I finished my nature documentary. It was a self-imposed assignment as I want to use my photo exhibition in the visitor’s center of De Averegten as a starting point for a new direction in documentary filmmaking.
The exhibition started on March 2 and runs till May 5.
Past Monday, March 9, a full-page interview with yours truly appeared in one of our bigger newspapers.
Two days later I delivered my almost 7’ film at the visitor’s center.
“Use this moment, old man”, my youngest (20) daughter told me. “This is a great opportunity for you, pops, to build on.”
The last night the Belgian Government decided, finally and in fact they should have done this at least a week ago, to shut down a lot of happenings and other stuff to prevent Covid-19 to do further damage. A very correct decision.
My photo exhibition
So my photo exhibition will be closed until at least Easter.
Fortunately, we live in an era of social networks, so I set up a site with the photos and my film is on YouTube, IGTV, and Vimeo.
Links at the end of this article.
So why the documentary?
At the end of the seventies, I graduated with a photography degree. Then I did an entrance exam for the RITCS, a well-known art school where I wanted to study cinematography. They accepted me. I dropped out of school 8 or 9 months later and went to work in a photography finishing center. For my mother, a widow, the cost was too high.
At that time I was also a member of our local film club and the only young man midst, in my eyes at that time, elderly men. I did some Super 8 but got frustrated because I didn’t have much money to spend. And the company where I was working was struggling and I made long hours.
Looking back it seems like quite a list of lame excuses. Maybe they were. Most of all, certainly in that period of my life, I missed my father, his support and approbation. He passed away a few years earlier, in 1972. I was 13, my father 64.
Now that I am nearing the end of my professional career, I’m looking for ways to use the sea of time I’ll have in a few years from now in a productive, creative, and meaningful way.
So, a year or two ago I picked up filming again.
We live in a time where so much is possible. Technology, social platforms, etc…
The few people whose opinion is important to me told me they love my photography but think I’m doing a better job filming. I like to believe them and yes, I do enjoy the narrative of film more than the narrative of (a) photograph(s).
What did I learn about making my nature documentary?
First I feel very comfortable filming and I have the impression the way I tell the story comes naturally. I didn’t really think about establishing shots for example, but almost every new important chunk of the documentary has the necessary establishing shots.
Albeit I understand how the combination of shutter speed (shutter angle in film lingo) and frame rate affects motion blur I don’t master this technique well enough yet.
In order to get a normal, filmic looking motion blur, the shutter angle should be 180°. This means that the shutter speed should be double the frame rate. When one films at 24 frames per second, the shutter speed should be 1/48th for that natural-looking motion blur.
I use a variable ND-filer to achieve this, but I is something I don’t master yet. Also, I’m pretty sure the ND-filter I own leaves a color shade when closed too much.
Working with the gimbal, the slider, and the fluid head on my tripod works well. No issues there.
With my Lumix GX-80/85 ,I use the Cinelike-D flat profile. The GoPro is set to Protune and my Xiaomi Pocophone f1 uses Log v2 in Filmic Pro.
Editing is done with Davinci Resolve 16.x and over time I’ve become familiar with the software.
I kind of make my own music using Magix Music Maker.
What I really overlooked was the quantity of footage that is needed to make something interesting.
My documentary is a little over 6’ long. When you take into account that one scene takes about 4 seconds one needs, technically, 90 perfect clips. To tell the story, to keep people interested, I was glad I had about 240 clips available to play with.
I love problem-solving. Like filming the isopods or the underwater scenes. A terrarium and an aquarium made this possible. But isopods don’t show up when you are ready to film them. Then thinking how to shoot footage in the field leading to the “studio” scenes, was also fun.
My daughter didn’t like the idea of having this aquarium or terrarium in the house.
I am quite happy with the result. Maybe the music is a little too dramatic. The film to fast, to slow. I have no idea how viewers perceive the documentary.
I am open to your thoughts, tips, and constructive criticism.