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Preproduction

In general, the term preproduction refers to everything done before the camera starts rolling. I think it’s safe to assume that you know how to operate your camcorder, and you probably know roughly what you want to shoot. The following steps—except for the first one, which I consider essential—are optional, depending on the type of movie you’re shooting. (For example, feel free to storyboard your baby’s first steps, but she’ll ultimately be the one to decide how that scene plays out.)

  • Imagine the End Result. Before you even turn on your camcorder’s power, start with an idea of what type of video you’ll end up with. Will it be viewed on a television, movie screen, computer monitor, or maybe a combination of them all? This decision will help you when shooting. For example, if your movie will only appear on the Web, you may want to shoot more close-ups of people, to make sure they’re identifiable in a 320 by 160-pixel window on your computer screen. If it’s going to be shown on a big-screen television, on the other hand, you could frame your shots with wider vistas or complex background action in the shot.

  • Write the script. If you’re shooting a fictional story, with scenes, sets, actors, and the like, you’re going to need a script. Sure, the bigwigs in Hollywood don’t always start movies with a script, but you’ve no doubt seen one of those stinkers and wondered if entire sections of Los Angeles underwent covert lobotomies. A good movie starts with a good script, without exception. Even in the low-budget world of digital video filmmaking, a good script can often overcome bland direction, lighting, staging, acting, sound, etc.

  • Create storyboards. Another step in producing a good fictional movie is creating storyboards: shot-by-shot sketches of what you want to shoot (Figure 2.1). In fact, you can use storyboards for documentary-style shooting, too. The point of storyboarding is to formulate your idea of what to shoot before you actually shoot; this process will save you time and help ensure that you’re capturing all the visuals you want. At the very least, make a list of things you want to shoot, even if you’re grabbing vacation video.

    Figure 2.1. Drawing up a storyboard will help you visualize your shots and save time. If you’re shooting casually or on the go, create a list of shots you want to try to get.

  • Prepare your equipment. Do you have plenty of MiniDV cassettes? Spare batteries (and are they charged)? Lens cleaning cloth? Tripod? “Going to shoot video” can simply mean bringing your body and camcorder; or, it can involve hauling truckloads of equipment. In either case, make sure you have what you’ll need to accomplish the job.


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