In our first year, we learned basic media terms, composed shots, and did short silly projects. This semester, I’ve logged over 200 hours in all 3 production stages and multiple roles, often at the same time (writer, director, shooter, interviewer, talent, editor, lighting, audio…). We did some real, serious work for real clients! Tired has a new meaning for me. It’s a different kind of tiredness from physical training.
- Short Rods Trailer for the 2015 YMAA International Summer Camp (March 2015)
- Yang Tai Chi Sword for Beginners DVD (Fall 2015) and Trailers (April-May 2015)
- Sai (Chai) DVD (Fall 2015) and Trailers (June 2015)
- 4 short health videos in a new series
- Promo for a friend and client
Preparation is Key in Pre-Production
In pre-production, we worked and reworked the script, made a shot list, found stock footage/images, and planned a shooting schedule. It was based on the shot, talent, crew, set, and oh yea, our training schedule.
Short Rods was relatively fast and easy because: 1) it was a short solo project and 2) Jon and Nicky are experienced enough to make up exciting combos on the fly. I had a shot list but I didn’t have to do much except try to keep up with the movement. It got tricky if I had to pull focus, which means adjust focus if the talent moved toward or away from the camera.
Most of the time, pre-production can take a while if multiple people are working on the project and you end up with compromises. Planning and organizing in pre-production saves a lot of time time and headaches during production and post-production.
Shooting Taijiquan is a lot like practicing it
Even though I knew the Taiji Sword sequence, in trying to get a good shot, I still found myself getting lost and not catching up with the talent. The slower the action, the smoother you have to be as a shooter. This means you have to be smooth with camera movements (pans, tilts, pedestals), zooms, and pulling focus. The slower the action, the more noticeable the mistakes. This goes for shooting and practicing taijiquan.
Expect the Unexpected
Shooting the DVDs was a challenge. We weren’t involved in pre-production, meaning we didn’t have a storyboard which tells you the shot type and camera movement (e.g. long shot with a pan right or medium shot zoom in to close up). We had to be prepared to pan, tilt, or zoom unexpectedly. As Camera A (main view), we mostly stayed in a long shot and if the talent was talking, it was mostly a static shot. If it was a demo, we’d have to pan right or left but it was manageable. Camera B had the more difficult job of zooming in and out, all by taking cues from what the talent was saying. Without a shot sheet, this usually a surprise.
Quentin and I took turns as Cam A and Cam B with Jon directing us through walkie talkies. He had two monitors and this allowed him to tell one camera to hold if the other had to make adjustments. He could whisper directions without disrupting the talent and also log the good and bad takes.
The Sai DVD shoot was 6 days of grueling. We depended on outdoor lighting which meant setting up at 5:30am and shooting until 7:30am, then setting up at 5:30pm and going until about 8:30pm. Then we ate dinner and transferred the footage and made sure the batteries were charged for the next day. Jon had extra work and got 5 hours of sleep or less per night. We just finished Sunday morning and now we have to shoot the trailers.
Where the Magic Happens
Post-production is probably the least glamorous part of the process (if any part of it is glamorous at all). There’s making sure the footage transferred (and something often goes wrong), logging the footage (organize!), and editing (you either want to avoid it or you get completely sucked in). Sometimes you have to find the right music which can take an extra few hours if you’re picky like me. Sometimes you need supporting graphics or animation, which is a whole other animal I want to learn. Editing takes up a lot of time and energy, but I enjoy it, especially if you can be proud of the finished product.
Yang Tai Chi Sword Trailer #2: I made the first cut and Jon polished it
The nice thing about the people here is that they help out when someone is overloaded with work. Thank you to everyone here at the Center. If this post was incoherent, I blame it on the lack of sleep.