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Wildlife Filmmaking

Welcome to the online resource section for Africa Media’s wildlife filmmaking training program. Here you will find all the resources to successfully run the program as the course instructor or a field specialist.

Course Instructor Manual

Vital Contacts

Jackie Griffin (Company CEO): 084 419 8511, Jackie@africa-media.org

Ryan Johnson (Owner): 072 629 6669 (not to be shared)

Fiona Ayerst (Owner): 082 604 5893 (not to be shared)

Schotia Reserve (service provider): 083 654 8511, schotia@intekom.co.za

Camdeboo Reserve (service provider): 081 829 3636, cameron@mountcamdeboo.com  

Monkeyland (service provider): 044 534 8906, info@monkeyland.co.za

Derrick (Guesthouse farmer): 078 996 9348

Quick Answers

Working hours for course instructors / field specialists

Working days / hours on the program are Monday to Friday, 8AM to 5PM. One hour for lunch and other coffee breaks as needed throughout the day. Midmonth on the reserve you will be required to work one weekend Whilst on the game reserve, you will also be required to work later and earlier on occasion as requested by students in the case of night shoots, sun rise and sun set time lapses etc. Optional. You can optionally drive and guide weekend trips for additional cash payments. This time and effort is entirely separate from your course instructor / field specialist work

Food and catering for Course Instructors / Field Specialists

Whilst working on the course you will be entitled to eat standard meals provided by Africa Media and the game reserve. This includes breakfast, lunch, dinner. If you choose not to eat, no additional compensation will be offered.

Accommodation for Course Instructors / Field Specialists

If required you will be provided with accommodation whilst working on the program. This will be in a shared room with a maximum of one other course instructor or field specialist. On occasion, you may be required to share accommodation with students when on the game reserve. If you choose not to take advantage of accommodation offer, no additional compensation will be paid for your own accommodation.

Can I film whilst on the reserve

During your time on the game reserve, you will only be able to film for the following

  1. All content collected will belong solely to Africa Media and can be used by course instructor only for personal and marketing purposes.
  2. Only professional filming with Africa Media cameras and equipment will be permitted. Personal equipment will be limited to cell phone
  3. Company CEO must give permission to film and will only be granted in situations of very small student groups (<3), and when it does not interfere with your teaching of the program.

What reserve(s) do we visit

Reserve choice will be determined by company CEO prior to month start and dependent on student number, and space availability. The current reserve options are

  1. Schotia Private Game Reserve (View website)
  2. Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve (View website)

What dates do we go to reserve?

The precise dates vary from month to month, but typically will be the second Wednesday of a month, between the 11 – 14th. 8 nights will be spent on the reserve.

PowerPoint Lectures

Lecture 1. Introduction to Wildlife Filmmaking

Lecture 2. Kit and Maintainance

Lecture 3. Cameras and Specifications

Lecture 4. Audio in Wildlife Filmmaking

Lecture 5. Shooting for an Editor

Lecture 6. Working with Talent

Lecture 7. Animal Behaviour

Lecture 8. Story Development

Lecture 9. The Soundscape

Lecture 10. Colour correcting and Grading

Course Online Lectures

Workshop and Cheatsheets

Workshop 1. Camera Operation

Instructor notes

The two aims of this workshop are

  1. Evaluate the ability of individual students with camera use (experienced / novice)
  2. Teach the students to use hard buttons and become familiar with recording

Process

  1. Issue cameras, battery’s, P2 Cards, tripods and white balances.
  2. Discuss how to treat cameras (always a hand on camera, careful with lens,
  3. Tripods – Start with people connecting to tripods
  4. White Balance – et students to manually white balance and work the presets
  5. Focus – Get students to practice and film shark focus, using assist, zooms etc.
  6. Exposure – Get students to expose correctly using Iris, ND filters, and Gain (adds noise)
  7. Composure – Get students to start thinking of composure – rule of thirds, getting low, etc.

Key discussion points

  1. Stability – The use of stability is essential if subjects are any distance away from you. Be that a gimbal, tripod, throw-bags etc.
  2. Muscle memory – Try to get used to the button positions, so that you don’t have to look for buttons when filming
  3. Standard layout – Get students to understand that most video camera have a similar setup and you can quickly move from one to another in about 30 minutes.
  4. Quality images – Getting focus sharp, exposure correct, image stable and composition is essential for every shot to be usable.
  5. Composition – students to think artfully with rule of thirds and other techniques to compose an image that is interesting.

