What I (don't) want
Certain effects and ideas seem to be in fashion in the fishing video business. I'm pretty fed up with some of them.
I have been watching a lot of fly fishing videos this year. I added the GFF Fly Fishing Video Channel just around New Year last year and started adding videos to it. That in effect also increased the DVD review frequency because a lot of fly fishing film people out there noticed us and started contacting us about DVD's for review.
The net result has been that I have watched more video minutes these past months than ever before.
That has made me think about the style and trends in fly fishing videos. I have written about the subject and the development before, but this time I will go into details, and look at some specific production methods, which are often used by fly fishing video producers. There are a lot of different ways of producing video, but it seems that certain little tricks or styles have become fashionable, and can be found in lots of videos – on longer DVD's as well as in shorter online videos.
I am no video-shooter myself, and I don't know much about video production, but I have my opinions, and in stead of telling people how to make videos, I'll look at some of the trendy things, which I definitely don't like.
That might not be the most constructive way to go about things, but I'll rather let the creative folks out there come up with great new stuff, and maybe let this push them in a direction, which I would like.
The things that I mention are not grabbed out of thin air, but occur in many videos—in most cases you will find more than one of my dislikes in the same video—even in short ones lasting only a few minutes.
Scratchy, old film look
Now, one of the blessings of modern videos is the fantastic quality that can be recorded by even the most humble video camera. Many camcorders shoot full HD. Digital SLR's shoot 720p or 1080p with exceptional results due to great lenses, and most compact Point&Shoot cameras can produce some amazing video in the right hands.
So why would you take that excellent video and add grain, noise, scratches and all kinds of flaws artificially?
Unless you are doing a silent movie or trying to show Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton fly fishing--or really do have vintage fly fishing footage--leave the images in full quality. I can forgive a B&W sequence thrown in there for good measures, but even that is kind of artsy and not really my cuppa.
My advice: Many of us have high def screens, Blue Ray DVD players, HDMI-cables that cost 10 dollars a foot. Let's utilize all that nice hardware and show us all the beauty and quality that your expensive recording gear can muster.
Time lapse of drifting clouds
OK you guys! We've seen it now! The clouds hurrying over the sky. The storm building in the horizon. The cloud cover closing out the sun. All shown in super fast motion where the time has been compressed and all action is super fast. A whole day in a minute.
The technique is known as time lapse, and while it looks great when you see it the first time, it quickly grows old and tired, and while a single time lapse in a video now and then can be forgiven, please, please, please don't stuff in time lapse scenes every time you show a mountainous landscape or have some blue sky with white clouds!
My advice: Show landscapes in real time, let clouds drift as clouds drift, and use your editing skills to mix close ups of details, large vistas and different views of the same scene to make them appealing and memorable.
And while we're at the fast scenes, my other pet peeve is the super fast forward scenes of people fishing, walking, tying flies, eating or whatnot.
It's not fascinating.
It's not funny.
It's annoying to look at.
People walking fast like small mechanical dolls on a trail.
People fishing with eternally repetitive painstakingly fast casts and waves going ripples on a stormy day.
People loading up a boat in 25 seconds, while everybody knows it takes 25 mninutes.
In other words: it's the exact opposite of what I guess is the aim: speeding up things a bit and making them interesting. Whenever I get to a scene like that I get only one urge: to skip forward to some real time scenes.
My advice: If it's so boring that you have to speed it up to bring us quickly through it, please just leave it out! Speeding it up will not make it more interesting!
Use your editing skills and a mix of perspective and angles in stead to make things interesting. And consider that the reason it needs all these tricks in the first place might be that it's simply no good.
So we've covered the fast end. Guess how I will treat the slow one? Yup, you guessed it! Just run at natural speed, huh?
I know it's tempting to display the grandeur of the jumping steelhead of the rattling gill plates of that monstrous tarpon in stretched out detail, and have the split second it lasts drawn into a long sequence. But honestly: I'm more impressed by the real speed of things than by a slowed down camcorder shot, which only reveals the mediocre quality of the images and really doesn't show me anything but blurry details.
And if you absolutely want to go slow, why does the soundtrack have to go slow too? Bringing a humble splash down to become an earth quake rumble and the angler's “yes” down to the roar of a giant is not really becoming for either.
I just get bored. And by the way: it doesn't get better because you repeat it!
My advice: Look at people who shoot real slow motion. Look as disciplines such as skiing, snow boarding, mountain and trick biking and skate boarding. These guys shoot with large and expensive high speed cameras cranking out hundreds if not thousands of images a second, plan for days and shoot only the best of the best scenes under the best of the best conditions in slomo. Red cameras and Phantoms is the order of the day, and 1052 frames per second in full HD is a nice outset for a good slow motion scene.
You go out and do the same, and I won't say a bad word about it.
So your buddies Cal “Skimmer” Williams and Bill “Bilbo” Jones appear in your video? Well, that doesn't make them movie stars, entitling them to each ten seconds of exposure with the name written over footage of them sleeping, looking into the rising sun from a boat at full speed or sitting with a beer in a comfy chair. And it doesn't help that you freeze the image and add some fancy graphic effect to it. Just because they agreed to be in your three minute online video, does not earn them minutes of credit.
I like to learn to know the people in a video, but not through an intro worthy of a full length cinema feature. I want to see some fishing action, not learn the nicknames of your fishing friends.
Likewise with guides who appear on your footage. Sure they expect something in return for taking you fishing, but while I'm sitting there waiting for tarpon, steelhead or redfish, I don't really care whether it's Captain This or Captain That who is at the helm, and if a lodge offered you a free meal or a bed, that doesn't make their neat rooms, well set tables or fireplaces extremely interesting to me.
My advice: Leave the credits to the end, and if you want to give the involved people some special exposure, just go for it in a separate section. It's only fair that they get their due, but not before the whole thing starts. A short intro is fine, and then leave the long credits till after the show.
And pay back the guides or the lodges by showing us what a great a time you had with them. Use natural, unacted scenes rather than boring pans of well groomed and nicely dressed people of mixed gender sitting by the fireplace with each their posh glass of red wine. We all know that you are a bunch of smelly guys in baggy fleece trousers each sucking on a freshly opened beer and a fag sitting at the computer checking out the weather and your Facebook profile.
So all you video producers...
...look at the best videos out there. Not just the fishing ones, but the works done by the best videographers out there. Let yourself inspire by still photos, movies and TV-features that utilize the media without any cheap tricks.