Archive for March, 2011

Surprise 1-Day Professional Experience

Posted in Film Reviews And Conversations with tags , , on March 31, 2011 by Adam Broome

On the 9th March 2011, I was invited to get some paid work experience for the BBC by John Mair – lecturer at my university and also my mentor for the Add+Vantage module I was taking. I figured there’d be students lining up for this, but that was not the case – whether it wasn’t publicized enough or something I do not know.

Anyhow, I turned up at 12 o clock, one hour before the start of a big conference between some of the highest academic minds of the BBC turned up to have a debate over whether Investigative Journalism was dying out or not. I’d already investigated this case several months ago off my own back for curiosities sake – you may remember me being told by guests lecturer Trish Adudu that formats was the future and documentary was dead. Subsequently asking Mark Kermode at the Warwick Arts Centre, the counter argument was clearly that formats is for making money, whereas documentary is more for information, statements, activism, and many other things. Documentary is never really about the money, and thus will probably never die out. However, this conference set to explore the notion even further, adding in the addition documentary style of investigative journalism – something I’d had first-hand experience of during the Demo-Lition protest march in November last year.

I tuned up as a runner, and the first major problem I was given was that one BBC camera operator couldn’t access the internet in the lecture theatre. I shot out and quickly gravitated towards the nearest ‘tech’ mind, which just happened to be a student in the common room. He outlined the solution, and I shot back to implement it. Unfortunately it didn’t work, but my friend had given me all the pieces, and I saw that the operator was trying to connect to the Ethernet rather than the Airport. A quick change over, and I signed in with my name, getting her online.

This was quickly followed up with another task – simply go and get some refreshments from the corner shop. Two drinks – anything as long as it wasn’t diet. I came back with a Sprite and Fanta, making another satisfied customer. But this was when I suddenly got promoted – the man who wanted the drinks, a guy by the name of Jon Jacob, now needed a camera operator himself to operate his ‘Z’ camera whilst he uploaded the podcast. I quickly stepped in. And stood at my post for the subsequent four hours solid (as long as the debate was in progress, I wasn’t budging). Some of the earlier shots were a little jittery, but the pans got smoother when I loosened the resistance on the tripod it was positioned on. The audio stopped several times, which I silently notified Jon of, and which got resolved quickly with the sound engineer.

I learned one key trick during this ‘shoot’ – I was advised by Jon never to keep the person I was focusing on in the centre of the shot. This was the rule of thirds in video – I had to try and keep the spokesman either to the left or to the right of the screen, but never fixated at the centre. After a while, I understood what he meant – the shots just looked better with the space. Subsequently looking back at footage from Hereward, I can see that some of the interview footage from that has centered characters, and it definitely took something away from the piece.

The most notable guests of the debate were Donal MacIntyre and David Leigh, although both interacted with the audience via Skype. Some students from Lincoln University made some good points about using social networking sites to conduct investigative journalism in the future, which would make the job safer for the journalists, but politically more difficult. The general vibe in the room continued what I’d already established – investigative journalism is, like documentaries and many other kinds of media production, a solid and well-grounded genre of media that will exist long into the future. The internet is changing everything, and all media will adapt and change accordingly. The old ways of investigative journalism will end, but a new era will begin, as people will always want to know the ‘truth’ behind the stories of the world.

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‘Once Upon A Time’ – The Whole Story

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , , on March 30, 2011 by Adam Broome

Introduction:

This post details all of the events surrounding the failed attempt to create a movie in Prague called ‘Once Upon A Time’, and all the subsequent events that followed from that. About two weeks into my second year, I signed up as a camera operator for this project. It has been one of the most expensive professional experiences yet, and with a certain irony, the least bountiful.

Part One: Creating The Team

You may find a post a while back which I made over the summer of 2010 regarding the showdown between Prague and New York, as both were options open to all students in the faculty that wanted professional experiences abroad. Due to some political mix-ups, New York cost in the region of £1000 for just over a week, which sent most students running for the Prague option faster than athletes late for the starting gun. Prague cost more in the region of £350, and promised an all round cheaper experience.

A ‘tourist’ shot from a later excursion to Prague Old Town Square

In the initial meetings (held on Wednesday mornings), we first met a host of third year students. Two ideas were put forward which we could choose from – one was called Accidental Seduction (a film written by a third year student), and the other was called Once Upon A Time (a film written by a lecturer who had taught me before). As far as I was concerned, there was no comparison. Once Upon A Time (or OUAT as it became referred to) held a lot more promise in terms of benefits. I signed up for that option, and got introduced to the JVC ProHD 700 cameras.

I learned to use the JVC cameras long before anyone else on my course did. They were very large, and very overwhelming. We’d only just been introduced to the Z1s and Z5s a few weeks before, and I felt I was jumping the gun a little being allowed behind such expensive cameras. With the help of my fellow camera operators however, I managed to learn how to use them to a very high degree. This came in handy when using the camera in the TV studio for the Formats module, and also came in use in understanding the Z-type counterparts. Understanding these cameras really boosted my confidence as a camera operator. It made me feel part of the team, and also made me appreciate the structure of team work. We all had a job to do, and it was highly illegal to encroach on other people’s jobs. Only together would anything ever get done.

