Project 10. Exercise: Create a new soundtrack

Look back at your list of sounds from the listening exercise above. If you have not already
done so, record each of the sounds in your list. Ensure you get a good clean recording for
each one, with no other sounds in the background.
Import your sequence from Project 2 into a new project or timeline in your editing
package.
Lay your new sounds underneath the picture. It is likely they will not synch very well. Do
not worry too much. Remember you are trying to create an impression. Think more about
what you want to draw attention to and the quality of the sound.
If you can, layer sounds on top of each other. Use an atmos. to create sound continuity
throughout the scene .
Adjust the levels of each sound to try and achieve a sound balance that sounds
reasonably natural whilst clearly drawing attention to the right elements of the image
and creating the desired atmosphere.
When you are happy with your new sequence, export and upload it to your blog. Provide
notes on what you did.
Look at other students’ work. Analyse what works, how it works and why.

The Illicit Affair, Project 2:

Background atmos sound lifted from the previous “Listening” exercise. On frame 1, 2 and 3
( top left, top right, middle right ) .
Footsteps up to the door and sound of knocking -Frame 1.
Background sound – Frame 2
Door opens, man says “Hi sexy”, lady says “Quick before anyone sees!”
Door shuts, footsteps inside. Lady says “I think you should just kiss me!”. They kiss – Frame 4 ( bottom left )
Gunshot, broken glass, lady shrieks – Frame 5 ( bottom right )

I used my BOSS Micro mini four-track mixer to capture the sounds. Again Catherine supplied the female voice, whilst I wore heavy boots and knocked on the door. I enjoyed this exercise immensely, although upon returning to the finished work I do believe the atmos is too low in the mix. To create the gunshot sound, I lifted the sound from a YouTube video clip of somebody accidently shooting himself in the foot. Simply because it was the most realistic sound available at the time and most online footage I could find were of heavy duty rifles or automatics, and  I envisioned a revolver gunshot in the sequence.

Peter O

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Project 10. Exercise: Listening

You can do this exercise any time because you only need your ears – but you may find it
helps to focus the mind if you listen through headphones attached to your camera. This
will also help you to identify the peculiarities of your own equipment.
Find the most silent place you can. Listen. Make notes of what you can hear.
Try this in a variety of ‘silent’ places; you will be amazed by the range of sounds that you
normally ignore. Can you identify the sound of silence itself?
Look back at your sequence from Project 2. Identify all the items in the scene that might
make a sound.
Try to think in an objective way about the quality of each sound. Dissociate it from the
object that made it. (It may help to record the sounds and play them back in a random
order.) Listen carefully to each item. Make notes on the sounds it produces. What quality
do the sounds have? How do they feel?
To help you answer this question you could try using other sensations to describe the
sounds. Try and describe each sound with a:
• flavour/smell (think like a wine taster)
• colour
• emotion (joyous, frightening, melancholy)
• physical texture (smooth, sharp, rounded)
• anything else that comes to mind. Be creative.
Upload to your blog.

Sounds noted:
Crows – an abrassive, sharp caw sound, that conjures a sense of winter within me, although this was captured in the middle of summer.
Wind – a constant whirring of wind, even though a relatively calm day. Has a hypnotic rhythm that calms and provokes transcendence of thought. A circular sound, feels almost like one could wrap themselves up in it.
Aircraft – a jet liner high up in the clouds. Southeast England is almost defined by aircraft sounds, being under many different flight-paths. A sound that almost feels like it is sadly part of the natural soundtrack of the day, but it feels unclean, almost dominating and of malice. To others I imagine it brings promise of freedom and holidays.
Birds – various bird sounds as they stop and swoop amongst the wild bushes behind the house. The front of the house is literally one hundred yards from the sea, and strangely at the point of taking this soundbyte, NO seagulls are vocalising.
Workmen in distance – there are signs of humans at play and at work cars go by, men talking, a distant drumming sound as someone is playing their radio.
Pigeons – that rhythm of cooing pigeons, sounds like a warm day in audio.

Peter O

 

Project 9: Light and Colour – Exercise: Atmosphere

Record two very short scenes (either a single shot or a maximum of four shots that edit together). Invent your own or pick from the list.
• A romantic dinner for two
• A depressed person alone at home
• Oh what a beautiful morning
• A stalker arrives
• A child takes its first steps
• Another mundane day at the office.
Before you start, clearly define the atmosphere you intend to create. Think about how you can use lighting, shade and colour to achieve this.
• Find a suitable location. Think carefully about available light and colour.
• Test how the light looks through your camera.
• Use additional materials to create desired colour and texture within the scene.
• Use reflectors and additional lights if they are available.
• Record your image(s) and edit them.
Upload your sequences to your blog along with notes explaining what you were trying to achieve.
Look at other students’ sequences and compare your techniques.
What works or doesn’t work? (Think about your own work, that of fellow students and other films you have watched.)
If budget, time and equipment were no issue, how would you change your sequences?
How important is lighting?

