Review: Chris Watson's Supercharge Your Post-Production Training DVD
Posted Mar 30, 2007

I've never met anyone who's better than Chris Watson at breaking down and deconstructing wedding video styles, at pinpointing and explaining what makes a particular style distinctive. He's definitely a student of the game who applies the sort of keen and perceptive eye to the work of his peers that everyone in this business should, and it is his ability to synthesize what he learns and combine that with his own creative ideas that keeps his work on the cutting edge of the field. So it's not just because Watson was recently selected to the EventDV 25 that I approached his new training DVD with high expectations. If he's that good at explaining other videographers' styles, how good must he be at breaking down and communicating his own?

I'm happy to say that Supercharge Your Post-Production ($100) doesn't disappoint. Watson gave me a sneak preview of it at Video 07 in Jacksonville (the last 10 minutes, as it turns out), enough to get across the point that this was not a nuts-and-bolts how-to on editing in your (or his) NLE. Rather, it helps you approach an edit in pursuit of two major goals: producing video that "feels honest" to your clients, and "making [y]ourselves invisible to the viewers through superior storytelling."

Watson's approach to the disc is to narrate over a near-constant stream of clips, briefly interrupted by simple black-text-on-white screens that reiterate important points (much nicer than injecting a PowerPoint). The only time Watson's face appears on the video is in a couple of candid shots of him at a wedding, camera in hand, when the narration is talking about "unobtrusive editing"—keeping the videographer out of the picture (metaphorically) by not overdoing the effects in post. Watson's narration is well-written, well-paced, and informative; my only complaint is that the voice audio levels are distractingly inconsistent at several times throughout the DVD.

Watson begins the disc by talking about the three styles of wedding video: documentary (straightforward, no bells and whistles); cinematic (subjective, stylized, heightened reality); and journalistic (grounded in reality but taking liberties with chronology). He highlights two particular weddings in the various clips he shows, and begins discussion of each with a "cheat sheet" that explains how he decided to take a cinematic or journalistic approach with each, how he chose the music and other elements based on his sense of his clients' personalities and preferences.

Another focus of this DVD is editing economy, taking a concise approach to storytelling that might leave out some standard or conventional shots if you can tell the story more succinctly without them. One of the coolest things he shows early on in this DVD is two approaches to bridal prep—one "bloated," one "lean"—and uses a shot counter to show how he can tell the same story in five shots (cross-cut with groom prep) that he did in 14 (using all his "good" bridal prep shots with no cross-cutting).

Watson also talks at length about an editing style that he's helped move toward the mainstream in wedding video: the timeshift. Watson breaks the timeshift into three categories—conservative, moderate, and radical—and explains and gives examples of how and when to implement each one effectively. The key, he says, is "finding the thread" that connects scenes that are chronologically disparate, such as key father-of-the-bride moments: processional, first dance, toast. Watson also suggests a "stream of consciousness" approach to timeshift video, in which scenes are connected by more tangential logic.

Watson concludes the hour-long disc with a 12-minute segment about a highlight video he did by using a single recurring visual motif as the thread to connect three distinct storylines. It's a very cool effect, which he explains well, and there's no way I could do it justice here. And since supercharged postproduction is all about storytelling, it wouldn't be fair to give away the ending, would it?