Producing and Directing roles were decided, everyone seemed comfortable… and then the really big problem that was to doom the project was unearthed without ado.

Part Two: It All Comes Back To The Money

Upon hearing that OUAT was going to cost in the region of £5000, my response was almost of a condescending humour. In about week three, the cost for production was revealed, and the silence permeated every nook and cranny of the lecture theatre. The producer went into re-writes with our lecturer to see if the script could be re-done to cut costs down. Even after this option was utilized however, we were looking at £3000 minimum for this project to go ahead. We would have to fund this money ourselves, so we quickly got to work with fundraising ideas.

A lot of these ideas held promise – a ‘gunge’ event, where lecturers could get sponged with goop in the reception area of the campus; a photo shoot in the shopping mall to sell off professional photos; a gaming night where a tournament would ultimately award the winner with a copy of the new CoD game. It all sounded so promising. Yet, despite all this, I do distinctly remember having words across the lecture theatre upon hearing this news. I of all people know the value of the money, and I seemed to be the only one who was acknowledging this was never going to happen. Students have no money to donate, even if they do genuinely want to help. I raised the issue with the trip organizer, who I remember distinctly telling me that defeatist attitudes would get me nowhere, and that we could raise the money, and that we WOULD raise the money. Inspiring speech – famous last words.

The deciding factor in the difference between Once Upon A Time, and (as we later called it) Once Upon A Time Not.

However, I have only myself to blame – deep down I knew £3000 would never be raised without some sort of major sponsor or miracle. Yet, I didn’t do all that much about it – I could have written a script myself, or quietly ‘migrated’ to the other group. Yet I was convinced by my lecturer’s words (it was a really good speech). I was drawn into the whole idea that we could do it. And thus, we started to prep. An entire unit of students from the third year got together and made entire storyboards for each of the scenes. Costumes were drafted up, scripts were entirely re-written. And my part, for once, was a lot less theoretical, and became quite a fun addition to my busy weekly timetable.

Part Three: SNOW

Here is an example of some of the initial test footage we took for OUAT using the JVC cameras:

Our skills instructor who was ever-watchful of the top-end equipment warned us of arctic conditions in Prague, prompting us all to swiftly buy all manners of thermal underwear. Indeed, on the run-up to Christmas, snow began to emerge in the weather patterns, and Coventry became a chilly place to be in. Apparently, the tripods became brittle and shattered easily in these conditions, and as a camera operator my job was to ensure the tripods – and the £7000 camera on top of them – made it back from Prague in one piece.

Each week, every Wednesday, we regrouped and went on field practice sessions. In light of what happened later the line, these days were just about the best days of this professional experience for me in terms of my development as a camera operator. We were timed in getting equipment up and packing it down, and each week we made progress. I learned how to put rain covers on both Z-cameras and the JVCs (harder than it looks), and also became quite handy with switching XLR cables around in superior time (notable from the Demo-Lition event).

Interesting times included having no vision on the camera, even though the LCD display was bright, the lens cap was off and all zooms were right at the back (turned out to be a manual f-stop error – the shutter was actually closed). One time we practiced using the tracks in the middle of Coventry Cathedral, which was as much fun and it as nerve-wracking (a school-load of pupils came in as we were filming, meaning we had to try and avoid getting them in the shot). We played around the lighting a lot inside the campus buildings – we used dedos to create flickering flame effects, and I also learned how to use the JVC Monitors and the in-camera editing tools, such as the WB Paint tool. I got a JVC out each weekend, and (alongside bass guitar) managed to get a few hours of practice in, usually on Sundays. Making the transition to using them as shoulder cameras was a tricky business, but I got the hang of the position eventually. Mastering the back-focus and macro was also no small feat, but the Focus Assist button was always there to get me out of trouble when I needed it. Also, the Gain and ND Filters were features I came to use often, and I still play around with them frequently when creating artefacts for other modules. Even the tripods provided some challenge in how to use them.

Overall though, I came to like using the JVC cameras – evidence that I had progressed into the realms of a professional camera operator. Every other project I was involved in I was still using Z-type cameras, and my skills were improving in that area as well. I didn’t notice it too much myself until people started asking me about the cameras and how to do things on them – people were looking at me as a camera operator. This in turn gave me even more confidence in myself and my abilities – even though I never did fully get my head around sample rates.

