Thursday, 10 May 2012

Evaluation - "Looking back at your preliminary task, what do you feel you have learnt in the progression from it to the full product?"

Back in December we were first given the Bloggie to film our preliminary task, and over the course of time since then we've picked up a fair few new skills as well as additional knowledge.

A note: I'm probably going to be referring to this video a fair bit here -

Hey ho, let's go -

It's fair to say our planning was very... limited for the preliminary task. We had decided upon our narrative (albeit roughly) prior to filming, though it had stretched only as far as "well, we're going to be interviewing a Russian criminal, and there's going to be a fight scene". Very little of the dialogue was decided before we started filming (with a lot of the lines being complete ad-libs...) and our general direction was very much made up on the spot. For our prelim we didn't actually plan when we'd be filming beforehand, it was just a case of "we've got the camera and we don't have lessons now, why the heck not?". The location was just a small room next to the common room (0:07 in the video); originally we were going to use the hall, but there was a P.E. class using it at the time - so we just settled with this room because it was empty at the time.

For the final piece we made a point of getting a good idea  of what we were going to do before we actually went and did it. Makes sense, right? Why did we not think of doing this originally? But yeah, we'd established a good basis of the narrative (which took time, our original one was a huge mess of 'your mum' jokes which would have been great; unfortunately common decency is a thing...) before we headed out to begin filming, and we'd also made a number of decisions on things which would be necessary for the film beforehand (more on this later). We had also made a solid decision of where to film this time around (0:11 in the video).

We didn't decide on any props prior to filming the prelim, which was intentional (As mentioned here, we deliberately over exaggerated the No Budget quality for humorous effect...). This worked well in context of the prelim, but for the sake of the final piece we knew we'd need to actually get ourselves together and find an actual, physical prop (I know, right!?). As soon as we'd decided on the idea for the story, me, Luke and Oliver headed down to the Art shop down the road from the school to see if they had any gear we could pass off as a wine bottle, but came to no luck. On the way back I remembered my dad had had people over a few days beforehand so we just stopped by mine and it turned out he had an empty bottle which we hadn't run down for recycling yet.

In regards to costume, in the prelim our cast were just wearing what they were wearing for school on that particular day; slightly out of character for an interrogation scene, but eh. For the final piece the school uniforms did actually work in context; though we used additional costume elements (Luke's hoody/Samir's hat) to better portray the characters. Oliver's character is shown in standard uniform; this is because we felt from the script that he was rebellious through his actions (after all, he's the one who suggests the characters start drinking) as opposed to his presentation.

In the preliminary it's clear that we hadn't really thought about lighting (0:16 in the video) as there are major differences in how dark it is from shot to shot. As no-one likes a continuity error, we made a point of fixing this in the final piece (0:21). Although it was difficult to control the lighting on-scene, we fixed it using the colour correction tool in FCP in the post-production phase.

From a critical point of view I have to say the cinematography in both pieces is a particularly weak component, which is entirely my fault as I was holding the camera. From 0:28 we can see that there is a notable issue with the stability of the camera in both pieces, yet I believe for the most part there was a slight improvement between the preliminary and the final piece.

Both of the pieces make use of close-up shots to show facial expressions - in the preliminary we have a shot of Luke upon entering the room, which helps present who his character is, as well as a close-up of Oliver as Luke is aiming the "gun" at him, which fits the purpose of showing the fear through his facial expression. We noticed how effective this was; thus felt it was appropriate to continue using close-ups in the final piece to set the mood of what is on screen - in 'The Lads' we have close-ups of both Luke and Oliver to show them as being intimidating (which is played on for humour) as they walk out of the school after meeting up.

A notable point regarding our prelim is that it was heavily based around static shots, which was a case of both a) not having much room to move around in inside the interrogation room and b) me not being particularly confident in moving the camera. We did work on this with our final piece, as we have a few moving shots, most noticeably the tracking shot following the characters down the road during the title sequence.

Sound is something which I believe has been a major focus of developing our films. In the prelim our diegetic sound consisted of the dialogue, and a sound effect (the buzzer). All of this diegetic sound (with the exception of Stephen's really out of place scream) was recorded live on-set through the camera's built-in microphone and... the quality is pretty darn poor. It sounds very muffled and in some cases it is difficult to make out what is being said. The buzzer (which did not actually exist!) sound was literally made by having Samir (who was with us at the time) saying "bzzz". Yes, I am deadly serious.

We knew from reviewing the prelim for the first time that the sound quality would need to be addressed for the final piece, and when filming for it we noticed it was especially poor because we were filming next to the main road (health and safety: none of us got hit by a car, because we stayed well away from the edge of said road. Just thought I should clarify that.). What this led to was possibly the most frustrating phases of putting the film together in having to record overdubs and then mix them into the film. This was much more difficult to get right than I'd originally predicted on the basis that we needed to get each clip of dialogue to the exact right level for it to sound like a natural flowing conversation. It was also necessary to keep some of the background noise intact, because at the end of the day it would be completely unrealistic to see our characters walking next to fast moving traffic, whilst hearing absolute silence beyond the occasional "for god's sake".

