This was one of the largest Boston Media Makers meetings yet with so many people talking about so many fascinating projects. The group meets the first Sunday of the month at Sweet Finnish in Jamaica Plain starting at 10:00 a.m. I always get a lot out of hearing what everyone is working on and all the amazing discussion. We went around the room and everyone talked about what they were doing, then, after a short break, we got into a discussion on the topic of production values, do they matter?
Regina OBrien talked about BostonNOW, a new daily newspaper in Boston that is developing a compensation plan for successful bloggers/citizen-journalists posting on their web site. They are holding a Bloggers’ Summit on March 10th in order to get feedback from the community. Regina is the Web Content Manager for BostonNOW.
Rick Berlin is working on Jamaica Plain Spoken, a documentary exploring American community through Jamaica Plain. The film integrates “plain spoken” interviews, historical perspective, a dynamic soundtrack (produced by Jamaica Plain residents), and cutting-edge animation. He’s currently looking for animators to help him in the endeavor.
Matt Searles, Evan Pew, and Mark Hanser, spoke about their business Asymmetric Biz Cult and their podcast on the Asymmetric Business of Culutre Creation, which includes thinking from Jungian Psychology.
Randy Mann would like to see VloggerCon 2007 happen here in Boston and is curently looking for a venue.
Beth Kanter talked about the many things she’s involved with including her blog, Beth’s Blog where she writes about about technology for non-profits, educational technology, and much more.
Susan Walsh, Executive Director of The Center for Independent Documentary talked about her organization and how they are embracing change and thinking about the role of feature length documentaries and their involvement with the Alliance for Independent Motion Media and the upcoming Making Media Now: Filmmaking in Transition event hosted by Filmmakers Collaborative scheduled for June 1st at Boston University.
Steve Albanese talked about Tutorial Depot, which includes tutorials like How To: Digital Performer and How To: Record Drums. He uses Snapz Pro X for capturing screencasts on the Macintosh and Camtasia Studio on the PC.
I spoke about the upcoming Camera Company Pro Video Show on Friday and Saturday, March 9th and 10th, it’s a good show for checking out camera, lighting, and editing, gear at the vendor expo and learning new things at the many workshops and seminars (some are free, some are paid), I’m doing two sessions on Saturday: Delivering Video on the Web and Champagne Production Values on a Beer Budget. I also talked about the latest episode of MIT ZigZag.
Phillipe Lejeune talked about how he’s using his blog and wiki to improve his teaching of drawing.
Dave LaMorte gave us an update on his Teaching for the Future podcast, which started out as his thesis project and he’s continuing to do it. It’s a really interesting blog and podcast. The group got into a discussion of copyright and fair use and David mentioned (and had several copies to share) of the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use document that was written by veteran filmmakers to help other filmmakers understand the situations in which using copyrighted material without clearance is considered fair use. Fair use is the right, in some circumstances, to quote copyrighted material without asking permission or paying for it. It is a crucial feature of copyright law and what keeps copyright from being censorship. You can invoke fair use when the value to the public of what you are saying outweighs the cost to the private owner of the copyright.
David Dahl (an editor) and Emily Sweeny (a writer), both from the Boston Globe, talked about how the organization is slowly figuring out how to meld with the world of blogging and were asked when they were going to incorporate comments right there as part of their articles rather than sending people off to a discussion section.
Fred Light talked about his work as a web designer in the Real Estate market, his web site, Nashua Video Tours, provides high definition real estate video touts for the Nashua, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Boston metro areas.
Chris Brogan talked about the Network 2 Contest. They are looking for producers to create a post to their videoblogs or make a clip that shows people “How to Watch Internet TV”. If you mention Network2, that would be appreciated, they are offering $25,000 in cash prizes. The deadline is March 9th, 2007 and the prize will be awarded on March 20th at Spring 2007 Video on the Net in San Jose, California.
