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.

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