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McGregor has bought a Canon EOS C300 Mark III, and he records audio directly into the camera. Previously, he had to attach his mixer onto his camera cage, then the microphone position would be somewhere near the action. “For example, in The One with the Ferris Wheel (youtube.com/ watch?v=dyTAwu4CGjw), the actor’s microphone was attached on a stand to the gearshift. There’s that element where, if they were moving, I would have to be quite close to get that level of audio. Whereas, if I’m far back with a 50mm or something, it’s not possible to get such quality audio, which is expected from narrative pieces. “With that, the focal range lingers around the 20mm area, so I can get in nice and close with the camera for the image to still appear quite wide. But it means I can get the microphone in close, too. I recently picked up the Sigma 14mm and it has become my new favourite lens. On the C300, I think that equates to 21mm. It lets me move quite close to the face of the actor. However, because it’s an ultra-wide angle, it appears as a mid shot. It allows me to get close, but I can get nice audio because I’m in close with the camera, too.” BE SMART WITH YOUR GEAR BUYS When working as a solo filmmaker, it’s not as if you are going to have substantial monitors to go back and forth with. You’re primarily using a three- to five-inch camera screen to monitor, where issues will not always be apparent. McGregor did miss seeing
“I often think it may be too much of a stretch to have a fully completed short with typical narrative structure. To a degree, sometimes I just like capturing moments, ones that work by themselves, or possibly better when in a larger project. It’s landscape photography, but with motion. So, just capturing really organic and beautiful landscape imagery; it’s like people browsing landscape pictures through a Flickr archive, but they’re watching them move.” WHAT A SOLO FILMMAKER CANNOT DO When you go solo, you understand certain shots can’t be done, such as moving the camera too much. You won’t have the advantage of many lights or lots of actors, and will have to use what is available as part of the set. In McGregor’s case, that includes local landscapes. He sees his new life as a management of expectations. “I guess I can’t attempt anything elaborate, something that involves plenty of camera movement. Specifically, when there are actors and talent moving around. When I create short films, I try to have the camera in a very stationary state. So, flipping the camera position and lighting isn’t then a giant task for me.” You also have to control audio, as you are recording and mixing as well. If recording separately, you then have to adapt your shooting style to a more close-up approach. “I do own my audio kit – from the field mixer, to the microphone and boom pole. If there is something complex, I might be able to wrangle a friend to just do that for me.”
“Having the new Nvidia laptop has completely changed the way I work”
himself appearing by mistake in the background of a film, so decided to invest in a laptop – an Nvidia Studio Machine, which has a 4K screen. “Having the new Nvidia laptop has completely changed the way I work. Now, I have a kind of video village in the back of the car. Everything is transferred really quickly. I can check everything there and then, put together a small little rush edit, spot if there are any compositional errors, or just kind of get a general feel of what I’ve shot. “The efficiency of the Nvidia GPU, in terms of how it processes media, is unparalleled for a laptop. It also allows me to apply minimal colour grades, maybe some motion graphics – stuff that would usually clog up the GPU, on a PC at least. The laptop can handle it.” McGregor’s advice for would-be solo filmmakers is to concentrate on narrative devices, rather than character development. “I find with short films – the kind that linger under three to five minutes – there’s not a lot of time for character development. Sometimes it’s down to a jump scare, a clever twist, or nifty camerawork to be memorable. “Always look at the comments on your YouTube videos to see if narrative devices are working, if the plot twists are effective. YouTube has given me more breaks than the typical route of taking it through festivals. I tend to get more opportunities thrown my way through uploading a short to YouTube. “Whereas obviously, with a lot of festivals, they want you to have it offline until it’s done the entire circuit. So, I try not to go that way. The online exposure tends to work better for me.” Lewis McGregor’s films and tutorials are at UglyMcGregor on YouTube
SOLO OPERATOR When you are doing the lighting, audio, camera movements, focus pulling and everything else yourself, your goals have to be realistic – and equipment that won’t let you down is an absolute must
27. NOVEMBER 2021
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