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Des Owen reviews: Practical DV Filmmaking by Russell Evans

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Des Owen reviews: Practical DV Filmmaking by Russell Evans
A Creative COW "Real World" Book Review


Des Owen reviews: Practical DV Filmmaking

Des Owen
www.plain.co.uk
Wales, United Kingdom


©2002 Des Owen and CreativeCOW.net. All rights are reserved.

Article Focus:
Des Owen takes a thorough look at a new book called, Practical DV Filmmaking by Russell Evans and published by Focal Press and determines that this is the sort of book you want to read from cover to cover and then dip into from time to time for reference.


This is an excellent book. If, like me, you tire of picking up technical tomes that seem to be filled with more padding than substance, you're going to love this book.

Practical DV Filmmaking will be of interest to many people I feel but especially those who find themselves asking questions like; Where do I start?; What’s a storyboard?; What is DV?; How does the Camcorder work; and what sort of movie can I put together? Practical DV Filmmaking does an excellent job of answering these questions and maybe a couple of thousand others (I kid you not).

This is the sort of book you want to read from cover to cover and then dip into from time to time for reference.

There's a huge range of topics covered under the chapter headings; An Overview of Filmmaking, Choosing what to make, Inside Video, Pre-Production, Production, Post-Production, Using the Internet: promotion and profile, Distributing and promoting your movie and Understanding film. These chapter headings cover a plethora of diverse topics including such gems as Visualizing a film, Storyboards, Scheduling, Condensed guide to Shooting, Narrative movies, Sound recording, Time-code in editing, Using DVD in editing, Video compression, Shooting for the web and loads more. There's something here for everyone.

There is an unusual mix of technical and non technical topics in Practical DV Filmmaking. For example there is plenty of information on the basics such as PAL vs NTSC and SECAM, time-codes and frame rates but also topics such as conveying mood, composition, plot disruption, scripting, continuity and more – see what I mean? This is a lovely eclectic mixture covering a huge area within the arena of Practical DV Filmmaking.

One of the many nice features of Practical DV Filmmaking is the inclusion of projects for the reader to work on as they dip into various parts of the book. You don't need to work your way sequentially from beginning to end with these; just pick and mix. For example, project three, is about producing a hand made movie by using In-Camera Editing. The project is based on the reader producing a short four minute movie about a subject of their choice. This particular project relies on improvisation and on making mistakes (we learn from those don't we?). It focuses on moving away from using the automatic controls on your camcorder and to trying out different, sometimes hitherto wrong ways, of doing things. This is a very useful project to help get to know your camera.

Another nice feature of is the inclusion of real-world perspective through case studies and interviews with successful filmmakers – interesting stuff. The interviews are typically short, sometimes a sentence or two, but help emphasize the right point at the right time in your reading.

One section of the book I found very useful was Video Compression especially an advanced tip on the difference between temporal and spatial compression (page 259). What’s good about this section is that the author goes to the trouble of detailing the technical aspects of codecs but also illustrates where best to use each one.

Each section is summarized under a paragraph called “The Crunch” which is a neat place to review what you've just learnt. The book is sprinkled with tip boxes and “Did you know? “ blocks; both providing short snappy snippets of useful information. There's an excellent glossary which, I have to say, cleared up a lot of grey areas for me; “Auteur” for instance.

There is also an accompanying CD which contains two additional chapters on “Web site building” and “Promotion & publicity”; Film Festival guides; A quick guide to Premiere and the usual suspects in the free software tryout section. There are interviews with filmmakers but only in Word document format – it would have been nice to have real videos included. Real videos would also have been useful to help demonstrate some of the topics in the text especially those describing intangibles such as mood – a picture speaks a thousand words. However, the author points the reader to a huge number of useful web sites and all the links I tried actually worked.

Apart from the lack of real video clips on the CD itself I can't fault this book and it makes an excellent gift for anyone with a camcorder and a PC wondering what to do with them both.

I give the book 5 Cows.


Des Owen



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