Pre-visualising video with animatics by Glenn Dixon

Animatics are the first glimpse of a concept translated to video. They are storyboards edited to dialogue and music allowing the production team to experience motion and timing. Communicating through animatics reduces the ambiguity of orally describing a scene, shot or edit.

Many of my clients appreciate the experience of pre-visualising a video before we begin filming. When the project scope allows for the creation of an animatic, many issues can be identified and solved before they become problems further down the production pipeline. I aim for speed and clarity over beauty. The purpose is to clearly communicate and align on a vision. Together we undertake a rapid prototyping process until we are ready to proceed with the next stages of production.

My process involves photographing hand drawn storyboards and adding them to a Premiere Pro sequence. I record my own voice reading the script, source a sample music track and add these to the timeline. I time each storyboard to the script and music to see if the sequence I planned on paper works in a video. If I need to add a new shot, I will create a quick photoshop sketch and insert between existing storyboards. For a three minute video, I typically spend two - three hours on an animatic. 

Above is a short video I produced, filmed and edited for Conduct’s Rapid Design and Validation process. Pre-visualisation was an essential part of the pre-production process.

Los Reyes by Glenn Dixon

Los Reyes or The Kings is an annual festival in Spain celebrating the three kings' pilgrimage to Bethlehem. I’m not sure why an essential plot point such as this visit to a small town in Mallorca was omitted from the biblical account. I was visiting family in Llucmajor during this year's festival and created this short video piece. This is a beautiful celebration which honours intergenerational connection and a sense of personal belonging.

 We got presents too!

We got presents too!

This footage was captured at 50 frames per second (fps) and conformed to 25fps in post-production. For me, the subtle use of slow motion compliments the emotions of the crowd. I would have loved some higher quality audio recording equipment however I only had my little Sony A7s and two lenses on me at the time. I included ‘atmos' sound captured via the cameras onboard microphone in the mix, those who speak Mallorquín may pick up some dialogue. 

Filming Netball Australia's Indigenous High Performance Camp by Glenn Dixon

Photographs made by Narelle Spangher and used with permission from Netball Australia.

It's an honour to be working with Netball Australia to share stories of the Indigenous High Performance Camp on video. In early July, twenty-one athletes from across Australia gathered at the Australian Institute of Sport for the three day experience co-designed by my good friends at Conversant. I can't wait to share the video with you soon!

The filming days in Canberra were high energy, emotional, insightful, exhausting and utterly delightful. Speaking on camera with Lisa Alexander (Samsung Diamonds Head Coach), Caitlin Thwaites (Samsung Diamond) and Marcia Ella Duncan (Former Diamond) was particularly exhilarating for me. 

Following the first mornings court session, I overheard a conversation between coaches noting a particular players pre-existing injury which prevented her from participating on court. The coaches remarked on her initiative to make notes in her journal while she watched from the sideline. I'm disappointed I missed capturing that on video as it speaks volumes to the realities of the high performance environment. For me it was a reminder to step back from what I'm fixated on and notice what's happening on the peripheral. To be present to the small details that are less obvious yet reveal something about the big picture. In Bobette Buster's words “find the gleaming detail’.

"The gleaming detail is the one thing that captures both the emotion and idea of a story at once, in one fell swoop. A singular, elegant moment of clarity.” 

— Bobette Buster (Do Story).

Discovering the style of a video with diary sequences by Glenn Dixon

While in pre-production for a video project, I create a specific sequence or timeline to explore story ideas. It’s a great place to begin playing with editing techniques and developing a style that will eventually inform the video. I use this space to test image and sound juxtapositions, colour treatments and editing rhythms. This diary usually begins before any principal photography so I use video footage from other projects as placeholders. 

"I have to go through this diary process, so that I've answered all the questions that I've had for myself."

— Hans Zimmer | Composer

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Screenshot above: Example of a diary sequence in Premiere Pro.

To refine an idea I copy and paste a new section further along in the sequence. I don’t delete anything. This way I can see the progression of ideas and can revisit earlier fragments of thought. It’s the result of continually posing and answering questions. How can this interview transition into that exterior shot? What visuals can compliment that interview dialogue? Does this music tell the story of this place?

The idea of keeping a video diary was inspired by an online Masterclass with Hans Zimmer. It's a superb video series providing insight into Hans’s process for composing film scores. The chapter “Music Diary: Sherlock Holmes” is of particular relevance to this post.

"I try to figure out stylistically, harmonically and sonically where this is going.” 

— Hans Zimmer

Kenya Aid video campaign by Glenn Dixon

It's an incredible privilege to share the first video in a series of three I made for Kenya Aid, an Australian charity supporting health and education initiatives within a specific community of western Kenya. I was introduced to Verity and Ryan Snaith through Magda Newman, a mutual friend and Kenya Aid board member. In our early conversations, Magda described Kenya Aid with an infectious enthusiasm. I was captivated by the unique and unexpected stories and wanted to help share them.

Filmmaking process:

I conducted the interviews in Sydney last year at Kenya Aid’s ten year anniversary dinner. As Onesmus was in Australia for the event, it was a perfect opportunity to interview the stakeholders in one location. I came away with a rich story told through interviews but lacking vital contextual visuals from Kenya. In January of this year, Ryan visited Shikunga and captured video footage. I integrated Ryan’s video footage and existing photographs from the archive with the interviews I filmed in Australia to create the films.

My initial plan was to make one video that communicated the ‘why’ and ‘what’ behind the Kenya Aid initiative. A video that could be screened to sponsors and volunteers to build and strengthen the community. I soon realised that forcing these complex stories into a single video did not do them justice. I decided to make one video that introduced Kenya Aid then explore the health and education initiatives in depth via two subsequent videos. 

Visual considerations:

Kenya Aid's photographic archive contains images from trips spanning over ten years. Each visit was photographed by different people using different cameras. As a result, the images are varied in style and technical specification. An early temptation for me was to colour correct the photographs and footage so they felt like a harmonious portfolio. I soon realised the power of this story lay in the fact that a small group of people were meticulously addressing problems within the community over a long period of time and the ad-hoc nature of the photographs spoke to that. The fact that photographs and video were captured by volunteers with the technology at hand strengthened the story. 

Sound design:

To convey a sense of place, I used as much audio from location as possible. Mixed in behind the interviews is location audio that Ryan filmed using the onboard microphone. I found two pieces of music by composer Abbas Premjee that added an energy to the story while still grounding the characters in a place. I combined a non-diegetic sound with a ‘dip to black’ transition at the point where two photographs meet. This was to invite the audience into the cameras viewfinder the moment the picture was taken, as if they were the one taking the picture.