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INTRODUCTION: Pictures from the Revolution

INTRODUCTION: Pictures from the Revolution

Thanks to digital technology, the tools of video production can now fit on a desktop. A briefcase can easily hold a palmcorder and a notebook computer, with room left over for your cell phone and the slate you use to mark the start of a shot. New technologies for video distribution fit on that desktop or laptop, too—tools for streaming video across the Web and authoring interactive DVDs, for example. And with each passing season, prices fall and the technology improves. Altogether, these developments mark a truly revolutionary era in video storytelling. Seasoned professionals are discovering new creative techniques that the technology makes possible, both in the editing studio and on the shoot. Meanwhile, capable, affordable equipment lowers the barriers to entering the field. Video cameras and editing applications are finding their way into the hands of independent film-makers and journalists, corporate communications departments, students and educators, and even family documentarians.

Isn't there some story you're dying to tell? Some public figure or issue that sets you off? Do you dream of making a career behind the camera or at the editing console? Do you long to see your name or your product on the screen? By writing this book covering both the latest technology and the essential production skills needed to use it effectively, we hope to empower and inspire you to produce videos that win awards, influence people, earn money, and fulfill your artistic aspirations—and that tell your story.

Best Train Set

Legendary filmmaker Orson Welles once remarked that a movie studio was the best set of electric trains a kid could ever have. There was only one catch: His trains cost millions of dollars. Today, for less than $10,000, you can own a digital train set Welles would have envied. The variety of DV tools available now—cameras, editing systems, postproduction software, and distribution media—is dazzling. And in many ways, DV offers more power than Welles' studio-sized filmmaking toys, at a fraction of their cost.

But making movies isn't just about technology. While Welles had a striking technical flair he is mainly remembered for his almost irrational passion for cinematic storytelling.

Mastering the Medium

One thing the technological revolution hasn't changed is the importance of the specialized know-how that video production professionals bring to their craft. It may be true that now almost anyone can gain access to the tools of production, but learning to use them to communicate effectively still takes experience and an extensive skill set. Minus the craft of the professional moviemaker, much of the work that's now so easy to produce will be downright unwatchable.

Today's best filmmaking, whatever the venue—television news, commercial movie house, film festival circuit, corporate boardroom, or Web site—is born out of a marriage of technology and a visual vocabulary that's been evolving for over a century—along with the arts of cinema and television. Skilled professionals know how to apply these tools and techniques to create dramatic fiction movies, sales pitches, training demonstrations, advertising, political interviews, fundraising solicitations, educational documentaries, and lots more.

This book approaches digital video from the perspective of a media professional working in the real world. It emphasizes not only what's new about the technology but also what's become traditional in the craft of filmmaking: timeless principles of engaging storytelling, painting with light, working with actors, interacting with interview subjects, enriching the viewers' experience with sophisticated sound, and putting it all together with a sense of rhythm, pacing, and personal style. Whatever your ultimate ambitions may be for your video creations, this book is intended for anyone—at any level of skill or expertise—who is eager to use the digital video medium to tell a story.

What Is DV?

Not all digital video is DV. There are actually quite a few different electronic technologies today that use streams of binary data to record, transmit, and display pictures and sound—like on a TV. To media professionals, DV is a specific recording standard—like its analog videotape predecessors VHS, Hi8, and Betacam SP.

This book deals with both digital video as a creative medium and the DV recording standard. When we're talking about the art and craft of video production, we'll spell it out as digital video. When we mean the recording format, we'll say DV.

Thinking in DV

It's possible that you've already had some experience making movies using analog video, or film, or both. If so, you'll find many of your skills are directly applicable to working in digital video.

However, there are critical differences. DV requires a different mindset, and it offers a universe of new opportunities for creativity. For example, you might expect to light DV differently from film, but do you realize shooting in DV can also affect the ways you work with your actors? Our emphasis throughout this book will be on showing you how working in DV differs from working in traditional media.

If you don't have any real-world experience making movies, relax and enjoy the ride. By the time you're done with this book you'll have learned everything you need to know to plan your production, lock down a budget, choose your equipment, shoot and edit your footage, all the way to releasing your finished work.

This book is structured to mirror the video production process step-by-step. We start where you've probably started already, thinking about the kind of project you want to create. Since different assignments call for different shooting styles, different equipment, and different creative solutions, we'll begin by looking at different approaches to video storytelling—interviews, documentaries and training videos, and scripted presentations.

We'll emphasize the importance of story, the non-technical but altogether essential element of success, and we'll describe how professionals—whether feature screenwriters or corporate documentarians—turn stories into shooting scripts, storyboards, shot plans, schedules, and budgets.

Caveat Emptor

When you go out to shop for equipment you want to have some idea of what things cost, so we list prices for some of the more popular products. But with a marketplace that's evolving as fast as DV is, it's impossible to remain current for long, and these prices may have changed—perhaps significantly—by the time you're ready to buy. Always check current pricing and the newest comparable products before making any buying decisions.

Incidentally, if you haven't yet purchased a camcorder or a desktop editing system—or if, like many pros, you prefer to rent your gear—you may want to hold off on making any final decisions for now. We've got important advice for you on how to match these tools to your style of shooting, your creative approach, and your budget. (For more information, see Chapter 3, “ DV Technology and the Camcorder” and Appendix B: Selecting and Building an NLE System.)

The next section begins with an overview of DV technology to help you choose and operate a camcorder, then goes on to survey the features you'll need most for getting good results on different kinds of projects.

With camera in hand, you'll learn professional techniques for planning a shoot, choosing equipment and personnel, working on the set, designing effective lighting, and capturing good sound. We'll warn you about production pitfalls, help you build an editing system (after first encouraging you to work with an experienced editor), and take you through editing, postproduction, and distributing your work in various media. Finally we'll sketch in the future of this fast-developing technology.

What's on the DVD?

The DVD that comes with this book plays on any DVD player, or any PC or Mac equipped with a DVD drive. It includes video presentations produced especially for this book to illustrate the three basic types of projects and shooting styles: interview, training video, and scripted show.

The disc also includes additional resources: on-camera interviews with DV experts; demo versions of editing, sound, and production software for PC and Mac; and an assortment of production forms and templates that you can use as is, or modify for your own projects.

What Lies Ahead

This is an ambitious book: It's about selecting tools, getting value for your money, advancing your career, satisfying your curiosity, having fun as you work, discovering new work methods, experimenting in a new medium—and putting your story on screens all over the world.

So, please tell your parents, friends, and loved ones that you might be late for dinner.

You have a new world to explore.

— Pete Shaner
— Gerald Everett Jones,

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