Part Four: Pulling The Plug

Christmas came and went. By now, everyone seemed in a solid position to kick Czech butt. Everyone, that is, except the producer and directors. They looked a little nervous compared to the rest of us. Upon the next meeting, a cut-off point was decided – if the funds were not raised by mid January, OUAT was not going to happen. I took part in a few fundraising events – journeying from pub to pub and raising measly ten pounds here and there, and also partaking in the failed CoD Tournament, which actually failed so badly it cost the project an extra £4 rather than raised any. Despite having an actress lined up in the wings, mid January arrived and the inevitable happened. OUAT was pulled, leaving us now without a project and only four weeks until the flight out.

The subsequent ideas that were discussed in the meeting were typically met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm on everyone’s part. Several ideas went through circulation – the idea changed more or less every week. As far as my memory goes:

1. Documentary on ‘students and alcohol’ – This idea was a typical ‘write what you know’ exercise. If we did a project based around something we could relate to, it would hopefully give us some incentive to carry on ahead with the project. This would also include a trip to a local absinth factory – propular amongst the group, as we all figured we could use a drink.

2. Documentary on a ‘Jewish Synagogue’ – There is a famous Jewish synagogue in Prague, and we figured that since Idea 1 would be too risky to use our expensive cameras, this was a safer bet, provided we could get access to the synagogue. We decided within a few days that this would not be the case.

3. Documentary on the ‘Charles Bridge’ – Prague hosts a very famous bridge called the Charles Bridge, which hosts statues on either side, each representing a various piece of history and / or culture. Each statue had a story – we decided to choose ten of them and make a documentary about the tales, and what the people made of them and their superstitions. This was the best idea of the lot I felt.

4. Documentary on ‘Saint John’ – As most primary research of the Charles Bridge came up wrong, we decided to focus instead of one lone statue on the bridge, namely the one of ‘Saint John’, whereby if one touches on part of the statue it brings good luck, whereas another part brings bad. This idea would include a trip on a ghost tour through Prague, exploring the more supernatural superstitions of the city.

Every idea seemed to be agreed upon, and then changed by the next week. No idea every alone stood on it’s own two feet. Eventually I simply stopped attending the meetings. I felt sorry for some members of the group, as they conducted a lot of research for some of the later projects, which ultimately proved fruitless. It was impossible to gage just what to expect when we got out there, and I just had the impression that the whole group was thrashing around for something to do. With weeks to go, I left them to it – I had my own ideas to develop.

Part Five: The Ghost In The Machine


One thing that can clearly be deduced from the above list is that the idea of making a short film in Prague literally went down in flames the moment OUAT was pulled – documentary was now the name of the game. I wouldn’t have minded so much had the top brass of the group decided that ‘Z’ cameras were better for documentaries, and were no longer going to take the JVCs. Everything I had learned was now being undone before me, and seemingly through no fault of my own. In a mad attempt to toss caution to the wind, I took a walk and started to cultivate an idea for a short film. I knew as always that making an idea into reality in such a short period of time would probably cost considerable expenses out of my own pocket, but in all honesty that was something I was willing to accept. The way I saw the current situation, Prague was the most expensive project for this module, and as of present was proving the most unfruitful. If taking this project ahead meant taking over directing roles, I would have been willing to do that. I was jumping the gun – I had not as of yet done my Short Film module, and I knew I was heading into the unknown. But I had to try.

The man to speak to was Clifton Stewart, a script writer by profession. After talks with him, I went about creating a story. The basis had several key points – a man would journey to Prague, and upon arrival, his reason for being there would be taken away, leaving an enigma code in the narrative. The film would only be a short one – I aimed for ten pages or less. I ultimately decided upon a love story (as love always sells), about a man who travels to Prague to find a girl. I took time trying to find a twist interesting enough to fit the bill, and eventually struck gold – what if he went to Prague, and found out she’d been dead for the last six months?

I drafted a script, and went through several re-writes of my own before finally taking the first copy to show to Clifton. The story was a lot more focused on the internet – the main character meets a girl online, heads to Prague to meet her, and finds she’s been dead or ages. The title ‘The Ghost On The Machine’ wrote itself. I would place the script below, but I think I’ll save you the read. The story focused on the man arranging to meet the girl in a Prague cafe, and when she didn’t turn up, he journeys to her house (which she references previously) to find out what’s going on. Her mum informs the main character she’s been dead six months (suicide – killed by a broken heart), and directs him to her grave. Upon seeing the grave, despite the fact the mother has placed a set of roses there recently, ‘thieves’ have stolen the flowers. The main character goes back to his hotel and prepares to get back home, when he receives a knock at his door. Outside, in the corridor, he finds the roses from the grave, and hears a whisper in his ear. Though he cannot see her, it is the girl he met online, finally having found love, and now departing for the afterlife in peace. It seems she wanted him to go to Prague so she could show him a physical sentiment – this would all be at the viewer’s discretion however.

I was happy with the way the script turned out. My gut feeling was that had this idea been put forward sooner, when I knew OUAT was going under, it may have become a reality. Most of the script was based around a narration anyway, keeping the script simple and minimal at the best of times. This was a good thing for Prague, but with two weeks to go, it was proposed just too late. After Prague, I would go on to prove that it is possible to go from first draft scripts to finished short films within just over five weeks, but not two. The time was too late, but it is a possibility that this film may be chased up later in my career.

