End of Course Reflection

This is finally the last post for this subject. I have to admit that I enjoyed this course very much except for the writing part. I will start by reflecting back on my goals and desires at the start of this semester first.

At the beginning of the course, I said I wanted to get my head around operating the equipment smoothly. I am really grateful that we have been doing a lot of shooting practices in class. And I have been doing some shooting outside class as well. I did realize during my mini-documentary shooting (which is my last project for this semester), that I can operate the basics very quickly and smoothly, including setting up tripods, white balance, exposure, focus and packing up.

I was overwhelmed with the number of roles one can take in the industry. From the past three months of learning and practicing, I feel like I enjoyed the editing process the most out of all. I would spend many hours editing and not being distracted. However, what I discovered about myself is that, I only enjoy editing with background music. My personal favourite out of all of my projects are the abstract edits and the poetic mini-documentary.  When I edit, I found it hard to determine the duration of each clip without background music. And I prefer hard cuts a lot more than diffusion between clips. But hard cuts would somehow seem unsmooth without the rhythm of the music. I think this is a big limitation of my editing style. But it can also be my specialisation. My plan next is to make some music video style short films and see if I can come up with any interesting projects.

I have been interested in Wes Anderson’s work recently. I am planning to finish watching his major works and make some Anderson inspired shots. I have realized that his style requires a lot of work in props and sets. I will try to find some symmetrical shots in real life for now and focus on color grading.

I have encountered a major issue regarding my time management this semester. Master course is way more demanding than I expected. I think I haven’t spent enough time in the course and I didn’t get as much as possible out of it. This is an issue which I will reflect in my personal blog post.

I said that I wanted to learn about lighting. I met an uber driver who had been working as a gaffer for more than 30 years. I asked him about how he would set up the lighting for a specific condition which I was working on and he said it really depends on a lot of factors such as where you want to position your interviewees, your background etc. I think lighting is a practical work. There is no universal rule.

Color Grading Exercise

The original clip is a bit warm, so I color correct the clip by pushing some cool tone and pink tint to balance it out (using Vectorscope HLS and Vectorscope YUV diagram).

Below is the before and after screenshot.

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My later adjustments are made on the corrected clip.

  1. Orange & Blue Color contrast

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The original clip is a bit warm. And there was a man passed by wearing denim in the shot. It inspired me to make a color contrast between orange/yellow and blue.

The color contrast adds depth to the clip. The man becomes more separated from the background. I also pushed up contrast, highlights, and whites to enhance the effect. The man’s skin tone is more defined in the after clip and his motion becomes more vivid. This color grading gives me a muggy, humid weather feeling.

2. Faded Blue Color Grading

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This color grading introduces a sad emotion to the clip. First of all, I bring the highlights, midtones and shadows all to blue to set the base color tone. To get a faded effect, I bring down the exposure, contrasts, highlights and whites; and also bring up the shadows and blacks.

The skin tone looks quirky with all of the blue and faded effects. So I used Hue Saturation Curve to bring back some yellow and slight red. I also use the Hue Saturation Curve to bring up even more blue to enhance the color of the denim the man is wearing.

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3. ‘Her’ inspired Color Grading

This color grading is inspired by the film ‘Her’ and the following shot is used as the benchmark.

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This is the most complicated color grading out of the three. To be honest, I think the result is still not quite matched with ‘Her”s color grading. The tone is super warm. Because I couldn’t tell whether the element I am adjusting is correct after looking at it for a long time, I use the Parade (RGB) diagram to match the wave of my clip to the shot of ‘Her”s wave.

The adjustments I made are as following:

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Note that even though both the first and the third color grading are warm tone, they are different. In the first color grading, it is more of an orange and blue contrast. Whereas in the third grading, The tone is more towards yellow rather than orange. And I deliberately avoid the blues (from denim) and turn down the reds (for tint and skin tone) to match up with ‘Her”s color grading.

