Wednesday, 29 February 2012

I am a terrible person.

(off-topic post)

Need to apologise for the missing posts I should have done analysing the opening few minutes of some films. I'm not going to try and get out of this with some pathetic excuse about my DVDs getting eaten by a dog or the internets breaking etc., the fact that I haven't done it is unacceptable, especially considering that my existing film/institutions study work as of yet already leaves a fair bit to be desired...

On a slightly more positive note, I've talked my brother into lending me a few of the DVDs he had in his room and I'm going to analyse these by Tuesday's lesson the very latest.


Monday, 27 February 2012

Coursework Update 7 - Bright lights, colours all around

One of the problems we'd identified early on is that with the conditions we were shooting in, some of the shots looked a little dark and grey. This was mostly unavoidable due to the limitations of the school building being poorly lit in the inside shots, and the weather affecting the outside shots.

During post-production it is going to be necessary to artificially change the lighting and saturation of some of the shots, both for the sake of making them more interesting, and for continuity (in that lighting is consistent with the shots before and after it).

I had a shot at playing with some of the lighting in iMovie (it was either that or Pinnacle...) to see how easy it's going to be to 'rescue' some of this footage. Results:

(Original shot on the left, edited version on the right)

This shows that it is indeed possible to make a dull grey shot into something which is as colourful as a Gordon Ramsay programme. It is possible to enhance the colours and lighting further (which may be necessary in the second shot from the video) however I have avoided this as it is important to keep a certain degree of realism for the film to work.


Saturday, 25 February 2012

Coursework Update 6 - Meetup Scene

I thought it'd make sense to get some of the individual shots uploaded onto the YouTube channel, for the sake of showing some of the ways in which we've tried to get individual shots right, and some of the problems we've faced.

One of the scenes which took a bit of work to get right was the scene where Oliver, Luke and Samir meet up with each other in the car park - we decided having them all come from different directions was necessary as the previous shots had shown them in different locations, however the way in which this is presented needs to be right. We've been playing on the contrast between the way the characters are shown for humorous effect (they are shown to be trying to present themselves as "cool", yet there are things stopping this from working for them e.g. Luke walking into a door, Oliver tripping up). As this is the first scene where they are shown as a group, we needed to get the "cool" appearance - which could be achieved aesthetically by having them all reach the same point at the same time.

To get this right, we actually had a practice run without the camera so that everyone was the right distance away and was moving at the right speed. As Oliver was furthest, he'd start running towards the point first at my shout, then once he was a certain distance forward I'd nod to cue the others.

Here are some of our takes of this part -

As you can see from take #2 we once again faced the problem of working around other people on the site; this particular shot had to be cut short because a member of staff was coming our way from around the corner, making that particular shot useless.

The first shot was scrapped simply because my camerawork was terrible.

The third shot is the one we're using as it seems to be have steadiest camerawork, and the formation in which the characters are walking in as they pass the camera looks better for effect we were going for.


Friday, 24 February 2012

Lost my USB flash drive...

Possible chaos could have occurred here but thankfully a) most of the stuff we've been using has been running off Sir's hard drive and the camera, and b) I have a backup on my computer at home of the stuff that hasn't.

Because of this it doesn't matter in regards to coursework (except for however much that thing cost me, can't remember...) but I do need to find an additional backup device for the .fcp file itself (and resources) -  previously  I'd been saving on the hard drive, the memory stick and the Mac's internal hard drive. Obviously the Mac's HDD is unreliable as heck because anyone who happens to use the Mac can access it and make their own artistic contributions to it, but I'd just been saving it there as a potential last resort. Now going to have to either acquire a new memory stick for backing up the work or find the old one (I think I lost it in school though, so it possibly has a new owner now...)

tl;dr: I fail big time.


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Evaluation - Preliminary Assignment Full Analysis

A while back I posted a few brief notes regarding the preliminary, however that was too... short. More information/critical analysis coming now!

