Assignment 2. Creating Atmosphere

For this assignment you’ll create a scene with a strong sense of atmosphere.
You will explore in practice the range of techniques and concepts covered in Part Two and
demonstrate an ability to employ them in your own work. You should be able to demonstrate a critical awareness of the effectiveness of the use of these techniques in your own work.
Planning
• Choose an everyday scenario and an atmosphere or mood in which to represent it. Be
creative or, if your creativity fails you, pinch an idea from the suggestions below.
Describe what you hope to produce and the techniques you will employ to achieve this.
(50 – 100 words)

• Storyboard a short sequence. You should not have more than 12 shots. Think aboutevery shot carefully. Consider what information you need to convey about the actionand how you will compose the shot to create the mood or atmosphere you have chosen.(See notes on page 60)

Record and edit your sequence
• You can include diegetic sound but not music or any non-diegetic sounds, or it can be
silent.
• It should contain a maximum 12 shots.
• It should be no more than three minutes long – but shorter is often better.
Write an evaluation of your finished sequence (500 words)
• Critically assess your finished product.
• Identify and analyse the reasons for both successful and unsuccessful techniques that
you have employed.
• Consider where you need to strengthen your own skills and understanding and suggest
how you may achieve this.
——–
Early to Bed
As the end of the day approaches a woman sets off to bed with a cup of tea and a small cake, even though it is yet to get dark. Reclining into bed she reads her book whilst the radio is playing. Suitably relaxed, she settles down for sleep. The atmosphere is of contentment, relaxation, perhaps even solitude, but not loneliness. Using various creature comforts, hypnotic radio chatter, soft lighting and warm colours such as reds and golden tints, I hope to achieve the atmosphere intended.
Storyboard:
Instead of storyboarding the scenes with my illustrations, I have chosen to substitute them with stills of the frames I took, as this was stated as acceptable for the assignment remit, for submission. However I had originally drawn up some rudimentary sketches as an initial idea, to allow me to plan for mise-en-scene, set-up etc.
1. A woman is seen from the outside of her kitchen window. She is in her dressing gown, preparing tea. The outside shows that the daylight is approaching its end, but it is certainly not dark yet.

ETB1

2. The kettle boils and she pours out the water into a cup. Specific mise-en-scene shows cup and saucer, a cake, kitchen apparatus etc. Keen to show the daylight still present in the window in the background, the camera is low enough to feature the action in the foreground whilst allowing enough background visuals of the light from outside. ETB2

3. Walking into her bedroom, we can see the radio on the bedside, her cat lying on the bed and the bed itself has fairy lights illuminating it. To the right we can see daylight still clearly present coming through the gap in the curtains. The room is lit by reds and yellows, signifying a warm cosy atmosphere. She removes the cat, speaking softly to it.ETB3

4. She puts the cat in her bed which is next to hers. Specifically aiming to add further sotness to the scene, by showing the cat’s very cute bed and that she settles down too. It was fortunately only a few takes before Spell the cat, undertood her cue and rested down in her bed!ETB4

5. Settling into bed, drinking her tea, the woman contently reflects on the day. We can still hear the hypnotic “shipping forecast”on the radio. Again a specific intention to build on the atmosphere of relaxation. The radio four feature has survived as long as it has, purely from the support of its fandom amongst BBC radio 4’s listeners, as a hypnotic relaxation broadcast, perhaps more so than its intended service to sea workers. Also because it usually represents early evening broadcasting, I chose this to add to the realism of an “early to bed” scenario. ( ironically, I lifted the sample from iPlayer at approximately 7.30 in the morning! ) ETB5

6. Returning back to a shot of the cat. An intentional second shot, almost as a transitional shot as the following frame will represent a step forward in time. The radio continues as before.ETB6

7. Crossfading into the next shot, which reveals the room has got darker, and reds have deepened to purple. The woman is reading her book and the radio programme is different, now a radio play performance. She puts her empty cup back on the tray, places the book on the table and switches off the radio. ( Radio clip : BBC Radio 4 adaptation of James Follett’s Earthsearch )ETB7

8. Now all we hear is the diegetic sound of her bed, her bedclothes and finally she turns off the fairy lights and she closes her eyes.ETB8

The completed exercise video is shown below.

Evaluating “Early to Bed”

From the outset, I was keen to avoid melodrama. I wanted to take a risk and opt for an atmosphere that would be subtle, to offer a challenge. Despair, paranoia, threat, or any disturbing atmosphere traits, such as dread or terror, even melancholy or sadness, to me could appear hackneyed and obvious to use for this main assignment, despite some of these included as suggestions.

I opted to choose contentment, represented in the last remaining half hour before bed. Everybody has a ritual for this period of time, at whatever part of the day. Some like to watch televison, read a book, even drink alcohol, etc, but generally we as creatures of habit, have formed our own patterns of unwinding in the twilight moments of the day.

Recruiting Catherine again to play the protagonist – a character that goes to bed early, as dusk has yet to arrive. It was important to show a contented facial expression, she’s more than happy to be off to bed. Her rituals of tea, a good book, radio companionship, her beloved cat beside her. She is solitary but not lonely, her face does not appear full of longing.

Setting up the frames, I made sure that all items in the shots were either purposeful, or undistracting. Props included the kettle, tea cup, saucer, cake, tray, radio, cat and cat basket, book, bed, teddy bear, bedroom lighting, curtains. Catherine to be dressed in dressing gown and pyjamas, her hair plaited – signifying bedtime ritual.

Lighting from outside to be that of twilight, therefore the shots were taken at this time over a few nights. Additional lighting inside from the kitchen and bedroom lights, with fairy lights around the bed-frame – a character quirk. Red curtains and golden lights add a cosy atmosphere to the room, daylight still creeping in from the window.

Again, I chose to synch diegetic sound from an additional device, both taken at the shoot and also an extra dubbing of various other sounds and background noises. I enjoy the process and creativity of this aspect of editing, but specifically it offers flexibility of separate audio tracks. The radio broadcasts were added to suggest a time of day, also to advance the tranquility of the scene, ie, the shipping forecast generally broadcasts in early evening at weekends on FM.

Overall, I believe my ideas were successfully carried out. However, I note again a few technical aspects that were disappointing, with issues of over-exposure on frame 1 and some un-natural shadows behind the cat in frame 4 and 6. I tried to follow the rule of thirds as much as possible, with a few strays.

I’m hoping that the desired atmosphere has been gathered. I have left the work and returned to it after a few days, recommended by the assignment, but it is still very difficult to view objectively, as to how successful the work has been. I look forward to feedback from course-mates and tutor.

Peter O

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3 thoughts on “Assignment 2. Creating Atmosphere

  1. I really love this, you created such a cosy atmosphere, the cup of tea, fairy lights on the bed, the cat (my favourite bit) and I loved the inclusion of the radio too. It looked so cosy! Now I have my fairy lights round my bed too ^_^ Have you heard back from your tutor yet?

    The dietetic sounds worked really well too, especially the kettle and clinking tea.I love how your cat sleeps in it’s own basket! So cute. I like the final shot too.

    Like

    • Thanks Chloe for the comments. I am glad that you enjoyed it. However upon reflection and also after my tutor’s feedback, I was disatisfied at how some very unintentional projections were being deduced. I decided to re-shoot and re-submit with a hopefully better version.
      I’ll read through your blog today and send you some feedback. Very impressed you have completed the course already.

      Like

      • You’re welcome! I really like the new version especially the meditation part. Your tutor should like that 😀 Thank you! I can’t believe it, I will miss the course so much. It’s been so much fun!

        Like

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