Project 14 Camera movement

Some examples of the effect of camera movement:
• to create atmosphere – such as tension
• suggest a character’s situation or state of mind
• to represent a specific POV – for example using handheld camera with intentional movement to represent a subjective POV, or a slow tracking shot to represent POV of a person cruising past in a car
• a dramatic moment – the sudden movement of camera at a dramatic moment.

Find about six good examples of moving camera work that alters the feel and/or meaning of a sequence and add them to your blog.

Below are my selected examples. Mostly genre films, as I have grown up on a diet of these pictures and their specific uses of camera skills are among the reasons why they stand above the rest.

Jaws ( dir. Steven Spielberg, 1975 )

The famous dolly shot, previously a stalwart of Alfred Hitchcock in films such as Vertigo, Psycho and Marnie, here in the monster blockbuster of the mid seventies, “Jaws”, which uses the dolly zoom to extreme effect. Whilst relaxing on the beach, an already suspicious police chief, is shocked as his fears are realised when the shark attacks it’s second human victim right in front of him. By advancing the camera on a dolly track at the same time as zooming out, the subject of the frame moves closer as the background dreamily falls further away. Supported by John Williams’ startling music, it perfectly projects the true horror and shock to the audience. Not only has the shark attacked again, but in front of the eyes of the protagonist, who had previously spent twenty minutes of screen-time trying to convince the island’s committee that this was not a one-off accident and that they open the beach at their peril. It is the climax of the first act, the shark is not moving on, whilst there is food available. The town has to react. (1)

It Follows ( dir.David Robert Mitchell, 2014 )

The opening sequence of 2014’s superb horror film “It Follows”, uses a 360° camera turn to wonderous effect. A semi dressed teen, Annie ( Bailey Spry ) runs out of a suburban house at dawn, startled and aware she is being stalked. She stops in the street, runs further up the street before going back to her house to get her car keys, finally driving speedily away. The camera tracks her as she confusedly panics before deciding what to do. This movie projects way above its contemporaries as it packs multiple splendid frames and set pieces, but this opening scene is a fine example of a skillful cameraman and director at work. (2)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ( dir. Tobe Hooper, 1974 )

Cinematographer Daniel Pearl is the unsung hero of Tobe Hooper’s horror classic. The film deserves the crown as a superior in the genre by the relentless attention to preventing the audience of graphic visuals, but at the same time, one is subjected to uncomfortable scenes of a disturbing nature. The result is truly excellent.
The tension in the scene I have posted below is so beautiful executed. An ultra-hot day and the young couple are about to walk into violence that is beyond comprehension. My particular favourite shot here begins at 04.18, just after the first sudden outbreak of horror in the film. Pam ( Teri McMinn ) is waiting for her boyfriend, whom we have just seen beaten to the ground with a hammer, as she swings on a house swing outside. As she decides to get up and find out why he has not returned, the camera creeps underneath the swing and follows her as she approaches the house. Pam’s hot-pants are obvious here, but its the image of the approaching house that looms above her as she walks forward, almost as if she steps into the monster house’s “mouth”, that is the most startling. The beautiful blue sky is pushed aside as she advances closer and closer to the house. It is a perfect shot, one that is stacked with atmosphere. Pam eventually discovers further horrors that surpass the ghastliness of her boyfriend’s demise. Perhaps the last beautiful image of the film before true terror descends, a monumental and lasting image, in my opinion. (3)

Enter The Void ( dir. Gaspar Noé, 2009 )

Argentine director Gaspar Noé is famous for his French extreme films such as Irreversible ( 2002 ), but it is the experimental English language -shot in Tokyo – movie “Enter the Void” that allows a unique and continual floating camera style to truly utilize his vision to maximum effect. The film is shot entirely as first person POV ( á la “GoPro” ) as we follow a young American drug dealer whilst living in Japan. The scene here is his fatality as he is shot by the police whilst hiding in a bar toilet. It is extremely effective. The following scenes are told by his astral body as he floats away from his corpse to watch upon his beloved sister as she deals with his death and the horrific world of Tokyo’s under belly. (4)

