Shoot: Capturing a Scene
So capturing a scene. Yeah.
You wanna take this?
All right, so this is, this is sort of a setup for a visit by this young violinist Takumi who is a client of David's so, in anticipation of this our goal is to get interaction. This is the one chance we have where David, this very laconic figure will actually interact with another human being. So we're looking for not just the meet and greet but hopefully some kind of moments, moments. Just real moments that humanize them and maybe also help tell the story as well, you know? B-roll audio, really important, I think we're gonna talk about this later but to keep on rolling is something I've tried to teach myself. Especially when you're working in the short form there's a lot of stop-start, you know? I'll get him going from here to here and then I'll stop. But when you're in a scene that is unfolding you keep on rolling because of the audio if nothing else so that you have uninterrupted audio, even if the visual is not going to be used, ...
okay? And again work the angles, you hear this over and over again, try to be creative with your angles and just try different things as much as you can, and that gets back to that capture being, not just doing. So how interesting is it to get, "Hey Takumi how're you doing?" you know it's like, you get that, but then what you want is something else, something more atmospheric or, sometimes you get that through playing with angles, and anticipation is so critically important in verite and documentary work, and that comes back to using all your senses and using the powers of observation, and when Julie talks about me basically using my peripheral vision, I'm so conscious of that all the time and I don't think it's just because I was training as a photographer. If anything in video you need it even more. But it's always that idea that whatever I'm concentrating on I'm listening who or what might be coming. I might be smelling something, "Oh, I smell something burning around the corner," "I wonder what, maybe there's smoke." You know, just use your senses, not just your eyes, all your senses. And that enables you to anticipate. So I feel a lot of this the process is, do research and educate so you understand what you're looking at and what you're trying to get. Observe. Anticipate, and react. If you can get, it's muscle memory too, I really feel a lot of this is muscle memory, it's like being an athlete. The more you do it, then it becomes second nature and it's not hard, it's just you're going with the flow. And there's something kind of magical about it. So let's play this.
All right, so if you guys can come over here for just a second? So what we're gonna do now is we want to film you coming to David' shop, so we're gonna actually have you walk down this path, we're have somebody cue you so you know to start walking. The cue will probably be a hand signal like this. Ed will be outside filming you, I will be inside. When you come inside you should just act as thought you just arrived and you're here to meet David and just pretend that I'm not inside and we'll film you actually starting to work together.
And try not, don't look at my camera or Julie's camera. Just ignore us.
Unless we need to give you direction or whatever, all right?
So if you wanna go, let's say, go towards the end of this corridor here and I'll just give you a hand signal when ready and just start walking in with a sense of purpose to see David.
Well, the main this is I have a concert tomorrow. And so I've been coming here forever so I thought I'd get a checkup today and see how my instrument is.
Yeah. So that's the Hill. It's nice bow isn't it?
It really is. Would you like to see it?
So everything feels good.
I think so, yes.
Is it hot there?
It was actually raining when we got there and it was pretty cold but it did warm up.
Now that you got the Hill Bow and you liked one of the others, the new ones, yeah. Okay, everything looks about normal. Let's hear it. (classical violin music)
It's always interesting, it's always tricky when you're working with a second shooter and you have to sort of form this dance with each other where you don't--
Hey guys, you're in my shot.
This is exactly what I'm talking about.
You're in my shot you guys, why don't you come and join me in this?
That was perfect right? That's exactly what I was telling you about. But I failed in this case. (classical violin music)
I think it did open up a lot, actually.
A little bit.
It does feel a little bit surfacey still I think, on the bottom two.
Julie I thinking of trying like a severe angle straight up.
Okay, from where?
You're wide, just literally underneath Takumi.
Do you want me, did you want wide or did you want?
No I think this might be ridiculous but I just wanna ... (classical violin music)
So, the two camera dance.
Sometimes successful, sometimes not.
