Sunday, March 21, 2010

Excerpt from Kai Greene: OVERKILL - Kai trains legs before the Olympia

When I travelled to Las Vegas to tape Kai Greene as he prepared for his first attempt to win the Mr. Olympia crown I expected to see the usual hardcore workouts.

Instead, I found an athlete pushed to his limits...and beyond. The word "hardcore" began to take on a new meaning.

Music composed for the documentary by Martin Bailey.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What video camera should you buy? Answer: It doesn't matter!

Today I got a very nice email from a fan of my work who wanted to try his hand at a little amateur documentary of his own. He asked me the following question...

“What video camera should I buy? I want to be sure that my video is high quality.”

That’s one of the most asked questions on video forums all over the internet. I see it very often and my answer to it is this...

It doesn’t matter.

The best video camera for you is the one you can afford.

Here's why I say that...

The elements of a quality documentary are not necessarily to be found in the equipment. The best equipment in the hands of someone without the knowledge of how to use it won’t produce anything worth watching, whereas someone like Martin Scorcese could use a cell phone and make a movie that would make you laugh and cry.

What gives a documentary quality is summarized by what I call The Three S’s.

Story. Stability. Style.

1. Story

Something worth watching has to happen and you have to be able to present that in a way that keeps the viewers attention.

My first DVD, Raising the Bar was shot on an inexpensive $500 Canon videocamera. The images are not the greatest but the story was so strong that people around the world have been able to enjoy it.

I recommend buying the book Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It is a handbook for screenwriters, but the methods of storytelling it outlines translate well to documentary.

2. Stability.

Shaky camerawork is the mark of the amateur video. Learn to stabilize yourself if you are shooting handheld. Practice panning smoothly. Use a tripod whenever possible. Don’t try to walk and shoot.

2. Style.

Learn about lighting and composition. Why are certain things positioned where they are in the frame in great movies? What makes a good composition? Google “the rule of thirds”. Learn what it is and then learn how to break the rule. From which direction is the light coming? Where should I position the camera? When should I shoot the entire scene and when should I move in for a close up?

All of these things are incredibly important in making something look professional and keeping it interesting.

Visit a museum and notice the compositions of paintings by the great masters. Get photography books and magazines and begin to dissect the way elements are placed for maximum dramatic impact. Where is the subject placed in the frame and why?

Learn about editing. The best shot video, if edited poorly, will fail to hold attention and everything will go to waste. Pacing is very important. How do we know what to include and what to leave out? Under what circumstances should we we condense time and when do we stretch time?

I recommend reading In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch (Editor of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now). It’s a great introduction to some of the basic philosophies of film editing.

Having filled your head with all that I will tell you that I use small Canon HD video cameras for my work. I like the Vixia HV 40. It has a great picture and is small and unobtrusive. That’s an important quality to have when shooting fly-on-the-wall documentaries like I do!

You can get them online for anywhere from $600 to $800. I also attach a shotgun microphone to all my video cameras. I use a Rhode or Azden shotgun on my Canon. Sound is VERY important and the on-board mics on most cameras don’t really do that good of a job of shutting out unwanted noise from the background.

I personally recommend that whatever camera you buy that you get one that uses mini DV tapes. One of the most important things to consider in shooting documentary is that need to safely archive footage. I find a box of tapes to be much more inexpensive and reliable as a long-term backup than a finicky, expensive hard drive which can fail unexpectedly.

Tape vs card is a controversial subject these days but I'm sticking to my guns!!

So that's my advice. Learn how to shoot great footage and how to edit it effectively and whatever camera you buy will be the best camera for you!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

You can appear in Kai Greene's next DVD!

Thanks to everyone for your interest in and support of Kai Greene: OVERKILL! The story of his first attempt on the Olympia stage has been getting good reviews. Obviously I'm pretty happy about that!

As you may know I have been contracted to continue my relationship with Kai for a second DVD about his trip back to the Arnold and his defense of his title!

It’s been a dramatic journey, to be sure, but I need your help.

One of the things I’d like to explore in this next documentary is Kai’s relationship to his fans. I’d like to get opinions about Kai from the people who really count...the bodybuilding fans themselves!

If you would like to be a part of Kai’s next DVD (and a part of bodybuilding history!) please videotape yourself talking about Kai and send it to me soon so I can get it in the new documentary. It doesn’t have to be all positive! Kai is a controversial athlete and if you have a criticism of him and can say it respectfully it might make it into the doc as well.

You can answer one or all of the following questions...or you can improvise your own. Be creative! Show us your physique. But above all explain to us how Kai inspires or entertains you.

Only the most interesting and enthusiastic answers will make it on to the DVD of course so, like Kai...don't hold back!

Who is Kai Greene?

What makes Kai special? In other words, why are you a fan of his?

How has Kai Greene changed bodybuilding?

There are several ways you can get the video to me:

- Mail me a DV tape or burn it on a DVD

- Email a MPEG4 or WMV file (if it’s not too large!)

- Post it on Youtube and send me the link. I can rip it from there.

By sending me your video you give me the right to include it or parts of it in the DVD, in promotional materials for the DVD and in promotion for Mike Pulcinella Video Productions.

Thanks in advance for your support and enthuiasm for my projects! Don’t delay, I am beginning the editing process right now!