aVaTar Documentary Starting

The Subdivided documentary is in the final editing stages.
But that of course has not stopped me from starting another one. The new project
is tentatively titled aVaTar.

It’s follows the theme of community building from Subdivided into the online space. My contention is that in the near future immersive, shared online spaces will no longer be restricted to games, or even to private spaces like Second Life, but will be legitimate spaces for culture and commerce. We will move in and out of them the same way we move from web page to web page. The film asks the question: what lessons can we learn from what’s going on now in spaces like WOW, Everquest, and the social networking sites? What does it mean to have an avatar?

So… We went to our first event at Fan Faire in Atlanta over the weekend. It’s the Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) Fan Event for Everquest, Star Wars Galaxies and other properties. And apart from a truly crappy hotel - one rated four stars on Travelocity but which in reality was a two star hotel - the experience was immersive, exhausting, and very satisfying from a documentary experience.

After a day of making our presence known and getting folks comfortable with the fact that there were two guys running around sticking giant cameras in their faces, we felt like we were part of the crowd. The SOE folks were particularly helpful accommodated our numerous requests for interviews, space, light, etc.

I felt like I was there for a week, and it was just over two days.

Creative Notes.
We are sacrificing image quality and, less often, sound quality, in order to get personal, authentic interviews. Melting ordinary people who do not ordinarily talk on camera with giant lights does not work. We tried a combination of impromptu interviews where we used whatever lighting was right there and interviews where we set up a minimal lighting arrangement in s side conference room that SOE kindly let us use. There were times when I was nearly overwhelmed with empathy for certain characters in the event and genuinely felt a sense of community.

Tech notes.

I’m a minimalist and use as little gear as possible for the dual reasons of efficiency and discretion with participants. We used the new Sony HDV cameras for the first time. I haven’t looked at the footage full resolution yet but for the most part they performed well. Not sure about the noise level on the higher gain settings - we had to pump it up often because of the dim, yellowish hotel lighting. This was a situation that, with the Panasonic DVX100 that I
was using would have been impossible. That camera had a problem with low light and white balance, and with blooming (overexposed spots) outdoors. And though I would have liked to use the new Panasonic HDV camera, the issue with the P2 cards is just not practical at this time - maybe the next project. We lost several accessories and broke one or two things, but overall the gear worked well. There was a distortion problem with the on camera Sony wireless mic set. Hopefully some of this can be fixed in post. Makes me want to use the heavier Sennheiser set more often. Major gear included one Sony FX1, one ZX1, one HC1, two Lowell Pro lights and a tiny softbox, and two Sennheiser boom mics.

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