Writing for videos and podcasts has taught me an important lesson: Compared to your eyes, your ears aren’t the brightest sensory organs in the room. I’m no neuroscientist, but if you look at the amount of grey matter dedicated to making sense of what we see versus what we hear, it’s apparent that we’ve evolved to rely on our eyes more than our ears.
I work with big cameras. Big honkin’ cameras with a multitude of inputs, buttons and switches; professional audio inputs and often interchangeable lenses. But sometimes it’s nice to bring things back down to manageable proportions. So this past weekend I grabbed our household’s trusty point-and-shoot camera and headed for the Bronx Zoo to see what it could do. As they say, it’s not how sophisticated your camera is, it’s what you do with it. (Although, obviously there is more you can do with a fancy camera.)
The camera I brought with, the Canon PowerShot A4000 IS, is the top camera in Canon’s A-Series consumer line. The MSRP is $179, but I picked one up for around $100 at a well-known New York retailer. I chose this camera for features like a 16 megapixel sensor, 8x optical zoom, image stabilization and 720p video. But it also needed to be simple to operate, so that anyone could grab it and start shooting. It also didn’t hurt that it has Canon glass–which is generally great, even on their cheaper cameras.
Compared to larger DSLR-style cameras, the stills from this camera aren’t anything spectacular. Here’s a shot of a Gelada, a baboon-like monkey that lives in the highlands of Ethiopian. It’s thick coat protects it from cool mountain temperatures.
Filmmaking, like any other craft, is best learned by doing rather than reading. The reason? You need to fail–a lot. Along the way, you learn the tricks to overcome the many obstacles thrown at you throughout the filmmaking process. As someone once told me, at its heart, filmmaking is “an exercise in creative problem solving.” However, this hasn’t stopped me from devouring anything and everything on the subject that I can. I’m always looking to add skills to my filmmaking toolbox (and hopefully avert disaster before it happens.).
What I discovered is there’s a lot of half-baked junk written about filmmaking. Many directors turned authors (who shall remain nameless) turn filmmaking into some kind of abstract, academic exercise and give short shrift to the technical and logistical realities that play an equally important role. Among the flotsam and jetsam are a few books that rise above. The fifteen books that I’ve listed below range from the inspirational to the technical but each one will kick your filmmaking into the next dimension.