Friday, 23 March 2012

Technological Convergence/Impact on the Film Industry

Just using this to throw down some notes; I still need to write up the A&I question response so I thought it'd make sense to dump all the relevant information I have so far in one place. Am going to throw down some things I find now in my own words here too (although copy and paste is useful for tons of different things like saving time, transferring files and developing new Call of Duty games, it's important for this to be somewhat original for the sake of being the base of this essay).

When multiple technologies are employed together to complete tasks. In this case, it refers to the number of different technologies which can benefit film production.

Use in Film-making
Production: Not too sure on this one, but I'll have a shot. The most obvious one to me is that both on-set film-making equipment (think cameras and microphones) and post-production equipment (computers, editing software) can be used to produce the film itself. Also things such as music scores/soundtrack production and newer video presentation formats (high definition, 3D) apply additional uses of technology to produce the film. Video production/sound production/graphic design programs can all run from the same kinds of machines, could be beneficial in cutting costs in regards to equipment.

Marketing: Pretty much everything to do with the film's marketing will have been done with technology of some description, but most commonly: film posters, official trailers, design of merchandise (this also relates to synergy; third parties producing t-shirts/soundtrack albums/videogames/etc. will use additional technology), web presence (official website, social networking pages etc.).

Distribution: Physical products no longer necessary, as the web allows content to be both acquired and used from the same device - think web enabled media players e.g. iPod - can connect to iTunes to buy films, then allow the user to play said films using the iPod's video player. Additionally, streaming services such as Netflix can be used across a growing number of formats including videogame consoles (Wii/3DS/Xbox 360/PlayStation3/PlayStation Vita), Operating Systems (Windows/Mac OS X/Android etc.) and general media devices (such as Apple TV). Apple TV is an interesting one on the basis that it can show videos from both free streaming websites such as Vimeo and YouTube and videos from subscription or purchasing based sources like Netflix and iTunes. Often film trailers are uploaded to official YouTube accounts; these trailer videos can mention that the film is available to buy on iTunes etc.

 iTunes' rating system is incredibly beneficial as it is a modern day word-of-mouth (even though it can be unreliable).

Brings risks - media devices having quick and easy access to the internet makes it easier to access unauthorised copies of films; institutions do not profit from this.

Slumdog Millionaire
Production: Original music was produced for the film; this would have been produced externally and later dubbed into the film. As music plays a fair part in creating the mood and tone of a film, Slumdog has benefitted massively from being able to make use of non-diegetic BGM in this way.

Marketing: FoxSearchlight have released trailers for the film on their official YouTube channel, as well as videos of director Danny Boyle discussing different matters regarding the film (such as the child actors etc.). This is highly beneficial to the promotion, as YouTube reaches a massive audience.

Multiple promotional images and posters have been produced and distributed amongst a variety of different regions. These are different as they are all designed to attract the target audience of certain local areas.

Distribution: Has suffered a fair amount of harm from piracy - statistics published by the BBC suggest that it was in the top ten most torrented films as of August 2009.

The film is available on iTunes for £7.99. Has received overwhelmingly positive feedback on iTunes' customer reviews which could give a positive outlook on the film to potential consumers.

Has also been released on DVD and Blu-Ray Disc.

Mr. Bean's Holiday
Production: As with Slumdog this has original music composed for the film,

Marketing: Also had official trailers produced. In addition, an official website was set up which features screenshots from the film and downloadable wallpapers featuring the title character.

Distribution: Is available on iTunes for £6.99. Unlike Slumdog the comments actually work against the film's favour as the reactions are mixed (the fact one of the comments is "I DEMAND A REFUND! I GOT THIS IPOD FOR MY BDAY AND UR SCAMMING ME!!!!!" suggests that people have not put much... thought into their opinions, and that many are irrelevent).

Was physically released on both DVD and HD DVD (the latter of which is now defunct, suggesting that physical distribution is not as reliable as it once was).


