Removal (main project)

Preliminary Exercise

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Phonebooth - A Barthes Analysis

Enigma Code:

  • Phones play a big part. Why?
  • Why will the man use the phone booth?
  • Who is the girl he calls?
  • Who is the mysterious caller? (made more mysterious by the fact that there were pictures of the other callers, but not of him)
Action Code:
  • Walks down the street - To get somewhere he has to be.
  • Walks into phone booth - To call someone.
  • Took off wedding ring - Felt guilty about affair.
Semiotic Code:
  • Office buildings = Urban setting. Business.
  • Fast music = Hectic lifestyle.
  • Fast walking = Busy people.
  • Dense population = Urban. Poor.
  • Cheap clothes = Poor area.
  • Suits = Business.
Cultural Code:
  • Facts about phones and mobiles in New York.
  • Neon signs.
  • USA flag.
  • "Welcome To New York" on T-Shirt.
Symbolic Code:
  • Satellite = Communication. Electronic. Sci-Fi. Space. Phones.
  • Blue camera filter = Police. Thriller.
  • Wedding ring = Married.
  • Removal of wedding ring = Troubled marriage.
  • Phones = Communication. Technology.
  • Dark glasses = Important. Bad.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Opening Sequences

i) What forms can opening sequences take? Can you list the conventional features of opening sequences?

Opening sequences can take the form of a simple window into the life of the protagonist. We see them in their own environment and observe how they act and react to others in order to form our opinion of them. Then a problem is usually hinted at or appears. We discover the type of film it will be, eg. Back To The Future, being a science fiction film, begins with a complicated gadget operating.

ii) What narrative functions of opening sequences can you identify?

Opening sequences can be used to introduce the main dilemma, or set up a situation that is simply too perfect to last for long, and make the audience anticipate the disruption in the equilibrium. The dilemma, or villain, can be introduced right at the end of the sequence in an enigmatic fashion to make the audience want to watch more.

iii) What do audiences gain from watching the opening sequence?

They gain an idea of the style, genre and tone of the film. They are introduced to key elements of the narrative and meet some or all of the main characters. They observe the setting and are able to establish where and when the story takes place. From these discoveries they are able to create a rough idea of the story of the rest of the film and anticipate what will happen next. This could be either what they expect, creating a sense of comfort, or what they do not expect, creating a sense of unease. In this way, opening sequences can have a big effect on the audience.

iv) What do film-makers gain from including an opening sequence?

Film-makers are able to make their audience anticipate the rest of the movie with an opening sequence. This can be useful, as they can go against the expectations and shock the audience. This is especially useful in horror films where one of the most important factors is the audience's sense of unease. Opening sequences also hook the audience and make them want to watch the rest of the film. This is a good thing for film-makers.

Applying Levi-Strauss to the opening of "Pale Rider" and "Die Hard I"

Claude Levi-Strauss was a French anthropologist and film theorist. He considered how storytelling is used as a means of coping with the fundamental contradictions and irresolvable difficulties of a society. Each culture therefore produces its myths: a story which is not true, but something which is repeated so many times it becomes part of a culture's reality or 'common sense'. He studied the structure of stories. He analysed how meaning might be derived from narrative structure by looking at connections in story elements, eg. themes & characters. He also proposed that if one element is identified as giving one meaning, there must be another element which is not that meaning. More specifically, the meaning must be the opposite. He said that story elements which give meaning will usually appear in pairs. For example a story will typically be organised into binary opposites such as "Hero/Villain". My task was to analyse two films which contained binary opposites using Levi-Strauss' film theory.

"Pale Rider" (Eastwood 1985)
  • Settlement/Wilderness
  • Spiritual/Everyday
  • Calm/Chaos
  • Domestic/Savage
  • Natural/Man-made
  • Forest/Desert
  • Silence/Noise
  • War/Peace
  • Civilians/Armed robbers
  • Country people/Town people
  • Stormy weather/Good weather
  • Fire/Water
  • Fast riders/Slow villagers
  • Darkness/Light
  • Still shots/Moving shots
  • Disturbed/Undisturbed surroundings
"Die Hard I" (McTierman 1988)
  • Hard-working cop/Affluent upper-class
  • Group/Couple
  • Chatty/Reserved
  • Young/Old
  • American/Foreign
  • Technology/Old-fashioned wits
  • Cocky/Modest
  • Criminals/Police
  • Men/Women
  • Wits/Brute force
  • Efficiency/Idleness
  • Formal/Informal
  • Home/Away
  • Marriage/Career


Group 2C

Friday, October 16, 2009

Prelim Evaluation Draft

Who did you work with and how did you manage the task between you?

