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The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
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The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling

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Documentary making and editing tips

Documentary making and editing tips

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  • 1. The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling Andy Carvin www.andycarvin.com www.digitaldivide.net [email_address]
  • 2. What We’re Gonna Talk About <ul><li>Story structure </li></ul><ul><li>Video technique </li></ul><ul><li>Scripting technique </li></ul><ul><li>Editing technique </li></ul>
  • 3. Story Structure: 3 Parts <ul><li>The Tease </li></ul><ul><li>The Body </li></ul><ul><li>The Conclusion </li></ul>
  • 4. The Tease <ul><li>Allows viewer to focus on what the film is about </li></ul><ul><li>Introduces one or more principal characters </li></ul><ul><li>Establishes setting/location critical to the story </li></ul><ul><li>Presents a conflict/set up a problem/asks a question </li></ul><ul><li>Sets the tone for the film </li></ul><ul><li>Sucks in the audience - hopefully </li></ul>
  • 5. The Body <ul><li>The main plot; the meat of the story </li></ul><ul><li>Get to know the characters, what they're doing and why they’re doing it </li></ul><ul><li>See the action unfold </li></ul><ul><li>The body usually makes up 80% of a documentary </li></ul>
  • 6. The Conclusion <ul><li>Wrapping up, giving closure </li></ul><ul><li>Recaps point of story </li></ul><ul><li>Whatever you promised or asked in your tease needs to have been delivered </li></ul>
  • 7. Example 1: The Soccer Match <ul><li>Tease: Meet Sarah, the team captain; </li></ul><ul><li>Former county champs, going through a rough patch </li></ul><ul><li>About to compete against current champions </li></ul><ul><li>Body: Get to know the team; what are their strengths? </li></ul><ul><li>What challenges do they face? </li></ul><ul><li>Experience leadership of coach, individual members </li></ul><ul><li>Climax: Match vs the champs. What happens? Who wins? </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion : Reactions of the captain and team mates </li></ul><ul><li>How did the experience change them? </li></ul>
  • 8. Example 2: The Boardwalk <ul><li>Tease: Establishing shot of boardwalk, montage of activity; </li></ul><ul><li>ask what the boardwalk means to Atlantic City </li></ul><ul><li>Body: History of the boardwalk; archival footage from </li></ul><ul><li>library, old postcards; interviews with community members, </li></ul><ul><li>parents, grandparents; today’s boardwalk </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion: Summarize its history; next generation of kids </li></ul><ul><li>growing up here; continuity of boardwalk in the life of the </li></ul><ul><li>city; end with grandfather and grandkid strolling into sunset </li></ul>
  • 9. Video Technique <ul><li>Footage must always serve the story </li></ul><ul><li>Establishing shot: wide view providing context </li></ul><ul><li>(think sitcoms: Outdoor shot of Cheers, Seinfeld restaurant, Friends apartment in NYC) </li></ul><ul><li>Interviews: typically head and shoulder shot - close, but not too close. </li></ul><ul><li>Zooming in for intimacy, intensity </li></ul><ul><li>Zoom forces viewer to focus on something </li></ul>
  • 10. Video Technique, Continued <ul><li>Wider shots to see interview subject in context of a particular situation </li></ul><ul><li>Odd angles add intensity (&quot;God shot,&quot; MTV shot) </li></ul><ul><li>Action style, keeping things moving: either characters move or the camera moves </li></ul><ul><li>Lots of “talking heads” feels like TV journalism </li></ul><ul><li>Shooting same thing from as many angles as possible - creates more editing options </li></ul>
  • 11. Scripting Technique <ul><li>Script follows your story structure: </li></ul><ul><li>Beginning, middle, end </li></ul><ul><li>(Sounds obvious but not always easy) </li></ul><ul><li>Uses at least one of two elements: </li></ul><ul><li>Narrator voice and character voice </li></ul><ul><li>Most documentaries use both </li></ul>
  • 12. Script Narration and POV <ul><li>Narration always has a point of view </li></ul><ul><li>Third-Person Narrator </li></ul><ul><li>(narrator never seen, just heard; disinterested) </li></ul><ul><li>Self-injected narrator (seen, but not in plot - 60 Minutes, TV journalism, Michael Moore) </li></ul><ul><li>Character narrator (”I’m Priscilla Presley, and this is our family’s story...&quot;) </li></ul><ul><li>No narration: characters speak for themselves </li></ul><ul><li>Example: Riding the Rails </li></ul>
  • 13. Scripts are heard, not read <ul><li>Narration isn't literature - it's oral, conversational </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;If a three-syllable word can be said in a one-syllable word, change it!&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>- Nat Geo scriptwriter John Goodman </li></ul><ul><li>Tone of narration shouldn't vary during the documentary </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple narrators don’t always work </li></ul><ul><li>Use lots of action verbs - avoid overuse of descriptive adjectives and adverbs. </li></ul><ul><li>Let the visuals be your adjectives </li></ul>
  • 14. Editing Technique: Music <ul><li>Music can be a powerful element </li></ul><ul><li>It’s often a character in its own right </li></ul><ul><li>Example: Beach Clip </li></ul>
  • 15. Editing Technique: Pacing <ul><li>Pacing of edits affects the tone </li></ul><ul><li>Faster edits picks up the pace, but requires more footage! </li></ul><ul><li>Slower edits means slower pace, but you get to milk your footage </li></ul><ul><li>Example: Parade Clip </li></ul>
  • 16. Editing Technique: A-Roll vs. B-Roll <ul><li>A-Roll: your primary footage (interview subjects in particular) </li></ul><ul><li>B-Roll: secondary footage used to support interview or narration, also used to cover errors like “jump cuts” </li></ul><ul><li>A-Roll is melody, B-Roll harmony </li></ul><ul><li>When editing, you generally go back and forth </li></ul><ul><li>A-Roll of soccer match - B-Roll of fans - A-Roll of soccer match </li></ul><ul><li>Interview subject - B-Roll of what they're talking about - Interview subject </li></ul><ul><li>Example: The Guitarist </li></ul>
  • 17. Editing Technique: The Four Transitions <ul><li>Cut: simplest transition from one shot to the next, usually in same location and time frame </li></ul><ul><li>Dissolve: graduate transition where shots overlap; often used to show change in location/time </li></ul><ul><li>Wipe: special effect transition where one scene seems to &quot;wipe away&quot; the other scene </li></ul><ul><li>Fade to Black: Scene literally goes black; </li></ul><ul><li>end of chapter or story </li></ul><ul><li>Example of transitions: India footage </li></ul>
  • 18. Remember: Always Serve the Story! <ul><li>All of your tools should be used to contribute </li></ul><ul><li>to telling your story: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Video footage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Characters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Narration </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Music </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Edits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s like composing a symphony: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Each instrument contributes to the whole package! </li></ul></ul>
  • 19. <ul><li>Thank You! </li></ul><ul><li>Andy Carvin </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>www.digitaldivide.net </li></ul><ul><li>www.andycarvin.com </li></ul>

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