Use Your Photography Skills to Master Videography

Lesson 34/37 - Finding Inspiration for Videography


Use Your Photography Skills to Master Videography


Lesson Info

Finding Inspiration for Videography

I also wanna just talk about finding some inspiration in other people's work. It's really nice to think about the things that people are doing in a documentary setting, and these things are changing all the time. But these are just a couple of films that I think all did a bunch of really different things and tackled documentary, and approached documentary in a way that I think really is different. The first ones is 20,000 Days on Earth. It's a film, it's a documentary, about Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It was in the documentary category of Sundance. I believe it won the Grand Jury Prize for documentary the year that it was in Sundance. And yet, this was a scripted film. Like, everything that was kind of uttered in voiceover was from a script. It used locations that were not real locations. It followed Nick Cave around to therapy appointments, and in his home, and lunch with friends, and yet all of these locations were manufactured and not quite real. There's a surreal sense in a lot o...

f the stuff. He kind of goes back into some of his personal archives, and it's done in this kind of surreal way. There's all of this stuff that usually would be reserved for fiction, and yet, it's a documentary. And so much so that Sundance said it was so, and the Sundance audience kind of proved that that was so by giving it this award. I think what it did, and what it made us think about as viewers, was that while it was scripted, and while it used some kind of manufactured locations, there was (a) It was really about a real person. And that person was really playing himself. But also that it got to kind of an emotional truth about this artist. Nick Cave is a musician that kind of creates a lot of, in his own music, creates a lot of worlds where the same rules don't necessarily apply. And it was kind of a way of getting to a story that was emotionally accurate rather than being locationally accurate. The location of his bedroom wasn't necessarily his actual bedroom. But it went into the kind of world and thinking of this musician. Things that he had written. Things that he had written about himself and that he then read from script where he plays himself. It definitely pushed the boundaries, but it also kind of qualified and stayed within documentary and just pushed out the boundaries of what that even means. And that's super cool. I think that's great. So I encourage people to watch it, or watch parts of it. The Act of Killing, and The Look of Silence by Joshua Oppenheimer are probably two of the best movies I've seen in the past couple of years. And really look at the use of re-creation and a movie within a movie without giving too much away. And just do all of these very, very surreal and kind of magical things in the setting of a documentary. Again, really trying to get at the hard, and emotional, and kind of honest truth of the story that he's trying to tell. And using some conventions that otherwise, in the past hadn't worked or directors were kind of too afraid to attempt and had never really been able to overcome. And he was able to bring these other surreal elements into this film in a way that was startling, and kind of thrilling, and interesting, and different. And so for us as viewers, I encourage you to watch these films, 'cause it might make you think about what is fair game in your own work, in your own documentary work in a different way. The box doesn't necessarily have to be small. The box can maybe have three sides to it, but one of those sides can kind of topple and spill into another category, and that's okay. All These Sleepless Nights does a thing like that. That's a film from this past year by a Polish director. I'm forgetting his name, I apologize. But he goes out in Warsaw, out at night, with these young adults and through this whole kind of party scene. And obviously, these people that he's following have real lives with real day-to-day kind of existence, but he really leans into this kind of summer culture of nights in Warsaw and kind of let's all of that other stuff fall away. And what you get is this very visceral, dreamy, ethereal and he shoots it kind of using this gimbal system which gives it this floaty kind of quality. And what it does is that it lifts the story out of the kind of grit and reality of people's everyday lives and kind of creates this night-time world where you're subjects seem to only exist in that space. And it just creates a different kind of vibe. It's a different way of following people and telling stories and getting close and following them for a long time. And then, Tower uses a lot of animation, and uses animation in this very surreal, again, interesting way to get at a historical occurrence and to find people that had lived through it and get them to tell their stories and go back to this time, but not using re-creation. Not necessarily using only archival footage, although there's this really nice marrying of the two, but also using animation and drawings to go back in time, look at a historical event, and bring a freshness and a newness to the story. And so there are plenty of others, but these are kind of a good little starting list to think about what you can be doing. Can you incorporate some of these things into your own work? Can you think about something that you've always wanted to try that are not techniques that are used here, but you've always been kind of curious about? And can watching something like this give you kind of the permission to say, "Well, I've always wanted "to try this thing, and I never wanted to do it "because I think well, that's not what a documentary is "and I can't do that in a documentary." Well, you know these films have all really kind of pushed against the definition of what a documentary is, so perhaps something