On the first day of September, I woke up at a quite ‘lovely’ early hour to get ready to attend a workshop out in Charlotte about production and lighting, hosted by SNL’s Alex Buono called Visual Storytelling 2. It was a humid, foggy morning, and since it’s a bit of a drive from Winston Salem, I needed to wake up extra early to meet up. I went with three other coworkers, and we all piled in a car to head out. Much Queen music was heard (and even sleepily sung along to via inability to NOT sing along to Queen songs), a caffeine and cold medicine pillaging of Sheetz happened (2 sickies battling it out), and we made it there with little trouble.
In case you have no idea who I am or what I do, I’m a video editor! So what am I doing at this workshop focused on production? I’m glad you asked. I asked the same thing, at first. I think the most obvious detail is that this workshop is great for production minded people, but also a very informative and fun learning experience to attend if you are at all involved in filmmaking from writing to shooting to lights and more. I would love to see all the nitty gritty scary and delicious details of how their editor manages a barely 1/2 day to get everything edited together, but that’s okay. I do more than video editing. I’ve shot short films to live events, held a boom mic til my arms wanted to fall off permanently, written scripts, even tried directing! We all have our ‘thing’ we do, but then again, it’s good to explore those ‘other things’. That’s my answer. This is a great opportunity for anybody in my humble opinion. I quite enjoyed the day learning tips and tricks, getting that in-depth look behind that glorious SNL curtain.
I furiously scribbled down some notes, despite the reminder that a lot of things would be made available to you from the slides at the end of the workshop through an email. I definitely won’t be covering everything, but I’d love to share with you highlights, plus some of the super cool things we got to see a live demo. IT WAS COOL. Really the live demos are what shine here! It’s one thing to talk about stuff, but quite another to go through and light a mini set live for us to see and experiment with. Truly fascinating to see things like rotating light stands to mimic traffic/stoplights or that giant seemingly expensive light that can do so many useful things. I have an impressed love for Freefly Movi steadicam because I saw someone following someone else around the room a few times without it even kicking up any fuss. Also, PIXEL STICKS!!!
Pixel sticks are a dream come true as a gif and practical effect lover. I want to get one, go outside, and play with it for awhile. So you pair this with long exposure timelapse = Awesome!!
Using laser cut vinyl stickers to create custom type bokeh effect, as seen here with my wonderful caffeinated photo ability:
(Apparently I really don’t watch sports, and this is our state team mascot of sorts? It’s in the shape of… A hornet! Ah yes.. lots of those in the summer ugh D:)
“Free Lensing” or lens whacking, whichever way you want to say it – where you take the lens off the camera and instead, manually hold it (carefully!) up and pull it closer or further away or tilt to create focal plane distortions and some really cool effects. Go try it now if you haven’t. It’s definitely an interesting technique!
Learning not to be afraid of shadows – YOU DO NOT NEED A FILL LIGHT for all teh things. It’s okay. Let it have some character and shadow. In depth discussion on lights and their uses. I like how most importantly he stressed that it wasn’t how fancy your equipment was, but what you did with them.
Mixed color temperatures: the trials and tribulations of shooting under fluorescent, daylight, combinations bulbs, and the like. Trusting your color meters, especially when it comes to green vs. magenta.
Recreating fire flickering lights using a backdrop and bouncing it with some bleached or unbleached muslin fabric. Actually I learned a whole ton about an array of fabrics and materials and “things” to bounce your lighting with based on soft or hard light needed.
His tips on music videos – shooting the performance first, then come back in to shoot a ton of story beats, keep your camera moving, and most importantly, make the subject all purty-like as possible.
Highlight from Theater Lighting demo (now with 100% more diamond encrusted unicorns…)
All the successful ways that you can use visual subtext to add more depth to your film. Things like the oranges in Godfather movie or even colours. “Engage, not define” because speculating helps engage and come into your world.
I love learning about this stuff because it’s not usually something you necessarily pick up on the first time watching through. It’s not as though it’s hidden, either, but it’s just kind of ‘there’ and we all can interpret these things to our own liking. It brings about a lot of discussion too after viewing.
I’m sure there’s probably a number of films you could go watch now and try to hunt down some of their visual subtext used, perhaps like Fight Club or Silence of the Lambs? 😉
I asked Evan, Shannon, and Darren for their favourite part of the workshop to help share what we all took away from it:
Evan: Learning SNL’s process – getting so much done, in so little time, with such quality! INSPIRING!!
Shannon: Visual Subtext – all the film theory, 7 ways to convey deep meaning with all that tech stuff, and hearing from someone so versed in so many genres!
Darren: His passion and accessibility of doing as much in-camera effects and not leaving it all up to post-production
(and the world hears loud claps from fellow editors! yes. this. haha)
And to highlight some of the rest of the workshop, please enjoy these: