Friday, 28 December 2012

Assignment 3: Tutor Feedback

Overall my tutor was happy with the film I had made saying it was “…simply and economically put together with a clear plot and clear subterfuge”  However he thought I could have made more of it. His report is in my learning folder and the Word version will be submitted at assessment. He gave me specific feedback on several  technical points including how I could improve my storyboards by noting the strong narrative key points in them e.g. emphasising the zoom in on the lipstick in frame 4. Other points which I had not included in my reflection at the end of the assignment were: Lighting and colour: I used natural available light which meant the colours were a bit washed out. I will look at reflectors and the use of colour adjustment in my editing software. Sound: Robert mentioned the use of an EQ filter to remove the low frequency (below 100Hz) to improve the sound quality of the dialogue. I will have to research this. Luckily my son studied Audio Engineering and should be able to help with that aspect of editing. 30 September 2013 In preparation assessment I have re-edited this sequence to address two of the shortcomings highlighted by my tutor. I have managed to edit out the pause at the start of shot 3 and I have made an attempt to improve the colour overall by using the brightness and contrast sliders in my editing software. During the editing of Assignment 4, I learned a lot about using the audio editing facility and put that into practice trying to overcome background noise. The edited version of the sequence will be available with the original assignments on the submitted flash drive at assessment.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Assignment 3–Creating meaning

Objective: To chose a scenario and film a sequence with an implied meaning with any number of shots but no longer than 90 seconds.
For this assignment I have chosen:
Action Somebody chooses a drink Implied Meaning One of the drinks is poisoned.
I have my friends Julie and Cavan helping me with the acting and while I am starting with a script and storyboard, this usually is flexible with suggestions and ideas from the set.
Here is my basic script and story board:
Frame/shot 01
Man arrives home: close up of key unlocking door.
Frame/shot 02
Medium shot of man opening door and stepping inside
Frame/shot 03
Medium shot of woman pouring drinks in kitchen, “Hello darling, just pouring us a drink”
Man: “Just what I need, I’m exhausted!”
Frame/shot 04
Closer shot of woman placing tray on table. Zoom in on the lipstick smudge.
Frame/shot 05
Man picks up smudged glass,
Woman:  “Oh dear, here have this one I’ll get a clean glass” Man takes the other drink, woman goes to kitchen.
Frame/shot 06
Woman washes glass;
Sounds off: Thud and a chink, the man has fallen. Woman looks over her shoulder and smiles to herself.
Frame/shot 07
Down shot of man’s legs sticking out from behind the coffee table with a spilled drink.
Either a pan up to the woman dialling a mobile phone or a separate shot:
Frame/shot 7A
Woman is speaking to the emergency services, “Yes. I’d like to report an accident………………”
Having recorded the sequence and put together a rough edit, I couldn’t find any other way of sequencing the shots to make any different sense of it. I finalised the edit as shown below.
On the whole, I am pleased with the way this came together. I had the idea initially working on the premise that whichever drink was chosen, the poisoned one or the dirty glass, the poisoner would succeed by taking away the safe drink if necessary. The implication is not obvious until the sound of the body hitting the floor is heard and not confirmed until the body is seen behind the table.
I was pleased with the opening shots, starting outside and filming from inside as the man entered gives a nice flow. Shot 3 was not so successful, Julie should have been pouring drinks as Cavan called “I’m home”. She paused until he spoke which was a mistake. Also I didn’t leave enough time for the shot and cut too soon. As it was I had to edit out my calls from the audio track from the start and end.
Shot 4 worked quite well although I did depart from the storyboard/script here. The lipstick smudge on the glass wasn’t really clear enough so we decided to just refer to it. I think that was perfectly OK and made the point. It would have been good if Julie had said “You have mine” rather than assuming Cavan would take the second drink. Julie and Cavan are quite good at ad libbing. Perhaps I shouldn’t rely on this at the expense of losing meaning in the script.
Shot 5 is again too short. I had to edit out my calls again. We forgot to film Julie’s reaction to the sound effect of Cavan falling i.e. a knowing smile as she washed the glass. This makes the sound a little ambiguous although the reason for it is shown in the next scene. Because this take was so short I inserted a fade to and from black, to signify time passing. There were several ideas for the final scene as indicated in the story board but in the end, I combined the two ideas by panning up from the body to Julie speaking on the phone in a calm detached manner showing that she had planned it all along – or had she?  The ambulance siren over the credits rounded the act off nicely.
My own skills and understanding:
  • Working with actors is great fun but I do need to balance their needs with mine. I was conscious that these people had given up a couple of hours of their time to help me so I was rushing a bit as I knew they had things to do. Less haste, more speed.
  • Panning and zooming – more practice needed. I need to loosen off the fluid tilt head on my tripod a little more and practice slow, smooth panning and zooming!
  • Planning and preparation – I need more. Because these sequences are so short I have tended to rely on just the storyboard/script and my memory to shoot with. Perhaps for the remaining assignments I will make detailed notes for each shot so I don’t forget things. Working on the premise that it is always better to have too much and leave it on the cutting room floor ………………

    Assgnt03 Creating Meaning from Richard Down on Vimeo.

