About Filmmaking

Film Technology and Influence on the Documentary

 

By Sarthak Kalucha

The Lumières’ brilliant invention, the cinematograph, was a machine which filmed, processed, projected and also, being portable, it could be taken anywhere with a minimum of fuss and used to record and display to an audience the world in which they lived. The Lumières chose to film real people in real situations, never showing any interest in dramatic stories. That is why they are considered the true fathers of the documentary form.

It has taken film technology 100 years to catch up and overtake them. A century after that first screening in Paris, we finally have a camera which can rival and outstrip the cinematograph.

Granted, the digital video camera cannot project its pictures to an audience – but it can play them back in the camera. And it can keep filming for long periods without having to change tapes. And it records sound. It is cheap, it is lightweight, the picture and sound quality are constantly improving, and it is user friendly. A single operator can take it anywhere and record our own contemporary lives on the run.

The invention of the DV camera has had a massive influence on documentary. So too has the development of digital video editing, sound recording and post-production, and of course also digital tools for animation.

All new aesthetic developments in documentary have followed on from technical breakthroughs. In the 1930s and 1940s, for example, some of the most compelling and beautiful documentaries were made, but they only really became possible after sound came to the movies. In the 1960s, the invention of 16 mm cameras with sync sound shepherded in the movements known variously as cinéma vérité, direct cinema or fly on the wall. Now we have the digital technology which has liberated film-making in so many ways. In documentary, the effect has been immense.

We are now in the middle of a new golden age of documentary. What makes this one different and therefore, more exciting is that there are so many people working in different styles with different approaches to the documentary genre. For years, the vérité aesthetic dominated documentary production and this, as a form, was often unduly restrictive and creatively stifling. Of course, some brilliant films came out of that whole movement, but some other brilliant films, stylistically different films, were not being made when they could and should have been made. After all, film-making was a very expensive business until recently, so the small number of television commissioning editors – still the main source of funding for most documentarists – had a great deal of power. Some of them were very narrow-minded, even conservative, in their approach.

Things are different now. Because of the lightweight, relatively inexpensive digital equipment, more and more people are funding their own films, which gives them the creative freedom that my generation never had. These people, the mavericks who want to express themselves without censorship or who have projects with no obvious big audience appeal, are now leading the way, creatively speaking. Their films are often purchased after they are shot, even, sometimes, after they have finished editing. Only at that stage are schedulers prepared to admit that the film-makers were right in the first place. The maverick films are everywhere. They refresh the television schedules, often get international distribution deals in cinemas and win major awards.

The situation for the documentary film-maker now is completely changed and those with a belief in their own ideas have everything to gain.

The author writes about Digital Filmmaking on his blog. He truly believes that DV has and will continue to revolutionize the world of short films.

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My Top 10 Documentary Films

By [http://ezinearticles.com/?expert=Ronaldo_Tumbokon]Ronaldo Tumbokon

Documentary films used to trigger yawns among ordinary mortals. These are films you would watch in schools, museums, or other places for intellectual stimulation. You would not pay to pay watch, as they are probably subsidized by the government or some non-profit agency.

But things have changed. Documentary films are now mainstream entertainment – and some of them are riveting and very interesting. In fact, some are superior to a lot of Hollywood dreck. The more powerful documentaries not only divert you, they open your eyes to new realities, and sometimes change your life.

Below are my personal picks for the best documentary films in recent memory.

An Inconvenient Truth – if you have to see one, see this one about global warming and its terrible far-reaching effects. If you care about how we’re leaving our planet for future generations, this will open your eyes. All of a sudden, any other issue is dwarfed.

Fog Of War – a very informative film about the once Secretary of Defence McNamara and the lessons he has learned in life, looking back, in his 80 something years. Our generation should learn lessons from history, (“Empathize with your enemy”, “Rationality will not save us”, to name a few), but sometimes we don’t.

Enron – with this doc, I was able to finally understand how corporate smart guys steal from investors and ordinary people. Ken Lay, Skilling and Fastow’s tragic endings show that being smart and greedy is a road to hell.

Winged Migrations – to those who care about nature, and birds in particular, this feature about birds’ migratory habits is phenomenal!

Microcosmos – It’s fascinating to see things we take for granted when we walk through the woods. The details it shows about insect life is beautiful and amazing.

Supersize Me – this doc will wake you up to the unhealthiness of fastfood (McDonald’s) eating. Very gutsy to take on big business. Also very instrumental in making changes to fast-food offerings.

