Filmmaking – How to make a documentary film

Duration: 9:06

Transcript – Filmmaking – How to make a documentary film


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DAVID TODD: Hi. My name's David. And today, I'm going to take you through the steps of how to make your own short documentary film at home. The first thing you need to do is think about what you want to achieve with the film. The idea with the documentary video is that you convey information to the viewer whilst keeping it entertaining. So think about something interesting you're learning about in class, or maybe just something that's interesting to you.

Think about who the viewer is. Is it your classmates, your parents, or your teacher? My film is going to be about the succulents I'm growing around my house. Once you've come up with your idea, you need to create an outline of how your video will be structured. Some people like to write dog points, or a full script, or a storyboard so you can visually plan what you're going to film.

Write down some interesting questions to ask in your documentary, and be sure to include a bit of humour to keep your audience entertained. Now that you've figured out a good plan of what you want to do in your film, you need to decide where each part will be filmed, and also if any people in the house would like to be included in your film, such as a brother, a sister, or a parent. Be sure to ask them first before you include them in your plans.

If it's just you, then maybe you can play a variety of characters, and maybe even do a voiceover for your pet. In my movie, I'm going to make my dog an expert on succulent soil.

APOLLO: Hello. I'm a dog, and my name is Apollo, and I am an expert in succulent soil.

DAVID TODD: It's always a good idea to mix up the look of your movie. So plan for scenes out in the balcony or backyard, as well as shots filmed in the kitchen or lounge room.

Smartphones and iPads have great cameras. They are a great way to both film and edit your projects all in one, so make sure it's fully charged before you start and you have enough space on it for video. If you're also editing on your device, make sure you have the right app. I'll be using iMovie on my iPad.

Start by filming your interviews through your camera app. Make sure your background isn't too busy, and keep the subject close to the camera so the audio is clear. In filmmaking, it's standard practise to hold your device in landscape mode. That sideways like this, not like this.

The shot itself doesn't need to be too exciting. You just need your subject in the mid-shot, which is roughly from your chest to just above your head. In my film, I'm going to be the first subject, and I'm going to be talking about baby succulents.

BASIL: Hello. My name's Basil, and I'm an expert in baby succulents. So I guess my journey started when I was a little boy, probably about five or so. And I just loved the look of these little plants, so I decided I wanted to make me own. So I found out that you can actually make your own baby succulents from just using the leaf of a big succulent plant.

All you have to do is take the leaf off the plant, let it dry out for a few days, and then you just need to put it on top of some soil. So when they're babies, you've got to make sure you spray in with water every day.

DAVID TODD: If you're the main subject in your movie, be sure to use a tripod like this with your iPad, or prop it up safely put some books on a chair or table to keep it still. Make sure that when you're filming, it's not too noisy in the background. And, of course, don't forget to press the Record button.

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Once you've filmed all your interviews and you know what your interviewees have said, you can start to film some shots of what they were talking about. This will make your video much more interesting to look at. Close-up shots and moving shots look great here. If you're moving your camera around, make it as smooth as possible. You might even like to use a slow motion effect on your camera if you have it.

If you choose a simple editing app such as iMovie, like I have, then you can edit straight on a phone or iPad. Editing on a laptop if you have one is good, too. You'll need to either Air Drop your video onto your laptop or connect it with a charger cable. The first part of editing is uploading all your videos into your editing software.

Once it's in the editing software, you can start dragging the clips into the right order into your editing timeline. After it's in the right order, start cutting out all the bits you didn't mean to say or bloopers. Your cutaway shots can be dragged on top of the interviews so we can still hear the talking, but see the more interesting cutaway shots.

APOLLO: Some succulents are quite spiky, so take care when you're gardening with them. But occasionally, you might just find a dog treat in them.

DAVID TODD: But make sure you take the sound out of the cutaway shot. You don't want to hear that over the talking.

To make your documentary look like the real deal, you need to add some titling. This will include an opening title screen. There are lots of cool presets on iMovie, so use one of them to suit the look of your movie, and then the titles for the people interviewed.

Once your video is cut to the right length, is in the right order, and has titling, it's now time to put some music underneath it. Now, the music doesn't have to be playing the entire video. It's great to use it to highlight dramatic moments or funny moments.

Now, recording your own music is the best way to do this. So have a look around your house and see if you've got any instruments that you know how to play. If you're not a musical expert, maybe you can create your own instruments, like playing spoons, rolling pins, rice shakers, or even beatboxing.


Be creative. I've been known to play some tunes on the recorder, so I'm going to use that.

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All you have to do is recorded voice over in iMovie and play along with your instrument.

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The audio you record can be moved anywhere in the video you like, and even copied and pasted if you want to use it more than once. Now that you've finished all the editing and you've made sure that you're happy with the finished project, you can export the video out of iMovie.

I'd like to export mine to the camera roll of my iPad so that when I share it with my family, I can watch it with them. To share with your teacher on Google Classrooms or whatever platform you might use, check with them how they'd like it shared to make sure it's shared safely and privately.

Well, that's it, a simple documentary film made at home. Making a movie is always a fun project, but it does take time and patience to get a great result. So be creative and committed, and you'll make a great film. See you next time.

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