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Old May 27th, 2007, 01:55 PM   #1
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How long should it take to become a good videomaker?

A discussion in another thread got me thinking.

Given the new era of access to GREAT videomaking tools at reasonable prices. I'm interested in how long the experienced practitioners here feel it would take a beginner to achieve basic competence at the kind of "solo" videomaking that the new tools are encouraging.

What I'm interested in are thoughts on how long it took for YOU to feel like you'd moved from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced skills in this field.

Even talking into consideration the variables of learning capabilities, how many months/years, etc do you think it would take a sharp person to learn all the basics of camera work? Lighting? Sound? Editing?

And what about the whole shebang. How many years of practice would you say it takes for a talented person to learn to make a really good video - on ANY topic - start to finish?

Just curious.

And I'll start.

I think basic competence in shooting takes 3-5 years of pretty consistent work to to achieve. In that time, I'd expect someone to have encountered a variety of shooting (and lighting!) conditions, different setups, understand and have achieved competence with camera moves and (presuming they have an "eye" for it, have seen enough shots go by to understand how to compose imagry for most typical situations.

I think audio and lighting take longer. So I'd say 5 years minimum practice to get really decent at either.

Editing? Simple scene to scene cutting with appropriate pacing probably a year or two. But REAL editing - a lifetiime.

Again, we're not talking about achieving academy award levels here. Just solid basic working skills.

What do you all think?

Just curious.
Bill Davis is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 27th, 2007, 11:23 PM   #2
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There is no answer to this... there are people I know who have done video for 20 years and are just average at best. There is a kid working with me now that had never touched a camera 18 months ago and now he is a great shooter and editor, one of the best in my area. The key as I have found it, is lack of ego and passion to learn. Once you think you know it all, it means you stop learning. I dont know how many b-rate crap films I see with the crew guys patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Analyze what you do... put it up against what you like, the GOLD STANDARD and learn how to improve toward that. Too many people think technology is holding them back when in fact, it is their lack of talent and experience.

ash =o)
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Old May 28th, 2007, 01:32 AM   #3
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too long


Ash is correct that you can't really say how long. I too have had a guy I hired who came and worked for 4 years in video and photo before. I was only 2 years into it at that time. But I was much better than he was in all areas (lighting, sound, shots, editing, etc). I would have thought that after being in it for 4 years, he would at least be competent. But he couldn't keep up with us and eventually quit with just 2 weeks into work.

OTOH, there was a kid who apprenticed with me, who with his first effort, showed great promise. His shots were very good. Too bad he is impatient and has poor work ethic. But as far as camera shooting and sensitivity, he was one of the better ones.

There are other shooters and editors who have been into this for 5 or more years and yet their work is mediocre and lacking in imagination or inspiration. I've seen them. Maybe if you think about these folks, your time table is correct. But if you ask me, when do you really see the improvement? And does it really take 5 years to get to a level of competency. How is it that some can do it for half the time.

There are also those who can be very good in one area in a short time, but takes forever to get it right in other areas. I once hired a shooter who could shoot so well with a small camera that in the processional I saw him retreating with it without any dolly, rails, or stabilizer. When I was editing the footage, it was unbelievable how steady he was! You'd never think that anyone can be so steady and it can be done with a small camera while moving! But in other areas, such as shot angles, and shot selection and other composition such as close-ups or zooming or panning, he was not very good, if not mediocre. And he said, he has done at least 200 video shoots in his 5 years as a shooter!

Personally, with my training and those I have trained, you can get the basic gist of shooting in 6 months. Most common lighting and sound setup (not the special and hard ones but those you use often), about the same, 6 months. After that, in a year or 1.5 years, the shoot becomes an experiment and refining of basics and technique. That is what I like about video, compared to photography. It takes a shorter time to be competent with it.

Editing is another thing. It's safe to say, in my experience, that you can be comfortable with an NLE in 6 months. You get to be proficient with it in 1 year. A master level 1 is achievable in another year, with levels of mastery improving through the years. But in 2 years, for sure, you should be very good already with what you do. 3 years should be enough for your style to mature or at least to take shape. But I bet 5 years or 8 years is a safe bet to be finding your spot in the bigger scheme of things.