We've actually used a fair few different angles throughout the film:
0:00 Close up - not too keen on this shot; it does the job, but I feel the movement is fairly unnecessary (it seemed like a good idea to have the camera sort-of follow Oliver's movement - in retrospect, probably not the best idea ever as it only lasts 2 seconds and so it looks more like a camera wobble.)
0:02 Medium low-angle shot - shows movement from the previous shot accurately, though it looks a bit off-balance. This was before I found the useful wireframe tool; now I know about this, errors like this should be easier to avoid.
0:04 Close up - particularly effective for showing character's expression. Fairly stable too considering the camera wasn't rested on anything.
0:05 Close up - most accurate artist's render ever. Little bit shaky, but not to a point where it's distracting. The close-up was used to highlight the object in the shot (the drawings) for comedic effect.
0:07 High-angle shot - Used to 'reveal' Stephen's character who'd been obscured in all previous shots. The high angle shot looks above him whilst showing him as being in power by the way the shot is framed with him obviously being much higher (physically) than Luke (who he is being shown as being in charge of).
0:08 to 0:25 Over the shoulder shots (shot/reverse shot) - these alternating shots show the progression and pace of the conversation. I have to say that my camera work was particularly sloppy during the parts when I was filming from Luke's end of the table. This needs a bit of work for the final. In case you haven't noticed for the sake of consistency between shots from each end of the table, we actually filmed this entire exchange in full from each end and took alternating cuts from each shot.
0:25 Wide shot - If I'm being honest this shot seems a little unnatural after the previous shot/reverse shot - not necessarily that it's a bad shot, but because the previous shot had been from Oliver's end of the table, and all this shot does is jump forward a little. I should clarify, however, that the jar between the sound isn't actually an error, this shot is meant to show a skip in time (for the sake of showing that the loop conversation has been going on for ages).
0:45 Medium shot - Although this features mostly Luke talking (gibberish) we decided it would be better if we showed Oliver's reaction to said gibberish. This is another one of those shots where my camera work was particularly questionable...
0:54 Low angle - once again, to show Stephen's character as being in power in the scene. This is achieved by having the camera look up to him and have him shown as the only person in the shot (which stands out after the shot/reverse shot scenes showing the others in constant succession). To be honest, this shot could have benefited from a little colour correction.
0:57 Medium shot - fairly steady camera work if I must say so. Just shows Oliver in the shot to show him losing his patience.
1:00 High angle/medium - A moving shot; starts out looking down on Luke to show him revealing the gun, then has a fast moving jolt towards where Stephen is standing as he gets attacked for the sake of emphasising the action. I like how this shot works actually.
1:03 Close up - A continuation of the previous shot of Stephen falling - I am so glad that we missed what could have been a glaringly obvious continuity goof had Stephen's hand moved between shots...
1:04 Medium shot - Camera follows where the gun is on the screen, which draws the audience's attention towards it. Possibly should have had the camera move a little faster, however.
1:10 Medium shot - A kind of mirror of the previous shot, just showing Luke picking the gun back up, though with the camera staying stationary.
1:14 Wide shot - This was particularly interesting to film... the camera is held stationary whilst Luke and Oliver chase each other around the room. Yes. The idea was to keep the camera stationary during the action scene for the sake of highlighting just how chaotic it actually was. Towards the end of this shot we had a particularly funny moment where Oliver bumped into Stephen's 'corpse'... thankfully we were past where we needed to cut when this happened...
1:19 Wide shot - A move in position showing the continuation of the chase. The camera moves upwards slightly towards the end of the shot to keep the characters in the frame.
1:27 Close up - Yes, there is a slight continuity error here - Oliver was only just starting to stand up at the end of the previous shot, yet in this he is all the way up. I think we cut the previous shot a little early in editing. Aside from that, the tense lighting - whilst completely coincidental - works really well in the shot.
1:30 Close up - Another close up to show the contrasting facial expressions (Luke's vengeance compared to Oliver's fear in the previous shot).
1:31 Medium shot - Slight jump part way into this shot caused somewhere during the final rendering. Ugh. Works pretty well as the final shot, and the artificial visual freeze frame over the gun sound effect was for dramatic effect.
1:35 Grey screen - my camera work here is simply fantastic! The previous freeze frame disappears and is replaced by this to show that the action from the past scene is over, and by having a blank screen it leaves a cliffhanger open as to who died and who survived. Crazy internet speculation in 3...

The sound quality during the dialogue is particularly terrible and our camera should feel terrible. From this we have realised that in the final piece relying on the camera's microphone for dialogue simply isn't an option and that instead we need to dub in the voices.

In regards to mise-en-scene we thought it would work much better if we exaggerate the fact we are working with No Budget. The entire film was shot in a tiny room near the common room, with only a few lockers playing as support for the 'official' location. Rather than use the lack of available filming spaces as a burden to the film, we decided it'd be a better idea to play on it for comedic effect - this went on to inspire the other decidedly no budget features of the mise-en-scene, including using hand shapes as opposed to gun props, and  the incredibly detailed artistic masterpieces which are the case photos on the whiteboard.

Whilst this works well in this film, our final piece will not be as blatantly over the top, so more care will be taken in ensuring we use believable props - such as how we have looked into how we can create realistic looking wine by using apple juice and lemonade.

