Shooting Ratios

Lesson Details

Subject: Shooting

Title: Shooting Ratios


If you were a writer and I asked you to write 250 words on a topic, you would not write out 5,000 words and then start paring it down. But that’s how film and video used to work. That’s what a 20:1 ratio, the so –called ‘industry standard’ works out. If you can focus your thoughts in print before you commit to paper, you can also focus your thoughts in video before you commit to hitting the record button. I am going to show you how.


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Now what do I mean by a minimalist event? What do I mean by television is minimalist? Doesn’t it seem contrary to the way you normally work? You go and you shoot every stupid thing you can find. Let’s do a little exercise here and I’m going to show you on a chart exactly how minimalist this is just to show you.

Any of you guys ever worked in a restaurant? I bet you have because that’s one of the most common jobs in America for anyone getting started or any time in your life. You know if you work in a restaurant, it’s a pretty crap job but a lot of TV shows take place in restaurants and there’s a reason for that and we’ll get into that in another lesson. But mostly because all of the stuff happens in front of you. That’s why you see so many TV shows about food or cooking or restaurants because stuff just happens.

So let’s say theoretically, and this is not a bad business to be in, you are going to get involved in shooting videos for a local restaurant or even for a food channel. And you came into the restaurant and you wanted to make a one-minute video for purposes of this exercise about the restaurant. OK simple exercise. The average restaurant is open for a total of ten hours a day. Ten hours is six hundred minutes. That’s six hundred minutes of stuff happening all the time from opening the doors to delivery trucks coming in to setting up for meals to cooking the food to cleaning.

See how much stuff there is that you can make your one-minute video out of. So let’s take a look a this chart here. That’s six hundred minutes of stuff going on. Now, you could go in with your camera and shoot all six hundred minutes in real-time and shoot six hundred minutes or ten hours of material and you would certainly not miss anything. On the other hand, it would probably take you a year to edit the one-minute video and that doesn’t make sense.

So, most people will go into a restaurant like that they spend the day and they shoot twenty minutes of material. Well that twenty minutes of material that’s all you have because if you didn’t shoot it, it didn’t happen. But this process of capturing twenty minutes worth of material means that you’ve actually missed five hundred and eighty minutes of material, or ninety-five percent of what happened. So ninety-five percent of what happened now no longer exists.

Now, as if though that’s not enough, now you’ve got to take that twenty minutes of material and you’re going to edit that down to one minute. And that one minute is all your viewer is ever going to see whether it’s on television or online doesn’t make any difference. Of your entire day and all the things that happen in the restaurant, the only thing the viewer is going to know is that final one-minute. That’s all they know that happened. The rest is a waste of time.

This process of going from twenty minutes to one minute means you are going to lose another 95% of the content. So at the end of the day, the viewer at home or online will actually only get to see .05% of what actually happened in that restaurant. 99.95% of what went on that whole day is gone forever.

And that’s why I’m telling you that making television, making film and making video is inherently a minimalist business. The best thing we can do here is to concentrate on that .05%. Because that’s the only thing your viewer is ever going to see. And that’s the most important thing that there is.

How do we know what that .05% to concentrate on is? You can say ‘Well Michael, that’s a great idea, but when I walk in the door I don’t know what the most important stuff is going to be”. Yes you do. All you have to do here is take a little bit of time before you start to shoot and figure out what that .05% is going to be that we are going to focus on. Well, how do you do that? How do you know? That’s what I’m going to show you next.

© Michael Rosenblum & Lisa Lambden 2015