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   Book Review
   Voice & Vision:
   A Creative Approach to Narrative Film and
   DV Production
   Author: Mick Hurbis-Cherrier
   Publisher: Focal Press
   Pages: 537 pgs.
   Topic: Film/DV production textbook

   MSRP: $54.99

   Special Pricing: Click Here
   Expected Release: Available Now
   Review Date: July 1, 2007
   Reviewed By: Kari Ann Morgan
Final Score:

Maybe you're a filmmaker who's just starting out. Or perhaps you've already got a few projects under your belt and are starting to feel more comfortable with this whole filmmaking thing; you're more familiar with the process, and you're learning more with each project. Or maybe you (and others around you) are starting to think of yourself as an actual, bona-fide director. Awesome! But now, you want (or need) to learn more of the "technical" stuff. Sure, you know how to operate your nice DV or HDV camera, but now you want to know how it really works. How exactly does a CCD chip work? What's the difference between PAL and NTSC, progressive and interlaced scanning, SD and HD? What do they all mean and -more importantly- what will work best for you? Maybe you've worked on DV for all of your previous projects and you'd really like to learn more about the process of working on actual film. Or perhaps you want to learn more about the various technicalities of audio for film, so that you know exactly what to do to get that improved sound quality on your next project.

If you're wanting to learn about these things and much more, then Voice and Vision is definitely for you. The book is geared toward those of both the film and DV persuasion, and it contains information that is both applicable and incredibly valuable, regardless of budget size. It covers all of the topics of filmmaking, including: preproduction (writing and formatting the screenplay, visual composition basics, scene organization, pre-visualization, budgeting, scheduling, and cast/crew selection), production (the technicalities of film and DV, lens/visual techniques, camera supports, lighting and exposure, sound, and the actual filming process), and finally, post (process and techniques of film and DV editing, sound design/editing, and final mastering). The book also includes several template forms that can be copied for use in personal projects, as well as lists of additional eduacational resources.

With all that being said, let's take a closer look...

I was extremely impressed with how easy it was to understand this book. While it is a textbook, it doesn't suffer from the over-technical and wordy (aka: boring) nature that some textbooks have. Even if you have limited knowledge (or even none at all) of such topics as audio, film, and/or DV, you will still be able to learn the information presented in this book. Granted, the material is dense, and it may take you several read-throughs of certain sections to fully understand it; however, the technical terminology is clearly defined, and there are hundreds of photographs, charts, pictures, and examples to illustrate the concepts and aid comprehension. Mr. Hurbis-Cherrier showcases his excellent teaching ability by not automatically assuming that the reader is familiar with the subject; he explains things in a very easy-to-understand way, without sounding dumbed-down or condescending.

Depth of Information
I was blown away by the astounding amount of information contained in this book. The most similar book I would compare this to is The $30 Film School. But if that is the "general course" study book, then Voice and Vision is for the advanced placement class. This book takes the concepts of $30 Film School to a whole different level, going into much more technical detail about the intricacies of the filmmaking process and how the equipment really works. Going beyond "this is how you white-balance" or "this is how you get good audio", the book explains why these things are necessary, as well as the scientific principles of light, sound, film, and digital that govern the filmmaking process.

Additionally, the Depth of Information factor is significantly increased by the fact that Hurbis-Cherrier did not limit himself solely to film or DV production, but included both of them in the book. I especially liked this, because most microfilmmaking books cover only DV, while film production books cover material that is financially beyond low-budget filmmakers. This book covers both topics, so if you went to film school and primarily learned how to use film, you can learn all about DV and HDV; conversely, if you're a self-taught microfilmmaker who's used nothing but DV and you're looking to try your hand at a 16mm short, this book explains all about film and film cameras.

As you can probably tell from what's been said already, this book doesn't really go into how to write a screenplay, budget your film, direct your actors, or circulate/distribute the finished product. These topics are merely touched on (although additional resources and suggested readings are listed at the back of the book). The majority of this book (317 pages of it!) is primarily dedicated to the technical aspects of actual film and DV production.

Attention Captivation
I must confess that even as I'm flipping through the book right now to refresh my memory and find certain parts for this review, I find myself getting distracted by it; a page will catch my eye, and I'll start reading, and before I know it, ten minutes have passed! Not only do the illustrations enhance the comprehension of the book, but they also make it much more interesting to read. This illustrates the effectiveness of the teaching concept of "don't tell me, show me". The easy-to-follow layout helps the reader not to lose interest or get lost in the material. While this isn't casual reading material by any stretch, this book makes learning very detailed material an enjoyable experience.

Based on the quantity and detail of the material covered, this book is definitely a keeper, and one that you will keep coming back to for some time to come. While technology always continues to change at a quick pace (especially in the world of filmmaking), the basic principles for both film and digital production change little. Because this book addresses those basic principles (as opposed to just how to use the newest in digital equipment), this book has a longer reusability factor than most production books, particularly those that deal with solely DV.

Value vs. Cost
I still sometimes have nightmares about the ungodly prices I paid for my textbooks while I was in college. (Okay, that's not true; my actual recurring nightmare is that halfway through the semester, I realize that I haven't attended any of my classes so far, and I'll fail all my classes. But that's a topic for another therapy session.) I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that the cost of this book was only $55. "Only $55?" you say. "That's a lot of money!" Yes, I know, it is more than the average price of most of the books we've reviewed here, but consider: the book is over 500 pages long, and is filled with detailed illustrations and photographs. I honestly was expecting it to be more along the lines of $65-70 dollars.  For the amount of information that you get out of it, it's a steal at this price.

Overall Comment
For those filmmakers who want to learn more about the technicalities of film and DV production, this is the book you've been waiting for. Written in a way that is educational yet easy-to-understand, you will find this book helpful whether you're a new filmmaker or one with some experience under your belt. Regardless of your budget size, or your preference for film/DV, there is an incredible amount of information to learn here. The book's layout and detailed illustrations make it easy to follow and enjoyable to read, while the depth of information --as well as the topics themselves-- ensure that this book will be usable for quite awhile after its purchase. The price is excellent, espcially considering the amount of information the book contains, as well as its reusability. A must-have for the filmmaker who wants to take his education to the next level!

Depth of Information            
Interest Level            
           Value vs. Cost            
Overall Score           
A powerhouse in management, Kari Ann Morgan successfully produced a feature length film before coming to work at Microfilmmaker as Assistant Editor. In addition to writing for the magazine, she's been successfully working with various distributors to get microfilmmakers the chance for theatrical distribution.

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