Fahrenheit 9/11 – Moore’s entertaining take about the guy whom many have judged to be the worst president of the U.S. To me, it’s like shooting a fish in a barrel.

Bowling for Columbine – Moore’s sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes funny take about gun violence in America.

The Corporation – an eye-opener, showing how corporations’ efforts to maximize profit can be a scourge to our lives – and an even bigger threat to the future. Bovine Growth Hormone, Agent Orange, marketing research on how to inspire children to nag their parents to buy products – it makes its case convincingly.

Darwin’s Nightmare – Documentary about the effects of rampant capitalism on Africa’s ecology and people.

These and other [http://www.mylistpad.com]top list of music, movies and books can also be read at mylistpad.com

Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?My-Top-10-Documentary-Films&id=380082] My Top 10 Documentary Films

How to Make Documentary Film: The Ken Burns Method

How to Make Documentary Film: The Ken Burns Method By [http://ezinearticles.com/?expert=Peter_J_Harris] Peter J Harris

One under-explored method of low cost film production is a documentary short which is essentially a “super-charged slideshow” (for lack of a better term) in which a filmmaker uses pre-photographed photo stock much in the style of a Ken Burns documentary. This can be a very effective method of communicating ideas at very low cost. In fact, beyond the cost of editing software and time, it can be totally free.

Through some links at the end of this article I’ll share an example of this type of film and provide a link to a more thorough explanation. For now, a simple introduction…

Ken Burns is famous as much for the content of his documentaries (the Civil War and baseball to name a few) as much as his editing style. He is a master at using every inch of a single photograph, telling the story with gentle zooming camera moves and simple fades and blurs in conjunction with discreet sound design and excellent voice overs. But this style is not only suitable for historical subjects; it can also be employed for more contemporary subjects.

Utilizing photographs under the Creative Commons license, abundant supplies of stock photography can be found through Google images and Flickr.com. Using the advanced search functions on both sites, one can easily obtain hundreds of quality photos suitable for making a documentary short film.

Creative Commons is a unique licensing agreement between the original producer of a work and someone who wants to re-use it for their own purposes. Rights conditions vary, but the most common is the attribution license in which anyone is allowed to use a photo (including making design modifications) as long as they give credit to the original photographer. As long as you take good notes when gathering photos it’s possible to use as many photos as you need, crediting the photographers when necessary.

Using off the shelf software like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere, filmmaker/editors can make these types of short films at very little cost. The range of subjects is only limited to the imagination!

To explore more of these ideas, visit my tutorial about [http://hubpages.com/_fh3gtb5ayobp/hub/How-to-Make-a-Documentary-Film]How to Make a Documentary Film. You can also check out a sample of this type of film-making in this [http://2futures.org]climate change film which I produced using Apple’s Final Cut Pro and Motion.

Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?How-to-Make-Documentary-Film:-The-Ken-Burns-Method&id=5350464] How to Make Documentary Film: The Ken Burns Method

Tracing the Footprints of Documentary Film Making

“In feature films director is God; in documentary films God is the director”.

by Lopa Bhattacharya

An art form which has over a hundred years depicted the serendipitous romanticism, surrealism and activism of the journey of life. Extreme naturalism is the key; transcending the quandaries of human existence, documentary films go beyond the archetypal perception, unraveling the psychedelic mysteries of life, always giving a “voice to the voiceless”.

The art of documentary film-making traces its roots to pre-1900s when the French coined the term to depict any non-fictional film with an informational purpose. Often referred to as “actuality films”, these would include very short stretches of filming often a minute or less in length. There was no form of conceptualization of a real-life event or depiction of consciousness in these creations, primarily due to the technological limitations of the days. Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatwadekar (Save Dada) who in 1899 shot a wrestling match was probably the earliest traces of “topical” films in the Indian film industry. He is also accredited to have made the first Indian newsreel in 1901 filming the public reception of Raghjunath P. Paranjpye who had won a special distinction in Maths at Cambridge. Chitrapat Kaysa Taya Kartat (How films are made) (1917) directed by Dadasaheb Phalke, the “Father of Indian fiction film”, is another significant milestone in the genre of Indian “actuality” films.