Atmosphere Example 1

For this exercise, I chose to use the stimulus “Oh what a beautiful morning” although I chose to make that read afternoon instead. I filmed a glorious summer afternoon, one that was slightly blustery, focusing on the trees and bushes in my back garden. There is a river at the end of my garden that heads across the road to the sea, one that is tidal and when the tide is high, so the river flows past with a serenity that I often enjoy simply watching. Our beach towels were drying on the washing line and this also added to the gently blustery scene. The last frame showed the man’s legs as he sat on the garden chair on the decking by the river bank with a cup of tea. On the tea mug is the motif “Best Dad in the World”, and I chose purposely to use this. A family man, relaxing in the sun, a symbol of contentment. Even leaving just his socks on, was intended – its a very “dad” thing to do! The diegetic sound is the wind sweeping through the reeds and bushes, an extremely soothing sound. Sometimes we hear wildlife, sometimes we can hear distant motor engines, we are not far from other human existence, after all.
I love the sight of the greens of trees and bushes next to the azure sky in the summertime, often takes me back to childhood memories of those seemingly endless summer holidays. Gathering this image was easy under the natural light and no other lighting was required, however I am aware that the camera settings I had selected resulted in some over-exposure.
I dont think budget issues really affects such a frame. The natural sunlight provided the desired capture, and I suppose just using better equipment and maybe a more glamorous actor ( alas, its me in the footage taken! ) would have been an obvious advantage.

Reflection:
I was adamant that I would await a slightly blustery atmosphere to the summer weather my area had been having. I enjoy those days the best, love listening to the sounds of the wind rushing amongst the many wild grass and trees that surround us. Often seagulls and motorboats are heard, but ironically were vacant at the time of recording. I recorded the sounds separately and dubbed them back on to the timeline, simply to afford myself to indulge on each task in hand.
A friend of mine who subscribes to my YouTube account,  replied that the scene was incredibly relaxing, not knowing what the piece was for. Therefore, with “blind” feedback like that, it appears the intended mood was successful.

Atmosphere Example 2

In contrast to example 1, I opted for the stalker prompt. Filmed just after dusk, I used a child’s electric night-light to illuminate the room, giving off a nightly blue hue. Climbing through the window and marching across the room, up the stairs, across the landing and into the bedroom, where the lady is sleeping. She is seen in the foreground, waking up just as the stalker puts his hand on her shoulder. My girlfriend Catherine, kindly volunteered to play the the victim.
I used the night-lighting as the main source for most of the frames, but in the last shot, I used a mobile phone light to illuminate the lady, passing off as street light from outside. I tried various lights to recreate the desired effect. Torches, LEDs, laptop screens etc. Due to  natural light being unavailable, it was fun to experiment with various light sources. I used a mirror to reinforce the light across the landing as there are no power-points to plug in the night light there, however sadly I feel that the light in that frame was too overpowering. Therefore, this appeared unnatural, unless the viewer imagines the use of night-lights, which is very unlikely. Upon hindsight, it would have been preferable to have shown the actual light source in the frame – a fundamental lesson in lighting, of course!
All audio, even though diegetic, were re-synched and dubbed on seperately. I enjoyed using this technique, as it gave me freedom to be creative, using a particular creaking stair to emulate floorboards across the landing, etc. Flexibility in time and budget would of course allow purpose built lighting and equipment, alongside further experimentation but I feel that the point of the exercise was to clearly define the action and atmosphere, which I do believe is still present.

Reflection:
I enjoyed working on this scene, especially working on the best way to light the frames. My girlfriend enjoyed simply having to lay in bed, at least. Most of what I had envisioned worked well, and despite a couple of setbacks trying to light the rooms efficiently, it did not take too long to capture.

