Book Shelf 2012

Voice and Vision: A Creative Approach To Narrative Film and DV Production

By Mick Hurbis-Cherrier, Second Edition
Focal Press/Elsevier
Boston
2012

Back in the 1960s when I first started studying film the only production text that seriously addressed the making of movies was a book by Raymond Spottiswoode called Film and Its Techniques (1951)    It approached its subject from a purely technical point-of-view. It was rather dull, didactic and addressed filmmaking purely as a craft. The “art of filmmaking” was omitted.   Since that time literally hundreds of production books have made their way to the book shelf. Most have failed to bring to life the excitement of using images to tell stories

With Voice and Vision, 2nd Edition, Professor Mick Hurbis-Cherrier (Hunter College) has improved upon his ground-breaking book that approaches the subject as a technical, narrative, creative endeavor that marries a filmmaker’s voice to his/her mise en scene.  It is a book that is compelling, engaging and exciting as it distills essential information about film and digital image- making tools with the aesthetic wisdom of many of the world’s greatest storytellers. It is quite simply the best book of its kind on the market today.

Divided into four parts, it first discusses developing your film on paper and walks you through the narrative process.  To make the material come to life, Professor Hubris-Cherrier, incorporates throughout the book “in-practice” sidebars(printed over purple ink so you can locate them quickly) in which award-winning independent (mostly) filmmakers share their real life applications of conceptual, aesthetic and technical choices used in solving problems in making their films. Examples of script pages, precise details of professional screenplay format and quotations from master filmmakers punctuate the beautiful look and feel of the book. Gustavo Mercado, another film professor at Hunter College, provides lavish and insightful drawings throughout the 577 page oversize paperback. The new edition has four pages of color prints at the end of the book that bring closure to concepts requiring color.

Part II takes up the issues of pre-production including line producing, budgeting and creative issues of crew and cast. Hubris-Cherrier illustrates key ideas by providing breakdown sheets, sample budgets for short films, .actors’ head sheets and photographs of actual blocking diagrams. The book pulls out all stops to demystify the filmmaking process effortlessly presenting the material in a manner that is fun, enjoyable and instills a passion to learn more.

Hurbis-Cherrier is thorough and exacting but avoids being that instruction manual you have to struggle to understand.  Technical details are presented and explained with the precision of a master teacher.  In fact the book is almost a production course all by itself.

Part III tackles the tools and techniques of production first by covering the film system and then dealing with digital video. Lenses, camera support, exposure, lighting and production sound are thoroughly explained with charts, graphs and color plate pages. You can sense that Professor Hurbis-Cherrier learned filmmaking techniques first with celluloid.  Film is like the “shark” that has reached an evolutionary state where changes in technology are minute and almost non-existent.  He walks you through a “generic” film camera explaining its set-up and defining key components (“shutter”, “claw”, “gate”) and procedures (“Latham’s Loop”).  All the while “in practice” sidebars explaining how color film was used by Zhang Yimou in “Hero” and how Darren Aronofsky created the look of “Pi” shooting most of his Sundance award-winner with Tri-X reversal brilliantly align the theoretical with the pragmatic. His approach to the digital video system is designed with “how much information is useful to the creative filmmaker and what can we leave to the engineers and physicists? Knowing how digital tools can contribute to the aesthetic approach of your movie is the goal “not arcane scientific discourse on semiconductor theory or Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem”.

The improved 2nd  edition has advanced digital information on shooting 2K and 4K Video for DCP (Digital Cinema Package) and includes information on DSLR Cinematography and other digital topics that bring this book up to the cutting edge of technological developments in motion picture production circa 2012.

Part IV brings it all home by addressing the issues of the tools and techniques of postproduction. Starting with a chapter that presents an overview of the workflow,  Professor Cherrier explains pathways for film origination, DV origination and the audio path.  “In practice” sidebars deal with topics such as “3:2 Pulldown” and  “What’s A Container Format?”. The rest of this most excellent section of the text deals with practical non- linear editing, aesthetics of editing and sound design for film.  Making sure no stone is left unturned finishing, mastering and distribution are examined in a final chapter  concluding with a sidebar “ in practice look” at how beginning filmmakers Susan Buice and Anne Crumly used the web to distribute their film “Four Eyed Monsters”. In the new 2nd  edition, we are also presented with the case study of another innovative micro-budget film called “Stingray Sam”(2009)with a unique “direct to fan”   marketing strategy.  Recommended readings,   extensive web resources, a filmography and subject index are presented in appendices at the end of  this thorough and comprehensive book. . It belongs in every college-level production course and on the bookshelf of every serious filmmaker.

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