HND – Week 6 – Genre Studies and Themes

This week was more on Genre studies and introduced themes into the equation as well as discussing cliches, the general “rules” around comedy, thriller, horror, etc.

We also worked on movie posters, designing posters for our upcoming short movie and other projects.

The practical exercise on Thursday seemed to be a bit chaotic and unplanned –  Made worse by only half the class having actually turned up 🙁

We were told to think of sci-fi story ideas over lunch, come back and pitch them and the winning one would then be chosen (which then meant we had 5-10 minutes to come up with a script), and the crew were chosen by Zulf using the age-old “spin the bottle” trick. (Talk about cliche’s 🙂 )

The brief was to use “unique” applications of light and colour and to make full use of the gels and lighting kit.

Arabella was selected as Director, Asaturs got Cinematography, Josh on camera, and as the writer, I was told to sit back and let the Director get on with things (this was difficult!) without interfering but to answer questions on my “vision” if asked. 

I quickly defined how I thought the “transport” sequence should work, which everyone bought into, and then I sat back (in my “trailer”) and observed – until asked to help with one of the sub roles (be it sound, lights, etc) – and of course started to get into character.  It was my intention to channel Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) from Back To The Future.  You can judge how well that worked (or didn’t) when you watch the clip!

As we were a total of 5 for the afternoon and we needed 2 in front of the camera, one operating the camera, and one directing we found that we had to double up on most roles.  Due to technical difficulties with the sound equipment (and the distinct lack of a boom operator), Arabella made the decision to shoot just using the on-camera microphones.

The whole shoot was pretty shambolic to start with, although after a patchy start Arabella quickly gained confidence and started to take charge.  The shoot would have gone better had the Director spent 10 minutes planning, drawing up a scene and shot list to communicate to the crew, however after some confusion things started to happen and we managed to shoot the (roughly) nine scenes within the allotted 2-hour window (just).

I have edited a rough cut together.  This is definitely not our best work, but it stands as a record of what happened in the afternoon. 

Transporter Accident (Short)

 

Bloopers and Outtakes

HND – Week 5 – Genre and Horror

This week we started work on Genres, discussing the various types of genre and where they fit into the film world.

We covered the basic format of a screenplay and some of the conventions, however I felt the lesson wasn’t overly informative or clear and think we need to spend more time on this important subject.

We worked on our script ideas and filmed our own little horror story where we ended up decapitating a stuffed toy (“Mr Fluffikins”) on a project called “Under Duress” by Josh Farrell.

The filming exercise went well and with Orlando in the Director’s Chair, myself as 1st AD, Chessie as Sound, Santi as Clapper Loader, ?? on Camera and Josh and Arabella in front of the camera, we worked efficiently to shoot the various scenes.

The evening was more time spent on script analysis led by Elliot Grove as part of a five week foundation course on script writing.  The foundation seems to be mainly analysis of other scripts, how they are translated into film and then a bunch of tools for story generation, as well as Elliot’s rules for story types.

Stories are based in one of four arenas, Wilderness, Village, City and Oppressed City.

 

HND – Week 4 – Story Telling and Colour

This week we learned more about storytelling, pace and tempo. We reviewed the use of colour in films (both in camera and in post) as well as the differences between subtractive (CMYK) and additive (RGB) colour references.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZZgiSUyPDY

We discussed Plutchick’s Wheel of Emotion and how different Directors/DoPs use colour to enhance their story

Over at filmsshort.com we referenced two films (Gridlock and The New Tenants) which both tell stories in different ways.

https://filmsshort.com/short-film-pages/gridlock-dirk-beliën.html

This is a rehash of an old joke but the pace and delivery are well done, leading to the punch line which is left for the audience to fill in the blanks. A great use of suspense, anticipation and drama. (The version I had heard years ago asked the child to go get Daddy’s gun and shoot “Uncle Bob”, mommy then runs out onto the balcony and falls into the swimming pool .. but I guess this is less “traumatic” as it isn’t enticing a minor to commit murder) 🙂

https://filmsshort.com/short-film-pages/the-new-tenants-joachim-back.html

This opens with a lot of dialogue. A large amount of exposition .. something which many people may not sit through considering today’s Facebook generation where attention spans are down to just a few minutes at a time.

We spent a great deal of Wednesday planning/mind mapping ideas, themes and resources. Again aimed to a) get us using a new piece of software and b) to start to get ideas down on “paper” – a resource we can refer back to when trying to come up with ideas for stories.