We're watching this and we're realizing just on that last sequence before I went low how we were basically shooting the same thing from a different angle so as sort of critique of what we did, sometimes that's why it's so important to communicate. And in one way when I worked this young filmmaker I work with and we've done a little bit ourselves where we'll literally walk into a situation and we've got like a code where it'll be T or W. We'll walk in and he'll go, "I'm T." And I know that means okay, he's gonna shoot tight. And I'll be wide. So that you walk into a situation and you're not just stepping on each other physically or getting in each other's way, but you're not shooting the same thing from a different angle. You know cause then you're fittering away the benefit of having two cameras.
And that comes with time and working with someone, you know? It's so beautiful from an editor's, filmmaker's point of view to have two angles on a scene.
And obviously getting cutaways is the advantage of having two. So we could have been tag teaming even better than we did in terms of capturing the playing, the listening, we also did the no-no where we're on opposite sides so we're not even, we're breaking that line which is not so good.
You want to explain that more actually? Cause we haven't really touched on that.
It's really important.
So just in terms of when you're seeing an action if you get the tight shot or the cutaway shot it should mirror the scene. So if you're gonna have people flopping from side to side in a frame, to the viewer something is not computing properly. There's something wrong. Now this is again it's a rule of thumb and it's something that you should understand, do properly, but I am of that mindset that even that is breaking down because viewer's are so sophisticated now. They're not fooled by the fact that magically footage is captured and the camera people are not there, and there isn't some hand involved in crafting this. So I think that a lot of the rules we abide by, yes they are logical, the brain functions that way. So for example if you were going to be going back and forth between the two of us you want the cuts to mirror from your perspective what would that look like if we're gonna toggle between. You wouldn't want people jumping across the frame in a reaction shot. But on the other hand I do think that you have latitude now than you've ever had in terms of the viewer being sophisticated enough to kind quickly adjust with you. So if you screw up don't beat yourself up on it. I think that you have more flexibility than would have been true years ago, let's say.
And now with VR there is no line.
Right, right. Everywhere and nowhere. Allow a scene to play out. So this is back to, we let this whole scene unfold, if you notice there's no direction, it is just happening. We didn't really know what kind of exchange they would have, it turned out that he did test the violin out a couple of times and something wasn't sounding quite right and he handed the violin back. So we let this whole scene just play out and we just kept shooting and kind of trying to figure out how to cover. It's an opportunity to get cutaways if you hadn't gotten them because the scene continued, we were fortunate it didn't happen in three minutes flat and Takumi was out of there. So you let it play out, you keep rolling, the audio is valuable. Also, Ed and I had Lavs on each camera. I had Takumi, Ed had David. So when I was editing I was actually having to steal audio and flip back and forth because I want to adjust Lav tracks when they were speaking. So it was a problem if one of had decided, "You know, I'm not getting anything." So even if the shot wasn't there that audio was still really valuable.
And you understand what we mean when say keep rolling for audio, that I might even, it might be that I'm adjusting from one shot to another so my camera is pointed down or wherever but I'm still conscious of the fact that I'm rolling because I have a Lavalier Mic on one of the subjects. You don't have to be obsessed with it as long as the camera is on you have to be having perfect shots. But it's also important to not turn it off because you're adjusting to a new angle or a new frame. I can't emphasize that enough because there's so much magic that happens, especially when you're in a scene, a verite scene. And one thing that we're always looking for, and really struggle with a lot, especially in the short form is to get scenes. So that the film is not just me talking and telling you my story and then sort of footage that some how illustrates it. That it's so nice to have the subject stop talking and show a scene. Right, that's where the real magic is, and where something unfolds, something plays out, there's an interaction that elevates the story, and or the character to a new level, whether it's on an emotional level, or it's just an information level, whatever it may be. Because again the great stories have transitions and transformation.