Mr. Bean's Holiday - US Trailer Analysis

Because this blog needs to use different forms of media/be interesting etc.. I hate my voice. I am also terrible at commentary in general and so you'll hear lots of "ermmmm" and "like" throughout where I lose my trail of thought.

My case study work is pretty terrible as of now. This needs fixing so I think I'll make a point of fixing it up now. As with before, copyrighted material is used for educational purposes and therefore should be covered by Fair Use.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Coursework Update 10 - Insert Title Here

Today we've been working on the titles for the film opening, which will play during the opening musical sequence as Luke, Oliver and Samir are stumbling down the road.

The credits in the titles cover:

- Director
- Producer
- Editor
- Cast
- Photography
- Sound supervision
- Soundtrack performance

There have been problems with doing this (as usual -_-), which involve

  • Rendering - this takes ages, and I am impatient. The immense time it takes to render means it's unpractical to do so to check each individual piece of text, meaning that some of our title placements have been done using the professional technique we know as guesstimation.
  • Title placement - as above, due to our right justification of all the titles it's important that they are consistently placed right down to the pixel. Without being able to preview this is difficult to do.
  • Fonts - it's taken us ages to pick a font for the title. The window in FCP conveniently doesn't have a preview so it's a case of just going through each of the fonts we thought had cool names. We have finally made a decision (for now at least) - the names and institution names are in a fairly simple serif font - this way it's fairly professional looking, but not in a way that takes itself too seriously. The "The Lads" title is placed after all of these in a scratchy-looking handwriting font (Chalkduster!); again so that it doesn't take itself too seriously. This is a light-hearted film opening, so it feels appropriate.
Am currently in the process of making yet another export; trying out a few different settings, so that we have something I can upload to the SRF YouTube channel to show these titles in action. That way later on I can post said video onto the blog, because this blog is supposed to be interesting (as much as I love making excessively long written posts, the end reader probably doesn't share this interest.) 

Also, the rest of this post is likely to be off-topic waffle because the thing is going to take another 5 minutes to export so I have some time to kill. Apologies for this. Final Cut really frustrates me sometimes, especially when it takes ages to load up/render different things etc. (though I think this is more down to the RAM on the Mac itself. Sadly the child lock things on the system here block me from checking the actual specs, this really annoys me). It's also annoying that YouTube is blocked; I understand that the school has blocked it due to the Educational Use ruling in their contract with the grid, but in this case it is actually for educational use, and it would allow me to upload stuff here rather than have to use the horrifically slow connection I have at home. Fun times.

And... I believe it's done. Over and out.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012



As it's necessary to highlight the problems which have arisen during the production of the coursework film, I felt I should make mention of the most prominent issue we've had so far, which has been constantly reoccurring.

This is that everything seems to be really time consuming, with a lot of waiting around involved. This is especially the case with both rendering and uploading.

Rendering: Because of the strength of the filters we're using, this takes ages. Sometimes it feels like once it has started it isn't going to have finished until the outside world are all driving around in hover cars. As mentioned before, we've tried to work around this by cutting up the longer clips and rendering them individually so I don't have time to get impatient, but it still isn't 100% effective. It's also frustrating how making a minor edit (say, moving the text in a logo from one side of the screen to the other) means the particular clip needs rerendering. Fun.

Uploading: This is down to my connection, and the fact our clips are filmed and exported in 1080p HD. Am currently waiting on another of our test exports. Problem is, uploading at each stage is absolutely necessary because the videos all behave completely differently depending on whether they are played local in FCP's canvas or in YouTube's player post-encoding, so we need to ensure that everything will look right in the final release.

So yeah, waiting for technology to do its job = not fun.


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Coursework Update 9 - WIP Review

After I finally managed to find a way of getting our first export sent home I went about getting it on YouTube. I knew that YouTube and .mov files weren't the best of friends, but I wasn't expecting this to happen.

It became pretty obvious that I was going to have to take a different approach to this, so using what is bound to be one of the most awkward-sounding workarounds in the history of awkward sounding workarounds I decided to just load it into iMovie and use the built-in YouTube uploader. This did actually happen.