that you're thinking about could do that too. Or at very least, is worth experimenting with. We're gonna watch a couple things that I particularly like, and for a variety of reasons. The first thing we're going to watch is a film called Claressa. It's by Zack Canepari who is super-talented, more talented than me. And it's a follow up film, I won't give too much away, but it's a follow up film to a documentary feature that he directed with Drake Cooper, called T-REX. We're just gonna play it and watch it, but the reason I'm bringing it into this class is that this is someone who brings a lot of style, a lot of really strong sense of story into his work and it's not necessarily about the chronological order of the events, but rather the kind of emotional terrain that we move through in this piece. Let's take a look. (dramatic music) I think everybody thinks that 2012 was a fluke. Like I got lucky or somethin'. I'm the first black, white, whatever, first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing, and I did it when I was 17. I thought I would have endorsements and sponsorships, but you know that didn't happen. Welcome back everybody. (applause) Thank you so much. My guest tonight. I am the best female boxer in the world. Grew up in Flint, Michigan. They're like, "When you talk, you seem "like a bully or you seem pretty cocky." "If you want us to do your hair, we'll do your hair." And I was like, "What's wrong with my hair?" So I can't express how great of a fighter I am? Okay, they want the pretty girl. I back up everything that I say. Nothin' is wrong with my personality. Maybe this was the peak of my career. Maybe 17 was it. Maybe one Olympic gold medal and (blowing air sound) then start having kids now. Comes alive. Experience over 40 life-size, moving, breathing dinosaurs in their natural environment. See the amazing 20-foot T-rex, the life sized Triceratops, Stegasauras, the quick and clever. What you want mother? You gettin' in the car? Huh? Gettin' in the car? Huh? Gettin' in? Yeah. Alright, come on. ("Let's Get Married (Remix)" by Jagged Edge) ♪ What's goin' on across the seas ♪ ♪ It ain't nuthin' like ♪ (radio playing in car) (quietly singing along to the radio) (dramatic music) People in Flint are so used to just somebody being successful (kids playing basketball) and then fallin' off. Flint has limits. Nobody wants to get in the sky and see what's beyond the clouds type thing. I think for some people, that they get stuck here and they don't get out the BS, because they kind of get used to it. And they see no other way of life. Peanut, I cover mama's end of the bargain with you. I just went and took you school shopping and got you two pairs of shoes, bro. I keep telling you, "Go to school. "Play football. "Run track." You don't know shit. At me here? You wait til the cameras, at least wait til the cameras aren't here. No, are you going to school tonight? That's my question for you. The last 27, bro. Are you going to school or not? You want to decide your own life. You wanna start a fight, your education's for her. So you think you know everything? I say go to school, dumbass! Imma talk to you later bro, 'cause you make me mad and I don't wanna. No, your ass gonna make me mad. And what you gonna do about it? (police sirens wailing) I know that my family wants to see me do well. But they don't know that some of the things that they do can hurt me doing well. (punching and sparring) You know, we always had a deal, even when I was younger. Once you step into the gym, all outside problems stay out the gym, you know? I feel like I have everything to lose, 'cause I do. (punching speed bag in gym) (buzzer ringing) (humming song) I feel like, the longer I'm here, the further I drift away, you know, drift back into being here. I really, don't just wanna walk out on them, but I've always kept my career first before anything. So, that's why I'm like, the longer I stay, the worse it is for me, so it's time to go. (car sensor beeping) I'll meet you up, tho. I love you. (zipping up bag) Hi. (thudding noise) (car door closing) I love you. I love you too babe. (low electronic pulsing) I have nothing but time to think, nothing but time to look out the window and wonder about what Imma do, 15, 20 years from now. I have to win to go back to the Olympics again. If I don't win the Olympic trials, there is no Olympics, there is no more USA boxing stipend, but I have to move back to Flint? I do believe that I can win another Olympic gold medal. But, just because I believe it, don't mean it's gonna happen. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Olympic team trials for women's boxing. Here in Ring Number One, in Memphis, Tennessee, these are the best 24 female boxers in the nation, competing for the chance to go to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games. (applause) Women's middleweight winner's bracket. Claressa Shields in the red corner, from Flint, Michigan, against Tika Hemingway in the blue corner, from Pennsylvania. I can't afford to have a bad fight, or have a close fight anymore. They're gonna be a lot harder on me now that I'm top dog, it's either dominate or don't. She understands this time around that it's much more than just about winning gold. That her image, that her personality play a much bigger role. People say that when you talk, you seem like a bully or you seem pretty cocky. I don't have to change myself for people to accept me. I don't care what nobody thinks. (boxing bell beeping) (audience shouting) (boxers grunting) (corners yelling instructions) Break. If you look up the word "beautiful woman" in the dictionary they should have my face right there. Should have me in a boxing uniform, my gloves on, posin'. To box the way that I do that's what I think is really beautiful. Box. (both fighters grunting with effort) (bell ringing) [Announcer] And now, your winner out of the women's 165 pound weight class fighting out of the red corner with a unanimous decision Claressa