Andrew Quitmeyer

Semi-Automatic Filmmaking with Mobile Devices

Digital filmmaking has significantly impacted documentary films by decreasing the costs of production, editing, and distribution. Few digital affordances, however, have been applied to improve the actual filmmaking process; most documentary productions continue to abide by the legacy practices. First, documentarians gather massive amounts of subject information from archival footage, recorded interviews, and text. Next, the documentarians are forced to re-sort through the collected data and derive a structure for the eventual audio-video narrative. While this structural synthesis period distinguishes documentary from other film formats, as a stand-alone process it can be quite arduous.

Some video logging systems attempt to ameliorate the problem of sorting through droves of audio and video. These systems, however, are typically only used in large commercial or theatrical filmmaking as they rely on pre-established concrete master structures (such as shot lists). On the other side, database film projects fully automate the structuring of video into dynamically ordered segments or presenting spatialized, interactive clips. To form any sort of distinct narrative with these systems still requires the intense sorting and editing process of traditional filmmaking.

Documatic aims to simplify the arduous structural synthesis process by combining it with more the exploratory, spontaneous “information gathering” segment. Via an Android application and digital video source, mobile filmmaker pairs can add real-time annotations to recorded footage. As the amassed data is downloaded to a computer, Documatic combines the semantic and video data to create “pre-edited” rough-cut, video sequences for Adobe Premiere. The end product will be more or less indistinguishable from a traditional, linear documentary film, but the new formative process will hopefully be simpler, more efficient, educational, and fun.
Andrew Quitmeyer is a polymath adventurer interested in discovering new means of exploring and sharing our world.
Digital Media PhD Student/Researcher, Georgia Institute of Technology