The world of non-commercial film and A-V
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Changes in technology
WOW! (As they are inclined to say on the Internet.) Only one year has slipped by and how times have changed....
Twelve months ago I launched a diatribe against the present use of 4x3. "Today", I said then, " we live in a flatscreen SD 16.9 world". Now, I have to excite further wrath because SD is OVER! There have been exciting and breathtaking changes in the past year which have also made my new HD Sony Camcorder all but obsolete and I am only on page 193 of its User Manual.
|Of course, older formats will be valid for years to
come and film content will always be more significant than ratios
or resolution. BUT we are no longer alone in our SD/HD digital
video world. There is a usurper at the club door.
The arrival this year of HD FULL FRAME SINGLE LENS REFLEX (SLR) still Cameras with full HD Video capability has set the AV community and the Video film maker headlong into a digital collision.
The new CANON EOS 5d Mk11 (1080) and the Nikon D90 (720) are fully capable, in the right pair of hands, of delivering cinema quality imagery. The pictures are razor sharp and the low light ability astounding. The Depth of Field (DOF), or rather the lack of it, is truly glorious.
To make matters worse for us - the AV people are starting to make movies with their new SLRs and these Guys and Girls are good photographers! (Secretly...they have always been closet videographers!)
Presently, the HD Video capability of the new cameras have their limitations: operationally they are awkward; memory size of the 'cards' is limited; the viewfinder LCD is at the back of the camera; and manual controls are frustrating.
But, on the plus side, you have a vast array of lenses to play with and stunning results. Canon and Nikon have been caught out by the immense professional interest in these new tools. What was, perhaps, a gimmick has now become an HD Video phenomenon.
The Canon is about £2000 (body only) but the stunning resolution is mouthwatering to directors of short films. Type Canon EOS 5d mk11 into your search engine and you will not have to surf far to find a raft of demonstration footage.
Full frame HD maybe in its infancy but in the world of digital video 'Tomorrow is not just another day'.
The influence of VIMEO
The presence of VIMEO, the high definiton web site, has forced me to reconsider both my style and film length.
Vimeo is a high definition website for film enthusiasts and there is good feedback to my films from both pro and amateur surfers and video makers.
This online community are very willing to share their experience and knowledge. A one minute film exercise I made in HD called SNAIL has had over 20,000 viewings -- although I have no idea why!! (Vimeo has an HD Video channel which is managed by the 'Staff' and my modest film was promoted to this site. The HD Video Channel of Vimeo is the first port of call for enthusiasts who want to see great films without having to randomly search.)
It is because of Vimeo that my films are now not only shorter but also quicker in the cut. The modern Internet browser has a short attention span! These are my rules....a Video should:
This year I have 4 entries in BIAFF. Although I will not be
beating a path to the winners podium here are my results and a
brief summary of the Videos:
You can check all my videos out on VIMEO: In the search tab, select people, BOB LORRIMER.
I am delighted with Chrysalis. The HD looks great, the beginning is gorgeous and the ending is a 'Reveal' followed by an audio 'Emphatic!' The video did not do well in the competition receiving only two stars and I suspect that it is too 'twilight zone' for some tastes.
The Drill is an accident in the garden scenario contained within two minutes. The audience can easily anticipate the outcome of the screenplay - so the script must confound their expectations.
The Drill starts with my habitual clean, white title over a very, large close-up of a drill bit. I applied a blur to the title as it fades into the image. It is a timeless and elegant solution to the opening sequence and I still don't know how to do anything else!
|Aficionados of film technique will notice that I
often use a 'dingle' in my photography. I keep a couple of rubber
bands stretched around the big lens hood. I can easily attach
flowers, leaves or small shrubs to these bands. They will 'dingle'
or dangle in front of the lens and blur out totally if the
camcorder is on 3/4 to full telephoto. This diffusion to the
foreground and a blurred background lends an apparent cinematic
depth to the image. The subject matter will leap out of the
screen. Sometimes I deliberately select a blue/grey hue for
background diffusion and a warm scarlet dingle on the lens
hood...blues recede and reds jump forward to our retinas.
On this short project I filmed myself for the entirety of the story, armed with the remote and a reversed LCD on the Sony HVR V1E.
I would however have to find some way of giving life to the static camera in order to convey subliminal authority and production values to the viewer.
