Videography Should be as Beautiful as Photography
No one, I don't think, in this room or at home, no one that's coming from a photography background is gonna go into video because they want things to look bad. I assume that you guys do photography because you love it, and you like making things that are beautiful. I wanna teach you how to do sound and collect stuff for an editor and coverage and all of this stuff, but not at the sacrifice of making things that you're visually incredibly proud of. And that's so much of this, and I actually think this is one of the great things that people from our background bring to it is that because we're obsessed with the visual image then we will become obsessed with the visual language of it, and that this is about kind of developing a cinematic language, and not just pointing your camera at something that needs to be collected or recorded for information, but about doing it in a way that is going to be as artful as possible, as, you know, as studied as possible, as thoughtful as possible. And so...
, you know, this is another film still. And this definitely could've been a photograph, and I use something like this as a reminder that, in my photography at least, I'm always looking for things to make stuff less boring. I needed to photograph this character coming out of the pizza shop. I could've stood in front of the pizza shop, I could've been inside the pizza shop, but you wanna use as much as you can to make things interesting and compelling. So, OK, and for this, there's also a bit of a backstory. You're gonna see a lot of this project, by the way. I'm gonna show tons of videos today, and a lot are from this one film that I just made. But, in this case, this is about a character that I had been following for several years. She's transgender, her family and her workforce don't know this, or, you know, kind of her working environment doesn't know this, she delivers pizza at night, and she spends a lot of time in her car, which is, A, the place of kind of her employment because she delivers pizza, but also the place of her transitioning into being a female. And so the car, in this situation, was this kind of important home place for this character. And so I'm thinking, all right, well, you know, I wanna bring in elements of the car. The car is a little bit of her prison as well as her refuge. So, bring in elements of the car. It's raining out. That looks great, so don't wipe the windshield wipers across and get it clean. Allow it to kind of be fragmented and soft and misty and all of these things. Well, in video, you should be looking for these same things. Like, OK, I need this information. How can I help this thing? It's the story about a certain character. What are are other metaphors in the room that I can bring into the frame to allow me to understand the kind of emotional space of this character? What are weird things that are happening with light that can just make this cooler to look at. You know, if you keep an audience engaged because things look cool, your story will go further, and you'll have more of an audience. If it's boring looking, your story might be great, and people might stick around for the story, but they might not. And so thinking about, you know, is there something weird happening with the light? Is there something weird that I can shoot through? Is there a mirror? Is there a reflection? Is there, you know, a specific angle? Can I be silhouetting something? All of these things that you just kind of want to be thinking about, in any kind of visual storytelling, you should be thinking about here. Yeah?
Jessica, I have a couple of great questions with regard to what you were just talking about, and one is from Elaine Gogh, who says, speaking of light, or from Chris Waltz, speaking of light, sorry, I just lost the question. From Adfek, speaking of light, light is important in photography, but how do you deal in video when you don't have control of the environment of light, like perhaps in this scenario?
So, it's a very similar thing. You know, I am a photographer that uses a lot of available light in my shooting, and I tend to do the same in video. One of the things is that the sensors these days in the camera that I use, which is the Canon C100 or C300, or even in the 5Ds, you know, I use Canon gear, so these are kind of my points of reference, those sensors are unbelievable. I mean, they can see light that like doesn't exist, they like make light, and they see gradations in light very well. So I tend to use a lot of available light. But the thing is in both, in photography and video, light is incredibly important. With flat, boring light, you've got a problem. It's not going to look good. So, one is that you should really have an eye out for good light sources in all of your situations, so, maybe it's boring in the middle of the room, but maybe by a window it's great. Maybe it's boring in the middle of a room, but over by, you know, any light source is a light source. Someone opening their laptop and checking their email is a light source on someone's face. Someone using their phone and looking at a text message is a light source. Standing by a sign, being backlit by something, is still a light source. Just because the light's not on someone doesn't mean that you can't use it, and sometimes you're using it on purpose, but sometimes you're using it because you know you want a scene and that's what's available to you. You're like, oh, I can't see their face. I can either let this totally wash out, or, oh, I can do something interesting here, I can silhouette them against something brighter. So I'm always kind of thinking about light sources. But also, you know, it should be part of your toolkit. Little LCD light panels are very, very helpful. In this situation, and I'll point it out in the video I'm going to show later, in this situation we spent a lot of time with Nina in her car, and because in a car, unless there's an overhead light on which isn't always so great, you don't necessarily get great light in there when it's at night, we just a little LCD panel with a little kind of color temperature control, and we would just kind of put it up right on her rear-view mirror, kind of have some magnetic bendy legs that we could just wrap around, and we'd just throw a little, just so that it almost looked like headlights kind of off in the distance coming through the windshield. It's not much. It shouldn't look like light, it should just look like, you know, an environment. And that's often what we would do. Little things like that, you know, having a flashlight in your toolkit, having little LCDs, and then just having a sense of where is light in the place that you're shooting. Yeah?