Ashley Hodson just got back from her road trip, she’s documenting the continuing exploration of the ’sustainable’ movement. On her road trip she visited various places around the country where average people are grappling with global climate change, increasing populations, peak oil, threats to biodiversity, etc. There is a lot to chew on these days when it comes defining and working towards sustainability.
Steve Garfield talked about his “allow or deny” experiences with Windows Vista, as well as some of the curious list of choices the operating system presents to him now and then. I wonder if he’d be using Vista if Microsoft had not sent him a free laptop to use. Steve is currently working on Spices of Life, a new videoblog by Nina Simonds about food, health, and lifestyle.
Bryan Person is working on getting JobCamp happening, it’s like PodCamp but for people who want to learn how to use Web 2.0 tools to help then in their job search and building their online persona and reputation.
I’ve missed a few, but my notes are sketchy. Adam Weiss talked about using Google applications to set up a web site, Elisa Mintz is doing freelance videography and editing, Nate Laver is doing hoorayforfunn, and Serra Shifflet is doing headsoff. Justin White and Tim White are in the Real Estate business.
Production Values Discussion
After everyone spoke about what they’re up to, I led a discussion around the question, “Production Values, Do They Matter?” All techniques (whether intentional or not) are part of our vocabulary as visual storytellers and communicators. When is it best to “shot and get whatever” and when might we want to worry about “production values” like “good” lighting, sound, framing, etc.? There are aesthetic and moral issues at stake in this issue. When should we use the aesthetic conventions and tools of industry professionals and and when should we “do our own thing”?
It’s often a question of what is appropriate vs. what is inappropriate for a given message. Much videoblogging is intimate vs “professional” media which is often “detached.” We spoke about low quality vs high quality, and discussed the examples of the “mistakes” in Jean-Luc Godard’s Dreathless in the form of jump cuts were actually an excellent aesthetic technique for creating a particular mood or feel.
Phillipe Lejeune remided us that what’s most important is passion, the desire to do what you’re doing. I have to say this is one reason I find this particular group (which has a mix of everything from novices to professional media makers) more interesting that most, everyone here, regardless of their skill level in media making, is driven by something that’s important to them. Phillipe’s words really resonate, especially in the current context.
Beth suggested we come up with a priority list in terms of what components of production values are most important for effective communication/sharing/conveying what we want to say, we came up with something like this:
- 1. Story, message, passion, you have something to say;
- 2. Record good sound (this is the basis of your viewer’s emotional response to your piece;
- 3. composition and camera work (some rules of thumb that make expression more efficient includes: the rule of thirds, which is based on the golden triangle/mean/spiral;
- 4. Editing, including basic rules about eye-line and eye-level match (related to rule of thirds), making cuts seamless or noticeable, depending on your intent; and
- 5. Shoot for the edit, shot in a way that makes it easy to cut things together, for example, get coverage (alternative angles) of what you’re shooting. Now cutting makes things less “truthful” so how you cut involves a moral dimension. Uncut footage subliminally feels like you were there and can sense the “truthiness” but on the other hand, seamless cutting does the same thing. This goes back to the old argument in film theory between Andre Bazin (who favored little cutting and wide shots) and the more formalist filmmakers who were really into expression, form, and editing.
In the end, “technical resolution” is not what is really important, what’s important is “emotional resolution”. Most of what you need to do to communciate effectively is not expensive. Some books I recommend reading if you’re interested in this issue of production values and media aesthetics include: Sight, Sound, Motion: Applied Media Aesthetics by Herbert Zettl, The Visual Story: Seeing the Structure of Film, TV and New Media by Bruce Block, andIn the Blink of an Eye (Revised 2nd Edition) by Walter Murch.
At the end of the meeting Steve demonstrated some truly interesting technology: Shooting video with the Nokia N95 phone and then edit the video right on the phone itself including adding a soundtrack and then uploading the video from the phone via WiFi to his blog. He shot and edited a video while riding on the T. Steve has posted some good notes and images on the Boston Media Makers blog.