It worked quite well as given the theme of “knife, abduction, 2 characters” I spent the train ride in Thursday morning drafting an outline for a new horror/drama. The story is quite dark and has me wondering about my psyche .. but I guess it is good that I’m able to write this stuff down and that I find it disturbing rather than “normal” 🙂

Thursday afternoon we had to come up with a short story idea which we were then going to film using one of two shoulder rigs. We were again split into a team of 4 and very quickly found our niches with Arabella choosing to “run and gun” on the camera, Josh came up with the story which featured Martin and himself, this left me to do what I enjoy the most and “Direct” (and also DoP – yes!!).

 

We discussed the premise and did a quick walk through to rehearse and design the story and shots as we walked. During the rehearsal phase, one of the Raindance interns (Dora) came to watch and we quickly roped her in as an additional character in the film (which she was very keen to do!)

We were going to have Josh following Martin and then as Martin followed Josh into a room Martin turns and attacks Josh. We would then cut to Josh being tied up in a chair .. we didn’t have much more of an ending planned at this stage, but again it was more about familiarity with the equipment than the story.

One of Zulf’s instructions was to consider the use of colour, and we came up with the idea of using the character’s clothing to denote their intentions (as Edgar Wright does in Baby Driver), we also quickly decided that we would play the “racial stereotype” card and had Martin and Josh switch roles. Josh wearing a white hoodie with a dark red t-shirt and Martin wearing a dark hoodie with a lighter colour t-shirt underneath worked out nicely, as did Dora’s black coat. Martin’s t-shirt was a lighter blue and we used this to highlight the change in his perceived character from the “villain” to the victim.

We had originally intended to use the rope to tie Martin up, however, Ana’s group were quick to commandeer that particular prop, so we opted for the packing tape option instead.

Dora got into her role really easily (perhaps too easily!) and Martin being the soldier that he is told her to not to hold back (we were talking about staging the slaps and using sound effects in POST .. as it was, we didn’t need to!)

Through the 1 minute short, you will see initially a dark shadowy figure following the young (innocent) student down the stairs at college. Furtively he follows our “hero” around the corridors and into a classroom. We know he is up to no good just by looking at him! Suddenly we see a fire extinguisher rushing towards our head and our “hero” in the background but then we’re unconscious!

Cut to the “villain” being tied up and beaten by this woman whilst our “hero” stands at the side watching and laughing. The villain is now our hero and the hero has become the villain. I also wanted to try and play with the shadows being cast by Dora and Martin to try and show a “duality” although I’m not sure how well it worked in the final product.

We end with a pantomime villain laugh and the strange and eery sight of “big brother” watching through the doorway in the distance. (I felt this was a nice twist, and I’d originally tried to get Zulf to stand in the doorway in shadow but he wasn’t playing the game, so we used the Raindance poster with the camera/lens to symbolise “Big Brother” watching on)

A fun exercise … made, even more, fun by the challenge of trying to edit and put the first assembly together for a screening before the end of the class at 5:30 … I made it just and that first cut can be seen below.

Subsequently, I’m working on colour correction and colour grading and the finished version will be embedded towards the top of this post when it has been completed. The idea is warmer glow when the students are in their safe college environment and a colder harsher “reality” when we “wake up” and see Martin bound and being beaten by our “new” villains”.

First Assembly – https://youtu.be/t9YaWm494Ow
Final “Director’s Cut” after colour correction – https://youtu.be/caDfOjCOMzw

 

What could I have done better personally? I had some issues explaining my “vision” to Arabella and ended up getting a little more involved in camera op than I should have done (I guess I doubled as 1st AC) .. otherwise I think we worked well together and I’m quite happy with the result considering we only had an hour to plan, rehearse and shoot the scenes. We have a few nice camera angles and pickups, and the finished edit does a nice job of telling the story – at least how I envisioned it as the Director 🙂

HND – Day 6 – Three Point Lighting

Thursdays lesson with Zulf is scheduled to cover three point lighting.  Sadly I am going to miss this lesson due to my being in Mexico.

My understanding of the lesson plan is that Zulf will spend the morning going through the history of 3 point lighting, how it originated in the theatre and how it has developed over the years for film and the afternoon in a practical session showing how to set up a basic 3 point lighting setup, what happens if it goes wrong and what it should look like.  As they say, do it badly and it shows, do it right and it is cliché 🙂

I expect/hope time will be spent discussing the father of cinematography (Georges Méliès*) and his contributions to the techniques which many film makers now take for granted (he discovered and exploited the basic camera tricks: stop motion, slow motion, dissolve, fade-out, superimposition, and double exposure all with a magician’s intuition), as well as time covering some of the basic techniques and terms of reference (fill, hair light, rim light, etc), as well as reinforcing how lenses work, the effects of prisms, as well as depth of field and compression; which were all introduced in the previous weeks lessons.

