Think big. Don’t let the budget get in the way. At least not yet.
Find below a few examples of small projects using blue sky approaches to overcome the restrictions co-creative media art often faces.
A lot of pour projects start with some outrageously expensive ideas, like zoom in from sky to location etc. A few years ago at least, this was hard to pull off, now you can relative easily animate a few satellite photos to get the falling from the skies effect.
One example of the Hollywood fly over happened during our production of Flow.
As the 2D and 3D maps provided by the Water Department didn’t fit our HD production workflow and resolution requirements, we were wondering out loud how to show the magnificence and vastness of the Coorong and Murray Mouth area. We started researching how much a helicopter joyride would cost [at $1000 an hour a bit too much for our small budget, but given we could use a lot of the footage on-screen, it was not a bad idea already…].
At some point our debate was overheard by the representative of the water department and she said that SA Water has a regular flight every fortnight to monitor the Murray Mouth and she could ask if they may have capacity to carry extra crew.
It turned out they could only take 2 more people, but if we restricted each to minimum gear they would be ok. In return we gave them a credit in the film and offered a footage sharing with them and we had our aerial footage sorted.
Even though the results are below what a dedicated media helicopter with outside camera mount could have achieved, for a low budget our team did really well.
Tip: Ask around, someone may know a pilot or a crop duster or a department with access to aircraft. Much cheaper than buying stock footage and you have more control and bring the footage better into your narrative and overall story-world.
Another example is underwater photography. Not long ago – and still applicable today – waterproof housing costs are prohibitive for low budget projects, nit to mention hiring an underwater DOP with scuba gear…
During development of the FLOW documentary, we figured that we may need to see what happens under water, as a lot of the issues we needed to cover dealt with fish and water plants. So how do we represent fish? We can tick off fish catching and measuring, given that there would be experts showing us through their practice, but how do we make the viewers connect emotionally with the water?
This process was exacerbated by a crazy shooting schedule with very little time at each location to fiddle around with complicated gear.
So we checked our options online and found the latest gadget camera, a GoPro Hero3, that came with water-proof housing and recorded in a HD-compatible format, all for under $500. And the coup was, we could monitor the footage we were about to record, as a sort of pre-visualisation, over a local wireless network between the camera and our iPad. Short of a full monitoring capacity, it gave us enough to identify a few fish in the murky Coorong waters – and for more funky fish shots we used the same method during the fish sequences – filming in a bucket and inside the fish traps.
Usually the answer should be NO, don’t hope you can fix problems in the edit. For every mistake you make during production, it will take days and days to fix it in post. BUT, there are exceptions to every rule.
During the production of Reframing Culture our artistic director wanted to use the frame to remove pieces of colonial structures, and one of the Ngarrindjeri participants suggested we could frame out the disputed Hindmarsh Island bridge.
This became an intriguing yet problematic idea. We had agreed to show a short film every morning during the 3-day Regional Arts Australia festival to a large audience before each keynote session… and even with all night edits, we might struggle to fix this in post…
With some fore-thought during pre-production for the shoot in Goolwa, to plan the trick photography and have our special effects artist on location we made sure we could pull this off to rousing applause at the screening next morning.
Tip: If you plan to use special effects compositing in your project, make sure you plan this well in advance during pre-production, to allow for your FX artist to be on location. With lots of low budget projects working with a small and dedicated team, this should be very workable – and as a result your special effects won’t look like a tacky after thought to cover up mistakes or inadequate budget, but it will offer you to include the special effects better into your storytelling and workflow.
‘Pre-Production’ is where you start to devise some more of the specifics about your project. No longer in the world of amorphous maybes, or will we/won’t we type discussions, pre-production is your chance to start planning and getting your ideas down on paper.