    Sunday, 18 November 2012

    Project 13–Non-diegetic sound

    Exercise 16: Abstract image sequence
    Objective: Choose a short musical sequence (max 1 minute)  note the emotions/feeling it invokes and the images or ideas that come to mind.
    I have chosen Debussy's Prelude to the afternoon of a faun which despite its title always invokes memories of the sea in my mind, to do mainly with the rhythms. The still images I have used are from Cornwall, contrasting the Atlantic coast at Sennen and the more sheltered Falmouth Bay and Helford River on the Channel coast , taken a week apart as I walked the coast path last year. The centre section is uplifting and I’ve arranged the images (taken from a high viewpoint) to indicate flight above the headland and down into the shelter of the river.
    The only other students work which is accessible at the moment is Margaret's sequence; Music in the Minster. I did comment on it sometime ago but my comment doesn’t appear on her blog now. I watched it again and I can now evaluate it in terms of understanding the exercise and its purpose:
    The meaning I take from the sequence is of a documentary looking at people going about their day in and around the Minster. It feels reverent, ancient and historical and the accompanying music suits the sequence well, being spiritual music you would expect to hear in this setting. The images I particularly liked were the ones that contrasted the  Minster and  the surroundings from above outside i.e. the towers and the Big Wheel and also the statuary both stone and wooden which contrasted with the modern congregation moving within the building.
    Here is my Abstract Image Sequence:

    Untitled from Richard Down on Vimeo.

    Research: I have mentioned some of the examples of diegetic and non diegetic sound already ( the final scene in Melancholia) and I will add others here and repost this page in due course.

    Saturday, 10 November 2012

    Viewing: Melancholia – Lars von Trier

    This is one of those films that you watch in spite of yourself. The reviews I have read were not particularly good but I picked up from one that it was a “difficult” film. I like a challenge.
    Directed by Lars von Trier and starring Kirsten Dunst, Alexander Skarsgard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling I found this film visually stunning, I loved the the hand held documentary camera style of the film. The director of photography explained that it was Von Trier’s  style to let the camera “know” nothing and that it should react to the actors. The first take of any scene would be shot in this way, then the director would make adjustment to the next take.
    I watched the film and made notes about what I thought it was about before watching the “extras” section of the DVD. It actually wasn’t that difficult to understand. The title sequence was a sort of overture with the prelude to Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde played against stylish, enigmatic slow motion clips of the coming story.
    The narrative was in two parts. In the first, Justine and Michael are celebrating their wedding at the home of  Justine’s sister Claire and her husband John. It soon becomes apparent that Justine is depressed and the the whole party self destructs in no part helped by Justine’s dotty father vindictive mother and overbearing boss. All this, despite Claire’s attempts to protect and  care for Justine.
    In the second part, Justine’s depressed state is reinforced as Claire attempts to help her function on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the giant planet Melancholia is heading towards earth at 60,000 miles an hour. There is an implication that the approaching planet and Justine’s depression are somehow linked as her behaviour becomes noticeably bizarre.
    John tries to protect his wife and son from the knowledge of the inevitable disaster but as it becomes apparent that the world is about to end, the sisters’ roles change as Justine accepts the inevitable and protects and cares for Claire and her son during the final moments and the destruction of  the planet, the CGI sequence of which is quite brilliant and not a little frightening if you can bear to think of the reality of two planets colliding. (Astrophysicists were consulted in the making of the CGI sequence so it has the hard edge of a “realistic” scenario)
    I always enjoy the “making of” sections of DVDs and have included some screen shots below with my notes.


    The style of the two halves of the film were distinct from one another, the first being shot with predominantly warm orange and yellow  light, the other with cool blue colours to emphasise the change in mood as the disaster looms. Here,  Claire pleads with Justine to pull herself together and avoid any scenes that may spoil the party. At this stage, Claire is very much the dominant sister trying to keep Justine safe in spite of her depressed state.


    This shot is an almost “Lynch” like moment as the flag on green proclaims the 19th hole even though several references had been made earlier to the 18 hole golf course at the house. Only hours from disaster, the earths atmosphere is thinning and there is a hailstorm and St Elmo’s fire on the power lines. Clair is desperately trying to find safety for herself and her son. You can interpret the reference in several ways.


    Having failed to reach the village, Claire pleads with Justine to stay with her and Leo at the end. Justine agrees and takes Leo with her to make a “magic cave”. Leo knows that Justine (Aunt Steelbreaker) will protect her and calmly helps her build a tepee of sticks.


    I’m not sure if the two round finials at right of this frame are intentionally placed but their reference is unmistakable.


    At the conclusion of the film, the three remaining characters await their fate. Justine and Leo (calm and trusting that his aunt has made him safe) are resigned but Claire remains agitated until the end.


    Melancholia rapidly approaches the Earth in a spectacular crescendo of music blended with that rumble/crackle much used by film makers. Throughout this final sequence Claire remains fearful and she almost instinctively runs.


    At the firestorm approaches the camera the deafening roar drowns the music and fades to silence on a black screen for several seconds before the credits roll, in silence initially and then with Wagner's theme once again. This is a good example of diegetic and non-diegetic sound being used together for dramatic effect.

    Wednesday, 31 October 2012

    Project 12 – Connecting shots

    Exercise 15: Repeating the Mosjukhin experiment
    Here are my attempts at the Mosjukhin experiment. I found that re-ordering the clips only made sense (to me anyway) for one of them. See what you think. I’ll post the narrative I was aiming for after I have received your comments.
    Mosjukhin 1

    Mozjukhin from Richard Down on Vimeo.

    Mosjukhin 2

    Mozjukhin 2 from Richard Down on Vimeo.

    Mosjukhin 3

    Mozjukhin 3 from Richard Down on Vimeo.

    Please add your comments below.

