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Demo: Interaction With Family at Start of Session

Lesson 29 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

Demo: Interaction With Family at Start of Session

Lesson 29 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

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Lesson Info

29. Demo: Interaction With Family at Start of Session


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


The Spark That Inspired Me


What Are Family Films?


Gear for Family Films


Camera Settings for Video


Frame Rates & Slow Motion


Picture Profiles & Color Grading


Settings for Audio Capture


Lesson Info

Demo: Interaction With Family at Start of Session

We are going to show you some behind the scenes that we did, we shot on Sunday. So I went into a family's home, and it was, I typically do, we spoke earlier in the class about how I will learn from a questionnaire what is the most important things that, memories, that they want to remember, and then I usually will then determine what time of day I go and do the shoot. I really enjoy doing mornings, and for this mom in particular, it was morning snuggles in bed. That was one memory that she specifically pointed out that she wanted to have documented. And since I don't go, I don't usually, well, we spoke yesterday, I don't give very much guidance, but if they specifically say that this kind of memory is something they want, then I encourage them to go up there and do it if they haven't already started there. So when I arrived at the house, they were all awake. You never know, right? So you're like, you can try to guess when the kids are gonna be waking up. I would love to get them actual...

ly waking up, to film them waking up. It's a little bit hard with a film crew with me to manage that. So I knew that was gonna be one of those things that was just gonna be a little bit different about this session versus my normal. But it was fine and she was, when I arrived, she greeted me at the door and you'll see a bit of this later, and then I just said: "Do you wanna go back upstairs "with the little one and see if he'll snuggle with you "a little bit more?" And then from there, we just kinda let things happen as they happened, so yeah. And that was mostly just to make sure that she captured, we captured that memory for her. So, light was really challenging when I got into the room upstairs, though the curtains were open. You can see that there was a lot of harsh light coming down on to the bed, a lot of deep shadows everywhere else. So you'll see that. You'll see how challenging that was throughout, but actually really love this light, personally. I think it's really interesting. I would prefer this light over flat light any day, so, yeah, we'll get started. (clears throat) So when I get to the house, I'm looking for ways to shoot the front of the house to open my film. So I'm always looking for an introduction. This is one of the things that I'm looking for as I'm shooting, are opening clips to start my film. There's nothing worse than getting to the edit and realizing you've got no way to open your film. (audience laughing) And you're just like: All of a sudden we're with the family. So this one, when I found the flowers, I was like, I really like this sort of more obscure view of the house through the flowers, liked the backlight, so I just flipped it around. You can see there's lots, just the sun literally was rising straight in front of the house. (clears throat) So I just spend a little bit of time. I get a little bit of the flag, it's not a great shot. But maybe I'll use that. I'm shooting all of this at (greeting each other) 60 frames per second at the opening so that I can slow it down. (interacting and laughing together) Do we have any audio of... There's another one up, because he'll be really grumpy if he wake up and found all these people in his house. Oh, fair. So, I mean, he knows you guys are coming so it's no big deal. Yes. My child may not sound happy, so. Yeah, Aww. And I left the bed unmade, upstairs, in case you do wanna- Okay. Pretend that we're snuggling up there. Yeah. (laughing) How are you? (softening voice for the infant) And he's a little bit sick, the worst of it was Friday, he seemed a little better yesterday, and today hopefully he's, you know- Mm-hmm. (laughing) And so, you must be? Charley! (high-five clap) (laughing) How is your morning going? Good. Good? He's already been up for like two hours. Have you? I woke up at five-something, today. Five-something? Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Did you get to bed early? Or do you stay up and read? Nope, I stayed up and watched- Usually I just wake up at 5:30 and watch t.v. Oh, yeah. He does, he comes downstairs by himself. Yeah, Cooper does that too. I watch t.v. Come downstairs by himself, pretty much he can wait for an hour. (both agreeably laughing) (clearing throat) Awesome. So, what do you want us to do? Well, do you wanna go back upstairs, or, yeah? You wanna stay downstairs? Do you think he'll snuggle, or is he kind of like over being in bed? He, no, he might. Like I said, he's a little bit sick so he might snuggle more than normal. There's Henry. Hey Henry. And there's James. Hi, it's nice to meet you! Nice to meet you. Courtney. Name's Courtney? Yes. Nice to meet you, welcome. Thank you. (family chatting and interacting) This is gonna be, by the closet doors- Mm-hmm. So they're gonna face like we are- (whispering) Okay, that's fine. You understand, I always shoot- They'll figure it out. So that's fine? Yeah. So they're usually, when you first get into the house, they're like: "Okay, what do you want me to do?" You know, and so, it's just that gentle: Let's just go upstairs! And for this case, cuz I knew that's what she wanted, but if, you know, for most instances if I didn't know specifically she wanted to come up here, I woulda just been like: Whatever you would normally be doing, let's just go make breakfast, whatever. (family interacting) So I'm looking for ways to open this scene, right? So this is scene one. We've got the intro, for the front of the house, and now I'm looking for ways to open scene one with lots of, so I'm switching, that's me switching to stills. (family playfully interacting) There was a bit of playing-up for the camera. When that happens, I just put it down, and I shoot and I move. It's sort of like rewarding that behavior if you keep shooting through it, so just through body language, putting the camera down moving. Moving is something else. (family interacting and baby-speak) That's me giving myself an ending transition from this cuz I know there's just three of them now, eventually there's gonna be more. So, if I end up just ending and only including them, I also need an outro, to end that scene. So a lot of times I'll shoot- (laughing) Hit my head. (laughing) Not used to these ceilings! This bed was made by her husband. So that's why it's really special, as well, and they spend a lot of time there. (camera shuttering) (playful family banter) (children playing in the background) I really liked the way the shadow was coming across his eyes. Do I need to wipe his eyes? No, no don't worry. Seize 'em out, the rest of 'em come in. The middle one was shyer. He took a little bit to warm up. (family interacting and chatting) Hey, Henry. Hiding from me. But I'm just letting them do their thing, I'm not telling them to do anything, not guiding them. So I'm giving Henry a minute to warm, like to get used to me. And so I'm just flicking over here, I know that I need to get some B-roll of this room. The only light that I think is great is this kind of frostiness outside the window. I really like this look, of the houses across the road. And I love the sun that's coming through. And the light in the other, like all of this stuff right here is not gonna be interesting to me, it's all in the shadows. (James whispering) So dad comes in, and I need to figure out a way to shoot that. And lucky, he just sits at the end of the bed here. He comes in, so. It's warming up quickly, isn't it? Smile for the camera. Oscar, smile for the camera. At the moment I'm just shooting and waiting for something interesting to happen. Because I'm like, this is a good scene, and that's the moment that happens. (children interacting) Dad comes in, and I was in the right spot to anticipate him