|Remember sitting through interminable slide-shows given by distant relations Now video and the small screen have taken over these shows from the dreaded slide-projector. |
Camcorders rigged for underwater use are commonly seen on diving live-aboards, and the video-makers among the passengers usually insist on showing their results at the end of the day.
This mainly consists of uncut footage. A few momentary gems are usually concealed among endless views of blue fish and repetitive shots of coral tracking past the camcorders lens. Its best to make your excuses and leave.
Professional film-makers rarely let anyone see the rushes, save those directly involved in the production. They wait to show the completed programme. For every hour spent shooting original material, many more are spent in post-production, when the final edited version is bolted together.
Video gives instant gratification, and the latest hardware allows the diver to take a camcorder under water in a submarine housing that is even more compact than most high-quality cameras. At shallow depths, good colour can be recorded even without additional lighting.
However, anyone who wants to make really watchable videos should also arm themselves with two player/recorders and some sort of editor controller, as well as the camcorder, and be prepared to spend long winter evenings home alone with them!
Films and video programmes are made up of many often unrelated segments of real time that are joined together in sequence to form an event that never actually happened! The segments are like the bricks of a building. Although each is individually important, you tend to see the architecture as a whole and that is what your audience sees - the complete programme.
Most of the rules of motion picture-making, whether below the surface or above, are about making bricks or sequences of live action that fit together into a conclusive whole.
Whether you shoot moving pictures on Super-8 film or use the latest digital video equipment, there are some basic rules you should follow:
1 FREEZE: Keep the camcorder still. Video is good at recording the movement of your subject. If you wave your camcorder around, you produce sequences that are difficult to intercut with others, and get your audiences eyes rolling long before the programme reaches its climax.
2 LET IT GO: Let your subject move into the frame and out again. If you continually follow your subject, you will provoke your audience into pleading: For goodness sake, leave it alone!
3 DYNAMICS: Use the shorthand of film-making. A series of sequences can build drama and reduce the real time. A wider establishing shot, followed by several close-ups, then possibly a less close-up shot of your subject going away from the camera, allows you to compress real time into a more dramatic viewing time-scale. Really wide shots under water lack the graphic clarity to work well on the small screen.
4 ONE WAY: Keep the action going in one direction. If your subject is passing from camera-right to camera-left, keep it going that way. To suddenly intercut a shot of it passing from left to right will confuse your audience and stop your programme flowing.
5 OVER THERE: Never cross the line. Imagine you are shooting a subject moving along an imaginary line. Never go to the other side of that line, as your subject will appear to have changed direction.
6 NO JOINS: Make your event that never actually happened flow smoothly and efficiently with a series of cuts that join together in a logical sequence. A good cut or edit is like a good wig - no one notices it.
7 PUNCTUATE: Make intelligent use of cutaways. Cutaways are static shots of things that are happening on the periphery of the action. They are the punctuation marks of movie-making. Luckily, underwater subjects for cutaways are easy to find.
8 ACTIVITY: The most magical underwater shots involve your subject doing something - feeding, cleaning, threatening, even darting away. There is a limit to how much any audience can stand watching fish apparently hanging around waiting for something to happen.
9 STRUCTURE: A programme is a story and as such should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Avoid leaving your audience with a what was all that about feeling.
10 BRIEFLY: The attention span of most audiences is only about 20 minutes, so limit yourself to this amount of time. If you dont think that is enough, remember that great British film directors like Ridley Scott and Alan Parker learnt their craft within the disciplines dictated by the 30-second television commercial.
11 BLUE VIDEO: How many of those have you been forced to sit through The usual reason is that modern video claims not to need additional lighting. Its not true. It will record an image, but if you are going to shoot deeper than a few metres you will still need to light your subject with a powerful video-light.
12 IN THE GROOVE: You probably cant afford to commission John (007) Barry to write a score, but dont just use any old music. Choose something that is appropriate to the live action. If you are going to give your production a public showing, make sure that you get permission from the copyright-holder first.
Now that youve had all the tips, why not shoot some videos or cine films for the Moving Images category of the forthcoming Image 99 competition.