    Saturday, 6 October 2012

    Project 11 – Screen Space


    Exercise 14: Two people communicating

    Having read the script and briefed my actors, I have planned my storyboard based on two old friends who recognise each other across the street. This time I have scaled my storyboard to the 16:9 frame of my camera to illustrate positions in the frame.

    Frame 01Frame 02
    Fade in - Medium shot, Sarah on bench next to road on left of frame.Medium shot, Dan waiting at bus stop across the road.
    Frame 03Frame 04
    Medium close up, Sarah looks up and across the street at Dan, flicker of recognitionExtreme close up, (try zooming in from the previous shot) as Sarah tries to remember.
    Frame 05Frame 06
    Dan looks up and across at Sarah. Medium close up.Sarah smiles at Dan and remembers him.
    Frame 07
    Long shot of Dan starting to cross the road - fade out.

    Many thanks to Julie and Cavan for their help in putting together this sequence. It happened remarkably quickly and we avoided the rain.
    I think I got what was required and as this is my first time using actors, it went quite well. The depiction of communication across a space (the main road) works.
    Because of the different levels of traffic noise behind each shot, I recorded a separate sound track once I knew how long the sequence would be, I lowered the volume and added it to the audio track. Please give me your feedback on this sequence.

    Screen Space from Richard Down on Vimeo.

    Tuesday, 25 September 2012

    dB in relation to Digital Video

      I was confused by the Iris control scale on my HD Video camera as it mentioned dB. Gleaned this from WIKI:

    Video and digital imaging In connection with video and digital image sensors, decibels generally represent ratios of video voltages or digitized light levels, using 20 log of the ratio, even when the represented optical power is directly proportional to the voltage or level, not to its square, as in a CCD imager where response voltage is linear in intensity.[20] Thus, a camera signal-to-noise ratio or dynamic range of 40 dB represents a power ratio of 100:1 between signal power and noise power, not 10,000:1.[21] Sometimes the 20 log ratio definition is applied to electron counts or photon counts directly, which are proportional to intensity without the need to consider whether the voltage response is linear.[22] However, as mentioned above, the 10 log intensity convention prevails more generally in physical optics, including fiber optics, so the terminology can become murky between the conventions of digital photographic technology and physics. Most commonly, quantities called "dynamic range" or "signal-to-noise" (of the camera) would be specified in 20 log dBs, but in related contexts (e.g. attenuation, gain, intensifier SNR, or rejection ratio) the term should be interpreted cautiously, as confusion of the two units can result in very large misunderstandings of the value. Photographers also often use an alternative base-2 log unit, the f-stop, and in software contexts these image level ratios, particularly dynamic range, are often loosely referred to by the number of bits needed to represent the quantity, such that 60 dB (digital photographic) is roughly equal to 10 f-stops or 10 bits, since 103 is nearly equal to 210.

    And from my friendly electronics guru (I'm not sure what her source was):

    The camera adjusts the brightness of the video normally by opening the iris to control the illumination of the CCD. However once the iris is fully open, it is possible to bring up the effective brightness by increasing the electrical amplification of the CCD signal. 0 dB is the normal setting for electrical gain. plus 6 dB is a gain increase of a factor of x2 and 18 dB is a gain increase of a factor of x6. The problem with electrical gain is it also amplifies the noise, especially fixed pattern noise, in the picture. A well made CCD can tolerate 6 dB gain without much noticeable grain. 18 dB is certain to give a grainy picture but sometimes a noisy picture is better than no picture. A camera that allows manual setting of the gain is preferable to one that adjusts automatically if you need to minimize picture noise. I think this explains the change from f stops to dB scale on the iris control. I may not fully understand the maths (my weak point) but now I know that dB apply not only to sound.

    Friday, 24 August 2012

    Assignment 2–Feedback and reflection


    Oops, Assignment 2 was not a great success in the most important area of the brief:

    “I have to say that as much as I like baking bread and understand there can be a sense of anticipation involved, what really comes across here – and that very well – is the documentary record of a process. It’s quite hard to create atmosphere when all your shots are close ups of inanimate objects that don’t involve any drama, human interaction or response. The film is a good record of the process, of the kind that would be helpful to people learning to make bread! But because there is no mood here, you really need to re-think this assignment. Perhaps you can take the subject of atmosphere into your subsequent projects if not entirely re-do this assignment with a more suitable subject.”

    I’m afraid I’ve fallen victim of my own very narrow approach to the creative idea. I tend to get an idea in my head and stick to it no matter what. I think what happened here is, early on, I decided I wanted film bread making and I tried to fit it into the assignment brief, unsuccessfully!

    I am now aware that working alone on what in normal circumstances is very much a collaborative effort can be difficult. What I must do the future is to bounce ideas off my fellow students and maybe run an assignment idea past my tutor before putting my head down and going at it full tilt.

    I will proceed with Part 3 of the course, but during the coming months I will re-shoot this assignment with a different idea in response to tutor feedback. I have emailed my tutor and he is aware of my plans.

    15 February 2013

    I have thought about this assignment again and planned a short sequence about paranoia while walking alone in the woods. I planned 12 shots as shown below:

    Assgnt 2 paranoia 1Assgnt 2 paranoia 2

    My story line is simple enough, a woman walks alone on a woodland path and passes a man whose face is obscured by a scarf. He glances at her in passing, she takes a few steps and stops, turns to look at the man but to her surprise, he is not in sight. Puzzled, she walks on but the viewpoint changes to one of a shaky, hand held  travelling shot of her passing the trees. I  film this from either side of the path. Next shot shows a creepy gnarled oak tree and I zoom in on some of the twisted branches to highlight the eerie feel of  the woods. Man can be seen lurking behind the tree The woman stops and can be seen pulling herself together, there is the crack of a dry twig and she hurries on. (close up shot) As she walks out of shot, the man appears and follows her. Fade to black.