Cujo (dir. Lewis Teague, 1983 )

Before becoming the world famous cinematographer that he is known as today, Jan de Bont is the driving force behind this low budget horror-soap based on Stephen King’s novel. The story, which is often accused of being rather flat, is animated perfectly by Jan de Bont’s superior choices of camera techniques and framing. Countless moments of run-of-the-mill shock tactics are enhanced by interesting dolly shots, angles and ingenious set pieces. Atmosphere is this film’s strength. If you watch the sequence posted here, starting with the rabid dog’s POV as the mother and child arrive, to the clip’s climax and action, the scene is filled with interesting shots that stack up the tension. (5)

Peter O.

SOURCE:
(1) Film Art – An Introduction, Sixth Edition  – David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson (University of Wisconsin Press) p231
(2) New York Times website film review and interview with director David Robert Mitchell by Stephen Holden 12th March 2015
(3) Interview with cinematographer Daniel Pearl, 40th Anniversary of the film at The Housecore Horror Film Festival, October 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRUB4xbWW30
(4) 
Gaspar Noe – What’s the Problem? by Steve Rose. The Guardian, Thursday 16th September 2010
https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/sep/16/gaspar-noe-enter-the-void
(5) Nope Nothing Wrong Here, The Making of Cujo by Lee Gambin ( Bear Manor Media, 2017 )

Project 13 Non-diegetic sound

Research
Try to find examples of the following:
Intentional confusion of diegetic and non-diegetic sound / • Sound that is hard to identify as either diegetic or non-diegetic
David Lynch, as much as an auteur of distinction, stands out as a master of sound design. His first theatrical release Eraserhead ( 1977 ) has a phenomenal and thoroughly impactful soundtrack. Much of the non-diegetic score blends with the diegetic sounds of an industrial city, based on Lynch’s experience of living in Philadelphia. Factory machinery, blasting sound-horns, chimney reverbs, distant locomotives, all blending in with a continual droning score. The sounds ARE the music score. As most of the film slips into the main character Henry’s ( Jack Nance ) internal daydreaming, the sounds in his head are signified by a deep drone, blurring the line between score and sound design. This continued to be a trait used in almost all of Lynch’s work, The Elephant Man ( 1980 ) , Blue Velvet ( 1986 ), Lost Highway ( 1997 )   and Inland Empire ( 2006 ) being notable examples. (1)

• Music (non-diegetic) used to identify social and cultural references
John Boorman’s Deliverance ( 1972 ) and Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort ( 1981 ) are similar in their plot lines as well as their location in the southern states of the USA. Deliverance has a soundtrack of banjo bluegrass that is significant of its geographical area, whilst Ry Cooder’s score for Southern Comfort is based solidly in blues and Cajun music of the area. With both scores, the mood and atmosphere of the pieces are crucial for the films’ relevant atmospheres. (2) and (3).

• Music and other non-diegetic sound used to create, for example, atmosphere, tension and emotion
Music is such a key part to stacking up tension, creating atmosphere. I have selected The Mission ( dir. Roland Joffe, 1986 ) as my example. The reason being that it was Ennio Morricone’s outstanding score that lead me to see the film at the cinema in the year of its release. I was fourteen, and I fell completely in love with the film, its imagery, its music. So much so that I made it an ambition to visit Iguazú Falls on the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay myself. I have actually been there twice and on both occasions, the film score was my ohrwurm for the entirity of my time there. (4)

• Non-diegetic sound that sets the pace of a scene
John Carpenter’s classic monster sci-fi The Thing ( 1982 ) has a score again composed by Ennio Morricone, but based on Carpenter’s previous film scores.  An excellent example of building atmosphere and one that has a superiority  in setting the pace of the scene. The opening sequence in particular.