Other students’ exercises:
Ashley had created two pieces based on ” a depressed teenager” and “a warm sunny day”. Immediately, I noted he had used music accompaniment, which even though the exercise never prohibited the use of this, I had avoided to do so, simply because I felt that the diegetic sounds in both of my examples would be better off without musical enhancement. However, on Ashley’s depressed teenager piece, despite a very melancholy looking facial expression and posture from his young actor, the choice of music allowed the intention to drive neatly to the point, successful in both versions of this example, I thought. It would be interesting to see what atmospheres other music would bring to mind, perhaps some punk or metal, or on the flipside, bluesy jazz, or techno, the list would go on. It was interesting to see in his warm sunny day exercise that he had experimented with a particular wild card music, Charlie Chaplin-esque , to differenciate how music can alter the mood.
I’m intrigued now as to how my “stalker” scene would work with some progressive jazz score, for instance.

Chloe chose a collection of moods covering her trip to the Lake District, which I would concur is a beautiful, atmospheric part of the country. She covered cosiness in the cafeteria, a torrential sleety downpour, the lakeside, peacefulness and then further rain. I found this a very interesting anthology of her day out. The moods clearly achieved. The final sequence of rain seen from inside the car with the frame occasionally interupted by the car windscreen wipers added that safe and dry sensation when looking at the rain whilst undercover. I felt particularly that this was effective.
Her other exercise based around her poorly sister, confined to her bed, watching her family outside in the sun, feeling sadness that she can’t join her. Effective again, allows empathy to the character, sadly unable to enjoy the warm sunshine.

Peter O

 

Project 7: Depth – Exercise: Creating Depth with Light

You will need:
• A dark room. (It doesn’t need to be very dark but it should be dark enough that your lights will make a significant difference when turned on.)
• Some small lights. (These need to be lights you can control. Mini spots, torches or other narrow beamed sources are good, though you can experiment with any light sources available.)
• The ability to control the exposure on your camera. (You want areas of dark and light. Many cameras will automatically adjust to give you an image even in darkness. You need to turn this feature off if possible.) Create a series of images with varying depth.
• Move objects around in the room, experimenting with perspective and lighting. Consider how you can use the lighting to create layers.
• Try adjusting the zoom on your lens. Place some items close to the lens and some further away. Start with a wide lens (zoomed all the way out) and then zoom-in in steps.
• Create at least three distinctly different impressions of depth in the same space. Think about making the space appear larger and smaller, cluttered or empty, wide or long.
• Make detailed notes on how you achieved each effect.
• Upload your notes and images to your blog and invite comments.
• Look at other students’ examples and compare your results. What effects do you like best? How were they achieved?
• If you see anything you particularly like can you replicate it?

Very surprisingly, I found this exercise, so far, the most difficult to do. Not least because I have just invested in upgrading my camera and editing equipment, and it is taking me a while to get used to controlling the new settings.

I chose to use my dining room and my daughter’s china doll again as the object to focus upon in this exercise. I placed the camera upon a tripod approximately two metres from the dining table, and the china doll in the centre of the table.

1. The first shot involved a white electrical night-light plugged in at the background left of the room, off screen light from the kitchen adjacent and finally a very dull light from the outside natural light from the very rear in the background. Placed underneath the china doll is a mobile phone light which illuminates the doll’s features. The distance between the camera and the china doll appears long, perhaps further than the actual distance. Behind the doll you can see a further 1.5 – 2 metres clearly apparent from the back wall. As the room is well lit from almost four light sources, it is easy to gather depth and make out the surroundings. In the video beneath this exercise, zooming in, gently at first, the light allows the distance to continue to be the same perspective. As the foreground disappears, the background remains constant as it is still lit from behind. ( I had a little trouble controlling the zoom speeds on my camera, I must admit! )

SnapShot 1

2.  Turning off the kitchen light, its interesting to see little changes the perspective and distance between the camera, the china doll and the background, although with the beam of light underneath the table does flatten the distance slightly from the top half of the scene to the floor. Zooming into the face of the doll, we can see, with just a little light lost in the background, how the distance is shrunk somewhat from behind. ( See the two pics below. )

SnapShot2SnapShot3

3. For this shot, I removed the mobile phone from the table and used it as an illumination from behind me. This highlights the distance from the camera to the doll, but flattens the distance beyond. Obviously the definitions of the doll’s features are lost as there is no longer a spot-lamp upon it. Most of the room is clear to see, however much of the bright colours are lost. The outside view is less clear.

SnapShot4

4. Using a torch placed beneath the tripod and facing upwards across the scene, elongates the background, voids the light coming from outside and creates a harsher colour hue to the scene. Torches are directional and focus on the scene that they are aimed at. With this frame, the china doll’s shadow adds a sinister background scenery. I left the kitchen light on to show that the picture, although it appears a different hue, has not been tampered with from any post-edit software. Long shadows give the impression of a much further background, as the torch light is still present here.

