Rekindle Your Creativity – Video Portraits

A video portrait is an excellent way to spotlight a unique individual or location. Interesting subject can be found at every corner, and are a great way to re-spark your creativity.

Story telling, either through film making or writing, is made up of two types of building blocks, concrete, and abstract. To demonstrate the difference between each, picture the following words in your mind: Horse… Money… Love. Horse is a literal representation; the word is concrete and universal. The representation of money may come as a literal stack of money, or as luxury items and the lifestyle associated with it. It falls in between concrete and abstract. A visualization of love differs between person and culture. It is abstract and represented by the emotions evoked and connected with it. Much like these examples, video portraits also fall into three similar categories.

Artistic Representation

The artistic portrait (abstract) is less about the subject and more about the film’s visuals or techniques. These types of portraits often are without dialogue, or have separate dialogue not linked to the visuals. I often refer to this style as lyrical or visual poetry.

In George Kuchar’s Wild Night in El Rino, the subject is not a person, but a storm. George gives the audience little information aside from what is visually seen. Through the use of film he documents the nuances of the storm as seen through his eyes, capturing the mood and feeling of the storm the same way a poet would capture the storm through use of words.

The second example, Kyle, I created in 2006. Again, the film’s focus is on visuals. I chose to use a Mini DV camera at a very slow shutter speed to create a pastel colored palate the subject travels through. The limited used of sound (footsteps, breathing, and guitar playing) further adds with the artistic choice to create visual poetry of the portrayed subject.

Mini Documentary (Indirect Approach)

Al Monelli’s Man With Puppet is an example of what I refer to as the indirect approach to video portraits (a mix of abstract and concrete). The indirect approach has a story arch that does not expose the who, what, and why of the subject upfront. Rater, the focus is on the inner struggles of the subject and the content is told through the visuals, building the story of the portrait as the film progresses.

The second example by James Hollenbaugh is an excerpt from Self Portrait Portrait. What is interesting about this piece is that the concrete and abstract areas are separated; the visuals serve as the abstract, and the audio the concrete. Where one ends, the other fills in. The audio tells the inner feelings of the subject, while the visuals paint a visual representation. Both are equally important, and can not exists without one another. Combined together, they create this amazing portrait.

Mini Documentary (Direct Approach)

The direct approach tells the who, what, and why of the subject upfront. While this style can still be artistic /semi-abstract, the main focus is to convey information about the subject. These are often the structure of documentary, promotional, and more recently, Kick Starter videos, as this information is needed upfront.

The first example is another film by James Hollenbaugh,  I Made it With Art. The focus of the piece is to portray the organization through subject interaction.

Art 21 has an excellent direct approach example with their portrait of Martha Colburn, a film animator I have had for a screening with a past film organization. The piece discusses her artistic process and is accompanied with visual representations to tell her story portraying who she is as an artist.

Let this be an inspiration to create at least one of the styles listed (or all three!) and use these techniques in future projects. Video portraits individually unique. No two subject or ways of portraying are the same, plus searching for and finding the subject is also half the fun.

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Specializing in: Documentaries, Weddings, Commercials, Events, Music Videos, and more in PA, NY, NJ.

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