    The atmosphere in the woods is quiet, with birds singing footsteps can be heard, There is even lighting but vision either side of  the path is partially obscured by undergrowth. It’s not dense but obscured enough to cause the imagination to play tricks. What I hope to convey is that the woman’s imagination is the cause of her anxiety.

    The Edit 17/09/13 (it’s taken 7 months to get round to editing this). I hope that the time has given me a fresh perspective and that the experience of editing two subsequent assignments has improved my skills.

    Evaluation: With retakes, I ended up with 20 frames including all of those shown above. In the finished sequence, I have only 10 shots. I took out some unnecessary frames as the couple pass each other. The action lasts just 1 minute. I have used black and white for the shots showing what is in the woman’s mind although I hope that the atmosphere created introduces a doubt in the viewer’s mind as to exactly what will happen next. I was quite pleased with the sequence and my actors have created the atmosphere I wanted. I did notice that part of the first frame was overexposed (the man’s bald head) so I have altered the levels for that frame a little, it helped a bit but exposure is something I need to be aware of when using my camera on auto. I have used diegetic sound throughout but I did have to add the cracking of a twig at the right point as the woman pulls herself together. This was an afterthought and I used a clip from a sound effects library. It was interesting playing with the clip in my sound editor to match the reverberation of the other diegetic sounds.

    On the whole I have achieved what I set out to do. I learned that even working to a story board it may still be necessary to adapt to shooting conditions (especially when in an open public space) and of course, adapt the narrative during the edit. Working with a maximum number of frames is good discipline and experience in storyboarding and shooting will come with time.

    Paranoia in the woods 3 from Richard Down on Vimeo.

    Friday, 17 August 2012

    Assignment 2: Creating Atmosphere

    Assignment Objective: To create a scene with a strong sense of atmosphere
    Introduction & Planning I bake every week and I want to capture the activities involved to show the sense of anticipation I have while I am baking. The whole process takes about 3 hours so I have to work out shooting and editing techniques to condense the whole process into less that 3 minutes in a maximum of 12 frames. I am thinking of using jump cuts of very short but even length and merging shots (in the same frame) to speed up the slower processes. I also want to finish on a still, I need to work this out in the editing package.
    I did a rough storyboard in my notebook. Initially it had 10 frames but with the way the project is developing, I may end up with more and have to edit out a few.
    Here is my initial storyboard:
    Adding dry ingredients
    Making the dough
    Kneading and shaping
    Proving (merge several shots)
    Loaf glazed ready to bake
    Into the oven
    Baking (merge several shots)
    Finished loaf cooling
    Close up of mouth eating a slice (freeze)
    Forward Planning: I have started planning quite early for this assignment. My initial thought was  just run through the process, looking at the lighting available, the space needed for the camera in the kitchen and whether I could work around it. I also checked the operation of the remote control for my camera. This will make things easier if I can use it. I also anticipate having to shoot the whole process twice to get enough  good shots. One thing I did learn and managed to fix was that the glass door on the oven reflected a lot of what is in front of it, including the camera. I fixed this by changing the angle from which I shoot so the camera is not reflected and I draped a black backdrop over the units opposite the oven to avoid those reflections.
    First Attempt: This went fairly well but as anticipated, there were some shots that didn’t work, namely the adding of ingredients to the bowl. I hadn’t planned getting the camera high enough so I could work around it so I am planning a second shoot in which that is the only part I will be shooting. This will mean I can halt the process and clear away the tripod before continuing with the baking of a second loaf. (time is always an issue here). Apart from that, I got enough footage of the rest of the process and I finished with the loaf cooling. Later that day, I returned from work and filmed the slicing of  the loaf and the close up of eating, without problems.
    Lighting: Along with the mood of anticipation, I needed the light to be quite warm. Fresh bread can be seen as a comfort food so I am aiming to enhance this feeling. The light in the kitchen is normally fluorescent but I left this off and used window daylight  from the right and the tungsten cooker hood light from the left. The oven light is also tungsten.
    Sound: I’ve used diegetic sound throughout, with very few changes. See final Edit below
    Editing: This was my first sizeable edit using Sony Vegas and I am finding new things every time I use it. I watched all of my shots and listed the ones I wanted to use. It was a great discovery when I found the trimmer!
    Frame 1 I started by cutting the shot of the ingredients going into the bowl into the constituent parts and decided on 0.25 sec was enough time for each clip to speed up the process. I also cut the shots down and only included 5 items. (an impression is all that is required) At this point I noticed a continuity error. I had inadvertently placed a dish next to the bowl in shot. (something to watch for the future).  I wanted to achieve a rhythm with this edit. I think it worked well.
    Frame 2 My next frame was a crossfade of five clips of making the dough in the mixer. In my 2nd edit I cut this down to four as the last shot was zoomed in and did not fit the frame.
    Frame 3 is the prepared dough being removed from the mixing hook and Frame 4 is the dough being knocked back and shaped ready for proving after being returned to the bowl in Frame 5.
    Frame 6 I needed 4 shots of the dough rising during proving, this process takes about an hour so I took a 10 second shot at 0, 20, 40 and 60 minutes. I prove my bread in the airing cupboard which is pretty dim so I have used the domestic (tungsten) lamps to light this frame.
    I originally included a lengthy shot of the loaf being glazed with egg wash followed by another frame of the top being cut. However, I left out the glazing shot and Frame 7 is the decorative cut or marking.
    Frame 8 is the loaf going into the oven and Frame 9 is another composite of the loaf browning. I originally took four shots over 40 minutes but there was little difference between the third and fourth so I left it out.
    Frames 10, 11 and 12 were straightforward to shoot. I did have a shot of the loaf on the cooling tray but felt that this was unnecessary. I did however fade out to black and back up again between frames 10 and 11 to indicate a period of time passing before the slicing and eating sequence.
    Final Edit: In the third edit I added the titles and credits, changed the white balance  of a couple of frames that were a little too orange and I worked out from my editing software how to freeze a frame. Basically, I took a screen grab of the final frame at the point I wanted to freeze the action, inserted that into a slide show and added it to the timeline with a duration of 5 or so seconds before fading it out before the credits.
    Although I have used diegetic sound throughout there was only one problem I encountered. The proving sequence was shot away from the kitchen so it was very quiet until the kitchen timer sounded as I was filming the last shot and two peeps were heard. To overcome this, I muted  the sound on this sequence, copied the audio track from the background sound in the kitchen (the sound of the oven fan and the fridge freezer provide a sort of busy, productive sound) and ran a loop below the sequence. You will notice the change in sound level during this sequence, indicating that it takes place away from the kitchen.