* Georges Méliès (born in Paris, Dec 8th, 1861) made over 550 films between 1896 and 1913 including the worlds first known sci-fi movie (Le Voyage dans la Lune / A Trip To The Moon, 1902), and the worlds first horror movie (The Haunted Castle /  Le Manoir du Diable, 1896) and Many of his films were less than 20 minutes in duration.  His films are some of the most imaginative ever to be directed, even by today’s standards. His innovations in the field of cinematography were groundbreaking and paved the way for future directors… DW Griffin remarked “I owe him everything”, whilst Charlie Chaplin dubbed Méliès as “the alchemist of light”. Praise indeed from the greats of the time. 

Cinematography is a passion of mine so I am sad to be missing the class, however I look forward to the next opportunity after half term!

I hope the guys enjoy the practical and manage to take away some understanding of the magic of cinematography as a result!

References include 

  • IMDb.com – url
  • encyclopaedia britannica – [url]
  • The Alchemist Of Light by Osie Turner Smashwords Edition, 2013

 

HND – Day 5 – Film Roles

Wednesdays  lesson with Patricia is apparently about roles in the film industry.  I’m on holiday in Mexico which was a previously arranged trip booked before Raindance accepted me into the HND course 

 

My understanding of today’s lesson is that it will be spent describing the various roles in the industry and then the afternoon spent in role play so the class starts to get a better understanding of the various roles.

Speaking to group A, it sounds like it was an amazing lesson and I’m sad that I won’t be able to join in with Group B this week.

The crew roles as I understand them are

 

  • Director
  • Producer
  • Sound Designer
  • First Assistant Director
  • VFX Supervisor
  • Executive Producer
  • Editor
  • Production Assistant
  • Key Grip
  • Post Production Supervisor
  • Line Producer
  • Make Up Artist (MUA)
  • Director Of Photography 
  • Colourist
  • Second Assistant Director
  • Production Designer
  • Gaffer
  • Digital Imaging Technician (DIT)
  • Art Director
  • Best Boy
  • Data Wrangler
  • First Assistant Camera
  • Second Assistant Camera
  • Script Editor
  • Script Supervisor
  • Dolly Grip
  • Spark
  • Stills Photographer

 

Many of these roles are currently a black art to me, and I need to understand more about what they do. To this end, I look forward to reading my classmate’s reports on the roles! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

HND – Day 3 – Nic & Sam Scene

Today’s practical exercise was to plan and shoot a scene based in a school corridor with dialogue between Nic & Sam (two characters) written by Patricia Hetherington.  Due to diary clashes, I attended the Group A class instead of my usual Group B.

The planning exercise went well and Leanna (camera) realised exactly what we wanted almost immediately and then drew up some amazing storyboards which we shared with the rest of the team.

Elena and Jonny agreed to be the “talent” for this exercise whilst I directed.

The exercise was fun and we managed to shoot the whole sequence in less than 25 minutes, almost exactly as we had planned it – with the exception of two shots which we agreed would be better as a single “medium two-shot” instead.

I then edited the whole piece together in Final Cut Pro (which took another 30 minutes) and as a homage to Grange Hill found a copy of Phil Redmond’s theme tune online to finish off the clip.

As before, several ways this could have been improved by enhancing the sound (use of proper sound equipment), and lighting (rather than relying just on practical lighting).

The team worked well and it was a pleasure to shoot.  Even Jonny’s acting skills improved as we ran through rehearsal and then filming.

Without a slate to mark the scenes I used a book to split takes where we kept the camera rolling to help the (none professional) actors be more relaxed.

Jonny and Yelena took directions well and we worked together as a cohesive unit quite well.

We also decided to challenge ourselves and try to use every lens in the box, which is why the PoV shots look a bit weird, we experimented with the 24mm lens … probably should have stuck with the 35mm but then this was an experimental shoot as much as anything!

The finished video (at least my edit of it) is below … Leanne will hopefully be putting her version online in the next couple of days

 

 

Planning went well as did the rehearsals (one or two rehearsals before each shot/segment)

Yelena said that she would have preferred more interaction / rehearsal with the Director to see what I wanted from the actor which I have taken on board for next time

Considering we’re using the onboard microphones on the cameras, the sound didn’t come out too badly.