The Czech filmmaker and theoretician Vit Janecek was one of the first few individuals who improvised the term “documentary film” to replace a “documental film”, to dramatize the camera shot on the spot, to depict discursive interests of a cultural-social domain. The first few such attempts were by the Lumiere Brothers which showed short clippings of a train entering a station, factory workers leaving a plant, etc. Romanticism found its way into the first official documentary film, Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922), a contemporary look at the life of Canadian Inuit Eskimos living in the Arctic. However, the term “documentary” was first used in a review of Flaherty’s (also referred to as the “Father of the Documentary Film”) Moana in 1926. Over the years with the availability of cheaper 16mm film stock and the rising political movements in Russia and UK, documentary films gradually became an avenue to reach out to the masses. Films were projected on to factory walls and screens set up in church halls trying to raise awareness about unemployment, poverty and fascism. Thus we see the birth of the “alternative newsreels” in the 1930s, a generation of left-wing film makers motivated to guide the people from apathy to activism. The genre of “newsreels” was also sometimes staged, re-enacting some of the actual events which occurred. Dziga Vertov’s Kino-Pravda (literally translated as “film truth”) newsreel series depicted the everyday lives of bourgeois, trying to send a deeper message through a metaphorical montage of real-life recordings – often even using hidden cameras. This creation inspired the birth of cinema verite as another form of documentary, which utilized Vertov’s technique of juxtaposing scenes and non-intrusive filming techniques. This form of documentary film stressed on retaining the pristine form and authenticity of naturalism. John Grierson was the first documentary film maker and critic who coined the term “documentary” in writing a review for Flaherty’s Moana. He also extended the idea portrayed by Vertov, defining the art form as a “creative treatment of actuality”. This decade also saw the birth of documentary film-making in India with the creative acumen of Dr. P.V. Pathy, K.S. Hirlekar and D.G. Tendulkar.

Later into the 1930s and 1940s, documentary films became more propagandistic in nature stressing the marginalized and laboring majority of the Years of Depression and War Years. This form of media took up an activist role in its efforts to comprehend the reality and an ethical responsibility. Triumph of the Will (1934) was a masterpiece from Leni Riefenstahl, very much controversial and propagandistic in its horrifying depiction of the Nazi Part Congress rally in Nuremberg. In spite of the controversy surrounding the creation, in the realm of cinematography, this creation has earned laurels beyond par from critiques. The year 1940 is a significant milestone in Indian Documentary film making, wherein the British Government created the Film Advisory Board (FAB) to provide the infrastructure to boost the war propaganda effort. In 1943, the Information Films of India (IFI) and the Indian News Parade (INP) were formed to expand and consolidate film production and distribution units. Between 1940 and 1946, the FAB and the IFI produced more than 170 films apart from the INP newsreels. Unfortunately in the year 1946, government grants to these institutions were drastically reduced and there was no official film unit to record Nehru’s ‘tryst with destiny’ speech on the auspicious first Indian Independence Day. The efforts were revived in 1948, through the formation of Films Division, the official vehicle of the Government of India to promote production and distribution of information films and newsreels. The Documentaries were to be released under the banner of ‘Documentary Films of India.’

The 1960s and 70s perceived a theme of protest against neocolonialism. La Hora de los homos (1968), The Hour of the Furnaces, directed by Octavio Getino and Fernando E. Solanos, is a four-hour long manifesto inciting a sense of revolution against imperialism and the disasters it brought in Argentina. In addition to portrayal of social and political issues, biographical, rock concert/music-related and nature-related documentaries were also finding their way into the mainstream during these years. Filmic stylization and informational reportage in documentary films has reached newer echelons of success with the advent of hi-tech digital photographic equipments. Director/Cinematographer Ron Ficke’s, Baraka (1992), depicts the “the essence of life”, transcending the limits of nature and time. Without a single word narrated in the film, it is often referred to as have delivered a “message without words” with its scintillating visuals accompanied with pristine musical scores.

Documentary film-making started off for informational purposes but graduated over the years through to reflect the persuasive creative ambition of the film-makers. Along with the aesthetic hues of romanticism and surrealism, the films have become more diaristic, self-reflective and experimental. The infant “actuality” art form of the yesteryears soon became the energetic activist threatening to topple the hegemonic powers of oppression. The film genre has extended much beyond the etymological sense of the term and had been visualized as doing so in a more than seventy-year old futuristic article by one of its founding auteurs and theoreticians, John Grierson as “Documentary is a clumsy description, but let it stand”.

Lopa Bhattacharya is a content writer/developer working for various overseas corporate website projects, CD-Rom presentations, brochures, flyers and other communication materials). Has worked on numerous SEO copywriting projects on varied themes ranging from travel, hotel industry, photography, web design and software development to US-based clubs and network communities. Was previously an editorial associate for the news, culture and entertainment portal based on the life and times of Kolkata.

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