What About the Project?

I am working on my learning contract and having the most difficulty with identifying a final project. In his book on creating documentary films, Alan Rosenthal comments, “For me, working in documentary implies a commitment that one wants to change the world for the better. That says it all” (p. xv). Right now, I’m not completely comfortable with that charge. My goals are less lofty.  I have a drawer full of analog and digital video–mostly travel and nature stuff–and I want to do something with it.  I’m not really ready either technically or emotionally to make a documentary film.  I just feel like there’s a lot of ground work to be done.  (I’m also not comfortable with the table format I used for the contract…very constricting to me.)  So I’m just going to write it out;  here’s what I propose to do this semester.

Learn about documentary films:  Rosenthal doesn’t cover the history of documentary films in his book but suggests that it is very important.  I know nothing about it.  Read an article by Eitzen about defining documentary film that helped me see the nuances and details that I should know about.  So, as part of my contract, I propose to learn about documentary films: read Rosenthal’s production book, read (at Rosenthal’s suggestion) Erik Barnouw’s Documentary: A History of The Non-Fiction Film,  watch documentaries recommended by Rosenthal and Barnouw.  I’ll keep track of my learning in this log as well as in my media wiki.

Learning technical skills:  there is some hardware I need to learn to use or to use better (ie, microphones, recorders, digital cameras).  My usual method is to just take them out and use them, but I think I sometimes miss the more subtle details that way.  For instance, putting the lights together and turning them on is easy.  Figuring out how to direct them so they enhance the picture is not so easy.  That’s really the piece I need…not how to use the camera, but how to use the camera to take better video.  This means doing some reading as well as talking to Troy and some of the undergrads at the media center who have had a film class.  I’m going to add a technical section to the media wiki and put in notes about each piece of hardware along with links to resources.  I think it might be useful to others as well as me.  I feel like I need an active piece here. The projects I’m thinking about will use already captured video for the most part.  I enjoy interviewing people so will plan to include some interviews as a precursor for a larger project

The other technical piece is the software: Final Cut Pro studio.  I have a good foundation in iMovie so I think I’ll be able to pick up the software pretty easily.  But like the hardware, the software does more than just digitize.  It can also be used to enhance video, make it better.  I’ve done the FCP tutorial and I can follow the directions, but if I were thrown out on my own, I wouldn’t know when or why to apply color correction.  I plan to read Diane Weyand’s book, and I’ll use FCP for the project…

The project:  here’s where I’ve had the most trouble.  What do I want to do?  Rosenthal says to think about the story you want to tell.  If I’m going to be completely honest, the stories I want to tell are all about me.  We spent a summer following the Lewis & Clark trail and this summer, I began digitzing that analog tape.  There’s some great stuff there and I would like to create a series of short videos called “Roadside America.”  I would use FCP to create a template for the series: titles, credits, etc.  then pull in interesting clips and add narration. Make it a weekly vodcast.  In addition, we have captured some pretty spectacular nature video over the years, and I would like to work with some of that, too.  Maybe a bird watching guide to the Outer Banks and Florida.  I’ve done some of this with iMovie but it’s always quick and dirty, and I’d like to see what I can do if I take the time and use the high end software.  When I post the video, I’ll add notes about what I did technically to create it…what features of FCP I used to edit/enhance.

For a semester, I honestly think this is enough.  But I have the sense that I need a final project.  So, I propose to create an outline/script/storyboard for a longer documentary that would incorporate the learning from the semester.

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