SnapShot5

5. Switching off all other lights other than the large standing lamp in the background, colour ignites the frame, adding a high exposure to the shot. As the room is flooded with light, the china doll becomes insignificant. All items are illuminated. The back window now acts like a mirror, negating anything from outside. Detail in the scene is softened however. Exposure is too high.

SnapShot6

Below is a video of the exercise. Its in a very raw mode, part of the process is to control equipment for use. I felt that this exercise would be best revisited later on once handling the tools become easier, and I will be able to access any improvement.

Peter O

Project 9: Light and Colour – Viewing

Viewing- Light
Look for examples of light levels changing radically within a scene. How are these changes
justified or motivated?
Some common examples to look out for are:
• The source is shown in shot, for example we see a lamp being switched on or clouds
passing over the sun.
• An action motivates the change. We see the cause in a previous shot, such as a hand
going to a light switch, the countdown to the explosion or a character taking off
sunglasses.
• Represents an abstract or emotional state, for example a moment of realisation or a
character fades away.
Add any good examples or observations to your blog.
Paranormal Activity ( 2007, dir. Oren Peli )
A fabulous use of  light to create atmosphere in horror films, especially, is the turning on of a light source, to almost relieve the audience of dread in night or dark scenes. Often, once an onscreen character finds the light switch, the terror is either thwarted or suspended to a further moment in time.
However in Paranormal Activity, there is a particularly effective scene where a couple  have been filming their sleep periods due to ghostly apparitions in their house. On one particular occasion, the downstairs light is switched on by something halfway through the night time. An effective scene, setting the following sequences up perfectly, allowing a creepiness to take hold gradually over time. (1)
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Close Encounters of the Third Kind ( 1977, dir. Steven Spielberg ) is a light-show of a film, where effective usage of light to convey atmosphere and tell key plot points, is abundant throughout. The particular scene below is awash with simple but extremely powerful frames using lights as the symbol of the visiting UFOs. As the protagonist Roy, ( Richard Dreyfuss ) is out at work, responding to reports of energy blackouts, he discovers phenomena that is beyond explanation.(2)
Agent Cooper ( Kyle MacLachlan ) is shot and is left lying on his hotel room floor, when an apparition appears in front of him. A giant ( Carel Struycken ) tells him three things related to the case that he is investigating. Bright white spotlight is used to represent the limbo state that Cooper lies within. Cult TV mystery Twin Peaks ( 1990-91, dir. David Lynch ) is again reliant on powerful light symbolism. Various changes in light, almost dream-like in their way, dictate the action. (3)
Viewing – Tone and Colour
Look for examples of use of colour in film to represent:
• change of atmosphere between scenes
• emotion of a character
• general mood or atmosphere of the film as a whole
• a range of feelings, emotions or atmospheres such as love, fear, power and joy.
Add your observations to the blog.
Brian de Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel Carrie ( 1976 ) used an overpowering red hue to enforce the powerful third act climax. Carrie ( Sissy Spacek ) has been humiliated once and for all by her classmates at the senior prom, as she was falsely voted queen and drenched in pig’s blood. Red is a symbolic colour throughout the film ( her first period, her rage, her mother’s fear of Satan, the colour of blood – that is also let in abundance as her revenge is executed – and finally the fire that engulfs the school hall. When the scene turns red in the split scenes used in the climax ( from 02:02 ) on this clip sequence, we know that the chocks are away and that Carrie will get her long overdue vengeance on the oppression that she suffers. Its a very astonishing scene, and one that takes a lot of casualties in emotion. (4)
Enemy ( 2013, dir. Denis Villeneuve ) is presented in a constant mustard yellow hue. Set in Toronto, a teacher ( Jake Gyllenhaal ) becomes aware of his double after watching an actor in a dvd movie. This leads to an increasingly nightmarish scenario of cat & mouse and of confusing timeframes or character twists. It’s an intriguing and disturbing narrative where the colour hues are a definite atmosphere booster. The colour tone is stifling after a while and this adds to the suffocating tone of the story, as the web-like narrative traps the characters inwards. Spiders are a feature throughout the film, ironically. ( The director allegedly  made the cast and crew sign a confidentiality agreement to prevent them discussing the symbol of spiders in the film, although, the general thought is that they represent the main character’s fear of women, ie, the black widow analogy, his wife is pregnant, and perhaps he fears the commitment of responsibility, envisaging this as a web entrapment ) (5)
The intriguing Lost River ( 2014, dir. Ryan Gosling ) uses colour hues to determine multiple layers within the character/ plot development. A single mother desperately seeks work to make ends meet ( superbly played by Christina Hendricks ), represented in a red to magenta hue. Forced to use her physical self to perform in a seedy sado-masochism nightclub, she is the pivotal, central protagonist.

