What I've Learned About Video - Take One

So as some of you have noticed, I've started making really short films. Two so far, more to come. More or less weekly. This is a new experiment. As much about getting the creative juices flowing as it is about actually getting into making films. As the couple I've done so far were both thrown together in a matter of hours, they're not perfect, but I'm learning very fast where my failings are.

"Ice Cream Cait" was done in one shot with the camera on a tripod, which made everything pretty easy. In fact, technically, I'm pretty happy with that one. It looked how I wanted it to look. Creamy bokeh (85/1.2 will do that, even at f/3.2) and great actress. The main mistake I made in that one, was the fact that I used an auto-exposure mode, which caused the camera to stop down once Everett comes in at the end to steal the ice cream, which darkened the image. I guess I could have fixed that in post, but again, it's not about them being perfect at this point, it's about shipping. I ended up using some Creative Commons music for that first video, which worked out perfect as a 'porn soundtrack'


On the second film 'Spring Fling' I became more ambitious and decided to do one that required editing and a shot list (though it was made up in my head as I went along). This time I ended up having three problems: 1)  I did the same thing with autoexposure and have learned my lesson; Manual mode from here on in.

2) Most noticably, I need a stabilizer. The shots where I'm walking behind the actors are way too shaky. I knew this one going in and the uneven slate sidewalk didn't help. I shouldn't have handheld. Even if I had put the camera on a tripod and carried that it would have been a lot better. I've also figured out a way to use my little tripod as a make-shift stabilizer which works but requires a few feet to the left because 2 of the legs are extended as counterweight. I don't really want to pay a few hundred bucks for a commercial one at this point, but I'm probably going to try to build one of Johnny Lee's $14 Poor Man's Stabilizers. Even if only for fun.

3) White Balance and overall color are tricky. I'm not shooting RAW with the Magic Lantern hack yet (maybe someday Claude) but when you're moving in and out of shadows and sun the camera is shifting white balance back and forth which can make matching clips tough. I have generally been able to ignore this when shooting stills by just dealing with it in post, but it becomes cumbersome to color correct each shot in a sequence. Probably better to set it to Daylight outside and work all the clips from there. I should also switch my picture mode to something a lot flatter and low contrast so I can grade the look of the image later.


I have not tried anything with dialog yet. That will involve little zoom recorders and lav mics or a shotgun. All stuff I'll get to in due course, but I wanted to get some of the visual stuff under my belt first.

The other thing I've learned is that video is REALLY time consuming. Both in editing and in rendering. I've got a really fast top-of-the-line i7 desktop with 32GB of RAM and it still takes 5-10 minutes to render out my 1-2 minute films to h.264 at 1080p. Crazy. I'm sure there's more to come in the 'beginner mistakes by Bill' series, but that's the point right? That's how we learn.