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The Main Event: The Art of Continuing Education
Posted Jan 31, 2007 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Recently, I've been urging you to invest in training and education, as well as (or even instead of) buying the latest new equipment. One of my Best of 2006 picks was the series of training DVDs produced by Mark and Trisha Von Lanken of Picture This Productions in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This month, we'll take a closer look at two of those DVDs, The Art of Moving Camera Techniques and The Art of the Edit.

Smooth Moves A great wedding video starts with great footage. Mark Von Lanken specializes in creating beautiful moving camera shots, and in Moving Camera Techniques he shows exactly how it's done. The DVD is divided into two sections, one dealing with handheld camcorders (e.g., Sony VX2100), and the other dealing with shoulder-mount camcorders (e.g., JVC GY-DV550). Each section has eight chapters, which mirror each other except for the differences imposed by the two different camera form factors. The handheld section has an additional chapter dealing specifically with stabilizers.

Amazingly, most of Mark's moving camera shots are done without an expensive stabilizer rig. They're accomplished by simple techniques like swaying the body from one foot to the other, or a smooth deep knee bend, or with inexpensive tools like a monopod. However, the DVD covers longer moving shots made with stabilizers like the Glidecam 4000 as well.

figure 1The initial chapters of The Art of Moving Camera Techniques cover items like manual settings, framing, foreground and background, and depth of field. In each chapter, Mark clearly explains how these specific items affect your moving camera shots. Each one is illustrated by video clips showing how to do it, and how not to do it.

Next, Mark demonstrates some exercises to tone up your muscles and loosen your tendons. It's a lot easier to make a smooth handheld move if you're not trembling with fatigue. Following that, he discusses getting shots with a variety of focal lengths, from close-up to long shots, and gives advice about the use of wide-angle lens adapters to enhance the feeling of camera motion.

In many of the later sections, shots of the camera operator are shown as a picture-in-picture along with the actual moving shot itself, so you can clearly understand just how the shot was made.

Mark Von Lanken is obviously a talented cameraman, which means some of these techniques may come more easily to him than to others, but this DVD goes a long way to demystifying the art of moving camera techniques for anyone who'd like to use them in their work. Just watching the video sequences, with shot after stunning shot, should inspire you to try out some of Mark's methods for yourself.

figure 1May I Cut In?
Once you've shot great footage, the next creative challenge, of course, is to do a great edit to put it all together into a memorable and moving story. The Art of the Edit is a good companion piece to Moving Camera Techniques, and indeed uses some of the same video footage to illustrate its points. While Mark Von Lanken did the voiceover for Moving Camera Techniques, Trisha takes over for Edit.

Editing is a very right-brain, holistic process, and I've always thought that trying to teach someone how to create a video masterpiece would be akin to trying to teach someone how to paint a masterpiece. Impossible, of course—and twice as impossible to do it in a one-hour instructional DVD! I won't say that watching this DVD will make you an instant master editor, but it does contain a lot of sound advice and tips that should make you better than you are now.

Edit is non-system specific. Although the illustrations show the Von Lankens using EDIUS, all of the advice and techniques can be accomplished using any of the major NLE systems on the market. Some of Edit's tips are very broad, generic advice (e.g., to use the pacing and intensity of the music bed to time your cuts, or matching the pace and style of the edit to your client's tastes). At the other end of the spectrum, Edit also covers some very specific techniques, such as the use of keyframed blurs, the creation of a layered opening sequence, or how to use an annoying flash from the photographer to create a unique change-of-time transition. In fact, Trisha even shows how to use the even-more-annoying intrusion of the photographer's assistant into a shot to enhance the final result!

Like Moving Camera Techniques, Art of the Edit also uses before-and-after and side-by-side comparisons to excellent effect. It can be hard to tell the difference between two different cuts of the same source footage, unless you are seeing them side by side—but that's exactly what Trisha provides in several places.

Of course, an hour isn't nearly enough time to cover all the fine points of editing. For example, this disc doesn't go into detail on color correction or clip-matching or audio-sweetening techniques. However, Mark tells me that they do have plans for some future offerings, so perhaps this is merely the first in an interesting and informative series.

I recommend both these Art of... instructional videos. Either one will teach you something new about your craft and give you a new target of excellence to shoot for. They're each priced around $100 (I say "around" because there are occasional package deals and other specials). They can be ordered direct from the Von Lankens by clicking here.

Doug Graham has been producing event videos since the days of analog tape, and is a moderator of the wedding and event forums at Video University and Creative COW. He lives in northern Virginia with his wife, Judy, and a variable number of children and dogs.

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