Monday, 30 April 2012

Functions of Narrative (Propp)

Media productions generally rely heavily on the narrative (movement of plot), and this is especially the case in the film industry. Films are pretty much always used to tell a story (whether fictional or factual) and so the plot is pretty much the spine of how the film is presented.

Over time the narratives which have been employed have been analysed and it is becoming clearer that there are some plot attributes which can be observed in multiple productions.

One piece of work which this concept can be related to are the findings of Vladimir Propp, who, from studies of Russian folk stories, suggested that there are 31 functions which a narrative may make use of.

As we haven't extended our coursework film's story beyond the first two and a half minutes we haven't introduced any major plot devices, however we can still see examples of a few of the functions in what we have --

- Abstentation: This states that "One member of family absents himself or herself". Whilst this appears pretty vague, we can see that our leads - Luke, Oliver & Samir - have removed themselves from the conformity which is expected in school, and have decided to skip lesson.
- Interdiction: Interdiction states that "An interdiction is addressed to the Hero--a command, request, suggestion, etc.". This is not explicitly stated in the piece, but is instead implied; we know Oliver has been kicked out of the lesson, but something must have made Luke and Samir feel the need to meet up with him. Chances are Oliver's character had rung them to meet up; thus meeting the "request" part of the function.
- Lack: "Some tales may initiate complication through lack or insufficiency rather than villainy .The family may desire something or lack something" - Again meeting in with the "not being in lesson" thing, it's clear that the characters lack the previously mentioned norm of conformity to the school's system. This is later exaggerated further when they start drinking in the street, now subverting the norms and values of society as a whole, rather than just the school's culture.

Source of information


Sunday, 29 April 2012

Evaluation - Drafting Process

During the process of putting the film opening together we've had a number of different exported versions which have fixed bugs from the prior version, whilst bring newer, more exciting bugs to the table. By making "final" exports available at each step it has allowed us to acquire feedback from other people who have watched the film, allowing us to make improvements based upon said feedback.

Export 1

Well wasn't this successful? Turns out I wasn't that great at this whole export thing back then.

Export 2

After making creative decisions regarding the direction of the film, we decided to move away from the simplistic abstract genre and move towards the laddish comedy genre.

In seriousness, in this export you can finally get a reasonable idea of our story - three lads are leaving school when they find a wine bottle and start drinking.

Most of our decisions regarding what needed changing at this point were from internal findings on the basis that most of them are pretty obvious. It was clear that the glitches were a hugely annoying distraction which would need addressing, as was the fact that that diegetic sounds (primarily the dialogue) were too low to be heard. There were no title credits as of this point, and some of the colours needed correcting as they were too dark to fit the mood of the film.

Another major point is that the video in this export cuts out about 2 seconds early - again I will pin this down to the export method we'd used; after switching to using the "QuickTime Conversion" method in FCP in later exports this sorted itself out.

Export 3

Third try. By this draft we'd made a fair few different alterations from the original piece, and this was around the point when we started asking other members of the class and Sir for feedback on the film as it was coming along, and the most common suggestion for what could be better was the way in which some camera shots do seem a little unstable. Unfortunately this would have been impossible to fix as by this point Oliver had moved away up to Cambridge and so it wouldn't have been an option to get hold of him as and when we needed to reshoot certain shots.

Another suggestion we'd received prior to making this particular draft was to adjust the mixing of the non-diegetic vocal theme so that the bass could be hard more clearly - thankfully I do have a habit of keeping important files and so I had multiple backups of the master to work with at home, meaning that making this adjustment was literally a five minute job of changing the volume of the necessary tracks. (This master file was also employed to make the reworking of the theme I put in the outtakes video. I cannot apologise enough for that...).

A slight issue that popped up with this export: at around the 1:23 mark where it cuts to the close-up of the pole the consistency in the dynamics becomes a complete disaster - reason for this is because prior to exporting this we'd gone through turning the volume level up shot by shot to note down what was being said to send to Oliver for his overdubs, and I'd just plain forgot to turn that particular shot back down.

Export 4

The most apparent update here is that we've added the opening credit text to the drinking scene. When we'd first placed the credits down we'd used completely different timing, but after showing the WIP to others around us we received a suggestion that it'd be more effective if the titles cut in and out in time with the beat of the music. This made a lot of sense, and thus that is what you see in the above video.

In addition to this we've made use of the wireframe tool in FCP to shift the second and third shots around, making the door appear in the same place in each leaving us with an action match transition. As mentioned previously this was more of a spur of the moment idea on my part as opposed to an idea developed from feedback, but I'm glad we went with it because it looks much, much more aesthetically pleasing in my opinion.

From this point there was one clear part which still needed addressing - the sound. Specifically, the dialogue overdubs, as well as a sound effect for the scene where Oliver picks up the bottle. This would be addressed before the final export...

It's The Final Coursework

It's been a long rough road but we're finally here... this final piece tidies up the issues we'd had previously, but does bring with it some new things we've had to deal with...

