We all want to be seen and heard and our stories to move and mobilise whether told at a fireside, starlit gathering or huddled around a laptop any where in the world. And, if you're like me and you're producing documentaries with anything you can get your hands on, most film festivals and broadcasters, through which you will want to reach new audiences, will generally find your work unacceptable. The AGITPROP International Film Festival on People's Struggles,on the other hand, is an exception.
AGITPROP is one of the few screening events that curate films that aren't necessarily produced with the highest of production values. As long as stories are well told and significant issues are presented clearly supported by strong evidence, and if you've got reasonably decent production skills why shouldn't your work be screened? Surely the issues are more important than screen resolution, right?
That's certainly not always the case. In todays competative, mega-tech, high-definitian world, expectations for documentaries that reflect the standards creative industries believe you must strive for, leave many filmmakers at odds with funders, festivals and broadcasters. Even with ready access to excellent low-cost HD cameras, if you're still working in the old 4:3 standard for instance, your chances of getting seen offline seem to be getting slim by the hour.
But just as some folks are discarding their Facebook accounts and others, I'm told are forgoing their mobiles for cafe conversation and hard-copy journals, audiences are eager for content that moves regardless of how it's made. The success of Youtube isn't a result of high production values, it's home grown content and lots of it.
With film festivals such as AGITPROP recognising the need to spaces to screen work that tell strong stories regardless of how they were made, the potential for public impact is increased significantly. Producers who have to make do with anything they can get their hands on now have more than just the internet to ensure their works reach wider audiences.
In addition to screening my "made with anything" micro-docs series, Sarawak Gone, AGITPROP provided EngageMedia with an hour's worth of program time to curate. We selected several short-format documentaries from EngageMedia.orgthat tell meaningful stories regardless of the resources available to produce them.
If you were in Manila over the first weekend of July 2011, and you attended AGITPROP, you will have seen a diverse selection of home grown and high-end documentaries side-by-side and so it should be.
Flip cameras are at bargain prices now and certainly a LOT cheaper than I'd paid for mine only a few months ago.That's because they're no longer being made. That's a shame. They're discreet, easy to use and popular.
Kodak have stopped making their popular grab-in-the-hand camera too. The Zi8 still fetches good money in stores, but like me, you can pick one up for around AU$100 on eBay if you're fast.
The beaut thing about the Zi8 is that it takes a stereo mic in and supports SD cards. I can record up the 15 hours of video on a single card, but batteries power down well before then. Also good for recording audio if you've got a decent mic.
Both the Flip and Zi8 have turned out gorgeous video, but the only snag I've encountered with these lovely portable HD cameras is the need for more grunt when you need to edit. Well, not so much editing, but in the rendering.
If you're using anything other than the supplied editing tools that come with either Flip or the Zi8, you're going to need a lot more memory and processing power from your computer.
My production laptop just can't render out 1080p HD resolution at 1,920×1,080 without a LOT of tedious throttling. Note, the Zi8 supports 1080p whilst the Flip is 720p HD.
Here's the tip - If you're editing with Final Cut Pro, Premier or Vegas, edit at the highest resolution, but export / render out at the lowest possible without losing image quality. 720p is more than adequate in the field as I don't expect many folks to have multi-threading capacity on their laptops when out and about.
Oh, and if you're publishing your HD video on EngageMedia.org you'll need to set your edited video to render out letter-boxed. We don't support HD yet, but when we do you'll be the fist to know.
EngageMedia and Unweb have just released Plumi 4.2.1 and upgraded the EngageMedia.org site. The release focuses on stability enhancements and bug fixes along with a couple of new features.
Key changes include
- Speed enhancements - page sizes have been reduced by 33% for faster load time;
- Low resolution version of the embedded video is now the default, ensuring videos load faster;
- Author page now only pulls in news/events created by that author;
- Language flags and login/register links are larger and easier to find;
- Indonesian translation enhancements – option to choose low/high resolution version of the embedded player;
- Increased reliability of the video transcoder - you videos get converter for viewing in the webpage more quickly;
- Thumbnail is taken from your video at 18 seconds rather than at 4 seconds to reduce number of instances of black frames (you can still choose your own thumbnail);
- Simpler Plumi installation procedure
For the full geek breakdown check out the Plumi blog.