Monday, August 11, 2014

Documentary Assignment: Documenting events and/or processes

The process of composing lesson plans has been unilaterally deflating for me, but, in creating a documentary assignment,  I encountered particular difficulty in coming up with an assignment for students that I could also complete an example of.  (My life and the spaces, events, and people I have access to are rather antithetical to the lived reality of most students mature enough to maneuver a camera and editing software.)  So the parameters of my final lesson plan are ultimately a bit more vague than I’d like.  If I were spending more time in a teaching environment, it’d be more feasible for me to complete a project along the more clearly defined parameters of my first draft of the assignment, so I think they are both useful as alternatives to one another even though they sort of reverse the process of capturing footage.  One exercise gathers interviews about a past event, while the other gathers interviews about an ongoing process, and then captures the field footage of that process afterward.  They both create an opportunity for recognizing the process of trying to match interview sound bites with the footage of the event or process that allows for appropriate contextualization and understanding.

I continue to be humbled by the process of working with equipment I’m not entirely familiar or comfortable with, and the process of filming an interview is still stressful for me.  Two of my interviews were severely compromised by my willingness to rush through setting up the shot because it felt so awkward to ask my subject to wait for me to get it just right.  The first interview I conducted was with my Aunt Heidi, and it was my first time using the Seinheisser wireless mic system with my camera.  I hadn’t had time to be trained on it before that, and I could tell on playback that the levels were too high, but I couldn’t figure out how to adjust them on the transmitter/receiver units and didn’t have a user-manual with me.  Rather than make my subject wait for me to figure it out (she was in a hurry), we just kept moving the mic further from her mouth, and she tried to speak more softly than usual.  All the microphone drama led me to forget to re-set my focus after moving the tripod, and so not only was the sound bad, but the subject was out of focus.  Bad news, and no time to re-do the interview, so I’m forced to use it despite how awful it is.  I also had problems shooting my Aunt Holly, as the light levels (coming from a window) dropped drastically almost immediately after we started shooting.  I did stop her and adjust them once, but the lighting in almost her entire interview is problematic.  I didn’t feel comfortable stopping her to adjust the lighting as often as I’d have needed to to save all the shots, so I’m still working through how I ought to have handled that.  I’m mostly concluding that it would have been better to have dealt with mixed lighting, or less-attractive lighting, and to have had the levels be more consistent than to have been at the mercy of unpredictable cloud cover. (Also, I've conceded I am too stingy with ISO, I need to think rather differently about it in video than in still photography). 
(I’m not altogether happy with the other two interviews, I think they look really blown out, even though the meter in my camera was telling me 0.  All of these things point to: Emily needs more practice. Preferably under less stressful, rushed circumstances.)

Ultimately, I think this could be a really fun unit or lesson to teach.  Especially in a time when more and more youth are actively creating media for the web, I find it exciting to think about equipping them with the skills to create more polished and engaged pieces about their own lives and the lives of those around them.  It seems like a pretty effective way for them to engage in virtual communities and invite investment from their peers and viewers, and thus a really relevant skill set for them to have.

No comments:

Post a Comment