Documentary Making 101


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Tutorial created to teach elementary school educators about the basics of documentary making.

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Documentary Making 101

  1. 1. Documentary Making from Start to Finish Andy Carvin [email_address]
  2. 2. What is a Documentary? <ul><li>doc·u·MEN·ta·ry: </li></ul><ul><li>A work, such as a film or television program, presenting political, social, or historical subject matter in a factual and informative manner and often consisting of actual news films or interviews accompanied by narration. </li></ul><ul><li>Or in simpler terms: </li></ul><ul><li>A nonfiction story told through moving images and sound. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Essential Elements <ul><li>Images: people, places, things, text, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Sound: narration, voices, music, sound effects, background sounds (&quot;nats&quot;) </li></ul><ul><li>Edits: The integration of images and sound </li></ul>
  4. 4. Images+Sounds+Edits=Style <ul><li>You strike a balance based on what you wish to communicate: </li></ul><ul><li>Fast edits and loud music to convey action </li></ul><ul><li>Disjointed images and unusual pacing </li></ul><ul><li>Straightforward editing for a journalistic feel </li></ul>
  5. 5. The Documentary Team <ul><li>Executive Producer </li></ul><ul><li>Producer </li></ul><ul><li>Researcher </li></ul><ul><li>Writer </li></ul><ul><li>Cameraperson </li></ul><ul><li>Editor </li></ul><ul><li>Talent </li></ul>
  6. 6. Executive Producer <ul><li>The person who’s ultimately in charge </li></ul><ul><li>Usually overseeing more than one production </li></ul><ul><li>Responsible for setting goals, deadlines </li></ul><ul><li>Has the power to delegate tasks </li></ul><ul><li>... In other words.... </li></ul><ul><li>The Teacher is the Executive Producer! </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Producer <ul><li>In charge of a specific production </li></ul><ul><li>Keeps Exec Producer in the loop </li></ul><ul><li>Plans production schedule, assigns tasks </li></ul><ul><li>In charge of the overall vision of the project </li></ul><ul><li>Keeps log of all footage shot on location </li></ul><ul><li>Students share role of the producer </li></ul>
  8. 8. Researcher <ul><li>Identifies potential interview subjects, characters </li></ul><ul><li>Fact-checks and verifies all ideas included in the documentary; quality control </li></ul><ul><li>Helps “fill in the blanks” by researching information about characters, topics, plot </li></ul>
  9. 9. Writer <ul><li>Creates storyboards </li></ul><ul><li>Writes script </li></ul><ul><li>Helps weave the story together </li></ul>
  10. 10. Cameraperson <ul><li>Scouts location with production team </li></ul><ul><li>Shoots video </li></ul>
  11. 11. Editor <ul><li>Does the technical work of editing documentary </li></ul><ul><li>Works to insure that story is told in specified time length </li></ul>
  12. 12. Talent <ul><li>Interview subjects </li></ul><ul><li>On-screen host </li></ul><ul><li>Narrator </li></ul><ul><li>Voiceover artists (reading/translating voices of characters) </li></ul>
  13. 13. The Team in a Classroom Context <ul><li>Students working in small groups </li></ul><ul><li>Each student given the opportunity to learn each role (writer, editor, cameraperson, etc) </li></ul><ul><li>Encouraging students to take roles in which they excel </li></ul><ul><li>Organized into small teams (3-6 students) </li></ul>
  14. 14. The Three Stages of Documentary Making <ul><li>Pre-production: Planning the film </li></ul><ul><li>Production: Shooting it </li></ul><ul><li>Post-production: Putting it together </li></ul>
  15. 15. Pre-Production <ul><li>Team assignments </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;The Pitch&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Story outlining/storyboarding </li></ul><ul><li>Research </li></ul><ul><li>Arranging interviews </li></ul><ul><li>Scouting Locations </li></ul><ul><li>Shot list </li></ul>
  16. 16. Team Assignments <ul><li>Breaking students into small groups </li></ul><ul><li>Discussing the various tasks (writing, researching, editing, shooting, etc) </li></ul><ul><li>Delegating responsibilities to individual students - or agreeing how responsibilities will be shared among the group </li></ul><ul><li>Reviewing assignment deadlines </li></ul><ul><li>Giving your team a production company name (AC Productions, etc) </li></ul>
