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Shooting "C-Roll" and mental health


kye

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YouTuber Christian Maté Grab recently posted this video, which I think is very interesting, is hugely authentic, and quite frankly, brave.

He talks about shooting footage for yourself, for no pre-defined or pre-imagined purpose, just of things that happen in your normal life.  This is what he's called "C-Roll".

He talks about how he has recently struggled with quite debilitating mental health issues / depression and the roll that C-Roll played in helping him recover from that state.

The idea isn't new to those of us old enough to remember film cameras (he's probably not) and to a certain extent he's just discovered home videos, but I think it's an interesting and important point for those of us who may have adapted to only thinking of shooting for commercial purposes or for likes and followers, especially as the world gets crazier with the hype of social media and the slow but inevitable upset of basically the entire film-making and professional video industry.

Here's the video:

Do you shoot personal footage?

 

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A YouTuber that does this basically full time is Trout & Coffee. He shoots really authentic stuff with his phone, GoPro, and I suspect an old 5DM3 or something (the video quality isn’t great) but his stories are, and that’s the meat of it right there.

He doesn’t care about AF loosing focus. Doesn’t care about lack of DR or getting the perfect shot or the most cinematic angles. Doesn’t talk about gear at all. He captures things raw and its honestly my favorite channel because its a total breathe of fresh air from all the overly serious, overly produced, overly shot and edited stuff out there. It has changed my perspective.

He shoots what Christian calls “C-Roll” as his style and his choice and makes money doing it with ads on instagram for lots of different brands.

Creators allow YouTube to bend their will to its needs. It should be the other way around.

If you enjoy vintage things, cabins, nature, good stories, campfires and canoe trips and a bit of Buddhism sprinkling here and there then I would recommend his channel.

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33 minutes ago, Video Hummus said:

A YouTuber that does this basically full time is Trout & Coffee. He shoots really authentic stuff with his phone, GoPro, and I suspect an old 5DM3 or something (the video quality isn’t great) but his stories are, and that’s the meat of it right there.

He doesn’t care about AF loosing focus. Doesn’t care about lack of DR or getting the perfect shot or the most cinematic angles. Doesn’t talk about gear at all. He captures things raw and its honestly my favorite channel because its a total breathe of fresh air from all the overly serious, overly produced, overly shot and edited stuff out there. It has changed my perspective.

I'm not convinced.

I just picked a video of his at random and watched a few minutes and what I saw was pretty heavily sculpted.  As someone who spends weeks / months of the year travelling and shooting my own adventures (and I'm talking thousands of clips per week) I can tell you that how he shoots is not how you shoot if your primary goal is to have fun.  He knows what he's doing and the missed-focus and shaky camera work is just him fine-tuning an aesthetic different to what is traditionally sought after.

I've seen wedding video that looked like this, and it's a style.  It's the hipster I-don't-care style, but it's a style nonetheless.

I would categorise C-Roll as shooting clips with no use, where it would be rare to use them in anything published for several years at least.  If your aesthetic is to shoot random stuff then edit it and publish it, then it's no longer random, it's planned.

I've seen burnout on the YouTubers that keep up a weekly / more often schedule, and you hear how they start with a love for film and just having fun, it gets success and they have an interest so they try new things, then they get good and they push themselves, and before you know it they lose the ability to live their life separately from how it will appear online, and the stress of that normally ends badly.  Unfortunately you only get to hear those stories in the "We're separating" videos from famous online couples.

I think Christian is suggesting exactly the opposite.  To shoot the clips that won't be any good, and the fact they won't be any good I think is what makes them what they are.  If something is good then as an artist the temptation is to switch into the "how do I look" mode, which is the thinking pattern that makes people miserable the more they use social media.

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I think your overthinking it honestly. But each their own. He likes to tell stories about his life and where he grew up with the people he grew up with. I don’t see a lot of sculpting besides the narration and the editing...you have to edit btw unless you are just releasing 5 hours of GoPro footage from it being strapped to you head.

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2 hours ago, kye said:

I would categorise C-Roll as shooting clips with no use, where it would be rare to use them in anything published for several years at least.  If your aesthetic is to shoot random stuff then edit it and publish it, then it's no longer random, it's planned.

If he scripted talking about flying fishing with his dad its perhaps the best scripted acting sequence in any movie.

C-Roll is documentation without an intent.

Perhaps his intent was to create something with footage he filmed in the above video. That’s fine. My point is it isn’t taken seriously, it isn’t overproduced and trying to be all Hollywood like so many are trying to do on YouTube these days.

