Last weekend I had a chance to film a short piece with my sister-in-law, Jolayne. The project is for a contest that she is entering at Sportsnet. The whole concept is to create a three-minute video that tells the story of a university level athlete. Jolayne is involved with Trinity Western’s Broadcasting Department and introduced me to Fiona Benson, a track athlete, who has a very interesting story. Here is the link to the finished piece and a little about what went into making the piece.
We modelled the video after a typical news story. We started with Jolayne walking and talking towards the camera (on a long lens) and then filmed an interview with Fiona, using two cameras which allowed us to really "cut up" her interview. When storytelling it is important, first and foremost, that the story is told visually versus having unnecessary talking. I did not want to rely on a “talking head”. I planned to film some tracking shots (following Fiona with the camera) at a track and a few shots of her running down a country road, which would enhance the story. My wife and I went a little bit early and found a beautiful road with a train bridge overhead that would work perfectly. We then met up at the track and did a few shots of Fiona stretching, running and doing her regular routine. I was using the DJI Ronin and my Panasonic GH4 with the Canon 24-70mm. I had planned to run beside her for a few shots...but she was a little on the quick side! I ended up having to shoot in 60fps and slow them down later to extend the length of the clip. We spent 30 minutes at the track and then moved over to the road. The shots on the road were a little tricker because I had to hang out of my Matrix’s back hatch to capture Fiona running behind the car. Jolayne then had to drive at a consistent speed to match Fiona’s pace. We did about three takes and ended up with a beautiful shot of Fiona running under the train bridge with the backlit sun. It looked great. I then did one more take. This time I zoomed in from 24mm to 70mm for a close up. I started out with Fiona’s feet and then moved up to an MCU of her. I did this camera movement twice during the single take and it worked perfectly. The Ronin kept the camera extremely stable and created a smooth camera move. It was the perfect cut away from the wide shot. With an actor or talent I do my best to film as few takes as possible in order to keep them fresh and engaged. We then did the reverse shot of Fiona running down the road. I sat in the front seat with the camera and flipped the Ronin upside down shooting out the front windshield. It was super smooth, however, as I was shooting out of the windshield it was more work grading the footage to match the shots. We then headed back to Trinity Western to interview Fiona in her locker room. We used two cameras to create two different camera angles which allowed me to cut up the interview and only use the key pieces of our conversation with Fiona.
All in all, the shots out of the back of the car were not necessarily essential but they greatly enhanced the story. As we were planning the project Jolyane provided us with some backstory of Fiona. Fiona grew up running in a small town. She started her running career on country roads and it was significant to show this visually. There are many ways to communicate a story through film but telling a story visually is most effective.
Here are a few more BTS shots from the day.