Those experiences are a large part of what made me fall in love with making media. They showed what you weren’t supposed to see; and you discovered that all the stuff that you thought was real really wasn’t.
TV, film and video have traditionally relied upon creating the illusion of a reality that doesn’t actually exist. Whether you make movies, commercials or event videos, a big part of maintaining that illusion is keeping your cameras and your crew out of your shots; concealing the fact that there was ever a camera crew present. Why? Because while we, as viewers, may logically understand that for every actor we see on screen there may be five crew members working just outside of the frame, we silently agree to suspend our disbelief so we can become immersed in the story. When a boom mic dips into a shot or a reflection reveals a camera operator, we are reminded that what we are watching is a production; the spell is broken and the story is compromised.
The principle here is that the videos you make are not about you. As makers of media, part of our job is to stay behind the scenes. In single-camera film-style production concealing your camera mostly means being aware of reflective surfaces and selecting angles that let you get your shots without showing your shooter, or your blinking tally light. Mirrors, windows, even sunglasses can all reveal what’s meant to be concealed. With multi-camera shoots, the secret is planning your setups to keep your cameras out of each other’s field of view. It’s more like triangulating crossfire so everyone can shoot without getting shot. In many genres, this is still a very important consideration.
It’s safe to say that the emergence of the photographic self portrait into the cultural mainstream ties directly to the rise of social media and the ubiquity of cell phone imagery.
Enter the selfie. Artists have been creating self portraits since at least the 15th century, and self portraiture soon became a respected genre of its own. It’s safe to say that the emergence of the photographic self portrait into the cultural mainstream ties directly to the rise of social media and the ubiquity of cell phone imagery. It is widely held, and scientific studies reinforce, that those who overindulge in the practice of selfie-taking demonstrate unhealthy narcissistic tendencies. But not all selfies are a sign of psychiatric disorder.
There are times when getting into the shot could be a good thing. During the home video boom a few years back, tens of thousands of people recorded family events and activities in a way that made the camera a barrier which distanced the shooter from the event. The parent, grandparent or friend running the camcorder became isolated from the event and acted as an outside observer or documentarian rather than as a participant.
Perhaps the emergent selfie culture will bring with it a new level of acceptance to videographers who venture out from behind their cameras and put themselves into the events they record, leading to the acceptance of this emerging genre of video production.
Matthew York is Videomaker's Publisher/Editor.