The video footage plays across the screen and I look for an image, or a selection of images, that will translate my experience into a few brief bites, into a story. The results have been so often disappointing in the past. Why?
I know that I rarely think of narrative structure when taking photos with my digital camera. Instead, I think of light and composition. I try to think about the technical wizardry of the digital equipment. I think about a singular image.
But we are primed to find satisfaction in the narrative arc that culminates in a neat resolution. We are the children of storytellers.
Moving into video, I now need to think about how those singular images build a story.
The best way to be prepared is to put in the effort to be prepared.
So, before my recent weekend trip to the Blue Mountains, I stood in front of the butcher’s paper with felt-tip marker poised hopefully in mid-air, ready to record some bright ideas. The aim was to confront my dilemma before the holiday started, before I got the camera out and well before I sat down to process the photos and video footage on my returned.
The question to be answered … what images are needed to create a satisfying story? The aim was to ensure the video camera was running when needed.
This is what that felt-tipped marker recorded:
I recommend the following
1. Start by thinking about daybreak AND sunset. This will give you an opening and closing sequence, particularly useful if you later decide to present your day chronologically rather than thematically. Then ponder how the day might play out in between.
2. For each thing you do that day, there will be an entrance and exit. These could be the beginning and end of each sequence or series of shots. Between them the narrative arc of the event will run. Most importantly, though, don’t forget the exit. It will be difficult to “resolve” or end each story without it.
3. There are many types of events. It could be something you’ve never done before. It could be an intersection, where decisions are made … this way or that. Or it could be confirmation of something you already knew about yourself: “I will always love bungee jumping!!!” (Not me. It’s just an example. “I will always love bushwalking” just doesn’t have the same zing.)
The most important thing to remember … the process of documenting the event must NOT overwhelm the experience. Without the experience, there is no story.
4. For visual interest, you need some long shots, some details and some comfortable shots of the middle range. The idea is to get involved in what’s happening around you AND point the video camera in the direction you’re looking. Whenever the camera is running, I’m wandering around with it on my upturned palm. The screen only gets an occasional glance. Who says the camera has to sit at eye level! (Just don’t walk too quickly!)
5. It is OK to frame some shots occasionally if you want to be fancy about it, but I found that stills pulled from the footage can be cropped and tidied later.
Did my plan run to plan?
I’ve nearly finished editing the video footage, and I can report that being prepared helped. The story is proving much easier to tell than my previous, as yet unfinished, attempts.
Other posts reflecting on my travels