I think a really good beginner project is the "Philip Bloom 10 minute Challenge"
Get your camera, go out somewhere, place your tripod where you like... stick the camera on top and from that place/point shoot continuously for 10 minutes, you can shoot what ever you like for 10 minutes but you are not allowed to move the tripod.
Once finished filming, go home and edit the 10 minutes into a 2-3 minute short film alongside some music.
That process, makes you think, look for a shot, edit and be creative!
Certainly can't go wrong by getting some hands-on experience
Maybe work some kind of basic story into it, too. A voiceover recounting a short spooky poem or tale, matched to suitable shots in your graveyard. Or maybe not.
Either way, yeah - get out & shoot something!
I think adding narration can be good for particular projects. And I'm certainly not against it, as a whole. However, for the specific project I proposed, I forgot to mention Rule #5 -- No Narration.
Basically, the intent of the short project I proposed is that you practice telling a story with visuals. It also serves for you to learn how to shoot a scene that cuts together. Shoot for maximum coverage, when possible. When not possible to get maximum coverage, at least make sure you're getting overlapping footage. Watch for continuity in action, etc. Follow the traditional rules, such as the 90-degree rule and the 30-degree rule. Even for a one-minute piece, and such a simple project, these basic tenets aren't always easy to learn.
Screw around with your camera's settings.
Does it have any manual controls whatsoever?
If yes then start playing with them.
Go to the park or wherever you can screw around with the aperture settings and learn your focal ranges when you zoom in and out.
Record the difference between optical zooms and digital zooms. See the difference on your computer vs. the cr@pply little 2.7/3" view screen you likely have.
Record some in the lowest resolution available for five seconds then work your way up to the highest resolution you have available for five seconds. Notice what file sizes they generate.
Make jello. Set your shutter speed to 50 or 60 and then whip pan back and forth. Then set it at 100 or 120 and record another back and forth. Then again at 300 and 500.
Open up that aperture by slamming it down to f1.8, lock it, then overexpose an image.
Then tighten that beaver's bunghole to f11 and watch everything go dark and everything go into focus.
Hand hold carry it and see how well you can walk on pavement creating a stable image, then again across a field, and then again over rough terrain.
Walk around a central object attempting to hold it level AND in focus while on f2.
Just screw around with it all that you can.
GL! Have fun.
Talladega, Bama. Isn't there like... something interesting around there? Umm... Umm... What could I possibly be thinking of? Hmm... ?
You don't even need any sound gear, but if you can surreptitiously record at the same time it works even better...
Go to various locations (record if you have the gear), close your eyes, and just listen. Try a train station, both in the station itself and on the platform. Go to a park at various times of the day and make note of the differences. A country field, several different downtowns, deep in a forest, on a bridge over a busy highway, an empty room, a factory, a diner, a mall... Dawn, morning, late morning, lunch, mid-afternoon, sundown, early evening, late night.... You get the idea.
You need to realize that you need to consciously listen to/for specific sounds if they don't obviously grab our attention (like a gunshot on a quiet suburban afternoon). Example: You're in the park. What sounds make up the overall sound? At Bruce Park near my home (where I go often with my daughter) there is the semi-distant but constant presence of I-95, mostly the white noise of hundreds of tires going by at 60mph, but the occasional noisy diesel truck. There are birds spring through fall. In the summer you can occasionally hear power boats in nearby Long Island Sound, especially on weekends. Weekday mornings is mostly preschool voices plus moms and nannies/au-pairs. Lots of strollers and crying from boo-boos or babies crying for their bottle, childish laughter and squeals. At lunch time are the older voices of people from the local offices and Greenwich Ave. stopping by for lunch on nice days. Pretty quiet until later afternoon when school lets out the there are dozens of grammar school kids using all of the playground apparatus. At four o'clock the ice cream truck shows up (traditional mechanical bells), the mad rush of all the kids towards the parking lot to get ice cream. Etc., etc., etc. Besides being all of the elements that build the sound design of a scene they are sounds you should be aware of that when you scout locations - they may interfere with recording dialog. Another example; my home lies under a flight path for Westchester Airport; on the weekends, especially Sunday, there are numerous flights of prop planes going by.
these sounds go into your sound library. If you are conscientious about it you will build a sound library in fairly short order.
Sit near people and listen to their conversations. Besides providing great material for dialog, listen to how people actually speak; it really helps with dialog editing.
If you managed to record all of this stuff listen to it and compare it to your recollections; a microphone "hears" much differently than you do. Your brain has an automatic "editing function" that eliminates sounds you don't want to hear, but a mic doesn't have that discrimination, it picks up everything. From my Bruce Park example you don't hear I-95 after ten minutes, but in the recordings it is a steady low frequency roar that takes away from the kids and the birds that you really want to hear in the soundscape.
Sound is overlooked by a very large percentage of filmmakers; make it a priority and you will have a big advantage.
Make a film one minute long. Your rules:
1. No dialogue.
2. 1 location
3. Continuous action (meaning, no moving forward or backward in time; everything happens in real-time)
4. Every shot must be static and locked on a tripod.