Things to improve / remember for next time

  • Buzz track
  • Better sound equipment
  • Better lighting
  • Continuity 🙂
  • Foley

 

HND – Day 3 – SWOT Analysis and Personality Types

Today was much more of an introspective day.

We performed a SWOT analysis on our skills which we then discussed in class, and completed questionnaires to identify our character types

 

The SWOT analysis highlighted that I feel I have a number of strengths (not surprising as one of them was confidence, and a few weaknesses including over confidence) .. but as a film maker you need to be confident, especially when all those around you are tutting and saying “it will never work”.

 

The results of the personality tests highlighted that I am a Kinaesthetic learner (heavily kinaesthetic) – which means I’m hands on .. no surprises there. I am also fairly balanced between a reflector and pragmatist, although pragmatist won through at the end of the day.

I found that through all my strengths and weaknesses, the ideal way to address them is to simply get out there and start working on film projects.  Practice, Practice, Practice!

Goals

We were tasked with setting ourselves 3 SMART Goals.  

 

SMART Goals

S – specific, significant, stretching.

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational.

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented.

R – Realistic (Relevant)

T – Time Based

 

Short term – by 15th October 2017

Medium term – by 15th December 2017

Long term – 1st June 2018

 

Short term – sign up for a Raindance short class

Medium term – produce a short video blog about my holiday

Long Term – Make a short film of at least 5 minutes duration

 

This will help develop my video editing, screenwriting and story telling skills .. will have me working with actors (improve my patience/tolerance levels), require me to plan, develop, edit and publish a video .. and use the skills learned on the course(s) I’ve attended

 

 

American Beauty – Lester Burnham

American Beauty at first seems like a modern day Lolita in which we meet Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a sexually frustrated middle aged man, going through marital issues, separated from his wife (whilst still living under the same roof).  As the story progresses we discover it is less a Lolita and more the simple search for a better,  more fulfilling life.

Burnham is a sexually frustrated, lonely man who’s only highlight in the day is masturbation in the shower.  Depressed, repressed and subjugated by his wife and daughter, he tries to find ways to turn his life around.  Sadly, Lester only seems to be competent at making enemies and we are introduced to several characters who would willingly kill him it seems given the right opportunity.

Burnham blackmails his supervisor into providing a healthy severance package.  Working as a teller in a drive through burger restaurant, Burnham finds his wife is cheating on him and jokingly, even his daughter hires a drug dealer to kill Burnham!  At the same time, the next door neighbour thinks that Burnham is corrupting his son into prostitution.

All the way through, Burnham is trying to break free of the depression, the mid life crisis, and to improve his inner happiness. 

Burnham’s moral challenges are numerous.  Does he “de-flower” his daughter’s best friend, does he indulge in drugs and potentially corrupt the neighbour’s son, does he blackmail his boss or walk away quietly from a job he hates?

In the end we see a vulnerable man to whom fate or circumstance has dealt a bad hand to, and there but for the grace of god could go you or I.  A bad marriage, a bad job, a beautiful girl .. all of these “challenges” could befall any one of us through our life. Like any human being he craves love and friendship.  He wants to be happy, and wishes to be young again / experience life through young eyes just once more.

 

HND Day 2 – Lenses

Today was another great team building day as we got to know each other and discovered more about our fellow class mates over lunch and “high tea” at a variety of sandwich shops around London.

The morning was spent discussing types of films and why they’re made. We discussed Arthouse Films, Film Noir, and more.

We learned the sad fact that Hollywood are only interested in making big money spinners whilst smaller “avante garde” films tend to be the arena of independent film makers.

A sad and shocking statistic that over 7,000 films are made in the USA each year and yet less than 10% of them ever really make it to distribution, and even fewer actually make money or break even.

On the plus side, due to the numbers involved, there is more chance of a low budget film being profitable and with self distribution as a real option these days there is even more chance of the indie film maker being successful and with success comes bigger chances and the hope of a bigger budget and so on.

Kate Shenton started small, made a short (Send in the Clowns) for a few hundred, a niche / fetish documentary (On Tender Hooks) and then a feature for £5,000 (Egomaniac) and is now working on a £750k budget film (Bloody Burrito) as a result.  Living proof that your work is a calling card, which if good enough will lead to bigger and better work!  Kate’s genre is horror, and from what I’ve seen of it – somewhat fetish horror at that .. but again proof that catering for a niche audience can be quite profitable.

We discussed High and Low Concept films (high – premise can be described in less than 3 short sentences, low requires a lot more foundation)

We discussed films such as Cars, Logan, Lego: The Batman Movie, Snakes on a Great Plane, IT, Spiderman: Homecoming, and more.