Just thinking about to also think about what did you learn from that scene? So if you think about it's a pretty simple scene. A young guy comes in with his mom, gets his violin tuned up, done. But it tells me a few things. First of all I'm very impressed, when he starts to play I'm thinking, "Oh, David isn't just doing five year olds" "who are just starting out." "David's actually pretty legit if this kid comes here." So consciously I'm building a lot of story that will never be spoken. I also see that Takumi is so advanced and he's playing, and he hears something where, I don't know if you caught it in this but he says something about, "Well, the G is still a little bit off," like there's some really microscopic adjustment and he hands it back to David and David is then examining this thing and the way he handles this thing and this bit of tuning. In the course of this scene playing out we learn a universe about the precision of this work. Now during the interview David explained, and forgive me I don't remember if it was in what we saw today but he did explain the degree of the kinds of work he does, a violinist will come in here and I might be able to kind of hear it to a degree, but then they have to play it and then they can really hear. And there's this precision to it. I don't need him to say that now, because that scene is gonna tell me that. So this did heavy lift even though it's quite simple. If you think about what your take away was from these moments, it's doing a lot more than meets the eye.
You know also from an experiential point of view, when Takumi started to play it was like, "Whoa, I am now in the presence of," you know that on an experience level it's almost like you want to stop shooting and just listen and you know, just to come back to that again this is one of the inspiring, motivating things about doing this work is that you get to meet and see extraordinary things and people, and in this case from my perspective someone like Takumi is quite extraordinary and that in a way we had a privilege that day. That it elevated the day for me just to witness Takumi. Let alone David with his craftsmen. And again you have to care about these things, because if you don't then your work is kind of wooden, no matter how beautiful it may be, no matter how well done it may be, there's gonna be something missing, you know? And so I can't emphasize that enough, this is about opening up your senses. Being open to the world and being truly engaged and excited about learning and witnessing and seeing new things. And I would say in that simple day, this simple little film, that in the end maybe doesn't mean very much, there were two ways I was touched very deeply, which is watching a craftsman at work and being reminded how almost this zen, simplistic beauty of that, just that. And then this young, maestro, what do I know about the violin, I was forced to play it when I was young so I have scars. But you know, this young man who's incredible. We got a little glimpse of that.
It's a privilege. This work is a privilege.
And when you really feel that, people pick up, they pick up on that. And it's again it's that whole idea of, some of this is a seduction, you know? And it's manipulative. Not in a negative way, I mean you can make it negative, but there's a way I'm basically trying to get you to open up your life to me and let me see these things that you would probably not let anyone else or most people see, and let me record it.
And on the flip side I got an email from David thanking us for what a wonderful experience it was to have us in there filming. So to me, that's everything, that's the gift. That's like saying we did our job well. Regardless of what we captured, we did our job well.
And there were a couple of things that he said in his interview, not sure we can share, where we were asking him about some aspects of the kinds of violins he works on and he said some things that we had in the original cut.
It was about the value of the violins.
And then he emailed without even knowing she had it in the cut, "I'd rather you didn't use that," and of course we took it out. For obvious reasons. Now, if we were working for a media outlet. That would be a different, it would be trickier. Because then you're weighing the value of that information in terms telling the story to the protecting the subject's safety, not safety, but you know what I'm trying to say, to protect the subject. Even in something as simple as that we were faced with a little bit of an ethical question which was a no brainer in this case, which is you just take it out. Because there's nothing to be gained, so.
And this one is from Stephanie Christopher who says, "I noticed that the camera is very close" "to the subjects in the scene." "How do you help the subjects stay in the moment" "when you're moving in and our so close to them," "especially I they are the only one" "in the scene of the film and they might not" "have had time to acclimate to the camera." "So, going back to that quote that you said about" "capturing people being, not just doing." "How do you become invisible?"
