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The difference between making a short film in 1995 and 2010

The difference between making a short film in 1995 and 2010

I was recently given the opportunity to produce a short film for work about a new website, coming soon for internal workers. Since I hadn’t really made a short film since my student efforts with Stephen Fry in 1995 – when we were outputting to VHS! – I thought it’d be a great chance to learn what had changed in the last 15 years. A lot.

Whereas before we literally pointed and shot the camera at our interviewees, this time we also had a lighting kit to contend with. A huge lighting kit on a trolley that came in a flight case – and I was told this was the portable version. It did make a difference in terms of the visual image, but I’m not sure it was worth the effort of rigging everything up and blinding our interviewees. But if that’s the professional way to do it …

Of course, I was the one asking the questions, although it took me a while to master my brief, as they are wont to say in the civil service. But by the time I’d recorded and logged all the interviews, I had enough soundbites to put something together, although it then became a bit of a mad dash to try and find alternative footage to pep up the visuals – and amazingly, if you want to film at the place you work, you need a permit. Plus there’s so much footage in the archives that it’s actually very difficult to try and find the footage you want, that somebody else MUST have surely filmed.

All in all, we spent a day and a half filming, and got about 90 minutes of raw footage out of eight quick interviews, most of them lasting less than ten minutes. It took me a couple of hours to transcribe the interviews to create a rough “script” to take to the edit suite.

Having spent most of my working life vainly trying to get work computers to do basic video editing, it was a real blessing to walk into a properly maintained edit suite running Final Cut Pro, being run by an editor who knew what he was doing. Even if it didn’t seem that different from Adobe Premiere Pro. We even managed to add in a couple of graphical flourishes and a visual gag. I did miss the physicality of doing it myself though – of pressing the buttons, using the jog wheel etc.

So two meetings, 14 hours of filming, 2 hours of logging, a couple of spare tapes for extra shots, and 8 hours of editing later, I can say that I’ve managed to help produce a 4 minute internal film that five key stakeholders seem reasonably happy with. Which is an innovation in itself. But then, Geoff managed to make this video in 5 hours…

Now I’ve got a vague hunger to see what else I can film and edit. Of course, that would mean finding a subject, the time, the motivation – oh, and the equipment as well.

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