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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Stillmotion: A Fairy-Tale Ending

The Stillmotion group’s storytelling approach to wedding videos and photography brought them massive commercial attention


This Article Features Photo Zoom

For Stillmotion, the heart of their work is about telling stories through visuals. They're taking their work out on the road with a 36-city national workshop tour through late November. "Our hope with the KNOW tour," says Moreau, "is to be able to reach a wider audience and to ignite a passion in them."
The team has worked primarily with RED and Canon, whom they worked with for a series of informative Canon Live Learning videos. They employed the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV for most of the work on A Game of Honor and The Season. Looking at the sweeping pans and overhead craning shots in their wedding videos, you'd expect that they employ several expensive filmmaking tools like cranes or jibs, but in reality, the team has learned to maximize the potential of affordable gear and the efficient designs of their cameras. Most importantly, as students of film, they know the right tools to employ for the story that they're trying to tell. The motto of their KNOW tour, after all, is "Affect. Not effect."

"Anytime that we use a tool like that, we want to make sure that we have a reason, and it's a good reason," notes Amina. "One of the traps that we fell into, that I think a lot of people fall into, is the first time that we used our Steadicam. We fell in love with it so much, and it was so intoxicating, that we wanted to use it all the time. And we did use it all the time. But we used it for shots that didn't call for it. So now we're making our gear choices very much based on story and emotion. The only time we're using a Steadicam is when a shot really calls for extra energy or an uplifting feeling. For example, if people are going wild on the dance floor, we'll pull out the Steadicam, but if a couple is having a really romantic and quiet moment together, to bring out the Steadicam would, in our opinion, be inappropriate. We would bring out a tool that matches that emotion better so that the viewer then feels that translation and isn't pulled out of the story because the movement doesn't match the emotion."

In filmmaking, just as it is in still photography, the choice of lens, camera movement, shutter speed and many other factors can affect the mood and the story that you're trying to tell in practically infinite variation. In documentary work, it's also important to the story to stay out of the way as much as possible so that events can unfold naturally while your subjects remain unguarded even when there are cameras only a few feet from their face. One of Stillmotion's principal goals, especially in a delicate situation like a wedding, is to stay out of the way, and it was the lessons learned from working in such an intimate environment that helped them to gain unparalleled access to notoriously restrictive situations like the Super Bowl and West Point. Both documentaries included full access to the athletes, thanks in large part to the unobtrusive form factors of DSLRs.

"We were very mobile, and because we also have a wedding background, we're used to working very much on the sly," explains Amina. "One of our philosophies in weddings is never to ask anyone to repeat anything or stage anything, and what that means is that we always have to be ready. That philosophy translates really well into a sporting event. For us, it's about really getting to the heart of the story and the heart of who people are; making it deeper than just the aesthetic and having more meaning behind the work than just having something that looks cool for them to watch."

When asked why the company also concentrates on teaching others through the tour, the website and the application, especially while they have so many other projects on their plate, Amina explains plainly that it helps other people while also forcing the group to learn the ins and outs of their gear and their technique.

 

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