Shields. I think everybody thinks that 2012 was a fluke. Like, I got lucky or somethin'. Hmm, okay. (chill electronic music) They can't think that now. So, (a) I just think it's a great short film, but some of things that I also want to call your attention to and that I think Zack does so well through his directing and that Carter Gunn, the editor, does a great job at is that there's a real sense of mixing up the pacing, that is something that I find really difficult to do, it doesn't always occur to me and it seems so inherent and ingrained in this piece. There are a lot of kind of quick montages and quick cuts. There a lot of times where there a lot of quick cuts and then cutting to something else to create an emotional and psychological landscape. There are moments when there has been a lot of fast paced stuff and then all of a sudden it drops out. Kind of my favorite moment is that there is all of this chaos, and the boxing, and then all of us and she's just there in that field, and because she's wearing a lav, you just hear her sitting there humming, she's going (humming a song) And it's just like, so, pulls the air out of the room and pulls all of the oxygen out and just lets there be this ringing dead space, and it's a really nice way of changing things up. If it only exists in that world you might get a little bit lost or start feeling like things are a little lackluster in that space, but because we've gone from such intensity into that it really kind of lands nicely. He's also just not afraid to mix up some other stylistic elements, using the blinking of the sound of a car door being open and flashing through shots, or reversing a scene of driving out of the window just to keep the audience on their toes a little bit, keep things moving along but also use them in a way that's not necessarily factual; cars don't drive that way, that's not what happens when a car door is open and that sound is going off, but using it as a way of moving through time or indicating to us how time should feel, this moment when she's saying goodbye to the families, all these little snippets 'cause that's kind of what it feels like. You go over here, you say goodbye to this person, you say goodbye to that person. It all kind of moves quickly. And so he uses elements in his work and in this piece to kind of help that feeling along. So I think it's a great example of other types of approaches. Yeah? I'm wondering, though, how much is that the director and how much is that the editor? 'Cause you guys might've shot the same, if he shot all that footage you might have shot the same footage, but then it seems like what you're talking about is more something that would have been created by the editor, or is it a collaboration? That's a great question. So that can very much exist in the in the space of the editor. In this case I think it happened kind of on both parts. I think Zack Canepari as a director I know wants to bring these elements in, there are contributing cinematographers on that and I happen to be one of 'em which is not the reason I'm showing it to you, I know full well that in shooting some of that stuff I would never have thought that it would end up in a place like this. I just wasn't shooting it thinking, "Oh I'm making these kind of montages." Zack, when he shoot the stuff, is definitely thinking those ways. So sometimes you might work with an editor that says, "I've got this really great idea", chances are a lot of it has to come from the director because in order for an editor to do some of these quick montages, it needs to be thought out. Like let's say it's gonna be a montage of you arrive in a city and this feeling of the city looks like this, and it looks like this, and it looks like this. In order for the editor to be able to make those montages that director's gotta be like, "I need to go out and get that." Of course there are interesting things that can happen in the edit, but a lot of it gets plotted out beforehand rather than being an accident. Again, even though I shot some of that, I didn't direct it and so I wasn't thinking those things. The director is thinking about it a bit more. And also just giving yourself options. Like you might not know whether that's something you're gonna do, but you're like, "It might be really great for me to do a series "of long lens establishing shots of a certain thing "so that later on I can use it." You know, you start kind of thinking about vignettes or motifs that you can use and starting to collect them. Okay. Let's watch another then. So there was a question yesterday about mixing stills and video and for the most part this multimedia thing, this way that a lot of my early exposure to video was kind of introduced through multimedia, the mixture of stills and video is not something I particularly love. This piece by Ed Kashi and Matte Black I think does an excellent job of still what multimedia can be. And so I know that there had been a couple of questions about multimedia so I wanted to pull an example that I still think works very nicely. The Central Valley is a paradise of the United States of America. From this valley we are feeding so many people across the world. This is such a rich, land. We have good sunshine but we need water. Water water water. If you are not in farming you'll have a hard time believing how serious the water situation is. (water rushing into trough) (sheep drinking water) You know what's frightening about this area is? There's nothing to go to. And the future is looking really bleak. (melancholy music) My dad came from Spain, the Basque Country, he's been in this area for 60 plus years, you know it's pretty discouraging when he's telling me that he's never seen it this bad. And I'm scared to death that what he's left me I'm not gonna be able to leave my kids. We're going over more ground than ever before because there's less and less feed. And whatever ground we can get into farmers are having to disc it under because they're seeing tumbleweeds