video module 1

Narrative Structures

Part 1- Continuity Editing; Drawing a Continuous Line Through Time and Space with the Camera x3

due February 1

Concepts:  learning to use a tripod and camera, in-camera editing

  • Read David Mamet’s On Directing Film. The concepts of this book describe the fundamentals of film and video production and you are responsible for demonstrating these concepts in your work.
  • Make three versions of the same video, with the same sequence of actions and events, each no longer than 60 seconds each with different angles and approaches to the action (consider this assignment as three different takes of the same scene).
  • You must convey and CONTINUOUS sequence of time and space without dropping or skipping time or location in the action. Make your cuts/ move the camera at logical places in the action and use visual anchors from the place where you shoot to maintain this continuum.

You are going to shoot three versions of the same action each depicting the same sequences of events. The action should be very simple and shot in a place that provides ample opportunities for good lighting and space to move the camera. You must convey the content through camera work and editing of whatever subject and actions you choose. The sequencing, change in camera position and composition within the frame all determine how we understand the subject matter. Remember the apples.

  • You may not use photographs, drawings, or symbols to represent concepts in your work and follow the tenets of David Mamet’s book On Directing Film. You must have at least 6 cuts/ 7 shots within in each short video.
  • Keep it simple. The primary criteria for which you will be evaluated on are the formal elements of the videos, composition within each frame, and relationship of shots through the edits.
  • Move the camera at least 30 degrees from previous location if you do not make a significant shift in zoom. Remember that a zoom is a very unnatural way to see and should be used with care.

Subject matter doesn’t matter. No matter how good your idea or the story/plot are they will be effectively conveyed to an audience unless you understand the fundamental aspects of composition within the frame and over time. This is an exercise in the “exquisite execution of the idea.” If you cannot “speak eloquently and appropriately about any subject the meaning and content of your message falters.

Limit the number of people to only a few and be sure that they will participate in ways that you fulfill your goals. Do not lose control of the project because the cast does not take the project seriously.

When you have shot your three videos:

  • capture each one and assemble it as a separate sequence in Final Cut Pro.
  • You may not edit the footage.
  • Use one folder and FCP project, titled with your name+project 1, for this part of the module.
  • Log and Transfer all of your clips and assemble them in the three original different videos each in its own sequence; on the keyboard command+ N will create new sequence.
  • See the technical Instruction page for more FCP setup details.
  • Delete your files from the camera

Part 2: Re-edit of Narrative Project using Final Cut Pro

due: February 14

Your first edited piece using original footage will incorporate aspects of narrative direction, complete with original sound. Shoot additional footage for your video and edit all parts together into a new work. Re-edit the footage you from your previous three videos into a single video using Final Cut Pro. The video must be between 2:30;00 and 3:30;00 in length.

In short video pieces it is difficult to develop a convincing narrative due to limitations that arise from both time restraints and the media itself. Therefore you will not tell an elaborate story as much as you will use techniques employed in narrative direction to create a piece that takes us through a space or on a simple journey. The focus then is to convey a logical sense of time, movement, and location. These are the primary concerns of your work, not a plot as is typically realized in narrative film. It is the camera direction and edits that will create the narrative and affect the content, not the subject.

The video must also contain at least 1 minute of a continuous flow of time. In short video pieces it is difficult to develop a convincing narrative due to limitations that arise from both time restraints and the media itself. You will use techniques employed in narrative direction to create a piece that takes us through a space or on a journey. The focus then is to convey a logical and continuous sense of time, movement, and space. These are the primary concerns of your work, not a plot as is typically executed in narrative film. It is the camera direction and edits that will create the narrative and affect the content, not the subject.

This is the most common and familiar structure for film. Despite the major conceptual differences between film and video it is important to learn how narrative films use camera movement and multiple angles in a single or short series of scenes to affect the viewers understanding of the action. Narrative film requires a developing story line and typically takes on a linear structure. While this information seems obvious, the creation of an effective narrative in film or video can be more difficult than it seems. You are to develop a sense of movement through time and space that is logical and, most importantly, visually interesting. You must develop a sense of narrative time, that we are watching recorded time, not a story. It may be beneficial to you to draw out a storyboard describing your piece scene by scene. This aids in the planning stages and helps to keep the recording of footage in order on tape and in your head. However, some very good independent directors ignore storyboards and work from a more intuitive approach. They simply find a subject that is ripe with possibility for them and proceed. If you choose to work in this less-structured manner you must find a theme that holds many possibilities and you know well. Otherwise you lead yourself down miserable and painful-to-watch dead ends.

Narrative films are either fictional or derived from events in real life. Whatever the case the audience must be convinced that what they are viewing is a complete world into its own. The term “suspension of disbelief” is often used is describing fictional or narrative work. This means that what exists on screen is believable and credible, and the viewer is drawn into the events that transpire on screen despite the fact that everyone knows what happens on the screen is not a tangible reality. It exists for them only in moving pictures. They suspend their disbelief in the reality of the television world to actually allow themselves to be engrossed by it, at least for the duration the piece. The most important and effective means to achieve this is good camera work and direction. If the audience is made aware of the presence of the camera the illusion is lost. Also the choice of shots, the framing, movement of the camera, and position of subjects on the screen is equally important. Keep this in mind while filming. The importance of this fact cannot be overstated.

Keep your narrative simple and carefully consider how much literal information to include. The impact of the edits and camera direction are the most important aspects of this assignment. Do not go overboard in your story or the effects you try to include. Science fiction films rely on large budgets to pull off special effects. Remain true to your theme and gauge the amount of props and other effects you include from the materials and facilities you have available to you and the time limits required for each piece. The sooner you finish your first piece, the sooner it can be evaluated and its lessons can be gleaned. Everything must fit into a cohesive concept, a marriage of image, narrative, and editing. Provide a time line description in the form of a storyboard with a one paragraph description.

  • Learning to use Final Cut Pro
  • Must have an original soundtrack
  • Submit a written analysis prior to critique and describe how you incorporated Mamet’s ideas into your video



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