coming in so that I could get that. Cuz it would be really hard to go from clips of him not in the bed, to clips of him all of a sudden in the bed. So trying to anticipate his entrance so that I film that, to be able to use it. There's a lot of sweet laughter audio here, so I'm switching between 60 and 24 frames per second. (family interacting) I don't love these stills, (laughing) kind of not sure why I'm shooting them. (laughing) But I was hoping for a moment of connection between the baby and the mom. I didn't get it with the stills and I was really heavily leaning towards video, in this. (family chatting and interacting) So we can put them away and play with them after. Yeah, I think we need, may have to put these away until after, you can play once and then we're going to put them away little buddies. We have about 80 cars, really. Yeah. Probably closer to a hundred. A hundred million thousand?! We're out! (claps hands) Oscar? That shot right there, of just his feet, that's part of me, just kind of shooting, more details, more movement, more just like, his feet are moving around, like I don't need to always just be showing the top half of the body, all the time. This is me looking for an ending. Before I know it's gonna end, but I'm kinda anticipating we're gonna be leaving soon. So I'm moving, I'm shooting from the doorway to give myself an ending that I can use later. But, they're not leaving, so I'm gonna back and keep shooting it. But I at least have an ending that I can use when I go edit later. You're fine! (chuckling) Those are my headphones I just draped over my shoulder. But I had them plugged in to check the audio levels while I was shooting. That's it, for that. So that first scene, was what introduces us, their family, for their film. So we're gonna start with the outside of the house, I'm not, didn't shoot myself, or you know, anything from the downstairs part. It's just from their bedroom, that's where we go to straight after that, right? So, and then I think they were kind of looking at me like: Okay, what do we do next? And I had spoken at length, beforehand, that this was, just your everyday routine. The dad had missed the session consult, cuz he had to work late. And so I did a video chat with the mom, and the kids. And so he missed that, and so I had said to her: "You know, just chat to dad, and make sure that he's-" James is his name- "chat to him and just make sure he's comfortable, "like how's he feeling about all of this." And she was like: "Oh, he's good, he'll just do what he's told, basically." (Courtney and audience laughing) "He's a good sport," and I was like: "Okay, great, just make sure that he understands "what we're doing." But he still asks the question, when they were on the bed: "So how's this gonna go?" "How is this all gonna go today?" And so, you know I just reiterated to him: "Like it's just your normal routine, "I'm here hanging out with my camera." And, "what would you guys normally do right now? "If I wasn't here, what would you be doing?" And he was like: "Oh well, we would go downstairs and get breakfast "and start doing that." And I'm like: "Okay, let's go do that." You know, it's just an easy way, I know that people are kind of like: "Oh, but what do you do when they just look at you?" And they're like: "What do we do next?" So that's what you do, you just smooth it out and say: "Well what would you normally be doing? "Let's just go do that." And I think, after a couple of times, at the beginning, it's a little awkward, and then after they are like: "Oh okay, you really mean, we just do our normal thing." (laughing) Then yeah, they're like, okay, alright. And then it gets much better after that, and they just do their thing. And so that's what we did. I was, I'm trying to think, I was sort of wondering like what their plans were gonna be in terms of getting changed? Because normally the, and she asked me: "Do you want us to be dressed before we get there? "Or do you want us to be in our pj's?" And I said: "Whatever you feel comfortable doing, doesn't matter." And so that's something like when I was talking about maintaining continuity and thinking ahead as a storyteller earlier in the class, it was, I don't try to shoot the parents changing. (audience laughter) Like I'm not worried about that, it's okay. I think it's kind of a natural thing. With kids, I like to get a little bit of that. You'll see later, that I was filming the baby and the mom, and so I missed the boys getting dressed, but, if you can shoot it, shoot it. If you can't, you can't, you move on, right? Questions? So, last night I tested out the focusing with my lens versus using auto-focus, it was super uncomfortable! (audience laughing) But, the one thing that I was curious about when you're doing that, there's manual focus and auto focus on the lens itself? Mm-hmm. When you switch back to doing a still, do you switch it back into auto focus on the lens? The lens stays on auto focus, all the time. So when I had it on auto focus and I was trying to manually do it, I was fighting with it. Yeah. All the time. What lens were you using? A Canon 35 one dot four. Okay, so I think every lens is different. Yeah. And I think that on some lenses, when they're set to auto focus you are fighting it, when you try to override it, by turning the ring manually. On the Sigma, that's not an issue. So, I don't have to worry about that which is great cuz it's one less thing. But, I would say that, you'll probably need to switch it to manual focus when you're manually focusing and then when you're gonna take a still, you'll probably need to switch it to auto focus. Or, manually focus, switch to the still, leave it, and you'll be okay. (wholeheartedly laughing and audience joins in) You can still manually focus and take pictures! It'll be okay. You might touch on this, but I'm guessing this house is tight, do you, how do you transition from being on one floor to another? Do you mean in the edit? Do you try and film, doing the stairs, given if it's tight? Yeah, that's a good question. Actually, I missed a moment where the boys slid down the stairs, like one by one. The light at the stairs was really, not good. And it was really dark, and I missed that moment cuz we had other people that were going down the stairs the same time and I was more focused on the mom and the baby at that moment. And so I missed that. But no, I, if it's interesting to shoot and I have the opportunity and I was downstairs before they were, these kids were so fast! They were just like: Mm, we're going, we're down, we're downstairs, we're gonna go and have breakfast now. They knew, I think they were getting some sort of drink out of the refrigerator. That's the first thing that they did when they came downstairs. And so, yes, if I can, but it's also, I will transition to a different room or a different location by using B-roll in that location before, to open the scene when I edit. Okay, so, if you're able to, yeah. But if not, you have other options. Yeah? So, we did have a question that came in from Craig Bryant, who said: How much do you try to incorporate clear focus with soft focus in these bedroom scenes in particular? That's a good question. (clears throat) Hmmm, I would say that it, that's probably something that happens more with the edit, I shoot both in the moment because I like to have kind of more of that, soft focus nostalgic type memory feel, and so I shoot so that there's a good mixture of clear, the moments are very very clearly in focus and sharp. And then especially when I'm doing B-roll or if I'm doing something that's a little bit further back, then that tends to be a little bit of a softer focus and that's usually okay. But yeah, it's probably a mixture but the real question as to how much I include in the film, that just depends on feeling and that depends on the music, and that depends on the camera angles and the positions that I have of those shots. So it's something that I kinda just decide in the moment as I'm editing. I like to give myself a lot of options, you can start to see that, that I don't always use, I mean you're condensing three hours to three minutes. So you're giving yourself a lot of options to choose from when it comes time to edit.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Shot List Worksheet Template
Shot List Worksheet Example
Ideas for Your First Film
Discount Code