  17. 17. “The Pitch” <ul><li>Students have to pitch story ideas to teacher </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage teams to brainstorm stories </li></ul><ul><li>Present top three ideas to class </li></ul><ul><li>Class discussion of story ideas </li></ul><ul><li>Teams take best idea, summarize it in less than one page of text: what’s the story, why they’re doing it, and how they’ll do it </li></ul>
  18. 18. Story Outlining/Storyboarding <ul><li>Mapping out the flow of the story using drawings and/or text </li></ul><ul><li>Brainstorming what ideas will be conveyed where in the documentary’s timeline </li></ul><ul><li>Identify major ideas/images to be conveyed </li></ul><ul><li>Optional: planning style of particular shots </li></ul><ul><li>Tools for storyboarding: Inspiration, Kidspiration, MS Word, pencil and paper </li></ul>
  19. 19. Storyboard example <ul><li>Here’s a typical storyboard template: a series of boxes for drawings and text. </li></ul><ul><li>Online: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  20. 20. Research <ul><li>Investigating the topic </li></ul><ul><li>Fact-checking </li></ul><ul><li>Finding historical documents, photos, etc </li></ul>
  21. 21. Arranging Interviews <ul><li>Identifying main characters </li></ul><ul><li>Identifying “experts” </li></ul><ul><li>Scheduling appointments </li></ul><ul><li>Planning interview questions </li></ul>
  22. 22. Scouting Locations <ul><li>Deciding where you plan to shoot video </li></ul><ul><li>Visiting sites ahead of time to get a sense of the space </li></ul><ul><li>Planning the order in which you will shoot in different locations </li></ul><ul><li>Identify what the best shots are in each location </li></ul>
  23. 23. Creating a Shot List <ul><li>A complete list of shots you want to get </li></ul><ul><li>Images of particular people </li></ul><ul><li>Contextual footage (“B-Roll”) </li></ul><ul><li>Establishing shots </li></ul><ul><li>Shot list often based on storyboards </li></ul>
  24. 24. Production <ul><li>Shooting Video </li></ul><ul><li>Conducting Interviews </li></ul><ul><li>Capturing Audio </li></ul><ul><li>Collecting Still Images </li></ul><ul><li>Keeping a Shot Log </li></ul>
  25. 25. Shooting Video <ul><li>Shooting primary footage (interviews, action) </li></ul><ul><li>Establishing shots to provide location context </li></ul><ul><li>Cutaways (peripheral footage for editing) </li></ul><ul><li>B-Roll (footage that accompanies what’s being said by characters or narration) </li></ul><ul><li>Always shoot more than you think you’ll need </li></ul><ul><li>Safety shots - just in case! </li></ul><ul><li>Make sure your batteries are charged! </li></ul>
  26. 26. Conducting Interviews <ul><li>Getting subject comfortable in front of camera </li></ul><ul><li>Eye perspective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Looking at camera or just off-camera, but not both in the same interview </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>off-camera is more common </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Avoid too many people behind the camera </li></ul><ul><li>Have subject repeat question as statement </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Q: When did you start the band? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A: We started the band back in 2003... </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Capturing Audio <ul><li>In a professional shoot, an audio engineer would record a continuous audio track </li></ul><ul><li>Not necessary for classroom purposes </li></ul><ul><li>Compromises: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bring two cameras, one always rolling, capturing continuous audio </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bring handheld audio recorder </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Continuous audio important for music footage </li></ul>
  28. 28. Collecting Still Images <ul><li>Photos very useful when video footage isn’t available </li></ul><ul><li>Public library photo archives good resource </li></ul><ul><li>Scan photos at very high resolution </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Higher quality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Allows you to zoom in on parts of the photo </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: The Atlantic City Boardwalk </li></ul></ul>
  29. 29. Keeping a Shot Log <ul><li>A notebook of all footage captured on video </li></ul><ul><li>What you shot </li></ul><ul><li>When you shot it </li></ul><ul><li>What tape it’s on </li></ul><ul><li>This means you need to label your tapes! </li></ul>