We also learned of the Raindance HND Challenge. A competition for all the students across all the groups. Make a film with £5000. Prove your worth, pitch your idea and be “hired” to make the film. Fail or don’t deliver and risk being cut, just as if you were in Hollywood!

 

We broke for lunch after a brief visit to the BFI Reuben Library, an amazing repository of all things film related!  I can’t wait to get my teeth into their research materials over the next 2+ years.

The afternoon was another practical class where we learned about lens compression and (touched on) field of view seeing first hand the differences between a shot with a 14mm wide-angle lens through to a 135mm lens using Raindance’s new box of 6 prime lenses. (14,24,35,50,85,135 mm primes).  Next week is the other half of the conundrum – depth of field 

Again, best practices on lens handling were reinforced as we took turns to be continuity, camera, 1st AC and model in our group of 4.

Today’s lesson is probably best demonstrated by this image from BokehSharp which I’ve referenced in other blog posts previously.

 It clearly shows how the wider angle the lens the more detail is visible in the background, whilst the longer the lens, the more compressed the background is, coupled with this image below which demonstrates how items in the foreground can be elongated / made to look much larger than they are.

This video on “dolly zoom” (the Vertigo effect) demonstrates how the effect is used effectively in films to create a feeling of unease in the viewer

 

 

Working with Adobe Premiere – HND Day 1 – Epilogue

Today is the first day, since roughly 2007, that I have had to use Adobe Premiere to edit a video project.  Since Apple bought FCP from Macromedia and ported it to the Mac, the first release of Final Cut Pro (since Adobe snubbed Apple) I have been using Final Cut.

For those who don’t know (and probably don’t care), Apple bought Final Cut Pro from Macromedia as a result of Adobe’s short sighted (imho – since proven true) view to split Mac and Windows licensing models, requiring users to purchase a new license key if they wanted to move from Premiere for Windows to Premiere for Mac – then only to find that Adobe was effectively mothballing Premiere for Mac.  At the time Apple was nearly bankrupt, and losing the video editing market would have been the final nail in the coffin.  Steve Jobs took a huge gamble, and on the whole, it paid huge dividends. 

Apple released Final Cut Pro X in 2011 and I for one was quick to adopt, even though it was missing a number of “Broadcast” features that were present in Final Cut Studio, and since the introduction of the magnetic timeline and FCP’s redefinition of NLE (Non Linear Editing) my workflows have become slick, and I am able to edit relatively complex pieces (including compositing) seamlessly and quickly.  I can cut, splice, insert, move and generally weave my creative magic over hundreds of clips (including multiple angle video, multiple audio tracks, special effects, and more) effortlessly.

With hindsight, the lack of certain features and the retirement of Final Cut Studio / replacement with the totally new Final Cut Pro package was probably premature.  The industry choked on the lack of ability to import/export XML, amongst a number of more Pro features. They did however redefine the desktop editing experience and almost single handedly introduced the vlogger to the world which YouTube were quick to capitalise on!

Scroll forward to October 2017, as part of the Raindance HND, the software of “choice” to which Raindance (and to be fair most of the industry) has settled on is Adobe Premiere Pro.   To this end, I had to edit my first simple project in Premiere.  Something which would have taken me 5-10 minutes to do in FCPX has so far taken me 2 hours in Premiere, and the experience has been painful.  On occasion I have felt as though I am quite literally gouging my eyes out with a spoon .. and at this stage, I think that this may have been more pleasurable than my time spent wrestling with Premiere.

I fear this is going to be a painful, uphill struggle.  Whilst there are more and more creators “breaking the mould” and moving to FCPX (and Davinci Resolve), I can understand why we need to learn and use Premiere…. It is after all what everyone else uses, and it is “professional”, whilst FCPX is considered “Mickey Mouse” (note, that’s what teachers at Met Film School have said previously and not my own words/thoughts).  Personally I find FCPX to be forward thinking, incredibly flexible and efficient, and uber fast when it comes to rendering (I’ve seen a 15 minute video render in 30 seconds on FCPX and 45 minutes on Premiere – all on identical hardware).  FCPX may well be the way of the future, however I guess we have to learn editing the hard way first and only once we’ve done that can we then find more efficient ways to progress!

Sadly the video project has not yet been completed.  I am going to continue to slog away with the antiquated track editing system and see if I can (eventually) pull some form of rabbit out of the hat.  Wish me luck!

References:

  • Ryan Koo, 2011 No Film School [Online] [url]
  • John Buck, A History of Editing
  • Wikipedia [Online] [url]