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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old March 13th, 2015, 06:59 PM   #1
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Shot Sequencing Tips / Maintaining Prep-like Footage (Highlights / Feature Film)

Hello,

As many of you know, I'm working my way into the industry, but I'm not even a semi pro yet, so I still have a lot to learn.

Having shot three films, I've realised that my preps really shine (footage wise) in relation to the other parts of the day - not that they're particularly amazing or anything - just better than my others. As long as you capture the bride under great lighting conditions and shoot the details well, it's fairly easy to create a good minute or twos worth of footage from that, which really builds up their story.

However, once I've arrived at the venue and captured the ceremony, I seem to find that it's mostly just people shots, venue shots... and the story becomes weaker. I realise that it's relative to the story of a wedding day, and perhaps also a reason why a lot of people jump from ceremony to first dance... or seem to show very little in between, or use time-shifting - very few people do this well in my opinion.

My question, in relation to the preps, or any particular part of the day: what do you do to keep the story flowing? How do you ensure that you have clips that will cut together nicely?

Sometimes, I find that my clips don't have a nice transition... whereas others do... and I can never explain the reason why, unless it's obvious. E.g. Slider going left in one scene to the next - easy to understand why that flows, but if you make the slider move one way, and then alternate the next, it becomes really disgruntled and confusing to the viewer. Similarly, I can find that a lot of static shots can have this effect... I can never understand why... it's almost like they're 'jump cuts'. Popping from one to the next, rather than moving between each shot nicely.

If I can learn why my shots are turning out like this, then I would become a much better videographer. As well as this, I would spend less time in the edit, as I could shoot more for the edit and know what's going to work even more in comparison to what I do now...

So, once you're finished at the ceremony, what stories, details, ideas do you tap into to create a great wedding film? How do you keep the story rolling? Are there any editing techniques or shooting techniques that I should be aware of? I've read the 5 shot rule... but couldn't find that rule in relation to weddings etc.

Sequencing my shots better and ensuring great audio is my target for my next three weddings... hoping I can succeed.

Thank you to anyone for any tips!!!

Craig

P.s. Interested to hear your thoughts, but I am learning a bit online about how you can't tie in multiple medium shots... and now I think I know what I'm doing quite a bit... and why it's wrong!
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Old March 13th, 2015, 08:28 PM   #2
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Re: Shot Sequencing Tips / Maintaining Prep-like Footage (Highlights / Feature Film)

Hey Craig, I don't have any amazing insights. But here's some quick thoughts.

Prep vs rest of the day -- in my opinion, you're quite right. (Don't know how anyone else feels.) During prep, things often happen and develop... and it gradually builds up to the kiss at the ceremony. But what happens post-ceremony can often feel anticlimactic. As a whole, it doesn't necessarily build to any point in the way that the pre-ceremony stuff does. Also, the individual bits of it don't neatly consist of "processes". People talk, eat, and later they dance. Random talking doesn't a story make. Eating could be documented as a process, but it's kind of nasty to see half-eaten food, and people don't look attractive as they eat. Dancing is kind of a static state and doesn't lead to anything. It's different from doing up buttons on the back of a bride's dress, where there's a start, middle and end.

Whenever you watch anyone's videos, including mine, see if they manage to make any "story" out of the post-ceremony part of the day. I think that very often they don't.

As to what could be done to wring more of a story out of this stuff... I'm still looking for a repeatable method. Maybe there isn't one.

In terms of your editing queries... Well, there's lots of theory behind this. I'm sure this stuff is explored in a billion editing books. I'm no great editor, and I just use a few rules of thumb to help me get by.

How to not make a jump cut? Well, what I was told at film school was, "Change distance, angle and lens." I don't know if there's a black and white about what's a jump cut and what's not; there's probably a fair bit of grey area. It's just that two shots have to be "sufficiently" different.

To ask a different question -- how do you make a smooth cut? Well...

1. Idea one -- classic "continuity editing" -- cutting on movement or cutting on a look, and maybe even doing a J or L cut with the sound, are classic ways to make a cut seamless. So, when you're filming a hair stylist spraying a bride in the morning, get the same movement in the wide angle as in the medium and close, and in the edit cut on the movement. (Of course, depending on what effect you want, you might intentionally want the cuts to be jarring or to draw attention to themselves.)

2. Idea two -- informational logic behind a progression of images helps to make the cuts smooth. Gordon Willis talks about building a house brick by brick. This is one difference between video and photo: photos tend to be judged individually rather than in the context of a sequence of images, so you need a bit of context in each photo; video can be strung together out of close-ups that gradually reveal more information.

One way to think about this is "Q&A editing". In terms of informational content, one shot sets up a question that the next shot answers, and that shot in turn asks another question. This is crude, but an example might go... Shot one: establishing shot of house. Question: what's going on here? Shot two: wide angle interior of bride getting hair done. Question: what's going on? Shot three: close up of hair being sprayed. Question: who's doing the spraying? Shot four: Close-up of hair stylist's face, talking to bride. Question: How does the bride respond? Shot five: Bride laughing.

