THL Toolbox > Audio-Video > Training in Audio-video Work > Curriculum For Documentary Filmmaking Workshop
Contributor(s): Nelson Walker
This is adapted from a one month training curriculum made by Nelson Walker.
20 total students, divided into two sessions (9 students in the morning session, 11 students in the afternoon session). Morning session held from 9AM-12PM. Afternoon session from 1PM-4PM.
NOTE: Ideally there would be no more than 12 students total, with at least one camera/computer per 3 students. This would enable sessions to be held for an entire day at a time and not split into sections)
- Confidence and control over process
- Co-progression of camera and editing technique
- Flexible curriculum
- Early exercises are process oriented and easy to complete
- A final film project suitable for public screening
- Video Recorder, Microphone, Tripod
- MacBook Pro Computers with Final Cut Pro
- Hard Drives
- Introduce Instructors
- Workshop Goals
- Course Structure
Do Name Game: See details in Participatory Video Methodology.
Introduction to Camera Functions
- White Balance
- Camera Menus/Operation
Exercise 1: Video Scavenger Hunt
The objective is to give participants an opportunity to try different camera techniques and shots discussed in class. Students should divide into groups of three and as a team, provide examples of the following types of shots:
- Extreme Close-Up
Regroup and watch the footage. Discuss what was positive about each shot and what could be changed.
- Continued familiarity with camera and sound
- Basic understanding of shots and visual language
Basic Visual Communication
What is a shot? How can shots communicate with each other?
Watch a short sequence from a film. Have the participants look for where one shot ends and the next begins.
Play the clip again. Ask participants to write down (or take note of) one of the shots and the shot that immediately follows. Ask participants to share their descriptions. Why did the editor move from the first shot to the second?
Discuss Continuity Editing versus Montage (Discontinuity). Show two scenes, ask students to determine which one has continuity and which doesnʼt. Discuss the effect each one has.
Exercise 2, Part 1: Process Film - Planning and Production
What is a process?
- The act of doing or transforming
- Involves steps and decisions in the way something is accomplished
- Examples: Building a chookadoo, fishing, cooking ugali, etc…
The purpose of this exercise is to create a short film about a process. You should show its different steps, difficulties and challenges. Consider the goal of the process and how it is achieved.
1. Divide into small groups.
2. Choose a process with multiple steps or stages. It should be something that can be communicated without dialogue or speaking, for example building a chookadoo, fishing, or cooking sombe.
3. As a group, list the steps of the process. Make note of how each step starts and ends. What is important to communicate? Try to keep it simple. 4-6 steps is ideal.
4. Storyboard your film. Draw a box for each step in your process. Each box represents a new shot in your film:
5. In the first box, draw a sketch of the first shot in your film (i.e. how the process begins). It can be simple -- stick figures and a quick sketch of the surroundings will suffice. Continue to plan your story in additional boxes. For each new shot think about how you can use different angles, shot sizes, and camera height. If appropriate, consider what the person is thinking or feeling. How can you communicate their experience of the process? Remember, this exercise should not rely upon dialogue to communicate the process.
6. When you are satisfied with your storyboard, go back and add details for each box
- Who/what is in the shot?
- Where will you film it?
- Who is filming?
- Who is taking sound?
1. Go out and film the shots in your storyboard. You donʼt necessarily have to shoot them in order.
2. Try to use minimal directing. Adapt to what people are doing, and follow their actions as best you can. If necessary, you can direct participants to do familiar actions, or slow, repeat, and change positions for the camera.
3. If your subject is self-conscious, try to make them feel comfortable.
4. Make sure you get all the shots you need. It is good to get multiple takes of your shots so that you have options when you edit.
5. Be flexible. The storyboard is your guide, but feel free to depart from it if necessary. If you donʼt like what you see, it is OK to try something new.
