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DFP: Getting Set for a Documentary Film Production

This unit talks about how Getting Set for a Documentary Film Production to be done,Meaning of Editing and three Decision Making Areas in Cutting a Film.

The essence of this course is to put you through the actual processes of documentary film production. Your expertise is not what matters now but your ability to practice what you have been taught. I therefore urge you to contribute your own knowledge during the process of documentary production by your study group. Your class tutor or even the class representative or course representative should help in dividing the class into five or ten groups consisting of three or five students at most. Each group will produce a documentary.

Here are tips on how you can do that.

  • Assemble together and think of one issue to be handled.
  • It must be an issue in your immediate environment.
  • You can decide on either “Garri making process in your state, palm-wine tapping in Enugu State, Bead-making, menace of erosion, indecent dressing among undergraduates, Nature of Federal Government Roads in your state, State of Public Primary or Secondary schools in your area, or any other subject that may interest your group.
  • Each person in your group should be given a deadline on the submission of a script based on the subject or theme of the documentary. The script should be both the story line, synopsis and a shooting script for the documentary.
  • Assemble together and read and study all the scripts by each member. Select the best script that best describes what you want to do.
  • Decide whether an interviewee is needed and decide on how to contact him/her and book appointment with the person.
  • Decide on the shooting of the film. Will a professional be hired to do the shooting for you. One person in your group must be the narrator.
  • You can use any smart phone to do the recording, both for audio and video recording. Decide on the locations to be used. You must select yourselves as actors/actresses where necessary.
  • Do the recording with your phone. In the case of Garri-making or palm-wine tapping, you must go to where the action is taking place, involve in the process with the assistance of the women who are involved in the garri making process. You can interview one or two of them for an elaboration on how to process garri starting from the harvesting of cassava tubers from the farm until you have the finished product, up to the point where a student will be shown eating the garri with soup or “drinking the garri” as the case may be.
  • Allow the camera of the phone or any other device, to tell the story while the narrator lays emphasis where necessary.

Editing the Shot Scenes

There may be unnecessary scenes or mistakes made while recording. Don’t worry about editing the shots. You are still an amateur at this stage and the mistakes you make now will definitely be stepping stones for better productions in future. Submit the recorded shots in your phones to any good studio or even an experienced compugraher in a business centre. They will synchronize sounds with pictures and “burn” it into a VCD. Label your documentary with the names of students in your group and then submit to your class tutor.

NB: the class tutor will then fix a date when all the submitted tapes will be viewed in the class by all the groups. A provision should be made for a VCD machine, TV monitor and a stand by generator. The class tutor will then point out mistakes where editing is necessary and point out other errors in the production. Students will then be instructed on how to improve in the next production.

Meaning/Definition of Editing

Editing is also referred to as the cutting of film. It is defined as the process of selecting the parts of the shots that are good and that serve the needs of the film and eventually discarding the rest, (Mamer, 2009). It therefore requires extensive knowledge of the mechanics of cutting. It is the process of choosing creative materials that fit a subject matter and the blending of various photographed frames of a film, in a convincing manner, in order to transmit the message to the audience of the artistic work, (Owuamalam, 2007).

Each scene must have generally been photographed and recorded several times with each filming being regarded as a take. During the filming exercise or shooting exercise, the director decides which takes are good enough to print. The printed takes therefore form a work print with which to work with during editing (Kogah, 1999).

Film editing involves the use of plot in arranging the presentational sequence of the story line. The strategy enables the idea of the creative work, as conceived, to be actualized, through a technical process. The process requires the use of equipment, and script, to match the interpretative capacity of the editor. The editor applies skill, knowledge and experience, to produce the synergy called film.

Three Decision Making Areas in Cutting a Film

Mamer, (2009:347) outlined three decision making areas in cutting a film. They include cutting picture, cutting sound, and determining optical effects like dissolves, fade, special effects etc. For pictures, editing entails going through the shots and determining their specific order, then deciding on the precise transition point from one shot to the next. The order of shots may be predetermined in a narrative film, through that order may not be as rigid as first assumed. In documentary and experimental film, you may have to devise the order yourself.

Cutting or editing sound includes a number of approaches such as cutting sync tracks in conjunction with the picture, determining the relationship between music and picture and building complicated , layered sound effects after the picture is mostly or completely cut. Optical effect indicated a graphic effect that is created in the lab. Optical effects include split screens, keyholes, freeze-frames, spines, wipes and a host of other effects executed by the lab at the filmmaker’s instruction and done prior to the final printing. They are difficult to get right and may take several tries to obtain the precise effect.



ASSIGNMENT : Getting Set for a Documentary Film Production Assignment MARKS : 10  DURATION : 1 week, 3 days