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In the Cutting Room | Meet Editor, Dave Sarno

Meet Bottle Rocket Media Editor, Dave Sarno

Dave Sarno knows about visual storytelling—as far as he is concerned, it is not just the writing or directing that guides the viewer. With a love of film that began at age 10, he has fully embraced the painstaking, yet vital “discovery process” that is post-production. Learn how his approach helps push each Bottle Rocket Media project forward.

Framed: An Improvised Series – “The Clown” from Bottle Rocket Media on Vimeo.

What got you into editing?

I’ve been into movies and storytelling since I was 10. My first foray into the filmmaking process was making Super 8 movies with my childhood friends (Yep, I date myself). Much later, after I graduated from film school, I co-directed a feature documentary film. While working on that project, I saw the story come together in the editing room and I knew that’s where I wanted to be.

What about the craft moves you?

I can’t explain the reason why a cut works—I just know it when I see it. It’s trial and error until something clicks. I like that discovery process.

How does your style/technique tie into creating successful brand videos?

A lot of stories are reimagined in the editing room. Sometimes, the intended middle scene becomes the opening scene. Other times, a voice over is added to give depth to the visuals. The cut at the end of the day can be much different than at the start. There is a lot of improvising required in editing in order to get the best result. For me, it is always exciting to try something new in the editing room that hasn’t yet been considered.

What video technology/storytelling technique are you most excited about right now?

Moving to Bottle Rocket Media from the freelance world has allowed me to edit many 360 video projects. It’s a different kind of storytelling, and I’m eager to see where we can go with it.

What has been your proudest accomplishment at Bottle Rocket Media?

We shot and edited a web series last year called Framed, featuring the amazing talents of Chicago’s funniest improvisors asking a “shop owner” to frame bizarre objects. Since the actors were so funny, there were actually few moments that weren’t usable. We sculpted the 4-5 min episodes in the edit and my job was keeping the pace up while staying out of their way.

Comedy operates completely on what feels good and what makes you laugh in the cut. It was a great learning experience and so much fun. I wear headphones in the office, and everyone knew when I was cutting Framed because I laughed out loud a lot.


Favorite movie of all time and why…

Good Fellas. The camera movement, the editing, the acting… It’s uncomfortable. It’s terrifying—funny and manic. I think I’ve softened a little over the years as a movie watcher, but each time I see it, I can’t take my eyes off it.

Client Spotlight | Byline Bank 

When it comes to sending the right message through video, a down-to-earth brand requires the vision of a down-to-earth production company. It was a match made in marketing heaven, therefore, when Bottle Rocket Media and Byline Bank seamlessly came together to produce a series of effective promotional shorts – featuring a signature human touch both are known for.

With over 40 years of serving local businesses and entrepreneurs under its money belt, Chicago-based institution, Byline Bank, sought to share the tale of its evolving enterprise through a select group of real people – customers who have benefitted from its community-focused programs and services. Enter Bottle Rocket Media producer, Siobhan Summers, who pitched the idea of a team-up and brokered the first meeting of the minds. From the start, it was clear that both companies held a strong passion for positive, Windy City narratives and a HUGE love of documentary-style video.

From there, Byline began banking on Bottle Rocket Media to help bring its customers’ inspiring stories to life: “This was a project right up our alley,” says Fisher. “There is not a single director on our team who doesn’t embrace the importance of genuine emotion in video storytelling. Ultimately, we created three pieces revolving around thriving, local businesses that use Byline [see video below]. The project was unique in that it focused on the people, rather than the client itself, yet still showcased how Byline Bank was an integral part of their financial stability.”

Entitled Written By…, Byline’s campaign series from Bottle Rocket Media puts front and center the owners of Chicago’s Trader Todd’s, Village Fresh Market and Euro Collision in order to demonstrate the bank’s direct impact on the community it serves. Check out the videos to see how its customers are able to truly “write” their own futures:

This is what Byline Bank had to say about working with Bottle Rocket Media: “At Byline, we loved working with Bottle Rocket. They put together inspiring videos telling the Byline Bank customer story. We loved how they made the video process seamless and painless. With little direction, they were able to hear our needs, create the vision and carry it through to reality. We’re excited to continue working on more videos and continue to grow our relationship and our testimonial library.”

