Importance of Movement & Stabilization
This is kind of where I feel like we start to really get into it and we're gonna get our hands a little bit dirtier. Today, and in this segment, we're gonna talk about stabilization and what that means to me is just having a handle on what your camera is doing, like whether it's rooted to the ground or it's kinda floating in the air or somewhere in between and doing it intentionally so that it looks like what you want it to look like. There is nothing worse than feeling like, oh, this thing was jittery when I didn't want it to be jittery, or this thing was too still when I didn't want it to be so still. So we're gonna talk about, once you have learned how to get images going through your camera and recording to your camera, the next step is really about stabilizing. And so the very first thing that we're gonna do is I'm gonna show you, you know, I often refer to a few things as the first things I ever did 'cause it's kind of a little bit of a progression, but the first big project I di...
d really right off the bat, after I did this video for Moby that I mentioned, the very next thing I did was that I worked with the editor on that video, who was also a director, and he was directing a feature film and he said, why don't you just shoot the whole thing? And I was like, I don't know how, you know, I just went from not knowing any video at all to not knowing how to shoot a music video, and now to shooting a feature. But my model has always been a little bit like you do the thing to learn how to do the thing. And so, not necessarily waiting until I knew how to do it in order to do it, but just going right ahead and doing it anyway. So, we shot this feature, and when he said shoot the whole thing, it actually wasn't totally true. And I ended up co-shooting it with another DP, and for a very specific reason, because I didn't know how to handle movement yet and this guy did. So I'm gonna show you a work sample from that film, it's called Without, it was directed by Mark Jackson. And I'll show it to you first and then I want to kind of back up and go through it and point out some things. But we'll get to that in a second. ♪ I always knew ♪ ♪ You ♪ ♪ In your mother's arms ♪ ♪ I have called your name ♪ ♪ I've an idea ♪ ♪ Placed in your mind ♪ ♪ To be a better man ♪ ♪ I've made a crown ♪ ♪ For you ♪ ♪ Put it in your room ♪ ♪ And when the bridegroom comes ♪ ♪ There will be noise ♪ ♪ There will be glad ♪ ♪ And the perfect bed ♪ ♪ When you write a poem ♪ ♪ I know the words ♪ ♪ I know the sounds ♪ ♪ Before you write it down ♪ ♪ When you wear your clothes ♪ ♪ I wear them too ♪ ♪ I wear your shoes ♪ ♪ And the jacket too ♪ ♪ I always knew ♪ ♪ You ♪ ♪ In your mother's arms ♪ ♪ I have called you son ♪ ♪ I've made amends ♪ ♪ Between ♪ ♪ Father and son ♪ ♪ Or if you haven't one ♪ ♪ Rest in my arms ♪ ♪ Sleep in my bed ♪ ♪ There's a design ♪ ♪ To what I did and said ♪ ♪ Rest in my arms ♪ ♪ Sleep in my bed ♪ ♪ There's a design ♪ ♪ To what I did and said ♪ ♪ Rest in my arms ♪ ♪ Sleep in my bed ♪ ♪ There's a design ♪ ♪ To what I did and said ♪ ♪ Rest in my arms ♪ ♪ Sleep in my bed ♪ ♪ There's a design ♪ ♪ To what I did and said ♪ ♪ Rest in my arms ♪ ♪ Sleep in my bed ♪ ♪ There's a design ♪ ♪ To what I did and said ♪ ♪ Rest in my arms ♪ ♪ Sleep in my ♪
Couple things. First, I am completely interested in the documentary world. I am totally fascinated by real people and real stories and what people really look like when they experience real things. And yet, one of the first things I did was a narrative, and I did this somewhat on purpose. A, it was an opportunity that was offered to me, and I always believe in just saying yes to these things and seeing what types of creative paths they take you down, but also that I knew, before I knew how to do it, I knew that I was really interested in doing documentaries that feel much more like they're in the language of narrative and much more like they're in the language of cinema. And I figured that the best way to kind of achieve that was to work in something that was in a narrative setting, that what I didn't want to do was make mistakes in my shooting because I didn't know how to do it, or because I didn't know better, but instead, if I was going to make mistakes or do things that were somewhat unkosher, that I was coming to it from a somewhat educated position, but that I learned the language of this stuff as much as I could in a controlled setting. There is a weird kind of divide, which is that your audience in a narrative kind of context and your audience in a documentary have very different thresholds for what they find acceptable. In a documentary, it can look like garbage. I encourage you to not have it look like garbage, and this class is kind of about getting out of it looking like garbage, but documentaries often look really terrible, and it's because your audience will just kind of tolerate it, your audience wants to learn something or wants an interesting real story and will tolerate a lot of really bad camera work. And I would like us to all transcend that, but that's possible. In a narrative, that threshold is way, way lower, that if it doesn't look good, you're gonna lose