Earlier this month I took my youngest son (six) to the 2013 Vancouver zombie walk. What is a zombie walk you might ask? Basically it’s an event that involves people dressing-up as zombies and going for a mob walk through a city. Planned zombie walks occur in many cities around the world. This was the ninth annual Vancouver zombie walk. There was a huge mob of easily a thousand or more people. Interestingly, I think the photographers may have outnumbered the zombies! It was great fun and yes, we were both dressed as zombies. I took my camera and tried to shoot video from the perspective of a six year old. The YouTube video linked to below below is the result.
What do zombies and my six year old son have to do with macro photography or tiny wildlife? Well, nothing really. My son is small, but hardly macro sized. And zombies are creepy, but not creepy-crawlers. No, this could be considered a completely gratuitous opportunity for me to show off a “home movie”.
On the other hand, I have been working to improve my videography techniques with the goal of eventually posting more and much better wildlife videos. My last video attempt (see Video: half-black bumble bees mating) was far better than my previous video postings. And today’s video is the best yet. It was also the most time consuming to shoot and edit. I learned a LOT about shooting and editing through making this video, and that will translate to improved critter videos in the future.
One of the biggest challenges to shooting macro video is getting the lighting right and especially getting enough light to shoot at a low ISO with small enough aperture for decent depth of field. If you compare the stills on my Video: half-black bumble bees mating post to the video, the difference in both the quality of the light and the depth of field is striking. I clearly have a lot to learn. Working on this video about my son allowed me to relax and not worry so much about technical issues. I was able to just have fun and be creative. After all, I was with my son and we were both dressed as zombies, how could I not have fun?
The other benefit of working on this video was that I shot a lot of footage, which gave me ample opportunity to experiment with editing. I feel much more prepared for my next macro video attempt.
I have spent quite a bit of time on YouTube lately, mainly learning techniques for Adobe Premier Pro, the software I used to edit both this video and half-black bumble bees mating. It’s amazing what a resource YouTube has become! But old-school research has been just as important. Over the past month or so I have read four books on video and film making. Two were very helpful, the other two, not so much. The following are a few brief comments and recommendations about each book.
First, two negative reviews:
- Careers In Wildlife Film-making by Piers Warren, 2006. The blurb about this book on Chapters/Indigo states: “The essential book by Piers Warren, packed with guidance and advice for aspiring makers of natural history films…” I beg to differ. There is nothing essential about this book. It is a series of bios of people working in the wildlife film industry, each of which talks about what they do and how they got their start. It’s boring and, not very helpful. Worse, it is dated, having been written before YouTube and the use of DSLRs for video production. I found this book to be a waste of money.
- Wildlife Film-making: Looking To The Future by Piers Warren, 2011. I made the mistake of buying this book along with Careers In Wildlife Film-making online. This volume is equally boring and unhelpful. Another waste of money.
Now, two positive reviews:
- The Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media by Bruce Block, 2007. This is a serious book about visual structure of a video or film, and how to link story and visuals. I learned a tremendous amount from this book and now find myself watching films with a much greater appreciation of the art and skill of cinematography. It’s not a casual read, but I strongly recommend it.
- How To Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck: Advice to Make Any Amateur Look Like a Pro by Steve Stockman, 2011. This book is hands-down the most useful reference I have found. It’s well written and fun to read. Best of all it is full of practical advice directed to the amateur videographer. I highly recommend it.
OK, that’s enough of a preamble…I now present you with my latest video attempt, Charles goes on a zombie walk:
I hope you enjoyed the video and would love to read any comments. I hope the book reviews were useful too. I’d appreciate any references to video production that you would like to recommend.
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5
Lens: Zuiko 12-50mm micro four thirds zoom
Settings: shutter priority exposure (@ 1/50 sec shutter speed)
Lighting: Natural light