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.