your audience very quickly. The nice thing with narrative is that you can say, take 20, take 22, you can say do that again, or let me try that again, or that didn't feel right. And so, it was through a narrative setting that I felt like I could experiment with, okay, in my best case scenario, what would this movement feel like? Or what would this shot feel like? Or what should it ultimately look like? In a way that would just allow me to keep doing it until I got it right. So that's kind of part of the reason that I did narrative. So, going back through this work sample that is all moments from the film, all of these, and if we play this back, I guess we can just turn the volume down 'cause I'll talk right over it. But all of these are stills. I mean, yes, there is movement. I had pressed the Record button, so technically then we were in video, but this is all, the reason that this was very manageable is, this is basically a still photograph. And then I'm just not moving. I'm not totally locked off like on a tripod where there's absolutely no movement whatsoever. I'm holding the camera and therefore it has a little bit of breath, but this is a still photograph that I probably would have taken. If you had said go, here's an assignment where you're gonna go photograph this girl and she's, I mean, I don't what this assignment would have been, but here is this woman, this young woman, and she's alone in a house with an old man who's in a vegetative state and she's lonely, go photograph it, this is probably one of the images I would have made. And the photography background, which I think is also so great about how we enter into this world is that in photography, our cameras are so small and they're so light in comparison to video that we tend to get right up into things. Photography is so much about getting close, you know. That common phrase in photography, if it's not good enough, you weren't close enough. So as photographers, we often go right into these situations. Because I didn't come from a video background, and I didn't realize, A, how heavy video cameras could be, and also that I shot this first thing on my photo camera anyway, it never occurred to me that I've got to be like way over there on the other side of the room or really give some distance. I basically crawled into bed with this girl, too. Had my little camera in the same way that I would have photographed her, it's just that it's now rolling on video. And so really, we were able to construct almost an entire movie off of things that were like, you know, for me, as someone brand new at this, all of these are still images. That's a photograph. This is a photograph. She's picking up his arm, he's moving, I am barely moving. I'm moving because I'm breathing and I'm a live human being. Then we cut around, so at one point, I'm facing his head, I'm going this way, and then I move my body around. It's not a movement that you even see in camera. It's a still... We're here. This is a still. And then the editor cuts and we're on the other side. And this is basically still. I'm seeing these as stills. That would have been my still photo. Absolutely. I would have taken, you know, and that's why I was able to do this, I would have taken that picture. And so, instead, I was just allowing them to do their actions in front of my camera. And it's really the same thing with all of these. Finding a strong graphic situation and allowing them to move within my frame rather than me necessarily thinking about moving. What I would have to consider sometime is, you know, within this motion, am I gonna be able to capture everything? So when she picks up the spoon, will it continue to be in focus or continue to be within that frame? But, you know, that's just a still image. They're sitting there watching TV. Instead of just shooting it totally squared off and kinda boring, I tried to use some of these elements to make some nice shapes. Her leg is kind of intersected by the table, that TV in the frame just makes a little bit of foreground so it's a little bit more interesting. I'm shooting wide open so he's out of focus. I mean, the light in the background, I kind of let it blow out too much, to be honest, but it works, it's fine. All still images. And this is something, this is basically step one, you all already know how to do this. Nothing that I'm doing here you don't already know how to do. Now this presented a little bit of a challenge, which was that I'm focused on her here and I eventually go, I think in the next shot, I go to him and you'll see, it takes a while. I think it's in this next shot. Maybe not. In another sample, I'll show you, changing focus at that point, I could do it, but I'm kinda struggling, and I'll show how I've updated that so it's not such an issue. Again, all just very, very stills. There's one moment in here where I've got a little bit of a movement and it's in this next shot. There's the tiniest movement, and it's the only time you ever really see my camera move. That's right. She puts the blanket on him, and it's right here. That's the only thing. And that, I kind of did by accident. I was so, her hair was kind of dripping, and I was so interested in watching the