From Photography to Filmmaking: Audio Equipment by Drew Fulton

A simple on-camera stereo microphone is a great starting point to record audio for your videos.

A simple on-camera stereo microphone is a great starting point to record audio for your videos.

In this month’s column From Photography to Filmmaking, we will take our last look at the audio side of filmmaking, something that is totally new to most photographers. In the last few articles, we have looked at the conceptual side of audio, how to think about using audio to complement your visuals, and even used one of my short films as an example of how I created the adudio for that film. Today, we will take a brief look at the techincal equipment that I am recommending for someone just starting to record audio for the video projects.

I want to start with a quick note on the microphones that are built in to your DSLR. These microphones are surprisingly good under perfect conditions, however as soon as there is even a hint of wind things start to go bad quickly. Also, the in camera microphones tend to be of fairly low quality and since they are built in to your camera, they offer zero flexibility in placement. In short, please don’t rely on your in camera microphones. If you are serious about creating videos, invest a few hundred dollars and buy yourself a good microphone. Continue reading

From Photography to Filmmaking: Crafting an Auditory Experience

Green Heron (Butorides virescens) on Cypress knee.

Green Heron (Butorides virescens) on Cypress knee.

In last month’s column in From Photography to Filmmaking, we started to think about sound and how sound can help to shape and craft our story. Today, I’d like to expand on that a bit more and walk you through how I put together the audio for my latest short film from my project Filming Florida.

I spent the first few weeks of the year filming and photographing in south Florida and spent four or five mornings working in Sweetwater Strand in Big Cypress National Preserve. My latest short film explores the transition from night to dawn in the swamp. When I was filming this particular piece, I went about things a little differently since I was also using this as an opportunity to test out a bunch of new equipment. With all the testing of a new camera, I was not focused on recording audio. As a result, two days before the planned release of the film, I had a fully edited film, but it didn’t have any audio to go with the visuals. This afforded me a very interesting exercise–setting out specifically to record audio that matched the visuals for the film. I’m not saying that this is the best way to do it, and in fact I’d much rather capture high quality audio while I am filming, but it was a valuable experience. Take a moment to watch the film and then I’ll walk you through my approach.

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From Photography to Filmmaking: Starting to Listen

Small American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) laying in vegetation on edge of water.

Small American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) laying in vegetation on edge of water.

 

This is the third entry in the From Photography to Filmmaking monthly column by Drew Fulton.  To see the previous posts, visit the archives.

Photography is primarily the pursuit of a single sensory experience that of vision. We talk about composition, exposure, and focus. As we start to think more about using the moving image to tell stories, this all encompassing pursuit of vision all of a sudden must also include another sense. We have to start to listen!

During this busy holiday season, I challenge you to take a few minutes to close your eyes and just listen. I think too few of us really listen to the world around us. Take a moment and sit on a bench in the mall while doing your holiday shopping and just listen. What does the laughter of a child or the wail of a tired infant tell you about the scene? What about the distant rumble of a vacuum or the swish of an opening and closing automatic door? What sounds add to the story? What distracts you?

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From Photography to Filmmaking: Stories in Motion

A Snowy Plover sits among the dunes on a Florida beach in front of one of many condominiums.

A Snowy Plover sits among the dunes on a Florida beach in front of one of many condominiums.

This is the second entry in the From Photography to Filmmaking monthly column by Drew Fulton.  To see the previous posts, visit the archives.

When I first started to dabble in the world of the moving image, I didn’t think much about the storytelling side of things. I simply started shooting what was essentially a moving photograph rather than a video clip. What do I mean? Basically, I took all of my experience as a photographer and applied that to making video. I didn’t make any changes to the way I composed or created images. I simply did what I had always done except now I was making videos! I won’t say that this was totally wrong, but it sure was far from right. Let’s take a few minutes to really think about how our audience watches video and the fundamental differences between watching video and looking at a photograph.

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My First Experience in Multimedia Storytelling by Chris Linder

I made my first leap into multimedia storytelling after following, with considerable interest, the work of MediaStorm, a video production company founded by Brian Storm.  Their videos wove together interviews, music, ambient sounds, and still photographs into artful, dynamic stories.  As I watched them, I realized that hearing the ambient sounds and interviewee’s voice created a stronger emotional connection to the story—it just seemed more real than a photo slideshow with captions.  I wanted to be able to produce my own multimedia video, but I was intimidated…  I had never recorded audio before or used a video editing program.