On this project I worked with Ella, Natasha & Anisah. As we had four people, this meant that we were able to fill many of the roles required for filming sequences. We researched the common roles used on a film set and we decided which ones were necessary for our exercise. We decided to have a director, as that is the most integral role in filmmaking. All decisions are made by the director, for example how the actors behave, how the shot is filmed, what lighting is used, and generally everything about the film is decided by the director. As this is such an important role, we decided to take turns directing different shots. We also decided that a sound technician was essential for our project, in order to tell if the sound is working perfectly or not. As this is not a very demanding job, and we were short on people, we usually made the sound technician operate the camera as well. This proved effective, and made it possible for the four of us to fill more roles. The last role we needed was someone to hold the clapper-board and name the shot and the take for the camera. As this was also a small task, we made this person the general runner who would fetch anything needed for the shot. As we sometimes needed two of our group to be actors at once, we often needed the director to double as the runner. Every time we changed setup we switched our roles around so that everyone got a chance to experience each role. We did not elect a leader, and everyone was given an equal say in the group's decisions.
In order to prepare for our shoot, we arranged to have an hour-long meeting with all group members present to plan and discuss ideas.

How did you plan your sequence? What processes did you use? What theories did you try to take into account?

During the planning stage, we employed many planning techniques to ensure that knew exactly what we were going to do when shooting, in order to get the best possible results out of our given time-frame and equipment. We used storyboarding, in order to create a visual representation of our ideas. This made sure that everyone had the same vision of the shots we were going to do. It also ensured that we would not forget our ideas, as we had them down on paper. We used scripting, so that our actor's lines were down on paper, would not be forgotten, and were clear. We drew up a shooting schedule, and decided the shot order based on the different setups we would have to do. This made sure that we were economical with our time, and did not move setups back and forth unnecessarily.

We carried out some checks in the room we were planning to shoot in, such as lighting checks to determine whether the lighting available in the room would be satisfactory for our project, sound checks to find out whether the background sound from other groups would be audible on the audio clips from our group, and space checks to ensure that there was enough room for the camera in each of our planned shots. These checks were very valuable as they quickly highlighted potential problems which we were then able to largely avoid.

When planning our shots, we took into account the principles of continuity. As our exercise was largely to display an understanding of continuity, our group wanted to deploy a range of continuity techniques to show our good understanding of the subject. We took into account the 180 degree rule and the 30 degree rule when filming our sequence. We used shot-reverse-shot during the dialogue sequence in order to involve the audience the the conversation and make the shot more interesting, as well as to display our confidence with the technique. During our planning we decided to include at least one match-on-action in order to show our mastery of the technique. We ended up including two.

The sequence features two characters. One of the characters desires a pen from the other. The second character refuses to lend her the pen and a confrontation ensues, ending with the second character running away. When planning this sequence we decided to use some very simple character types based on Levi-Strauss' theory. We created conflict by setting the protagonist (character who is searching for a pen) against the antagonist (character who is trying to stop the protagonist from getting the pen). Therefore we already had a very simple hero/villain scenario to add some basic drama to the piece. This conflict provided a very useful simple storyline for us to use in our sequence.

What technology did you use to complete the task, and how did you use it?

During this task we used a variety of hardware and software in order to complete our sequence. In the shooting stage, we used a Canon Mini-DV HD camcorder and a shotgun mike to record visual and audio footage. We mounted the camcorder on a tripod in order to keep it steady when filming. We used headphones to hear what we were filming and make sure the sound levels were correct.
In the editing stage, we used a PC-based digital editing suite, complete with two monitors, one for source and one for output. In terms of software, we used Adobe Premiere Pro. We used four tracks in our editing - two for video and two for audio. We used the software to insert titles and fades into the sequence. We manipulated the video and audio using the drag and drop technique, chopping up and rearranging the shots into the order we wanted them, as the shots were filmed in a non-linear way.