lost-river-official-stills-billy-11tumblr_nn0kj2C7zn1rjrp5co5_1280tumblr_nqbglgjGi71tdav20o5_1280

Her eldest son, Bones ( Iain de Caestecker ) scrounges lead or other metals to sell at a local scrapyard. ( natural colour hues, green, brown, yellows )
LostRiverFeat
His girlfriend, Rat ( Saoirse Ronan ) trapped in a life looking after her hoarder grandmother, dreaming of a future, lives in a bubble of cold blue hues.
lost-river-official-stills-bones-rat-romance-04
The town they live in Michigan is dead on its feet, houses crumbling and derelict and business and industry long gone. A neighbourhood nearby has been flooded to make a reservoir, which is the MacGuffin of the story, intrigues Bones to seek his rite of passage, defeating the antagonist Bully ( Matt Smith ), symbolically by name and by nature.
A film suspended on visual metaphors, colour being the operative tool, it is a great example of storytelling by synesthesia. (6)
Peter O
REFERENCES:
(1) Paranormal Activity on IMDB – accessed on August 11th 2016
(2) Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind on IMDB – accessed on August 11th 2016
(3)
Twin Peaks on IMDB – accessed on August 11th 2016
(4)
Carrie (1976) on IMDB – accessed on August 11th 2016
(5)
Enemy on IMDB – accessed on August 11th 2016
(6)
Lost River on IMDB – accessed on August 11th 2016

Project 8: Balance – Viewing

Viewing

Look back at some of the work you have already produced. You may well find that you were
already following these rules subconsciously. Try to identify:
• where you followed the rule of thirds.
• where you changed the composition and what effect this had.
The Id Girl
In 2005 I made a short film, The Id Girl, which was inspired by the real life would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr, who in 1981, tried to murder Ronald Reagan to garner the attention of his obsession, actress Jodie Foster.
I centred my story upon a professional hitman, who happens to be obsessed with a glamour actress, telling the story via his disturbing hypnotherapy sessions. The film, which spent most of its scenes in the half-conscious state of the antagonist, required plenty of fantastical imagery and visuals of a dream-like nature.
Upon re-visiting this film recently, I noticed various examples of following the rule of thirds, although, probably at the time, I was not particluarly focusing on that.
Actors: Shaun MacNamara and Ailsa Ilott.
Watch almost any television or film. (Beware: films on TV or even DVD may have been
cropped and/or panned and scanned. In this case the original composition will be
compromised. Ensure you are watching in the original aspect ratio.) Notice that regardless of genre you can see the rules of composition and balance being applied. Pay special attention to the reasons behind the occasions when the rules appear to have been broken.
Look for interesting examples and make notes on your blog explaining what is happening in each. Try to find:
• examples of frames composed according to the rule of thirds
Top: Heaven’s Gate ( 1980, dir. Michael Cimino )
Centre: The Deer Hunter ( 1978, dir. Michael Cimino )
Bottom: The Exorcist ( 1973, dir. William Friedkin )

heavens-gate-1980-pic-11deerhunter01FullSizeRender (6)

Three good examples of the rule of thirds being applied.
In Heaven’s Gate ( Top ), we see the panaramic view of the lake with the two loving characters appreciating the vista in the bottom right hand third of the frame. A shot that symbolises the director of photography Vimos Zsigmond eye for breathtaking framing. Again, Zsigmond is responsible for The Deer Hunter, centre pic. Framing in mid-close up with Robert De Niro’s character Mike forced to play Russian roulette ( ironically at gunpoint ) to the left third with his captor facing him from the right third. Allowing the centre ground to show the threat of one of the captor’s AK-47 barrel and in the background with the picture of Ho Chi Minh ( political leader of North Vietnam ) looking on. A frame that captures many emotive points.
The bottom pic is the iconic framing from The Exorcist, a shot that was used as the advertising image for the movie’s posters, billboards and subsequent video covers. Max Von Sydow arrives at the house of the alleged possession to begin the exorcism. Its late autumn and the foggy weather adds a brooding atmosphere. A light beams from the bedroom window of the distressed young girl, onto the stranger that has arrived, beckoning him inside. Dark blue hues and plenty of shadow, a sinister invitation.

 

• examples of composition balanced between shots
Blood Simple ( 1984, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen )

As used in my previous exercise for mise en scene, here is the same scene from Blood Simple. The characters face each other over an office desk, and the two balanced frames indicating Marty in the left hand third of his frame, and the Hitman in the right hand third of his frame gives a clear balance to allow the viewer to engage the important conversation between the two characters.