…judging by what happened when we did finally depart for Prague, it’s probably best we didn’t have a set of actors and locations lined up waiting to be paid, it would have been a disaster! (Not that is wasn’t anyway).

Part Six: Departure

Thus the big day finally came, with everyone meeting up early on Saturday morning to get the coach. The equipment had been taken out the day previously, and everyone, despite still being without a clear idea of what we were going to make, was genuinely excited about going. Two major issues kicked off within seconds – first of all, I was told all my hand luggage had to be sacrificed. ALL hand luggage. None negotiable. Other people had the option to fit XLR cables and microphones into their hand luggage, but mine was completely removed, as was the same for another fellow camera op (regardless of team work, it was our responsibility, and ours alone). After integrating all my necessities into other people’s luggage, the problem was somewhat fixed by one even more stupid – the Z1 camera given to me was broken.

The AE (Auto Exposure) was broken, so the light would not correctly adjust the surroundings. The skills instructor could not fix it, as I as a camera operator was shunned just like that. I ended up deciding the leave the broken Z1 back at my apartment – the bus AND the ‘safety’ bus had both failed to arrive, meaning we were now at risk of missing the flight. I transferred the batteries to the other Z1 case, then nipped back and left my one camera behind. Although I managed to regain hand luggage privileges, I foolishly left my DSLR behind – on the principle that a friend had already promised me that I could use hers whilst we were over there.

A bus turned up with a driver who didn’t know where he was going. He shot down the nearest highway to the airport, where we hustled and bustled through a chaotic terminal and landed on the place with minutes to spare. I’d barely sat down when the plane took off. Journeying through Stanstead terminal was the most stressed I’d been in recent memory – it set the tone nicely for the upcoming week. The fact I was now heading out to Prague essentially without a role had not sunk in yet, but we’d all made it on the plane (just). The plane made good time, arriving 20 minutes early, and dropping us swiftly into the hands of our awaiting coach, which took us straight to our hotel. Once the bus had turned up at the university, it was generally a smooth run right through to the hotel (albeit a sleepy one).

Our hotel – The Hotel Populus!

Upon arrival at the hotel, rooms were sorted out before myself and my fellow room mate took our first steps on Czech soil to hunt out some food. We got a few supplies in, and were quickly rounded up and taken on a tour around Prague. Our lecturer left us after a while, leaving us to find our own ways back. It wouldn’t have been such a bad idea if we were now into 36-hour sleep deprivation. The journey back to the hotel that night was rather hallucinogenic.

The first night did not ease up the pressure however, as a group meeting was called and the idea had – surprise surprise – changed once more. Now the Charles Bridge was a no-go, instead we were now going to do something on globalization. We based the original idea around food, and the directors split the group up accordingly. The Z1 team (namely my two fellow camera operators) were to take in the sights, sounds and smells of a traditional Prague and traditional food, whilst I – geared with a small palmcorder – would be visiting the fast food, western-culture orientated franchise diners. Now not only had my camera been taken away, but also my opportunity to sample the culture.

Part Seven: The Breaking Point

Perhaps it was due to tiredness, but tensions rose to almost unbearable levels during the meeting on that first night. Since no project was being done, the producer and directors dictated several roles. I thought I was grouchy – it wasn’t until later in the week that I realised how close the breaking point other people had been. I, typically, would not blow up and walk off in a huff during the meeting. I quietly, and calmly, sat at the bar until late in the night with a camera operator, and told him I was seriously considering walking from this project as of the next day. I didn’t like this feeling of being trapped; I didn’t like the fact that despite paying £350 for this Professional Experience trip, that university had failed to give me working equipment; I almost certainly didn’t like the fact that I’d been directed to walking around fast food stalls day in and day out. I figured it would be best to thank the lecturers for the opportunity – what there was of it – and then politely just walk off and explore the city and the culture. I was fully prepared to do that – heck, I could have probably learned more just be observing what the other group were doing or being a runner for them.

As the events that night transpired though, my friend told me with clarity that if I did decide to do this, I would only be proving one thing – that I can’t be camera operator without a top-notch camera, and that I’ll throw a hissy fit if I don’t get the equipment I want. The quality of the palmcorder had proven to be as good as the Z1, which I would be forced to gaze upon with envious eyes for the rest of the week – whilst my two fellow camera operators, who I’d learned so much with alongside, would now tell me tales of of unusual foods in the most interesting pubs. But I could see he was right. This was an impossible situation. I had a post, and I’d have to stick with it, even if I knew staying back in Coventry would probably have benefitted me more. I know ‘stuff happens’ and life doesn’t always go right, but as it set out, this was in retrospect one of the most depressing weeks of my life in recent memory. I’ve been criticised on my blogs for getting too personal in the past, so I’ll leave all this emotional baggage stuff here, but it is important to note that this was the way I felt throughout the entire week, which no doubt affected my ability to do my job and my my ability to act as a professional.