Throughout this there are very few traces of complex editing techniques on the basis that the film is meant to show a run through of consecutive events, as opposed to showing multiple simultaneous plot paths.

The main problem we faced involved the cuts - I don't believe that the Macs we have been using have sufficient RAM to efficiently support advanced video editing software like Final Cut Pro, which means that when we have been watching minor edits through the Canvas window it has been lagging. This led to us cutting some of the shots a little short thinking that the lag was just the system taking a while to show us the next shot, when in actual fact it was lagging over the top of the shot that was meant to be playing. This is something we need to be incredibly careful with in the final piece, as there isn't any way to check the state of this without having to continuously export the file.

Errr... yeah. About that... our lighting here is particularly inconsistent (this is what happens when you film in a small room using only natural light!). This was an oversight on our part, so we need to be aware of it in the final film. I have been reading FCP colour correction tutorials online for when we get to the shots in the final which will inevitably need enhancing.

Action Match
This could have potentially worked really well in the action scene so we considered using it; however after reviewing the possible shots we could use in the small location it was clear that it just wasn't going to look right. What I realise now that I meant by "this isn't going to look right" is that the only potential spaces we could have used for an action match setup would have required breaking the 180 degree rule (going by the way in which the characters were running around in a circle, on opposite sides - which would have damaged the bearings viewers would have previously developed). Saying that, I wasn't aware of the concept of the 180 degree rule so it was just based around gut instinct that those particular shots wouldn't look right, rather than because I was aware that it'd break a recognised guideline...

180 Degree Rule
I think we've avoided breaking this for the most part. During the initial shot/reverse shot sequence the camera is kept on one side of the characters, and the only time when it starts to move around the table is as the 'panic' moments are beginning to kick in - however this is done at a gradual pace, meaning that the viewer does not lose their bearings or their sense of location in the clip.

I mentioned the one most noticeable error earlier, however there is one near miss worth mentioning: just before the action scene, we see Luke picking up his gun, only for it to disappear in the next shot.  I believe this technically isn't an error on the basis that the sudden jump from slow moving, tense shots to the fast-paced action shot represents a slight time jump - with the fact that they initially threaten each other with guns only to go and chase each other around the room being for comedic effect.

Other Stuff
In regards to Stephen's character it's hit me that it kind of fills Bakhtin's Carnivalesque theory in that he is shown to have power over Luke in the first few shots in which he appears (by being staged standing up and staring forward) which gives the viewer the impression that he's a strong, dominant character; yet a minute or so later we see him get knocked down easily, with a completely inappropriate girlish scream for humorous effect, subverting the previous assumptions viewers had made.

Going back to the point I mentioned in the Mise-en-scene section regarding over exaggerating the no budget, there were a couple of other things which support this idea - the most prominent ones are the fact that the dubbed sound effects are blatantly freely available stock effects, and the "sound effect" whenOliver hits the buzzer - which was, in fact, our friend Samir making a "bzzz" noise.

Come to think of it, we could have actually played on the idea of the over-the-top fantasy/comedy a little more by having a character break the fourth wall in their dialogue - I had this idea that it'd be funny if after Luke pulled the gun out to have had Stephen address the camera and say "I think we can see where this is going..." or something just before being attacked. But eh, that's probably me.


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Coursework Update 5 - More editing, etc.

Earlier on we managed to get some more editing work done on the coursework draft; and managed to overcome some problems and put some new ideas together.

Firstly, upon continuing putting the shots we want to use in order we came across a particularly noticeable continuity error when Oliver picks up the wine bottle for the first time. This part is done over two shots - the first is a medium shot, and the second is a close-up of the bottle. The problem we noticed is that in the close-up shot he appears to be holding the bottle at a different angle to how he is in the first shot.

Naturally upon noticing this it seemed more than just a little annoying, especially as Oliver has moved away now so we don't have the option of just calling him to come down to reshoot the one scene.

Thankfully we're using Final Cut Pro which despite my annoyance at Apple over their... unusual practice of discontinuing their software in favour of an inferior "upgrade" is of great use as its Wireframe tool allowed us to just rotate the particular shot - then zoom in to eliminate the ugly, ugly black borders.

On the topic, we've had another couple of brainwaves regarding the actual content itself - the first is during that same wine bottle scene. We've decided to dub in an angelic-sounding vocal chorus for humorous effect - to give the impression that finding this wine bottle is the greatest thing that has ever happened to the lads in their life. I'm gonna try to get this put together ASAP.

