Steven Breckon FIPR 437 Production Journal Abstract This short is made up of video footage I shot to integrate in with a VSB middle school curriculum that uses the production of bread as a lens for the larger social, ecological and historical events which make up our current food system. I used this assignment to plan/shoot the “milling” component of the video series. This edit will not be used in said curricula. It is intended to show the cinematography techniques which I used - and hopefully use enough visual cues to lead the audience to understanding some of the differences in scale that flour mills can take. *Note on Script My taste in documentary leans towards more of an observational, non-didactic theoretical framework - thus I try to stay away from the sort of dramatic re-enactment/interview based “documentaries” which currently dominate the market. Due to the nature of the content/documentary approach, we did not develop a script in the sense of a traditional fictional-short format. Instead, our approach was one of an initial location scout - where we got tours/participated in the goings on of each mill, made preliminary research footage (one shot made it into this edit), then developed a shot list based off of our observations. Assets/Limitations Rogers Mill Assets: -granted full access to facility -elevator/troll for moving heavy equipment up/down 5 floors Limitations: -either extremely low light or strong overhead Flo. -VERY few electrical outlets in the main milling area’s -A director/co-producer with a strong back for carrying gear Anita’s Organic Mill Assets: -Much smaller facility -More casual working atmosphere -Friendly/accommodating/understanding staff Limitations: -Generally low light/overhead flourescent -requirment of a small crew = limited about of equipment -content did not allow for complex lighting in most cases
Equipment -Canon 5dmkii -Canon 24-70 L -Zeiss T* 80mm -Zeiss T* 150mm -DV track dolly -Kessler 8’ crane -Manfrotto tripod/head combo -650W litepanel w/green gel (2) -Kinoflo -C stands, AC, Sandbags, etc. Crew -Myself -VSB project co-producer/director Jacob Slosberg Creative approach Our key visual theme we tried to adhere to at Rogers Mill, was to for the most part show images of the machinery without humans, as they typically are. In contrast, at Anita’s Mill - we tried to have human interaction in the process at all times. We also loosely followed the plan to use camera movement to animate the movement of grain - especially in shots which you could not actually see the grain/flour itself. It was also a goal of mine to give an accurate sense of scale at either place - whether it was content based (hand-packing vs. a laser guided machine) or the use of focal length to manipulate space. Conclusions Recording this type of subject matter in a documentary way - I was constantly juggling the need to move and adapt quickly to the event’s going on around me - as well as strive for a higher level of lighting/camera operation required to make the cinematography stand out against a sea of jittery handheld which plague the format. Because of the repetitive and often (but not always) predictable nature of flour milling, I was able to communicate with the employee’s as to how the events would unfold, how I could be as un-intrusive as possible - yet still get shots which did not seem set-up or acted. It would have been nice to have one more person to help out moving gear and prepping things, but any more than that at either location I think would have been difficult to maintain the type of rapport we developed with some of the workers. Lighting at these locations was not ideal, as both were heavily industrial overhead Fluorescent. I determined that Anita’s was too busy a location to be running cables around - as well as a hindrance to our ability to adapt to the goings on. At Rogers we could have benefited from some larger lights to bounce of the ceilings to get a deeper DOF - however there were practically zero electrical outlets due to safety issues (grain is dangerously combustible at such high quantities). I decided to go with small litepanel units which we gelled green to match the colour balance to that of the Flo’s. They worked well in some of the tighter long lens shots, however they did little for many of the wide’s and we ended up relying on ambient light in many more cases than I anticipated. The hardest part was deciding at the time which method of recording would be most appropriate handheld, tripod, dolly, or crane. This is partly to do with the nature of not fully understanding which events were going to unfold, but looking back I think it could have been abated by not being so ambitious in our goal to record so much of each process during our production days. On both days we were on site from 8am-6/7pm with about a half hour lunch break each day. Despite organizing before hand many of the things we wanted to record, this “schedule” was essentially turned into a list as our informants at both mills
brought new things to the table and took part in events which we had no way of forecasting. This was the first time I had operated a crane (besides the 3 hours of practice the night before). Obviously this was not ideal and I found myself getting quite frustrated with trying to keep up with the action of the mill workers as well as get the shots I was going for. I rented the Crane from camerarentalvancouver.com which was overall a smooth process, however I think I would have been better off going from a more reputable rental house which would have not downplayed the poor shape the unit was in. The monitor which was provided only came with a 6inch hdmi cable which rendered it completely useless for critical focus in rear operation. This was by far my biggest frustration of the entire production process. This aside, I think that for my first time operating - I got some decent shots out of it, and will be better prepared for the next time. Itâ€™s always difficult to work with non-actors and achieve something which does not seem too stiff. Some of the workers were really great at communicating to us how certain events would unfold and were they would be positioned etc. Yet, I would say we had an equal amount who were un-sympathetic to the filming process and made it difficult for me to get the types of coverage I wanted. Fortunately some of the processes (such as the fellow loading the bulk truck at Rogers Mill) that did not get communicated very well - were repetitive, giving me some extra opportunities to switch angles/focal lengths. Overall, I learned a lot doing this project. From the difficulty of operating a crane with skill, to the organizing and rapport needed to conduct a production of this type.
Published on Mar 27, 2011