But I’m not here to defend my choices of entertainment just sharing. If you don’t like that’s fine.

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I love getting out and doing this. I have so many bits and pieces from over the years that don’t have a rhyme or reason. I think it’s super important to the creative part of your mind, to keep up on the craft for the love of the crafts sake. Otherwise it gets stale really fast. People do this with music all of the time, pick up your instrument and just play. We need to remember to do it with video too.

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This is a surprisingly meaningful video. Makes me think about life. 

My girlfriend and I used to shoot videos just for fun. Very silly stuffs, really. We knew nothing about videography so the videos are just bad. This changed after we do video professionally. We don't shoot those silly videos anymore. We only shoot paid jobs and testings. It's like we have forgotten making videos are not always about work. Making videos are not fun anymore most of the time.

Maybe that can help with my depression. Who knows?

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That droning background music is a bit much! I kind of assumed everybody shoots iPhone video or photos pretty frequently? The phone is the modern day handy cam. By his definition, that certainly qualifies as "c-roll." There is no requirement for what type of camera is used... 

About 6 years ago, I started to bring a compact 35mm film camera everywhere I go. Film looks the best, only wish I started shooting photos earlier. I think between my phone and a small stills camera, that fuels my urge to "create" something every time I go out.

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12 minutes ago, BenEricson said:

That droning background music is a bit much! I kind of assumed everybody shoots iPhone video or photos pretty frequently? The phone is the modern day handy cam. By his definition, that certainly qualifies as "c-roll." There is no requirement for what type of camera is used... 

About 6 years ago, I started to bring a compact 35mm film camera everywhere I go. Film looks the best, only wish I started shooting photos earlier. I think between my phone and a small stills camera, that fuels my urge to "create" something every time I go out.

I think this is a bit different. At least my interpretation of it is.

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Nice post Kai.

Of course I also love to roll through old material of the way things were.  Often it does have value. But (as we know) there is a profound sickness (narcissism?) unfolding in and around the need to capture (archive) our lives. I guess it comes down to intention. If it's mindless vacant crap done to stroke the ego via social media, then I balk. But this is larger than just me, so who am I to say... and I do understand the underlying need to connect which is human enough. But then, it becomes about 'what' is being shared. And then of course, there is the 'profitibility' side of things which is a huge loaded gun... as our biosphere heaves and groans.

I actually feel sorry for the guy in the clip. There literally tens of thousands of these guys who all look the same, sound the same though they see themselves as unique and special. If it were up to me, I would send him to live with the Papuans for a decade to unlearn what he has. And of course... no camera allowed.

But that's no answer either 😉

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6 hours ago, Video Hummus said:

Perhaps his intent was to create something with footage he filmed in the above video. That’s fine. My point is it isn’t taken seriously, it isn’t overproduced and trying to be all Hollywood like so many are trying to do on YouTube these days.

But I’m not here to defend my choices of entertainment just sharing. If you don’t like that’s fine.

On the contrary, I like it quite a lot.  It drew me in and immediately had a fresh and honest aesthetic that made his life look somehow very appealing and yet very accessible.  I'm not sure if you've ever tried creating a video like these, but this is in kind-of the same direction that I work towards, and I can tell you, anything that is effortless to watch is because the person making it put in all the effort!

Maybe I'm wrong, and he's just a natural, where everything he does just happens to come together into a coherent narrative with candid shots that all work and support the edit in post.  The internet is a big place and I guess statistically there are likely to be a few people out there who can just pick up a camera and it all just works for them.  Who knows.

5 hours ago, aaa123jc said:

This is a surprisingly meaningful video. Makes me think about life. 

My girlfriend and I used to shoot videos just for fun. Very silly stuffs, really. We knew nothing about videography so the videos are just bad. This changed after we do video professionally. We don't shoot those silly videos anymore. We only shoot paid jobs and testings. It's like we have forgotten making videos are not always about work. Making videos are not fun anymore most of the time.

Maybe that can help with my depression. Who knows?

It sounds like it might be worth a go.

When I was shooting stills there was a pretty constant supply of stories from people who say that photography saved their life.  Typically they were working through the loss of a loved one or some other kind of major tragedy and were approaching suicide and someone gave them a camera and they just went out and started taking photos and it ended up helping them get through that difficult time.

I am no expert, but one thing that comes to mind is deliberately doing the opposite of what you would typically do for paid jobs and testings.  I've had a lot of success creatively in many different creative fields (music, drawing, photography, and more) by deliberately taking something you always do and just doing the opposite to see what would happen.  It kind of instantly makes something new and fresh, and you won't have any expectation that it will work (many times it really won't!) which means you will also take risks and will be more in the moment.  Worst case is you spend some time and have a little fun.

