Industrial Media 4-1

1-41This is a clip from my ongoing documentary project, before it looks grey and has less contrast. So in premiere pro, I turned on the “fast color corrector” and did some certain adjustments: firstly, in “saturation”, I increased the input white level, so it could highlight the bright area; in contrast, I decreased the input gray level to make the shadow darker, so that the image would have more contrast. Lastly, I enhanced the green color for hue balance to give the trees a healthy green look.

The second clip is also from the same documentary project, before the color grading, the image looked dark and lifeless, because this part of the film talks about the elderly people’s happy life, so the images are suppose to look warm and bright. So I increased the brightness for the overall image by bringing up the output white level, and also added some orange color into the footage.

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For another film that I entirely created by mobile phone 1+1, I decided to give it a cool look. Everything looks well in the raw image: it has good exposure, good contrast and lighting. But if I want it to look cool, I might have to “destroy” some of the good qualities to archive a cold-blood feeling. So I switched the warm light to cold light by adding more blue, and also I decreased the brightness, so that the image would look darker.

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The last clip was recorded in a dark room with insufficient lighting condition, it looks very dark. So I had to increase its brightness again, but after I have done the brightness, it left lots of noise on the screen. So I used “Neat Video” plug-in which could automatically reduce the noise for me.

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Industrial Media 4-2

Industrial Media has provided me the technical skills and theoretical knowledge in broadcasting, which I have not learnt enough in bachelor study. Before the course I didn’t know there are such differences between making fiction and non-fiction projects. Now I have gained a general idea about how to prepare and start a video project depend on its genre. Furthermore , I have gained the abilities to review and articulate the inter-relationships of the audience and broadcasters in media production,  and understood that I have to often stand in audience’s perspective to look back the ongoing process as a media broadcaster. Now I believe that I am capable to create and produce a simple project suitable for broadcast on TV or web, and also collaborate with other media specialists on production projects. I am aiming to get into the film and TV industry, so after I will finished the media study, if possible, I will start with an internship position in any media organisation while learning things from others and daily working, most importantly, to grasp how things are running in industry and how to solve authentic industry problems or address real issues faced in organisations.

Industrial Media 3-4 Interview

The shoot

The shoot is not satisfied as we all had not got experience on operating camera for an interview, the camera shook a lot during filming and we didn’t have many shots on the listener which could be used for cutaways. Also some close-up on the eyes or hands would be useful too. But I like the shots that include both people in different camera angles, it gave varieties on visual even two people constantly sitting in same spots. Also we spent too much time on setting up two lapel micro phones into camera, and only have got one worked in the end, so I suppose next time I should get familiar with every devices that using in a shoot. The interview could be better if we previously prepared the questions, the conversation is scattered and has many redundant repeats which increased the difficulties in editing.

The edit

Because the footage has these weaknesses, it requires more efforts on editing. First of all, it has to “lose weight”, I have cut off the redundant pauses, repeats, and modal words to make the sentences more fluent. And I disassembled some of the broken sentences and put them together in one sentence, but the image would be cut and lose visual continuity. So I put cutaways on top of it to hide the incontinuous part. It is similar for solving the lack of listener’s shots(either Leon or Darren’s), I cut the listener’s shots from the abandoned parts and pasted them onto the long shots of talker, so that we can see conversations with images from both people rather than just single people is talking. I also adjusted the compositions for some shots by enlarging their size and moving them to appropriate places.

Industrial Media 3-3 Abstract

The shoot

On the day we shoot all the abstract visuals, we intended to shoot some elements could represent the features of life, such as, leaves, tree bark, annual ring shaped tree base, in contrast, we also collected some lifeless objects which would be used to inform the merciless death, such as, square buildings, iron mesh, vents. Most of the shot exposed correctly, one of them has been over exposed. The compositions of the images were considered during the filming too, we have put thoughts on how they would look like on screen, for archiving the effects we want: one example is to use the edges of the buildings to split the screen, oblique and vertical lines could inform the mood of uneasy and desperate to the audience, just like the feeling people would have when talking about death.