    Bread Final edit from Richard Down on Vimeo.

    Frame by frame I am quite pleased with the resulting sequence. This evaluation supplements the notes make above after a couple of days reflection. I know I have taken liberties with the number of frames but I considered three or four shots from the same camera position to be in one frame. I’ve added two extra frames that weren’t on my story board. What I have tried to do is to keep the process moving on. The first frame was an experiment and I was pleased that it worked so well. I left out the addition of  the oil and yeast but the general idea is there.
    Frame 2 is possibly a bit long. At this point I have used crossfades to suggest the passing of time in a continuous process. Some of  these clips could have been shortened by a second or two without taking anything away from the sequence.
    Frame 3, 4 and 5 show some manual handling. The feeling of soft dough is part of the baker’s experience. I’m hoping the viewer can imagine the texture of the dough in their hands and maybe remember childhood baking days.
    Frame 6 is the proving or rising of the dough. Four shots composed with cross fades into one. I left the oiled cling film on the bowl but perhaps I should have removed it before each shot as it looks like the camera is not focussed properly.
    Frame 7 is the glazed loaf being marked  before going into the oven in frame 8. Frame 9 works well and speeds up the browning/baking process. I’m hoping by this time your mouth is starting to water.
    Frames 10, 11 and 12 all went as planned. My idea for the freeze frame was to concentrate the viewer’s mind and bring their anticipation to a climax by imagining the taste and smell of warm fresh baked bread. Leave it hanging there…..
    In trying to create this atmosphere of anticipation, I had to decide if I was going to show my own anticipation or try to induce it in the viewer. I thought inducing it in the viewer was probably more straightforward and went for that option. In less than 3 minutes I had to engage their interest, get them intrigued and follow what is going on. I tried to work out the thought process that would arise:
    What’s this? Ah, making something, looks like dough, (reminder of childhood, playing) Oh yes, it’s rising (is it alive?) now looks like a loaf, that’s it in the oven, baking nicely looks delicious, taking a slice, I’ll bet that’s good…………….
    Did I succeed? I hope so. My fellow students will pass judgement in due course.
    Would I change anything? I need to pay more attention to continuity. If I’m acting myself, I need to get out of the habit of unconsciously sighing and grunting as I work. (video is good for  improving your self image!) Maybe melted butter running down my chin……..?
    In this assignment I have definitely improved my attention to detail and learned a lot more about editing software. There is still more to do though. I shall keep reading and watching films to get ideas about lighting, narrative and composition. If I’m filming in any domestic situation, I’ll need to do a “background sound audit” before I start shooting.