These mostly relate to the sound. By this time we'd managed to get in contact with Oliver and he'd had time to record his overdubs for the dialogue, which was fantastic. Luke recorded his lines in the Mac room in a free period, but at that point we had no way of getting hold of Samir. Because of this, we had to resort to my unrehearsed voice acting, which I still find to be a bit uncomfortable to listen to.

The biggest problem here was mixing the volume levels consistently in a way which makes them seem natural and authentic in the scene - this was particularly difficult as me and Luke used different equipment to what Oliver used, which naturally made them come out at different raw volumes. The challenge was adjusting everything to be about consistent, whilst still leaving enough flow to sound like real conversation.

Another sound-based alteration we'd made was the addition of the sound effect which plays as Oliver picks up the drink bottle; originally we'd planned to use an angelic, choir type of sound, but after spending a great deal of time searching online for a CC-license sound effect it turned out that such thing does not exist. This led to us having no choice but to create our own. A quick change of mind led me to the decision to load up the piano musical typing setting in GarageBand, turn the reverb and echo options up to eleven and just play three notes (G chord shape) in quick succession to make a "magical" type of sound. I think this works quite well, and feedback regarding this from other members of the class seems positive regarding it.

There we go then... I still have a lot more evaluation work to post here, specifically regarding audience feedback, more media conventions references and some further references to our use of media technologies.


Saturday, 28 April 2012

Evaluation - "In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?"


'The Lads' - Final Coursework

This post is going to look at the ways in which our coursework film opening - The Lads - makes use of traditional conventions that we're used to seeing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. 

First up is probably one of the primary things you'll be paying attention to when you watch the film, which are the characters. Our cast consists of Luke, Oliver and Samir - young male characters. The idea of using males as main characters is pretty common in the film industry (particularly amongst comedy films aimed towards a large market - think The Inbetweeners), though it is generally quite common to have a female star as "the chick", who has absolutely no character background other than being a friend/love interest etc.. In a way this does subvert certain expectations, though as we've only shown two and a half minutes it wouldn't make sense for any additional characters to show up.

(In the vein of existing media such as The Inbetweeners, our main cast are young males)

In regards to the action seen on screen (plot stuff!) a fair bit of what we see is typical 'laddish' irresponsible behaviour i.e. getting thrown out of lesson and drinking in public. This is pretty much a textbook example of Barthes' Mythologies theory which says that things we often see together (in this case, teenage lads and drink) will be presented together.

With the sound we have quite a heavy bassline playing whilst the action is happening on screen; we've used the beat of this to support the pace at which the film moves - from what I've seen this is quite a common way to use music, as it keeps the audience attentive to what is going on. During the title sequence, we have used a vocal theme whilst the credits are shown on screen; this is something which is generally rather common. On the topic of the song, we are well aware that not only is rap music popular amongst youngsters, but rock music is too. This was purely what led us to recording a rap/rock inspired theme.

During the scene at 1:37 where Oliver picks up the wine bottle we've slowed down the playback whilst playing a loud 'magical' sounding piano effect - this looks completely out of place for a lad film aimed at teenagers which was an intentional effect; we played on the wonder of finding the drink for humour (thus satisfying Bahktin's "Carnivalesque" theory; which mentions that the piece may subvert the audience's expectations for humour or chaos). It kinda reminds me of those moments in kids' programmes where they try to shoehorn in some educational content by highlighting a certain object/concept on screen, which again plays on the idea of "look how hilariously out of place this is!".


Thursday, 26 April 2012

Film Opening Analysis 2 - Disaster Movie

Words cannot say how much I hate seeing the word "movie", but here goes. To sir, sorry this has taken so long to get up; I'm becoming famous for getting things done quickly in the same way that Stevie Wonder is famous for his target shooting skills.

Here goes; will comment on the individual shots used in the same way I did with the Marmaduke analysis. Given the nature of this film this post will probably do a fantastic job at presenting my hilariously non-existent pop culture knowledge. Fun.


These titles are the first thing shown to the viewer, presented above a starry background. Said starry background is moving the whole time. The titles fade in and out, and appear on the screen for about 3 seconds each. 

The bright blue light appears, and the Earth comes into the shot. The camera is constantly moving at a kind-of diagonal pan, showing more and more of the Earth's face, until... 

...we get to some kind of fiery void place, which is presented as a part of the Earth itself as there is no transition. 

This text appears on the screen, with even more fiery effects acting as the border. The letters actually appear on screen in time with Fire Earth's movement, which is quite a clean-looking touch.

The text smashes into pieces, which actually looks AWESOME. Yes. Works pretty well as the action of the writing being smashed up makes sense in the context of the "DISASTER" part of the written text. You can't have "disaster" written on screen without something dramatic happening, right?

After watching about 30 seconds of not much, something appears to be happening. The film cuts to a shot of a lake surrounded by tall grass.

"10,001 BC" text appears - I believe this to be a reference to the film "10,000 BC" - it does share its font with the title of that film.

This cuts to a wide shot of a man in the field, running with a scythe. Guess health and safety wasn't a concept in 10,001 BC. But yeah, we can see they've taken care to highlight the time period; the man is dressed in pre-historic caveman style attire, and is carrying a suitable prop.