Exercise:
Abstract image sequence Choose a short musical sequence (1 minute max). Listen to it a number of times. Make a note of the emotions and feelings you experience as you listen and any images or ideas that come into your mind. Don’t worry about trying to create a coherent narrative, just try and record what pops into your mind. Find images to represent the thoughts, feelings, ideas you have. Record your images and edit them together. Allow the music to guide the rhythm and pace of your edit.
Upload your finished sequence to your blog and invite people to comment on how they interpret your sequence. Look at other students’ work.
• What meaning do you take?
• How does the sequence feel?
• How does it accompany or contradict the music?
• Are there any images you particularly like? Why?

Recording some incidental music for a space between songs on one of my music projects, I had realised was suitable to be added to my previous Stalker exercise. Therefore I decided to see if the would fit well. With a few tweaks and re-recordings I managed to make them synch well together.
The music has a trashy grindhouse early 80s slasher soudtrack feel, and the Stalker scene is particularly set to be the same. I was overjoyed to see how suited they were together.

REFERENCES:
(1) David Lynch fansite. http://www.davidlynch.de/ – accessed 7th January 2017
(2) Southern Comfort soundtrack:
http://www.fast-rewind.com/music_southerncomfort.htm – accessed 7th January 2017
(3) Dueling Banjos used in John Boorman’s Deliverence:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dueling_Banjos  – accessed 7th January 2017
(4) Ennio Morricone interview. The Mozart of Film Music by Adam Sweeting, The Guardian, February 2001  https://www.theguardian.com/film/2001/feb/23/culture.features1  – accessed 7th January 2017

Project 12 – Connecting shots

When considering what else occurs when two shots are joined together it is impossible to ignore the theories of the Russian formalists. This movement in early cinema is typified by classic films such as Eisenstein’s ‘Battleship Potemkin’ which is the mainstay of any introduction to film theory. Essentially the Russian formalists realised that when images are connected together other thoughts and meanings emerge that were not contained in the original images. Up until this point cinema had been very literal, showing simple sequences of events. The Russians pioneered the concept of montage where (what seemed at the time to be) abstract images were cut together with footage to suggest other meanings. The classic example is that of Kuleshov and Pudovkin who cut images of soup, a dead woman on a coffin or a little girl playing with a toy over the expressionless face of the actor Mosjukhin. In each case audiences enthusiastically described the excellent acting of Mosjukhin convinced he had reacted differently in each example. In fact his expression had never changed (see below). The audience had connected the images in their own minds, creating a story of the actor’s internal emotional state.

Exercise: Repeating the Mosjukhin experiment
Find yourself an actor who can keep a straight face, or a human figure or doll. Record them staring motionlessly ahead. Record some images that can represent the thoughts of your character. Cut the images over your actor in different combinations. Attempt to create an impression of what they are thinking. Upload your best sequences to your blog. Ask other students to comment on what they perceive the sequences to mean. Analyse your own sequence and the work of other students. Which sequences work best. Why? Is there anything about the composition or content of the images that makes them work especially well? It is also possible to create meaning by re-ordering elements from within the scene.

For this exercise, I chose to use an action man doll to perform as Mr Mosjukhin. I had attempted using an actor but the opportunity to do so did not arrive in time for me to work on the experiment. However I’m happy to use the humanoid doll, as I feel it adds a further irony on to what I used as scenes that he ( it ) was looking at.
Part 1 – I grabbed a scene from the German TV series Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter (2013- ) showing lots of wartime action. Flicking back to the action man, one can almost see a twinkle of excitement in his eyes, or perhaps a feeling of dread ( PTSD )
Part 2 – Two handsome tattooed men embracing in an act of love. As we see our hero again, there could be a sense of longing, or lust, or perhaps, sadly, a sense of disgust. Only the viewer can ascertain the thought.
Part 3 – The 2016 FA Cup final between Crystal Palace and Manchester Utd. Maybe our action man gets elated or bored by the image of twenty two men and a ball.
Part 4 – As my girlfriend stated upon viewing, the model in the frame has a juicy bottom! Again, the viewer can decide what the action man is thinking about the image.

I enjoyed this experiment, and how the image can insinuate emotion within what the subject is thinking. This is a powerful and yet non-obvious tool. How a character can be charged with thoughts and elevated emotions by how the viewer is interpreting the action.
Most impressive.