way it looked, you know, 'cause it's so fun, you're doing this new skill and all of a sudden, you've got this fresh set of eyes and you're seeing everything through a new light. I was so interested in how this water was kind of dripping off of her hair and that I could actually see it happening rather than having to freeze time, that I kind of just followed it and it's like the one little move in the entire thing. But everything else is really just about composition, nice light, and allowing things to happen in front of my lens. I basically made a whole film. Even in this, where it feels like there's a lot of movement, there's a lot of movement because they're moving. I'm not really moving much there. I'm just kind of going like this. So, the way that I shot all of this was brand new DS, brand new shooter, DSLR, on a 5D, and I would just kind of lock myself into position. I maybe had a little bit of a chest plate just to give myself a point of impact, and I had a viewfinder on the back of my 5D that just kind of clips right on, and that would allow me to magnify that LCD screen. But basically, what I would do for all of this is I would just lock myself into position, I would make my own little mini-tripod. I knew that I didn't want to be totally static and have these have no movement at all, 'cause that wasn't the kind of gritty, dark, emotional feel of the film. So I would just kind of like, if I was in a chair, I would just kind of get like that, find a position where the frame felt right, and shoot. Press Record and go. Another situation, if she was in bed, kind of find something where I could prop my arms up, get somewhat comfortable so I wouldn't have to get out of that shot, press Record and go. And that was great, and we were able to shoot half of the movie that way. But there was this other half, where, you know, it's a whole movie and you do need to see movement. You need to see movement in part because you need to have transitions from one subject matter or one situation to another, and we're gonna talk a ton about transitions. And I couldn't do that yet. And I couldn't do anything other than just setting myself up and pressing Record. So I'm gonna show you the official trailer for the film, not just my work sample, and I'll show you, I want you to watch out for moments when we're tracking with the subject or we're following someone down a hallway. There are moments when we're on focus on one thing and all of a sudden, quickly, we go to focus on something else and it happens and it lands. It's not like we're searching for that focus. All of that stuff was done by the other DP. And it's because he knew how to do that and also because he was on a shoulder rig. And that's what we'll get to once we're done with that sample. Yeah.
Before we move on, Jessica, quick question from S. Muriel who says, when you say the word narrative, what do you mean by that? Can you explain to people who might be new?
Sure, by that, I just mean fiction. By that, I just mean, you know, something that is scripted, something that's not in the documentary world, and something that has, in this case, actors and a script that we were following.
So documentary versus narrative. And just to further on what you were just talking about, Chris Walt had said, in two and a half minutes, you told a very emotional story about months or years in a family's life. Each scene was that five to 10 seconds. Is this a standard model? So, again, is this something that was, you just making your transition, or is this a standard thing that you might recommend?
Oh, that's interesting. That's hard to say. I mean, scenes kind of have a life of their own and once, in the next segment, we're gonna talk about story, and story is really about narrative arc and what happens within your film, whether it's a short film, five minutes long, or a full feature-length film, but also, that every scene is kind of like a little mini-story, and we're gonna talk about how these have to kind of, a, serve a purpose, but also have an entry point and an exit. And how long that is, you know, whether it's only a couple of seconds, a couple of seconds is probably small, but you know, 10 or 15 seconds or if it's longer, I think, kind of depends on the situation, and we'll get into that in that next segment. That's a great question.
Okay. So... That was just the video that I showed. So, this is the official trailer of the film, and again, I want you to watch out for moments when, a, things that I didn't just show you, things that I didn't just show you are quite possibly not mine, but there's a section where you're gonna see her opening and closing the door. That's still me. Anything that feels kind of like it's in one perspective and there's not a lot of movement, it's probably me. But once we start following and moving and changing focus, that's the other, and I want you to kind of see how limited it would be if you took that stuff out. (knocking)
Salt, pepper, tea, bottled water, coffee...
Small chai with low fat, right?
Yeah. With skim, if you have it.
If you have it. (phone ringing) You, your sister, all your sister's friends who are annoying.
I don't know which one I should look at. But anyways, I'm--