On March 1st, I met with my mentor Darko and he explained to me that the next time we met would be on the Las Vegas strip to film a short project centered on a street performer that would serve as my first real assignment behind the camera. Before we got started on this however, Darko knew that I had to become more familiar and comfortable with his equipment as I would have essentially all of it available to myself when we went to the strip. So for this lesson, I got a more extensive, hands-on approach to learning about operating the camera and selecting different lenses. I was informed right away that I would be doing both hand-held and stationary camera work on my project, so after assembling the camera, I hooked it up to his tripod, adjusted the exposure, F-Stop, ISO and Shutter Speed and we started filming. Darko made it clear when we first started that I always have to make sure I adjust the settings based on the environment I'm filming in. Making sure the camera settings are appropriate to the lighting and reflect how I wanna shoot it is very important. He then gave me total control of the camera and allowed me to do a variety of pans, tilts, zooms or any combination of the three! After this, we stepped outside in his backyard, swapped out the lenses and I began doing a little hand-held camera work. I once again had to adjust the settings a bit because we were working with limited lighting but after that I proceeded to do a wide variety of camera movements as I had done before. I took this as an opportunity to also play around with the focus as I knew I wanted to accomplish some shots that featured focus adjustments and I wanted to be confident when I went to execute this. Darko liked what he saw and gave me some advice on some things I could work on. This lesson was extremely helpful and prepared me for what I was going to shoot the next time we met up.
I was extremely excited for my next lesson on March 6th. I met Darko at The Cosmopolitan hotel and casino around 6:30 and I was more than happy to see him carrying both his tri-pod and a large container holding his camera and all of his lenses. Initially we were going to meet at the ABC news station but I later found out that he forgot his tri-pod and went all the way back to his house just so I would be able to use it on my project! I'm so lucky to have a mentor like him. After we stepped outside onto a somewhat quiet evening on the Las Vegas strip, I found the first spot I wanted to start filming and we got right into it. I selected a lens, hooked it up to the camera and began adjusting the settings. With the sun almost completely set, I knew that almost all of the lighting would come from the different casinos and electric signs surrounding us and reflecting off other buildings. After adjusting the settings to what was appropriate to the setting, I began getting a couple establishing shots for my short film. While it was not as packed as it is normally, the strip is always beautiful at night and I was able to get many wonderful shots of the casinos, traffic on Las Vegas blvd., and all the people taking in the atmosphere as they walk toward their destinations. As we walked further down the strip I knew I would stop several times for more establishing shots if I saw something I wanted. But the focus at this point was finding a subject for my film. As I got a shot of the exterior of a casino, Darko said he heard something not to far away and we quickly packed everything and walked toward the noise. My prayers had been answered.
Set up right in front of Planet Hollywood was a man playing a white plastic bucket, several pots, pans and empty soda bottles. From the first time I started watching him, I knew I had found a great subject for my film. Without a second to waste, I set up the camera on the tri-pod and began recording him from a distance in order to get the audio track I'd be using for the majority of my project. As I pondered how I was going to photograph this man, I became mesmerized with his performance. Many people were gathered around this man watching him play and for good reason. He played his makeshift drum-set fast, fierce and with so much passion. His entire body swinging to the beat of the music and his face telling the rest of the story. After I got my audio track, I swapped out the lenses for something with more range as I knew I would initially be filming from a distance. I got some excellent footage on the tri-pod and I knew I'd be using a lot of it as I wanted to make a smooth transition from the stationary establishing shots to handheld camera work. But this guy was absolutely begging to be filmed without a tri-pod. His energy was absolutely electric and I had to capture that.
Whenever I needed to switch lenses, Darko was there to assist me and he also gave me great advice on how to effectively capture the performer and how to get what I'll need in the editing room when I'm finished. When I started getting close-ups of the performer I was absolutely feeling it. I saw what the finished product was going to look like and that got me so excited. What I had learned in the previous lesson helped me out so much because when I attempted to execute a camera movement or when I adjusted the focus during a shot, I knew exactly what I was doing and that was a tremendous feeling. After I got everything I needed, we headed back to the Cosmopolitan and I got a few more excellent establishing shots along the way. Darko then took me to one of the bars at the casino and after loading the footage onto my hard drive, we proceeded to watch the raw footage on his laptop. He was very pleased with the footage I got and thought a few of the shots I got were great. I headed back home after that and quickly began work on editing my project. As I continue to piece together my project I see a few things I could've done differently but overall I am loving what I got right now. I will be showing Darko my finished product very soon and I can't wait to get feedback and constructive criticism in order to make my next project even greater.