Last week, we reverse engineered our favorite videos and discovered that all of them had three key elements:

  1. A Story, which might include:
    • dramatic tension,
    • a core conflict
    • a challenge for the hero to overcome
    • a gap between what is and could be
    • or some other element that engages the viewer
    • an arc – intensity rises and falls
    • character development
    • a theme that might be returned to again and again
    • “codas” – little pieces that recur but change meaning as they recur
  2. Technical Excellence in capturing footage, including
    • appropriate lighting to match the mood and intensity of the story
    • appropriate camera movements (smooth, handheld, pans, zooms, tilts, etc.)
    • interesting and beautiful backgrounds, set design, and costume design
    • aesthetic and appropriate composition and framing
    • appropriate color schemes to match the mood
    • clean audio
    • subtle audio cues that add realism
  3. Outstanding Editing, including
    • appropriate rhythm and pacing
    • good timing
    • appropriate sequencing
    • aesthetic and appropriate transitions

This week’s goal: Complete our first practice film by doing the Boring Room Challenge:

The Rules:

  • Work alone (except for actors)
  • Final results are not as important as what you learn from the process
  • Therefore, you must engage in a process that allows you to practice the key elements outlined above.
    • Compose a story that allows you to practice as many of the bullet-points as possible
    • Shoot your film, practicing as many of the bullet-points as possible
    • Edit your film, practicing as many of the bullet-points as possible
  • Post to YouTube (unlisted if you like) or post to Instagram (if under 60 seconds) with the hashtag #anth715 and submit your URL to Canvas along with a bullet-list of what you learned.
  • Due Monday by midnight.

Is this possible in one week with all of my other classes?

Notes from my own Boring Room Challenge

  • Total estimated time to write, shoot, and edit: 6 hours.  2 hours for each phase.
  • Actual time to write the story: 5 days
  • But at least it sounds like it was written in 2 hours
  • Time to shoot.  Started by creating a shotlist. Took me 1 hour.
  • Shooting time.  Estimated time: 2 hours.

What actually happened:

Spent 2 hours moving boxes and “cleaning the set”

Set clear:

Lost my phone while clearing the set.  It’s somewhere in there ..

Could not figure out why my camera was locked on 1/30 shutter speed (this took me about an hour to fix)

By this time, I decided to forgo the professional mic setup and just get started.  After wrestling with the tripod, getting into costume, setting up an additional light, etc. etc. (another 30 minutes lost), I shot my first scene, imported it onto my computer using proper ingest settings (which took me 30 minutes to learn) only to discover that the only footage I actually captured was this:

So I tried again.  And my shot was over-exposed and cropped too tight:

And by then I had to get ready for class … so here we are … 5 days and 5 hours into a “6 hour project” and I have nothing to show for it except that series of crappy pictures above, and this test shot for how to fix the problems I ran into:

Lessons learned:

  • So many!
  • How I create, what keeps me from creating, and a few tricks for getting myself into a creative mindset.
  • How complex it is to set up a good shot to tell a good story.  It is hard to get a camera to “see” what I see in my mind.
  • How to choose the right lens to avoid cropping, to show the full scene, etc.
  • That my tripod is too cheap and short.
  • How to properly set a memory recall so my shutter speed and frame rate are locked in.
  • How to over-expose a scene (and how to better read a histogram to avoid it next time)
  • How to organize my stuff so I don’t lose it during the shoot
  • How to simplify the production process to create fewer mistakes
  • How to ingest video and create proxies for quick editing

Next steps:

  • Make adjustments to story and shot list based on what I learned
  • Re-shoot tomorrow.  Edit Thursday morning.  Present in class on Thursday.

Tips based on my own journey:

Know your Gear:

  • Canon 70D, 2 extra batteries, charger & quick release foot.
  • 18-55mm Kit Lens with adjustable ND filter
  • 10-18mm f 4.5-5.6 Wide Angle Lens
  • 24mm f2.8 Prime Lens (field of view is similar to human eye) with filter
  • 50mm f1.8 Prime Lens (portrait and low-light lens) with filter
  • Rode VideoMic Pro
  • Video Light with 2 batteries and charger & stand
  • Tripod with quick release shoe
  • Gorillapod with quick release shoe
  • Lens cleaning kit
  • Omnidirectional Lav Mic
  • Omnidirectional Lav Dual Mic
  • Extra batteries for Lav Mics
  • Audio Recorder + Micro SD card
  • 2 64GB SD Cards

Know your Camera Settings:

Special Settings for Video:

  • Video is different because your shutter speed is dictated by the frame rate.
  • Always set shutter speed to 2x your frame rate.
  • If shooting in 1080p at 30 fps (frames per second), set your shutter speed to 1/60.
  • Set ISO to Auto and control light using aperture and your variable ND filter
  • Remember, high aperture (e.g. 1.8) = shallow depth of field and brighter image.  In most situations, you will want a high aperture (= low f-number).
  • However, sometimes you want more clarity of the background, so then you have to use a lower aperture (e.g. f=5.6 or higher).  Note though that in indoor or low-light situations, your camera will have to adjust by using a higher ISO, which can lead to a grainy image.

Know your Lenses:

3 Types of Lenses (field of view)

  • Standard Field of View: 35-70mm
  • Wide: Less than 35 mm
  • Telephoto: Over 70 mm

Note that our prime lenses are on a “crop” sensor so we have to multiply them by 1.5 so we have:

  • One Standard: 24mm x 1.5 = 36mm
  • One Wide Angle: 10-18mm x 1.5 = 15-27mm
  • One Telephoto: 50mm x 1.5 = 75 mm
  • +  you have the kit lens, which is good for good light conditions.

Why we use adjustable ND lens filters:

Use different types of shots to set and tell your story:

Think about composition and framing.  Wes Anderson is a master of this:

Most importantly: Start Practicing!

On Thursday:

  • Continue the crash course on shooting and storytelling
  • Get into some basics of editing

Until then:

  • Schedule some time with a kit and start practicing!
  • Watch any videos from this week’s playlist that you think could be helpful (hint: they are all helpful)


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