The edit

Firstly, I spent time on editing the interview audio cause I wanted to make it to be the monologue from Darren, who tells a story about his father’s death. Only the 5,6 sentences were selected to use, some of them were put together by half sentences in purpose of more fluent story telling. And after they have been put in order in Premiere, I search through all the abstract shots to come out the best order of showing them according to the monologue, in other words, to make the visuals more or less match with the content of audio, in order to help bringing up the mood of audience. The last part is color adjusting for those shots were too bright, I wanted the whole video would be in a cold tune because it increases the sadness. It is a bit shame that I have not fixed the white noise comes with the monologue audio, and I could have got more relevant shots: I kind of ran out the shots at the end because the tight cuts.

Industrial Media 2-3: Lenny

Lenny exercise was a good experience to me which took me through the whole process from pre-production, via production to post-production. So I personally joined in every part of making a film, and we took turns on different roles on the set, differs from my previous experience of being single role in crews, I had a chance to know how individuals work with each other on the set, and should respect and make allowance for the others. Most importantly, knowing the relationship among the crew could help me quickly locating where the issues happened.

The order is important on the set, to achieve maximum efficiency and making every one working together as a team, the 1st AD is in charge of maintaining orders during shooting. I used to think making a film was all about being creative on the story and techniques, but ignored the non-creative works behind the scenes. After shooting Lenny VI, I have known whoever is on the set, doing the correct behaviors would always affect the quality of the outcome, and his/her future career.

The choosing of the locations could be very challenging too; it should be memorable to the audience by specific settings. Choosing a good location would spend lots of time, it is a good idea to find locations where have characters rather than generic places. Such as, we would better find a quaint boutique bookstore or a French café with a patio overlooking a park instead of just a bookstore or a restaurant. Some other things should be considered too like: the availabilities of accommodations, car parking, and electricity and so on. Finding the perfect location that works both inside as an interior and outside as an exterior may be difficult.  But we can film the exterior of a house and then use a different house’s interior, which gives us a more controlled environment.

I overall enjoyed the editing; we have got enough shots on story and actors, but need some B-roll shots which give the audience a good idea of the landscape that the character encounters. If we had more time I probably would get more shots for each scenes that have conversation from different angles, therefore I could avoid cutting back to the exact same angle every time. The tricky part of cutting is how to cut tight scenes without becoming too “cutty”, this means taking out some unnecessary pauses between actors’ delivery dialogue of lines, or tightening the gaps within dialogue sentences through the use if carefully placed cutaways.

Industrial Media 2-2: Reflections of Doco Readings

In the last few days, I have read

  • Ward, Paul. Documentary: the margins of reality
  • Curran Bernard, S. Documentary storytelling for film and videomakers

I used to hold a thought about how to divide documentaries and dramas, which the documentaries should only document the real events without any performance or acting. However during the studying the documentary field in depth for months, I have known the relationship between two categories is complex and sometimes overlap. Paul Ward’s Documentary: the Margins of Reality has given me a great understanding about this relationship and all the variations on these.

Ward pointed out some fictional techniques were increasingly used in documentaries in recent times, such as reconstruction or re-enactment. These techniques are sometimes only options when the documentaries engage with history and the past, or difficult to get access because of anonymity or other problems:

Either there is no ‘direct’ record of the events that can simply be drawn into the documentary context- this is the case with events from history when no cameras were present-or there are issues around anonymity or other problems with access that mean that reconstruction is one of the only options available.

For my current non-fiction project, even though it will be an observational documentary, there will be no obvious acting or performance within, however, for capturing a necessary scene which for example could boost the narration, but it is somehow missed or interrupted, We do require the participant to ‘re-enact’ that moment, so I consider this arguably could be the acting in observational documentary: how real people/non actors ‘play themselves’ in some way.

 …there is an argument that all documentary involves people ‘acting’ in some sense of the term, so the distinction is arguably a matter of degree…

With the development of film and TV productions and technology, I believe the documentary should pick up the tools such as CGI, props or acting to reconstruct or re-enact the certain aspects of reality, to let the truth have a chance to be presented in maximization.