which is a nuisance for farmers but unfortunately that's the only feed that we have for these sheep. And we're runnin' out of that also. This year after harvest we probably will not be irrigating roughly half of our ranch. So that'll be roughly about 250 acres or so we're gonna just let sit. I'm a fifth generation farmer. I think my father's been farmin' here roughly 40 years. He'd probably hit me and tell me I was wrong but it's been about 40 years he's been farmin' here. His whole family moved up here from southern California. I'm one of the lucky ones, a lot of people are done farmin', they don't have wells. Their stuff dried up, they're taking their trees out. (backhoe digging up trees) If we could have a comprehensive water plan in the state of California everybody would be happy, but we don't have that. We all fight regionally and that is the biggest problem right now in California. All this is tied in the Central Valley and most of it is tied up with all the politics is going on with this water situation. This year there was so little water in northern California, and there was a significant amount of water meant for fish purposes. Those historic water right holders didn't get their full supply. Well they were so short they basically, and they were entitled to it, took all the surface water available. It's never happened before and on top of that it's been such a dry year here, even drier than it is in northern California, it's left us with zero. Two thirds of the water in the state is generated up north, and two thirds of the need is in the southern part of the state, and that's very frustrating when you're seeing farmers go out of business, farm workers being laid off, and that water supply doesn't seem to be accomplishing it's intended purposes which is to increase the fish populations. Earlier this spring it was estimated on the east side the San Joaquin Valley, again it never has happened, there could be 50,000 acres of citrus taken out of production. A huge part of the citrus that's grown in California and much less the entire United States. I had the well. And fortunatley my dad was smart enough to purchase probably almost a million dollars in water last year. Every time you turn around you're writin' a $20,000 check payin' for diesel, ha. Little bit of profit going down the drain there but, A lot of stress, a lot of stress. Found out that I almost had a heart attack. I had to have two stents put in my main artery at 38 years old. They say just keep, don't stress out, you have to learn to relax. Ya, that's not a option. (water filling a pail) You're tryin' to keep your family, you know, fed and keep other families fed. Right now we've only got three people full time workin' for us. We could have more, would like to have more, tryin' to keep them going. Those are like family, the people are family, there not really workers, they're family to you, they keep you alive. We got grapes, raisins, tomatoes, they're best tomatoes in the world, alfalfa, hay, grain, wheat. I mean, you're talkin' about everything. Everything comes out of this area. We have the best ground in the world right here. There used to be a lot of people working out here. Not just the land so much. Drive through Firebaugh. Drive through Mendota. You're gonna see people that are very healthy, very capable of working, and they wanna to work, and they're sittin' in lines collectin' food. (organizing food into hampers) When that well stops, I'll try to fix it. And if that water drops, I'll go deeper. You know, and if, when I run out of time or run out of money and I have to stop I have to stop. We'll move, I'm not gonna sit here and die here. If we basically have no water out here, there's not gonna be any life at all. Everything's gonna dry up and turn to dust bowl and blow away into the dust. Mother Nature is teaching us a lesson. Whenever we have an abundance, don't waste it, don't spoil it. Let's hold on to it as much as we can. We think the human beings know so many things on Earth. But it stops raining and here we are, we are just, point blank, we don't know what to do. And sometimes it's easy to forget who produces the food. Anyway, we are holding on, little by little. Okay. The thing I like so much about this piece is that I think part of the reason I've started to steer away from photo journalism is I, (shaking head and clucking) photojournalism multimedia is that I just don't always see how these things are going to communicate with each other and what. I understand that some projects are meant for stills and some projects are meant for video but within a story, how are they really meant for both? Like, why not just commit to one or the other? And I sometimes wonder, how are these two forms going to communicate with each other and make sense and not feel like when we go to stills it's all of a sudden really jarring, or when we go to video I didn't expect it? And there's something in this piece where it just works together. I think that they, it's done by two different people, the stills are done by Matt Black, the video is done by Ed Kashi. And yet there's something really seamless about the vision that somehow in the end becomes this coherent thing where both are adding to the piece and not necessarily distracting from the other part. I think some of it's about that it's done in this very kind of contrasty black and white, so there's kind of a uniformity in its actual vision, but I think that there's also something about the sensibility of these two artists and the kind of look that they were able to achieve and the pacing and the tempo of the piece that just, I think for me, works in a way that nothing like this had worked in a little while. I think that's a great example of how multimedia can definitely be used and work toward something very beautiful they wouldn't see otherwise. Christopher Morris, another photographer, oh, Ed Kashi is also a member of VII Photo, and Chris Morris whose work we're about to look at is another member