Big Shorts – Disapproving Parents

Casey & I have been entering a few competitions just lately to spur on our creativity, help us to continue to learn and possibly win some amazing prizes along the way.

The latest competition was for Stillmotion, they create stunning videos and are responsible for teaching me a lot of what I know through their excellent tutorials.

The brief was to create a short between 55-60 seconds, with no dialogue and to use natural sounds to enhance and contribute to the story. We also had to use the track ‘Honey’ by Sunbeam from With Etiquette.

So we got thinking and because of the very happy feeling of the song, everything lead towards a montage of a happy family with kids playing etc… Whilst we could have done that we wanted to do something slightly different. We thought of a family dinner, but with a family that wasn’t getting along too well. We wanted to use the audio to enhance the awkwardness of a situation, then among discussion we came up with the idea of dissaproving parents of a newly engaged couple. We thought the sounds of knife on plate, chairs scraping and wine pouring could build some tension and atmosphere into the piece.

After a bit of storyboarding, we needed actors. Fortunately my Mom and Step-Dad stepped up and fitted the role perfectly! We couldn’t find anyone to act as the children so Casey and myself had to be the daughter and her fiance.

We filmed it in their kitchen on a Canon 7D. We used a Sigma 30mm 1.4, Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 & a Canon 24-105mm F4 L. We also used my crappy slider, a 30 year old light with my homemade softbox attached, as well as a monopod and tripod.

We took various shots and borrowed a neighbour to push the camera along on the slider for the esablishing shot. We also got to eat a chicken dinner which was delicious (thanks mom).

Lessons Learned

Whilst I am quite happy with the look of the film, i’ve definitely learned some lessons from this shoot. We shot with a colour temperature of 3000k  which we thought was ok when we were all setup and looked ok on the little screen of the 7D, it turned out to be far too warm. This made colour correcting and getting the cold uncomfortable look from the footage very difficult without introducing unwanted noise. The footage definitely has more noise than I would like considering we shot with a light.

I really wanted to use silence as a contributing factor to set the mood early on in the piece and emphasize the natural sounds that occur. It couldn’t be helped, but there is a main road outside and this introduced lots of unwanted noise. I used a noise gate in final cut and it’s a little too obvious to me in places. I also recorded all the audio on a H4n, but ended up mostly using the in-camera sound because the H4n really picked up the Road noise. In future, i’ll ALWAYS use the Rode VideoMic as a backup to the H4n and spend more time setting up the audio to get the sound perfect.

Planning. Planning is everything. I think some of the above problems could have been avoided if we had planned it earlier. We ended up shooting the weekend before the deadline because we got our idea fairly late on. I would have liked to have arranged someone to record the sound more effectively, this would have avoided the noise reduction, but because we were so short on time we were limited to pretty much ourselves to get the whole shoot done.

The great thing about all this is that we learned so much and I want to document here the mistakes that we made so that we don’t make them again. Maybe others who read this won’t make them either.

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