Part Eight: Non-Stop Whirlwind Tour

Here are two clips from the first half of the week – an entertainer on Charles Bridge playing Bach’s ‘Air On The G-String’ using nothing more than glasses of water, and our trip to Prague Castle:

Sucking up any pride, and rather now looking on the bright side, I awoke the next morning with a rather carefree and positive – albeit slightly ironic – attitude. I took the palmcorder, and we hit the Subways and McDonalds joints at once. The first few days revolved around us trying to get interviews inside the diners – we were denied at almost every one. The director I was following was David – I note his name as during the week he became one of the only saving graces for this project. He’d had all the set backs I had, yet he remained professional and every bit as passionate about the project, which really impressed me. To some degree, his constant questioning of people on the street (even when he didn’t know the language) and staff in the diners kept me motivated. If he was going all-out, I was sure as hell going to back him up. My mission remained clear in my mind though – go through each day, and count the days until I could get back to Coventry, get some working equipment, and start working on my short film.

Eiffel Tower replica – albeit not a very good one…

Each night featured another group meeting – no word of a lie, two days in, the idea changed again, leaving the focus of food, and focusing more the traditional aspects. One day, my unit were out filming, and a lecturer decided to give the other group a tour of the castle. I almost literally dragged my group up the castle with us, which turned out to be a good thing – if we’d missed the trip to Prague Castle, any additional footage we’d have gained in Subway would have been for nothing. It was ‘renegade time’ on this project.

Impossible staring contest?

Days flew by, and I just got any footage I could. Dave lined up interview after interview, taking us inside the Ministry Of Culture, The American Embassy to Prague, and even into an art museum. Each time an interview was confirmed, I pulled out my little palmcorder, and tried not to laugh and the interviewees who were trying not to laugh at me. Were it not for some professional sound recording equipment next to me, the whole thing would have looked very farcical. We also got footage of ‘Vox Pops’ interviews, but were told none of these could be used as relevant disclaimer forms had not been filled in. Filming was put on hold another day when myself and several other members journeyed to the Sex Machines Museum – it seemed like a good idea at the time, and I needed a laugh to lighten my spirits.

Sampling some of the finer cuisine in Prague

The biggest laugh of all however, came mid-week. The day before had been by far the most productive. I’d sat quietly wallowing in my drink as my two fellow camera operators had taken footage inside a pub, and interview many people inside about a football match between Liverpool and Prague, using it as a contrast against the globalization theme of our documentary. I wanted to help, but every time I tried to lend a hand, I was tld to sit down by the directors, as we were crowding the interviewees. I decided to get an early night and headed home alone, only to be lightly mocked upon people’s return to the hotel by them telling me that an interview had just been done with a hobo called Eegor on the Z1, and it looked amazing. I’d done letting it get to me. BUT THE FOLLOWING MORNING, it transpired that none of the footage from the previous day had successfully captured. Not the pub, not the hobo, not any of it. The Z1 had told the operators the footage was recording, and yet it had not. The second Z1 camera had now officially broken. I knew I shouldn’t have laughed, but this was the turning point of the week – now it wasn’t just me the university had effectively screwed over, it was every single person on this project. We had no Z1 cameras, and we’d lost the most important and significant footage we’d captured all week. I wasn’t cruel or immature enough to laugh, even though I wanted to – but it made me feel much better inside.

Part Nine: Lonely Mexicans, Football Hooligans, Drug Hide-Outs, And Other Tales

Of the whole week, professional experience as you can probably guess came in a very thin sliver. My social and team working skills were pushed to breaking point, and my technical ability developed in almost no way at all. However, that ‘early night’ as mentioned in the previous part was actually a location scouting trip – I took a long walk on my own around Prague since I wasn’t needed at the pub, and found several places that looked useful for my ‘City’ project for my 260MC work. It was a photography project, and I called upon my friend’s favour the next night. The night was the night of the aforementioned football match between Liverpool and Prague – I’d taken footage of an interview with the manager of the stadium earlier in the week. Tonight was to feature interview with the fans, but I passed my palmcorder over to someone else in favour of my photography project. My friend lent me her £750 D90 DSLR camera with a little persuasion – she wasn’t too happy about it (for obvious reasons), but it was entirely in her court – her DSLR camera would be the only piece of professional media equipment I would be to use all week. I had two hours to get the photos whilst she went to a theatre show, which was more than enough for me. Lending me her camera was a position she should never have been in, but as mentioned, now all cameras had broken, all we had left really was the things we’d brought with us (and I am of course very grateful she did trust me – it meant a lot).

