Back in July, we equated video with other people. Here’s a sequel.

Not too long ago, a few of you came over to our place. We called it a Videomaker Workshop–three days of hobnobbing between the readers and staff of this magazine.

Readers arrived with various amounts of experience; they hailed from both sides of the gender gap. But it took no time at all for enthusiasm to spread and for camaraderie to blossom. Before the end of the first day, a videomaking community had established itself here.

Our videomaking microcosm consisted of the teacher who’s unexpectedly fallen heiress to a budget for video equipment, the granddad who wants to make some money to justify buying more toys, the student interested in a career in video.

We all piled into the studio for a day of lectures on planning, camera work, editing and so forth. Then we broke into groups to work on productions of our own. By this time, many had a great longing to try that hands-on training and to ask the burning questions with which they arrived.

Our particular production group sat in a meeting trying to agree on an idea for our segment. One wanted to make it a discussion of the different formats, another a demonstration of effective camera moves, still another a mini-documentary about the local women. We debated the merits of each subject without coming close to a decision. Then one member had a brilliant flash. “Let’s make the segment about this argument! The segment will be about our trouble deciding what the segment should be about.”

A moment of silence followed as all present absorbed this stroke of genius.

“Well, then we should tape this meeting. We should tape everything we do that leads up to our scheduled shoot in the studio. We should tape everything we do in the edit bay, and include bits of all of it in the final segment,” someone said.

“We’ll also need to shoot cutaways of all the subjects we’re arguing about. We’ll need shots showing equipment of all the formats, shots of interesting camera moves and shots of local women. We’ll cut these into the ongoing argument about what we should tape,” chimed another.

Well, that’s just what we did. We taped the meeting. We taped the process of setting up the studio and learning its gear. All the while, various members kept the argument going about our subject matter. We staged the same argument to take place on the set, and we shot that with two cameras. The argument heated up. Two members arrived on the set dressed as policemen, made everyone hit the ground and “arrested” everyone.

Our group raised quite a din. We had agreed never to resolve the dispute about what to make the segment about, so group members argued constantly, loudly. They came up with innovative justifications for their own points of view. They adopted character types–the egomaniac, the sensitive type–and put forward their arguments in character.

The next morning, two members went out on the street to shoot the cutaways–and to interview local women. The rest began the time-consuming process of learning the editing gear, trying to get it to do our bidding and making editing decisions by committee. All this we had to finish by the screening scheduled for the next afternoon.

Did we make it? Well, yes and no. We did show a four-minute video at the screening, but it lacked the hundreds of cutaways we’d planned, and the precious woman-on-the-street interviews. Too bad; the latter turned out to be some of our best stuff.

Finished video or none, we learned a lot. Members counted time code, edit decision lists, pre-production planning and lighting techniques among those gems they’d return home with.

They gained some of this from staff during lectures and question and answer periods, but we all gained even more from working together. Pressing toward our deadline, group members often taught one another.

Which brings us back to our theme: new worlds open when you team up. Video is other people.

Stephen Muratore is Videomaker‘s Editor in Chief.

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