Filmmaking: Much More Complex Than You Might Think

Filmmaking: Much More Complex Than You Might Think

Today, many transition or expand their career from photography to videography, relying on the advanced technology we already have in our hands. However, most of them aren't aware that they are entering a whole new universe that's vastly unknown by stills photographers.

The last decade has marked itself with a significant change in the world of photography, where many artists utilized an exciting new feature of their cameras: the ability to record video on a large sensor. To me, this looks like that young teenager who learned a new lick on their electric guitar, thinking they are now ready for the big stage.

The Beginner Photographer's Perspective About Filmmaking

The general idea of still photographers about video is that they are just dealing with many images per second plus sound. Other than that, the multitude of visuals composition and lighting rules are the same. Some find that you have to have your camera well stabilized and you need to take care of recording audio in higher quality than a built-in microphone can do. As you might have guessed, this is far from being enough to be proficient in filmmaking.

The Intermediate Photographer's Perspective About Filmmaking

This group is of those who are more proficient with getting it right in camera, working with composites, building sets, directing actors and models, and running a business. They know the investment in gear filmmaking requires, and they build their budget carefully around the most needed tools for the job. They quickly grasp the principles of the non-linear editors (NLE) for video footage and hone their skills there. Having decent gear and solid technical knowledge is the platform they step onto, expecting this is going to position them higher in the professional filmmakers' wall of fame. In reality, this is like climbing a mountain peak when you just got out of your comfortable car. That's the mountain, but you haven't tasted the hardships of reaching the top of it yet.

The Reality

No doubt, solid technical foundation is a good start, although to be a good filmmaker, you don't always have to understand every single detail of the process. The first big difference between stills photography and videography is that the latter often requires a team effort. However, when you work on small projects, you may be a one-man band, but your technical capabilities are still not enough to make work that's on a professional level. The job description for that position includes areas you might never have thought you have to be good at.

Story

For a still photograph, you can have a pretty picture that is probably fully evaluated and adored by the viewers, but when watching a video, people may get bored very quickly if your idea is not engaging. Nice footage cut together is not going to impress many today but your close friends and relatives. There's too much video material on the internet that shows exactly the same. If you want to be noticed, you have to become a writer or at least a person who can tell interesting stories. This is a must-have ability for the one-man band filmmaker. If you can't write, your moving pictures won't move the audience. This is even valid for corporate videos.

Writing a story

Directing

Working with models is way different than working with actors. A model may be great in stills photography, but in video, it's quite different. The camera "sees" their emotions and actions in a very different way. If you are going to do it all by yourself, you have to understand what makes people look unprofessional in video. If you work with non-professional actors, you have to be able to make them look good on camera: the way they walk, the way they talk, the way they act in their environment. There's no "video Photoshop" for that. An example of a badly made video is an up-beat song with visuals of the band playing without conveying any of the feel of the song's rhythm to the audience. Another example would be a corporate video where the presenter simply reads their lines while the red light on your camera is blinking. Who's to blame for the outcome? It's the director to blame. Welcome to the new world of filmmaking, where you have much more responsibility, because a person looked bad not only in one image, but in hundreds of them.

Editing

When it comes to video, "fixing it in post" is not much laughed at as in the stills world. You can create several different films that convey an entirely different message just by cutting the footage in a different manner. Editing is an art form of its own. It is like writing a symphony for an orchestra, where visuals, pacing, cuts, transitions, music, dialogue, sounds, and visual effects work in perfect harmony. If any of the sections in the orchestra decide to play their own rhythm or play forte (loud) when it has to be quiet, the final result will be disastrous. Knowing all the shortcuts and optimal workflow won't make you a good editor. You have to know how the harmony of clips can play an entirely different tune if you only swap the place of two of them. They are just like the notes on the music sheet.

Competition Is on a Different Level

In filmmaking, everything is different, even the competitiveness. It's not about having the greatest camera, the greatest stabilization gear, big and powerful lights, and skills in post-processing. The result depends on so many parameters that it is very easy to miss the point and fail to retain the attention of the audience. If you want to be good in this world of filmmaking, you need to learn to be patient, measuring twice and cutting once. Filmmaking is very expensive, and the cost of making an unsuccessful video is many times greater than making an unsuccessful stills project. When a viewer looks at a photograph, they judge it for a fraction of a second and can decide if they liked it or not. In video, it is like you are walking your audience on a thin rope: once you get them out of balance, they drop down and may never come back to walk the rest it. That's why every second in video matters, so you don't make them to fall.

Conclusion

It's not the technically proficient that become great filmmakers, but those who are able to understand the ways humans react to stories. Having a knowledge of that psychology can utilize any gear to make a masterpiece that will move people's emotions and tackle their minds. A real cat is more interesting to the child than a toy, because there is a personality and soul in the animal. It's exactly the same with videos: they need to have a soul to be entertaining. Otherwise, they are mere sequences of images.

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Previous comments

It only attracts attention from those who allow themselves to be easily outraged.

Simon Patterson's picture

Most of the comments did not reflect outrage, but bemusement.

Either way, it's the lack of comments that relate to the content of the article that stands out. Few people engaged with the article itself.

We don't need to guess why; the comments tell us where people's attention was focused. People generally didn't seem to get past the headline, at least, not in a way significant enough for them to comment about it.

This is sad, because much thought and effort would have gone into writing the piece, and it is a good article. But now it's buried under many newer articles in the feed and so it is unlikely to ever get the attention it deserved.