And so I think there are two things. One is establishing that we are working together. It's a collaboration. So that's first and foremost because David is in some way, he is doing his activity in tandem with me. I'm doing my activity, he's doing his, and they fit together. So that's a lot of that collaborative spirit. But I also feel it's a tone that you set as the documentarian, as the shooter. It's a tone you set. Again back to a medical analogy it's like nurses are brilliant at this because nurses make you feel confident like they got this under control and it's gonna be okay even if you're bleeding, they're like, "Don't worry, I've seen worse," you know, "We got this." It's like on an airplane when you feel turbulence, don't you watch the flight attendants and you're like, "They're calm," "they're up in this tin can every day." "They're fine, it's okay." I can keep reading my book and sipping my glass of wine. It's the same thing. So when you're in that space with your subject it's like saying this is gonna be okay, and at some point to stop talking. That's really important, because, a lot of times people when they're nervous they feel like they need to fill the space so they talk incessantly and I cannot tell you how hard it is to edit when people's lips are moving all the time because you don't want that audio. So a lot of it is where you stop talking and allow the silence to be comfortable. Because he can't really do his work if he's busy entertaining me and engaging me. So that's one of the ways that you have to be able to let it be okay for us to be quiet together, and that takes a little bit more time.
So this is a question I get asked a lot and I'm gonna answer it in a slightly different way. May I approach the bench? But so some of this is about how you move through the world physically with your equipment. It's not only how you handle your equipment, but also so, if I may, let's say you're my subject, right, and you happen to be in this group. So if I come up to you and I do this, probably not gonna be so good. But if I do this. And I sort of ease my way in, and maybe I make some eye contact with you. It's the unspoken dance, it's the silent dance, right? And especially if I'm dealing with women because I'm not a huge guy but I could be an imposing male figure, or if I'm dealing with kids. You have to read, you have to be a humanist. And sometimes I don't even, I can just look at you across the room and I realize I'm good. Like you've given me the message I can approach you physically and it's okay. And sometimes you loom over people, sometimes you're crawling on your knees, but it's about how you move through the world, and it's this unspoken dance. You make some kind of human contact, and you'll let me know if it's okay or not. Even without saying any words, and there is a magic to that. Again there's a seduction to it that is really beautiful. And then what happens is the equipment disappears. Which is also why it's important not to fumble with it. Right if I'm here I'm doing all this stuff, you're gonna be going, first of all, get out of my way. And secondly does this guy know what he's doing and now I'm losing confidence in him. So some of these are pretty obvious things, but they're also very subtle and they go a long way, a long way in making your subject feel comfortable with you and your equipment.
And you've gotta be comfortable being close to people. Some people are not. It starts with you. Are you okay being this close when you're shooting something? Are you okay with that or is that kind of, makes you a little anxious, so I guess that's a big part of it.
As an editor when you're going through all this audio, I was really interested hearing about transcribing interviews as a good method to cull through. But when you're culling something you can't transcribe. Ambient sounds. How do you go about that, quickest way possible, best way, most efficient?
Right, so the fact that you shot it helps immensely, because you know where the peaks were in those, in the verite moments, you know where the peaks were. But you still need to listen through everything if you're gonna mine the best bits, and there's thing you forgot, or there are connective pieces you will still need. There's no shortcut to scrapping the rest of it. I'm a visual person so I like crafting with my hands and my eyes more than just on a piece of paper.
I was just thinking if there are a couple of people, say the violinist and David, together, and they start having a conversation and you kind of miss the beginning of it. Would you ever say, "Would you mind just talking about that again?" I know that's a prompting right there. But if it was something really good and kind of necessary to the story, is that something that you would ever do?
More likely I would not have anybody repeat because as I said then it's wooden, but what I might do is I might just at some point just say to them, "What are you guys talking about?" So I'd probably do it in a more conversational way and just let them explain again and hopefully that'll work. I find that more successful than saying, "I wasn't filming at the beginning," "would you guys mind repeating what you said?" It just throws them off their mojo.
Or it could be like, "You were talking about the G didn't sound right." "I didn't quite, could you, I'd love to hear that again." Just in a nice way of saying, "Can you repeat that?"