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Advice for an aspiring documentary cameraman?


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#1 Karel Bata

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 08:10 AM

I thought this might make an interesting query.

I'm about to edit a half hour doc about a martial arts course. And no, it's not another martial arts course video, but a doc about those involved.

I'm a little worried that the young cameraman they're using has limited experience of shooting documentaries. I think it'll be him, the producer, a sound man, and a DIT/runner. It's a pilot for something bigger. In the end it'll be me that has to paste together what he's done, and cope with what he's not. It's a bit awkward giving him any advice, but he's friendly enough, and I'll tread carefully.

For instance, one nugget of wisdom a friend gave me was that every sequence, like say one of someone making breakfast, should tell its own little story, one that contributes to the whole, and it's the cameraperson's job to find that.

I have my own ideas, which I do find a little difficult articulating! Anyone here care to give it a go? What should I (diplomatically) ask him to get?
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 10:20 AM

Well I'd say make sure he keeps an eye out for inserts to grab.
In the situation of the making breakfast-- stuff such as close ups of the breakfast cooking, the person's face as they look out a window or something-- steaming tea ect. All the little things you can cut to.
As it's a doco about the people; I would focus a lot on them and their movements-- trying to create a visual parallel between how they move in martial arts and how that has carried over into the real world. Let's say, how they ties their shoes, how they fix their tie ect.
In truth, though, the camera-man will have some trouble being on the look out for these things all the time as we are generally focused on the image we are shooting, so as much advice as you give the shooter, also talk to the producer to keep his/her eyes out for things the op might be missing and figure out a way between the prod and the shooter to, without disturbing the subject, signal to reframe.
Normally, I like it when the producer is right near me and can give me a gentle pat, on my left or right side so I know which was to look to find a new shot.
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#3 Karel Bata

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 04:43 AM

Thanks Adrian. Good advice from you, as always ;) .

That's much along my lines of thinking. Such as when stuff is happening get some reaction shots. To just film what's going on can make it difficult to cut, and the end result a bit flat. In drama it's often the reaction that cues the emotional response - I find that's also true of documentary.

Cheers! B)
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 08:16 AM

I agree (and I wish more of the people I work with knew the importance of not simply showing actors speaking, but that's a whole other discussion.)
Glad I could be of some help and here's hoping you don't just get dumped 4 hours of talking heads a day to cut through ;)
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The Slider

Tai Audio

Paralinx LLC

CineTape

Abel Cine

Wooden Camera

Ritter Battery

Rig Wheels Passport

Metropolis Post

Technodolly

Aerial Filmworks

FJS International, LLC

Willys Widgets

Visual Products

CineLab

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Opal

Glidecam

rebotnix Technologies