 

In Bernard’s paper, the word ‘serendipity’ has been mentioned which I found very fresh and useful,:

It’s not unusual for filmmakers to begin one project, only to be drawn by the characters and situations they encounter toward a film that is both different and stronger than they anticipated.

and then I think back to when I was planning the story for my current project, a documentary about the life style of elderly people in Melbourne. But as the prior research and filming going further, the story is getting more specific and clear, it is no longer only about an old man’s daily life, we discovered a Chinese senior citizen club, therefore this created an opportunity to explore different elderly people and various stories of them, most importantly, to explore the conflicts in their lives of living in a foreign country: how they live different with locals?

Keeping a sense of serendipity could be an instinct for documentary makers, because there is a lot of drama happens in ordinary life, these realistic dramas are often well received by the audience. Knowing how to find them and discover the potential interesting story behind could help us get an access to a great documentary idea.

While talking about the access let us look at another point that Bernard mentioned, the actual accesses to whether the locations, the subjects or archival for making a film or even a shot happened. Think about the possibilities of the accesses before filming could avoid waste of the time, on the other hand, spending sometimes to truthfully communicate with the people who can grant it, which mean establishing a relationship and building trust between each other.

This is a professional relationship, although filmmakers often grow very close to their subjects.

I have to gain several accesses to interview the senior citizen club members, it was more difficult than I thought, but as long as I make my intentions clearly and be truthful to them, they would start to trust the crew. Therefore in exchange, they would be truthful in front of the camera too.

Industrial Media 2-1: Clown Train Analysis

I am a big fan of horror/thriller films, but after I have seen many different types of horror/thriller films for these years, I have to say the good ones are always rare. One of the factors which define a horror/thriller film as successful is its SFX. The short film Clown Train that I just watched is a good example of the SFX utilize in horror/thriller films.

The film starts with a complete darkness with the sound of train slowing down; some harsh brakes sound from within which I consider was put on in post-production, for making a normal sound more “dangerous” to stick to the movie genre, so that I can almost define its genre as horror/thriller at the very beginning without seeing the image. This is one use of the sounds in horror/thriller films, the sounds are used to evoke the characters feelings and emotions in order to get a response from the audience, and also symbolise the genre.

And then we see the location where the story happens-the train, more specifically, on a carriage. Listen carefully, we hear the humming noise and two low key electronic chords are playing at low volume behind the image, without too much explaining and acting, we knew some thing bad is going to happen to the protagonist. The sound was used as a tool here to manipulate the feeling of audience, by carefully using the sounds employed in the scene it creates the right mood and atmosphere and in the context of the horror/thriller genre, helps to build suspense and tension.

A bass drum kicks when the scary clown shows up; the drum kick simulates the heavy heart beat when people get shocked. The speed of dialogue was intentionally slowed down, but the single low key piano note and tensive beating sounds are still playing softly that reminds the audience: this is just “the calm before the storm”. The stereotypical light flickering sound always makes the situation worse; and following the plot is pushed to the climax: when the clown reveals the biggest suspense to the protagonist and the audience, a synthesized “dangerous” sound gradually plays to high volume, which indicates the protagonist is in an extremely danger. The audience of course, feeling like being in this danger, and just want to run for their life.

Expect the musical instruments and synthesizers that we commonly know, I would like to introduce a special instrument which is invented by Richard Waters. I think the waterphone is probably the best instrument for making the dangerous sound effects for horror/thriller films.

Industrial Media 1-4

In Nostalgia for the light, Patriccia Guzmann was utilizing plenty of still camera shots of landscape, galaxy and objects with a few subtle moments. Following the slow and peaceful voice-over, this established the fundamental key of entire film: poetic graphic and story-telling. To me this is also a method that Guzmann used to integrate irrelevant stories about geology, archaeology, astronomy and history into one large story, to let them share one rhythm for eliminating the contradictions, and then building further connections among the stories. Some photography and old footage were used to demonstrate the past moments of history, some of them were scientific images such as galaxy and minerals.

The camera only facing to people directly when interview occurs, most of them are mid-shots, all of the interviewees deliver the content in calm tones which matching the speed of film. Other than the part of interview, the camera seems intend to avoid shooting the front face of people but more likely focus on objects and environment. For example, we only see the backs or silhouettes of people when they were not being interviewed.

The framing was well considered in this film, all of the landscape shots were beautifully composed that could compare favourably with professional landscape photos. The warm colour tone enhanced the feeling of memories to past people and historic events.

