Thursday, 2 May 2013


From the start of this project to the end I have been very confident in what we were planning to produce, what we were producing and our final product. Our biggest drawback is that none of us are sound engineers and struggled both in the recording and in the sound edit. However we have all kept an eye on the visuals throughout the project and the turnover itself on set has been excellent  I think as a crew on the whole we worked really well together.

In the project I specifically worked on the interview scene, I storyboarded the first half of it up to the evidence bag being produced. Unfortunately on that dat we had some scheduling problems largely caused by sound, again it was one of our biggest downfalls. However I think that although I didn't get exactly what I storyboarded and we worked more for coverage we got some really nice images. I learned a lot about studio shooting, especially in the masking of the background. I am really happy with the way we got the background to complete blackness, it let us get grainless images and play with the space. It is something I will definitely consider in the future for scenes that are set in non de script dark locations. I also got to use DSLR fixed lenses, something I haven't played with before. They look really nice however I cant say that I noticed a massive difference between them and zoom lenses that are set appropriately. The fish eye was nice to experiment with however I was surprised with exactly how wide the lens was, we accidently got a few things in the shot we had to scale out.

I think our preproduction had some positives and some negatives, being a project in which we all wanted significant input it was tricky to divide up the scenes but we did a decent job of it on paper. I wanted to use a creeping track in on each of the characters for my part of the interview. Whilst simple I think that the increasing tension it would convey would have been perfect. However the project being written by Connor was really his, if anyone was the director it was him and Mark the producer. This meant that on Connor and Mark's shoots schedules were stuck to and whilst everyone had camera input they were there shoots. On our day, mine and George's I felt that we had a little of our creative control taken away because of time problems. It wasn't exactly the time shortage that caused the problems but the fact that with the time issues Mark and Connor wanted to get basic shot reverse shots before even touching the tracks and so in place of my tracking shots are a wide and a close up of each character. In post we realised that we had shotlisted way too much on the crime scene and on the interview scene, neither me or George had really considered that reconstructions would be added ontop of our scene.

Another big practical learning curve that I think comes out of the whole project is that roles must be assigned, even if they change per shoot so that everyone gets an equal input the fact that we didn't have a specific producer to do things like check equipment beforehand or a specific sound guy to test things or do foley meant we had lots of trouble. It also would have been great, and we would have had enough people, if we had split into an assistant director, a director and a camera man, I think they are the roles we got closest to but as none of use were specifically in control it made the work difficult. I think these are the reasons we had some exposure and continuity issues with some of the footage.

We got good reactions from the group about our piece, the visuals really seemed to come across strongly which was our main intention with the film. Having the visuals marked overall and being a cinematography piece we were extremely conscious of the shot composition and make up. Whilst this led to some of the aforementioned issues with the film that level of care over the visuals is something I would carry onto other projects as they look beautiful. I learned a lot about lighting on the course through subtle things such as the use of shadow and backlighting which I feel we took advantage of. This was the first time I have used the studio setting and been in such a controlled environment and the chance to really play with light was great. My personal favourite shot that I set up are the light change and the wide on Brad. I think the lighting change is effective and complies well with the brief and on the wide of Brad in the interview there is a nice side to back light which highlights him when sat back but when he leans forward they fall off as the top and other spots light the front of him. This lighting specifically I will use again, I think it looked nice on screen and was relatively easy to achieve. The only downfall of this scene is that it may be too dark, we quite like it but I'm not sure if it is too much for the general audience we are going for, it is extreme but we have used the takes that were a little brighter. I feel we may have been able to achieve a better effect by utilising more blue gels and using blue light as falloff for the dark areas therefore keeping them dark and lit rather than letting it drop off as much as we did.

We had a mixed experience with actors and props, two of our actors were fantastic, our detective and our dead body but Brad was a little over the top. I think it comes from using theatre actors but on a whole his delivery was manageable. The other issue with Brad's character is that he didn't quite act as he was intended when written, this may have been because we knew the reference material and the actor didn't, a simple thing but something so simple it slipped our minds. In future I will be sure to have a full discussion with the actors about their characters inspirations and motivations to ensure the correct performance. The props we got for the crime scene worked really well on the whole, although only cheap I feel they added an authenticity to the scene. Unfortunately we didn't have enough crime scene tape to do it properly but a lack of wides helps hide the fact. The problem we had with props was more with costume, as we didn't buy the dead body costume because it was such a small part and detail we could not ruin it with blood. This meant the blood effects on the body were a little poor, whilst the blood looked good we could only paint it on the floor up to the jacket with a centimetre space between the jacket and blood. We also couldnt put blood ontop of the jacket so there were no gunshots or blood patches representing wounds. In the edit when we looked back on shots that had the body in we realised we could not use any of them that showed the chest or head, it was just too fake. So a simple costume error really restricted the edit. Along with the continuity and sun changing issues on that scene it was extremely difficult to get a full scene together.

