November 6, 2015



My thoughts on the ‘Art of Visual Storytelling’ with Alex Buono.

Let me preface this post by saying that I have seen a number of the MZed workshops, Vincent LaForet’s Directing Motion being my favourite, closely followed by Shane Hurlbut’s Illumination Experience.  I learned a lot from both of these, so the bar was set pretty high. Now I should also mention that MZed have given me free downloads of the video coverage of these events, so while I’m not paid by them, or told what to say,  it could certainly be argued that I’m a little biased.

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With that in mind, here’s my opinion about the ‘Art of Visual Storytelling – Alex Buono’ course.

Let’s start with what you get with the course. First Alex goes through his preproduction process, from location scouting to pre-lighting with diagrams. Unless you’re a real beginner, it’s likely that you’ll have heard these ideas before, the value comes from hearing his own specific experiences working on SNL.

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In part 2 he goes through some technology stuff, talking about 8bit 420 and 10bit 422 etc, with a heavy emphasis on the features of the Canon C100, C300 and C500.  Very technical stuff that you might have read on some techy blogs if you’re into that kind of thing.  He then takes us through his rig with a wireless follow focus, monitor and large battery.

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For me it get’s more interesting when they start going through some shot breakdowns, recreating the camera & lighting from some of his work on SNL. We see where he places the light, and he talks through the look he’s getting. It’s hard to avoid making comparisons here, but to me Shane’s Illumination Experience and LaForet’s Directing Motion were breaking down much better shots.

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Part 3 goes further into some gear packages & equipment demos including before and afters with softening filters, before breaking down the look of a glossy stock-footage commercial look. He goes on to recreate a few shots from his work, but I started to see a pattern – the recreations didn’t look nearly as good as his original references.

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The final part is essentially a demo of the Movi – walking around the conference room with an expensive rig getting some fairly mediocre shots, the kind of thing everyone does when the first use a gimbal stabiliser.  After that we get a look into the work flow for transferring files from camera to harddrive for editing and colour, by which point I have to admit I was skipping through it, 20mins feeling like far too long to talk about file management.

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I’m only looking at this with such a critical eye because I realise that MZed are asking for $250 for this material. I think the mistake that this course makes is to rely too heavily on technical aspects, we’re shown how to light some shots and setup an expensive rig, but there’s very little about why creative choices are effective.  It really depends on where you’re at – if you havn’t seen any other MZed courses, or many YouTube videos about filmmaking & lighting, then you’ll certainly learn a lot.

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Perhaps the biggest thing I learned from the workshop was that Google Earth has improved a lot since we used to play around with it at school. It now has 3D mapped pretty much everything, and you can actually see exactly where the sun will be at any given time on any given day. This is huge for location scouting, we can now use street view to find a spot, and then Earth to see when we need to shoot there to get the right light direction.Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 00.46.458


Simon Cade

Filmmaker, and host of DSLRguide. Since I was making my first film age 11, I have always been fascinated by the way films are produced, and the effect it can have on the audience.

  • The screen shots and review you posted are from the first visual storytelling from 2 years ago. Are you sure you watched and reviewed the right videos?

    • oops that explains why it was so different from the trailer I saw! you’re totally right, I thought I was talking about the second one, but it was the first. Have updated with that in mind, thanks for letting me know.