I read this HuffPost article today by Andy Meindl titled, “The No. 1 Thing You’re Doing Every Day That’s Ruining Your Life” and it really spoke to me. I think we can all benefit from receiving a reminder from time to time about the power of practicing openness in our daily lives:
“Stop stealing from yourself. Stop being a thief, robbing yourself from your empowerment and joy by assuming the worst and selling yourself (and others) short. Stop hiding your light underneath a rock because you’ve made assumptions that people aren’t ready for your brilliance, or can’t handle it, or it’s too much. Stop making assumptions about what’s possible and what you think life is — or isn’t.”
On Tuesday, I showcased my first serious video effort along with my classmates in my Digital Storytelling and Strategic Communication class. The professor only expected that our first videos use cutting in camera, known as the “holy grail of filmmaking,” a technique that involves establishing the storyboard scene by scene and following that framework during the shooting process. However, I think a lot of us got carried away and definitely did more editing for our 2 minute films than the professor required. Most of the films were pretty great for our first attempts and revealed that the only way to learn and get better is to make mistakes. Here are 6 things I learned from my first video project:
Editing Takes A Lot of Time! I learned that it’s necessary to schedule several hours of uninterrupted editing time. For my first video project, I spent 7 hours editing, but I think once I develop greater familiarity with Final Cut X that amount of time can definitely be reduced by half. I also learned that a lot of editing time can be mitigated by being attentive when shooting, for example, framing the shot well and controlling for light and sound. Editing can really help the narrative come alive and is only bounded by the editor’s creativity.
Shooting with an iPhone Can Actually Yield Quality Results! I learned that if you invest in a quality film app like Filmic Pro and filming accessories for iPhones such as a Gorillapod, a GLIF– a mount for a tripod, lenses, and an external microphone, you can be well on your way to producing Hollywood cinematic quality videos, but with one caveat, you must develop directorial/cinematic technique.
Controlling for Light, Sound, and Stabilization Can Be Crazy Difficult! While it can be overwhelming to have to think about controlling for light, sound, and stabilization, doing so will save you so much time and frustration in the editing suite. In my first video, I decided to shoot outside and I noticed that I had to deal with the sunlight, which kept blowing out my takes, bystanders, and ambient sound. For light and sound, I learned that you should try to shoot indoors unless shooting outside truly matters to the story you want to tell. If you do decide to shoot outside, make sure that the sunlight is behind the camera and lighting the subject, but beware that too much sunlight can wreak havoc as well. Having an external microphone attachment can help capture sound better. I learned that the natural environment like a sidewalk or branch of a tree is your friend as well as a book or a tripod all can tremendously help to reduce camera shake, which if not tempered can cause stimulation sickness for viewers. When worse comes to worse, there are ways to correct those issues during post-production, but you’re much better off controlling for those issues during production.
More is More! I learned that it never hurts to ask your subject for voice-overs or to take more than enough b-roll. When you’re editing you may want to show your subject in action and use the voice-over to coincide with footage of the subject to break up the flow of the story or there may be issues with audio such as overpowering ambient sound that you’ll be grateful you thought to capture your subject’s voice-over and additional footage.
Don’t Forget to Think About Composition! I noticed when editing my film that I have a tendency to cut too low on my subject, hence giving my subject an inadvertent haircut. I realized that how you compose a shot says a lot about your technique, but also the emotions you want to invoke in your audience. Apparently, there is the rule of thirds that says when you align your subject according to and along those nine intersections and two horizon lines when composing a shot, you can create more tension, energy, and interest than merely haphazardly placing your subject anywhere in the frame.
Choosing a Dynamic Subject Will Help Make Your Story Come Alive! The subject of my 2 minute film is Amber T. Lee. I think how she oozes passion when she articulates her story really translates to the viewer in a compelling way. After showing my video, my professor commented that my subject really helped make my storytelling come alive. I realized that featuring a captivating subject can help trump filming inadequacies.
Check out my first video effort and step into the creative world of Amber T. Lee, a 23-year-old bubbly, yet focused and determined self-supported artist: Portrait of Amber T. Lee.