A couple of more great questions right now. This one was from Elaine Gogh. You were talking about creating story. And the question is "Do you always have story flow in mind before you shoot, "so that you know exactly what you wanna shoot, "or do you decide on the flow "after you've captured your shots?"
That is a great question and I'm going to get to it later, when I get to that section.
Awesome. So, another one from Chris Waltz, who said, "In this short attention span world that we're all in, "how long should a video be?"
That's a great question. So, I don't really think about, necessarily, lengths of videos. I think projects are very much dictated by what they should naturally be. But I will say that in the short attention span world what you do wanna do, 'cause I won't necessarily talk about length, but what you do wanna do is captivate and keep people. And a lot of what I'm trying to do, what I'm trying to do, I'm not always achieving it, but what I'm attempting to do is that I want anything that I do in the documentary world 'cause that's primarily the type of work I do, I want it to feel like narrative. I want it to, and I wanna use all the kind of visual language that we use in narrative and that we see in narrative all the time. So, for example, if you watch a movie, you know, just a straight-up fiction movie, you might see someone's face and they go, you know, like, this, and then the next shot is that you see what they were looking at. Or, two people are having a conversation, and sometimes you're going this way, bla bla bla bla, and then sometimes you're looking back at the other person as they're talking. In a narrative setting, those things are set up, and those things are lit. Everything is shot this way, all of the conversation, everything is lit so that you can point the camera this way and record it, and then they stop, and they re-set up the lights, and they point it that way. And the reason that they do that and go through all that work, is 'cause it looks good, and it keeps things moving. You're like in a situation, you're right there in the scene, and then all of sudden, you're way pulled back and you see it from far away. Those are conscious choices about, OK, stop, cut, everyone back up, light it, move all the cameras over here, and then shoot it from way, way wide. And part of that is because there's a kind of visual language that is fun to watch, and that we like watching that stuff because it looks great. And so if you can incorporate as much of that as possible into your video, you will help your audience kind of of stay engaged and stay involved. And so, of course length is important, but it really depends on what the story is. But if you can kind of keep things moving and paced, and, you know, and switch the pace up, and keep a great kind of visual language going, you'll have a much more engaged audience. Yeah?
Is this class about DSLR video shooting or video camera videomaking? Can you just clarify--
Is it applicable to both?
It's definitely applicable to both. So, I started off on the DSLR. A lot of what I'm gonna show you today is the DSLR. I have since moved to a more, like, cinema-line camera, and I've done that for specific reasons, and I've done that in a way that like, you know, I thought would again kind of be this great big scary leap, or like, again, that's this thing that other people do. I own a photo camera, and other people own video cameras, or cinema cameras. And in reality they're very, very close these days. You know, the manufacturers of one make the other, so this is really about both. This is about teaching you some things to do on your DSLR, it's for people that wanna look at more cinema-focused cameras, what those offer, and why those might be a good option. We'll talk about some price differences too, which are not necessarily, surprisingly, they're not really all that different, or really any different in some cases. So it's for both. Yes?
And to that point about talking about the cinematic effects, Edwin had asked, "What do you think makes something look cinematic?"
Oh, that's such a great question. What makes something look cinematic is, you know, it really depends on the kind of eye of the person behind the lens. I mean, for me, what is cinematic is, can we go back? I can, right? For me what is cinematic is like, you know, I like a lot of contrast, I like a kind of charged moment, I like a little bit of creepy vibe to things that I shoot, so I think, you know, to me cinematic means something that's a little creepy and a little dark and a little hard around the edges. For some people, it's luscious and, you know, beautiful and kind of softer. But I think it's about really kind of bringing a strong visual sense to what you do. And I think in photography and video, it's really also about knowing your own, having your own kind of voice in this stuff. I'm not trying to get you guys to mimic what I do or the look that I'm into. I'll show you things that I do 'cause it's how I do them, but I think so much of this stuff is about finding your own visual voice. What does the world feel like to you? To me, the world a little bit feels like this. I'm like, you know, a general kind of happy person, but I tend to think of the world as a little bit of a darker, crunchier place, and that's just then how I translate out to the world visually. For someone else it might be very, very different, and I think it's about kind of honing in on what that means to you, and then, you know, moving forward and making stuff that just resonates with your own personal gut. And I think trusting that kind of gut sense of what the world looks and feels like, 'cause all of this stuff is much more about what things feel like than what they look like, and so honing in on what does the world feel like is the thing that you wanna try to move forward with.