    Thursday, 16 August 2012

    Project 10 Sound

    Exercises: 12 Listening & 13 Create a new soundtrack
    Objective: Because these two exercises are closely linked, I have written them up together. That said, there is a certain amount of confusion about exactly what needs to be done. The notes refer to a sequence in Project 2 which did not contain any sequences. I have used the Subjective POV Alcoholic from Project 3.
    Exercise 13 refers to a list of sounds from Ex 12 but I’m not sure whether these are ones associated with Listening in my “silent” places or the sounds identified in my sequence. If I assume that these are sounds from my sequence then they are already part of that sequence because they were recorded with the video (the requirement not to include sound was not made clear)
    My objective for these exercises will therefore be to think of the quality of these sounds in an objective way and write down my thoughts. I will then record an “atmos” track to overlay the existing track on my sequence.
    Listening: I don’t have the facility to attach headphones to my video camera so I listened to the background sound in my house during the early afternoon. . My house is small so there is not much difference between rooms, depending on whether I have the windows open or closed.
    For contrast I went out into the countryside where I know the sounds are different, possibly quieter.
    Afternoon in the sitting room. After a rather noisy morning, the sitting room was relatively quiet with only the sound of passing traffic, the slam of a van door  followed by the sound of the van driving away. I detected the sound of power tools from an adjoining house and the creak of floorboards settling from upstairs. Had I left the doors and windows open, there would have been more sounds.
    Upstairs in the afternoon: Normally I work upstairs in my study. I have the windows open and I can hear more of  the sounds from the road. The traffic density is quite high so there is a constant whoosh of cars passing and the rattle and hiss of lorries as they hit the brakes approaching the traffic lights. My PC hums constantly in the background. Occasionally the neighbours  children can be heard playing, either in the garden on on the green in front of the houses. I can also hear a power tool from the house across the road and a jet passing overhead on its way to Farnborough.
    Mid afternoon on Shortheath Common
    During an afternoon walk this week, I crossed nearby heathland, sat down for 15 minutes and made notes of what I could hear:
    • Helicopter passes overhead.
    • Birdsong
    • Wing beats of a passing bird
    • A jet passes overhead, high up
    • Wind in my ears
    • Cars on the road
    • Buzzing insects
    • Chirping grasshopper
    • Gunfire from the nearby Longmoor ranges
    Sequence from Project 3  - recorded sounds: As mentioned above, I recorded the scene with diegetic sound. Here are the sounds as they are recorded and words that I associate with them:
    • The bottle cap unscrewing  - rasping metallic sound, cold and functional
    • The bottle placed on the table (twice) – solid, safe, firm,  dependable
    • The telephone ringing (two rings) – jarring, intrusive, sharp and dominant
    • The alcoholic breathing – whisper, alive, scary, disturbing (this was unintentionally included, a point to watch)
    • The wine being poured into the glass – sparkly, refreshing, anticipation, imminent satisfaction.

    In addition to these, there was the background sound of  the fridge running in the kitchen which sounds comforting and alive. (I am strangely disturbed when these sounds are absent from the house, it usually means something is wrong and produces momentary anxiety). In the first shot, the radio playing, which wakes our sleeping alcoholic is a female voice, indistinct but mellifluous in tone, again comforting and warm.

    Project 3 Files: I have identified the project files but as I have uninstalled Nero 11, I can no longer open them. I still have the resulting MP4 files which are read only. I changed my editing software from Nero 11 HD to Sony Vegas HD because of its inflexibility. i.e. Nero was saving my projects in some very strange locations and file formats on my PC and I didn’t have the flexibility I needed to manage my project files.
    As an exercise in making a new soundtrack, I did re-record the sounds in the sequence but I don’t seem to be able to clear the basic background hum from my recordings. I need more work on this topic. Arising from a suggestion from Margaret Taylor, I have laid a new soundtrack on my “Rain” atmospheric sequence.


    Ex13 new soundtrack from Richard Down on Vimeo.

    Conclusion: I have learned a lot from these exercises, especially about the sounds that I don't really want in my audio track. I also need to be able to learn more about using the audio editing package that came with my software. I have had some good and constructive feedback from the student group. Thanks.

    Viewing - Another Earth - a film by Mike Cahill

      16 August 2012 This independent film won a prize at Sundance 2011. I enjoyed it. Right from the start, the director uses images and diegetic sound to narrate. There is very little dialogue at the start but the story builds as the two principal characters lives cross against the background of the discovery of a duplicate earth; with tragic results. I think this a very interesting film because of the way the story is told. It is very low budget so the director has used the locations provided by friends in the area of Connecticut . Despite this, the story unfolds dramatically and has the feeling of a well crafted narrative showing the interaction between a lonely girl who has tragically and negligently killed a mother and child in a traffic accident. After spending four years in jail, her clumsy attempts at redemption by contacting John, the grieving father, her weakness in being unable to admit to him who she is, all build the tension towards the climax of the film where Rhoda meets herself after the two Earths send travellers to each others planets. At this point the film ends, leaving the viewer to contemplate the nature of the possibility of parallel existences. Tragedy, love and a sort of resolution has been found. John taking Rhoda's place on the exchange flight to seek his wife and son on the new planet and the other Rhoda arriving on Earth indicate that at the point at which the two planets recognise each other's existence, the parallel nature of their existence ends. The debate about the nature of the universe and existence will continue.

    Sunday, 5 August 2012

    Project 9 – Light and Colour

    Exercise 11: Atmosphere Scene 1

    Objective: To record two short scenes to demonstrate the creation of atmosphere.

    Notes: For my first scene I decided to attempt to recreate the scene from “I’ve Loved You So Long” which shows a tree outside a window blowing in the wind and rain.


    I the film it serves to break the tension between the two sisters arguing as one points out the scene to the other.

    In my sequence, I’m hoping it will demonstrate discomfort and the sense of relief that the viewer is inside out of the rain.

    I had two shots to include here, the first was through the glass unfocused with the rain making distinct streaks across the frame. The sound for this shot was just the noise of the rain. The second shot was focused on the raindrops on the outside of the pane, photographed from inside with the branches of  the tree moving in the wind. The sound on this shot was quite distracting so I muted it and extended the track of the first shot onto a loop to play over the whole length of the shot.


    Rain from Richard Down on Vimeo.

    I think this has worked very well despite the changeable light. (the weather on the day was sunny spells and squally showers). The first shot was quite dark and I wanted to highlight the very light streaks of the rain as they fell diagonally across the frame. The second shot has more light in it from refraction, you can see from the bottom left there is a patch of brightness as the clouds are breaking up.