Over the next two hours I journeyed further than I’d have probably admitted to her – across the Charles Bridge, around the castle area, back across another bridge, down the backstreets, across the Old Town Square, through the other back streets to the other square, right down to the National Museum, back up the other side of the square, down the high street, along the tram lines, back to the Charles Bridge. The amount of shady people I saw this night reminded me of the average Saturday night in Nottingham. The difference here is that if they were threatening me, it made not an ounce of difference as I can’t speak Czech – I probably came off braver than I realised. I also ran into the fair share of local British lads – as one person later described, the ‘perfect way to turn a city into a dangerous place overnight’. For me, I was just hoping it didn’t start raining. Some photos can be seen below:

I arrived back at the theatre ahead of time, and whilst waiting, struck up a conversation with a Mexican lady, who told me she’d been travelling around Europe on her own after a bad relationship. Evidently, looking for love. She was taking photos on a DSLR as well, and we walked back to the theatre together from the bridge (though I was ever-cautious, naturally). She asked if I’d like to accompany her to the next showing at the theatre with her, which I respectfully declined. I still had 264MC waiting for me upon my return to the hotel. I said goodbye, gave my friend her camera back, and for the first time in the whole week actually felt that I’d experienced a genuine piece of Prague and done something that a professional media producer would do.

The following day the shambles continued. I was asked to carry a tripod around Prague so my friend could take some cut-away footage on her DSLR. As it transpired, the tripod had no release plate on it, so I was just lugging it around all day. I dropped it off at the hotel during lunch time, and regrouped later. On the final day, all hopes of the project seemed lost. I set off to buy a birthday present for a friend of mine, but due to my phone having lost all signals all week, it was practically impossible to reunite with the team. Thus, I decided to explore all the Prague I’d missed in the last week – try the foods, buy the trinkets, and visit the places. This included a trip up to a giant pendulum on a hilltop, which upon closer inspection was a drug den rife with hooded youths. Ever typical, I took a few photos and enjoyed the view anyway, before the smell of marijuana finally edged me back down the graffiti-ridden hill steps. I also took on a dish that the rest of my group had tried to eat – but failed – earlier in the week. I made a point of finishing off the whole meal (soup in a bread load, if you were wondering). I took photos as proof of the victory.

The final night was not of discussion or celebration, but more of relief. A little game of ‘secret santa’ was played, and I hung around for a while, before finally retiring to my bed to continue the development of ‘The Job Interview’ for 264MC. Despite the way the week had started, the last two days had compensated somewhat. But the best thing was, the week was over, I was still alive, and we were now returning home!

Part Ten: Reflection and Evaluation

And I use that second term very lightly. As of yet at this late hour, no final artefact has been produced. Footage was successfully captured at an art museum and the football stadium, as well as a few interviews with workers inside the city. Cut-away shots were taken mostly on hand held cameras. What the end result is is a mystery, as I have not seen any of the final footage myself – perhaps the final cuts were deemed ‘un-editable’ by the top brass. It’s not something I’ll ever know.

Let’s get the obvious out the way with to start with regarding reflection. Every now and then you come across something in university life that really strikes a bulls-eye hit of bringing out the absolute worst in you. Especially with regards to 201MC, this is it. As predicted, this was one of the most costly projects for this module, and coincidentally one of the least productive. I say that only with regards the week in Prague however. As I have found on occasion before on these blogs, it’s hard to reflect upon something where I was heavily restricted in terms of development. The week in Prague did not develop me technically in any way. It taught me a few lessons in how to keep a cool head, but that’s more of a life lesson than a media one.

The week in Prague upsets me so much I don’t even want to talk about it. This final part goes a lot better if I start to think about the time before the actual event itself. During this period, I learned how to use JVC cameras inside and out. Sure, I didn’t use them in the end, but the knowledge was now there, giving me the edge on my competitors in the Short Film module. As it transpired, a cameraman on this project would also help me out on that module as well, as well as co-star on my weekly radio show. The fundraising around the pubs was a little nerve-wracking, but it was certainly an experience to ask for money rather than to be asked for it.

The Ghost In The Machine was a crucial step – largely irrelevant to most on this project, but actually my first attempt at a script. I don’t think it turned out that bad – certainly the idea and the story are there (though a little too scripted for Clifton’s liking). The experience of heading through the airports has taught me simple lessons about how to get through customs and airport security with equipment – something that will no doubt hinder me in many future projects abroad regardless. I also got experience working with equipment in the snow, even if it was only in this country. I also played around with tracks, pull-focus shots, in-camera editing with the pain tools, and other technical marvels. In truth, almost all technical development came from the pre-production test shoots, where everyone had a role with working equipment, and we were all living the dream of ‘Once Upon A Time’. I also showed good social skills, obeying every command given to me by my superiors whilst giving my own recommendations when I could, and working with third years, who were for the first term more or less complete strangers to me.

