The First Thanksgiving (view this story)

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Rep: 33
Adam Wisneski Jan. 12, 2011, 9:23 p.m. permalink

Hello James, 

Cool idea. For an hour of shooting, I think you had a nice concept going. The kids were cute. And the video didn't drag on. I think you went for the essence (instead of the information) of the situation, which is what I love. Here are some observations.

I think the biggest thing it lacked was polish, which is tough with only a day (or less) to put something together. The moving camera shots (handheld) were a bit distracting for me. I think because the movement wasn't steady. In Seals' video, he was using a glidecam or something to make those moving camera shots silky smooth. I think it's possible to do it handheld, but very difficult. I've used a monopod before to brace it, and then slowed down the video to make it even smoother. Not sure what kind of gear you have. 

The cuts from the kids to the drawing were too fast for me. Especially with slow crossfades, as soon as I felt myself settle on something, you made another cut. Left me feeling a bit jerked around. Maybe staying on some shots for longer could have helped? Maybe let the music run and put more space between the kids' quotes? 

OR, maybe this would have been a good chance to have both footage from the drawing AND footage of the kids telling the story at the same time. Split screen style. 

"THE END" was jarring, but cute. I didn't like the scrolling credits. I couldn't read them. Maybe a still slide could have done the same job? 

Thanks for submitting. I'd say keep experimenting. You could have easily made this thing boring, but decided instead to try something interesting and different. 


Rep: 444
Eric Seals Jan. 13, 2011, 8:36 p.m. permalink

Hi James,

Good idea for a Thanksgiving piece.

I love the idea of kids telling the story but it didn't have the same feel for me that I got out of your nice football fans videos that you've put on FtF in the past. Yeah they're different subjects for sure but the football fan videos you shot felt more thought out in terms of your style, approach and execution. 

You shot it in one hour I read. 

How much time before shooting did you either storyboard on paper or in your head how you wanted the piece to look? What about the framing and lighting of the kids faces, the gather of the best artwork and figuring out how to shooting them at the right angle, the composition or how to make it smooth with whatever gear you were using?

These are some of the things I noticed about The First Thanksgiving that with planning and nailing the technical shooting issues, it might help if you do a style like this in the future.

1.  Sometimes less is moreā€¦.not just with the kids but with what they were saying.  

I would of liked to have seen the poem edited tighter (and still make sense) by you before you started shooting.  This would given you less kids in the piece and you could of had more face time with those left as they said their lines.  Some of the kids were on screen for 2 or 3 seconds and then a cross dissolve to something else. I thought having them up longer during their delivery would have been nice and would of brought us into them a bit longer.

2. Video portraits. 

Since it seems they all are in the same classroom, perhaps with the same teacher I would of loved to have seen some consistency in the framing and with the background the kids stood in front of like the kid at the :10 second mark. 

I can tell you lit them but seeing their cute faces and big eyes filling the frame with a darker background would of made them pop off the screen and grab my attention more. 

3. If their saying the words, don't show the words.  

I would of much rather have seen details of their Thanksgiving drawings than video of the words moving right to left across the frame.

4. Make it smooth in the details and the transitions. 

The sweeping scenes you did were a bit distracting for me as well.  Looks like it was handheld and for the tracking shots smooth and steady is such a must.  If you were going to use a tripod for this try this out next time it's simple, free, just takes some practice and trial and error.

When I did my kindergarten video I researched, bought ($230) and built a zazaslider which made all the difference in the world in that video I think.  The tracking was smooth which is the look you want to go for when tracking or sliding.

Here is my zazaslider with my Panasonic on it (although I used my 5D for the kindergarten video)

FilmmakerIQ has a good video about the zazaslider but even more it's a great website full of great tips, advice etc for shooting. I'm on it all the time learning and trying new things :-)

Another site as well

5. Get in tighter.

Not just in the kids faces like I mentioned earlier but also in the detail of the drawings.  The pictures were great to look at so pick out a bunch and work them to death with shooting, panning, tracking etc.  Sometimes there was more white space around the pictures than I wanted to see like at the 1:19 mark.

6. The flow.

I learned several things in doing my kindergarten piece that I'd do differently next time and the one thing that I noticed in mine and in yours is the direction we are taking the viewers in.  In hindsight having every moving detail, the tracking shots or call it what you will, we both could of had it all going from into the frame right to out of frame left, this way it's like the viewers and the "action" is always moving them forward with the transitions being the teachers (in my case) or the students in yours.

I'm sure you love doing the video so I don't want to discourage you, just thoughts and points I wanted to mention for the next one you do.  I'm looking to do another video poem again just trying to find the right occasion and then choosing the right poem to do.  Hope that helps :-)


Rep: 91
Peter Huoppi Jan. 14, 2011, 8:30 a.m. permalink

Loved the idea. Needs a little better execution.
-Get rid of the dissolves
-If you can't move the camera smoothly, don't.
-I loved the DSLR look, but can you manually lock the exposure? When some kids moved, the exposure changed a lot.
-Pacing. Listen to the piece with your eyes closed. It felt really jerky to have loud bursts of words, then have the audio dip down to the music. You really notice the background noise when it fades down and disappears. This is where recording some room tone comes in handy.

Rep: 10
James Nix Jan. 18, 2011, 7:17 a.m. permalink

Thanks Adam, Eric and Peter,

I really appreciate the time you took to give me some very constructive feedback.  A lot of the issues each of you pointed out, I had noticed while editing and it's good to have that reinforced, that's how we learn. 

I had actually used a tripod for the moving shots, but could never quite get it smooth like I had hoped. I tried to slow it down in final cut to help out, but it didn't seem to work very well.

Eric, to be honest I didn't spend nearly enough time planning it out. The principal wanted to make sure it was alright to shoot video in the classroom first and I didn't get the go ahead until the day of. When I got there, the teacher already had the kids ready with their one line each, which threw me off since I had wanted to use just a couple of kids and keep it simple.  

Also, thanks for the links, those are helpful. 



Rep: 444
Eric Seals Jan. 18, 2011, 7:26 a.m. permalink

Cool, glad to have helped out.

Rep: 33
Adam Wisneski Jan. 19, 2011, 10:08 p.m. permalink

Thanks for the links eric. I'm going to try that tripod thing.

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