Friday, 15 January 2010

Assignment 1: Framing - File Transfer

Now I’ve completed the first assignment, and I’ve already got my report back, so I thought I would post it all up here. This is going to be a long blog post, so be prepared.

Story Outline

A man walks into a room, and walks up to a computer. He logs onto the computer and starts downloading some files onto a memory stick. He looks on edge and keeps checking around. The files finish downloading and he removes the memory stick, and at that moment, a sound makes him start.


Assignment 1-Storyboard

The Film


First I thought I would write a little about my thoughts during filming and how I filmed the clip. The entire filming was done in my own bedroom and it used the Canon 5d MkII with a sigma 12-24 f4.5-5.6 lens and a Canon 24-70 f2.8 lens. I wanted to create a dark, mystic look to the scene, so I used one desk lamp as my only light to light the scene, and the light from the hall outside. My brother is the main actor.
I stayed fairly true to my storyboard, but cut the last two frames into one, and decided a close up of the man looking nervous was better. I’ll explain this in the write up.
Frame 1
This frame was a wide shot with the sigma 12-24 lens. I set it up so the door was on one side of the frame, and the computer the other, so our main character was crossing the frame, using him to direct the eye. The initial movement of the door attracts the viewer’s attention, and then it is led to the computer (the main object of the clip) as the character walks over to it.
I think the framing is successful at achieving this objective, if anything I would move the door a bit further to the right of the frame. I also aimed to keep the entire of the head in the frame at all times, at the expense of the legs, and I think this certainly was worth doing. I considered letting the top of the head be cropped into a bit, to allow more of the body in, but out of the two set ups, I think this is the more successful shot.
Frame 2
The scene then cuts to a close up frame from just to the left of the main character. This is designed to focus attention on his typing and the computer screen. The viewpoint does this well, along with the lighting, the screen actually lighting just enough of the keyboard to glimpse the movement of the hands, however I feel the overexposed screen is a bit detrimental to the scene. It was a choice of losing more detail in the keyboard and person to get more detail on the screen, and I decided to overexpose the screen slightly. I think if I had more lighting, I would look to balance that.
With regards to the framing again, the screen is blocked slightly by the part of the desk to the right of the screen, and the wardrobe creeps into the frame. I maybe think this slightly too messy as a look in the frame, and could indeed be made cleaner by moving the camera left, closer to the head. However I think the angle on the head is very good as I have got enough in to show the movements of the hands and head, both very important to pick up on the characters aim.
Frame 3
The scene then cuts to a very short frame. This is to really focus the viewers mind on what is going on. I cut all unnecessary objects from this, and went for the shallowest depth of field I could obtain, to really highlight the data stick being put into the computer. This was key to the scene as a whole, so I thought this warranted a frame of its own.
I made sure the data stick was held by the end so was clearly visible throughout the frame. I tried to direct the eye through the frame with the movement of the hand, going from top left to bottom right, coupling the two objects of attention. I think this worked well. I think the leg in the scene is a bit distracting though and would consider removing this.
Frame 4
We are back to a close up here as the man looks nervous. The camera is a bit higher up in this frame as I have tried to emphasise the character’s movements, however I think this has been slightly less successful looking at the final cut, and think that I may have been better off composing with the keyboard and mouse in the shot again. However I think the slightly further right that the camera has gone has successfully eliminated the distractions on the right of the screen, and certainly focuses the eye better on the character and the screen
Frame 5
Here I have gone for a low shot to show both the character, and another appearing through the doorway. The idea was to use the chair to hide some detail and keep an air of mystery about what is happening. However I think there is a lot of the frame that has been unused and this is slightly unsuccessful. I was trying to keep the eye from wandering too much, but feel that I should have composed to involve a bit more of the frame in hindsight.
Overall I think I have managed to convey the meaning through my frames well. There are a few areas I could improve, and this is a bit more awareness of the frame as a whole and how much of it is being used in the shot. The extra clutter in the second and fifth frame is the main problem in this scene in my opinion. I will look to in future scan the frame as a whole more thoroughly and consider exactly what will happen before I film the scene itself. I will also look round the frame from many angles, to see if I can eliminate the additional clutter without losing my original idea for the frame.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Research: Stanley Kubrick

So, I thought before I embarked on the assignment, I would do a little research into directors, and the one I decided to settle on was Kubrick. He was a very famous, and often controversial director, and quite impressively for a director of his reputation, he only directed 12 major films, and another 4 before he really came to peoples attention. Perhaps his most famous are Barry Lyndon, a Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Kubrick is very much known for being a perfectionist with his films, and especially with the visual elements. Coming from a photography background myself, I already knew that one of the fastest lenses in the world was made for the film Barry Lyndon, because Kubrick wanted to film using just candlelight, to really keep the atmosphere the same it would have been in the period the film was set. He went to incredible effort to find and adapt these lenses to be able to stay true to the time period, instead of using an additional light source to compensate, showing just how committed and how much of a perfectionist he was.

Obviously there are a number of ways Kubrick set up frames, to stick to one formula for placing objects within his frame would not have led to him becoming the respected director he became. However I have looked for some themes. One recurrent theme is the use of lines as graphic elements in his frames, usually parallel walls, or similar, to help direct the eye. The image below is an example of a few, but there are many more examples throughout his films.