The other notable thought we had came together accidentally, all thanks to my completely organised and structured approach to finding the effect I want in Final Cut (which, of course, is pressing every single button until I find the one I want). One of the effects we tried for the Great Wine Bottle Continuity Error Cover-Up Mission which didn't work as we wanted was a filter called Wide Time, which appears to distort the timing of the clip in an overlay to give give a kind of out-of-order, trippy look. Wouldn't work for the scene we were working on today, yet I believe it will work wonders during our title sequence, which sees Luke, Oliver and Samir stumbling down the road whilst drinking.

For the sake of this we'll forget that we live around Cheshunt and say that you don't often see teenage kids stumbling around drunk in broad daylight, so the all over the place filter will convey that this is an out-of-the-ordinary event to the viewer. This will be reinforced by the fact that this particular shot that we plan to use it on is a tracking shot which follows the lads down a fairly long pathway, so the idea is there that it should be a pretty simple walking scene, yet in actuality they are stumbling around all over the place, with the video filter exaggerating this. I'll post another update when we get to editing this to report how well it actually works.


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Ideology pt. 2

This is the long awaited follow-up to the previous thing...

Louis Althusser was a French Marxist sociologist who explored the concept of ideology. Ideology refers to the theory that social institutions (such as religion, the education system, and of course - the media) take control of people's thoughts and beliefs, thus overriding their individuality.

As the media is generally controlled by the bourgeoisie, it transmits 'ideals' which conveniently reinforce the class inequalities seen throughout society. This can be seen from media bias which can act as propaganda (Chomsky, 1992) and through class representation (below).

One of the most obvious examples of how the media can transmit 'ideals' is through the way the media represents different groups of people [LINK]. Mentioning the ideology theory and Barthe's mythologies theory will inevitably end up in a "chicken or the egg" argument - whilst Barthe says that the stereotype based representations are given to satisfy the audience's expectations, Althusser's ideology argument would suggest that those expectations only exist because the media has presented them to the audience previously.

The Marxist belief that the ruling class have control over the proletariat is heavily supported by this idea of ideology; the media presents the audience with plenty of justification as to why they should live their lives in a certain way. For example, if we go with the way that pretty much every programme ever made in the history of television has at some point had a romance based storyline, we can see that the media promotes having a partner to settle down as being an 'ideal' lifestyle. In actuality, this could be seen as taking advantage of how people are more inclined to aim for a good job if they have a partner (and eventually children) to look after, thus motivating the workforce.

Audiences & Institutions
I did previously touch on this in the previous post but it is somewhat relevant to mention again the way in which institutions make use of ideology to sell their products.

Institutions who have a product to sell need to convince the potential audience that it is worth buying - this is done through marketing. Successful marketing revolves around ensuring that as many people as possible buy the product; thus it is important to ensure that the marketing appeals to the masses.

This can be done by first spreading 'ideal' beliefs, then ensuring the product being sold meets the ideals. This is an example of institutional power; once they have created a desired ideal, they are free to market as many products as they feel the need towards this ideal, hence why sequels and spin-offs are usually commercially successful.

Post-modern/social action (interactionalist) theorists oppose the idea of ideology brainwashing the population on the basis that they feel that society is instead run on the actions of individuals; and that although the media as an institution may have the potential to promote certain beliefs, it is ultimately up to the individual as to whether they take on those communicated or not.


Friday, 3 February 2012

Coursework Update 4 - Even more music stuff...

Just had a spare bit of time so I thought I'd have a go at revising the theme - in the first version it dawned on me that the intro just... wasn't as good as it could be. I had a bit of a tinker with it --

Obvious change is that the guitar loop at the start isn't kept going for as long as before, because I'm sure that clashing with the drums was what was making it sound a little off time.

Not sure which is better to be honest; this or v1. I'm more inclined to say 2, but we'll make a solid decision as a group later on.

(On a slightly off-topic note to Sir - thanks for finding the Althusser info, I'll have a proper look through it over the weekend and continue with the post. Come to mention it, it appears I was going on more about socialisation than anything else there. Will correct as soon as possible.)

Thursday, 2 February 2012


This relates to the theory of ideology being communicated through the media. Sir mentioned a while back that it is a good idea to make the blog a bit more interesting, so I tried using one of these SlideShare embed things.

As I am particularly terrible at communicating through every medium of the "not writing" variety, I should clarify some of the points I've made here:

The ideology theory says that certain ideals are transmitted from the institution (the media product's creator) to the audience, which can influence the audience's thoughts and beliefs.

The institution can also take advantage of the audience's views of 'ideals', by creating products which appeal to those beliefs.


On another note, I am aware I have unacceptable lack of reference to Althusser's theories; this is because I have found little information about them that I can fully understand. As I find more relevant information I will post it.