Alas, we have made it to the final post. After a week-long planning process, I am now ready to show you the mini documentary I have been working on. This will be a culmination of everything I have learned about video and audio production throughout this class. I am excited to share it with you all, and before I do, I want to, for one more time, go over the readings and share some inspiring examples that have helped guide me to making this documentary look as good as possible.
Believe it or not, we finished Tom Schroeppel’s Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video book last week. I hope these summaries have been helpful to you, and if you are looking to get into film production at all, this is a great book to start with.
I’ve had a very nice and smooth learning experience while reading this book and taking this course over the last seven weeks. I graduated Quinnipiac University with a Bachelor’s in Film, Television and Media Arts, so taking this graduate course at the same institution felt like an extension to that degree, and allowed me to further refine my skills and overall get more practice with filming, editing, and to have more pieces for my portfolio that I am proud of. Prior to taking this course, my skillset was strictly video-related. I knew how to operate a camera, I knew how to edit well, and I knew a fair bit of After Effects. The one bit of editing that I was not too familiar with was audio editing, which we learned all about in the first two weeks. I had run a podcast for the first few months of quarantine, but I did it for fun and never took the time to study how to optimize the mic settings for good recording and how to edit my audio recordings afterwards to make it sound much better. Having this skill can not only help my audio projects in the future, but it will also help my videos sound so much better.
The most useful thing I’ve learned was how to take proper time doing pre-production for a project. I’ve done pre-production plenty of times as a film student, but these projects have really helped me learn which aspects of pre-production are really important, and what I should complete before even thinking about pressing the record button. I think the most difficult aspect was working around equipment needs. As someone taking this class from home, I chose not to use any of the school’s equipment for my projects, and worked with what I got. I’m lucky enough to own a mid-range mirrorless camera for filming, but all of my audio was captured using a shotgun only, and I had to be really creative with lights, as the only one I own is a tiny LED light that can clip onto my camera’s hot shoe mount. I made it work, though, and I was determined to make it look (and sound) as good as possible because I need these to be added to my portfolio.
If there was anything I would have liked to learn more about, it would be the gear in general. I know it’s tough to showcase gear in a fully online format, but I think it would have been cool if every other week there was an extra video going over some audio gear or camera gear and explaining the best features about each one discussed. I do a lot of research about this already so maybe it would not be for me, but hearing other people’s recommendations on gear to use for specific situations is always a good thing.
I will be going into film and video production in the future, whether that be for a major blockbuster studio or as a content creator. Therefore, I will definitely take everything I’ve learned and apply it to my career as it will help me form a basis for my filmmaking style, and hopefully allow me to stand out from others as a creator.
One very common technique in film editing that makes the overall piece feel much more cohesive is a term called L and J cutting. This is where audio from a clip is either continued onto the next track or plays before its own track appears. This technique will be used quite a bit in my final documentary, so to feel inspired, I found three videos that do this quite well.
This is a skit from a comedian I watch called Trevor Wallace. This video has L and J cuts everywhere, so I just chose to start it at 0:48, where the kid in green asks “How do you know I live in CT, you f***ing weirdo?!” Followed by a new voice that says “Why are you starting…” then the video cuts to a hooded man finishing his sentence, “…beef with an 11-year-old?” The interesting thing about this J-cut is that the audio before the cut sounds muffled to make it sound like it is coming through the Xbox headset mic, and as soon as it cuts to the person speaking, the audio is clear. This adds a nice touch of realism to help us understand where each voice is coming from.
Here is an example of a show that appeared on YouTube this past week. It’s called RetroTech, and it’s a mini-doc about some of the tech that we thought would be the future by now. These episodes have a few interviews each, and as per usual, there is some b-roll of the item being mentioned, followed by a J-cut of the interviewee speaking about said item. Here, this happens at 3:48, among other places throughout the video, of course. This helps make the b-roll feel more present, and gives the speakers more credibility as they speak about the exact thing that is happening on screen.
Here is a biography about a wrestler I used to watch – Mick Foley. There are interview clips of him, his family, and other wrestlers, and therefore, no shortage of L or J cuts. At 6:23, this is, once again, a J-cut used to bring up a topic introduced by the image presented on screen, followed by cutting to Foley himself talking about the situation, where more b-roll follows in order to support his point. Again, these examples of L and J-cuts seem simple but they are vital to making a piece feel more intertwined because it allows the viewer to hear the voice and expect the interview to follow, giving them no chance to take them out of the video.
Here it is: my final project – my mini documentary. This collection of clips, edits, graphics, and music were all meticulously placed together in order to give you the best possible story in the time frame given. Was there more I could have done? Yes, but there’s always more I could do, no matter how perfect it looks. Take a watch and I’ll explain my process below!
And alas, here is my mini documentary. It is a five minute short about a guy named David who takes video game consoles and arcade machines and repairs them so they can play thousands of games. He talks about the process of making some of those mods, as well as why he recommends people try out modding.
This was a very fun video to shoot. It was shot over a two day period. The first day includes all of the clips of the video game stores (the owners did not mind me filming and some actually encouraged it), the b-roll of the spinning consoles, and the two interview clips with the TV in the background. The second day included all of the clips with the arcade, including that interview, too. I took all of those clips and imported them into Premiere. As soon as I started editing, I knew I wanted this video to reach the max amount of time, as game modifications is tough to explain and I had almost a half hour of interview footage to work with. Once I put the clips together, however, I quickly realized that I unfortunately did not capture enough b-roll, despite the dozens of clips I did manage to get. I happened to include portions of the documentary that I did not film b-roll of, which made it tough to fill in some of those gaps. I decided that once I laid in all of the b-roll I shot, I was going to animate a few sections in order to help visualize what David was talking about. I think some of the animations actually turned out quite nice, and actually do help make understanding the mod process a bit easier.
Audio was a bit tricky, but I managed to get it to work. I think I could have made my own voice a little more rich, but I wanted to keep my levels around the same as the levels for the interview clips, which were already pretty low. When it came to applying the music, I had to lower it so much so we can actually hear what the people are saying. Despite the doc being a bit on the quieter side, I think it still sounds pretty cool, and the music definitely helps.
I made sure to include plenty of L and J-cuts in order to keep the conversations feeling smooth. There were a lot of cuts in the interview footage because I wanted to cut out as many “um’s” and pauses as I could, which explains the frequent cuts to b-roll. I cut each audio track so it sounds almost as if there’s no cuts between them.
The one thing I definitely could have improved upon was lighting. I had nearly zero lights to work with because I was not getting equipment from the school. I own a very tiny LED light that does project a lot of light, but it’s only particularly effective in darker environments. I used it anyway because it did provide a nice glow on my subject’s face and allowed them to be clearly white balanced. My cousin Jesse (who is also interviewed in the video), had an LED halogen light in his basement, so we used that and it instantly lit up the entire room. It was nearly overkill and there was no way to dim it since we did not own a dimmer, but we made it work by placing it far away and behind a few pieces of furniture, which allowed us to get the light we needed to make the interview clips look clear.
If I were to do this documentary again, I would definitely request more b-roll clips, and I probably would have made it longer if I was allowed to. It’s good to know how to choose which footage to cut when you need a maximum five minute video, as it forces you to figure out which pieces of your project as the most important. With the limited film equipment and shooting schedule we had, I think I made the best of this mini documentary, and I hope you all enjoy!