Producing a quality project calls for expertise in several disciplines.
Mastering all these skills offers the best chance for success. Adapting in a world of constantly evolving technology, ever-changing viewer expectations and style trends, keeps the business interesting and exciting. However, like any business, success is discovered by paying attention to the little things. Beyond natural or earned ability, mastering the skills required, taking a production to the next level is all about attention to every second, every frame, at every step of the production process.
Every Frame Counts
The human eye can detect changes in frame rates up to 1,000fps, while our brain can only comprehend changes in frame rates up to 150fps. That’s 5-times the standard broadcast rate of 29.97fps, and 6.25-times for a 24fps motion picture.
While a fraction of a second might not appear significant, in video production it can make all the difference. Trimming or moving any production element during the edit, by a single frame, can change meaning, pacing and esthetics of an entire production.
The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds true in production. The difference, we’re working with at least 24 images, or 24,000 words per second. The visual speaks as much as the script, working together as an elegant tango. The goal should be composing scenes worthy of framing on the wall, which compliments or enhances the audio, and vice versa.
One Magical Moment
In the scope of an entire production, too much of a good thing can be overwhelming. If every shot was a masterpiece, the audio mix was worthy of enjoying alone, and the storytelling could translate directly to a best-selling novel, it would great, but overwhelming for the viewer.
Keeping things simple with clear magical moments of amazement, allow the viewer to relax and enjoy. That beautiful shot, great lighting, strong soundbite, even well-executed graphics or well-mixed audio can create something magical.
I’ve often judged my own work by asking, “is there at least one magical moment the viewer will remember and take-away?” It can be captured in the studio, on-location, in scripting, or in post-production… but every production should have at least one magical moment.
It’s Not Just Art, It’s Science
Learning how to operate the camera, set-up lights, and record sound are the basic skills required. Understanding how a camera captures light, the nuances of different microphones and lenses, the physiology and psychology behind composition, movement and color, offer additional insight to help elevate a production.
How a project is viewed is just important as where it’s viewed. Viewing on a smartphone vs. viewing as part of a large audience, can alter how one perceives the experience. Understanding this, will help shape the visual style of production and editing.
Meaning of Color
Beyond perception of frame rates, color plays a significant role in the psychological aspects of the viewer experience. Different hues imply varied moods and can alter the meaning of a scene or entire project.
Painting with Light
Knowing how to light is science as much as art. Going beyond the basic 3-point lighting rules, the first step is understanding how different lights offer varied color temperatures. The latest LED technologies allow custom control of lighting temp across the entire Kalvin scale. While this can be a valuable tool, knowing how to apply it is essential. With all the tools and options related to lighting, it really does become an artform all it’s own.
Another over-looked tool in production is the lens, and it’s not just about maintaining a sharp focus. Variables like the quality of lens elements, focal length, aperture, and understanding how they interact is another layer of production to master. For example, applying the correct combination of settings will create that soft, blurred background. Going the opposite direction, a wide depth helps when capturing action or big scenes.
While these insights offer an introduction to basic production detail, the depth and range of options to elevate any production would take many lifetimes to master. It’s that challenge, and the constant changes in technology enhancements, which make such a profession exciting and rewarding every day.