- Develop confidence and control over process
- Storyboarding technique
- Project organization and planning
- Visual language (how shots communicate action/meaning)
Introduce Final Cut Pro/Editing
1. Hardware setup
- Camera/memory card (or camera/deck with cassette tape)
- Cable from Camera to Computer
- Computer w/ editing program
- Hard drive (internal or external w/cable)
2. Basic Workflow
- Set up camera or deck to computer
- Open editing program
- Designate A/V Settings (Easy Setup) and Preferences
- Designate hard drive (System Settings)
- SAVE and NAME project to desktop
- Import files to FCP Project from memory card (or Capture from tape)
3. Intro to Media Files
- Different types of audio/video files, Project File, Render/cache files
- Capturing footage: the process of converting the audio/video material from your tape or memory card into a digital file stored on your hard drive
- Non-destructive editing (media files on hard drive are protected originals while FCP clips are representations of those media files)
4. Intro to the FCP Interface
- 4 windows (Analogy: A construction site)
- Browser (where you store and organize your materials): video clip, audio clip, sequence, bin, effect, image, column info
- Viewer (where you prepare your materials): playhead, in/out markers, viewing controls
- Timeline (where you build your movie): video/audio tracks, playhead, in/out markers, visibility/audibility, lock, auto select, scroll bar
- Canvas (where you watch the finished versions of your movie): insert/overwrite, playhead, in/out markers, viewing controls
- ****Remember you must select the window that is active*****
- Different ways to access functions: Tool Bar, Tool/Window Palettes, Keyboard Shortcuts, QuickMenus
- Selecting clips in Viewer w/ In&Out markers
- ***note on snapping***
- Editing using Insert/Overwrite buttons or drag/drop (using playhead or In/Out marker as destination)
- Trimming/rearranging in the Timeline
- Cut & Paste
- Selecting and Moving clips
- Trimming by dragging or razor blade
- Adding, deleting and designating tracks
- Audio mixing
- Image correction
7. Additional Tips
- Using Command Z (Undo)
- Duplicating vs. Copying files
- Auto-save Function
Exercise 2, Part 2: Process Film and Editing
1. Capture the footage from your Process Film and bring it into your project.
2. Organize your project file:
- Create a Master Clips bin with all of your footage
- Duplicate the bin. Label the duplicated bin EDIT. You will use the files from this edit bin.
- Create a sequence labeled SELECTS. Make selections from your footage and place them in this sequence.
- Make another sequence named after your process. For example if your process was cooking sombe, you could call it SOMBE. This is your editing sequence. (Note: Discuss the value of duplicating editing sequences each day to maintain an archive of editing drafts)
3. Begin editing by using clips from your selects sequence in your editing sequence (for example, by copying clips in the selects sequence and pasting into the editing sequence). You can use your storyboard as a guide. Pay attention to the transitions between shots. Where does the relevant information begin and end?
4. Once you have a rough cut of your film, you may trim and rearrange shots in more detail. Take your time. Donʼt be afraid to go back and change or delete shots that arenʼt working.
5. After you are satisfied with the entire sequence, you can add visual effects, music and sound effects if you feel they are appropriate. If necessary, adjust and trim shots in relation to the music and/or effects.
6. If necessary, edit sound and image with audio tools and image correction tools.
7. If youʼd like, add text and credits.
- Project organization
- Basic editing techniques
- Audio editing
- Using text
- Using images to communicate an act and its essence/meaning
Finish Editing Process Films
Screen and Discuss
Revise Process Film
Practice with Camera
1. Ask participants to sit in a circle.
2. Conduct the name game, as on the first day, but now incorporate an interviewer. The person to the right of the cameraperson should take sound, and the person to the left (interviewer) should ask questions.
3. The interviewer should ask three questions to the subject before the camera is passed to the next person. Try to keep the responses relatively brief.
4. View the interviews and discuss relevant aspects:
- Framing/Shot size
- Interviewing technique
5. Continue into a formal discussion of interviews: see the separate document on Interviews.
Exercise 3: Filming a Person
See see details in Interviewing Techniques.
Make a short film using a person as the main subject. There are many different ways to approach this, for example, standard interview and b-roll, having the subject give a guided tour, or filming a conversation.
