Nearly 15 years ago, when some friends and I attempted to make a movie, we did so with a $500 dollar Sony 8mm Handicam. I spent twice that on a video capture device, an extra hard drive (a whopping 80gb Western Digital), and a copy of Adobe Premiere with which to edit 10 micro VHS tapes worth of footage. In the end, it took us two weeks to make the movie and a full three months to edit the damned thing. That’s the way technology rolled at the time – low and slow, baby. Low and slow. For burgeoning filmmakers these days, it’s as easy as shooting cinema quality HD footage on a $600 DSLR, dragging said footage over to a cheap 2 terabyte hard drive, and using one of the many streamlined video editing programs available to them to professionally edit, mix, and output a feature film that makes most microbudget features shot ten years ago look like someone’s home movies. The bottom line is that, with readily (and cheaply) available professional-level kit, Hollywood-quality special effects and editing software, and sub-$1,000.00 PC’s capable of doing editing work once only possible on five figure dedicated workstations, there’s absolutely no excuse not to go out and make your own damned movie. Or as Anthony Q. Artis so eloquently puts it in the title of his excellent how-to manual, Shut Up and Shoot!
First thing’s first; this is NOT a guide to DSLR filmmaking. Artis isn’t completely sold on the DSLR as a replacement for a dedicated video camera, and gives a multitude of reasons why. While there’s a chapter or two dedicated to DSLR (ie; “Why DSLR Cameras Are Lame”/”Why DSLR Cameras Are the Bomb”), the focus of this book is on lighting, shooting, and editing video in general, and some of the methods here require video-specific features beyond the scope of what current DSLR cameras offer (although Artis does offer a list of “DSLR Workarounds” that prove quite useful). That being said, the author realizes that a good chunk of his readership are probably shooting on DSLR, so the bulk of the book’s lessons aren’t gear specific, but, rather, focused on techniques that can be applied to any shooting situation, regardless of the device being used to capture footage.
Shut Up and Shoot’s six chapters are broken down into several sub-chapters. Chapter One: Image Control, for example, covers just about everything from turning on your camera to applying make-up to your subjects for to accommodate certain shooting situations. In this chapter we learn about “zebra stripes”, white balance, focal lengths, and various techniques to create the much sought after “film look” that go beyond aesthetics. There’s even a very cool guide to time lapse photography that will make wannabe Harryhausens squeal with delight! Other chapters delve into getting the best audio bang for your buck, professional lighting looks on the cheap, and editing and color correction.
Being a “Freelance Video Guide”, Artis also offers chapters dedicated to monetizing your hobby, exploring music video, wedding videography, and a brief-but-informative section on running the business side of things. Of course, Artis also offers equal time to the “filmmaking” process, and even offers a section on how to shoot horror and action.
Coming in at a mammoth 408 pages, Shut Up and Shoot features hundreds of full-color photos, an attractive layout, and a welcome glossary of terms for those just getting into the hobby/business of videography. If I have one nit to pick, it’s the fact that the book covers such a wide variety of topics that some of them inevitably get the short shrift. I’d also suggest that folks who are dedicated DSLR enthusiasts supplement this book with one specific to their specific DSLR filmmaking (DSLR Cinema and From Stills to Motion are two excellent books on the topic).
Whether you want to make the next indie horror smash or just want to film your kid’s next birthday party, Shut Up and Shoot should be considered an essential read; one that will help you take your video making skills to the next level, and get the most out of your gear whether it be a pro-level HD camcorder or consumer level flip cam. Definitely recommended!