Tutor Feedback – Assignment 2

Please click the link for my tutor’s feedback for Assignment 2 peter-owden-2

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Assignment 2 Re-Submission: Creating Atmosphere – Meditation Time

The feedback from my tutor was thorough and encouraging. You can view it here. peter-owden-2. I was particularly pleased that my coursework journal blog is “excellent”, although I intend to avoid complacency and continue to work on improving it. However, although many very positive comments were made on the overall work on Assignment 2, there were various issues that have not helped the project towards the desired result.

Therefore, I decided to revise and in fact take an alternative approach to what I was trying to achieve. I have re-shot various parts of the scene and this is a re-submission of the work, with a detailed analysis on the feedback and focusing upon the advice that was given.

For this assignment I have slightly adjusted the proposed atmosphere to be that of “MEDITATIVE” showing the lady still going to bed early, relaxing in bed, listening to the radio, before settling to sleep listening to a relaxing meditation app on her smartphone. Focusing on unwinding from her day in her daily ritual.

Responding to the feedback:

Shot 1
This hand-held movement of the woman making tea, shot from outside, sets up an expectation in the viewer that there is someone (or something) watching her. This conditions the way the movie is viewed, making is seems as if something will suddenly ‘upset the equilibrium’. So, this shot should probably have been left out or thought through more deeply.
Hand-held camera is tricky. It can depend entirely on the type of scene for how the audience interprets it. But we’ve all seen the ‘woman at home alone’ horror movies and this is the association here. If your whole movie is made with hand-held camera (like a Dogma movie – “Breaking the Waves” or “Festen”) then the camera is more likely to assume a pseudo-documentary role. In Hollywood movies, it nearly always signifies “danger” or “fear”!

I accept fully this comment and I was attempting the “Dogma” style – some of my favourite film makers were part of that movement. However my attempt to blend this with tripod shots, lead the handhelds to create an unwelcome aspect ( ie, the Hollywood slasher effect ! ) Therefore, I have removed the opening shot and replaced with an external shot of the house at just before dusk, the bedroom lights visible through the curtains. I used diegetic sound for this frame, but not from the camera – I used a soundbyte taken in my previous atmosphere project shot of the relaxing afternoon, the wind rustling, which was similar to that of the raw footage of the shot taken, minus the sounds of cars in the distance.

New segment: Frame 1.

mt1

Tutor feedback from Shot 2 of previous work:

Shot 2
There’s something here about a boiling kettle that also suggests a ‘boiling tension’! Boiling and relaxation, does it work together?
Showing someone making a cup of tea is really not interesting, especially in a close show of the kitchen surface! Use of a ‘cut-away’ could have helped you contract the time of this scene.
Wide focal lengths can exaggerate and distort objects and space – the effect of this is often to add a hint of ‘strangeness’ to even everyday things and places. To an extent that is happening here. And because we can see out of the window where ‘someone’ was just watching, we could expect a boogie man to suddenly appear at the window. The fact that you leave the duration so long also increases this expectation because the audience is thinking, “how long can nothing go on?”

This was another experiment which, upon reflection, did not work out as planned. I had it in my mind that the slow process of making tea, as boring as it is, would serve as a hypnotic. Her evening ritual, making tea before bed. It is true that it is devoid of interest and therefore could make the viewer lose interest. Boiling kettles, as symbols of brewing tension, perhaps not fitting for this film either, hehe!

New segment: Frames 2, 3 and 4.

I removed the scene in the kitchen entirely, going straight into the third, fourth and fifth shots of the previous film.  I changed the diegetic sounds of the radio broadcast, aware that the shipping forecast and the subsequent radio play were possibly causing unintentional tension or weirdness. I opted for a female voice reading the story A Respectable Woman by Kate Chopin, a softer voice with a rather less intensity, something that the character would be more likely to listen to.

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New segment: Frame 5.

Cut-away, a darker frame of outside the house, showing that dusk is now upon us. Allowing the illusion that some time has passed.

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New segment: Frame 6.

Re-shooting the scene where she puts the book down and settles into bed. I took note as to not use a wide-angle shot and moved to a medium shot. She replaces her tea cup and book, turns off the radio, sets up her headphones and starts her relaxation app. She is seen switching off her fairy lights before settling down to a comfortable sleeping position.

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New segment: Frames 7 and 8.

Diegetic sounds of what she can hear through her headphones: the sound of the app narrator’s voice suggesting her to imagine that she is heading downstream on a river, the sound of the scene and the sound of her breathing as she descends into her mindfullness exercise. Interspersing between the image of what she is imagining and various close ups of her sleeping face in the calm blue hues of nightfall.

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Assignment 2 Creating Atmosphere Re-Submission: Meditation Time

Evaluating “Meditation Time – Assignment 2 ReSubmission”

After reading the tutor feedback regarding my Creating Atmosphere assignment “Early to Bed”, I was determined to attempt an improvement. The assignment task was to define a specific atmosphere using mis-en-scene, colour, balancing, diegetic sound and the golden rule. I believe that I did not quite reach the desired atmosphere, which was to be “contentment” and in fact unintentionally I added tension and confusion to the piece.

I decided to focus on a “meditative” atmosphere using parts of the original scene and adding an exercise of hypnotherapy and mindfulness to the ending of the scene. I added a shot of a river journey, that I filmed last week in Norfolk, straddled by various zooming shots of the character asleep to portray the sense that she is entering a dream-scape or a meditative state.

By changing the diegetic soundtrack of the radio broadcast to a softer piece, removing confusing wide-angle shots, using cut-away shots and deleting overlong sequences, I feel that I have at least streamlined the film, as well as re-shooting some new scenes. It was important to maintain a sense of satisfaction for the character in her situation, alone but not lonesome, content, relaxed and habitual.

Using a blue hue on the character’s face at the final sequences of the film, I wanted to portray a sense of calm, but cautious that these tones can identify coldness, or even worse, foreboding. I felt though, that this would be more suitable than to use a brighter, more white lighting hue, as I did not wish to portray moonlight, as this would lead to assumption that it was later in the night. I’m hoping that this experiment has worked.

Overall, I am a little more confident and somewhat grateful to have had a chance to re-visit this, as I feel that the second version is closer to the intended atmosphere.

Peter O

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