of VII Photo and does a lot of political work, a lot of following candidates during the campaign. He's been a White House photographer for Time, the contract photographer for Time Magazine in the White House in years prior. He's very, very good at understanding the weird circus of politics and the campaign season and he's able to, because he's been doing it for a long time, but also just has beautiful, very stripped down sensibility, he's able to do these very stripped down things in video that are completely from the fact that he's a photographer in his background, in my opinion. His photographs are always very stark, very architectural, very geometric, very isolated and lonely, they have a lot of negative space in them. And he creates video that's not necessarily, doesn't necessarily look like that. It very much feels like his work 'cause it's very much from the same place, but it's not that his video is just this bare bones and negative space as his photography but this sensibility, this stripping out all the extra stuff that's not needed for that frame, and taking that away and letting these things stand on their own is very much something that he's brought into his video work. He does, I'm just gonna play it and then we'll talk about the technique. Parking lots and banks. And we've gotta do more to make it possible for everybody, but particularly young people to follow that dream. (electronic tone droning) So, I just love that it's super simple. I mean, it's just, all that's happening there is he's using a Phantom camera, which is a camera that shoots in super-slow motion. Slow motion so much so that, at times, even when this video hadn't buffered enough and was pausing the middle, it took all of us a second to even be like, "Has that even paused?" Because at times the motion is so slowed down that the only way that you know you're not just panning through a photograph is that all of a sudden you think you're looking at a photograph and someone blinks. Yeah. So he's shooting a super-slow motion, he's just making little movements. It's important in this stuff that, because the slow motion is so extreme that if he was staying totally static, as a viewer you'd get kind of bogged down in the shot. So when he's shooting it he's moving his camera around so he's doing these pans, which do two things: (a) it indicates to you that you're not stuck or something's happening, also, for some reason, slow motion, it always creates a little bit of this feeling of almost 3D as you move around things. Because it's a little bit of a distortion and that makes us see, it makes it appear as though you're peeking around objects or individuals but also it keeps things moving so that you know that you're not just stuck in this one photograph and so when he moves his camera, it also, he might land on someone blinking in the middle of a moment he really kind of leans into the awkwardness of some of this he doesn't stay away from shots where all of a sudden when you come to someone's face they're in the middle of this blink or some other kind of awkwardness of someone holding a camera strange or all of these news reporters around. That's really all it is. It's got some great sound design, which just makes you feel like you're in some weird kind of carnival. (audience chuckling) It's very simple. But it achieves a lot. It doesn't have interviews, it doesn't do a lot of things that we're talking about and yet it's really thrilling to watch and it really pushes against the boundaries of what this stuff means, and he's got tons of these on his website. He does it at Trump rallies. He does it in a variety of settings and they're really great and fun to watch. Did that bring up any questions? Otherwise we'll keep going. Oh, go ahead. I want to do that. How do you do that? Do you have to have a Phantom camera? Is there any way you can do something like that on a DSLR or something similar. I love that. So, you can't do anything like that on a DSLR, but you can rent a Phantom. You can rent a Phantom for a day. It does not take, to do something like that, that is one of the rare situations where that's a day of shooting, not even a day of shooting, 'cause the effect is so much part of the narrative that this is not, you can storyboard with the Phantom. There is a great Cat Power music video for a song called Where Is My Love that is all shot on the Phantom but really has a sense of storyboarding, and you can tell that they went into this with a very clear idea, but the effect of the super-slow motion and if you do it with intention is so strong that you don't necessarily need a lot of storyboarding 'cause the effect becomes an element of the story. So that's something that's done in a day. That's something that's done in the hour or two that she's there. So while most of us cannot do that in our DSLR or our RC100 or 300 even, you could rent a Phantom for a day and shoot your heart out and then have tons of material to work with. Yeah, it's very cool, right? And the technology has gotten better and better so when you're shooting at super-slow motion, part of the limitation is that you need a lot of light, and so in earlier models of the Phantom they'd often appear a little bit flat, a little bit low contrast because the amount of light that you have to pump through this camera because it's moving at such, it's capturing at such a high speed, used to be a lot. Now that the sensors in these cameras and the sensitivity of the sensors has increased you get images that you can shoot in lower light. The good thing about a political rally and Hilary Clinton being up on stage is that, chances are, there's a fair amount of light there, but also the sensor is just getting better and better and the technology getting better and better all the time means that that image actually looks great. Super sharp, very clear, great sense of contrast, if you look at, if you YouTube earlier examples of the Phantom camera you'll see that used to be a lot flatter looking.