3 hours ago, BenEricson said:

That droning background music is a bit much! I kind of assumed everybody shoots iPhone video or photos pretty frequently? The phone is the modern day handy cam. By his definition, that certainly qualifies as "c-roll."

I'm not so sure.

I think nowadays with pervasive social media it's tempting to always be trying to get something that's sharable, and even if not sharable, you're always comparing yourself with things you see online.  Think about beauty 'standards' and how young women talk about how they look - they can be incredibly beautiful and yet think they are ugly or fat because they're comparing themselves to supermodels or to tennis stars that spend 8 hours a day in the gym, or to pop stars who have been photoshopped to death in every image that's publicly available.

Think about the people that you know and how often someone thinks they have an undesirable feature like a big nose or frizzy hair or blotchy skin or whatever and when they look in the mirror that's all they see.  I know people who have worked out some bizarre way to contort themselves for photos and they end up looking ridiculous but they do it because it slightly improves the one thing that they see when they look at themselves.

I remember a saying "don't compare your insides with other peoples outsides", which is talking about how we are aware of our own inner vulnerabilities and mistakes but are only aware of the projected personas of other people so we naturally don't compare well in that context.  

15 minutes ago, Tulpa said:

I actually feel sorry for the guy in the clip. There literally tens of thousands of these guys who all look the same, sound the same though they see themselves as unique and special.

I used to think about Christian the same way - another 'cinematic vlogger - epic b-roll - buy my LUT packs - thanks to todays sponsor' but the last few videos have been different and he's started to become authentic, which puts him in another league entirely.  

I think the pressure on these people is huge, and there's a formula for making things look good and do well on social media.  In a sense it's copying the Peter McKinnon aesthetic, except that the aesthetic alone feels empty without a big personality and big content.  I think all the big YouTubers have a quite deliberate aesthetic, Casey Neistat has spoken openly about his, but when you're copying instead of finding your own voice I think there's a place that you end up and that's the aesthetic where there's the tens of thousands of these people that you're talking about.  They kind of all end up looking like a model in a lifestyle commercial rather than a real human being.

He now has my attention, let's see if he can keep it up.

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Very well said. Thank you.

What is interesting is the journey. And how it informs and expresses itself as we develop.  A healthy moral compass in parallel.

It's clear that it takes a lot of ambition to put oneself out there like our man Christian... let's wish him well in using his work as a vehicle for introspection and process.  That seems decent enough.

1 hour ago, kye said:

I've had a lot of success creatively in many different creative fields (music, drawing, photography, and more) by deliberately taking something you always do and just doing the opposite to see what would happen.  It kind of instantly makes something new and fresh, and you won't have any expectation that it will work (many times it really won't!) which means you will also take risks and will be more in the moment.  

Oscar Wild has a quote I quite like... 'consistency is the refuge of the unimaginative.'

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i like the concept and if your out and about "documenting" everything, family included, then your mind is at least kept active and your video skills as well i guess. 

i had a mate pass away nearly a year ago. he was into photos and video as well. Last time i was around at his place i helped the youngest daughter with his old video gear, got it sorted and running, now the family has memories and treasures and in some ways (he will live on)  at least for his family and thats the important thing i think. there may be no financial benefit but there's more to life than money.

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12 hours ago, kye said:

On the contrary, I like it quite a lot.  It drew me in and immediately had a fresh and honest aesthetic that made his life look somehow very appealing and yet very accessible.  I'm not sure if you've ever tried creating a video like these, but this is in kind-of the same direction that I work towards, and I can tell you, anything that is effortless to watch is because the person making it put in all the effort!

Maybe I'm wrong, and he's just a natural, where everything he does just happens to come together into a coherent narrative with candid shots that all work and support the edit in post.  The internet is a big place and I guess statistically there are likely to be a few people out there who can just pick up a camera and it all just works for them.  Who knows.

Is this a Schrödinger’s cat type of puzzle? When does C-Roll cease to be C-roll?

 Is it when you make the first cut of the footage in a NLE. Or just arranging the clips in a non-chronological order? Those are edits and they are technically changing the reality you captured. 

I think most of Trout’s work is authentic. It’s home movies with a voiceover and a loose theme and some music.