Above all though, the lessons learned most from this project came from the failings rather than the happy times. First off, never, EVER take on a project like Once Upon A Time unless you have the money for it. The moment the budget was drawn up (not that you couldn’t guess it was costly), we should have scrapped the idea. £3000 does not come from students, it comes from companies and organizations who are willing to fund your enterprise, or it comes from us, and our £200 each supplements from the IEMS services. I know from 264MC that sometimes you have to draw out of your own pocket to get things moving in a project. I never got the impression that people were willing to do this.

Likewise, NEVER listen to inspiring speeches and get drawn into project when your heart tells you it’s wrong. I knew this project was suicide, but I went along for the ride. Too bad it turned out bad, how else was it? And whilst I’m at it, IF you get a good idea for an alternative project, see it in before two weeks before the flight leaves. Don’t put the idea forward with days to spare and act surprised when nobody takes notice. But above all…

(this needs a new paragraph)

ABOVE ALL

Do not ever, EVER, trust ANYONE to give you working equipment. Not even the university you’ve paid money to. Check ALL equipment. This would not have helped the second Z1 camera, but it would have helped me. Heck, if I’d checked the camera, maybe it wouldn’t have broken at all. Maybe after the second Z1 broke, mine could have seen this project through. I’d have gained experience, a solid final project would have been produced, and I’d be talking about what a lovely time I’d had rather than all this depressing stuff. And that, generally, is my entire Prague experience summed up in one sentence:

Check the equipment – it’s the difference between having the option to fail, or having no options at all.

The Age Of Enlightenment

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , on March 24, 2011 by Adam Broome

The Age Of Enlightenment (A.K.A The Age Of Reason) was a period in the 18th century where being of faith and belief stopped being the ‘cool’ thing to do, and science and ‘reason’ started to become the main driving force behind all major social change, ultimately leading us the society we live in today. At this late hour on the evening of the 260MC had-in, I figure it is time to at least acknowledge this post that I have been so acutely avoiding posting for so long now.

The age is based around philosophical approaches to life and society – that is, the ideals of a culture. The age aimed to promote argument (founded upon ‘reason’), and start getting people to challenge systems already set up. The way our lecturer put it, most thought came from the pubs before this philosophical revolution, and the way I see it, most of the time period before this act were very religiously orientated. This was to be a turning point in the development of the human race, for better or for worse.

It of course relates to media in the sense that through challenging and arguing over people’s points of view and debating, we have ben given certain freedoms that dominate the media industry as an institution. Media in general is all about representing opinions, be it through film or television or radio. Had the Age Of Enlightenment not happened, perhaps the media industry would never have been born (perhaps, due the lack of scientific perspective, we may still have been in the industrial revolution at this point in time). The fact that the age focused primarily on vocal and written arguments (a perspective held strong in academia) solidifies this theory.

So what of it? Is it not just another chapter in the history books? Well, yes and no. It is perhaps the official birthplace of the media industry (a question I’ve wanted answering since Term 1 last year – go find it in one of my posts!). It was subject to much criticism due to the arguments it proposed, much like the ever-changing media industry today (*cough* Wikileaks *cough*). I wouldn’t say we were still in an age of reason – more, this one singular philosophical advance has become a part of our everyday lives. So it is part of history, but a part of history that we live each day and take for granted.

It is also perhaps a movement that gave hope to revolutionaries wanting to challenge the authorities. This philosophical change – although started mostly be the educated and the academic – would no doubt affect the young troublemakers who later grow up to become radical leaders of change. This movement does in some way lend a hand to the formation of things such as freedom of speech – again, something we take for granted, and again, something very important in the media industry.

But how can knowing this help us humble students in our future careers? Is it not just archaic mumbo, held only to be used in fancy restaurant conversations? Possibly – the age happened a long time ago, and it wont be until a new Age Of Enlightenment occurs that our generation will really engage with what this movement tried to do. You may think it wont happen, but I myself am not so sure. Some say humanity is reaching the pinnacle of evolution, yet I think that there are always improvements to be made (not making a swan song for world peace, but as long as there’s war, there’s room for improvement). Given the technological advances, perhaps there will be a philosophical movement one day that will be broadcast all over the world that will unite all religions, genders and races, and create a true Age Of Enlightenment. One can hope – but what would that do to the media industry? That is a point to be debated on a future / science fiction related programme – an intriguing thought, but lacking gravitas.

The Montage Of Beautiful Things – Evaluation and Reflection

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , on March 24, 2011 by Adam Broome

After filming Colourful Symmetry, I finally started up FCP for the final time on this project, and after obtained the ‘.mov’ file of ‘Shapes and Shadows’, imported all my different projects onto the timeline. My aim was quite simply to create a sequence of the ‘best bits’ from each project, creating a showreel no longer than five minutes in length. I was aiming to create several narratives in the showreel as well, to give a feel for each of the projects – such as the poem ‘Two Minutes’, or the ‘Dirty Text’ piece, for example.

