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.


  1. Rainy Day
    I got the impression of someone being fed up and stuck inside (when they really wanted to be outside). It felt like someone was staring out of the window wondering about 'what could have been'. You use of audio (someone sighing) also adds to the bored/fed up feeling.

    The exposure level also seems just right - not too bright, but not too dark; a typical overcast, rainy day.

    Stalker Arrives
    The scene initially felt a little long, but I think this is very original idea. As we've seen with other stalker student film, it's often the camera following someone - this idea feels totally new and fresh! And your use of audio and props really make it stand out. The door bell even sounds a little eerie… And I felt that having to read the letter allows the audience to interact with the scene.

    The rim lighting on the stalker's hood stands out nicely. And the way his glasses are visible (via reflection) adds a really spooky touch - I really liked this! Personally, I would have used a cut to the letter rather than a zoom (or possibly filmed the bottom of the door while the letter fell into position on the floor), but that's just personal preference.

    There's some camera noise towards the end of the film, too. (button presses)

  2. Your interpretation of my rainy day differed to my intention but no matter, your interpretation was just as valid. I'm pleased about your comments on the Stalker,as I mentioned, it is based on personal experience so maybe that's why it looks and feels different. A cut to the letter would work, you are right. I must think more about th alternatives. My thinking was the viewer should be teased a bit before they could read the note properly. Heighten the tension a bit.

  3. Hi Richard - sorry for delay. I see in your rain film one of those wonderful English summer days, bright with showers but windy! I would have liked to hear the sound too but otherwise, I could feel the weather.
    Your stalker film was quite scary! Not a nice feeling to be stuck inside with someone at the door. I like the way you've put the audio together - the silence leaves the viewer tense, the door bell frightened and just the sound of the paper coming through the door is chilling. Certainly a lot of atmosphere there!

  4. Thanks for your feedback Margaret - appreciated as always. You have given me an idea about creating a new sound track. If the wet and windy weather contines, I'll try to record a suitable track to go over the top of the sequence.

  5. Hi Richard,
    The rain: I like the second shot where the droplets slipping down. I like the abstract feeling in this sequence. I heard the breathing but I did not believe that he is looking through the glass. I got a feeling that something behind the camera is something more interesting (just my thought). I also heard some sound like an V8 engine roaring in it. Is there such a sound or I am totally tired :-)?
    The stalker: I like it. I was completely baffled when I saw it first time. I thought it is a joke but when the message revealed it nicely surprised me. I would turned the light off to make an atmosphere more scary. I like how the blurred stalker and the glasses gives him a ghostly appearance.

  6. Thanks for looking Emil, the original soundtrack contained a sigh that was me behind the camera. I seem to sigh and grunt a lot unconsciously. It must be my age! I think you did hear an engine, my house is only 25m from a busy road. I need to try and pay more attention to eliminating those extraneous sounds.