Workshop 2. Working with Farm animals

Instructor notes

The aims of this workshop are

  1. To get students to understand that they are part of the environment – affect wildlife
  2. To get students to start watching animal behaviour and solve filming issues
  3. To get students to collect all shots for a sequence edit – close, mediums, wides

Process

  1. Connect with farmers (Louis or Derrick) to ensure animals are present
  2. Issue cameras, extenders, batteries, cards, throw-bags, tripods.
  3. Scene 1 – Rabbits (goal – get low to get subjects to look better)
  4. Scene 2 – Weaver birds (goal – patience, long lens, watch behaviour)
  5. Scene 3 – Goats and Sheep (to see who animals react, control with food etc.)

Key discussion points

  1. Watch how animals are behaving – Individual animals, different species, and different situations all impact an animals behaviour. Students need to watch, learn, ask questions to be able to quickly access and understand behaviour of an individual in a given situation – then they can work out best way to capture video images. 
  2. Make effort in composition – Be better and put in effort in getting onto ground, walking up the hill, getting the sun behind you. This effort will turn a rubbish image into a good image.
  3. Go through all the shots for a sequence – Wide (establish), medium (action), close (emotion and cutaways) as well as B-roll to enable a sequence to be edited. 
  4. Patience – Animals do not take direction, some can be manipulated slightly be food and fear, but for the most part we need to wait until the animal performs the behaviour we are seeking. Our job is to be in the right position, ready to film, and hit record. Knowledge of behavioral patterns can allow us to predict a little to make it easier. 

Workshop 3. Monkeyland & Birds of Eden

Instructor notes

The aims of this workshop are

  1. To get students to successfully shoot full sequences for small short stories. 
  2. To get students to become masters of their cameras and operations 
  3. Develop students ability to tap local knowledge
  4. Get students to practice developing their professional network. 

Process

  1. Book – Ensure that Monkeyland / BOE is contacted and the gorup is booked on for filming day 
  2. Pack – Issue cameras, extenders, batteries, cards, throw-bags, tripods.
  3. Lunches – Book packed lunch’s (day before) and collect and pack lunches
  4. Travel – Depart (circa 08h00) and travel to Monkeyland
  5. Birds of Eden (1st) – Brief students on objectives – watch, choose a subject, film an entire sequence that can be used for a short 1 minute video story. Use all the skills they have been taught. If they finish, they can choose a second subject. Typically move to the more open area at the northern end of the Avery, ibis, swans, geese make good subjects. 
  6. Lunch – Break for lunch at parking lot – eat pancakes. 
  7. Monkey land – Brief students  on objectives – watch, choose a subject, film an entire sequence that can be used for a short 1 minute video story. Use all the skills they have been taught. If they finish, they can choose a second subject. Typically ring tailed lemurs and capuchin monkey’s are two good subjects. 

Key discussion points

  1. Watch how animals are behaving – Choosing a subject is important, look at viability, look at interesting behaviour, look at interactions between individuals. Make it interesting.
  2. Setting – Get them to subjectively choose a setting – is it in captivity, or is it in the wild. If wild, then no image can show human activity or structures (fences, paths, netting). 
  3. Birds – get low, stay still and realise they are very flightily (but some are very habituated), is difficult to film into the sun on the open field, and lots of human stuff in the way. 
  4. Monkeys – they move fast, and if students don’t watch behviour and predict where they are going, then they will always miss action. The feeding stations are easy but very unnatural (except for close ups when you can shot around the station), again get low to the monkeys for better angles. 
  5. Animals look the same! Let them remember in most cases animals look very similar – so different animals can be the same subject. Although sometimes good to choose a really unique animal (one legged or something) as then an audience can readily identify it. 