• examples of the rules being broken
Left: Close Encounters of the Third Kind ( 1977, dir. Steven Spielberg )
Right: Full Metal Jacket ( 1987, dir. Stanley Kubrick )

The scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind shows the alien space craft landing above the human reception. The frame is almost symmetrical, with the landing underbelly of the craft being the focal point of the scene, brightly lit at the centre top of the frame. Although still in conjunction with the rule of thirds, it is almost seen as central to the frame. I picked this sequence to show a fantastic depth of field as the long shadows gives the impression of depth. It is an extremely hypnotising sequence, both in visual and audial structure.
R Lee Ermey as Gunnary Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, the movie’s pivotal and most powerful character. Central to the frame and the film, all other characters are reduced to insignificance, as that is the desire of the sergeant and the organisation he represents. There are multiple frames similar to this throughout the first half of the movie, as the imposing drill instructor breaks down every character’s resistance and individuality. This is effective powerfully, as upon watching these scenes, the audience is almost dragged into the line of men, almost broken down to accept the terrifying ethos of the United States Marine Corps’ doctrine. When we reach the second half of the film, we totally empathise in the soul-less hell that the war zone dictates. The troops are mere numbers, their characters irrelevant, whatever different backgrounds they have. Even though we can differenciate the personalities of individuals in the platoon, they mean nothing to the war effort.

• tension created by upsetting the balance
Three frames from Salvador ( 1986, dir. Oliver Stone )
The sequence of the assassination of Archbishop Romero ( played by José Carlos Ruiz ) during Holy Communion is a pivotal part of the film. The film’s protagonist, reporter Richard Boyle ( played by James Woods ) witnesses the murder and is drawn further into the politics of the country and thus deepens his documentation of the conflict. The sequence shows the archbishop administering the eucharist meal to various characters, before reaching his assassin, who breaks the balance by spitting upon the archbishop’s hand, insulting him and finally shooting him at almost point blank range through the heart. The scene descends into chaos. The tension, already ignited beforehand by a passionate sermon from Romero and the packed church infiltrated by sinister looking plain clothes policemen and army personnel, we know that Romero’s scathing remarks against the oppressive regime is likely to turn the scene sour. Oliver Stone then leads us into a false sense of harmony, as the communion gets under way with the line up of those receiving the ritual. But then, just as calmness appears likely, the assassin strikes.
• other distinct meanings suggested through visual balance.
Balance is important to show interplay between characters, be it for tension, harmony, friction, romance, terror, lust etc. By giving visually clear indications of whatever emotion or scenario is happening, the balance allows us to become empathic with what is occurring. By disrupting the balance, sudden changes in the status quo can create an incredible suspense to the dramatic flow of the film.
Peter O

Project 7: Exercise – Depth

:

Find a place where you can frame a shot that contains a close and distant object. Zoom in on the close object. (Zoom all the way in but only use the optical zoom on your camera. If it has a digital zoom you may be able to turn it off in the menu settings.) Notice that the distant object is now out of focus. Slowly zoom out, keeping the two objects in frame. You should notice that the background object comes into focus as you zoom. This is because your depth of field is increasing as you change the characteristics of your lens. You may also notice that the background and foreground objects actually appear to move apart.

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Using the china dolls as subjects for the pics already creates a slightly sinister atmosphere to the shots, although my intention was simply to use animated objects as I had no actors or models at hand during the time of the exercise. I am wondering whether if I had had not such a history of watching spooky movies whether that sense of the unnerving had been noticed! The weather also added a further atmosphere too.

I enjoyed this exercise as it gave me the opportunity to get to grips with a new camera and to understand focus and depth in a better detail.

Peter O

 

Project 6 : Mise-en-scène Exercise: Space

Spaces
You can complete this exercise using a stills or video camera. You can stay in one room and rearrange items or you can go out looking for spaces that suit your purpose. Capture four shots that have the following feel about them:
• An oppressive, cluttered space
• An open, honest, simple space containing one intriguing item
• A stark, empty hostile space
• A warm, friendly, cosy space

Create stills of your images. Look at the images you have produced and think again about how they feel and what meanings are implied. It may be that they are not quite what you thought when you captured them. Note these discrepancies and try to identify the cause. Make detailed notes about the contents of your images and what effect they have. Upload your images and comments to your blog.