    Exercise 11: Atmosphere Scene 2

    From the list in the course notes, I chose A Stalker Arrives. I wanted to create an atmosphere of threat and uncertainty. This sequence is based on an experience I had many years ago (as a victim, not a perpetrator). I experimented with the light inside and achieved what I wanted. The light outside was from a 60w exterior tungsten light fitting. It actually has an amber glass in it so the light is probably more orange than usual. The mono directional light works well to provide highlights to the shadowy figure

    I had three takes to get this right. My first attempt was too long and there was insufficient light at floor level to show the note clearly. I was able to place a reflector below the camera and l placed an LCD array in front of it to put light into the space below the door. This meant that when I zoomed in on the note, it could be more easily read. The extra light also had an unexpected but eerie effect as it reflected in the glasses of my stalker as he put his face close to the window. The second take was a bit clumsy, the stalker dropped the note before putting it through the letter box and the zoom into the note was a bit jerky. My final takes worked pretty well and I edited it down to less than a minute.




    Stalker from Richard Down on Vimeo.

    The only other blogs I could access for this exercise were by Stuart McQuade and Paul Burgess.

    Stuart has used people in both of his scenes, chosen from the list and used actors and a crew for his second scene. I liked them both. The mundane day in the office was just that. I’ve had those and recognised the feeling immediately. The lighting and camera work was very effective. I was a little distracted by the back of the mans head being out of focus. I think I would have gone in closer to the monitor and had less of the figure in the shot.

    The restaurant scene was not as romantic as I anticipated. Perhaps the dialogue could have been less tongue in cheek but the editing I felt was effective and Stuart crammed a lot into his short scene. I did find that the waiter threw a shadow over the man’s face as he served the food. Stuart was working literally with his actor’s backs against the wall. I wondered why he didn’t use one of the central tables in the restaurant and he could have made more effective use of his lights by having access all around the table.

    Depression is a very difficult emotion/atmosphere to convey. In Pauls first sequence all I got was boredom until the man lay down and curled up on the bed. The dark foreboding of the room helped but perhaps I was expecting more from the actor.

    Paul’s second sequence, A Stalker Arrives, gave a good narrative as the man crept around the outside of a building. I would liked to have seen him actually do more than just arrive but there is the mood of furtiveness about the scene.

    Budget and time would allow me to perfect my scenes. The first sequence was reliant on the weather, the rainfall and the wind direction. Time would have perhaps allowed better planning, budget would have made very little difference as I was at nature’s mercy.

    The second would have been filmed in a location with a wider hallway. I acted the scene myself, controlling the camera remotely but the tripod and reflector were as wide as the hall so I had major difficulty getting behind the camera between takes. It would have been nice to have some exterior lighting that I could control.

    Lighting is an important element in filming but no less so than the composition and colour. All three elements combine to make a successful shot.

    Thursday, 2 August 2012

    Project 9 – Light and Colour

    I watched the film “Stranger Than Fiction” an found these examples of changing light levels in a scene:
    image    image
    Action motivates change: Harold reaches for the light and turns it off.

    image   image
    The source is shown in the shot: The garage door lifts and floods the space with light.

    image   image
    Represents an emotional or abstract state: As Karen Eiffel writes the final scene in which Harold supposedly dies in a traffic accident, the camera pans right to the window and the scene fades to white.

    Use of  Colour

    I found these examples of the use of colour representing :

    • change of atmosphere between scenes
    • emotion of a character
    • general mood or atmosphere of the film as a whole
    • a range of feelings, emotions or atmospheres such as love, fear power or joy


    From the Film “Sphere

    image   image


    Set in an underwater habitat the colour blue showed the general mood and atmosphere, a cold inhospitable environment,


    while red showed fear and danger.

    image   image

    From the film “Atonement” there was a change of atmosphere between scenes, cold blue lighting is used as Bryony is left to contemplate the consequences of her lie. In the following scene Robbie is arrested and she runs to the window. The anticipation is that she may tell the truth and the change of lighting reflects this change of mood but she remains silent with the voice of Robbie’s mother screaming “liar” echoing in her head.


    The emotion of the character is shown (sadness, anxiety) here in blue light as Cecilia waits for Robbie’s return from France on the beach in Sussex.

    I’ve watched two films and not been able to come up with all four of the examples. No doubt they exist in various manifestations. I’ll note then in my log as I come across them.

    Away – Study Visit to Oxford–28th July 2012

    The visit started at the Jam Factory for coffee. (Former home of Frank Cooper's preserves including "Oxford Marmalade" , now a bar and restaurant) OCA Tutor Sharon Boothroyd introduced herself and we started with introductions and a short history of our involvement with photography. The discussion continued with, amongst other things, how we use photography and why we are passionate about it. We named our favourite photographers and talked about what we liked about their work. On my list I included Cartier Bresson, Sebastao Salgado, Bill Brandt and Geoffrey Crewdson. I could also have included Bruce Guilden and Joel Meyerwitz whose New York street photography I admire.

    Amano talked about the work of Raghu Rai and Jeff Wall. I need to research these photographers, their work sounds interesting. At the end of our discussions we walked up to Art Jericho to look at "Away" , an exhibition showing Sharon Boothroyd's series "If you get married again will you still love me?" and Tim Crooks' photographic essay on West Park Asylum. We viewed the photographs of both artists and took a break for lunch.