1. Choose your interviewee and discuss with your group what you would like he/she to talk about.
2. Generate a list of questions.
3. Decide where to shoot the interview and what effect you want from the surroundings. Will you film them sitting still? Performing an activity? Giving a tour? What will be in the frame?
4. Generate a preliminary list of b-roll and supporting shots you would like to capture. You will probably want to add to your list after you have filmed your interview.
1. Set up your shot. Choose an appropriate background/frame for your subject. If you are filming a guided tour, be ready to move with your subject.
2. When you ask your questions, make sure there are no overlaps between the interviewer and interviewee. If necessary, ask the interviewee to begin his/her answer again.
3. Use your list of questions as a guide, but donʼt be limited by it. Be adaptable. Feel free to ask new questions that arise naturally.
4. When you are satisfied with the interview, stop filming and discuss the content as a group. Revise your list of b-roll and supporting shots based on your interview content.
5. Film your b-roll and supporting shots.
1. Capture your footage
2. Organize your project. Make a Master Clips bin and duplicate it into an Edit bin. Within the Edit bin, make separate bins for the interview and b-roll.
3. Make selections from your interview and b-roll and place them into appropriate Selects sequences.
4. Create an Edit sequence. Edit your selections so they flow together logically and meaningfully. Edit to maintain natural speech rhythms of speaker.
5. If it is appropriate, you can include the voice of the interviewer, otherwise try to eliminate all trace of the interviewerʼs voice.
6. After you are satisfied with your rough cut sequence, you can add music and effects where you feel it is appropriate.
7. Use image correction and audio tools as necessary.
8. Add text and credits if youʼd like
- Confidence and command over the interview process
- Preplanning for interviews
- Project organization
- Editing for story/flow
Discussion of Documentary Forms – see document on Documentary Types.
Screening of films
Exercise 5: Community Mapping
See details in Participatory Video Methodology.
1. As a group, decide what type of documentary you would like to make (e.g. observational, reflexive, expositional, experimental). Feel free to combine multiple styles.
2. Make a list of the different elements that will be included your film (e.g. interviews, voice-over narration, b-roll, observational footage, archival footage, stills, music, etc…)
3. For each element make a list of the specific things you need to get (e.g. for interviews generate a list of questions, for b-roll create a shot-list, for narration write an outline of what will be said, etc.)
4. Determine the different roles (e.g. cinematographer, sound, interviewer, producer, editor, narrator, etc… note: everybody shares the role of director).
5. Make shooting plan. Feel free to storyboard sections of your film.
1. Go out and shoot the elements you laid out in your plan. Use your plan as a guide, but feel free to depart from it if necessary. It is OK to try something new.
2. Keep an open mind and be ready for the unexpected. Donʼt be afraid to film footage that seems relevant, even if it is not part of your original plan.
3. Feel free to revise as you go along based on the material that you are getting.
1. Capture your footage
2. Organize your project. In your Edit bin, make separate bins for each of your elements (e.g. interview, b-roll, observational scenes, archival footage, stills, music, etc…)
3. Make a selects sequence for each element (e.g. interviews, b-roll, observational scenes, archival footage).
4. Now that you have reviewed all of your footage, create a “paper edit” of your film. Write down how you would like the film to begin, the important scenes you would like to include, and how you would like the film to end.
5. If you are using voice-over narration, write and record it.
6. Create a Rough Cut sequence. Use your paper edit as a guide to begin bringing in footage from your selects sequences.
7. Once you have everything in place, review your rough cut. Where necessary, restructure your scenes so they flow together logically, meaningfully, and smoothly. Use trimming techniques to edit your material in more detail.
8. After you are satisfied with your rough cut sequence, you can add music, effects, etc. if you feel it is appropriate.
9. Use image correction and audio tools as necessary
10. Add text and credits if youʼd like
- Confidence and command over the entire filmmaking process.
- Advanced preplanning
- Advanced Project organization
- Editing for story/flow
- Familiarity with titles/graphics
- A high-quality finished product, suitable for public screening
Project Management and Organization
Rough Cut Screening
Sound Editing and Music
Titles and Graphics