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How to Find Beauty in the Ordinary with Filmmaker Mathieu Provost

Caleb Ward
By Caleb Ward

Lets take a look at how to capture amazing footage in everyday situations with these insights from professional video producer Mathieu Provost.

As filmmakers and video producers we’re often forced to shoot in less-than-ideal situations. It’s not uncommon to have to shoot in an ugly office, echo-filled room, or dark interior. But good filmmakers know how to bring out the best in every situations. Through creative camera work and a fundamental knowledge of composition you can get extraordinary shots in everyday locations.

One filmmaker with a keen eye for finding beauty in everyday situations is Mathieu Provost. The Canadian filmmaker uses a combination of everyday filmmaking tools to draw out hidden beauty in seemingly everyday locations. I recently came across Mathieu’s aerial reel on Vimeo and was instantly blown away by the footage quality.

In fact, one of the most impressive things about the work that Mathieu is doing is the fact that it is seemingly everyday work, yet the result is amazingly striking footage. His setups aren’t complex or expensive. I asked Mathieu a few questions about his work and he was kind enough to share his insights with us.

Q&A with Mathieu Provost

What tools do you use to capture your amazing footage?

On a shoot I always bring two cameras, different lenses, and, of course, the drone. I have the regular phantom made by DJI, but most of the time I prefer the DJI Inspire 1. More powerful, more stable, and more variety of lenses as well. On the ground, I always have my Sony a7RII with the 70-200 and 24-105. My colleague also uses the Canon lens 11-24 for really wide and cool shots on the ground with glide cam. And, of course, slider and tripod!

How much of your cinematography is planned out before the day of the shoot? 

Before each shooting (ground and in flight) I really like to go on Google Maps to check the exact location of the shoot and the environment around. That will help me to know a few things about the area (permit needed, obstacles, etc.) Also, if we can have access to the location, I will go first by myself and take pictures of the environment, beauty shot, sun position, and everything related to the shoot. I also try to find information on the web about the location, the stories… Once I’m back home, the movies start playing in my head… Visualization for me is the key.

I also produce a production plan/document with the different kind of footage I imagined, and information that I think is important on the location etc.

Once we are there, it’s easier to follow this kind of bible to make sure that we covered every aspect. We are also really sensible for each little intuitive moment that can happen on a set. Sometimes, theses moments are keepers for sure.

You’re exceptionally good at finding hidden beauty in everyday moments. How can other filmmakers develop an eye for shooting great shots in everyday situations?

Life is full of small moments that we can immortalize with our camera. I think that each person has their own way to see the world and be amazed by little things. That’s how the images will show on a film. I had this gift in my life to find everything nice around me. I always look everywhere in case that I found the perfect amount of light, the perfect amount of wind, etc…

For me, each situation, each moment, each flower, each river deserves to be on film with their beauty. The only thing I can say is just look around you. I don’t think we can learn how to be sensible for things. Challenge yourself by creating a nice video with small little things around you. 

Do you have any tips for someone looking to shoot awesome drone footage?

The more you shoot, the more comfortable you will be when flying your drone. You need to know your drone by heart. You need to know your limit and your drone’s limit as well. Play with the sunset and sunrise, play with trees, with textures, rivers, etc… And the most important, fly your drone smoothly and slowly on any shots. For me, smooth and slow is the key… Bring your viewers somewhere else.

If they take time to watch your video, give them at least a free ride, a free flight with emotions. Take your time to shoot. You never know if you will have the chance to come back where you are and in the same light situation etc.

Sometimes I use the entire battery lifetime on filming only one shot! So almost 20 minutes! I want to have the perfect shot for me, for my eyes, for the vision I have at that perfect moment. Also, try to film different points of view to do variety into your shot. I also really like to include ground shots with drone shots.

How do you determine your color palette when grading?

I usually don’t use a lot of color correction in post. I really like natural colors and clean images. I play a lot with the natural effect of light, golden hour, etc. Contrast and saturation sometimes, but most of my video doesn’t have any color correction… Or almost.

What role does music play in telling your videos story?

For me, the most important thing in cinema is the choice of the music. This will drive all your images, the feeling you want to demonstrate, and, of course, the sensibility. Sometimes I can spend hours searching for music. All that time spent will make the difference at the end. Before filming, I was a music composer for TV commercials, short films, and other commercial stuff.

In my time off, I was always playing with World War footage. I was trying to reproduce different kinds of music on the same footage (classical and heavy metal) to show people the important place that music can have in a film. When you have a chance, try this test at home. You will find that combining World War footage and classical music is almost artistic.

What resources/websites/courses have helped you the most as a filmmaker?

Our X generation is really lucky to have all the internet options/access to learn from everywhere and from everybody in the world. I really take advantage of this every time I can. I think that everybody needs to learn from different tutorials, at least the basic rules of film and/or photo. YouTube and Vimeo have been great friends for me, of course!

When we want to buy new equipment, we check all reviews before to make sure we have the best possible gear for our need, etc.  I also spent a lot of time with really good cinematographers that share the same vision that I have… I learned bags of information with these people, for sure. Don’t be shy about asking questions. When you have your answer, work on it, try to find information on it, try different ways to practice, etc.

Practice makes perfect, there is no doubt! This sentence will help you to understand more the vision I have about filmmaking… I read this quote a few years ago: “Work until your idols become your rivals.”

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as a filmmaker?

All filmmakers have their own way to learn. For me, learning from people, experience, and technique and, of course, practice was the key. Be curious. If you have questions, ask people or go find by yourself what you looking for on YouTube, Vimeo or other platform available to you. Also, be patient… There are thousands of filmmakers all around the world who produce fantastic footage…

But one day, somebody will knock at your door to tell you that your work is also fantastic… That was my case a few days ago with the PremiumBeat team. So everything is possible. Be respectful for the talent you have in life… This is a gift. You need to feed it with passion.

Where can people go if they want see more of your work?

Subscribe to our Vimeo and YouTube, follow us on Twitter and Facebook channel. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have! 

Have any questions for Mathieu? Share in the comments below.

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