Summers concludes: “The entire Byline team was very easy to work with. They were open to our ideas and willing to collaborate on creative – a vital tool we always try to encourage among our clients. Bottom line? Byline gave us some awesome, compelling stories to tell – and that made our job a breeze. We look forward to much more down the line.”

Camera Gear and Tips for Documentary Filmmaking

Documentary filmmaking is one of the most challenging and rewarding endeavours you can ever undertake. Good documentaries create a wave of change in society and people’s perceptions, serving as a strong catalyst. But a documentary is only as good as the story you are telling. And the right camera gear and equipment are imperative for telling the story not just in an authentic way, but also in the most impactful way.

Here are some of the most important Documentary Camera Gear tips to shoot your movie:

1. Know your topic

You need to identify what kind of story you want to tell in the first place. Then only you can find the right content, tone, length, camera gear and filming style for the documentary. Having a clear vision will enable you to ask the right questions, establish your target audience, and draw a satisfying conclusion. Is your story structured around a timed event? Is the event taking place soon or is it a slow burn where time plays no major role? Is your documentary about an event – a concert, beauty pageant, a game etc.? Will you have interviews with the main characters before capturing their daily lives and highlighting their challenges? When you are well-aware of the story, it determines many of the technical decisions like the filming locations and duration of the shoot.

Here are a few ways to get a good grasp of your topic:

  • Research thoroughly on the topic.
  • Consult with experts to get an accurate understanding of the topic.
  • Include key points from your findings in the documentary.
  • 2. Have the right camera

    How you want to tell the story is as important as what the story actually is. You need to have the right camera gear and equipment to bring your vision to life. How do you want to shoot the documentary? What camera do you want to shoot it with? In the tech-savvy modern age, you can even film long documentaries with your smartphone. But that isn’t the best option considering the long days of shoot which requires great amount of storage and battery power.

    At Bottle Rocket Media we always shoot interviews in 4K. When we’re not able to use two cameras for an interview, shooting 4K is like getting an extra camera on set for free. We rarely deliver in 4K, so we use the extra resolution to punch in edit. For us, it’s vital to get the quality and flexibility we want, while respecting our client’s budgets.

    DSLR cameras have also been the staple of indie productions for their affordability and effectiveness. You can get a lot of work done with a 24-70 zoom lens. As a filmmaker, you will collect a hundred gigabytes of footage in the long duration of shooting. Make sure to back up your footage on external hard disks on a regular basis, irrespective of the camera you choose for shooting.

    3. Care for sound

    The sound element is as important as the visual element in the movie. Excellent sound quality brings the audience closer to the protagonists and the subject, whereas bad audio will immediately alienate your audience.

  • Invest the time and money to capture clear sound for your documentary.
  • Get good headphones to monitor audio.
  • Also, invest in a good shotgun mic or lavalier.
  • 4. Create a shooting plan

    Create a plan before the start of the shoot. Make a blueprint of how you will shoot your documentary with proper variations for each scene. Incorporate various shooting techniques along with the usage of focal length, camera angle and camera-to-subject distance for capturing the necessary shots.

  • Make sure to show visuals as a reference to the subject.
  • Shoot enough b-roll as it supports the subject.
  • To draw the viewer into the scene, start with wide shots. The closer you bring your audience, the more drama you can create.
  • Include cutaways. They help to fix continuity errors.
  • 5. Have affordable camera backups

    Having a backup camera helps to create a great balance between preparation and spontaneity. Your back up camera doesn’t have to be expensive. An affordable camera like DSLR captures the shot well without requiring much preparation. If your production budget doesn’t allow you to get a secondary camera, you can also use your smartphone. The image capabilities in today’s smartphones have improved drastically and present infinite possibilities.

    6. Get the right lighting equipment

    Lighting makes a huge difference in the quality of your finished product. A cheap camera with great lighting will produce better results than an expensive camera with bad lighting. The massive advancement in the LED technology over the past decade has completely changed the filmmaking landscape. It’s easy to achieve good lighting even without any fancy and expensive lighting equipment. Thanks to the latest LEDs, building your own compact lighting kit has become doable as well as affordable. Even if a camera manages to get a good shot in low light, adding light will enhance the shot, taking it a notch higher.

  • Have as much light as possible to get the best shot.
  • Make sure the light is falling on the right places.
  • Diffused lights are better than direct lights for shooting videos.
  • Best advice: Let the story be your guide. Keep it simple and be there to capture the story.

    And, we’re here to help! Contact Bottle Rocket Media