    When we returned, Sharon gave a short talk on her work, including the current exhibition. She outlined how the idea came to her and initially that she had tried to use real fathers and children but that it was very difficult so she opted for the idea of using friends and a 'setting' to stage the ideas of the words spoken to separated fathers by their children. The exhibition consists of seven prints five of which show the father (or in one case the legs) and the child while the other two show just the child, isolated, moody and in situations associated with being kept somewhere they don't want to be; sitting at the bottom of the stairs in that no-mans-land between adult space and your space (i.e upstairs in your room) or standing against the front door making your presence felt by being in the way, a symbolic stand at the portal preventing entrance or exit.

    One of the group mentioned that the portrayal of the fathers in the pictures represented (to him) an idealised view of fathers as mothers would like to see them reacting to their children i.e. caring, concerned and supportive. Sharon's blog on WeAreOCA explores this further. I was particularly interested in this topic as a separated father although as I explained in the discussion, I only recall a withering look from my eldest son when he realised I was spending a lot of time with a new friend after his mother and I separated. It was interesting to hear Sharon's take on this during her talk Representations of the Real. I have taken the liberty of pasting the quote she added to her blog below. I found this a good summary of what is required when I go beyond simple representation in my photography.

    "While painters have the amazing ability to imagine something and create it on paper straight from the imagination, photographers have to find something that actually exists, take their camera to a relatively close proximity and make the image without an obstruction getting in the way. Photographers have to be physically present with their subject. The problem is; How can you be physically present with an idea?

    Photographers have to find something that represents that idea before they can begin to create anything. In some ways this can be extremely limiting and frustrating but at the other end of the spectrum it can open the mind to new ways of thinking and interpreting what is real and new ways of representing that reality. In fact, by defamiliarising an idea using a different means of representation, I believe it creates a more engaging and interesting body of work."

    From the collection, one image stood out which may or may not be a stereotypical scenario but perhaps one all fathers would recognise. The teenaged girl and her father sitting at the cafĂ© table. Communication has definitely broken down, the body language, the untouched portion of chips, the detached gazes in to the distance, all point to the gulf that exists between them. Fellow student Gill  liked the use of colour in this series. I agree, I think it gives an immediacy that black and white doesn't deliver for this type of photography. (that's another discussion entirely).

    Tim Crooks exhibit was enjoyable too. Picking out the evidence of the long gone human presence in the photographs, clothes, abandoned suitcases, jigsaw pieces on a corroding table, the word DUCK spelt out on the floor in red letters, all sit amongst the decay, peeling paint, flooded floors and dilapidation. There was a severe sense of loss. The word Asylum has a newer connotation these days but to me it brings to mind the fact that this place was a home, a place of safety for many who were unable to function in society. The passing of this type of institution is to be celebrated but to some it was the only home they may have known. That just adds to the overwhelming sense of sadness.

    Several of the group then walked down to the Old Power Station to visit the Exercise Djibouti exhibition. I'm afraid I only lasted 10 minutes. A video of virtual soldiers running around a figure of eight track in the desert as the camera pans slowly round the site did not engage my imagination or interest. This is a shame because I am studying Digital Film Production and I thought their might be more of interest. Tea and cake back at the Jam factory and the bus back to Fyfield was more appealing.

    In conclusion I found this study visit very useful. I have continued my exploration of photographic art, art photography, call it what you will and have yet another insight into the ways in which photography can be used to present ideas and narrative.

    Monday, 30 July 2012

    Project 9 Light and Colour

    Exercise: Reflected light
    Rather than repeat the exercises I did last year for Art of Photography, I will post the link to my TAoP blog:
    During my projects and assignments,  if I find new lighting effects and solutions to problems, I will record them in this blog.

    Wednesday, 25 July 2012

    Project 8: Balance

    Viewing: I chose to watch an episode of Wallander to find the examples listed in the course notes.
    image     image
    These two images demonstrate the rule of thirds, Kurt’s eye line is on the intersection and he is looking to the left of the camera position; “look room”. In the second frame, the car travels along the road in the background from right to left, turns into the centre of the frame and swings round and stops on the intersection of thirds bottom left. This is quite an interesting device which gives the car some time in the frame to establish the change of  location.

    I have included this frame for its use of light and shadow to create depth in the scene. From within the crime scene we see the car pull up outside. There is just enough space through the broken window to show Wallander climbing from the car and the dark shadow on the left suggests menace or the unknown waiting for the detectives’ insightful mind to enlighten the viewer.

    This frame is the establishing scene for a dialogue between Kurt and his daughter Linda as they sit down for a meal.
    image  image
    The conversation starts amicably and the balance is typical with the figures to left and right of their respective frames.
    As the discussion becomes more heated, both figures are shown in the frame. There are some important gestures which need to be shown from both characters.
      image  image
    These frames are in the order shown. At the height of  the argument, the framing changes so that both characters appear to be  back to back until Linda declares that they should not be arguing but concentrating on the search for her missing friend Anna when the sequence returns to  the normal left right framing of the dialogue.

    In this frame, Kurt is entering a farmhouse to meet Anna. The balance gives “walk” room to the left and also a dark shadow, introducing tension as Kurt walks into the unknown.

    I thought this was an unusual use of an over the shoulder two shot. It is quite tight but very much to one side of the frame. Wallander is confronting Monika, Anna’s mother, with the effects of keeping the truth about Anna’s father’s suicide from her. The space to the right gives room for Kurt’s gestures while the strong side lighting on Monika's face enables the viewer to see her reaction to Kurt’s questions.
    Conclusions: This was a good exercise and I have learned to look at framing and balance in a different way. I shall continue to watch films and learn more about composition, depth, balance and the meaning that can be inferred from their subtle combinations.