Almost done with the ebook “Run ‘N Gun Videography–the Sole Shooter’s Survival Guide”. Looks like it will be about 42,000 words in about 25 chapters. A few weeks ago I published the introduction here.
I won’t publish all the chapters on the blog, but here’s Chapter 1 (first draft) for your perusal:
Chapter 1 Run ’N Gun
What does that mean anyway?
Funny enough, if you look this up you’ll find it’s a term used in the video gaming industry. As the name implies, it’s a rather brash and unconsidered approach to winning—sort of an AK47 approach to getting somewhere.
Speaking of guns, I’ve shot the AK47 and I must say it’s a gun that’s meant to be shot on full automatic in a spraying motion because it’s not very useful in single shot mode for hitting a target. The bloody thing is so nasty in its kickback that once you’ve fired it, you have no idea where the bullet just went–and you don’t care either because your ears are ringing so bad. (The US AR15 is much better on that score).
But I digress.
I doubt any of this is what anyone in the field of videography means when using the term.
For the purposes of this book, however, I thought I’d better define what I mean by the term, lest anyone start off with the wrong idea.
Since I have a gun theme going (for a bit of fun), it’s not an AK47 or AR15 approach either. More like a 38 police special (short barreled pistol) and you have to be pretty good to hit anything with that.
Let me couch it this way:
After years of working in the regimented, scripted approach to film and video production with production crews (nothing wrong with that), I became a video documentary director/cameraman. That meant I traveled around with a small team—usually one other person and sometimes two—to shoot short documentaries of people or events around the world. Because there was little time allotted for each production, and each production had a looming, unalterable deadline, it was necessary to develop a shooting style that was very direct and economical without compromising on quality. This also extended to kit, which I’ll detail in a later chapter. In short, I had to be quick on my feet and quick of wit while being as thorough as possible.
Despite the fact that these productions had scripted narration to be added later, my job was to produce material that would stand on its own without the need for narration. What dictated the content for me was the material obtained in the interviews I did with key people on the ground.
I learned some very important things early on about interviews. While this will also be the subject of a detailed chapter, it bears mentioning now that the most important thing I learned was that everyone has a story. Getting them to tell it is the trick. Part of the trick is to be willing to find out what the story is. And to do that you pretty much have to knock out of your head whatever you think the story might be (forget about the stupid interview questions) and just start engaging in normal human conversation.
Once you’ve go the story you have some idea of the B roll (relevant and related shots) you need to shoot so that the interview and/or greater story can be edited.
And that’s all there is to it basically.
It applies to documentaries, biographies and corporate videos alike.
Knowing what to shoot, how to see it and doing it quickly, professionally and thoroughly is “run ’n gun”.
By definition, “run ’n gun” will never be perfect. You’re bound to make mistakes. You’re bound to get home and find a shot out-of-focus or with any of an almost infinite number of potential technical flaws. But if you “shoot the hell out of it” in the process, and to the best of your ability, you will walk away with editable video footage that will achieve whatever its intended purpose was.
I always make the time to light important interviews and obtain the best sound possible. That doesn’t mean one could necessarily tell that the shots were lit because, in my case, I tend to employ “atmospheric lighting” which appears to be natural. But it looks a hell of a lot better than the “real world” looked.
On the other hand, it’s not always possible to light an interview, particularly “vox pox” (latin for “voice of the people” and meaning the “man-on the-street type interview). But in these cases one still tries to get the best possible lighting and camera angle possible.
Sound recording is another vital element. Using an on-camera mic (and the resultant high ambient sound levels) is the mark of an amateur. Close, present-sounding audio recording for any type of interview is vital – a fact which apparently many videographers do not give adequate importance to.
That said, there are unexpected circumstances when something is happening that simply can’t be stopped to allow proper microphone placement, so you’d be daft to not record it anyway with your on-camera mic. If the content turns out to be precious, the value of the content will over-ride the technical flaws.
And so it goes. It’s a constant exercise of judgment while seeking to obtain the best technical quality in the process under varying circumstances.
It takes practice.
It takes experience.
You have to be willing to learn from your mistakes.
You have to be pretty good to pull it off.
And that’s what I mean by “run ’n gun”