However parallel lines is not just a recurrent theme in the frames above, each contains an air of drama, and tension, largely because the parallel lines are the dominant feature in the frames, and the characters smaller and less significant, the darker corridor leading to the lighter room at the end in the top left image is also quite unsettling to look at, because of the largely dark nature of the frame. It is how Kubrick has used different elements within the frame here to create the feeling he wants to in the viewer.

Kubrick also had another recurrent feature, noted the "Kubrick Stare" on wikipedia. His main characters of his films were largely troubled and dark characters, and he would often have a character shot in which the head was tilted down and the eyes looking towards the viewer. This certainly creates the impression of tension again as you can see from the frames below

This view of a person is somehow less natural for us to see, and it sets off a feeling of a character hiding something, a dark mysterious person. This is largely the sort of film Kubrick made. Most of his films were adaption of novels, or were based on novels. They were almost always controversial. A Clockwork Orange was withdrawn from sale in the UK by Kubrick himself because of the violent nature of the film, and copycat crimes were being carried out in the UK. Another film by Kubrick, Lolita, was about a middle aged man, interested in a 12 year old girl. The novel had already created a large amount of controversy, and Kubrick's toned down version as a film, was also disapproved of by many.

Kubrick also seemed to remove any sort of redemption for characters that was present for the characters in the books he adapted. Anthony Burgess did not like Kubrick's adaption of his novel, A Clockwork Orange, because of this very fact. Stephen King also did not like the adaption of his novel the Shining, branding Kubrick "a man who thinks too much, and feels too little". King actually went on to help make a television series of the shining hoping to replace Kubrick's version of his book.

This seems to be Kubrick through and through. He seemed a man who liked to cause controversy with his films. But he also seemed a perfectionist, very interested with the way a film looked and felt. 2001: A Space Odyssey has large periods without any words being spoken, just displaying beautiful scenes of space and the spaceships available in it, all set to classical music (which also featured heavily in Kubrick films from A Clockwork Orange onwards). He was very much a director who knew how to make each shot work within his film.


Wednesday, 6 January 2010

How to Learn

This was more a side note in the course, but I thought I would write a blog post, as it does ask me to write a short list. I'm going through my last piece of work for this:

  • What did I set out to achieve? I was aiming to achieve a similar piece of work to the previous project, on an alcoholic drinking his glass of wine, but from an objective viewpoint.
  • How can I identify what I achieved? Whether or not the video for the project tells the story.
  • Did I achieve this? I think I did achieve this, though as mentioned in my project there are a few weak points in the story, especially the panicked section, where I do not think I conveyed this in the best way
  • What I have learned from this? I think I have learned that a variety of frames are useful, but also that there needs to be some consistency between them, else there is a bit of confusion from the viewer's perspective. I also have learned that framing is a very important part of how a story is told, and that if the framing doesn't quite suit the atmosphere, the story is not conveyed to the viewer as strongly as it could be
  • Is it better to struggle and improve my weaker areas or should I cut my losses and focus on my strengths? At this stage its definitely best to try and improve my weaker areas, but not neglect my strengths. Learning at this stage is very much trying to create a good balance for me to better identify my strengths, and at that stage I will have to decide where to focus, or even whether to try and maintain an all rounded ability.
  • How can I really ever know what my strengths and weaknesses are? Self analysis, comparison to other people's projects, and inviting comments on my own projects are all great ways of determining what I have been successful with, and what I could look to improve.
  • How do I know what I need to know if I don't know what it is yet, who can I ask or where can I find out? Now that is a baffling question, but I think the general point is how do I get help when I am lost or stuck. I would use numerous resources, the internet being great on research point of view, but also other students, my tutor, even various resource books (though I am struggling to find any good ones on video, any advice as to where to find some would be very helpful) all are good places to find out.
  • How do I know if I have improved? When is it time to move on? Again, self analysis is key here. I should be able to tell for myself by comparing where I started, to where I have arrived at, whether I have made a significant improvement. I also can use other people's comments and constructive criticism to help me to analyse whether I have improved enough.
Overall I think that has been quite a useful exercise, it has cleared up the learning process, and certainly made me think why I am doing this, and how best to learn. Next up is the first assignment, that I am very much looking forward to doing. I may add some more research before that point, or it may well be the next post you see, but I have already started thinking of a couple of scenarios I would like to film.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Exercise 4: The feel of a frame (objective)

Now the exercise was to film the same sequence, but from an objective viewpoint. Below is the storyboard and the video for this. The video is without sound this time, as there was a lot of background noise that detracted from the scene.

I filmed this yesterday, so I will talk about the video now. I looked at my storyboard when I was filming and I decided that the wide scene when the person was panicked didn't work to create the tension, so I left this out when filming. I think overall the clip is a bit too short. I should have lengthened the beginning before the tension, had the person look around a bit more, and then create a bit more tension, with a bit more quick movement in that section.

I also think the whole scene lacks the wide view. I would probably shoot the reaching for the bottle scene as a wide view showing the body too, and then move to a close up on the bottle as he opened it, as that would just feel a bit more natural. However I like the close up of the pouring the wine, and the panicked scene I feel benefits from the close up on the face. Overall I think it works fairly well