In regards to the non-diegetic sound... in the preliminary, there was none. Nought, zero, etc.. Whilst adding to a sense of realism, it did make the film seem a little slow and quiet for a comedy film, so we decided that it'd be necessary to add some background music and sound effects. Most of the action on screen during the intro is shown along with a heavy bassline which served as our non-diegetic sound; this gives the film a constant pace. We also have a vocal theme playing during the title sequence, with lyrics describing laddish behaviour - this reinforces the image we've been trying to create for our characters.

At 0:42 we can see examples of the use of editing in both the preliminary and the final piece. In the prelim our editing consisted of just putting the clips we were using in one after the other, just for the sake of showing the sequence of events. This was also necessary in the final piece, yet we made additional use of more advanced techniques in FCP too. Not only did we use the harsh WideTime filter shown in the video above (which we found out about through trial and error, the best way of learning things!), we also used the wireframe tool to form an action match transition during the part where Oliver runs through the door (which makes the framing of that scene much more aesthetically appealing) and to fix a minor continuity error where Oliver picks up the bottle from the bush.

It should be noted that with Final Cut we had some problems with exporting the preliminary due to not knowing which settings would be best for our film. This was fixed when we got around to exporting the final piece as by that point I'd looked up tutorials online which had given me a better idea of how to go about doing it.

Another point worth mentioning is that some of the transitions in the prelim are a little choppy - I attribute this to the lag in Final Cut misleading us as to how much of the shot would be seen in the piece. Some parts which appeared to cut out in the Canvas in FCP played properly in the export, which was useful for us to know as we were able to make sure we'd accomodated for this in the final.

(I know I've been over the technology we've used in a previous post, but it's kind of relevant here too so I'll go back over it briefly)

Our tool for capturing video for both the prelim/final has been one of these -

(because we all love recycled stock photos!)

The Bloggie has held up well, and unlike other Sony products I didn't completely lose interest in it a few weeks after having it, nor did it leak any of our financial details. The picture quality is satisfactory for what we needed it for.

- Final Cut Pro: I've mentioned most of what I need to say already in the post, but I will say our use of FCP's features was significantly more effective in the final piece; in the prelim it was just a case of throw everything together on the timeline and call it a day, whereas with the final film opening we made much more advanced use of its features, such as the previously mentioned wireframe and filters.

- GarageBand: In the original prelim piece GB was just used as a source of the scream sound effect. We made much better use of the software for the final piece, including recording a song in it (with live vocals), putting together a backing track for the intro, recording voice overdubs and putting together our own sound effects, including the magical piano effect by yours truly.

When putting the preliminary task together we did really just throw it together ourselves and think "it'll do"... we took a much different approach with 'The Lads'. We constantly made a point of asking both peers from our class and Sir for input on what we were doing as we were going along (in the "hey, does this look okay to you" style), which helped us greatly as it means we could iron out any mistakes as we were going along, resulting in a much more polished product.



  1. To develop, and to save scrolling back to the top, every time you mention a timed clip you could use time-specific embedded content to illustrate the point.

    I know you know how to, but here's a lik incase you want to bone up on it first

    1. Okay; had a go at this and... no joy. Not sure whether I've been missing something completely obvious when adjusting the IDs or whether Blogger is trolling me; though this scrolling up is rather tedious. I've linked the time points up in clickable links (with a _blank target, so the viewer doesn't lose their position on the page) and I -believe- they are all working. Not the best compromise but appears to be better than before.

  2. Right, Harry, I've got the thousand yard stare, a terrible thing to see in a any man, especially education (to parahprase 'Clerks').

    Can you just check something for me and let me know if:
    a) I've gone whatever the blogging version of snowblind is. Postblind, one supposes;
    b) There's a post missing;
    c) You've combined a couple of evaluation questions;
    d) You've missed a label.

    What to check - have you got all 7 evaluation questions covered. I know you must have since you've been really diligent. Could you just go through the evaluation posts and add the question number in brackets for me please? You've got ten evaluation posts, I'm counting 6 questions covered, but I've also got evidence against all 7 questions ticked off. So something has gone awry - probably with my attention and ticking. Since I've got myself muddled, I'd really appreciate it if you could just check and let me know just where I've dropped the ball please.

    Thanks very much.

    1. Just post back with a 'Duhhh, you can't count, sir!' or a 'Have added all the question numbers so your poor brain can stop being confuzzled, old man' kind of comment.

    2. The fault is mine; I hadn't properly titled the first question's post ( )... and thanks for highlighting this is as it's reminded me how awfully sub-par that post is. Will get to that soon (read: tonight. If it's not done tonight, feel free to torture me in any way you like).

      Also parts 4 and 5 were combined in a single post;

      Will get to the linking up the embed codes right now. Can't believe I forgot about that, you only mentioned it the other day as well...