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Old December 27th, 2013, 05:53 PM   #1
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conversations with my father

This has been floating around in the back of my head for some time but with dad just getting out of hospital after a serious operation, I thought it was time I started.

Whenever we get together we have rambling discussions about family history, politics etc etc and I thought it would be great to film some of them for posterity. It's certainly not intended for a wide audience, just family - nevertheless I'd like to do it well.

The 1st session was 20 minutes (after editing) so there's going to be plenty of material - what I'd like some comments on is the way to capture the footage.

Outside looks good but the sound is a pain to deal with, I'm using 2 cameras so I can cut extraneous comments but the cuts from one to another look wrong, I'm guessing because the framing is so similar.

any ideas?
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Old December 27th, 2013, 06:07 PM   #2
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Re: conversations with my father

I have not seen the movie, but Stories We Tell received high marks from critics. It might be worth taking a look at how the conversations with the filmmaker and various family members was captured and edited.

Stories We Tell (2012) - IMDb
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Old December 30th, 2013, 08:06 AM   #3
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Re: conversations with my father

trailer looks interesting but I can't get it in Aust
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Old December 31st, 2013, 03:15 AM   #4
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Re: conversations with my father

I might favour having somebody else operate and record sound whilst you engage with your father. Then again, that might inhibit him.

My father was not amenable to doing audio-visual oral history until after the final countdown began and it was very nearly too late as the lifetime of smoking as well as going after his circulation and breathing, also went after his voice.

I was lucky enough to get this one before his voice began to fail. It was an audio-only oral history for another person. I got sneaky and sat off with a motion picture camera on long zoom from the adjacent unlit room handheld for as long as the film held out, hence the shakes.


He was content later to do this one to camera for a local oral historian. This clip is a short extract. I had to compromise with the camera outside of his eyecontact, not an ideal view.


Last edited by Bob Hart; December 31st, 2013 at 03:21 AM. Reason: error
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Old December 31st, 2013, 09:04 AM   #5
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Re: conversations with my father

That's my concern Bob - I think he's become to formal with anyone else - I want to just let the cameras roll and forget they're there.
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Old December 31st, 2013, 10:22 AM   #6
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Re: conversations with my father

If having it look good is important, then you'll either:
1) go outside and sit in the shade and put a microphone on him. Either a corded mic that is long enough to reach him from the camera, or a pocket recorder you'll sync up later. I'm assuming you don't have a directional boom microphone.

2) or stay inside and light it. This can be great, this time of year, with holiday decorations in the background. Put him in a chair and have the lit tree in the background, but use slightly shallow depth of field so it's not a distraction.

In either case, find a place he's comfortable. Or places. No reason it couldn't be informal. Talk to him for 15 minutes outside. Later, hang out at the pub with him, fisheye lens on the bar getting a low angle.

For me, I associate my dad most with his years of working on cars or building homes. I would put him in those settings a bit to talk, even if it's just for my sake - how I want to remember him in my mind's eye. Or how he built huge sand castles at the beach when we were kids.

You go find your personal touches. And maybe ask him.
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Old December 31st, 2013, 08:06 PM   #7
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Re: conversations with my father

There was a technique used some years ago with film camera interviews for a documentary titled "The Wonderful World Of Dogs", made by the same outfit as "Cane Toads - An Un-natural History." It involved the use of a mirror with a hole in it for the camera lens.

The interviewer sat alongside the interviewee out of shot and they both interacted with each other via the mirror. This placed the interviewee as if looking and addressing direct to camera. It was done this way to preserve self-confidence.

I don't know how the mirror was constructed, whether it was a glass mirror with a hole in it, a glass mirror with the reflective coating removed for the lens or a plastic prison mirror which would be easier to cut up, glued onto a flat piece of plywood.
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Old January 4th, 2014, 09:56 AM   #8
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Re: conversations with my father

Why not place some go pro's in an unobtrusive manner?
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Old January 5th, 2014, 06:20 PM   #9
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Re: conversations with my father

Paul,

I have found "time" around the cameras helps them go away. Set them up well in advance of turning them on so he gets used to them being there. Even when they are not rolling. Next is lighting. Shoot in natural light if you can. Bright lights in someones face can be a bigger irritant than the cameras.

Bob, Thank you for posting those clips. Valuable stuff to you, I'm sure. I enjoyed them. Both of my parents are gone. Seeing your father reminds me that my road to hell will be paved with good intentions. There is so much I wish I would have done. Go for it Paul, while you can.

Steve
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Old January 5th, 2014, 06:25 PM   #10
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Re: conversations with my father

Also, with just two cameras, I would have one on the "two head" shot of both of you. The second is the tight shot on his face. While he is talking to you, camera behind you. Text book, I know, but it works.

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Old May 25th, 2014, 04:39 AM   #11
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Re: conversations with my father

Something that worked with my parents- we had a bunch of old photos- of their childhoods, youth, etc. Rather than pointing the camera at them (they weren't super keen on that) I pointed a camera at the photos- so they could tell the stories, and point, etc. (I did get a few short shots of them both talking.)
I wanted something more visual anyway - scanned the pics and cut them in later, with occasional use of the original shots with hands pointing, etc. It worked well in a few ways - I had older pics that fitted what was being said; I could identify people in old photos - good family records; but most of all, the photos brought back lots of memories - they were a great conversation starter, and not having a camera pointed at them allowed both parents to open up in a very relaxed and natural way. Just an idea :)
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