Making Movies – Part 4

Following on from Part 3, one of the most important things when it comes to producing good video is not the gear, it’s the story you’re telling and the planning that you do beforehand, which may include screenplays, scripts and storyboards. When I once mentioned this on a photography forum, I was immediately ridiculed for suggesting that anyone needs to do these things to make a video. It was the usual knee jerk reaction, without any thought being given to the general concept behind these words. I wasn’t suggesting that you needed formal planning, screenplays/scripts and storyboards to make a video, but having even a rudimentary story and plan will help in producing something meaningful. It’s like taking a holiday where most people don’t simply jump in a car or plane and travel to some place without any though as to where they want to go and what they want to do. In this context, planning is vital. Even millennials sometimes plan their photography/video trips.

Planning the Journey - Scottsdale Tasmania

Planning the Journey – Scottsdale Tasmania

Whatever your endeavour, every rational person plans things around their life and producing video is no different. As the old saying goes, ‘If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail’ and that applies to anything and everything. I plan my photography, my High Country Cruises, nightly dinners and even my blog stories. I guess with my previous military and project management background, planning comes naturally, but anyone can do it. If you’ve ever organised an overseas trip, hosted a birthday party, planned a wedding, written a shopping list, then you would have done some planning. Taking that overseas trip as an example, if you intend to take video on that trip, planning can include finding out everything that you can about where you’re going and what there is to see and do. That’s pretty easy to do nowadays with the internet; so you can find out all manner of information about locations, best times, best sites etc, or what to avoid.

Barong Dancers - Bali

Barong Dancers – Bali

If you have a story idea for a video, even the simplest of planning will make the task a little easier, as it makes you think about what you want to achieve and how you might achieve it. In my case, for this story (or project), I wanted to do a short movie about one of our Cruises and put together a comprehensive story from start to finish that covered one of our journeys. For our Cruise in Nov 2017, I thought about this for months and had many an idea of what I wanted to do and what special things I wanted to try out. But when the rubber hit the road, things didn’t go as planned and I didn’t get all the footage that I wanted. Firstly, one of my cameras died and I missed out on a lot of interesting video, then my other camera had focus issues and we also encountered situations that didn’t leave me with enough opportunity to get what I wanted. So out of four cameras, only two didn’t have issues, but it was a learning curve and gave me a lot of insights for next time.

Now professional movies are often the result of a popular book turned into a movie or an idea written into a draft script/storyline, which needs to be transformed into something that can be visually represented. So screenplays and scripts are essential to guide everyone as to what has to be done in preparation for producing a movie. A storyboard helps to break up the screenplay into segments, so that locations, scenes, lighting etc can be roughly planned. For professional movies, these things come as par for the course, no one does anything until these things are fleshed out. Of course that’s a very simplistic breakdown, as there’s a myriad of details involved, but it forms the basis of any movie production. For amateur video, you can make it as complex or as simple as you like, but if you do think about these things, you’ll make a much better video overall. Once you learn to think in these terms, it becomes reasonably second-nature and helps immensely when planning that video, even if you just think of a story in your head.

Licola Store - Licola Victoria

Licola Store – Licola Victoria

Sixth River Crossing - Macalister River Victoria

Sixth River Crossing – Macalister River Victoria

The Upward Climb - Butcher Country Track Victoria

The Upward Climb – Butcher Country Track Victoria

Camping - Jamieson River Victoria

Camping – Jamieson River Victoria

When you’re making your own video or movie, you may have a concrete idea of what you want to record, but unless you somehow formalise that idea, it will be all too easy to go off-track, miss things or forget stuff. This is where even just writing down some notes in point form can help with keeping yourself focussed on what you intended to achieve. It doesn’t mean that you have to rigidly follow your notes, but if you cover those aspects then you’ll be assured of having the essential material with which to produce your movie. Anything else can be a bonus. This doesn’t just include video, but also the audio that you want to cover. When I organise a cruise, I start planning well in advance on where we can go (check local conditions), how far we can go each day (consider potential track issues), where to camp, contingency plans etc. That sort of planning is exactly what’s needed in order to produce reasonable video. At the very least, some form of rudimentary planning is necessary so that you can adjust on the move as things evolve when you’re out and about. If you’ve planned for absolutely nothing when you go out, that’s what you’ll have when you get back.

·       Start of trip – general gathering and talking
·       Airing down – doing last minute checks
·       River crossings – entering and others crossing
·       Steep tracks – from front of vehicle, from rear of vehicle and other vehicles
·       Setting up camp – putting up tents, fireplace, wood collecting
·       Preparing dinner – cooking, eating, washing up
·       Sitting around the fire – general chat etc
·       Waking up – breakfast, breaking camp
·       Airing up – finishing the trip

Planning the trip - Thinking about the locations, camera options etc

Planning the trip – Thinking about the locations, camera options etc

So planning can be as simple as making a short list, but then you also need to think about how you plan to video the scenes/activities that you’ve noted in your list. Giving some forethought to that means you’ll be have the right gear with you and be ready when the time arrives to cover that particular event. For some scenes I’ll be hand holding the camera, others will require a tripod and others yet will require a vehicle attached camera. Some scenes may involve more than one camera to get different perspectives of the activity. And it pays to think about audio recording as well for each activity.

·       Trip Start – Hand Held MkII/Rode VideoMicro/SmartLav+
·       Airing Down – Hand Held MkII/Rode VideoMicro/SmartLav+
·       River Crossings – TG-5 Front, Mk1 In-Cabin, Action Cam Rear,
·       River Crossings – MkII others/Rode VideoMicro
·       Steep Tracks – TG-5 climbing/descending, Action Cam climbing/descending
·       Steep Tracks – In-Cabin climbing/descending on tripod/Rode VideoMicro
·       Camp Setup – MkI on tripod/Rode VideoMicro/SmartLav+, MkII hand held
·       Preparing Dinner – MkI on tripod/Rode VideoMicro/SmartLav+, MkII hand held
·       Around Fire – MkI on tripod, MkII hand held, SmartLav+
·       Waking Up – MkII hand held/Rode VideoMicro/SmartLav+
·       Airing Up – MkII hand held/Rode VideoMicro/SmartLav+

So if you want to produce even fractionally-decent movies, it’s not quite as simple and easy as some would make out. But if you do put in the effort, it’s well worth it in the long run. Of course the actual production and then post-production are another matter altogether, which I’ll discuss in more detail in Part 5 and Part 6. But even these aspects don’t have to be overly difficult, it just depends on how far you wish to go and how much patience you have to keep going.