Here's the export once it started working -

As you can tell, there is plenty of work left to be done!

Firstly is the quality - this is poor in the current version because I am impatient and I wanted to upload something reasonably quickly, so I knocked it down in iMovie. The raw files are 1080p HD, as will the project be once we've finalised it.

The next thing to note is the shaky camera; unfortunately we will not have the opportunity to reshoot most of the shots considering Oliver now lives in a faraway land. I am currently in the process of looking to see if there are any possible ways of working around this in post-production, will update if successful.

Sound - mentioned this one before; we need to record some overdubs for the dialogue. The non-diegetic BGM seems to be working well though.

1:23 - as I'd predicted before from the patterns we'd noticed upon exporting the prelim the lag in Final Cut is actually making us believe you see less of the shot than you actually do. This particular shot needs trimming down, methinks.

1:37 - holy glitches! Not sure what happened here, will need to look into it. Seems like the transition didn't render properly. This part also needs an angelic chorus sound dubbed over for humorous effect.

1:51 - same again, possibly need to do something about the rendering on the filter.

2:23 - this part hasn't wanted to play nice at all for some reason, we may have to remove it from the timeline then put it back on.


Logo Concepts

These are not final; they are just some concepts I've thrown together.

EDIT: Scrapping these; they are beyond terrible.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Coursework Update 8 - Live & Learn

We did a bit more editing work today, which consisted almost entirely (by which I mean, entirely) of applying the WideTime filter to the final shot of the opening. This is what I have been referring to by names such as the "drunk filter", the "whooshy filter" and the "whooshy drunk all over the place effecty-thing", among other similar technical terminology.

This filter is a creative decision we made on the basis that it made the particular shot more involving; as the characters are stumbling down the street drinking, it made sense to distort the visuals so that they representative of the atmosphere in the scene. If I am being honest, I think this seems to work in practice.

There was a rather big problem with this though - it's a long piece of video, and the filter takes ages to render, meaning the end of last week's session and today's whole two-hour editing session consisted of rendering.

However, a combination of the render times and our impatience led to a sudden epiphany - instead of whacking the filter on full blast throughout the whole piece, we could use the razor blade to slice the shot into a series of smaller pieces, meaning that they'd all be rendered individually for a shorter period of time each. From a creative viewpoint, however, it meant that we could adjust the settings for the filter for each slice, making the distortion become more apparent as they drunk more and more; becoming even more of an accurate representation of what would be happening in the scene to the viewer.

In other news, I now have an early export file of our work at home; I'll get this uploaded as soon as is possible. This particular export does have a fair few problems with it, which I'll outline once I have it posted.


Friday, 2 March 2012

Film Opening Analysis 1 - Marmaduke

For the sake of the coursework piece, it is necessary to analyse some professional works to see some techniques commonly employed for creating an effective film opening. To do this I'm going to watch the first couple of minutes of a few films and write about some of the different things I've noticed upon observation.

Should clarify a couple of things - firstly, I very, very rarely watch films so not only have I had to borrow some DVDs off of my brother but also most of this is completely new to me (the work I've currently contributed to the group's coursework consists mainly of logical decisions, as opposed to thoughts from observation. Hopefully doing these posts can fix this!). Secondly I should note that I will be posting screenshots from the films on the blog because no copyright law in the universe is going to stop me I believe that this is legal under the "fair use" legislation which says "it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports".

Here goes then - the first film I'm going to look at is Marmaduke.

The opening shot and transition is something particularly interesting; the first thing we see is a more or less blank beige canvas, which becomes animated in a way which makes it appear like a school hallway is being drawn on the screen. Once the 'drawing' is complete, we see a paint-splatter style action-match transition to a live action shot of the actual school hallway. The animation immediately gives the impression that the next few minutes at least of film are going to be fairly light-hearted.

