Viewfinder: Creativity

Creativity is a fundamental part of making video. Since it requires no equipment, we’ve never compiled a buyer’s guide on creativity. Of the many things that go into making video, creativity is often the most overlooked. Creativity is elusive because, unlike a camcorder or microphone, it is intangible. As a result, most video producers often neglect the management of creativity.

Creativity is a selective pursuit. With creativity, like video, you choose where to focus your attention. Nearly every aspect of video production involves some form of creativity. Writing a script, choosing a camera angle, making an edit decision, directing talent and getting the final product to market, all require a degree of creativity.

Apple Computer has a wonderful ad campaign about creative people. These magazine and billboard ads have simple black and white photos of some of the most famous creative thinkers in history. Men like Einstein, Picasso and Ghandi are featured in the ads along with the words "think different." That’s precisely what creativity is all about, thinking different. Different than the guy across town or the one down the street. Different than you thought last time. There are ways to foster this process of thinking differently.

A keystone is the central wedge-shaped stone of an arch that locks the other stones of the arch together. It’s a culmination of sorts. It can also be a creative solution that completes or complements a series of previous solutions. The Wright Brothers’ first flight, for example, was a keystone event that was made possible by a number of other significant developments by other people. The airplane wing, the propeller and the internal combustion engine were all components of an airplane, each of which was invented by someone other than the Wright Brothers. Thinking creatively, the Wright boys took these separate elements and combined them to create a machine greater than the sum of its parts. You can do the same with the video tools at your disposal. As you sit and contemplate video production solutions, remember you have a wealth of tools to work with.

A domino effect is another type of creative solution that initiates a series of further solutions. When Thomas Edison invented the motion picture camera, an entire art form opened up for camera operators and film editors. Early filmmaker, D.W. Griffith, invented (or some would argue discovered) the basic editing transition known now as a "cut." Griffith discovered the cut by mistake when his cameraman stopped filming for a minute and then restarted the camera. When Griffith later saw this, it opened up a whole new world for him that led him to discover other basic camera movements like the pan, the tilt and the dolly.

Now let’s consider how to invite inspiration. As I wrote earlier, creativity is an endeavor. Anyone can decide to be creative. Some of us are more inclined to be successful in this pursuit, but anyone can try.

It starts with a problem. It is hard to be creative without a direction. A blank canvas, for a painter, is a problem that begs for a solution. Once you have a direction, make the space in your life to address it. Be deliberate in choosing a time and place to be creative. Be sure to remove the borders of your traditional ways of thinking. Let your mind roam. This is known as brainstorming, where anything goes.

In order to think differently or creatively, you need to avoid the typical mind paths that you use during your normal, day-to-day thinking. When Edison had a problem he could not overcome, he would take a short nap. Somewhere in the period of time between sleeping and being fully awake, he was very creative and would often discover a solution to his problem. Gazing at art or listening to music can inspire us because it speaks directly to the creative part of us. I have found that electric guitar solos make my brain work differently. So I listen to that type of music when I want to foster creativity. Appreciating nature is another wonderful creative stimulant. A walk in the park or gazing at the stars can spark creativity. Finally, when you are engaged in creative thinking, be sure to take notes frequently. Many creative thoughts are fleeting and hard to remember.

Creativity is a vital part of making good music and good video, but it often takes work. Find out what works for you and go discover some wonderful ideas. A little creativity will set your videos apart from the rest.

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