TLDR – Today Emmaalouise and I finally managed to get our hands on a couple of cameras and ended up interviewing each other in The Playhouse.
21.10.16 – We picked up a couple of Canon 750D cameras from the MRC today and fully intended to wander around town shooting some nice footage. Unfortunately, it started raining heavily for ages, so we ended up sitting in The Playhouse and chatting for a while instead. It gave us a chance to discuss our projects, while also experimenting with the cameras available to us through NUA.
The obvious thing we both became aware of quite quickly is how invasive these cameras could be in a small environment. Although we were in a relatively open bar and the cameras were quite small, the way we had to set up meant that they took up quite a lot of room. We didn’t have anyone else to work the cameras, which meant we needed to control them ourselves (while remaining in shot), and we didn’t have any proper standing tripods, only handheld ones / grips. As such, the cameras took up most of the table sitting between us and we were very aware of them during our chat. It made me think of cameras at each end of the size spectrum: a larger camera would take up a lot more room and be more obvious and intrusive, whereas a small camera would be more subtle, but might bring up the question of ethics (would all participants be aware of the cameras?). I think when making documentaries which include subject interviews, I would look to use small DSLR cameras like these to find a balance between intrusion and secrecy. Having them set up on static tripods also frees up me, as the filmmaker, to focus on other things – and hopefully by ignore the camera and just being ‘in the moment’, the subject will feel more at ease. It’s not very natural to be followed around by someone with a shoulder mounted camera, no matter how quiet they try to be.
The sound on these cameras was surprisingly good. The built in microphones are tiny, but we were lucky enough to be in a quiet room and the cameras picked up our voices crisply and cleanly. I used a voice recording app on my phone as a back up, but didn’t need it in the end. We’ve recently played with some of the sound equipment on offer from NUA and they have a good range. Like cameras, however, the issue of size comes into play. Shotgun mics with boom poles will usually pick up the best sound, but they are quite intrusive. Smaller lapel style mics would be discrete, but don’t always pick up the best sound. As always, a compromise would be needed. When considering immediacy and the desire to remain unobtrusive, the best option might be to attach a small shotgun mic to the hot-shoe of the camera. I’ll try that next time.
I haven’t really got around to editing this together yet. Partly because I haven’t got the reciprocal footage from Emma, but also because I don’t have a lot of time at the minute. I’m playing with it on Premiere, and it looks okay, which is nice, but there was no real need for it, other than its own sake, so there’s no rush on putting it together.
I’ve trimmed this video down to a few minutes just to get a sense of what what happening on the day. There is a corresponding video shot of me from Emma’s side of the table, but that’s her film and this is mine.
Since this was a conversational video, the filming of it being almost incidental, I framed Emma slightly off centre, like a two shot in narrative film, and asked her to address me, rather than the camera. This gives a more observational tone to the film, as Emma is not speaking directly to the camera/audience, but it is as if they are allowed to observe the action.
The black and white colouring was a stylistic choice I made at the time of filming for no other reason than the rear wall was a little bit grubby and dull, and I thought it would be less obvious if the film was in black and white. I also just like the look of it, though it does give it a ‘processed’ feel, almost one step away from actual reality. If I were to capture footage for a real documentary, I would absolutely shoot and edit in colour. There are some times when black and white might be useful (referencing the past, for example), but its use would be rare.
As you can tell from the first line of the video, the cameras were slightly off putting to the natural tone and vibe of the film. We had been talking in the bar for some time before switching them on, and the moment we did, we were both instantly aware that we were being recorded. This is something that would be extremely difficult to counteract, and it’s difficult to imagine that the knowledge of the cameras didn’t in some way influence our conversation.
I did like the simple set up of myself, a camera, and a subject, and I would try to replicate that as often as possible during my filming. For a sense of realism and truth, I would always look to keep the filmming set up as basic and possible.