Shot live during the 1 day workshop in London edited and graded in camera. Drone added and export done in Prremiere.
Also my entry for the weekend challenege! Enter here: http://philipbloom.net/2013/06/13/discipline/
Shot on C300. Audio Rode NTG-3into camera
Sorry for the lack of posts again. Been a bit snowed under with shoots, workshops and edits! Again, I will try and post more frequently. I promise! Quality not quantity though…right? Which brings us nicely into this post!
How many of you have shot on tape?
How many of you have edited that footage tape to tape, not with a computer?
Do any of you have any experience shooting on or still shoot on non file based media?
I expect most people will answer no. Some will say yes, anyone who has been filming for more than a few years will undoubtedly have shot on tape…although not necessarily editing using tape to tape. One of the best editors I have worked with has no experience editing on anything other than NLEs. Let’s not even get into the shooting/ editing of film!
If you have never had to shoot tape, shoot film, or edit without a computer then, to be honest, you have had it pretty easy!
Before you get defensive, let me explain! It’s not a dig at all. I of course have been very vocal in my embracing of these wonderful changes, there is no way I would like to go back to the bad old days where everything was way more difficult for my work (for my work is the key bit here, more of that later!)
Things have never been more easy or gear more available for filmmakers, and of course it is only going to get better and easier. Obviously it’s easier due to affordability and breakthroughs in technology. A professional editing suite costs £199.99 (Final Cut Pro X), 35mm sensor HD cameras that take 35mm optics are less than the cost of my V-Lock battery chargers! Back in my day (I sound like a whiny old man here, I never thought that would be, but I am becoming one!) everything was bloody expensive and out of the reach of most people. You either worked for a company with gear, rented, or took out massive loans to buy what you needed. Editing was a totally different kettle of fish to what we have now. Editing on a plane on a laptop would have been a science fiction dream for me 15 years ago…10 years ago it was possible, though with my Apple Mac Titanium G4 Powerbook & Final Cut. I can’t remember which version, but I had it. I learnt to do NLE with this computer and software, although I didn’t use Final Cut professionally until many years later. It was Avid Avid Avid back then. Avid was the big player back then and is still huge today in the pro circles.
I learnt to edit tape to tape, though, back in news. It must have been around when I was 28/29 (I am 42 now). I was put into the Sky News edit suites for 3 weeks to learn editing, as they wanted to send me off to foreign bureaus where the cameramen edit their own work.
The first week was supposed to be supervised editing, the second week was going to be unsupervised but simple stuff, and the last week I was going to be treated like the other editors. I had a knack for it though. Since I’m quite a tech geek, it all made sense to me and being a cameraman, I already knew how to edit…in my head. I had always constructed sequences in my head before shooting them. Everyone who shoots has to be an editor, whether they actually edit or not. It’s part of the basic skill set. If you don’t know how to cut shots together, it’s impossible to get coverage. This is not bragging, but on the 1st day I cut the top story for the 5pm flagship, and I got the rushes at 4.45pm! I didn’t really enjoy that, although there was a bit of a buzz from it. That’s not craft, that’s a challenge and challenges are good!
If you have never cut tape to tape, then you won’t have had that immediate experience of inserting the rushes into the machine and working straight from that instantly. No capturing, no converting. I edited native when I cut tape to tape ALTHOUGH the first time I cut my own work I said “Who the f*** shot this?!”. Editing made me better. It made me shoot better. It taught me how long to hold shots. It taught me how many shots were actually needed for a sequence. Editing your own material is a great way to see your failings.
Editing this way, especially on analogue tape like Betacam SP, meant you had to be confident about your edits. Almost 100% confident. Your reporter had to be, too. You had two machines (three if you had a fancy suite for those futuristic dissolves) one was for the rushes and one for the edit master. What made things easier in the editing was a small amount of rushes. If I had a very short time to edit and I was given 60 minutes of rushes, my heart would sink. There was no way I could go through those rushes, and if you are cutting someone else’s work you wouldn’t know what any of it was. Even if it was your work, it’s a lot to spool through. Shooting economically was really important.
When laying down a shot onto the edit master, everything was sequential. The clock went down first, then we generally laid the first bit of V.O. down, then a grab from an interview, then more VO etc…leaving black to fill in after. If you wanted to use an UPSOT, that would be inserted like a grab. If you didn’t do it this way, you would be stuffed.
When we edit on an NLE, we move things around all the time. Throw stuff onto the timeline. Try things out, extend, shorten, delete, put back, slow down, speed up…changing stuff all the time. Why? Because the software lets us do this and doesn’t limit our creativity…but this way of editing makes you a lot less confident about your decisions than if you were editing tape to tape. If something you are trying in an NLE doesn’t work, it doesn’t really matter. Just tweak it, change it…it’s easy! “Apple Z” FTW!