Ratings and Reviews

Adam Nicholls

Worth a watch! Courtney provides a clear and organised class, she is also very passionate about what she does which is always nice to see. She has a great back story which is fantastic. This course is good for beginners who have some knowledge in photography and want to learn more about video. I would recommend that people do not refer this class to the bible of filmmaking as I feel you can expand further on what Courtney teaches. Some useful tips for beginners but some methods I personally feel can be taught differently. I feel a gimbal is a useful bit of kit if used correctly. You can still use a gimbal when in manual mode providing you follow the basics rules! Obviously if Courtney prefers not to use a gimbal then that's also fine but I wouldn't discourage students from exploring useful filmmaking tools. Slow motion can be achieved with 50/60fps however I feel other frame rates should have been discussed like 120fps. I liked that Courtney engaged with the students as it gets them involved and will help them remember what they have learned during the class. Thank you for taking the time to share some of your knowledge

a Creativelive Student

Courtney's work is absolutely amazing and inspiring. I feel lucky that she has chosen to share her process and that this class is available! After watching all the videos and trying my hand at this video thing, I am feeling really encouraged and inspired to do more- both personally and professionally. I appreciate the way that she breaks things down in the video and that she shares her thought process. A really great course!


Courtney’s course completes me! I have storytelling “holes” in my film previously, but this course helped fill those holes to create a flow and a film with emotion. Not only is the course wonderful (and well worth every penny) but Courtney is wonderful as well! I had such an amazing experience at Creative Live!!!!

Student Work