Fig. 1

An open access, ten-part video series is included as a part of this text. To watch the first video lesson, readers of the online edition of this text should click on the link reported below. Readers of the print book can access the video by scanning the above QR code. Users can do this by opening the camera application on their phone and taking a photograph of the QR code.


Fig. 2

Watch Looking for Charlie by clicking on the link below or scanning the QR code. Looking for Charlie: Life and Death in the Silent Era. Digital Stream. Directed by Darren R. Reid and Brett Sanders. Coventry: Studio Academé, 2018.


Fig. 3

The location titles in Looking for Charlie (seen here) pay homage to the caption style utilised in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War (2016). Looking for Charlie (00:25:38–00:25:46).


Fig. 4

Walking through downtown Manhattan at night. This sequence in Looking for Charlie required three moving cameras to follow two moving subjects, both of which were wired for sound, whilst a boom mic operator recorded the city ambience. This was not an easy sequence to shoot, but the result was visually dynamic, taking advantage of the naturally high production values that New York offers. Looking for Charlie (0:30:58–0:32:37).


Fig. 5

Watch the second lesson in our documentary-making course.


Fig. 6

Our smuggler crew prepare to ascend the Seaton Cliffs in Arbroath.


Fig. 7

The scenery around the town of Arbroath is inherently dramatic, adding significant production value to any scene shot there. No tall ships were required to give this scene a sense of drama.


Fig. 8

Watch the trailer for Looking for Charlie. Scan the QR code or visit


Fig. 9

Shooting on location at Cirencester, behind the scenes at Gifford’s Circus for Looking for Charlie. L-R, Darren R. Reid, Brett Sanders, and our subject for the day, Tweedy, a professional clown.


Fig. 10

Nanook of the North (1922), directed by Robert J. Flaherty.


Fig. 11

Watch the next lesson in our documentary-making course.


Fig. 12

With only a small additional investment, you can transform the equipment you already own into a basic documentary-making kit. You can utilise your existing smartphone if it is able to capture HD or 4K footage. An older model can be paired with a lavaliere microphone and used as a sound recorder. An inexpensive smartphone adaptor would allow the phone to be connected to a tripod or to one of the stabilisation devices pictured (a gimbal and C-grip). Excluding the cost of the phone(s), the equipment in this setup could be purchased for a total of approximately $120. Pictured, from left to right, top to bottom: tripod, phone holder with tripod adaptor, mobile phone, lavaliere microphone, second mobile phone, gimbal, c-grip.


Fig. 13

Assembled over time, a DSLR kit’s cost can be staggered. This setup was assembled over two years, and cost approximately $800. The camera is a Nikon D5500. It has 18–55mm, 55–200mm, and 50mm lenses alongside a range of filters, a lens hood, and wide-angle and macro adaptors. A gimbal allows for smooth handheld footage, as does a C-grip. A smartphone with a compatible lavaliere microphone helps to round out this kit. Pictured, from left to right, top to bottom: tripod, c-grip, directional microphone, LED light panel, LED filters, focus pull, lens, lavaliere microphone, a pair of lenses, cold shoes, Nikon D5500, lens, mobile phone grip, assorted lens filters, mobile phone.


Fig. 14

Watch the next lesson in the video series.


Fig. 15

The ‘Rule of Thirds’ grid is frequently used to shape filmic compositions.


Fig. 16

This photograph makes little use of the grid, its subject having been centred without regard for the ways in which the axes of the grid might add tension to the frame.


Fig. 17

By moving the subject off-centre and lining them up along one of the 1/3 axes, a degree of tension and imbalance is added to this composition. There is now space into which the subject can look and there is a clearer sense of compositional clarity. Even in a still photograph, the viewer is primed to expect the subject to move from left to right, through the vacant space within the frame.


Fig. 18

For interviews, try lining up one of your subject’s eyes with one of the intersections of the upper axes, as seen in this image.


Fig. 19

Watch the next lesson in the video series.


