Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Hazards Of Too Many Tools

Don't get me wrong. The fact that I can now shoot and edit high-quality video with sound, do both pre- and post-production right from my little computer desk in a corner of the attic, and have access to special effects I could never have dreamed of as a young filmmaker causes me no end of delight.

But the problem with having so many tools at my disposal is the temptation to use them, even when they are unnecessary, or even detrimental.

When I was making industrial films, I was shooting with rented 16mm film cameras, editing on an upright Moviola, and cutting sound effect in with rewinds and a synchronizer. I could do cuts. Period. If I wanted dissolves and fades, I had to do A and B rolls and pay the lab for every non-cut transition. My sound was mixed in a little studio that had four synchronized fullcoat recorders and a really cool old mixing board with huge faders and a green powder-coat surface.

Although those were fun times, I wouldn't go back. But the limitations did force me to concentrate on the fundamentals of cutting and sound. I wasn't distracted by the ability to put in any fancy transition I wanted, amazing special effects at the touch of a button, and mixing in 16 or more tracks with free software I can run on a Mac Mini.

And, to tell the truth, I think there was some advantage in being trained in that environment. Even with all the new toys I have to play with, I think I'm showing great restraint. In the film I'm working on now, I Dream In Color, I have put in only two effects scenes, although both are a combination of Morph effects and traveling mattes—I'm sorry, digital compositing.

And the only reason I'm using digital compositing is to avoid dealing with certain technical problems that Morph has with complex backgrounds. I'll write more about my cheap green-screen techniques to accompany a video I'm making on the subject, but it will suffice to say that I managed to pull it off for very little money.

Yeah, no doubt about it, I'm going to have to show restraint and focus on my best storytelling (at least in my story films; in my experimental stuff, all bets are off).

But I would never go back to the Moviola.