Project 11 Screen space : Exercise – Two people communicating

For this exercise you’ll produce a short sequence in which two people communicate across an off-screen space. Don’t use a wide shot – create the impression of the off-screen space through the composition of the shots containing the individual subjects. Read the script on the next page. Carefully plan a series of shots (each containing only one of the two characters). Sketch out each frame. Think about how the size of the frame you choose and the space you place around the characters affects the perception of the off-screen space. Record your sequence using actors or models. You can add an atmos. soundtrack if you wish. Upload your sequence and invite comments. Compare sequences, look at other students’ sequences and leave comments describing what you understand from them. Read the comments other students have left for you. Did they understand what you had hoped they would? Look again at your own sequences, those of other students and any other films. Think about the meanings that the framing and composition in each shot can imply.

Try to identify examples of the spatial composition contributing to:
• the mood or atmosphere of a shot
• your perception of the relationship between the characters
• your understanding of what is happening or what is going to happen
• your perception of how you as a viewer relate to the characters or action.

Script for screen space production exercise.

Fill in the gaps to complete this script before carefully planning what shots you will require. Try to use the minimum number of shots possible. For each shot carefully consider how the size of the frame, and the space around the character, will influence the perception of the wider space outside the frame. Also consider what the frame will suggest about the characters’ emotions and the atmosphere of the shot.

-SARAH is seated alone. She is holding something (a book, mobile, or other item) that has her attention. She seems distracted, absorbed by what she holds.
-DAN is standing [insert some distance] off across the [insert the location that separates them]. He notices Sarah but looks away.
-SARAH looks up for a moment and notices Dan. She reacts with [insert emotion / reaction].
-SARAH continues to look at Dan.
-DAN becomes aware that Sarah is looking at him. He looks up at her.
-SARAH smiles at Dan.
-DAN begins to walk towards Sarah.

“Sorry”

With this exercise I chose to avoid non-diegetic sound and just use the sound of the sea as the main aspect of atmosphere. The characters have clearly fallen out.
Storyboard Frame 1 – Sarah is sitting upon a groin on the beach as the sea in the background is heading towards high tide. As the exercise prohibits wide-shots, I chose a mid-shot, to still allow some of the background info to be apparent but to make sure Sarah is noted as sitting alone, perhaps not in the best of moods. She has her mobile phone with her. ( She is situated to the left of the frame )
Frame 2 -Dan is further across the beach sitting on the next groin along. He has noticed that Sarah is holding her phone, so he takes the opportunity to make peace by texting her. We can tell that from the two shots, that they are not sitting next to each other but a distance of beach is between them. ( By placing him to the right of the shot, it is possible to show distance between them. )
Frame 3 – Sarah, in the meantime has placed her phone next to her, responds to the notification that a text has arrived. She picks it up.
Frame 4 – Close up on her phone. Dan’s text: I’m sorry forgive me?
Frame 5 – Sarah reads and cannot hold back a smile.
Frame 6 – Sarah’s POV shot as she sees Dan set off from the distance to meet her. She heads to join him.

Try to identify examples of the spatial composition contributing to:
• the mood or atmosphere of a shot
The calm sea dictates the scene. Distance is presence by the empty beach that they are situated in.
• your perception of the relationship between the characters
Hopefully its clear by Sarah’s expression that she isn’t particularly happy. She seems pensive at least. By showing her sitting alone, and sitting upon a beach groin, she is contemplating something that is not present.
• your understanding of what is happening or what is going to happen
Once Dan is in the frame, and especially that he is texting his apologies, it is clear that there is a tension between the two characters.
• your perception of how you as a viewer relate to the characters or action.
Dan has clearly upset Sarah. But not so much that they cannot make amends. Who can really be mad at another when next to the calming nature of the sea?

 

sorry-storyboard

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.

mt2mt3mt4

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.

mt6

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.

mt7

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.

mt8mt9

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

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

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

 

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

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