I think one of our downfalls was the edit, when we showed the film, we improved it afterwards a little but I think a lot of the little things on set that we didn't notice ie. continuity issues, made the edit difficult. We also had the repeated issue of too many people with different input, Steve did the majority of the edit but didn't want to have a monopoly over other peoples camera work. Whilst I am glad it was collaborative I actually think it weakens the piece and lengthened the editing process. We all had similar strong visions for the camera work that came from discussions within the group but most of us had different ideas of the edit that conflict a little. Specifically me and Steve had different views of the edit, on reflection I should have stayed out of the edit suit and let him get on with it but he asked for some help so I wanted to be there.

Due to strong pre production the project didn't change much, the script was really strong and we all immediately knew exactly what we wanted to do with it so throughout the production and post we used the script much as possible and I think our original proposal is almost exactly what we created. Again this is because of strong post production and confidence in the planned material, whilst its hard to have this confidence on all projects its something I will aim for in the future as it makes for smoother production and post production.

Our time management was a little off, we left shooting very late so that we could get the actors we wanted, this meant the edit and sound edit were really stressful. We also had a lot of problems with corrupted hard drives and sd cards, we tried to back things up as much as possible but some of the corruptions happened too early. Apart from the rushed edit I am really happy with the whole production I think we set out what we planned to, worked well as a team and are all confident we produced high quality images. I think the film is quite clearly made with an emphasis on cinematography but the simplicity of the story gives the visuals time to work. A more complex narrative or a theme or subject behind the narrative would have improved the film, as it is it is almost an exorcise in cinematography rather than a flashed out film but such is the nature of short films. I think that we have produced some good work that will definitely end up in our personal showreels but as an entertaining short it has its limits and lack of originality that we are well aware of, in the end the wish to create something visually considered outweighed the need for complexity and originality. That being said I am extremely proud of the film and would love to see it on a larger screen again when re edited and with a more professional sound quality that I am sure we will add even after the deadline to improve the film for our own purposes.

Lighting Changes in Film

Whilst it was very difficult to find theoretical texts about lighting changes some of the basics are obvious. Although often driven by narrative events lighting changes signify a move into a more internal diegetic state, a point of view, a subjective shot. We took this meaning and applied it to the lighting change in our own film.

At pivotal point in the interrogation scene the detective slams an evidence bag on the table containing Brad's wallet. We go into brads mind, we see the pressure build on him represented by the harsh blue toplight on both him and the evidence bag. This was my shot to set up and I achieved the effect by lighting Brad with the top lights and then naturally washing out those specific effects with more naturalistic lighting around the scene.

I think the effect works really well, it really emphasises the pressure on Brad and emphasise that he knows its his wallet and that he is in trouble. We tried the scene without the lighting on Brad changing, just with a spot tightening on the wallet but the change wasn't drastic enough.

I think we have achieved an effective lighting change, although it isnt narratively explainable I think it is justifiable as a subjective insight into Brad's mind. We will have to cut to a reverse shot to take the audience back out of the internal diegetic shot but it should work nicely.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Colour in Cinema

Colour is a massive part of cinema, its one of the key aspects of mise en scene which define the mood, themes and even tell the narrative of films. We have approached colour in various ways in our film to both create coherence and to symbolise poetic and subtle meaning.

In Syntactic Role of Colour in Film by Ornam Rotem the basics of colour in terms of film and "world building" are laid out. He first talks about the "three dimensions" of colour "varying hues, as degrees of intensity or saturation and as levels of brightness." When discussing this the the Munsell colour system comes to mind as a simple visual representation. Rotem's article goes into depth about how a colour grade can create a world; "colour, in all its dimensions, plays a crucial role in being able to give a film a sense of whole". It is clear in films that often a certain tint can be added to alter the feel. Rotem talks about using the "real world" as a reference point however he more interestingly identifies the struggles with defining real, a different philosophical debate all together. In The Matrix  two clear colour tints are used as "key unifying element(s)" for the  real world and the Matrix. In the following images the green tint is obvious, all of the blacks are incredibly green, this represents the green letters on monitors and the green computer program that is the Matrix. Subtle to the average viewer the hue of the tint is one of the unifying elements of the Matrix, when taken out of it and placed in the real world the image is quite different.
In the real world a colder more metallic aesthetic is apparent, a blue is  added to the majority of the grimy looking shots. The machine aesthetic is clear however it is no longer green and artificial but real cold and blue.
Whilst neither of the worlds are the real world we see, this comparison validates the ability to compare filmic worlds and colour with real life. Most films stick to one or two tints, as Pans Labyrinth (2003 del Toro) does contrasting itself, showing two separate worlds, thematics or points of view within the film.

Another option with the overall colour wash is to subtley alter it throughout the film implying a characteristic change. This technique is brilliantly used in Mark Romanek's One Hour Photo (2002 Romanek) in which an antiseptic white becomes dulled and beige showing the characters clarity of mind despite the twisted view he has on the world. It also at times represents the fantasy in his mind and shows the settings from the view points of different characters, all elements achieved by subtle manipulation of the colour in the mise en scene.

Children of Men (2006 Cauron) uses its unifying colour scheme to represent a clear mundane and not too distant reality. All of the camera work and writing aims at realism as does the colour, a grim realism but realism none the less. However as Rotem says what is real? How do different people perceive colour? or reality? All questions on a philosophical level that question how real a films colour wash can ever be and what it can achieve.

