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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Battle Against Boredom- How to produce a compelling TV Show

Every TV show is an art form, and creating art is never easy. Every Hunting Show, TV Show, Movie and Video game you watch, you are taking in that storyline.
Every TV show is in a battle against boredom. How do they conquer the battle? By strategically setting up the battlefield – visual, audio, emotional variety, highs and lows, and momentum; to attack at specific times. The result – Victory over boredom. 

Now lets take a deeper look into what causes boredom:
  • Nothing interesting is happening. Hunters definitely understand the term patients, as they could spend all day in the stand waiting for that one perfect shot. There are going to be times with nothing interesting is happening, you either can discard that video in editing or find a way to make "nothing happening" interesting. 
  • When you have an interesting story, but it is not presented in an interesting way, every second of the video.
  • The characters are boring or cliche- and neither the story, nor the way its shot and edited is interesting enough to keep the viewer.
Ways to compensate boredom:
  • Different Camera Angles
  • Editing
  • Subject Matter
  • Character Interaction
  • Audio
Tips to battle boredom:

1. Film everything– Extra shots are always useful, because you never know when you are going to need a "Cutaway" shot, or other shots to fill in during editing.
A "cutaway" shot is the interruption of a continuously filmed action by inserting a view of something else.
- Driving shots to your hunting location, area shots from the town that you are hunting in/ traveling to.
- Landscape shots: detailed shots of nature, to give your editor video to use as cutaway shots that will help set up the scene.
– Close-up shots of your hunting equipment (bow, gun, tree-stand, etc.), people in the shot (hands working, feet walking, etc.), other animals in nature (squirrel climbing a tree, bird building a nest, etc).
-Signs, including HWY signs, clocks, etc. to help orient the audience.

Multiple Camera Angles are a guaranteed way to decrease boredom in your show.
Watch this next clip from Dual Survival 2

Now imagine what this video would have looked like if they only had one camera angle following the raft from the sidelines. It would make the rafting trip not look that "intense" and it will be boring.

Here are some of the different camera angles that I found:
Side Perspective

Front Perspective
First Person Perspective 
From Land Perspective

Dual Survival most likely had a cameraman in a boat in front of the raft, on the side and behind them. Now you are probably thinking that there is no way for you to afford to have 3 different cameras and cameramen. There is a way to "fake" the multiple camera angle by doing retakes. In the end of the video clip above, there is a camera on land to capture one of the men getting up from the wrecked raft, this was most likely a re-created shot because they would have needed to get a cameraman on the land and set up for that shot.  The front perspective shot is a cutaway shot, inserted to be used as this perspective to give the audience a feel that they are right there with them.
Even in most of the hunting shows that you watch these days, the cameraman are constantly calling for re-creates to capture the shot the way that it needs to to produce compelling content.
If this was your filming situation and you only had one camera to shoot this scene, this is they way I would set up the shot:

 A) Take the boat with the cameraman down this section of the river to capture the extra video that can be used for cutaways and to set up the scene.
B) Start farther back from the "rapids" to allow yourself more time to get the different angles.
C) Set your cameraman and boat far in front of the raft and film them coming down. Zooming in and out to get the shot that you are looking for.
D) Start following the raft when it gets to you and closer to the action to get the side by side shots.
E) Slowly back off to get the behind the view perspective.

Once the rafters fell out then the cameraman team set up on land and they did the recreate of one of the guys coming out of the water "desperately" looking for his partner.
Then they recreated the scene where the one guy is getting up in the water.

Here are some of the cutaway shots:

Some examples of re-takes that you can use during hunting situations:
• Take close-up shot of the hunter drawing back the bow (from the side, front, behind, etc.)
• Take a medium shot of the hunter drawing back the bow (from the side, front, behind, etc.)
• Repeat with the release
• While walking to your stand/ ground blind – with the 1st walk get a full body shot, second walk & etc. you can get different camera angles and shots to edit together to look like you have multiple angles.

*All these different angles and shots and recreates gives the editor (artist) a lot of material to work with.

2. Extra Audio
• Film ambient sounds
• film interviews with the hunter and you can use that shot or the editor can use the audio for voice overs.
Some things to talk about:
A) Things you hope will happen during the hunt.
B) Things that you worry about that could go wrong
C) Moments of anticipation
D) Moments when your sad, bummed, angry or frustrated
E) Comments on the weather, the terrain, the hunting conditions, equipment (sponsor plugs), etc. *Remember to get cutaway shots that visual show what you are talking about.
F) Use your knowledge to share with other. Viewers like learning something that has to do with what they love. Watch the clip below where they could have just shown them walking through the forest, but instead to make it interesting, he shared his knowledge about poison ivy and what you can do to battle against it. Also, watch for the different camera angles and cutaways

3. Beginnings and Endings
Pat Reeve from DrivenTV likes to give his videos the feeling of a clear beginning and a clear end. There are a lot of ways to do this – even using voice-over in the beginning and end to "frame" your story.
If you say that you drove 5 hours to get to your hunting spot and now your in Southern Illinois, but in your last episode or clip you were in Alaska, your audience is going to be thrown off and not see a connection and will be disoriented. A good way to combat this is by taking video as you pass HWY signs indicating location, State welcome signs, etc.  Pat has even said that he will pull over and clean off his windshield to get a clear picture and he will drive by signs multiple times, until he gets the shot that he is looking for.  These practices take a lot of time, but in the end the editor and the views will greatly appreciate it.

These days it is getting harder to film inside of airports, if you can, film the gate number (where it says your destination), film the clock to get a time lapse video.
Bring the viewers along on your journey and they will be more likely to stay with you.

4. Analyze your favorite TV Shows
Watch and look for the different camera angles, voice overs, transitions, cutaway shots, audio, and recreation shots. Now that you know what to look for, you will see a lot more of them.
Tip: Don't just watch hunting shows, get outside of your element and watch other shows, just to see how they are doing them. Higher quality production in the outdoor industry is still relatively new.... if your lucky, you can use the education that you received from analyzing other TV shows and your creativity to create a hunting show with filming techniques that the industry hasn't seen yet!

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The Battle Against Boredom- How to produce a compelling TV Show
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