Friday, September 14, 2007

Energy and Entropy in Video Journalism

Energy and Entropy - a video journalism perspective.
I don't always find the opportunity to pull directly from my first degree in Chemistry and Maths (Applied Chemistry) but as a friend made me aware from the clip playing on I talk a lot about the energy of the lens.

It sounds ludicrous, but it's one of the components of video journalism I believe determines how a film wil be received.

And like Chemistry the more I flux and reflux what I'm doing, the more I'm seeing new constitutents.

So with any luck and time, in the coming blogs we can talk about things like. The difference between video blogs and video journalism, which incidentally from Egypt Robb Montgomery captured me here after my talk making a couple of points.

By the way, I'm not anti-TV. I love television - an electronic canvass - but I'm anti the prescriptive attitude that says things can only be done in a specific way, which television heavily subscribes to. It's important then to note that Channel 5 and other networks have very recently announced they are to do away with "walkies" and the "noddy". That is major.

TV and video journalism is a bit like a wedding do really: the official photographer providing stately shots of you cutting the cake, getting into the car, taking your vows and then if you can afford the alternative documentary photographer s/he will shoot you unknowingly in intimate, less obvious moments.

Horses for courses. Parents might by and large adore the "fixed" shots while others want a different mis en scene.

Video Journalism Energy Lens

You witness a fight, an exchange of fire arms, a crowd running for dear fright. The scene is frenetic. Your eyes dart around for visual information and as quickly as you're processing, your whole physical body is exhibiting the behavior of chaos.

The key to being a good camera person is this: Let the action take place within the lens.

So rock steady shots are the stock in trade. In an aggitated environment rock shots still work, but what happens when the camera itself becomes a character, mimicing your behaviour.

This is the Energy in the lens principle - for want of a better word.

Homicide was one of the first contemporary dramas to experiment with this form, 24 also uses it with its arcs, countless docs have so as well, but the two best examples are "Bourne" and the opening beach shot to "Saving Private Ryan".

In both cases, the directors are unleashing secondary energy from the character of the camera. Finding the right score, if you're making a doc then can make all the difference.

The dirtier the filming, the more enhanced the look. Dirty filming - No not that- refers to film making where there is no clean line of sight. There is almost a voyeuristic sense that you're being allowed in and this inate genetically encoded quality we have of eaves dropping, rubber necking, and being nosey parkers, means "dirty film making" is heavily appealing.

Early first geneation film makers with their cameras called their films photographic reality. This one here Battleship Potemkin made in 1925 by Sergei Eisenstein is a film that needs no introduction if you're a movie buff. If you are and we sat down over a drink, we'd talk till the cows come home.

What's instructive about this is where Segei pulls in the energy. Principally movement, shape and form. Incidentally for non Sergei fans, this is the famous scene recreated in guess what movie with Kevin Costner.

Energy in the lens is the same as the sweeping strokes by impressionist on their canvas. The term is not new, but it's something you're rarely hear news and feature people talk about. For me it's one of the fundamentals.

For if you understand the story you can control its pace and rhythm - it's energy - which in turn should determine it's watchability factor - hopefully.

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