoil in the video world, the basics of filmmaking haven’t really changed. Only the hardware is different and most of costs much less than it used to. Here are some timeless qualities to good video.
You can shoot fantastic video but if no one can understand the dialog, your film is going to get hammered. Spend enough time and money to get decent audio.
Lighting is one of the least sexy aspects of filmmaking but one of the most important. Good filmmakers will wait for hours until the light is just right, great filmmakers make light their bitch and bend it to their will. You can never have too many lights, reflectors, scrims, cookies, flags or gels.
Ever notice that movies are sharp cuts from scene to scene? That’s not an accident. Even in the age of digital effects and drop-in dissolves nothing beats tight editing. Few things can take an average movie and make it better than shaving off unnecessary frames. When you think you can make it any tighter, go back over it again and cut, cut, cut until it starts to affect continuity.
If you have a great script with a compelling plot, the camera and gear become secondary. For an example take a look at Craig Brewers The Poor & Hungry. It was shot on a Sony Hi-8 camcorder, yes that’s an analog SD camcorder, and $50 in shop lights. It ran for six weeks in local Memphis theaters and won at the LA Film Festival.
That tidbit of wisdom is from Woody Allen and it’s just as true today as when he was banging his adopted daughter. A small amount of actually doing something is better than all the grand ideas you could ever have. The most successful filmmakers out there are the ones who have been kicked out of places, threatened with arrest and had people quit on them in the middle of projects, but they just keep chugging away. The keep shooting, keep refining their scripts, and they beg, borrow and bribe people to get the locations they want. They’re successful because you simply can’t get rid of them.
Notice none of these points mention anything about cameras, frame rates, dollies or anything that the majority of wannabe filmmakers spend their time worrying about.
I’ll leave you with one piece of advice I got from Craig Brewer when I was talking to him about property releases at a film festival. He cut me off about halfway through my question and in his deep, baritone voice said, “Look, don’t get hung up on the details. Just go shoot your movie.”
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