Of course, the problem with this is that not everyone is doing the same thing or have the same skill level. I am in the events biz, and not into indie. So maybe there is also a difference there. There might be more to learn in indie compared to events. Maybe even more variations that must be mastered. But from where I am, by 2-3 years you should have your basic stuff all pat down and running smooth. If it takes you too long, unless it is just a hobby, you can't last long and have to close shop if it takes you too long to get it right or at least develop a level of competency that is your own market is willing to embrace.

This is where I am now as I am approaching my 3rd year of videography. But the question is what is the quality of this level? Unfortunately this varies from people to people and market to market. What may be good to me, may be ugly to others.

To illustrate my level at 2.7 years of video here is a link to my multiply account.

Take a pick on any of those and you tell me, which category I fall. Remember, I am an amateur, a semi-pro. I don't do this full time.

Also, I think that as you become better, the improvements are not so dramatic. They are usually subtle or even imperceptible improvements that only another master can notice. But even so, they are deep improvements that may not be obvious to the layman, but to a fellow master craftsman, the attention to the detail is very visible.

Finally, I think that if you really know this biz and how any art or craft works, you know that there really is no destination or standard where you can say "you've made it." The cliche that "this is a never ending process" is true. As long as you are still passionate and you have that fire or spark to do your stuff, that is good news and you still have more to learn.

It's never ending.
Mel Enriquez is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 28th, 2007, 03:23 AM   #4
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There is a kid working with me now that had never touched a camera 18 months ago and now he is a great shooter and editor, one of the best in my area.

Yeah, but Ash, with just 18 months behind him, is HE the guy you'd send if you had a "must get" scene with serious money riding on it? In other words, with less than a couple of years behind him, is he so good that whatever he runs into - a nasty backlit situation, a clusterf**k news conference where 10 folks are trying to get the same shot, the office interview where you have 4 boring white walls in a 10x12 room...

Is he that good that he's absorbed that kind of broad spectrum knowledge in under two years?

That seems weird to me.

Yeah, I've known and trained a few shooters with a great eye - and some editors with quite a touch. But I can't recall ANY of them that with under two years experience I'd expect to go out on any professional gig and not need someone backing them up who'd been in the trenches longer.

Not if there was serious money or a companies rep on the line.

That's what I'm getting at here.

A pure news shooter - or a pure event shooter - or a pure whatever your current gig is right now shooter can probably reach competence in the kind of time you're talking about in a narrow set of shooting conditions. But put the newsie behind the camera for a narrative gig and they're going to be out of their depth for a while.

Today's "one man band" style shooter often has experience in a lot of areas. And I'd expect a really competent shooter to be able to show up and see a tripod mounted rig with a studio kit in a ballroom corporate dog and pony show - a jib mounted rig at the side of a roadside parade - or to go handheld to catch the local pie-eating contest with pretty much equal aplomb.

That kind of range of experience takes time. And that's just shooting.

I'm not sure two years editing a local real estate show makes someone AT ALL competent to cut a narrative work like a soap opera.

Again, I'm just thinking about the new era where everyone's trying to be all things at all times - hanging out a shingle and saying "I can EDIT!" even if all they've really edited is their own digital films - something that's great and certainly teaches you how to push the buttons - but doesn't do much to teach you much about how to approach, for example, a music video.

Or maybe "shooting", "editing", "lighting" and "audio" are all just easier than I've been making them for the past few decades. (grin)

Bill Davis is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 28th, 2007, 08:30 AM   #5
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Sure, you can teach someone technical skills on how to operate said machine, but there is an undefinable variable involved that can never be measured.

The things that you can't learn in books, or seminars, etc, are what is the real measuring stick in my opinion. A robot could learn how to use a camera, in fact they do have robotically operated cameras following action. Just because somebody is technically precise, doesn't mean they are successful or talented, it just means that are technically precise or they know how to follow directions.

If you had me choose between watching the work of someone who is truly talented(more raw and not completely versatile) vs. the average video joe(who knows how to technically accommodate every situation), I will choose to watch the less versatile guy every single time. His creative work is not limited to book knowledge or technical experience. It's more interesting and it is certainly more personal. It's less safe and predictable.

95% of what makes somebody talented or not talented is the undefinable quality. Learning how to adjust to situations and use a tool can be done by most anybody.
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