This next shot shows large numbers of people walking from behind and into the camera, all out of focus except for one character in the centre - which tells us that he is going to have a significant role.

This shot is further back than the previous, which reveals to the audience that the previously-mentioned character is significantly taller than any of the other people around him. This makes him appear particularly awkward and out of place, once again drawing attention to his character. The name of the film appears with a stylised lowercase "a" in the middle of the all-caps formatted title. This is potentially to emphasise the character's height even more, as he is framed just behind said "a" in the shot.

The next thing we see is a shot of this character leaning over to a locker - this is a close-up shot, which draws the viewer's attention to the action. It also distracts attention away from what else is happening in the set - making the next shots more effective:

Here we see that whilst in the process of accessing the locker, the character has been barged out of the way. This once again reinforces the idea of the character being notably awkward.

This wide shot seems to be included for the sake of reinforcing the school setting as it shows the character in a classroom. We can see the written credits appearing from now - the VA's credit appears on the left as to avoid blocking the action (the character sitting down on right).

This uncomfortably placed two-shot is particularly effective at creating a humorous response; once again, it emphasises the height of the character by placing him next to a shorter woman, which makes the two-shot seem noticeably awkward and out of place - just like the character himself.

I'll clarify more about why this shot is so effective when I get around to discussing the dialogue; but for now let's just say it's there to draw the attention away from the human male in the previous shots and on to the Great Dane in this shot. This transition of emphasis is especially effective as it cuts to a fairly close-up shot of the dog which means the viewer has no choice but to shift their attention to him.

This moves to a shot of said dog walking in a garden, with the credit text now moving to the right, as the action is occurring on the left.

 Later on in the intro we see an over-the-shoulder shot which introduces another character, from Marmaduke the dog's level.

As with before, the text appears out of the way of the action in the shot (in this case, Marmaduke walking into the room).

The way in which sound is used throughout this scene is pretty fascinating. The vast majority of sound in this opening is non-diegetic, consisting of both a BGM song and a voice-over narration.

This narration directly addresses the viewer in a way that not only breaks the fourth wall, but attacks it with a wreaking ball. During the first few shots were the teenage boy is shown in school, the commentry discusses school life and being an out of place teenager, giving the impression that this voice belongs to the boy himself. Then we hear a vinyl-scratch sound effect and the background music cuts out, changing the pacing of absolutely everything happening on screen. This is the part where the camera suddenly cuts to the dog. Turns out it was the dog talking the whole time! The dog introduces himself as Marmaduke and the rest of the opening sequence consists of Marmaduke introducing the family he lives with whilst the final written credits are displayed.

I actually think this seems particularly effective. My main reasoning for this is because it works as a lighthearted way of introducing the audience to the film and gives them an idea of what to expect. The little "it must be this guy talking... oh wait, no it's not" thing seems like a good idea - sure, it's no The Reveal trope, but it is an engaging way of injecting some mild surprise humour into the scene.

There is actually a noticeable similarity between Marmaduke's opening and the opening to our coursework film - and this revolves around the way in which we suddenly break the pacing of the BGM for humorous effect. In Marmaduke's case it is where the focus cuts away from the human towards the dog; in our case it is when Samir stops to put his hat on, bringing the attention to the personality of his character.

I'll follow this up with analyses for additional films in the coming days.


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Reasons why Disney is terrible

Sir, I'm aware that you suggested I keep my thoughts towards Disney to a minimum for the sake of letting people enjoy living in their little fantasy worlds, and hey... I've lasted ten minutes and now have to continue. Sorry! I'll try and get some relevant audiences and institutions stuff in here but can't really guarantee the success rate.


There are a number of reasons why I simply have nothing nice to say about Disney as a company. This is due to personal opinion as well as my complete bafflement at how society reacts to Disney and its products.

Firstly is the actual content of the products themselves. This squeaky-clean image the traditional Disney animated films have (think Lion King, the Little Mermaid etc.) does nothing to help me take them seriously, because at the end of it all they are are just dumbed down forms of entertainment.