In the early montage there is a brief but glorious tracking dolly shot of me walking across the patio holding the cable reel prop. I used my Hague Tracking Dolly (about £200). My lawn has a small rise to its centre - a kind of hillock. So I set the polypipe tubes across the incline, put the camera and the tripod on the H frame and let the whole lot free wheel down its length. All I had to do was beetle around to the front and walk into frame for the last four foot of its run. It was a little unnerving to watch a £2500 camera trundle down the hill under it's own momentum...but it worked!
The ending of The Drill is exhilarating, funny, shocking and definitely 'Emphatic'. The film was selected to represent Britain at UNICA 2009.
A RIVER OF DREAMS
I spent much of my childhood fly-fishing with my father in the rivers and reservoirs of the Midlands. I have often wondered if I could explore my memories on film. The arrival of HD convinced me to have a go at a short documentary.
I managed to persuade two sets of friends, Ray and Janet and Dave and Sally to join me on the River Wye in Derbyshire in early May 2008.
|Dave is not only a good friend and member of the
Huddersfield Video Club, he is also a very capable photographer.
So, I booked us all into The Peacock Hotel near Bakewell for two
nights. The Peacock has 7 miles of Dry-fly Fishing and a memorable
I had a number of anxieties about the entire exercise for I had committed everyone to an alarming level of expense whatever the conditions. The crystal limestone waters of the Wye can become quickly muddied if there is significant rainfall and Dry-fly fishing can be almost impossible in a flood.
We were in luck -- we had two and a half days of glorious spring sunshine. Sally walked the dog, Ray, Janet and I fished. Dave covered the angles with my new Sony HVR V1E and we passed the evenings in gastronomic heaven.
I had prepared some 'set pieces' to say to camera to give the film some structure but after those shots were in the can we would be on the 'fly' in more ways than one.
I have the retentive memory of a wood louse so Dave held up my printed idiot boards, which, naturally, you can see reflected in my sunglasses! I put the glasses on because I did not appear to be looking directly at the lens although I was addressing it vocally. Next time I shall cut a lens hood size hole in the cue boards.
A River of Dreams might have proved impossible to cut but Dave gave me all the footage I needed for a fluid 8 minutes. During the edit I was amazed at how cavalier I could be with somebody else's work! I think it was this brevity of commitment to the photography that helped the finished video attain 4 stars.
A River of Dreams has a classic and refined start. Beginnings and endings are just sooooo important! At the conclusion of our trip Sally sent me a thank-you card. The card was a watercolour of the Bridge at Bakewell which spans the Wye. Coincidentally I had a shot of the bridge which I had filmed on the day of our departure. The artist's easel must have been a few paces from where I had placed my tripod. So....the film starts as a black and white image of the watercoloured card, the colour then slowly dissolves into the frame, then that slowly dissolves into the live action shot of the bridge itself. (Gorgeous, if I say so myself, and assertive!) The HD is fantastic on my big home LCD display. (Failure of the BIAFF competition to address this remarkable technological advance is questionable).
The film itself has a curiously charming and slightly melancholic atmosphere. The ending of the video is an example of 'Catharsis'. The conclusion of the film is telegraphed to the audience not only by my final 'set piece' to camera but also by Dave's camera work, the edit and refrain of the title music.
The audience know the video is coming to an end but one can sense that they are in no hurry to break 'the spell'. (Well, you can be the judge of that!)
Call Back was the overall winner at NERIAC - a triumph for a one minute film. It was selected to represent Britain in the 2010 World Minute Movie Cup at UNICA.
Call Back was a short eco warrior scenario that I had in mind for some time. On one of our Club 'Practical' evenings I had all the members who owned Canon XM2s (4) shoot extreme close-ups of bits of kit, clocks, wiring and circuitry. That evening gave me the first 30 seconds of the video.
|I elected to cut every few frames and always on
movement which gave the first section of the film a real energy
and bravura. Some of the shots looked a little stark so I overlaid
on the timeline (about 10% opacity) some diffused blue blobs which
were taken from some out of focus footage. This gave a real 'CSI
MIAMI' depth to the image and the appearance of a blue filter.
The ending is 'Emphatic'.
I can be reached on Email and I am happy to give or receive advice or point you toward some great short videos on the net and VIMEO.
- Bob Lorrimer April 2009.