3. Idea three -- visual similarity. Often used for ends of sequences. So, how do you join the "bride getting hair done" scene to another scene? Maybe the next cut after bride laughing is someone else laughing in a different location.


Edit: This is potentially a dumb suggestion, but watch any HBO show with multiple storylines -- like True Blood or Girls or Looking or whatever. There will be frequent scene changes to juggle all the storylines, but the changes aren't completely jarring. Watch for the ways the transitions are made smoother -- often cutting on visual similarity or idea similarity or something like that.
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Old March 14th, 2015, 09:44 AM   #3
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Re: Shot Sequencing Tips / Maintaining Prep-like Footage (Highlights / Feature Film)

Adrian, I need to report your post for being "Awesome!" haha

Thank you, I'm sure that every videographer would have their tips, and I think this is really interesting topic that I can't seem to find much information on, online.

Do you (or anyone else) know of resources online, or a particularly great editing book / video series?

The questions that you've asked, really helped me to divulge the idea behind the shot.

As a beginner, I see my shots telling somewhat of a story, but sometimes this is led by which shot works, rather than what I want the viewer to learn... this is how I must improve.

Amazing that you went to film school. I have looked into courses here in the UK, but most run above £10,000. I can't really afford that, along with the expense of having to move to London etc. So I'd rather learn through advice, trial, error and being hyper-critical of my own work... I'm sure I can learn most of what I'd need to know through this method.

Loved your three tips in particular! Q&A editing, Continuity editing, and visual similarity are three things that I can research. Would you have any other tips on other terms to research?

One thing that I've noticed is that a lot of close up shots blend well together, but medium, medium do not, which is basically what you have stated in what you were told about changing the distance, angle and lens.

I think in my next film, I'm going to pursue story more. I'll do this before my next wedding in April.

Thanks Adrian - any more tips are welcome!!!
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Old March 14th, 2015, 01:07 PM   #4
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Re: Shot Sequencing Tips / Maintaining Prep-like Footage (Highlights / Feature Film)

Imagine how long you could watch the reception footage of a stranger's wedding before you got bored. A bunch of drunk strangers doing "Y-M-C-A". About two seconds.

Imagine how long you could watch the kid you grew up next door to grind on your best friend from college while your grandma does the funky chicken?

Pretty much forever.

Remember, you've got audience to think about. The two people you are producing this video for are the two people who know every single person in the shot.

It doesn't really have to sing. You just have to make it not suck.
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Old March 14th, 2015, 02:43 PM   #5
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Re: Shot Sequencing Tips / Maintaining Prep-like Footage (Highlights / Feature Film)

For transitions, it may depend on the kind of video you deliver. I do an all-footage style cut AND a cinematic highlight (in both 5 and 15 minute edit). For the cinematic, I really do pursue deliberate transition shots like pulling into or away from an exterior. Or having the B&G coming out of the church doors can blend well with them coming into the reception.

That is for larger transitions, like moving locations. For smaller changes, like doing B&G back and forth during getting ready, if you've already done your establishing shots for each space, you're probably fine. The edit just has to make sense as it goes back and forth. If you jump from her to him, people will get it just fine.
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Old March 14th, 2015, 03:34 PM   #6
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Re: Shot Sequencing Tips / Maintaining Prep-like Footage (Highlights / Feature Film)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Craig McKenna View Post
Do you (or anyone else) know of resources online, or a particularly great editing book / video series?
Nope, no recomendations. Got lots on my shelf, but never sat down and read them!

Quote:
Amazing that you went to film school.
Not really. It was just a one-year course, and a particularly crappy one at that. Personally wouldn't recommend going to film school, but everyone's got an opinion on this, the networking/community side of it is useful, and certainly there are good ones as well as bad ones...

Quote:
Loved your three tips in particular! Q&A editing, Continuity editing, and visual similarity are three things that I can research. Would you have any other tips on other terms to research?
Can't think of any off the top of my head. You should be able to Google continuity editing and visual similarity (match cuts, graphic matches)... "Q&A editing" is a term from a popular book called Film Directing Shot By Shot, or something like that, and might be less Googlable. And the broad concept works for other media as well -- when you write a short story, and are describing this and that, it helps to pay attention to the information side of what you're doing -- what information you're revealing, the pace at which you're ladelling it out, and how giving certain information sets up expectations, etc.

Quote:
One thing that I've noticed is that a lot of close up shots blend well together, but medium, medium do not, which is basically what you have stated in what you were told about changing the distance, angle and lens.
Well, if it's the same "scene", close-ups presumably reveal different information about the world with each shot. And each close-up is inherently interesting, because it gives a visual perspective on the world that the normal person doesn't get. Whereas a bunch of mediums might get repetitive in terms of information, showing the same thing from different angles. But I don't think there's any inherent reason medium, medium, medium can't work. It just depends!...