Class Description

Just because you’re a photographer doesn’t mean you can’t shoot compelling video. If you have a digital SLR, you have the equipment. If you’re a photographer who loves to tell captivating visual stories, you have the passion and the necessary skills. It doesn’t matter whether you want to create powerful short films about global issues or take videos of your friends on vacation: all it takes to start being a successful videographer is strong photography skills.

Join VII Agency photojournalist Jessica Dimmock for this class, and you’ll learn:

  • How to storyboard to create a strong narrative
  • How to properly capture sound and voiceover while on a shoot
  • How to shoot for an editor and to think with the edit in mind
Jessica has traveled the world in the pursuit of powerful stories. Her work has been published in publications like the New Yorker and Time, and has been exhibited in galleries around the globe. Her skill with a camera allowed her to pivot into videography, where she created music videos, short projects and feature films. Becoming a filmmaker as well as a photographer opened up a new form of media for her stories - and doubled her day rate. Draw in new clientele and start expressing your creativity in new ways!  


a Creativelive Student

I have been waiting for a course like this. Purchasing it was a no-brainer. Taught by an accomplished professional in the field, with a strong track record of high level work, Jessica Dimmock, I feel, is exactly the type of instructor Creative Live should be giving air time to. I have watched other Videography classes on Creative Live, and this was the first one that I felt was worth purchasing due to how much info was being shared, in a very methodical, easy to follow (but not dumb downed) fashion.

a Creativelive Student

This class has left me feeling very encouraged and inspired about getting into videography. Jessica has made some great work, in her short career with video, and was able to share what she learned through those experiences. She started out as a photographer and has now incorporated video into her skill set and it seems to have expanded the diversity her opportunities and has enriched what she produces and shares with the world. I look forward to doing the same thing in my own way. Thanks CL for another wonderful class.


Simultaneously broad and deep, the information Jessica covers and the way she delivers it really give you the feeling you can jump into video right away. Professionalism in every area, from prep steps to workflow in the field to clean organization and processing, inspires confidence in the value of her methods. She clearly learned most of this in the field over years of work, which means the rest of us now have a huge leg up on our first projects. Thank you so much!