What factors did you take into account when planning, shooting and editing?

When filming, we had to take into account the length of shots and how long we were able to take at each location, as we only had one hour to shoot all of our footage. Because we only had a small location to shoot in, we had restrictions with space especially as three groups needed to use the hallway and we had to take it in turns to shoot there. Since there were only four people in our group, we had to take on our own planning tasks. (one person was lead storyboarder, one was in responsible for choosing locations etc) When deciding on what to shoot, we had to frequently refer back to the brief as we had already been told what we had to film so we were unable to be too creative when it came to the short storyline we devised. While shooting, we had to constantly monitor the lighting and sound as changing this during editing would be very difficult, not to mention a waste of our precious time.

How successful was your sequence? Please identify what worked well, and what with hindsight, would you improve/do differently?

Our sequence was successful in several respects. Firstly, we managed to meet all objectives outlined in the brief, and completed the task well within the allotted time, which immediately made the project an overall success.
I am also very happy with the general flow of the sequence. The narrative is clear and it is easy to tell what i going on in the scene.
We displayed two match-on-actions in our scene - one more than required, and i think this made ours outstanding in that way. It also displayed extra effort and was definitely a good feature of our sequence.
Finally, our sequence is very concise. At a mere 26 seconds it is quite short and does not drag on too much. We have managed to fit everything in that we needed in a tight sequence, with tight cuts. I am proud of that aspect.
In terms of improvement, I realised during the editing stage that we had no establishing shot in our sequence. The sequence begins with Ella already inside the building, standing still and then walking. This does not look natural, and does not 'set the scene'. In order to resolve this problem, we put in a fade at the beginning of the sequence so that Ella is already walking when she comes into view. Although this does not solve the lack of establishing shot, it makes the shot look more natural and less staged.
Another problem i had was with character types. Anisah's character was clearly a strange person, who had some kind of problem with Ella, and although we set up a conflict between them, we did not explore the reasons for Anisah's problems. This made the character somewhat unreadable and unrelatable, but on the other hand, within the brief we were given, there was not much room to develop character types. Anisah only had a couple of lines in the sequence after all.
Perhaps the biggest issue we had was with continuity. When watching the footage back, we realised that Ella's hand moves unnaturally throughout the shot-reverse-shot dialogue. There are several occasions where as the shot cuts back to Ella, her hand is in a different position to where it should be, and it jumps around throughout the sequence. This serves to distract the audience and makes the sequence flow less effectively. I believe this is a perfect example of a learning experience. A simple careless error on the part of both our actors and our director. As this was a preliminary exercise, I am very glad that we made this error early, as we will be careful not to make it again in the future.
What have you learnt from completing this task? Looking ahead, how will this learning be significant when completing the rest of your foundation coursework, do you think?
As I am new to media this year, I have learnt a huge amount of valuable information during this exercise, my first media filming and editing task.
I learnt the vital importance of planning, especially in a short time-frame, as it drastically reduces time needed for shooting, and gives us something to follow. It is also important for plans to be detailed, as the more detailed the plan is, the less we need to think about how to shoot on the day, and the quicker we can get on with it, having been told exactly what to do by our plan. Storyboarding is also extremely useful to show other people your ideas, and reduce confusion, as it is a visual representation of your ideas. Scripting is also very time-effective. Devising a shooting schedule was extremely helpful within the time-frame as we did not waste time moving set-ups unnecessarily.
One of the things that had the most effect on me was the importance of the clapperboard during the editing stage. We did not have it visible at the beginning of the shot. This meant it did not appear on the thumbnails of the shots at editing stage so we were not able to sort out shots as quickly as we would have liked.
I learnt how to use some invaluable continuity techniques such as the 180 degree rule, the 30 degree rule and the match-on-action, to name but a few. These all help a sequence flow effectively.
I learned just how important it is to shoot the whole scene from several points of view when constructing a shot-reverse-shot, as if this is not done, many continuity errors will surface, for instance Ella's hand movement.
I learned about the different roles in media that are needed for a crew, such as director, sound engineer, camera operator and runner. I discovered how essential each position is and how the whole process is done in the professional film industry. This was a valuable experience, as I had never been exposed to this element of filmmaking before.
I realised how useful a walk-through can be, as we found many problems with locations we had planned to shoot in. As we discovered these problems before shooting, we were able to work around them easily, they would have slowed us down considerably during filming, and been a big problem to get around.
I learned how to edit using a PC-based editing suite running Adobe Premiere Pro. I learned how to cut up and sequence shots, as well as how to put in fades and titles. All of this was new and valuable information for someone who is new to media, and to some extent, everything i did on this task was new to me and presented me with a new piece of good information to take in about the industry.
I feel that during these few lessons filming and editing my media knowledge has increased massively and I now feel confident about both filming and editing short sequences in future projects to come.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Board Game Evaluation