In the spring of 2009, a client asked me if I would be interested in documenting a month-long undergraduate research experience in the Siberian Arctic.  I immediately jumped at the opportunity, with one requirement: the chance to produce a multimedia video.

Watch the full edit of Chris’s first multimedia video produced at MediaStorm: http://www.chrislinder.com/multimedia_polaris.html

Watch the full edit of Chris’s first multimedia video produced at MediaStorm: http://www.chrislinder.com/multimedia_polaris.html

That July, I found myself in Siberia, wading through knee-deep permafrost goo, battling legions of abnormally large mosquitoes (audio recorder in one hand, DSLR in the other).  At the end of that month, my hard drive brimmed with over 20,000 images and about a hundred pages of interview transcriptions. The thought of the next step nearly overwhelmed me: how to create a coherent, compelling story from this mountain of material.  I decided to enlist the experts at MediaStorm for some one-on-one training.

A month later, I knocked on the brushed-aluminum door of MediaStorm’s office in New York.  Storm introduced me to my mentors for the week: Bob Sacha, an award-winning photographer-turned-multimedia-producer, and Maisie Crow, a talented up-and-coming multimedia journalist. In five short days, we needed to turn my pile of photographs and interviews into a living, breathing, multimedia story.

Sacha quickly introduced me to the MediaStorm process.  First, we poured over the material, starting with the interview transcripts.  The edited interviews, he explained to me, would form the backbone to the story.  Once the interviews were on the timeline, Sacha showed me how to choose music and integrate ambient sound recordings I had collected in the field.  Lastly, we added my photographs and credit slides—it was complete!

Looking back, those five days at MediaStorm really changed my trajectory as a photographer.  From a pragmatic standpoint, my new skills opened up a whole new avenue of funding opportunities, allowing me to keep photographing the stories I love.  Since 2009, I have produced dozens of multimedia stories and worked as the lead cinematographer on an hour-long documentary production.  Some of the videos have simply been a series of images set to music or a voiceover. Others have been more complicated, such as a series of videos on ocean robotics that involved filming interviews in front of a green screen and incorporating historical underwater footage.  An unexpected benefit to my multimedia training is that my photography skills have improved as well.  Now, it’s easier for me to break down a story idea into the elements I need to illustrate with my photographs.  In essence, I have evolved into a better storyteller.

Linder also produced this multimedia video about water quality research in the Congo: http://www.chrislinder.com/multimedia_globalrivers_congo.html

Linder also produced this multimedia video about water quality research in the Congo: http://www.chrislinder.com/multimedia_globalrivers_congo.html

 

At the 2015 NANPA Summit, I will be co-presenting a Breakout Session with fellow photographer and filmmaker Morgan Heim on the lessons we’ve learned producing multimedia.  There you can find out our most critical multimedia storytelling tips, like: whatever you do, don’t forget the…

To see more of our work, visit our websites: www.chrislinder.com and www.morganheim.com.

The 2015 NANPA Summit takes place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this exciting and inspirational event, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com. Early bird registration ends on October 31st! 


Chris Linder works part-time at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as an Expedition Multimedia Specialist and runs a freelance photography and filmmaking business.  Chris focuses on communicating the stories of scientists working in the field.  In the last ten years, he has documented over 40 scientific expeditions from Antarctica to the Congo.  Chris’s images have appeared in museum exhibits, books, calendars, documentary films, and magazines worldwide.  He is the author of Science on Ice: Four Polar Expeditions.

 

From Photography to Filmmaking: A New Column by Drew Fulton

My name is Drew Fulton and I am excited to introduce myself and announce a new column here on the blog that focuses on how we as nature photographers can start to make use of the video capabilities that is part of pretty much all modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras. I have spent the last few years focusing more and more on creating moving images in addition to my still photographs and I am excited to share some of my experiences and those of others here on the blog. Each month, this column will bring you articles about how to incorporate filmmaking into your own photography and specifically how that can be used to promote conservation. I will be writing a couple of article and curating guest posts by other individuals.

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