Removal (main project)

Preliminary Exercise

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.