This shows a moving point of view shot of the guy running through the long grass; this is pretty effective at showing the action.

Cuts back to another wide shot, this time showing him in another area which he has reached.

 Another cut, this time to a mid shot. The slightly closer shot lets us see his face properly for the first time, giving us an idea of his slightly worked-up facial expression.

Here is a sentence I've wanted an opportunity to use in my coursework for as long as I can remember: 'A giant furry foot lands out of nowhere and knocks him to the ground, leaving his face submerged in a heap of dung'.

This reaction is classic, and this is highlighted by having him shown in the middle of the wide shot.

This guy knocks guy #1 to the floor and starts talking; he is shown first in a wide shot and then a closer mid shot.

During the opening title sequence we can hear some non-diegetic BGM playing; this is some fittingly epic orchestrated music which is really effective at supporting the whole 'build-up' feel of the Earth to Fire Earth visuals. When the "Disaster Movie" title card smashes, we can hear a smashing explosion sound effect (as in, the sound of something being smashed not just that it's great - though the quality and timing of it is rather smashing!) which again supports the visuals.

During the scene with the guy running around the grasslands the intense BGM continues; though now we hear diegetic sounds in the form of him grunting to himself - which is appropriate to the scene as we have previously been shown that it takes place in pre-historic time. As the guy gets back up out of the dung, he makes a really high pitched girlish scream, obviously put in for humorous effect.

After this we hear the first proper lines of dialogue from the other guy in the blue; as he talks about having to get catchphrases registered on the internet. Such a blatant anachronism that it's hilarious, which is clearly the intended effect.

I think what they've done in regards to parodying 10,000 BC's atmosphere is pretty clever, though it takes a completely different approach to that of our coursework film. What the two do have in common, however, is that the first pieces of action shown are accompanied by non-diegetic music as opposed to dialogue - in this film we have the guy running around the grasslands; in The Lads we have Oliver, Luke and Samir leaving class and meeting up in the car park.

It's also worth mentioning that the use loud out-of-place feminine scream for humour is actually something we did in the prelim, where Stephen's character is shot by Luke's character. I thought this was pretty cool considering that in our case it was just a spur of the moment "wouldn't-it-be-cool-if" scenario...


Friday, 20 April 2012

'The Lads' Outtakes/Alternate Shots

When filming we naturally had waaaay more footage than we needed; some of these were things that went wrong (goofing up lines, leaving unused props in the shot etc.) and others were alternate takes that just didn't look right in the sequence. I actually have a fair bit more unused footage than what I've put in this video; though much of it consists of multiple repeats of each shot - in these cases I've just put one example so you can get the idea without being bored to tears watching us mess up the same things over and over. But eh.


Coursework Update 12

So yeah, after about a month's worth of editing and four months worth of rendering we've finally got the thing finished off...

Overall it's fair to say we've had a great deal of problems delaying this, with the most prominent over the last week or so being the sound mixing. Oliver's had to record his own overdubs away from us and email them to me to use as he's a fair way away - thank god for the internets... Luke recorded his overdubs a few days back, and we haven't been able to get hold of Samir, so I had to voice act him.

The problem this has caused is that as we've been using different equipment, everything's been recorded at different volumes, meaning that it's been a technological nightmare to get everything at the right volume relative to everything else. I spent nearly two hours straight Tuesday evening just adjusting the volume of the different sound clips to try and balance it out; this is partially down to paranoia, but also because it's necessary to make the thing presentable. I'm still not completely convinced by the music levels vs. the dialogue levels, but in all honesty I might end up driving myself to insanity if I start again...

The other consistent problem has been the render and export times but yesterday when I clicked to export... it'd finished in about an hour. Maybe it was just that the technology demons were saving all of their energy up so they could enforce the Performance Curse yesterday evening at the showcase... -_-

Will work on a proper evaluation for this later on, but for now, watch and enjoy.


EDIT: 50th post on le blog, what do I win!?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Finishing touches...

This is the slightly confusing space which we call our timeline...

Am currently working on finishing off the last few pieces (mainly sound - RAAAAAAGE), I believe this is nearly done.


Tuesday, 17 April 2012


I left your hard drive in Rm 57, wasn't able to find you as I left. Sorry about that.


Sunday, 15 April 2012

Coursework Update 11 - Storyboard

After spending a great deal of this weekend eating and watching Sonic and Mega Man LPs on YouTube I thought I should do something productive and get the storyboard posted. 

In regards to image quality - I have to apologise for this, I don't have access to an A3 scanner and cutting from an A4 scanner is too awkward to be practical so I ended up taking photographs with the Bloggie and then cropping them to a reasonable size. The lighting makes it too difficult to read most of the writing, so I ended up going into Preview (yeah, I know) to add a text box to each shot clarifying what is happening in regards to things like camera angle/dialogue. 

All of the transitions are cuts except where noted. The artwork is the work of Luke, because I can't draw for my life.

-note- A fade transition is used here, to make the shots look more 'epic'.

-note- That should say Oliver. I am a terrible person.