The atmosphere sounds in this film were minimised so we can only hear one sound (expect people talking) without too much noise. The appropriate uses of music is another thing worth to mention, for example, the grave orchestral music starts when we see the boundless desert, it highlights the desperate and inanimate feelings of the  Atacama Desert, enhanced the narrative.

Lastly, I was very impressed by how Guzmann deals with two different kinds of histories-that of the stars, our origins as matter and energy, and the history of a very specific political situation in Chile, and put them in one film. He made Atacama Desert becomes an important character in the film, by exploring what exist in the desert: there are mines of salt and minerals, there are petroglyphs and mummies, and there are also dinosaur remains in the desert, so we have geology, archaeology, and astronomy all in the same place. The astronomers look for the past of eons ago, the archaeologists are looking for the past of 10,000 years ago, and the women are looking 30 years into the past. So this territory is a great set for the film. 

Industrial Media 1-3

After I have read Jeffrey Ruoff’s Conventions of Sound Documentary, I have gained a general cognition of the utilisation of sound in documentary. Before, although I have indistinctly noticed the differences between documentaries and Hollywood films, but I never know the reasons caused the differences. Jeff clearly mentioned in his article; comparing to Hollywood cinema, the documentary films:

…characters lack clear motivations, speech may be inaudible in parts, lighting haphazard and variable, camera movements follow actions with difficulty, sound spaces differ radically between scenes, microphones accidentally appear in the image, jump cuts disrupt continuity, and questions remain unanswered. (Ruoff, J, 1993)

Ruoff clearly distinguished the differences in sound between Hollywood films and documentary films, which the Hollywood filmmakers intend to only record location sound compares to the lack of location-recorded sound in documentaries. Most importantly, Rick Altman pointed out, and Ruoff quoted, Hollywood is a system in which fidelity is sacrificed in favour of the more narrativelly central dimension of intelligibility.(Ruoff, J, 1993)

Nevertheless, for the rare location sounds in documentaries, the lack of clarity makes documentary sound tracks are more difficult to follow than sounds in real life. This is because most of them were not recorded under optimal conditions such as equipments in Hollywood’s studio. So only listening to the sound from an observational documentary without watching the screen could be a difficult experience.

Ruoff also went thought the techniques of conducting an interview, which only has interviewee directly talking to viewer in a documentary. By maintaining eye contact and giving visual feedback while the subject is talking. An interesting fact which brought up by Errol Morris in Ruoff’s article: Listening to what people were saying wasn’t even important…but it was important to look as if you were listening to what people were saying. (Morris, E, 1988) Morris even thinks that the former could interfere the latter.

Lastly, Ruoff mentioned the recorded music appears frequently in observational documentaries because the filmmakers will not obliged to pay copyright fee if they record the music on location, because the filmmakers can prove that they are using a musical segment as a social document. (Ruoff,J, 1993) Therefore, this became another convention in documentary.

Reference:

Jeffrey Ruoff, Conventions of Sound in Documentary. Cinema Journal, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Spring 1993). 24-40.

Industrial Media 1-2

I have done the article Reflective Writing by Jennifer Moon and I certainly had a fresh mind about how to write a good reflection. I remember the first time I was writing a reflection, I was confused and only put focus on how to finish it rather than really letting my mind flow.

However, just like Jenny said, it is also worth nothing that you will learn not only from the “in the head” reflection but from the process of representing the reflection itself. (Moon, J, 2004) I found out new thoughts are more likely coming up during the presentation process; some of the unsolved issues would be solved too. Therefore, I usually start my reflective writing with a brainstorm drawing, I put down everything that appears in my mind that I consider useful, even though they are irrelevant to each other, but following the writing goes further, they will be linked up and becoming valuable assets.

In Jenny’s Resource II she listed some of practical practices for enhancing the skills of reflective writing; Listen to the views of other is a great method that could release me under constraint from my own mindset. People have different views to an event because their different cultures, backgrounds, or ages. But we tend to assume they all see things in the same way as we do. For avoiding the monotonous content in our writings, most importantly is to let others understand and relate to the content I came up with.

Reference

Moon, Jennifer, A. A handbook of reflective and experiential learning : theory and practice, (p. 184-189, 204-209, 222-225). New York : RoutledgeFalmer, 2004