That may sound like total blasphemy to the Disney worshippers out there, but it's true on the basis that all Disney tend to have done is taken a traditional fairytale (which are bland enough as it is) and dumbed them down so much that nothing of interest happens - so that there is nothing to upset all those little kids out there.

I'm not saying this blindly, I was forced to sit and watch a whole load of this rubbish at my primary school and even as a child I could see right through it. The only thing any of the Disney animated films have going for them in my eyes is "look at how bright and colourful and child-friendy our animation is!". Bringing me to the next point -

Child-friendly = good?
One of my biggest annoyances with Disney is the way society reacts to its products. This is especially the case with parents bringing up their children with Disney products as a norm. Picture this: you have a small child who is currently far too young to think for themselves, and is also too young to have received any kind of education about the way the world works. Surely you'd want to encourage them to develop an intelligent, logically-thinking outlook on life? Right? So why does it make sense to plonk them down in front of films which give them the generic "blah blah princess blah blah mild danger blah blah hero blah blah NOW BUY ALL OF OUR MERCHANDISE" message? It's as though parents are deliberately encouraging their children to take a consumerism-driven lifestyle where they buy whatever is put in front of them.

I genuinely believe that because of this Disney are a much bigger threat to society than any other media agent - including the likes of representation in drama and News International etc.. Why is this?

Because Disney gets to them before they are able to think for themselves.

If someone is older and reads a completely biased news report, there's a fair chance that they'd sit back and think "yeah, this is a load of [word of choice goes here]". If it's a small child becoming more and more obsessed with Disney they will have no way of working out that it's just consumer exploitation, but will instead think "I've got to get mum/dad/etc to buy ALL the Disney products!". This vast range of synergy sells a whole load of pointless products which only boosts Disney's power further. By this, I mean that the child will not just want to watch the Lion King film. He'll want the toys, he'll want the soundtrack record, he'll want the posters, he'll want clothes with the characters on them, he'll want pretty much anything with Lion King branding on it.

Society's attitude to this doesn't help. If you ask pretty much anyone about Disney (with myself being the extreme minority) they'll give you the same comment about how wonderful the films are, with no accompanying reason other than that they're "classics". What they mean by this is that they themselves went through this consumerism-fuelled brainwashing as a child and are still unaware of it. It is also likely to be because they just have this pleasant memory of their childhood where all they had to do was sit down and watch near-infinite numbers of children's films. This also annoys me, because I honestly believe that all the childhood phase of life is is being a less intelligent version of your adult life.

Let's look at this advert for the Disney theme parks.

This shows just how much brainwashing Disney have done to children over the years of them being alive. Although they are just staged scenes for an advertisement, one can see from the reaction of the children that this whole "Disney is a great thing. All hail Disney." ideology has been bullied into them from before they could talk, with the idea of being surrounded by Disney characters wherever you go in the theme park being the ultimate goal of which they've been trained to aim for.

All this does is - yet again - make Disney more and more powerful, controlling more and more of society's ideas.

I mentioned this a bit earlier, but Disney rely on the concept of building obsessions around certain things as their primary marketing technique. This means that we have a bunch of kids who religiously hand over their money for merchandise/soundtrack CDs/T-shirts for the High School Musical nonsense. The problem? They're completely oblivious to how terrible it all is. Anyone who has even the most basic musical knowledge can tell that soundtracks from the likes of High School Musical and Hannah Montana are just manufactured digitally for the sake of selling the stuff, as opposed to having any musical skill put into them. Heck, they even manage to make Nickelback seem talented, and that definitely takes some doing. It's as though someone at Disney has identified a hole in the market for beyond-terrible music and thought "okay, we can dedicate our new programmes to this for the next few years!". 

There is actually a whole ton more I could say about Disney being evil, but for the sake of avoiding even more wrist pain I'm going to stop here - so tl;dr: Disney is a massive threat to society as it can socialise people into consumerism whilst they are vulnerable.