The Process of Production

Video ProductionThe process of deciding which shots to use and which to omit, from which angle to film, how to organize a series of discontinuous shots is normally a job for the director. Depending on the type of production and shooting style, it can be a time consuming task particularly when dealing large quantities of disjointed shots that need to be compiled into a coherent production.

There are essentially two shooting styles or approaches that can be used depending on the nature of the production: unscripted shooting and scripted shooting (or some combination between the two).

When shooting an unscripted production (such as filming a sporting event, documentary or news story), the camera records footage as it is happening – the shots are then compiled and a commentary are usually added. Conversely, with fully scripted productions, the director has more control over the setup of each shot and follows a shooting schedule to systematically record each instance (not necessarily in sequence).

This allows for more time and resource saving approach – using the needed shooting set ups only once to film all instances where that particular set up is needed. This prevents having to continually move the camera and change the set for each shot.

The Single Camera Approach

Depending on the budget and type of production, a director can choose to use a single camera or multi-camera approach. Generally a single camera is all that is needed, as the use of multiple cameras only becomes necessary when filming actions that wouldn’t be feasible to repeat (creating the need to generate shots from multiple angles simultaneously).

Uncontrolled vs. Controlled Actions

There are two basic situations a director might come across during a production: uncontrolled and controlled actions. An uncontrolled action involves filming an action on which the director has no control (e.g. a sporting event, parade or some other public event). In this case, there is a choice between using a fixed camera from an optimum angle or the creation of different shots from multiple camera positions.

Although for some cases a strong production can be made with a fixed camera in conjunction with zoom effects (to highlight main characters and events), it usually makes for a better production to move the camera around different positions.

The collected footage can later be assembled into a production, and the different shots can be omitted, shortened and rearranged into a coherent final product.

Shooting a controlled action (such as interviews or sketches), on the other hand, allows the director more foresight and pre-planning. In this case things like camera set up, lighting, background and even the action itself can be modified to suit the director’s needs. Shots are taken in a practical and systematic order based on necessity and then (as is the case with an uncontrolled shoot) later combined.

It is critical to note that when shooting discontinuously, it is very important that there are no discrepancies that can interfere with the continuity between shots (such as different lighting, wardrobe or misplaced props).

Using Multiple Cameras

The use of multiple cameras has a strong advantage compared to using only one in that it gives the director more flexibility and eliminates the need to repeat an action to obtain different shots. It becomes easier to cut between shots, change camera angle and move around to give the viewer a better perspective of what’s happening.

Keeping the Audience Interested

Since static shots can become hard to pay attention to, an audience’s interest needs to be encouraged by introducing variety and movement to keep the audience focused. This can be accomplished by changing the angle and depth of a shot as the subject moves.

This gives the audience a better grasp of the relationship between the subject and surroundings. Grouping can be used when filming multiple individuals (as is the case with a talk show). The director may set up the cameras to focus on different individuals or clusters of people to emphasize the desired main focus at a given moment. Shooting static objects is another good way to introduce variety (such as panning across or focusing on objects of importance).

Given that audience attention easily lapses, a good director needs to unremittingly redirect their attention. This needs to be done in a balanced manner, as excessive and rapid change can throw an audience off (the audience needs to be able to easily adjust to the changing situation). Using techniques like varying brightness, focus and movement can attract the audience’s attention to a specific area.

In addition to shifting visual interest, other techniques such as using tension, changing the pace and timing. Creating tension can be achieved by, for example, cutting closer and closer to the subject, using suspenseful music or presenting ambiguous information to keep the audience paying attention.

Keeping a varied visual pace is also important, as dealing with too rapid or too slow a pace can exhaust an audience. Knowing the correct time to cut to different angles and using the correct transition speeds is critical, as a poorly timed production can emphasize the wrong thing and cause a disruption in overall continuity.

Arranging the Cameras

Since varying camera viewpoints can cause the audience confusion in terms of spatial relations and direction – it is important to ensure that the cameras are set up in a consistent way. A common technique to avoid this involves the drawing of an imaginary line based on the direction of the action. Once this is done, the cameras can be set up to shoot from only one side of this action line.

When arranging the cameras, it is also important to consider well-thought out and organized camera angles. Shots need to be chosen and related to each other according to a plan so as to avoid repeat shots and a lack of relation between the shots. This can be accomplished by assigning standard shots to each camera (i.e. using one camera for long shots, one for close-ups and one for medium shots and zooming in).

Potential Problems and their Solutions

As discussed earlier, it is very important that the audience takes away the desired impression from each shot. Things like poor viewing angles, incorrectly placed shots, distractions and poorly communicated time lapses can pose problems.

A poor viewing angle, for example, can make even the most commonly recognized subjects look alien or unfamiliar. Distractions like poor lighting, strong contrast, and defocused details also pose a problem.

Given this, it may become necessary for a demonstrator to handle or arrange items in a way in which he/she is not accustomed to better accommodate a shot (in the case of poor viewing angle). Poor contrast can also be remedied by changing wardrobe or excluding these objects from shots when possible.

Other problems a director may encounter involve not having an appropriate visual for the subject at hand. This is the case with abstract subjects, imaginary, historical and future events and shooting restrictions or limitations.

In these cases, introducing a commentator or narrator to explain the situation may be appropriate, although there are other more creative ways to deal with this problem. Using stock footage, photos, paintings and other visuals can also work. It is also acceptable to shoot at a currently empty location (such as taking shots of a historic battlefield or a crime scene).

Ultimately, a good production relies on obtaining meaningful shots, arranging them appropriately, communicating the desired message to the audience as intended, and overall problem solving creativity.