My college documentary, shot on an XL2. at DVinfo.net

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Old May 22nd, 2009, 08:57 PM   #1
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My college documentary, shot on an XL2.

Even though Vimeo totally chewed it up compression-wise (especially when viewing on a Mac) I uploaded my college documentary today. Every student in my (now former) video program has to complete a documentary as their final project.

The Vimeo page for it has the information about what it was about, but I wanted to post it here as another example of what an XL2 can do. I used the 20x kit, and the 3x wide lens along with the occasional jib for most of the project. Overwhelmingly, I shot hand-held with the on-board mic since my subject was more than a little un-predictable.

Feel free to critique and all that, and enjoy!

We Shoot Zombies, a documentary by Matt Cikovic on Vimeo
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Old May 25th, 2009, 02:58 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Matt Cikovic View Post
Even though Vimeo totally chewed it up compression-wise (especially when viewing on a Mac) I uploaded my college documentary today. Every student in my (now former) video program has to complete a documentary as their final project.

The Vimeo page for it has the information about what it was about, but I wanted to post it here as another example of what an XL2 can do. I used the 20x kit, and the 3x wide lens along with the occasional jib for most of the project. Overwhelmingly, I shot hand-held with the on-board mic since my subject was more than a little un-predictable.

Feel free to critique and all that, and enjoy!

We Shoot Zombies, a documentary by Matt Cikovic on Vimeo

Hi Matt,

Excellent video, two BIG thumbs up! While I could limit my discussion to our XL-2 cameras, instead let me compliment you how many areas you and the team excelled:

1. Great story

2. Excellent narrative/dialog

3. Very good pacing

4. Nice editing, especially JK cuts and B roll cutaways, alternating subjects and perspectives (including left-right head shots)

5. Surprisingly good lighting

6. Very good sound, on-camera mic is fine for this type of production

7. Good talent, especially the teacher using her "real voice" (honest, candid, funny)

8. Good camera composition and framing

Of course we could quibble about minor issues like camera stability, audio compensation (high-pass filter needed on a few scenes), occasional smudge on lens, etc. But you've done a great job on all the key elements which more than compensates for secondary items that only folks in the trade would catch (the only disturbing item was the +20dB music blast at 9:36-9:44).

Of course, we should always strive to cut-Cut-CUT excess footage that doesn't add to the production value or move the story forward (15:30-16:30). And assuming the overall length was for current/future students, I'm sure they'll appreciate the 25 minute cut.

One minor suggestion I'll offer based on your comment that you used an occasional jib shot. Continue developing your basic craft learning different camera shots and shot sequences solely with your camera - you can add lots of eye candy at no cost using varied camera shots/angles. If you want some specifics, let us know and we can give some details. But again, you've done an awesome job - keep it up!

Cudos,

Michael
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Old May 25th, 2009, 11:22 AM   #3
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Hi Matt,

Excellent video, two BIG thumbs up! While I could limit my discussion to our XL-2 cameras, instead let me compliment you how many areas you and the team excelled:

Michael
Thank you, Michael, I really appreciate all the good words and the critique, too. I agree 100% with you that there are some audio issues, mostly because I find myself completely sound stupid despite making an 'A' in the sound production class I took.

For our documentary class (and I'm glad this wasn't apparent in the final product) we can only work by ourselves. No help shooting, editing, sound, or anything. I credit a few of the kids as "camera assistants" simply because they helped lug a few things around for me, plus, anything in black and white was shot for their movie by them.

Framing is a field I find myself challenged with a lot, but that's why I'm drawn to cinematography more than any other discipline, it's a problem I get to think my way through. A lot of this documentary fell into place easily, I had a bunch of talented kids who had no trouble speaking on camera, plus plenty of opportunities for B-roll. The real trouble I find myself in the most was trying to help them make their movie while still making mine. I had to find a balance, an often times I'd have to suspend a little shot fore-planning.

You've given me a bunch to think over, thanks again!
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Old May 28th, 2009, 06:00 PM   #4
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Well it was pretty good but I'm sorry to say I became bored with it. At about the 7 minute mark I was loosing interest and at aprox 8.30 min turned it off.

I thought there was just too much of the talking head stuff. It needed a reporter doing pieces to camera plus voice overs to compliment the talking heads, summarizing what was said to give the clip more pace. Try doing the same story again cutting it to say 10 minutes.
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Old May 29th, 2009, 09:55 PM   #5
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Interesting thoughts. I purposely stayed away from a host or narrator simply because I wanted the story to be the kids, not a personalty which would frame or color comment on what was happening.

The school had hired me to help make their zombie movie, showing the kids how to use their new gear and what not. It would have been to easy, I think, to make myself a character in the documentary, and I purposely tried to keep any mention (or sighting) to me, very little. I'm not confident/loud/talented/fat enough to be a Michael Moore type host.

Thanks for watching though!
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Old June 1st, 2009, 12:48 PM   #6
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Matt,

While I think Owen's comment is appropriate for our audience here (videographers at large), what's really important is YOUR target audience. Without getting into a lot of marketing jargon dealing with target audience, segmentation, illustrative personas and value propositions, suffice it to say that what really matters is who will be watching the film?

I assume your viewing audience will be past, current, and prospective theater/film students. If so, they'll love your "behind the scenes" approach with lots of commentary from various perspectives.

Going deeper, we should always ask ourselves what feelings and messages (learning experience) we're trying to emote in the subtext of our movie (or as master scriptwriter Robert McKee would cite Hollywood, "if the film is only about what the film is about then the movie is in deep SH*T")! So even when we are making a documentary, we still have elements of a three-act story with protagonists/antagonists, plot-points, and character development and the like. Along that line, like all films, documentaries can be categorized by sub-genre and our productions should follow industry norms. Looking at your film as a behind-the-scene doc, I found it right in line with hundreds I've enjoyed. Of course, if you were Ron Howard planning "Angels and Demons" then you'd ensure the film included the big 5 filmmaking elements:

Lonliness
Loss
Tests
Searching
Time Running Out

As you improve your director/scriptwriting skills, you'll actually find ways to incorporate key movie elements as these in your modest documentaries, short films, etc. But for now, your primary mantra is: "connect with the audience - make films that are emotionally engaging, blending story and spectacle."

Anyway, here's some links that you might find helpful (I find ChangingMinds very good):

SF360: How to rate your doc?s story potential

Classic story types

Tobias' 20 plots

Parker's story types

Classic story conflicts

Academic Theories

Reich's American narratives

Georges Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations

Friedman's story plots

The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations - Georges Polti

http://www.unknownscreenwriter.com/p...tiExpanded.pdf

Good luck, Michael
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