Fig. 20

Two subjects standing approximately eight feet apart, photographed using an 18mm lens. Note how small many of the background details are. All rights reserved.


Fig. 21

The same two subjects, standing in the same positions, photographed using a 50mm lens. Note how the background subject now appears much closer to the foreground subject. Note also how the background details have increased in size. All rights reserved.


Fig. 22

When photographed in 200mm, the background subject (upon whom the focus has now been pulled) appears very close to the foreground subject. Also note how close the environmental background details appear relative to our subjects. The space in this frame has been severely compressed. All rights reserved.


Fig. 23

Watch the video lesson on shot composition.


Fig. 24

The subject’s head is pressed against the top of the frame, giving the shot an unsatisfying feel.


Fig. 25

An over-abundance of head room is similarly unsatisfying to the eye. All Rights Reserved.


Fig. 26

A small space between the top of the head and the top of the frame, however, feels appropriate.


Fig. 27

A lack of looking room makes a frame spatially unclear.


Fig. 28

Despite the subject not having moved position, the addition of looking room makes greater visual sense.


Fig. 29

When shooting an interview, cameras should be positioned on one side of the ‘axis’ only.


Fig. 30

Two cameras photographing the same object.


Fig. 31

The cameras should be at least 30° apart, or the audience may become aware of the cut between these different angles.


Fig. 32

The framing of this shot is of a notably poorer quality than the framing in the rest of the film.


Fig. 33

By zooming in on the footage and reframing the results, a more effective alternative composition reveals itself. This version of the shot was not included in the final cut of the film.


Fig. 34

In Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption, the triumphant finale sees the camera pan back as it looks down on the protagonist, his arms outstretched. The edge of the frame frequently represents the limits of the observable cinematic universe to the viewer. We know that the subject in the above photograph exists in a space that extends far beyond the limits of this frame — but the edge of the frame, and the subject’s relationship to it, nonetheless impacts how an audience respond to the shot. In Darabont’s film the frame is not static, as it is in the above homage. The camera movement serves symbolically to free Andy in a way that cannot be replicated in still photography.


Fig. 35

Aftermath: A Portrait of a Nation Divided, directed by Brett Sanders and Darren R. Reid (0:31–0:38).


Fig. 36

Aftermath: A Portrait of a Nation Divided, directed by Brett Sanders and Darren R. Reid (3:51–4:06).


Fig. 37

Aftermath: A Portrait of a Nation Divided, directed by Brett Sanders and Darren R. Reid (3:51–4:06).


Fig. 38

The low-angle shot replicates the perspective of a child looking up at an adult, implying strength in the subject.


Fig. 39

The high-angle shot, which replicates the perspective of an adult looking down upon a child, implies vulnerability.


Fig. 40

From Triumph of the Will (1935), directed by Leni Riefenstahl (1:02:55–1:08:02).


Fig. 41

A close-up will allow your audience to read subtle facial expressions and micro gestures not otherwise evident in mid-shots (and certainly not in wide shots).


Fig. 42

The standard 16:9 aspect ratio will fill the entirety of a modern widescreen television.


Fig. 43

The 4:3 aspect ratio tends to evoke the era of early Hollywood. This aspect ratio is useful for generating a sense of nostalgia.


Fig. 44

A 21:9 aspect ratio is common in modern cinema. This aspect ratio is useful in evoking the sense of hyper-reality that so often accompanies modern films.


Fig. 45

Watch the video lesson on conducting interviews.


Fig. 46a

The sound wave fits comfortably within the recordable field.


Fig. 46b

The device’s recording sensitivity is too high, or the microphone is too close to a sound source.


Fig. 47

Backlit by the setting sun, the sky is perfectly clear and detailed whilst the subject is cast into shadow. To bring out the subject’s features, a separate light source, aimed at them, would have been required.


Fig. 48

This LED panel cost less than $60 and can be mounted to a stand. It comes with a number of different filters, which can be used to defuse the light whilst increasing or decreasing the light’s colour temperature.


