Digital Video – Week 02

Class Work

Dropping into my first Digital Video tutorial in week 2, I had to get myself up to speed, as well as finding a group to join. The first project of the semester requires us to create a short documentary, which will obviously be a team effort. Contrary to the prolific DIY culture of video sites like YouTube, creating anything with even minimal production values needs the input of multiple minds. Whilst this obviously won’t be a Bruckheimer-esque epic, the roles of filming, sound, lighting, research, editing and waterboy will be shared amongst the group.

Fortunately, I came to class with a concept, because it was something the other members of my new group seemed a little unsure about. In the footsteps of my bus and train crazy father, I suggested that Sydney Bus Museum would be an ideal subject. The guys that volunteer their time to run this museum are a perfect for a project with such a short turnaround time: they are passionate about what they do, so are usually happy to speak about it; they are constantly struggling for funding, so there’s an emotional interest in their story; and they’ve got cool old buses, which will look killer if we manage to shoot them properly.

Development

After sending through an email, enquiring about their interest, I was happily responded to immediately. The good news was that it seemed the people behind the museum would be quite happy to chat to us. The bad news being that the museum had been shut down just weeks ago due to issues with fire regulations. However, this provided an opportunity to create further interest in our documentary: telling the story of the volunteers at the museum and their struggle to keep the doors open.

Dropping in to the museum, it was even better than I had hoped. It’s one of those increasingly rare Sydney warehouses: filled with wonderful old toys and soft, beautiful light seeping through the roof. Quite perfect for staging our shoot. To give us something to work with when planning our documentary, I took a few pictures from around the museum…

The gentlemen we found working on the buses there were equally fitting. They seem only too happy to talk about their own experience with the museum, why they love these old vehicles and hopefully with some encouragement, they’ll chat about the hardships that the museum faces right now.

Reflecting on the warehouse visit, my first impulse is to film this in a similar style to the brilliant design documentaries by Gary Hustwit, Helvetica and Objectified. The latter isn’t quite due for release yet, but you can get a feel for it by watching the trailer…

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Being a complete font nerd, I think Helvetica is a fantastic film. But it is also beautifully filmed, as well as spinning an utterly brilliant soundtrack. Some places are cut in a similar fashion to a music clip, but that aside, it’s generally presented with some serious flair.

I believe this style of filming would fit the documentary for several reasons: the cut-up editing will allow us to tell a story in itself, perhaps getting across more than the short duration time would otherwise allow; it will express the near-fetishism that these people have for their vehicles, much like the font and object designers have for their own work; and it will look sexy. That’s pretty much the most important point. Sexy-time. I know the macro, shallow depth of field thing has been done to death, but stuff it – I still think it’s awesome.

So myself and my ultra-talented crew booked in more gear than we could fit in the Tardis and are readying ourselves for an April 4th shooting date. It’s going to eat up some of our post-production time waiting for that day to come around, but sometimes you just have to sit back and wait for the planets to align before moving forward.

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