These are some thoughts I posted on a forum where the subject of teaching media arouse, and I thought I’d repost them here, as they may be useful to people seeking internships etc. If there are any unfamiliar terms below, Google them!
Always shoot with the edit in mind.
I normally find that letting interns etc run around with the camera for a while and then trying to capture and edit stuff gives a good starting point to demonstrate what areas need improvement.
Understanding of all the basics such as the 180 degree rule (Breaking the Line) and recording with Burnt In Timecode and all of the rudiments of DV production are essential, however I’m sure there is plenty of resources and notes out there that can be lifted.
Another point is that it is handy putting the camera op on the edit of their own work, as they will see first hand where inappropriate camera settings and all the other little f**k ups start to do real damage.
I know that if you, like me, work in Post Production a lot, we end up having to ‘fix’ things that are far from technically perfect as a large portion of the job. So, this covers the technical end of things.
A good starting point would be to get students as technically competent as you can initially, as you can teach this stuff to anybody who isn’t intellectually challenged.
However, to have real flair, it helps to have a good eye and plenty of imagination. A friend on here pointed out to me once that imagination ‘can’t be taught’ and all of the technique in the world can’t make a weak idea soar.
Also, similar to many other creative endeavors, this is a cruel and difficult business, and it will take real perseverance to get anywhere with it.
Having said that, it is a lot of fun and very creatively rewarding, and so a good thing to do.
Two other areas that may not have been covered in the above stuff would be as follows:
1. Good shoot Practice:
Simple Directorial Benchmarks might be things like:
Good Framing (No Dutch Angles in background, understanding the eye-line to camera, use of grip kit as appropriate, filling the frame, understanding the rule of thirds, developing an aesthetic/critical sense, narrative visual composition etc)
Show – Don’t tell (This is a visual medium, make things visually interesting) KISS (Keep it simple, stupid, applies to all balances of approach over result, what are you trying to do, is this the most effective way of conveying it etc)
Audio (Pay attention to this, you won’t notice if it is all recorded / produced correctly, but you really will if its not right, this spoils so many otherwise excellent takes, and fixing it is really a different discipline that is another universe of things to learn)
Lighting (Know about use of light, natural light, exposure settings, shutter speeds and how the camera processes light compared to the eye)
Focus (Learn something about focus and depth of field, stay away from auto focus, the eye doesn’t see this way, focus as a narrative tool, ie pulling one actor in a two-shot into focus to show their reaction etc)
All of the above deal with aesthetics, and are principals to be applied AFTER someone has a firm grounding in all of the technical stuff.
2. General Media / Film theory.
I studied in the UK for my initial media degree, and am continually surprised at the lack of critical thinking and understanding of the codes and form of cinema history that is shown by media students here in Ireland.
There are many film genres, and all of these have been developing over time continuously through active dialogue with the audience. Film Theory can be analysed from almost any perspective, from Psychoanalysis to Semiology, from Political History to Art and Anthropology.
The main thing to know at an early level is that there is an ever-evolving set of codes that film builds on, to create continuous and deepening metaphors to help communicate the interpretation of an increasingly complex world.
See books like ‘Film on Film’ and ‘Ways of Seeing’ for more on this.
Away from film perhaps, to general media theory, and how the audience is engaged/ manipulated/ consumerized. This normally revolves more around TV production values, news reporting, critical thinking about agencies of the state and how they use media to re-enforce hegemony etc.
It can be analysed from many angles again, and Sociology is full of schools that help to understand various models of Communication theory (eg Marxism, Feminism, etc etc)
A look at authors like Chomsky’s ‘Manufacturing Consent’ would be a good starting point here.
Since I graduated, the media landscape has changed again dramatically with the advent of web video, web 2.0 etc, and the likes of YouTube has shown us that there is a worldwide glut of people who want to ‘share’ and be heard, thus ‘talking back’ rather than the previous one-way model of communication (Magic Bullet Theory), however it has also shown us that a very small percentage of these people have any grounding whatsoever in the evolution of visual media and communication.
Anyhow that’s loads for now. As an intern, you should already know all this.
©army of id 2009