With tape to tape (especially analogue) what you laid down was generally what went to air unless there was a massive f*** up. You couldn’t shunt things around or even makes things longer if they were earlier on the edit tape. The only way would be to redo everything you had down until that point, or you took another edit master and used the old edit master to take the bits you wanted and not the bits you didn’t. With analogue, this meant a drop in quality by a generation. Thankfully, with the advent of digital betacam, both SX and digibeta, you could do this without a generational loss. But it was a still a pain in the arse.
Editing was a lot quicker back then in my experience, others may and will disagree. I faff ALL THE TIME with NLEs. We all do…well most of us! You don’t make those hard and fast decisions because you don’t have to, and this is also a great thing….although editing using an NLE has cost us a lot of our discipline, our confidence. I would check the edit in the old days up to that point before moving on to the next shot…after that I don’t go back unless I had to, (as mentioned earlier) only at the very end to watch it back. If you have only ever edited with an NLE did you ever have that true discipline? Only you know!
This brings us back to the idea of tight rushes. Editors love tight rushes…just not too tight. It’s always better to overshoot than undershoot. Nobody wants to run out of shots, it’s preferable to have too much to play with than too little…but the sign of inexperience is overshooting. Lacking the confidence in knowing if you have got the coverage. I have overshot and still do at times. Although my overshooting is less to do with confidence and more to do with the style of most of my work, documentaries, where you always overshoot so you don’t miss a moment.
So, what is the ratio of raw footage to finished product? Well it depends on the project. There is no set ratio. If someone tells you there is, then they have not worked in different genres. For example, as I said, documentaries tend to have far too much rushes, especially evolving docs, as you don’t know where the story is going. Commercials tend to be nice and tight. Low budget fiction also, as you have never have enough time to do all the re-takes you want to! So when someone says their shoot to edit ratio is 7 to 1, that’s pretty amazing but also utterly dependent on the project.
This project below was relatively tightly shot-listed, so the rushes were 16 minutes (not including the 15 minute interview) and the piece 2 minutes long.This is actually a B&W version I did recently using Filmconvert. Below it is the original colour version.
I was given two days by Sony for the shoot for this piece. I said just one please. I would have liked the extra day’s money but I didn’t need it or the extra footage it would have unnecessarily given me. So with the tight rushes I was also cut it that night in about 45 minutes! The audio mix and music took a bit longer.
So how do you gain the experience in knowing how much to shoot? Well, experience comes with time of course…
These are key things to do / remember when shooting to make sure your shooting is efficient…not too short and not too long!
Can you plan a shot list? Not all projects can, but if you can, it makes you more focused and if you are less experienced it will make you think before the shoot, which is better than wasting time/ making it up on the shoot.
Do you like the shot? If yes, then great…if not, then why hit record? Don’t record for the sake of it. Only roll on what you think is good.
If you edit, look at your ratio for the same genre. Is it generally the same? Do you feel you are getting too much? What are you throwing away and why? If you are repeating shots from different angles, ask yourself why and if you don’t need the different angles then don’t shoot them. You will only use a similar size framing of something from one angle normally…doing 3 or 4 similar ones is pointless as it wastes time both shooting and editing. Confidence is key!
Why are you recording too much? If it’s because it “doesn’t matter, cards are cheap” remember it’s YOUR time or the time of your editor that ends up costing…yes, cheap compared to film, but still far from free.
I shot this show for Discovery HD and the director had only ever shot film before. He was so excited to be using DVCPRO HD on the Varicam that he made me shoot WAY more than he needed and likewise made the interview longer than needed. Why? He said video was freeing…it was free compared to film. Yes and no. I warned him that we were massively overshooting, he didn’t mind. Two months later he phoned me to say he understood what I meant. We are always learning!
My first 5Dmk2 commercial that was for Greenpeace (you can see it below) was shot over 5 days for a 90 second spot. It’s by far the biggest shoot to edit ration I have done. The director didn’t know which direction it would go in as it was a “documentary commercial”. We had (and I still have it) enough footage for a half hour doc EASILY…just not the content or interview. So I have a huge amount of New Delhi footage that one day I would love to make into something but for a 9o second spot? WAYYY too much…simply because there was no real pre-planning, partly because we couldn’t.