No other real tips... just bits and pieces of minor stuff...

I try to pay attention to the sense of space I'm establishing in the audience's mind, and how everything links up -- if I show the bride talking to bridesmaid in a wide, and the bride turns her head to the right, I'm not going to use a shot where the bride instead turns her head left in a close-up to talk to a different bridesmaid out of screen.

I also try to pay attention to whether something feels "off" in terms of screen direction, and I'll sometimes use horizontal flips to correct. A bunch of shots where everyone is looking screen left might seem strange, so I tend to make it more balanced by going left, right, left, right. Also with gender -- male, female, male, female.

In terms of camera moves, whether sliding left then sliding right works, I don't know! I don't have any conscious rules about this stuff. I just try to feel whether it's jarring or not, whether it suits the music or not, or whatever.

Edit: Actually, one more thought... I do try to pay attention to crossing the line while I'm shooting, though it often goes to hell during the ceremony, for practical reasons.

And I do pay attention to general ideas about continuity of space/movement. For instance, if bridal party walk left to right in one shot, I'm not going to show them walking right to left in the next shot. There's a book called 5 Cs of Cinematography, or something like that. It's terribly outdated, but there's a chapter on continuity that I remember being useful.
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Old March 14th, 2015, 08:24 PM   #7
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Re: Shot Sequencing Tips / Maintaining Prep-like Footage (Highlights / Feature Film)

This is very helpful to me:

https://vimeo.com/tonyzhou/videos

Turns out, I'm a David Fincher kind of guy, when I can be, and the Spielberg Oner is a great bit, too.
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Old March 15th, 2015, 10:16 AM   #8
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Re: Shot Sequencing Tips / Maintaining Prep-like Footage (Highlights / Feature Film)

I've always based my filming on analyzing how I view and focus on everyday life. So for instance I walk into a room and what do I see - a room, so the first shot would be a whole room shot. My brain then starts to take in different areas of the room as I look around, There are tables in the room so my next shot may be a group of tables in a medium shot, followed by one table, then the details of that table. Are there people there, who are they with etc? As I look around, what else is interesting and draws my attention and from a video viewpoint needs me to direct the viewer's attention to in a logical structured sequence?

These are the sort of details that separate a videographer from Uncle Bob, who just walks in the room and does a pan around. They are not things that the viewer is aware that they are being directed to, as they should be done smoothly and naturally. As a video producer and editor, you need to direct your viewers attention to those things that you feel are important and how they fit into the overall picture and feeling that you are trying to capture. The level of detail that you go to can vary from doc style to highlights, but is always important to both.

Roger
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Old March 15th, 2015, 01:22 PM   #9
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Re: Shot Sequencing Tips / Maintaining Prep-like Footage (Highlights / Feature Film)

There's some good thoughts here. To up one's game fast perhaps some books would be helpful.

Adiran mentioned one book and I agree with his "outdated" comment but there is some useful info in it. This was my comment on it:
The FIVE C’s of Cinematography, Joseph Mascelli ©1965 Silman-James Press 251 pages, paperback. Library #778.53 Motion picture filming techniques, camera angles, continuity, cutting, close-ups, composition. Covers these artistic areas in depth. Includes numerous pictures and diagrams. 8.5 x 11 format.

Another book that would be a good kick-starter is this one:
How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck, Steve Stockman, c 2011, paperback 248 pages. Library 777.6 “Like two years of film school in 248 pages” says Steven Pressffield. Other quotes: “How do you shoot video somebody else will want to watch?” and “Steve is one of the smartest media minds in the game. This book is the perfect gift for any would-be filmmaker.” Whether you’re filming a child’s birthday party, business promo, video for what ever, this book will help you make it better.

77 Ways to make your video better NOW! Including: Entertain or die, Make every picture tell a story, why a bit of planning makes all the difference, Keep your shots under 10 seconds long, Your video should always be shorter than you think, etc…..

There are a whole bunch of ideas in this book. Video tells a story. A story has a beginning and an end.
What's the question? What's the answer?
Somewhere I read where (something like) 85% of a good video is the story.

For an overview of the whole movie-making process this is one I'd recommend:
Movie Making Course: Principles, Practice, and Techniques: The Ultimate Guide for the Aspiring Filmmaker, Chris Patmore c 2005 by Quarto Inc., Barron's Educational Series, Hauppauge NY. 144 pages, paperback. The main sections are: Before You Start, The Shoot, Post-Production, Projects, and Getting It Seen. The sections are broken down into subsections like an outline. Lots of fancy color pictures and diagrams. Basically an overview and summary of the movie making process. 8-3/4" W x 8-1/8” H

A really great overview of the entire process in very short segments. I’d give this 5 stars.
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