Mini Documentary: Production (Module 7)

I’ve done it! Made a mini documentary, that is. I chose to document the story of our family cabin being built, told best by my dad. As my last audio and video design project, I can confidently say that I’m glad it ended this way, and I definitely used everything I’ve learned throughout the last seven weeks within it. 

Reading and Reflection:

Reading the entire book The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video has taught me a lot. From camera, sound, and lighting basics, to the composition, moves, direction, and editing. 

At the beginning of this class, I was a true beginner to audio and video design; I really didn’t know a thing. Maybe besides my general knowledge of design, which did help a bit. But reading about each chapter, then actually doing it was not easy. 

Starting with a podcast, I first learned more about sound. Now, I know the different types of microphones and how to select them based on what I’m planning on doing. For example, I bought a lavalier microphone for this mini documentary. It’s omnidirectional, which means I had to be careful about background noises, as this mic picks up a lot of sound.

In addition to making my own audio, I also have a better understanding of sound effects like ambient noise, and background music to match the visuals and story. 

Then, moving from sound to the camera, it was time to learn about the camera. I now understand camera basics – what goes into them and how they work, overall. However, I’d like to know more about how to adjust the important things like exposure, aperture, color temperature, light meters, and depth of field. This, of course, falls back onto me as I need to do more research on my own camera. But it would be nice to have some resources for basic adjusting for the circumstances. 

Composition rules for video are very similar to basic design rules, so reading about these weren’t a huge surprise to me. Though, I never thought about how they work with a camera. Something as simple as changing angles to get a unique perspective really helps with added depth to the composition. And attempting this was a whole new ballpark for me… But it worked! Using rules like leading lines, balance with color or masses, and the rule of thirds allows for optimal picture to video. 

A few chapters that were particularly helpful for this mini documentary are lighting and doing it. In combination with everything else I’ve learned with camera moves, sound, etc. understanding lighting is essential, especially when setting up interviews on human subjects! I was able to use a basic set up with a key light, fill light, background and back light for optimal picture. Shooting the script out of sequence also helped me with this mini doc, as I would come up with additional questions after what we’ve already talked about. 

Once you have the footage you need, the next step is editing. This is the part that really brings the audio with visuals to life! Using establishing shots, basic sequences, L-cuts and J-cuts, audio and music all help to tell the story the way it’s intended.

Besides the readings from this book, I’ve also learned about the editing softwares – Adobe Audition, and Premiere Pro. I followed tutorials to learn the programs, and it helped greatly when I needed it!

Overall, I now watch videos or movies with a new perspective. I’m able to call out what camera moves the camera people have done – like tilts or pans – as well as the screen direction and axis; or what editing trick the editor has used – like using basic sequences, and L-cuts or J-cuts. I can now watch one scene and see just how many camera locations there were for optimal editing. It’s an interesting new outlook I have with just simply understanding it better. 

On my own end, I now know how to implement different filming and audio rules, and can edit them to make sense for what I want the audience to see. I’m no longer a beginner, but competent when it comes to audio and video design. I will be able to use what I’ve learned here and implement it onto future projects… Maybe I’ll work on more mini documentaries about further addressing our family cabin!


L-cuts and J-cuts are important editing tools when making videos. In this documentary, L-cuts are used at 0:54, 1:42, 2:13, 2:37, 2:53, and a few more. The cuts are done well because it starts with seeing the person who’s talking, then it goes to B-roll that relates to what they’re saying. I particularly enjoy the L-cut at 2:53 because the man talks about how great the restaurant is but he’s sad it’s about to close, while the B-roll shows the same man with one of the employees hugging each other. It adds to the story in a nice way.

This mini documentary shows a few J-cuts that are done well. The first J-cut happens at 0:10 showing B-roll of trash, then an interviewee talking about it before seeing them. This also happens at 0:19, which is nice because the video follows the same overall layout which makes it easier to follow as a viewer. 


This was a really fun project, because it’s so close to home – I mean, it’s the cabin, it’s our family’s home away from home.. But it’s just a cabin!

I interviewed my dad about building the cabin back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. We got so much footage, I could make probably at least three more mini documentaries about different aspects or stories. 

Instead of using narration, I opted away from it. My dad told the story so well, that my narration would seem out of place. It also doesn’t help that I wasn’t alive during the time the cabin was built, so I don’t have a lot of credible reasons to talk to it. It makes more sense for him to tell the story than it would be for me. 

The B-roll I used supports the history of what my dad talks about, by using old photos from the time rather than family at the cabin in real-time. The photos are truly the best way to show what my dad references when building the cabin, and I was so impressed by how my grandma documented this in old photo albums. To work these into the documentary well, I added animation effects, like the Ken Burns effect. 

Like I said earlier, my dad and I shot so much footage. So I know I can make more videos like this in different ways, like what it’s like up there now instead of back then. I’ll also be able to speak to it better in this aspect! 

Watch the documentary below – enjoy!

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