Fig. 49

A homemade rig, assembled over time from inexpensive but effective component parts. A C-grip forms the basis of it. Cold-shoe extenders allow for external accessories, including lights and microphones, to be added to the rig. This is a handheld setup that has been attached to a tripod for stationary shots without needing to be disassembled.


Fig. 50

Tracking shot captured in New York by a camera operator following two subjects. Looking for Charlie (0:30:58–0:32:37).


Fig. 51

A folded tripod placed across the shoulder can serve as a crude shoulder stabiliser. When using such a setup, walk with bent knees, raising and lowering your feet so that they remain parallel to the ground. Do not push up using the ball of your foot to avoid ruining your shot with a bounce.


Figs. 52–53

The tripod dolly: the tripod’s front legs remain stationary as the entire set up is pushed forward. The tripod’s head is loosened so that the camera can remain perpendicular to the ground.


Fig. 54

Watch the video lesson on conducting interviews.


Fig. 55

Watch Aftermath: A Portrait of a Nation Divided.


Fig. 56

The three acts of a production each has a distinctive role to play. The first act sets out the premise, core ideas, and principle argument (or line of inquiry) for the piece. The second act engages in the substantive investigation and analysis. The third act brings those core ideas and arguments to their fundamental conclusion.


Fig. 57

The documentary embryo overlaid onto the three act structure.


Fig. 58

The Odessa Steps sequence. Battleship Potemkin (1925). Directed by Sergei Eisenstein (0:48:15–0:56:03).


Fig. 59

A still from one of the earliest films. The difference between the highlights (light areas) and shadows (dark areas) captured by celluloid are stark and evident here. This effect can be emulated by deepening shadows and blowing out highlights in post-production software. Train Pulling into a Station (1895), directed by Auguste and Louis Lumière.


Fig. 60

Watch this video lesson for an in-depth introduction to editing in Adobe Premiere Pro.


Fig. 61

Select “New Project” to begin.


Fig. 62

The four main working areas in Premiere Pro.


Figs. 63–64

Importing footage, audio and still images.


Fig. 65

Moving footage from your project folder into your timeline.


Figs. 66–67

Moving this blue bar will allow you to scroll through your project.


Fig. 68

The arrow cursor will allow you to easily select different parts of your project and begin manipulating them.


Fig. 69

Hovering the cursor over the end of a clip will allow you to shorten it.


Fig. 70

Clicking and dragging this handle will allow you to zoom in and zoom out of your project.


Fig. 71

Click on individual components within your timeline to rearrange them.


Fig. 72

Video and audio components can be stacked in the timeline and then rearranged accordingly.


Fig. 73

Above: one clip will finish playing and the second will then immediately commence.


Fig. 74

By moving edited clips onto the same layer, you can keep your project well organised.


Fig. 75

The “M” button will mute all sounds on a given layer.


Fig. 76

Right click on a clip to bring up this menu. Selecting ‘audio gain’ will allow you to adjust its default volume.


Fig. 77

Entering a negative value will reduce the default volume. Entering a positive value will increase it.


Fig. 78

Select the Text tool to generate on-screen captions.


Fig. 79

Select “Effect Controls” to edit the text you have placed in a sequence.


Fig. 80

The text you have created will appear in the timeline as its own discreet entity. This can be manipulated in the same way as any other visual component in your timeline.


Fig. 81

Save your project regularly in order to avoid losing hours of work.


Fig. 82

Export your project to create a video file that you can share.


Fig. 83

Under the “Video” tab you will be able to define the settings for your exported file.


Fig. 84

Select “Export” to begin the process of turning your project into a completed video file.


Fig. 85

Watch this video lesson for an in-depth introduction to colour-grading in Adobe After Effects.


Fig. 86

Poster for Looking for Charlie: Life and Death in the Silent Era. This project was distributed as an ‘event’ film through a series of screenings presented by the filmmakers.


Fig. 87

Keepers of the Forest was released primarily through online streaming services. It has been screened in Brazil, where its subject matter is most relevant, but its primary international channels of dissemination are Amazon Prime and YouTube.


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