Below is the contrast of the first and the third color grading:

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Clips

  1. Original

2. Color Corrected

3. Orange and Blue

4. Faded Blue

5. Her inspired

The Actor and The Director Reflection

Having had some experiences in acting, both on stage and for screens, I developed my understanding of the relationship between the actor and the director more from an actor’s perspective. It is interesting to now look at it from a director’s perspective, and I am glad that there are a lot of overlaps between my understanding and Mackendrick’s opinion on the collaboration.

I have thought about the question whether actors are merely deliverers of directors’ sculped world or they create and contribute to the work as well. A good actor doesn’t act, they become. And I think for them to become, they need to know the rationale behind the design of the character and how the director is going to portray them. The performance would only look genuine if it is genuine, meaning that the actions, emotions, and dialogues are carried out from the inside. For example, by thinking about ‘I am sad,’ the performance will be superficial. But if the actor thinks ‘Why did she leave me’ as if himself is the character, then his thoughts would naturally drives his emotions. Therefore, as Mackendrick mentioned in the reading, I think it’s essential for the director to communicate his understanding of the character to inspire the actor. Then the actor develops his interpretation and becomes the character. A good actor would always add something new to the work because once he becomes, he carries out the performance by instinct.

It is brilliant to read about how the director can still somehow ‘instruct’ or ‘manipulate’ the actor to do certain things by using props. Someone’s unconscious actions always speak a lot about his personality. Props can stimulate an actor’s imagination of what the character would do with the objects. The actions don’t necessarily need to add any content to the story. But what the actor does with the objects, how long he plays it, what other things he does while playing with the objects (stare blankly or fully engaged), the motivation of the action (trying to avoid direct eye contact by playing with little things on hand), these all enrich the character and offer more space for the actor to improvise. Also by the placement of props, the director implicitly points out a pathway for the actor to follow in front of the camera.

Overall I think the director and the actor need to trust each other and admire each other profession wise to have a smooth collaboration.

Reference

Mackendrick, A. On film-making: an introduction to the craft of the director, (p.179-194). London: Faber and Faber, 2004.

The Abstract/Haiku edit

Abstract/Haiku V2

 

Abstract/Haiku V3

 

Quality of Recordings:

When we checked the footage on the computer, we realized one of our favorite shots was out of focus. So we had to go back and re-shoot.

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But when we were re-shooting, we couldn’t get the exact shot anymore because the sun has already changed its position. Just to make it worse, we got told that we couldn’t shoot in that building. This is the reason why we should always check the focus, and in other cases, the white balance, exposure, int. audio, before taking the shot.

We did try to focus. But because it was shot directly towards the sun, objects were almost in silhouette. We didn’t have an external monitor to help us. But I really like the shot so, I still decided to use it.

I colour graded the shot then find out the effect masks the unfocusing.

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The shot aligns perfectly with other shots. We were about to dispose of the shot, but it turns out, post-production may bring new meaning to the footage.

 

Juxtaposition of audio and video:

I didn’t layer any visions. Both edits are hard cuts. Personally, I prefer not to use transitions too much. I want the audience to focus on the footages more.

I didn’t have much of an idea how I should lay out the footages, so I chose the music first, then I cut the videos according to the rhythm of the music.

I was surprised by the outcomes of sound layering. With the sound of beach wave and seagulls, it adds the locale to the footage as if we are near the tropical coast. And the sound of tram ringing bell makes the audience feel like the can ring is hanging somewhere along a street with trams. However, in fact, we shot that scene at a quiet environment. By manipulating the audio, the feeling of locale changes.

Some of the abstract sounds were unclear what was really going on. But when layering them with vision, they lose their original meanings and sounds like something else. For example, the escalator and the departing tram sound like a printer in Abstract V3 where I manipulate their duration and rhythm.

 

I tried to use only one scene for V3 after being suggested to do so, thinking of the video is not going to be as much fun as V2. But I was wrong!