  30. 30. Post Production <ul><li>Transcribing interviews </li></ul><ul><li>Annotating shot log </li></ul><ul><li>Uploading footage </li></ul><ul><li>Story planning </li></ul><ul><li>Script writing </li></ul><ul><li>Editing </li></ul>
  31. 31. Transcribing Interviews <ul><li>Identifying useful quotes </li></ul><ul><li>Noting location of quotes on each tape </li></ul><ul><li>Transcribing saves time in the long run! </li></ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul><ul><li>Tape 3, Sam Sheridan Interview </li></ul><ul><li>15:13: “Sure, it’s a dangerous sport, but so is football or hockey....” **** </li></ul><ul><li>16:04: “I’m a little worried, but not too worried.” </li></ul>
  32. 32. Annotating Shot Log <ul><li>Similar to transcribing interviews, but focuses on summarizes where images are located. </li></ul><ul><li>Adding more detail to your shot log, now that you’ve had time to review it. Example: </li></ul><ul><li>Tape 13 Flea Market Footage </li></ul><ul><li>21:03: Establishing shot of comic book stand </li></ul><ul><li>21:44: Close-up of customer, looking down, reviewing comic book </li></ul><ul><li>21:58: ECU of customer’s hands, counting money </li></ul>
  33. 33. Uploading Footage <ul><li>Upload all the video clips you may use </li></ul><ul><li>Be sure to give each clip “padding” - several seconds before and after meat of the clip </li></ul><ul><li>Organize clips in bins either by tape or subject </li></ul><ul><li>Name clips by time stamp and subject: </li></ul><ul><li>Tape 3, 16:04 Sam: “I’m a little worried” = </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  34. 34. Story Planning <ul><li>Outline of the entire script </li></ul><ul><li>“ 3x5” planning: writing best quotes, main story sections on 3x5 cards to experiment with story order; Inspiration/Kidspiration useful as well </li></ul><ul><li>Identifying best footage, matching them with story sections/quotes, putting them in order </li></ul>
  35. 35. Script Writing <ul><li>Done in conjunction with story planning </li></ul><ul><li>Script should weave together story elements, quotes, matched with appropriate images </li></ul><ul><li>Judge the script by how it sounds read aloud, </li></ul><ul><li>not how it reads on paper </li></ul><ul><li>Basic script for narrator: narration/quotes </li></ul><ul><li>Three-columned script for everyone else: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Time Code </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Video </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Narration/Interview Quotes </li></ul></ul>
  36. 36. Editing <ul><li>Recording narration - do lots of takes! </li></ul><ul><li>Rough cut - putting clips in order, no F/X </li></ul><ul><li>Team, teacher, class review rough cut </li></ul><ul><li>Corrections based on group input; another review </li></ul><ul><li>Polishing: adding dissolves, graphics, etc </li></ul><ul><li>Final cut: documentary is complete </li></ul><ul><li>In real world, review/corrections process </li></ul><ul><li>repeated again and again and again! </li></ul>
  37. 37. Questions to consider <ul><li>How much time each week/month will be dedicated to production? </li></ul><ul><li>Will production take place throughout the year? </li></ul><ul><li>Should students work on one project all year or produce multiple projects? </li></ul>
  38. 38. Don’t Forget Copyright <ul><li>Videos shown publicly/online must honor copyright </li></ul><ul><li>Red flags: TV video clips and music </li></ul><ul><li>Using someone’s music w/o permission can get school in trouble; get permission from publisher! </li></ul><ul><li>Creative Commons (CC): http:// </li></ul><ul><li> : Free music for nonprofit projects using noncomercial/attribute/sharealike CC license </li></ul><ul><li>License low-cost music: http:// </li></ul><ul><li>GarageBand </li></ul><ul><li>Use original student music - they own the copyright! </li></ul><ul><li>Always cite copyright holders in credits </li></ul>
  39. 39. A New Twist: Video Blogging <ul><li>Create a school blog for premiering videos </li></ul><ul><li>Upload videos to the blog </li></ul><ul><li>Mentoring opportunity - Get experienced filmmakers and video bloggers to critique students’ work </li></ul><ul><li>Cutting edge: only a handful of educational video blogs in the world today </li></ul><ul><li>Would have to conform with school AUP </li></ul>
  40. 40. <ul><li>Thank You! </li></ul><ul><li>Andy Carvin </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>