Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Documentary Rules

Two basic rules come flooding back into my memory, both from my mentor on film-making, Tom Doades:

1. Know your footage!
He was right. Don't just set aside time for the shoot---but an equal amount of time after the shoot to review and take notes on the footage. If you shoot 3 days, take 3 days in post-production just to know what you have--only then will something begin to take shape organically.

2. Mess with it a lot before settling on a cutting plan (edit).
There are many tropes. Here's one very usable one:
Build a piece with Interrogative structure: Find the implicit question. Set it as a hook. Open with that big question based on an impressive fact, or incident; set up the rest with questions you'd want answered, then knock them down with actual answers, embodied in actualities.

A few more specific notes from this HDV project:

When shooting on a long form project, make sure to use sequential time code hours for every roll across locations and shooters. HDV has problems with this, or at least today's cameras do.

16 x 9 is a beautiful format, but it can't be crowded. When acquiring in HD but using in SD, closeups can be, um, scary. Too much!

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