The only thing I didn’t like about V2 is the cutting between the scenes with passengers. It wasn’t smooth enough. They were shot at the same location with same camera setting. So I was expecting to see the cut as if it’s one shot, with two men consecutively walking pass. However, I can see a harsh change between the two clips. Then I discovered that it was due to the slight light change over time.

So I decided to use the ‘flaw’ in V2 as my central element in V3. Unlike cutting to a different clip on each beat like V2, in V3, I played a reverse of the original clip to show the shadow going back and forth while matching up with the tempo.

Now I feel like I should never get limited on thoughts. Interesting things can be developed even from ‘flaws.’

 

Goals and Desires

It is the end of Week Five now, and I am already feeling overwhelmed with the amount of content I need to learn. So far we have done a little bit of editing, some sound recording and shooting. I feel like I need to get my hands on the equipment during my own time to become familiar with operating them. There are lots of procedures to remember such as setting up a camera and using Premiere, which can only be remembered through practice. I may start borrowing gears from the tech-office at least once every two-weeks just to be familiar with them.

Now I know there are so many roles ones can take on in a production, I feel like I need to identify what I am good at and what I like doing, which may suggest a pathway for my future career. I understand that at this point, we need to know a little bit of everything. So that firstly, we get a general idea of how production works. And secondly, if we are to make any small projects ourselves now, we wouldn’t have the budget to recruit professionals and we need to do everything ourselves. However, I should start thinking about what I am better at from this point because being very good at everything is impossible. I can start writing short journals about the different activities we do to discover my interest field.

By the end of this semester, I expect myself being confident of working in a team to produce a small video or film project. I want to build my camera glossary with the explanation and principle of operation of each feature such as aperture and pixel (the two which are on my mind right now that I do not know). Also, I expect myself to know the use of lighting under different contexts in films.

Premiere Keyboard Shortcuts

Shift + Forward Delete – Ripple Delete: delete the clip selected, and automatically filled the gap with following clips. It saves time when I don’t want the gap and there are a lot of clips afterwards. I don’t have to select all then drag to fill the gap then.

Opt + M – clear current Marker. It was easy to add a marker but I couldn’t manage to clear it. This is what I need!

Opt + Cmd + V – Paste Attributes. Easy to apply same attributes to multiple clips.

Crew Roles

First of all, it just surprises me that so many people and roles are required for a production. By learning how many roles there are, now I realise how complex the work of film making is. And because it is a work which needs collaboration among professions across so many fields, it is important to have a sustainable team, where all the professions can perform their best within their responsibility.

Rabiger (2003) said that a crew is rather developed than chosen. He pointed out how important a crew member’s personality can be to sustain the entire production. This is something I have never thought about but I feel like it is indeed how things work in real life.

I have involved in a few theatre productions and bands. Something which I reflect back now and discover is that the best performances might or might not have been produced by crews who had the best skills, but the best experiences were definitely made with the people who shared common interests with me and were easy to work with. I remember the director and the gaffer of a play I was involved in were divergent in the colour of a lighting. As an actress, I lost patience during their argument; the schedule was delayed; and the issue was not resolved because no one would compromise. Sometimes the good traits of professionals (persistence in achieving one vision of art) can lead to disasters when working in a team. This may explain the break-up of the Beatles. Expertise can be developed but temperament is hard to change. Therefore, personality may outweigh skills to a certain extent (ultimately some level of profession is required) in consideration of recruitment of crew members.

The idea of videotaping rehearsals is completely new to me. This helps uniform the method of communication and working standards among crews, where everyone comes from a different background.

I understand and agree with the “not crossing lines of responsibility” rule. But learning to trust people who I work with for the first time would be hard to practice in real life. It is almost saying that “do not help others unless they ask you to”. But what if everyone thinks they know what they are doing, but in fact, they are doing it the wrong way? Crew members should be encouraged to raise any issue when they are uncertain.

 

Reference

Rabiger, M. (2003). Directing: film techniques and aesthetics, 3rd ed. Boston: Focal Press, 385-400.