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On the Saturday of 16th October 2010, we set out with intent to test new Canon EOS 550D and shot a short contemporary dance film. It was supposed to be a preparation to another short film, or a series of those, that we're about to make in 2011. We, meaning me and Anna Stasyk, with help of our friend Pauline Rafal.

What was known before shooting the film was location - more or less at least. Somewhere around Brick Lane, with brick wall as a background, on a street or an alley most probably. It turned out we've found place even better than that - something that looks like deserted warehouse with open ground floor (missing one wall), with perfect rough feel and not too many people disturbing recording process or distracting those filmed. The subject was contemporary dance, and that hasn't changed, except that we've added a bit of an introduction - dancer entering the space and getting familiar with it.

Shooting took only about an hour, but considering that it was mid-October and the place was totally shaded, we've all had enough. At least those who weren't dancing. It's very easy to get cold, a lesson for next time. So how did it go? Canon EOS 550D turned out to be a great camera for amateur filming. I've used it with my 50mm/1.8 Canon prime lens for closeups and my Sigma 10-20mm wide lens for dance scenes (mostly set at 10mm). I didn't use the kit lens (Canon 18-55mm), although I should have for the one of last scenes where I used 20mm, since it's brighter at wide end than my Sigma. LCD display of the camera shows image perfectly, which is particularly important for focusing. I was using manual focus all the way. Of course for 10mm lens you don't have do much work, but you need to be really fast with 50mm, and that's quite problematic since it's very easy to shake the camera. Sadly, I didn't have a professional, heavy tripod that could have reduced that. I had a basic photography tripod, and at least this kind is a must. In those circumstances my solution for focusing issues was keeping the subject within constant distance from camera (or trying to, at least). I was recording video without any sound, since all I would catch outdoors would be noise, and for dance videos there's nothing else I needed than music. Choosing this mode saves space on memory card as well. If I wanted dialogs in my film, I would add a voiceover later anyway, using a good microphone inside a quiet room.

Eventually shooting was over, we've had a tea warm ourselves up, so what comes next? Well, the hard work as it turns out. Fortunately "I'm a Mac, not a PC". The difference is that I just fired up iMovie that comes with OS X and I was ready to do some really nice video editing. That was actually my first time using it, and it's incredibly easy. After few hours you know everything you need to know about this marvellous piece of software from Apple. Also, you get all effects you need for basic film editing, simply for free. Why "the hard work" then? Well, just because after separating videos I wanted to use from these I didn't, I watched them time after time, selecting pieces I wanted to use, adding to project, combining with other fragments, adjusting, finding more, swapping, moving, deleting, etc. And watching it all over and over again. And repeating this loop of continuous improvement. Trying to make it flow. And of course, all the time I had to keep in mind to keep it short. Remove this bit, remove that one. Cut few seconds here, one second there, and half a second in other place. Delete a whole scene. Initially I wanted to create something with running time of 2-3 minutes, but eventually settled on 3:30 to show quite a bit of dance, and allow for some opening and closing scenes. So I got the first version, eventually. Got some sleep. Changes were suggested. I got the second version. Got more sleep. Thought. Got third version that satisfied me. Then I needed music. Marcin Ciszak turned out to be very helpful here, with a whole database of music in his head. We decided what style and ambience were needed, and a search for particular title started. I think what he picked works very well. So I've added music and did minor adjustments to fourth and final version that you can watch here:

My feelings? Most of all it was a lot of fun. It made me think, and think a lot. My brain was occupied with images and the way I want to arrange them all the time. Really, before you make your first film you don't realise how much work comes after shooting. I like the final effect. I realise it's just a prep-work, ant that's why I'm happy with it. I've learned a lot. It was also great to cooperate with people, just for fun. After the final cut was ready I wanted to share if with everyone - obviously - so I've used youtube, my twitter and my facebook accounts. And that never gets you enough visitors anyway ;-). Oh one more thing, for sharing earlier cuts, dropbox turned out to be very helpful and worked amazingly well.

So what's coming next? Definitely more camera play. Playing with depth of field, focus, more angles while filming. More filming time to have better material to choose from. Also costumes for dancer(s) and a proper makeup. Most probably two final versions of next film. Short one, just like this, to show to everyone, and a longer one, for people who are really interested in contemporary dance. People have different attention spans that depend on their interest, and we're well aware of that. So essentially, more fun I hope!

Created on 24 October 2010