Oberlin Blogs

What I Learned From Making a Documentary Over Winter Term

February 12, 2017

Jules Greene ’19

To follow up my last post about my Winter Term project, I'm happy to say that I've completed my documentary! It is now viewable on Vimeo, and I have put the link to it at the end of this post. Because it's a little over 41 minutes long, it's the longest movie/video I've ever made, and could have been even longer if I had had another month to work on it.

I thought that I would write a post about what I learned from my project, because I think Winter Term is designed for students to learn something outside of the usual class environment. I've put everything down in short sentences for the sake of ease when reading.

I learned:

No matter how many layers of clothing you have on when you're shooting outside, it doesn't do much if you don't have the same amount of insulation for your hands since they're holding the camera.
I'm really disciplined about my daily schedule, and splitting my time between working on my documentary and preparing for what I'm going to do this summer.
The practice rooms in Robertson are really hot, even if they are air-conditioned. And the ones in Burton are even worse because they aren't air-conditioned, but are sometimes the only place where recording a soundtrack is possible.
It's really difficult to compose a soundtrack with only a violin at my disposal, because it can veer into the area of sounding a bit too formal and uptight if I'm not being careful enough. However, it still is possible to compose pieces that make a violin not sound too formal, though. It just requires a little bit more experimental thinking that's often contrary to proper technique inside an excessively hot practice room.
I actually kind of enjoy some of Bach's compositions besides his "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" organ piece. He composed some really amazing pieces that don't bore me out of my mind and prove that he really was a genius like everyone says he was. I just had all of his orchestral compositions killed for me after spending years on end playing them in youth orchestras devoid of any emotion or motivation behind the notes. I'm an aggressively Romantic violinist, so you can probably see why I might not like the Baroque compositions of Bach (although I'm a huge fan of Vivaldi, another Baroque composer). But anyways, here's my favorite piece of Bach's!
Though my loyalties lie with Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere isn't that horrible to work with once you've figured out the method behind its display. It takes a while to tame the beast, but it's possible.
There's a million ways to export a video from Adobe Premiere, but only a couple ways to do so that will make your video look good on the web. And two pass encoding takes forever (it took a total of four hours for my video to export each time) but it's ultimately worth the extra time because it just looks better. In a sense, exporting videos from Premiere is like an art form in itself that just takes a bit more time to perfect.
Hot chocolate from The Local is a good substitute for decaf/coffee in general (sometimes coffee is too much for me and makes me anxious).
Swallowing a spoonful of honey is a surefire way to clear up a voice prior to recording voiceovers. That said, I also learned that my voice can be unrelentingly gravelly at times, so I suppose we can't all have voices like James Earl Jones. Fun fact, J.E.J. also has dealt with speech difficulties like me, though he had a stutter whereas I had/have hearing loss that affected/affect the mechanics of my speech. It took some rewriting of certain lines in the script for me to be able to speak through them smoothly, but it wasn't like I was tampering with the words of the Bard or anything, as my script could be changed around to whatever suited me best. I suppose that's the advantage of narrating my own documentary.
Putting a roll of painter's tape inside the leg of a pair of tights and then wrapping it around your USB microphone is a suitable DIY pop filter.
I didn't take as long to shoot footage as I thought I was going to, so +1 for efficiency for the most skeletal of skeleton crews!
I'm definitely pleased with the overall outcome of my movie, since I wasn't exactly sure if I would even be able to finish it in the time allotted during Winter Term. I wasn't able to compose the entire soundtrack for it, and had to rely on the Conservatory library's collection of Suzuki violin books to find pieces to fill in the gaps, but I'm confident that in the future if I have more time to work on a project, that I will be able to complete a soundtrack.

I hope you enjoy and learn something from my documentary, and find Oberlin architecture intriguing!

Strange Crossroads: A History of Oberlin College's Architecture from J. Chin Greene on Vimeo.

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