One of the best ways to get good at something is to observe, analyze and emulate the work of other people who are doing well whatever it is you want to do. If you would like to get better at building farm tables, for instance, look at farm tables that other builders have created. Observe the type of wood that is used to build the main structure, the style of legs, the choices of paint and stain, and the way it is all held together.

To analyze both the mechanics and the artistry of each piece, it’s not enough to merely look at one farm table. It is best to study as many as you can. With a larger sample set, you will observe a much wider variety of styles and structures and assemblies that can inform you well as you make your own design choices. Before long you will be able to easily identify shoddy, amateur work as distinct from quality craftsmanship. Then you can apply your learning to your own work.

In the world of media production, the opportunity to observe the work of other producers is all around you. Whether you turn on the TV, go to a movie or simply scroll through your social media feeds, there are countless examples of other people’s edits to observe. In fact, you no longer have to actively seek media to observe media. Videos are set before us in dentist’s offices, on buses and at the pumps at the local gas station.

Many people tune out the noise that media has become, but as makers of media, we would do well to tune in instead. Each instance in which we encounter another video is an opportunity to observe the structure, the style, the pace, the flow, the artistry and the mechanics of each edit. The key is to not merely observe but to analyze.

Each instance in which we encounter another video is an opportunity to observe the structure, the style, the pace, the flow, the artistry and the mechanics of each edit.

Watch videos and films and TV programs with a keen and critical eye. Make note of the timing and placement and style of graphics. Note the shot sequences that storytellers use to move the viewer into and out of a scene. Look closely at the lighting of a shot and try to ascertain where lights were positioned to achieve the particular look and feel that is conveyed on screen. Listen to the music and sound effects and observe how audio is used to emote and elicit feelings in the viewer. Observe the artistry, and seek to ascertain the mechanics used by the builder, then decide which techniques to apply to your own work, and which to avoid. Don’t assume that everything you see on a screen is quality media craftsmanship. There is a lot of shoddy, amateur work out there that we should not emulate.

While watching media as a student of production can be the best thing for your development, it can also be a hindrance to your ability to simply enjoy watching a program or to getting lost in the magic of a movie. Sometimes we need to choose to turn off the analytical side of our brain and just enjoy a story. But this is hard to do, especially with poor quality productions.

Personally, I find that it is hard to not notice the cringe-worthy camera work, lighting, audio, graphics and edit decisions in poor quality work. The gaps and flaws draw attention away from the message and onto themselves. But, on the contrary, the best productions draw even the most discerning observer into the story and away from the mechanics. In fact, the better the work is, the more invisible the components become to the viewer. And that should be our goal as producers: For the mechanics of our productions to become invisible to other makers of media.

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