It’s certainly way different than PM’s videos or all the other people out there big money on lights and gear to get a “look”. YouTube is like the stale crackers of content. The airline food for the masses. It’s all heavily seasoned the same but with no real flavor or soul to speak of.

I give a pass to the more nerdy tech channels as those are basically a tech blog in video form where they can more easily convey their message with video than picture and words. Gerald Undone for example. Just give us the juicy information without all the fluff B-roll bullshit and talking about your studio space for the 30th time.

 

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It is a thing that I intend to do more in the future.

Pandemic hit hard here - almost 6 months inside the house, working hard (in IT - as I always stated here, video / stills is for personal pleasure), almost no way to alleviate pressure, always tired, my 15 year old cat died last month. And my house have very bad lighting, and my almost 2 yr old daughter runs to the camera every time that she sees it, making hard to do candid shots. 🙂

Lots of mobile shots, though. And with all the burden of this year, and with my VERY bad memory, recalling these mobile shots made me realize that that I forgot most of the memories of my child as a baby; these stills and short clips brought all back, they are invaluable for me now.

We cannot forget that images are a very powerful way to make us visualize our life path. C-rolls, on a very personal level, could be the best footage that we could ever do.

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12 hours ago, Video Hummus said:

Is this a Schrödinger’s cat type of puzzle? When does C-Roll cease to be C-roll?

 Is it when you make the first cut of the footage in a NLE. Or just arranging the clips in a non-chronological order? Those are edits and they are technically changing the reality you captured. 

I think most of Trout’s work is authentic. It’s home movies with a voiceover and a loose theme and some music.

It’s certainly way different than PM’s videos or all the other people out there big money on lights and gear to get a “look”. YouTube is like the stale crackers of content. The airline food for the masses. It’s all heavily seasoned the same but with no real flavor or soul to speak of.

I give a pass to the more nerdy tech channels as those are basically a tech blog in video form where they can more easily convey their message with video than picture and words. Gerald Undone for example. Just give us the juicy information without all the fluff B-roll bullshit and talking about your studio space for the 30th time.

 

I think it's about intent.  

Christian starts his video saying "Most of the people I got to know in the last two years, let it be photographers videographers film-makers whatever, tend to only go out and shoot if they got something in mind to achieve, maybe it's a vlog, maybe it's a client project, maybe it's just a travel film".

Trout and Coffee starts his most recent video saying "Hudson and I hadn't been on an adventure together for a year, by now it was the very end of August, I had been spending a lot of time staring at my computer in my office and could tell I needed to break off, spend some time away and do what I love most - make a simple film".

So, the whole premise of that video was to make a film, ie, no shot in that was C-Roll.  Sure, it's not scripted, but every time he hit record during that trip would have been in the context of "I'm making a film about an adventure with my dog" - ie, he had something in mind to achieve, like Christian said.

The shot in the one you posted where he was talking with his dad about fly fishing might not have been scripted, and he might not have even shot it with a specific context in mind, but this is where we get to the tricky parts of YouTube and how it becomes all-pervasive.  This is the hidden side that people typically only talk about when they're having some kind of meltdown.  

This is something that lots of people have spoken about - "and you start losing focus on like, what am I doing - am I doing this because I love her or am I doing this for the video? That's toxic for any relationship" (from the below video about 2:30 IIRC.).

Most people put on a facade when they go out in public, or when a camera is pointed at them (which is basically the same except the public are invited into your life via the camera).

When you're filming your life it's hard not to start living your life like people are always watching.  There are great articles on surveillance and how privacy is kind of related to being able to relax in some way.  In a sense, C-Roll might be different to A or B-roll due to the expectation of what will be done with the footage, because that's what matters in the relaxation and the creativity.

I make home videos, but no vlogs.  I make a video of when my family has a holiday, or goes out somewhere, maybe for a party or something.  If I'm doing the dad-with-camcorder thing at some occasion where we all got ready, got dressed, and went out to do something special, then that's not C-Roll.   

What is C-Roll is the shot I got of my daughter (who loves drama and acting) that starts with me testing mixed lighting in the kitchen/dining room and the kids had been home from school for about 20 minutes, and my son comes through to raid the fridge and my daughter is telling my wife about some thing that happened at school and I kind of cheekily kept rolling and she saw the camera and then started making faces and then came over to the camera, took a breath, held for a beat, then dropped into character and then proceeded to give a highly bumbling and misguided tour of our house from the perspective of the character she was in that didn't understand 21st century western living.

That shot is the one that was shot for no purpose, wasn't aligned with any project, was definitely not shot for publication, and I will probably drag out for her 21st birthday 🙂

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