 An oppressive, cluttered space. FullSizeRender_3

The “billiard room” as it is called at an employer’s place of work. This room has been an abandoned item hide-out for decades. It is difficult to walk from one end to another.

Discarded boxes and various racks and items, conveys a number of thoughts.

  • The room is forgotten about, seen simply as a storage/ dumping room.
  • The items in the room are no longer wanted, or in fact that a decision has yet to be made whether they should be thrown away or kept.
  • The owner of the room has neglected, or chosen not to apply any attention to the contents.
  • The room could in fact be seen as a temperary storage whilst suitable placement has been found.
  • Although physically spacious, the room is so cluttered that it portrays a sense of claustrophobia and discomfort.
  • A hoarder’s paradise. To some it could be seen as cosy, although the intention of taking this shot is the opposite.
  • There is a sense of wastefulness. Not only for the lack of use for the contents, but for the very fact that this room is a solid and workable room. It could be used for much better purposes, even a fair space to offer for rent.

Taking the picture, and analysing it in detail makes me feel I could use this space more efficiently. I am personally disheartened by this image as it makes me feel panicked, or dismayed at the site of clutter and neglect. It conveys a moment of discomfort. Even though the room is well-lit, there is a desire to escape the claustrophobia that it ensues.

At first, I was thinking that this image would not be sufficient to use as an oppressive place. However upon analysis, under the proverbial microscope, I believe it works superbly. In particular, I like how bright the lighting appears, and how the clutter, so easily seen creates unease and a subtle darker mood.

An open, honest, simple space containing one intriguing item.
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The sea and coastline images are a major passion of mine. I believe the natural elements that are apparent spark such a raw and open atmosphere. Throughout the gamut of the weather, the scenes are inspiring and liberating.

  • The tide is out and there is a further mood of open-ness. It makes the scene feel expansive and free.
  • The weather is overcast, even still, the image is pleasant and relaxing.
  • The plastic spade gives a sense of childhood, be it our own or of a third person perspective.
  • There is a sense of “where is the child?” that can be taken in various scenarios.
  • There is evidence of sand burrowing creatures, reminding us that we are in the vicinity of nature, further proof than the sea in the background.
  • The plastic spade gives us indication of a relatively recent time in space, without such, we would not know a timeframe.

I am particularly drawn towards the overcast weather in the frame, and yet the sun is bright upon the scene. I feel this adds further atmosphere. Still able to declare a feeling of open and honest space, it has a moody sense that, as with the tempestuous weather, the mood can take a drastic turn.

A stark, empty hostile space.
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An image of the iron gate in the cellars of a wine wholesaler. The underground and dank atmosphere can give a sense of discomfort, and it is easy to ascertain a malevolence in the darkness beyond the gate.

  • The padlock gives an indication of denied access, whether this is of prohibition or of safety, is unclear, hence creating doubt and confusion.
  • The well lit damp chalky walls and the blackness of the blocked room are an uncomfortable contrast.
  • The gate reminds me of dungeons and similar unpleasant locations, there is a feeling of oppression and hostility with that.

I think the idea was successful, but not the actual image in particular. I struggled with the imposing whiteness of the chalky walls, and in contrast to the blackness of the oppressive dark corridor beyond the gate, I felt the brightness overpowered the remainder.

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Arranging my twins’ toys on one of their’s bunk bed was fun and I could envisage the desired photo, which I believe was truly captured.

  • The cosiness of the photo is easy to create, lots of warm colours, reds, pinks, yellows, orange etc.
  • Smiling cuddly toys. Impossible to go wrong with them.
  • The childhood bed –  adults would remember their childhood comfort.
  • Fill the picture with happiness and warmth. Aim for the heart strings…

I was astonished how difficult it was to separate my own attachment to the smiling toys, as they automatically remind me of the daughter that owns each toy. To me its a warm, cosy, friendly picture, but I would need feedback on whether it truly works.

Peter O

 

 

Project 6: Mise-en-scène

Viewing

Choose some films to watch, paying special attention to the mise-en-scène. Bear in mind that every item on screen has been considered and placed, every area of space has been adjusted to give the best composition. As you watch ask yourself the following:
• How does the scene feel?
• How has this been achieved?
• Has the mise-en-scène played a part in this?
• Is there any meaning conveyed by the mise-en-scène?

Choose a particularly interesting scene and watch it a number of times. Identify each individual shot. (Sketch out a storyboard of your sequence or extract some stills if this helps you.) Ask the same questions of each frame:
• How does the frame feel?
• How has this been achieved?
• Has the mise-en-scène played a part in this?
• Is there any meaning conveyed by the mise-en-scène?