All of the aforementioned colour schemes are clearly not all encompassing but jus some of the wash manipulations used to convey meaning and emotion and tie worlds together coherently. Rotem says that "Worlds evolve, transform and change. However we choose to talk of worlds, there seems to be no possibility of ignoring the need to recognize their marks of coherence, their internal signifiers that serve to agglutinate their disparate elements" this sums up the way "worlds" interact with colour in film and hints at the smaller, the more specific, minute objects that stand out because of colour, not world colour but specific item colour which adds completely different meaning.

When lighting our most controlled scene, the interview, we used blue gels to make the scene look as cold as possible without looking unreal. This added a harshness cold and darkness to the scene that we really loved, the light looked more like dark falloff light than actual directed light which was the intension. The coldness is the most important thing, a slightly antiseptic feel, and a really dark horrible looking room to be in.

After taking this shot we looked back at the other footage and some of it was a little washed out, we tried warming it up in the edit but decided that to build a coherent world we would make the scene a little colder with three way colour correct. This makes the whole film much more coherent and carries the cold harsh feel throughout the whole thing.

The other just as subtle use of colour is to symbolically link an item or character to an emotion. When we see colour we immediately attach meaning that is derived from what the colour connotes to you as a viewer. Some believe, like Rotem "that colours have no universal meanings and that their semantics are determined by their social and historical import". Whilst this is true it can no be disputed that in the correct environment a colour can connote something to the majority of its intended audience and therefore be used as a code to attach significant meanings to items. Context however is also important in this situation, red lips for example connote beauty however the red on a stop sign connotes danger. This simply shows that colour is part of the language film uses to suggest hidden meanings, when multiple things in the form connote the same meaning a coherent message can be read into the film.

For specific use of colour to convey subtext Brads babyish blue shows his innocence. The detective has a black and white motif showing his authority and strictness that becomes infected by the yellow folder, the point of deception and lies that corrupts his mind. The folder leads to the red evidence label clearly shows the danger to Brad.

1. Syntactic Role of Colour Rotem O., DATE!, Last Accessed 1/5/13, URL

The Matrix (1999) Wachowski A. Wachowski L., USA, Warner Bros. 
Pans Labyrinth (2006) Del Toro G., Spain Mexico USA, Estudios Picasso
One Hour Photo (2002), Romanek M., USA ,Fox Searchlight Pictures
Children of Men (2006), Cuarón A., USA, UK, Universal Pictures, Strike Entertainment, Hit & Run Productions

Long Takes in Film

One of the most influential and important things about long takes is the natural sense of realism they portray. This is the element of long take which we wanted to pirtray. All the way back to Andre Bazin and the Neorealism he defined long takes have been regarded as realistic however they are still varied.

One simple often used kind of long take is an extreme long static shot. This keeps all of the action in the shot and ensures that the audience know whats going on.  A strong believer in the long take is Micheal Haneke, in his film Hidden (2005 Haneke) Haneke creates a film narrative with his long takes playing with the audiences beliefs as the audience watch a tape of a long shot being watched by characters. The level of realism the shot portrays transcends two levels through the film with the objective of unnerving the audience with its realism. The "look" defined by Mulvey in her "Visual pleasure and Narrative Cinema" clearly applies hear, the voyeurism portrayed in the film is what gives it its edge and the effect is created in large by the extremely long takes.

The film Children of Men (2006 Cuarón) uses similar long static takes but also uses dynamic choreography to stage long takes that follow action up to 6 minutes at a time through streets and building. Again the aim is realism however the footage has a more documentary feel, for our film the locked off shot seems more appropriate.

1. Hidden (2005), Haneke M., France Austria, Germany, USA, Les Films du Losange, Wega Film, Bavaria Film

2. Children of Men (2006), Cuarón A., USA, UK, Universal Pictures, Strike Entertainment, Hit & Run Productions

"Visual pleasure and narrative cinema." Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism Mulvey L., (1997): 438-48.

Point of View in Film

Point of view is used for lots of things in film and many important texts have been written about it. Principally Mulvey's Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (Mulvey 1997) in which she establishes the terminology of the "gaze", and specifically the "male gaze" which dominates hollywood cinema. A common thing to do, especially in student films, is to use the POV to show a problem with vision, either a drunk state or passing out is common, it doesnt fit with our film and often looks cheap we wanted to use an effective but more subtle POV.

Another term often used within film when considering POV's is an eyeline match, a shot before the POV in which a head or eye movement signals the motion of the camera in the next. We sort of do this, our POV comes from a dead man, whilst we cant show moving eyes or head we use a shot from behind the shoulder with a fish eye lense to esablish the sense of space and then go to the POV a few shots later.

This helps the viewer realise they are looking through the dead bodies eyes. Our opening shot is also technically from the same point of view, the effect it should have is to make the detectives and forensic staff look towering, almost intimidating and to take away from the identity of the dead body, its just another case.

1. "Visual pleasure and narrative cinema." Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism Mulvey L., (1997): 438-48.