So You Want To Make Movies…

Photography Then And Now

From Wikipedia –
Invented in the first decades of the 19th century, photography (by way of the camera) seemed able to capture more detail and information than traditional media, such as painting and sculpting. Photography as a usable process goes back to the 1820s with the development of chemical photography. The first permanent photoetching was an image produced in 1822 by the French inventor Nicéphore Niépce, but it was destroyed by a later attempt to duplicate it. Niépce was successful again in 1825. He made the first permanent photograph from nature (his View from the Window at Le Gras) with a camera obscura in 1826.

It’s probably fair to say that photography is, today, a bona fide art form. You can still get an argument on that topic at a cocktail party, but for our intents here it can be, and often is, a fantastic form of art. Oh, it was not always thus. Much of the history of photography evolved around simply “saving a moment in time” for historical or personal reasons. My parents, in the ’40’s through the ’80’s, used photography much as virtually everyone else did… for family photos and documents of special occasions. The last camera they owned was, gasp! a Polaroid. All those family pictures now look… well, horrible. The color’s either skewed or gone, they’re all out of focus, and actually didn’t look all that good when they came out of the camera. It was the speed and ease of getting that print that we were all fascinated with. 30 years later, many of those old pics are nearly useless, and will be in another 10. It takes many of Photoshop’s more powerful tricks to even save them at this point. In that regard, we are now able to save all our digital photos for countless generations to come.

Okay, so it’s 2013. Yes, we have seen amazing advances in photography technology in the past 25 years. Whether we approach photography as an art form or not is moot. Even a rank amateur can take a picture where, with the right subject, perspective, composition and special effects, their picture can approach, if not actually be, art. And the camera can be anything from a $2K Nikon to a cell phone. Many of our still cameras are also video cameras now. And our newest video cameras… well. Scary. And scary inexpensive, in many cases.


One of my best attempts – this is Popeye, a seal in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

Video Production 101

Have you ever wondered if you could shoot a video? Yes, shoot some video, then edit it, put some music to it, write a script and hire an announcer-type to read it, and make it look almost professional? If you have, stick around because I’m going to share with you how very easy it is.

I’ve done several videos in the last two years, and while they’re not that hot, they are better than I ever thought I could do. It’s been a blast, making short movies to share with my friends, and all I’ve used is a video camera and a laptop. Really.

We won’t discuss what buttons to push, or in what order you push them. Rather we’ll talk a little about the camera and the editing you can do with a killer software program called iMovie. You can do personal “home movies” or documentary-type videos or cartoons or even trailers for your eventual larger movies. And it’s all so easy.

First, a few hints. If you really want to try this, watch some short films and documentaries. Analyze the technical aspects rather than getting involved with the story line. Listen to the audio, to the words, to any sound effects that help bring the pictures alive. Listen to the music, if there is any. Listen to the narrator’s voice… what they say, how they say it. Notice how all these elements work to forward the video’s story.

Observe how the pictures are cut into each other. The faster-paced the film, the quicker and sharper the cuts. The slower the pace, the more quiet, sensitive, romantic it is, the slower the pictures cut into each other, perhaps fading out and in from scene to scene. then you’ll have at least 30 different types of fades to choose from… all elements which help you create your own style of video production.
Okay, here’s what you need. Any decent video camera will do. I suggest the GoPro Hero 2. Without going into specifics, It’s built for action and can shoot in 2 separate wide-angle styles, or regular. It records pretty decent live sound and can give you the high-definition, wide screen 1080 look that will play beautifully on your flat screen hi-def TVs. You can hand-hold it, mount it on your forehead, on a helmet, on the handlebars of a dirt bike or snowmobile, or stick it on a pair of skis or water skis. $300 for the camera and most of the mounts. Oh, and it has a separate plastic case for underwater shooting. I’ve tried it, it works great. And its battery charges off any laptop. I’ve shot nearly an hour of video with it and there was still a little room on the card, still a little left in the battery. A phenomenal camera for the money.

The laptop I have is a MacBook Pro, the 15″ screen version. I highly recommend it, as it has iMovie, the software that is so easy to edit video with. It also has Garage Band, which will record and mix your original composition to the video, if you feel so inclined. However iMovie will give you plenty of options for music and sound effects. You can also record your narration into the video track without buying a mic or owning any other outboard gear. The quality of all this is outstanding, and your results will be surprising on even your first attempt. With iMovie you can complete your video, mix your audio and get a finished video that you can export in several forms to a half dozen locations… including a DVD. Send it to youtube, Vimeo, Facebook… wherever.

For $2,000 you have a fine video camera and a portable video edit and finishing suite. Pretty powerful. Check out a few trailers I did, simply using the available templates in iMovie.

It is so much fun, and a great hobby. As you learn and experiment, your friends will look at you and say things like, “YOU did THAT??” It’s fun, it’s creative. You can document your child’s growth with real style. Or maybe you can document your own growth… whatever. It’s a great way to spend some free time, and the tools have never been so good.

Steve Hulse

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