Our board game was based on the story of The Little Mermaid, by Hans Christian Andersen, adapted by Disney into a popular animated film. It is a story that follows roughly Vladimir Propp’s narrative structure. We attempted to include elements of Propp’s theory in our board game, and also thought about the aspects of the theory that did not apply to our story.

There are quite a few character types in Propp’s theory that correspond with characters in The Little Mermaid. For example, the hero in the story is Ariel, a beautiful mermaid who weds the handsome prince at the end. The villain who struggles against the hero is Ursula, the evil sea-witch. She also serves as the donor, as although she does so with less than honourable intentions, she provides Ariel with legs so she can go to the surface. Ursula has a third purpose too. She is the false hero who attempts to usurp Ariel and marry Prince Eric herself by using her dark magic to transform herself into a beautiful young woman and pretending to be Ariel. The helper in the story is Flounder the Fish, who accompanies Ariel throughout the film. There is a handsome prince named Eric who the Little Mermaid princess eventually marries, sought after throughout the narrative. Ariel’s father is King Triton, a very forceful and dominating personality who is very protective of his daughter. The dispatcher could to some extent be Ariel’s own desire to be human, as that sets her off on her quest to go ashore. I am very happy with the tale we picked, as it includes all eight character types, and roughly follows Propp’s 31 Functions of a Fairy-tale.

We tried to incorporate many of Propp’s 31 Functions into our board game when we made it. For example, Ariel is deceived by Ursula when she lands on a certain square, and must miss a go. The game is won when Ariel vanquishes Ursula and marries the prince. Of course not all of the 31 Functions were applicable to this film. The spheres most compatible with this story were spheres 1 and 4. Elements from both of these plotlines feature in the Little Mermaid.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Todorov Exercise

The clip I have chosen for this exercise is the opening sequence of Star Wars: Episode IV. The scene begins with a wide of several planets in space. We then see a small space-craft being followed through space by a massive star-destroyer. The smaller craft is then hit by the big craft, and we see inside the small spaceship and see C-3PO and R2-D2 are revealed for the first time. A fight then ensues between the Stormtroopers and the Rebels, ending with the dramatic entrance of the antagonist, Darth Vader.
We are not introduced to the main protagonist in this sequence, but we are shown the two warring factions, Rebels and Imperials. We are shown that the rebels are the underdogs and are being chased and hunted by the robotic-looking Stormtroopers, led by the very evil-looking Darth Vader. This immediately makes us see the Rebels as the 'goodies'.
The equilibrium is already disrupted as we are introduced to this sequence, and the scene is in turmoil with fights going on and lasers flying around. This means that things have gone on before we enter the story, and makes us eager to know how this world got to be in the state it's in.
The setting is established in the very first shot. It shows a wide shot of planets in space, then introducing some warring spaceships. This immediately sets the theme and echoes the title 'Star Wars'. The oppressive power of the Imperials is also shown by the vastness of the Star Destroyer.When the fearsome character of Darth Vader enters, the shot is at a low angle, to show his authority and power. He also emerges slowly out of the mist to heighten suspense.
There is no dialogue to outline a possible plot for the hero to follow, but we get a sense that he will have to vanquish Darth Vader and defeat the evil Empire during the film. The equilibrium will be restored by the fall of the Empire and the victory of the Rebel Alliance.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Continutiy Research

This sequence from Shrek displays some essential techniques used in filming.