Workshop 4. Editing in Premier

Instructor notes

The aims of this workshop are

  1. To get students to be able to set up and record an interview.
  2. To understand different setups and how talent works in these setups
  3. To develop skills of students to get positive performance out of talent

Process

  1. Equipment issue – Use only two cameras, tripods, boom mic, radio mics, reflectors.
  2. Audio setups – Take students through how to set up audio on people and cameras
  3. Select setting – Around farm find good setting think sound, background, sun, story etc.
  4. one character interview–  fulfil roles of (a) primary camera, (b) secondary camera, (c) talent and (d) director / off screen interviewer. Setup and record a single person interview on a random animal subject that students choose. Get student talent to play the part. (NB if not enough students – combine roles and get involved).
  5. two character interview – fulfil roles of (a) primary camera, (b) secondary camera, (c) talent and (d) on screen interviewer. Setup and record a two person interview on a random animal subject that students choose. Include interviewer doing noddies, and re-asking questions for closeup.

Key discussion points

  1. Good setting – Because wildlife doco’s don’t have closed sets, have to be very choosy on location – need quiet, non-disturbance, lighting good (time of day) and relevant backdrops.
  2. Treat talent good – Practice how to treat talent (keep out of sun, have crew do position setup), also ensure that the interviewer works on giving good positive affirmations when listening.
  3. Full answers – When interviewer off camera – get talent to ensure they give full answers including the questions where possible (e.g. ‘John’ vs’ ‘My name is John’). Not important if interviewer on camera and audience can hear the question.
  4. Talk over – Ensure talent and interviewer do not talk over each other.
  5. Levels! Talk about peaking and muffling and how to set the correct levels through ‘1,2,3,4’ type stuff
  6. Reflectors – Use reflectors (if possible) and angles to get good images on the talent

Workshop 5. Interviews and Talent

Instructor notes

The aims of this workshop are

  1. To get students to be able to set up and record an interview.
  2. To understand different setups and how talent works in these setups
  3. To develop skills of students to get positive performance out of talent

Process

  1. Equipment issue – Use only two cameras, tripods, boom mic, radio mics, reflectors.
  2. Audio setups – Take students through how to set up audio on people and cameras
  3. Select setting – Around farm find good setting think sound, background, sun, story etc.
  4. one character interview–  fulfil roles of (a) primary camera, (b) secondary camera, (c) talent and (d) director / off screen interviewer. Setup and record a single person interview on a random animal subject that students choose. Get student talent to play the part. (NB if not enough students – combine roles and get involved).
  5. two character interview – fulfil roles of (a) primary camera, (b) secondary camera, (c) talent and (d) on screen interviewer. Setup and record a two person interview on a random animal subject that students choose. Include interviewer doing noddies, and re-asking questions for closeup.

Key discussion points

  1. Good setting – Because wildlife doco’s don’t have closed sets, have to be very choosy on location – need quiet, non-disturbance, lighting good (time of day) and relevant backdrops.
  2. Treat talent good – Practice how to treat talent (keep out of sun, have crew do position setup), also ensure that the interviewer works on giving good positive affirmations when listening.
  3. Full answers – When interviewer off camera – get talent to ensure they give full answers including the questions where possible (e.g. ‘John’ vs’ ‘My name is John’). Not important if interviewer on camera and audience can hear the question.
  4. Talk over – Ensure talent and interviewer do not talk over each other.
  5. Levels! Talk about peaking and muffling and how to set the correct levels through ‘1,2,3,4’ type stuff
  6. Reflectors – Use reflectors (if possible) and angles to get good images on the talent

Workshop 6. Story Development

Instructor notes

The aims of this workshop are

  1. To get students to be able to set up and record an interview.
  2. To understand different setups and how talent works in these setups
  3. To develop skills of students to get positive performance out of talent

Process

  1. Equipment issue – Use only two cameras, tripods, boom mic, radio mics, reflectors.
  2. Audio setups – Take students through how to set up audio on people and cameras
  3. Select setting – Around farm find good setting think sound, background, sun, story etc.
  4. one character interview–  fulfil roles of (a) primary camera, (b) secondary camera, (c) talent and (d) director / off screen interviewer. Setup and record a single person interview on a random animal subject that students choose. Get student talent to play the part. (NB if not enough students – combine roles and get involved).
  5. two character interview – fulfil roles of (a) primary camera, (b) secondary camera, (c) talent and (d) on screen interviewer. Setup and record a two person interview on a random animal subject that students choose. Include interviewer doing noddies, and re-asking questions for closeup.

