December – a time of cold
and perhaps snow. A few weeks of quiet time before the onrush of the holiday season.
While you enjoy the quiet before the holiday storm, your video camera sits in the closet waiting for the many special events that make up the season. However, if your camera could talk it might say – “Hey wait a minute – what about the other times in your life? You know, the mundane – the everyday world that is yours? Why do you only use me to record special events?”
What your camera wants is a chance to shoot everyday happenings. Things in life that we perhaps take for granted yet when highlighted can be quite entertaining and beautiful. In this column, we will look at a way to make compelling stories out of the ordinary and turning the mundane into treasured video events, by recutting it into a thematic video. These videos can take very little planning. This style of video will also give you another reason to get your camera out of the closet. So, sit back and follow our lead. Let your imagination roam. We’ll get you started on your way to creating video masterpieces from everyday life.
To begin your journey into the world of “no plan” thematic videos, you need to decide on a theme. Look around your world with a new eye and find those things around which you might be able to build a thematic video. Perhaps over the next few days you might decide to record the daily silliness of your dog or cat. Perhaps recording the movements and behaviors of the birds at the bird feeder over several weeks might be of interest. You might decide to tape the faces your family makes as they get up in the morning and react to the camera before they have their morning coffee or cereal. “Our family versus early morning” – set to the right music, this might be hilarious!
You may also choose ideas as themes: Winter; preparing for the holidays; Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and other holiday cards; fresh snow, eerie fog, crisp mornings.
To show you how easy “no plan” thematic videos are, we’ll walk you through a couple of examples using the themes Age, Ownership and Color.
To create a video that uses age as a thematic element, you may decide to shoot all of those things around you that are old. Take a walk around the neighborhood, drive through the city or country and record old cars, old buildings, old people (with their permission), old roads, old churches, craggy trees, broken down fence lines, old tractors and other aging relics. Around your house and neighborhood you may find old beat-up shoes, piles of old stuff in the basement, garage or closets, old pictures, broken TVs and refrigerators, old phonograph records, old bottles of all colors and sizes and perhaps an old sweater or two.
Maybe you want to concentrate on the new. Videotape your new shiny bicycle, canoe or car. Take video of babies, puppies, kittens and baby elephants at the zoo. Model that new dress or stylish suit and put on a fashion show with the newest items in your closet. Take a trip into your new home-movie center and marvel at the new digital gear. Or, why not throw in a cliché and add a sunrise. Go ahead and get creative and use abstract metaphors if you want that artsy feel.
Once you have all of the footage that you wish to shoot, find some music that matches your theme and enjoy the process of putting together your thematic montage. Be creative and have fun with your images.
Perhaps ownership is a theme you would like to use. You can approach this theme from a couple of different directions. You could always record images of all of your worldly possessions (your insurance adjuster would love you for this), or you could make a video that shows all of those things you would like to own but don’t. Be extravagant. This is your chance to dream and shoot for the stars. Videotape the boat, bicycle, motorcycle or car of your dreams. Add to it your dream house, the diamond ring you or your significant other always wanted and the wardrobe in which you see yourself. Think of it as a department store catalog on tape – moving from clothes, shoes and jewelry to tractors, boats and cars.
You might want to approach ownership from the viewpoint of things that are obviously borrowed. Videotape a little girl playing dress-up in her mother’s shoes and hat, a little boy in his bigger brother’s football pads. A big man getting out of a little car or a small woman getting out of a big truck.
You could also make a video based on those things that are commonly borrowed such as lawn mowers, hedge clippers, suitcases and even the infamous cup of sugar! Have fun with the idea and perhaps turn it into a thematic scavenger hunt – searching out where all of your borrowed tools and items have gone.
Color is a very visual thematic element that would make a beautiful video. Fill the screen with the colors you choose to make a vibrant color essay.
The color blue may lead you to videotape blue skies, crystal blue eyes, and the blue waters of the nearby ocean, lake or river. Record blue jeans and blue dresses; sapphires and blue turquoise; Blue Jays and Indigo Buntings; and in the spring – Blue Bells and Chicory. You can even change it up to add someone in a “blue mood.”
If red is your color, tape the red fire truck as it roars by, the red flash of their lights, the red sunset over the distant horizon and the trailing red lights of cars at night. As you walk through the park or the woods, videotape the last red berries, the Cardinal as it flashes past, the Scarlet Tanager flitting amongst the branches and the Red-headed Woodpecker hunting for bark beetles. At home, catch the red in football jerseys, pepperoni pizza, soft drink cans and the eyes of the weekend football-watching reveler!
For a real challenge, choose white as your color and record it in all of its various shades and textures. The white of new-fallen snow, a full moon, the lamb’s wool around a collar of a coat, the starched white of a business shirt or soft white of delicate lace curtains.
When you collect your color-themed video, pace your edit and the music to fit the images. Red is dynamic and should be fast and bold, Blue is more stately and sedate with rich overtones and grand movements while white should be soft and more flowing with subtle shade changes and an ethereal quality. You can then combine these three colors and more to create a visual journey for the senses.
What’s Your Theme?
Owning a camcorder means more than just recording those special events. As we have shown, you can make very interesting and beautiful videos using images from your everyday life. Take your camera everywhere you go. Shoot beyond the obvious. Look for the interesting in the mundane. Record life and find new ways to present it. Videomaker would love to see your end results. Send us your thematic tape (see Videomaker Presents sidebar) and show us your world as seen through a thematic prism.
Robert G. Nulph, Ph.D., teaches college level video
and film production courses and is an independent
video and film director.
Practice on the Mundane
Another good reason for shooting thematic projects is the practice it gives you while shooting the various images you find. Every time you look in the viewfinder and compose your shot, you are improving your shooting ability. As you begin to shoot more and more and begin to recognize shots that will work with other shots, you will also see a marked improvement in your editing skills and timing. In video production, practice definitely makes perfect and the more you shoot and edit, the better you will become. So, get out and shoot! View the world through your viewfinder and find the excitement that’s hidden in plain sight amongst the mundane.
Take 5 to send to Take 20
Videomaker Presents is a weekly program (downloadable and streaming video) that hosts a segment called “Take 20.” Take a few minutes to send us your 5 minute-or-less project. Every week we choose a submission we feel exemplifies good video production practices and show it off to the world. We also give feedback in multiple categories (e.g. composition, lighting) to help you improve your skills.
Don’t wait any longer. To find out more,
go to www.videomaker.com/take20