Short Documentary

Project Description

In this project, we were required to produce a short documentary film in collaboration with a third-party organization, where we had to tackle an existing local or global issue. We chose to document the topic of E-waste and how people consumed and disposed irresponsibly of the electronics they used.

Roles and Responsibilities

I was in charge of camera operation in which I filmed the subject during interviews. I also took part in filming B-rolls footage for the film. Another responsibility was to make sure the audio was recorded properly, and the audio levels were in the appropriate range. In post-production, I synced all the recorded audio with the corresponding footage. I took part in video editing where I cut unrelated contents while putting together interview footage and B-rolls to produce an interesting documentary.

Awards

Best Documentary 

Award of Merit

About

9 weeks long school project in a team of 4

Tools Used

Canon T5i/T7i 

Zoom H4N

Lapel mics

Adobe Premiere Pro

Camera Operation and Audio Recording

We had to come up with an idea about how we would film the documentary. After discussing the story, one of the team members made a draft storyboard and we planned to take B-rolls according to the storyboard. Hence, before we got an interview scheduled, our team went out and took various footage. We went to various places such as recycling depot, parks, transit stations, and downtown areas to capture B-rolls. We took videos and photos stills making sure the exposure would match the interview.

When we were conducting interviews, I was in charge of the secondary camera, making sure to capture the interviewee at an interesting angle which will supplement the main angle. The camera was set up in a way to focus on the subject in a wide to medium shot while eliminating the background distractions. The rule of thirds was used to complement the subjects eye line while he was looking towards the main camera. This way, we had different camera angles to work with during editing.

2nd angle.png

Alternative angle shot

As for audio recording, I used a lapel mic and recorded on the Zoom H4n. I ensured that the conversations were recorded clearly and at optimal range. I instructed the subject to minimize movements to reduce noise distortions while recording. 

Post-production Editing

After we got all our interview clips and B-rolls, the I first synced all the audio files to match the interview footage. Since we used a clapperboard during the interview, I matched the clap sound to the highest frequency wave in Adobe Premier Pro which made it easy to sync but I had to do this for different camera angle shots. I then cut and edited parts of the interview that I thought was relevant and arranged the clips so that it would fit with our narrative. This was the most difficult part as it was a long interview and had various parts of the topic. I had to choose the clips which would focus on the topic and would work with the B-rolls. I had to put the clips back and forth to see how it would fit in the film. Finally, I managed to put together important parts of the interview which would fit the overall documentary. 

Editing in Adobe Premier Pro

Our group then went over all the B-rolls that we took and edited the video. We asked for feedback and made necessary changes based on the feedback. One of my team member then made final tweaks to the project, making sure the color was correct and audio levels were consistent.

Challenges and Solutions

The biggest challenges that our group faced was changing our interview organization which ultimately affected our initial production plan. Mid way through our project, we were told that we would not be working with the government organization anymore. By this time, we had all our storyboard and  interview footage already. So, in the remaining 6 weeks time we had to quickly redraw our storyboard and look for potential interviewees. We also had to retake some B-rolls which would fit our new narrations, and worked closely with our professor to look for new interviewees. Luckily, we did manage to interview an IT specialist from our school. Since we had a new storyboard, and could not use previous B-rolls, we were short on some footage and ultimately had to use some external footage from the internet.

Reflection

This is not our first time making a short film but this is our first time making a short documentary. Even though some aspects of filming are the same, there are some unique features of a documentary. It is interesting to develop a story and put someone else's opinion to the story to make it more powerful. Especially since our topic tackles on important global issues, we need a good narration and a powerful interview. This is exactly what we achieved. Even though we encountered problems and obstacles such as scraping our whole ideas and had to restart, and being not able to get access to some recycling depot to get the shots we need, good teamwork with firm decisions carried us a long way. I've learned a lot on how to work with an organization and interview people and most importantly, I've learned how to have fun while working with the team during these harsh times. 

Final Video

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