For example, the 180 degree rule is obeyed throughout the sequence, with Shrek always being on the left and donkey on the right. (Apart from when Shrek walks away from Donkey, but that is ok because he crosses over during the shot.)

The use of Shot-Reverse-Shot is very common in this sequence during dialogue, and is used throughout to show both character's emotions while they are speaking and to get the viewer involved in the conversation. The SRS method of filming the dialogue is punctuated by Wide-Shots to show the characters' relationships to one another and show their surroundings. It also makes the sequence more interesting to have varied shot types as opposed to over-using one specific shot type to create a boring scene.

There is also use of Over-The Shoulder to show Shrek walking away from Donkey.

This film uses varied filming techniques such as SRS, cutaways and a main, scene-setting master-shot to liven up the conversation between Shrek and Donkey in the forest.


The point of the activity was to create a short 6-shot video clip which displayed some vital techniques used in filmmaking.

I believe our shot displayed some techniques well, such as using both wide and close-up shots to show the accident.

I would definitely re-shoot the terrible laughing shot that completely disorientates the viewer and was a complete accident. I would also make each shot lo0nger, to give the audience more time to see what is going on.

From doing this activity, I learned several vital filming techniques such as the 180 degree rule, match-on-action and the 30 degree rule.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Opening Sequence Comparison

Narrative Expectations:

Legally Blonde

The film begins with a close-up of the back of a girl’s head, showing her perfect blonde hair moving in slow motion, as curly pink writing is painted across the screen. We immediately see that this will be a largely feminine film, aimed at a female, possibly teenage audience. The fact that we see her hair first and not her face may suggest that many people judge her from her perfect appearance and ignore her personality, and we expect this to be a key aspect of the film. With everything so exaggeratedly perfect (and the lyric “Perfect Day” repeating incessantly in the background) we expect that something will happen to break this Utopia before long, and this will provide the comedy in the film. We expect it to be a very lighthearted and fun film, as everyone is having fun. Nobody seems to be miserable, and we get a sense that even if something was to go wrong, the film would still end happily.

We are introduced to the main character in several ways before we actually see her, thus building up suspense and also revealing a lot about the type of person she is. We see her hair at the beginning being combed very carefully and looking radiant. We also see her various cosmetics, showing that she takes pride in her appearance. We see the obvious pink theme of everything, revealing her to be very girly, almost comically so. We see a group of girls taking great care over delivering a ridiculously over-decorated envelope to her and find out her name is Elle. This shows that she is very popular. We also discover that she is Homecoming Queen and President of her Sorority at her College. Main characters are usually liked in films, or at least have some redeeming features, and audiences would get bored very quickly of a sickeningly perfect and popular ‘airhead’, and would definitely not support her throughout the film. So we assume that there will be more to Elle than just the typical ‘airhead’ stereotype. Perhaps the theme of the film will be her fight to overturn that stereotype. We also see her look lovingly at a photo of a very perfect-looking boyfriend on her bedside table, and expect that this will take a turn for the worse as well.


The film begins on a very different note to Legally Blonde. There is no music, and instead of a bright pink colour scheme, we have a dull, gloomy greyish lighting effect. The opening shot is of a middle-aged man going about his morning routine. Like Elle, we see that this character also takes pride in his appearance, as we see him meticulously pick a single hair off his immaculate suit. We also see him carefully pick up the objects laid perfectly out on his bedside table in sequence and put them into his jacket pockets. He does all this slowly and methodically, and we see that he is a man of strict routine.

Next we see the arrival of a second character, Mills. There is an immediate clash between these two personalities. Whereas Morgan Freeman’s character is methodical, calm and collected, Mills seems to be hot-headed and rather cocky. This is shown particularly in the street scene where Mills continually bumps into people, whereas Morgan Freeman does not. However, Mills appears to be smart nevertheless.

When the detective goes to bed, he turns on a metronome beside his bed. It is suggested that this is there to comfort him and keep him safe in his big empty room. Therefore the metronome connotes safety, showing that Morgan Freeman’s character finds sanctuary in order and routine. We see that he lives his life by those principles, and perhaps expect that something will happen soon to jeopardize that safety. This is also suggested by the shot types.