BLOOD SIMPLE ( dir. Joel and Ethan Coen, 1984)

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The Coen brothers homage to film noir was their debut feature. Set in Texas, disturbed and overtly jealous bar owner Marty ( Dan Hedaya ) hires a private investigator / hitman ( M Emmett Walsh ) to dispose of his unfaithful wife Abby ( Frances McDormand ) and her lover, Ray ( who works as his bar tender, played by John Getz ). As with all good fables regarding mercenary services, things do not go as planned. The film is filled with double crossing treachery and leads to ample amounts of paranoia for the many characters concerned.

I have chosen this film as it is filled with subtle but essential plot markers using props and scenarios that cause tension leading up to the movie’s macabre ending. The particular scene under the spotlight is early in the film, where we meet Marty during his interaction with his PI, a scene which confirms indeed that his wife is being unfaithful.
Set in the back room office of his roadhouse bar, we can see behind him through a one way mirror, the bar itself, illumniated by pink neon lighting. This back room is large, a saloon that has been turned into a makeshift office and storage.

1.
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Upon Marty’s desk, we see his legs sprawled across the foreground. Note, Marty suffers with a stomach ulcer ( obviously symbolising his anxious, stressful character ) which is subtly illuminated throughout the film, and in particular it is interesting to see a glass of milk and a box of Alka Seltzer amongst the paperwork.
The frame appears to be filled with important props that later are relevant to the characters involved. The self-medication of milk and stomach salts, Marty’s legs strewn across the table, as if pointing towards his “authority” in his castle, with the challenging  PI’s stetson, which represents this character superbly, also marking his character in the following gameplay. It shows a tension of rivalry. The PI has brought bad news in the form of photographic evidence, therefore the plot  is about to get deeper. The mise-en-scène is rich here, purposely placed props that indicate various tropes throughout the movie. This gives a sense of unease, as Marty is to discover that his fears were correct.

2.

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The PI sits opposite, sitting back, relaxed and defiant. His hat and lighter placed wide on Marty’s table, a subtle insubordination to his employer. Behind him we see the messy unused furniture and equipment. The music from the bar is melancholy country & western ( we ARE in Texas! ) The mis-en-scène conveys an untidy, unloving sanctuary that is Marty’s world. He’s built his empire, but its not a happy place.

3.

The next frames tell the story together:
Top left pic:  Marty ( left, facing us ) explains that in ancient Greece, the messenger was beheaded upon delivery of bad news, to make the hierarchy feel better. Its a subtle attempt at imposing his “machismo” authority over his employee.
Top right pic: PI lights his cigarette and places his ( Man of the Year ) Zippo lighter on the desk, again an important prop, that is essential to a later reveal.
Bottom left pic: Defiantly, the PI drags deep on his cigarette, before…
Bottom right pic: Exhaling little rings of smoke in Marty’s face ( you can see them in a soft hue from the pink light of the bar )
A close up scene which perfectly indicates further discord between the characters. The PI is seen somewhat as a buffoon, but also we discover a very dangerous person. Marty’s attempt to belittle the PI, leads to a defiant response. The frames seem intense, purposely so with such medium to close up shots of the characters’ faces. The mis-en-scène here is simple that, just the characters and single props are highlighted, but is extremely effective in sparking unease and friction.

4.

Top left pic: Marty throws a bundle of cash at the PI, telling him never to come by the bar again, if he needs him, he’ll know which rock to turn over.
Top right pic: The PI picks up the bundle of the floor, laughing at the comment.
Bottom left pic: Placing his stetson back on his head, he remarks, “Give me a call if you wanna cut off my head, I can always crawl around without it!”
Bottom right pic: Chillingly laughing as he walks slowly away to exit the the back door, amongst the clutter.
A delicious dark atmosphere, stamping out the two characters, their relationship and overall, their disgust at each other. The mis-en-scène is essential throughout, focusing on important points, even props that become reveals later, zooming in to the sweaty faces of the intense Texas evening climate, the unkempt disarray of Marty’s paranoid world and setting up further malice for the rest of the film.

Peter O


Look back at your own sequence from Project 2. Whether or not you spent time considering it, the mise-en-scène will have affected your sequence. Analyse your own sequence in the same way you have looked at the other films. Add your notes to your blog.

• How does the frame feel?
• How has this been achieved?
• Has the mise-en-scène played a part in this?
• Is there any meaning conveyed by the mise-en-scène?

REFERENCE:

Blood Simple script by Joel and Ethan Coen, 1982.
http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/blood_simple.html – accessed 15th July 2016