Saturday, May 12, 2012

How do you produce compelling video and media

The word "compelling" is probably one one the most over used terms applied to video from producers selling their skills.

But what does it mean?  

Definition aside, it's about an attachment to something that fixates you; you simply can't take your eyes of it. Though, yes, you'd hardly call your girlfriend or boyfriend compelling.

A simple exercise can yield characteristics that make media, or video compelling.

Firstly there are elements it must contain. Secondly, it's the way they're put together.

A good example of elements would be wars. Wars as content make for compelling viewing. It's so compelling that the belief is you don't need any video training to make a good film.

It's one reason why citizen journalism works in conflicts; right time,  right place for compelling event.

When the content is not necessarily engaging this is where the talent earns their crust. They must do something to the content to make it compelling without manipulating its meaning. 

A simple exercise in videojournalism
These images below don't really do justice to the exercise I conducted but here goes. 

  • The stream on the left hand side down are key images for video 1
  • While the images on the right hand side down  are for video 2
What do you see?

Semioticians, though you don't need to be one to get this, talk about the syntagmatic relationship between media, which basically means how one shot placed in front of the other has an effect on the next shot, itself and the film overall.

So if you look at the images all on the left hand side, which come from the first video you can begin to get a feel.

When I constructed this experiment a lot of the feedback focused on (1) as the more attractive, as opposed to (2).

I then revealed that first shoot was how as a videojournalist I work, and the second one was how I would have produce a Television News story. 
Reporting for ITV's for London Tonight

Interesting, but it's nothing really revelatory.

What becomes interesting is when you consider that any content can be made compelling, dependent on a number of principals.

But the experiment doesn't entirely help you, because as any masters student will tell you, knowing what you like and dislike hardly makes it any more easier producing exemplary work.

That's because those principles run into a daunting array. An alternative method is studying the experts and their films which is what my contribution to Adam Westbrook's project: Inside the Story was all about.

I'd advise you buy the book as it contains rich tips from some of the world's leading story tellers e.g. Brian Storm, Koci, and Claudio Von Planta.

But a more fruitful principle emerges from my findings which runs into a 60,000 word thesis which I will be publishing either later this year or early next year. 

But in the meantime perversely my advice is that the answers you seek to produce exemplary work may not exist in the genre you want to make your own.

But it's not that simple because you need to have an appreciation of the medium you're working in and how you can add meaning. It's not that you can simply throw different methods at different genres and hope they stick.

Take German Designer Konstantin Grcic, what he says about avant garde it's equally pertinent in film. Don't be afraid to take risks and polarise people. 

Learn by trial and error and be comfortable that you will make mistakes. Oddly enough in my lecturing experience, students tend to resist this.

Primarily and this is a view from Arnheim as well is that a) we don't like to fail and b) Art which expands our notion of creativity is not respected in the way say Maths is.

The more pressing results materialising suggest, as many scholars have done, that existing methods aren't working as efficiently as they should and and we're poorer for it.

But change is happening....Perhaps not as fast as we'd think it should.


Read: is how we're teaching media flawed