Today my biggest flaw in overshooting is actually not with video but with stills! How many photos did you take on your last trip? 36? 360? 3600? Digital is easy, and we take hundreds more photos now than we did before. Film and processing cost money, digital doesn’t. It’s just a memory card. BUT it’s not much fun going into Lightroom with 1500 photos and sorting them out and working on them. The good thing with digital too of course is we don’t miss as many moments. Auto focus and rapid shooting means we capture things we want to! In fact, since I have started shooting lots of video on the 1DC in 4k, I am effectively getting 25 medium JPEGS a second, and each shot lasts around 15 seconds. That’s a lot of frames…at least that is full manual control so a bit trickier…I can lift frames so easily and they look great as you can see from a few frames just below. Getting a photo on a DSLR, a good photo on a DSLR, is pretty easy. It does most of the work for you. All you need to do is get your composition ok…framing can be tweaked in post…and rattle them off!
This is why I have started shooting film again…SLR film. I haven’t done this for 25 years. I stopped taking stills for a few years and picked it up again with the old APS system back in the mid 90’s…then came digital compacts. It wasn’t until I got a Nikon D300 that I started shooting 35mm stills again, but it was so different. It was easier!
I have picked up a few film cameras in the past few weeks. 3 Nikon SLRs…An F3, F4, FM3a and also a lovely but even harder to nail Leica M7. I generally go out with two of them with me (colour and b&w), and before I hit SNAP I consider the shot about 100 times more than I would do with a DSLR. So far I am absolutely loving the discipline it is giving me. Am I missing moments? Yes. Am I missing instant gratification? Yes..but that’s why I have my iPhone!
It’s worth giving it a try again. These old cameras are cheap. Experiment. It’s rewarding, and the discipline it’s given me back with stills is invaluable as well as the man-hours it will save me on future DSLR stills shooting.
Below are some frames and a Flickr set to see how I have been getting on! I still have a lot to learn but that’s the fun bit!
You can regain discipline. It’s possible! Even with video! Simply consider your shots and try to plan what you are shooting! In fact, that brings us onto the resurrected (again!) “Weekend Challenge”!
Your challenge, if you wish to accept it, is to make a 30-60 second short. The style and the subject is ENTIRELY up to you. The trick is this. YOU CANNOT EDIT IT! It’s all in camera. All sequential. No retakes. No erasing clips. No looking back to check. You will have to be 100% confident. 100% certain THIS is the shot you want and THIS is the duration you want. Yep. Horrible. A horrible idea. BUT it will make you think, think very hard in fact. Thinking hard about your shots is a great thing to do!
Now you may ask who on earth would shoot this way? Well an 86-year-old cameraman called Phil Pendry who I shot a mini doc on (still needs editing!) often shoots for edit in camera. It’s damn risky as his shots are very short, but they are for him, so he only has himself to blame if it doesn’t work. He is sort of an example but a truer more exact example is actually done with film.
The super 8mm film competition called “STRAGHT 8” is exactly that. You pay the entry fee, they send you a cartridge of Super 8mm, you put it in your camera. You shoot the film sequentially after much pre-planning (hopefully!), you then send the undeveloped film to them which then process. It’s only at the screening nights that you see your film. A crazy way to shoot. The 1:1 shooting ratio. Stupid and utterly impractical but a hell of a challenge and enormous fun.
A few years ago I wanted to a piece about Straight 8 for five news and my pitch was to shoot it in the same way. They said go for it! Yep. I shot a piece for them sequentially without looking back at previous shots and never erased a single shot or did a retake. DAMN HARD! Pre-planned, rehearsed and my heart didn’t stop racing the entire time. Shooting sequentially is a pain in the arse at the best of times. Doing it for broadcast is insane. Myself and Ruth Liptrot the reporter didn’t watch it until it went out. The programme editor refused to let it go out without checking it understandably. The fact that it went out said a lot. It came out pretty damn well, especially considering I didn’t make things easy on myself with dolly shots, crash zooms, interviews etc…. We even both went onto the programme after it went out for a live interview (below pic). You can see the piece we did below as well as a good example of what can be done. Do check out loads more on the Straight 8 website and on their VIMEO page.
So back to this “1:1 challenge”. What is stopping you cheating? Nothing. Cheat if you want. You are only cheating yourself. This isn’t a competition…there are no prizes! It’s a challenge. There is no challenge in cheating and not following the rules. See what you can do! Amaze us…amaze yourself!
So join the Vimeo group and make your film. I am actually giving you longer than a weekend for this “Weekend Challenge” as it’s going to need much planning. You have until 8AM GMT on the 25th on June to upload to the group!
You can shoot on anything you want…just remember. Do it properly! It’s more fun that way…I will also do one to prove it can be done…quite possibly badly, but I will follow the rules! Also please do watch others’ work and give feedback!!
Most of all enjoy yourself….filmmaking is fun after all!