Key discussion points

  1. Good setting – Because wildlife doco’s don’t have closed sets, have to be very choosy on location – need quiet, non-disturbance, lighting good (time of day) and relevant backdrops.
  2. Treat talent good – Practice how to treat talent (keep out of sun, have crew do position setup), also ensure that the interviewer works on giving good positive affirmations when listening.
  3. Full answers – When interviewer off camera – get talent to ensure they give full answers including the questions where possible (e.g. ‘John’ vs’ ‘My name is John’). Not important if interviewer on camera and audience can hear the question.
  4. Talk over – Ensure talent and interviewer do not talk over each other.
  5. Levels! Talk about peaking and muffling and how to set the correct levels through ‘1,2,3,4’ type stuff
  6. Reflectors – Use reflectors (if possible) and angles to get good images on the talent

Workshop 7. Effects cameras

Instructor notes

The aims of this workshop are

  1. To get students to be able to set up and record an interview.
  2. To understand different setups and how talent works in these setups
  3. To develop skills of students to get positive performance out of talent

Process

  1. Equipment issue – Use only two cameras, tripods, boom mic, radio mics, reflectors.
  2. Audio setups – Take students through how to set up audio on people and cameras
  3. Select setting – Around farm find good setting think sound, background, sun, story etc.
  4. one character interview–  fulfil roles of (a) primary camera, (b) secondary camera, (c) talent and (d) director / off screen interviewer. Setup and record a single person interview on a random animal subject that students choose. Get student talent to play the part. (NB if not enough students – combine roles and get involved).
  5. two character interview – fulfil roles of (a) primary camera, (b) secondary camera, (c) talent and (d) on screen interviewer. Setup and record a two person interview on a random animal subject that students choose. Include interviewer doing noddies, and re-asking questions for closeup.

Key discussion points

  1. Good setting – Because wildlife doco’s don’t have closed sets, have to be very choosy on location – need quiet, non-disturbance, lighting good (time of day) and relevant backdrops.
  2. Treat talent good – Practice how to treat talent (keep out of sun, have crew do position setup), also ensure that the interviewer works on giving good positive affirmations when listening.
  3. Full answers – When interviewer off camera – get talent to ensure they give full answers including the questions where possible (e.g. ‘John’ vs’ ‘My name is John’). Not important if interviewer on camera and audience can hear the question.
  4. Talk over – Ensure talent and interviewer do not talk over each other.
  5. Levels! Talk about peaking and muffling and how to set the correct levels through ‘1,2,3,4’ type stuff
  6. Reflectors – Use reflectors (if possible) and angles to get good images on the talent

Workshop 8. Pitching

Instructor notes

The aims of this workshop are

  1. To get students to be able to set up and record an interview.
  2. To understand different setups and how talent works in these setups
  3. To develop skills of students to get positive performance out of talent

Process

  1. Equipment issue – Use only two cameras, tripods, boom mic, radio mics, reflectors.
  2. Audio setups – Take students through how to set up audio on people and cameras
  3. Select setting – Around farm find good setting think sound, background, sun, story etc.
  4. one character interview–  fulfil roles of (a) primary camera, (b) secondary camera, (c) talent and (d) director / off screen interviewer. Setup and record a single person interview on a random animal subject that students choose. Get student talent to play the part. (NB if not enough students – combine roles and get involved).
  5. two character interview – fulfil roles of (a) primary camera, (b) secondary camera, (c) talent and (d) on screen interviewer. Setup and record a two person interview on a random animal subject that students choose. Include interviewer doing noddies, and re-asking questions for closeup.

Key discussion points

  1. Good setting – Because wildlife doco’s don’t have closed sets, have to be very choosy on location – need quiet, non-disturbance, lighting good (time of day) and relevant backdrops.
  2. Treat talent good – Practice how to treat talent (keep out of sun, have crew do position setup), also ensure that the interviewer works on giving good positive affirmations when listening.
  3. Full answers – When interviewer off camera – get talent to ensure they give full answers including the questions where possible (e.g. ‘John’ vs’ ‘My name is John’). Not important if interviewer on camera and audience can hear the question.
  4. Talk over – Ensure talent and interviewer do not talk over each other.
  5. Levels! Talk about peaking and muffling and how to set the correct levels through ‘1,2,3,4’ type stuff
  6. Reflectors – Use reflectors (if possible) and angles to get good images on the talent