Shot Types:

Legally Blonde

In Legally Blonde, there are many over-the-shoulder shots as we follow the letter’s progress through the college. Many of the shots are in slow-motion to emphasize how good everything is. We also get many panning and tracking long shots to show surroundings, like when we see the girl on her bicycle riding through her college being jeered and cheered by the ‘Jocks’ nearby.


In Se7en, most of the shots are from a low angle, suggesting that we are seeing from the point of view of monsters lurking in the shadows. This is strengthened by the fact that many shots are from behind other objects such as doors, creating a voyeuristic feeling to the film. This adds a sense of horror. There are also some slow zooms, which create an atmosphere of creeping. When the Detective is in bed, his bedside lamp creates a small glow of protective light around him. Further back there are shadows. The camera slowly moves forward out of these shadows into the character’s lighted area. This creates a feeling of invasion, as if monsters are rising up from the shadows and penetrating the character’s defences. We also have a tracking low angle shot which follows the two detectives through the street.

Character Comparison:

In both films we feel like there is more to the main character than is revealed at the start. Elle is ridiculously perfect, almost comically so, and this suggests that something will inevitably go wrong and create a dilemma, and her character will be tested in the face of adversity, but all within the lighthearted boundaries of Rom-Com. The detective remains enigmatic in the opening scene. In fact, the only thing we learn about him is that he never seems to slip up. He is incredibly careful with everything he does and never gives away his emotions. We expect this calm and emotionless image to be tested soon, and to see the detective’s real emotions and learn about who he really is, as the film is a Psychological Thriller, and we expect the main character to go through many hardships on his way to solving the case.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Group 2 Shot Analysis

This shot was planned by Despina. It shows a young man sitting against a wall wearing a hoodie. The man has a shadow cast over half of his face with a single eye visible directly addressing the camera. He is casting a shadow on the wall behind him. The camera is positioned slightly above the subject at about mid-shot distance. This shot could be seen as representing ‘Horror’ because of the shadows cast over and by the subject, because of the menacing direct address, and because of the high angle, showing the evil nature of the character, and emphasizing the ‘good – high, bad – low’ idea.

In order to achieve the desired effect, we positioned the light below and to the side of the character, casting a shadow over half his face and the wall behind, suggesting a shady, troubled character and a split personality. We positioned the camera on the other side to the lighting, at a slight high angle in relation to the subject, in order to capture the shadows and make the character seem lowly. We placed the light near the wall to create a progression into darkness at the far right side of the wall. This shows that the character has bad things either in his past or waiting for him in the future, and creates a sense of foreboding about what is to come. Attention is drawn to the blue eye framed by shafts of shadow, directly addressing the camera. This creates an eerie quality where the viewer feels a sense of menace emanating from the character, but also maybe feels scared for him, and the shadows that are closing in.

I believe one successful aspect of this shot is lighting. The shadows on the wall and on the man’s face create a good atmosphere of menace and darkness. The way the man’s eye is lit up with shadows around it strengthens the direct address and heightens the atmosphere. Also, the way the man is looking up at the camera with wide eyes shows that he may even be scared himself, of the shadows that are about to consume him. The look he gives the camera could be interpreted as pleading, which adds more depth to the possible story behind the shot and makes it more intriguing to look at.

With hindsight, I feel that the expression made by the actor in this shot was not quite right, as he does not seem menacing enough. The expression is rather neutral, which was not the effect I wanted. However, and the lighting seemed most effective in this shot, we decided to use this one. I also believe the composition of the shot could be improved. The feeling of isolation of the character would be heightened by a longer distance away from the camera. However, there are two flaws in that plan. Firstly, the brick wall in front of which we took this photo was not very large, and not large enough to completely fill the background of a longer shot. Secondly, the character’s face would not be as prominent, which I think would detract greatly from the mood of the shot. I am proud of the eerie look of the shadows and the bright eye in the shot, and I believe a longer shot may lessen the emphasis on those features.

In conclusion, I think that although our shot is certainly not without it’s faults, it also contains many good attributes, and is nevertheless a decent first stab at a horror shot.