I’m planning on running a Documentary production workshop and 3D workshop based on a Storm Chasing trip to the USA from the 4th to the 12th of June. The trip would be an excellent chance to really put your documentary skills in to practice and learn more about your cameras and workflow shooting a short film about the violent weather that hits Tornado Alley every spring. We can even shoot in 3D if that’s what people are interested in. I can provide a PMW-F3, lens kit and EX1R, but hopefully you would bring your own cameras and I can teach you how to get the most out of them. depending on the weather each day there would be a classroom session or practical on location session covering everything from sound and interview techniques, to camera setup and shooting tips. Will will do a lot of timelapse, make use of cache record (if you have it) and work in some very challenging lighting situations. Each member of the group will be given different roles to play as part of the “crew” each day so that they may gain a better understanding of the difficulties of each role. At the same time the idea is that each person will also create their own personal short film about our storm chasing adventure. With luck we should see incredible thunderstorms, giant hail and maybe even a tornado or two (I’ve been storm chasing for 12 years, it’s my speciality). The cost for this comprehensive and very exciting workshop will be $1800 USD per person for a place on the course. In addition to that each student will be responsible for their overnight accommodation. Typically we will stay in hotels/motels that cost approx $100 USD per night, so you should budget for approx $800 for accommodation bringing the total to $2600. We will depart from Denver, Colorado so you will have make your own travel arrangements to/from Denver. This will be a real educational adventure. The previous trips I have run to Norway for the Northern lights, Arizona for lightning and Tornado Chasing have been great successes with many people returning for more. We will spend a lot of time on the road, visiting many parts of the Mid-West. It will be fun and you should come away with improved video skills, a great short film, and amazing stories of adventure and excitement. Please use the contact form if your interested. Places are limited.
TV and video production, including digital cinema is a highly technical area. Anyone that tells you otherwise is in my opinion mistaken. Many of the key jobs in the industry require an in depth knowledge of not just the artistic aspects but also the technical aspects.
Almost everyone in the camera department, almost everyone in post production and a large portion of the planning and pre-production crew need to know how the kit we use works.
A key area where there is a big knowledge gap is gamma and color. When I was starting out in this business I had a rough idea of what gamma and gamut was all about. But then 10 years or more ago you didn’t really need to know or understand it because up to then we only ever had variations on 2.2/2.4 gamma. There were very few adjustments you could make to a camera yourself and if you did fiddle, generally you would often create more problems than you solved. So those things were just best left alone.
But now it’s vital that you fully understand gamma, what it does, how it works and what happens if you have a gamma miss-match. But sadly so many camera operators (and post people) like to bury their heads in the sand using the excuse “I’m an artist – I don’t need to understand the technology”. Worse still are those that think they understand it, but in reality do not, mainly I think, due to the spread of miss-information and bad practices that become normal. As an example shooting flat seems to mean something very different today to what it meant 10 years ago. 10 years ago it meant shooting with flat lighting so the editor or color grader could adjust the contrast in post production. Now though, shooting flat is often incorrectly used to describe shooting with log gamma (shooting with log isn’t flat, it’s a gamma miss-match that might fool the operator into thinking it’s flat). The whole “shooting flat” miss-conception comes from the overuse and incorrect use of the term on the internet until it eventually became the accepted term for shooting with log.
As only a very small portion of film makers actually have any formal training and even fewer go back to school to learn about new techniques or technologies properly this is a situation that isn’t going to get any better. As we move into an era where, in the short term at least, we will need to start delivering multiple versions of productions in both standard dynamic range as well as several different HDR versions, additionally saving the programme master in another intermediate format. Things are only going to get more complicated and more and more mistakes will be made, technology will be applied and used incorrectly.
Most people are quite happy to spend thousands on a new camera, new recorder or new edit computer. But then they won’t spend any money on training to learn how to get the very best from it. Instead they will surf the net for information and guides of unknown quality and accuracy.
When you hire a crew member you have no idea how good their knowledge is. As it’s normal for most not to have attended any formal courses we don’t ask for certificates and we don’t expect them. But they could be very useful. Most other industries that benefit from a skilled labour force have some form of formal certification process, but our industry does not, so hiring crew, booking an editor etc becomes a bit of a lottery.
Of course it’s not all about technical skills. Creative skills are equally important. But again it’s hard to prove that you do have such skills to a new client. Showreels are all to easy to fake.
Guilds and associations are a start. But many of these can be joined simply by paying the joining or membership fee. You could be a member of one of the highly exclusive associations such as the ASC or BSC, but even that doesn’t mean you know about technology “A” or technique “Z”.
We should all take a close look at our current skill sets. What is lacking, where do I have holes, what could I do better. I’ve been in this business for 30 years and I’m still learning new stuff almost every day. It’s one of the things that keeps life interesting. Workshops and training events can be hugely beneficial and they really can lead to you getting better results. Or it may simply be that a day of training helps give you the confidence that you are doing it right. They are also great opportunities to meet other similar people and network.
Whatever you do, don’t stop learning, but beware the internet, not everything you read is right. The key is to not just read and then do, but to read, understand why, ask questions if necessary, then do. If you don’t understand why, you’ll never be able to adapt the “do” to fit your exact needs.