However, I knew I had to start with a title sequence. Brush Script seemed the best, as it has a ‘personal’ feel to it (almost like I’d written it myself). The colour choice was white for the simple reason that I decided my opening shot would be the ‘Pleasantville’ daffodils from my last project. I incorporated this with the opening of Dirty Text (the 360 loop-shot), which I also figured was an unusual way to start proceedings. It was my hope that both shots would capture the audience’s attention, as they are rather bizarre visually.

For music, I tried using one track slowed down, but it didn’t sound right, so I quickly decided to use two sound tracks. I re-used the soundtrack from ‘Colourful Symmetry’ in the opening few seconds, as the strange music fitted the bizarre opening shots anyway. It may lead the audience to believe I am re-hashing Colourful Symmetry, but then of course the joke is one them. The ‘fade to black / boom’ effect was something I’d originally used in my protest march documentary (and looking back at that project, made earlier in the year, you can see how far I’ve come). Then, the original soundtrack came into play. I started and ended with ‘Night Lights’, as that project had a nice opening and end sequence. Only telling parts of the joke in that project would not have worked for this montage, so I cut most of the ‘light’ project out.

The rest just came naturally – I put up the titles of the initial shots of each project so audiences had a name to what they were watching. The Brick was the one with the brick in it; Two Minutes was the one with the guy talking; The Urbanisation was the city-orientated photographs. For each project, I started off with the earliest shots, and played them through in chronological order so they made the most sense. For choosing the shots, I chose the ones that looked the most beautiful, or the ones that demonstrated the most significant parts of the narrative within. Each project also had it’s own problem with fitting into the sequence:

The Brick was just too slow. I realised I could cut the time of the montage down significantly by accelerating this stop-motion movie to 130%. It was fast enough to significantly reduce the run time, without affecting the experience of the film. I chose what I considered to be the best shots, and incorporated them into the piece.

Two Minutes had problems from the start – the image of me reciting the poem was the first issue. It didn’t exactly look eye-catching or beautiful, but then it was an artefact base around the poem. I had to be sure the audio was clear enough to capture the audience with audio, thus compensating for the lack of visual interest, However, the music overlapping drowned out my voice – lowering the whole track didn’t benefit the silent clips like The Urbanisation though. I made several points on the audio track, and lowered them accordingly (-27db) every time Two Minutes came into play. This way, the montage had a loud music track, and yet you could still hear the poem when those clips came into play. Two Minutes was mainly included in the first half of the montage (with Dirty Text in the latter half) as switching between the two frequently throughout didn’t seem to work as well. Two Minutes is featured at the end just because it has a rather ‘classic’ ending.

Dirty Text had all the same problems as Two Minutes did, with the addition of a music track. For most projects, I just deleted the original audio track completely, but with Two Minutes and Dirty Text, the words were pivotal to the narrative within the artefacts. Two Minutes was just words, and so was much easier to incorporate. Dirty Text featured music in the background, which can be heard to the acute listener at various points in the montage.

I could have re-done the original sound clip and used that instead, but I felt like this was cheating – my montage was to be made of ‘.mov’ files of all the finished pieces, and not the individual elements that constructed them. During the ‘reverse waterfall’ shot, I just included the text part, and then cut the audio back to the soundtrack of the montage, as the econd half of this clip sounded really bad, with Dirty Text music combating the Montage music to a very obvious degree (but I really wanted the waterfall shot in this final montage).

The introductory shot – a really nice pull-focus – needed to be included as it set up the narrative for this piece quite well. However, the text that introduced this series of clips almost clashed with the ‘Foundation’ word on screen (this project being my ‘Text’ piece). I felt all the text on screen perhaps ruined this pull-focus shot slightly – it worked a lot better in the original artefact. However, this montage is really only to give a ‘taste’ of each project – it could be argued that they all work better individually.

Dirty Text had one other major problem – all the other shots were fairly fast-paced, and darted around between each other to keep the viewer interested. The pace of the montage is hampered at several points by the beautiful slow-motion shots from this piece. I would have edited some of Dirty Text out (such as the ‘tree’ shot towards the end) but kept a lot of footage in, as the computerized voice needed to explain the point of the artefact (and indeed tell the narrative of the piece). It still looks a little strange to me – fast paced suddenly slowing down to a sluggish pace. It does add variety to the pacing though, which may not be such a bad thing after all. Perhaps a few more overlaps of the audio could have been beneficial.

Shapes And Shadows was more or less completely re-done in my own editing suite. I took the original file, and then used split-screen (as I promised myself I would) to introduce that piece. The blue background clearly separated it from the rest of the shots, yet (indeed as I had felt when filming) there was not a lot of usable footage. I kept all the hand shadows to a minimum, as well as all the weird ‘bendy body’ stuff, restricting the shots in this montage to the shots of our friend Faye doing her various somersaults.

Colourful Symmetry was ultimately one of the most beautiful artefacts that I ended up filming. However, a large portion of the project included in this montage is the one long shot of the city walk, with the faded mirror elements incorporated over the top. I felt this shot summed up the artefact perfectly – I originally included the shot of the duck, but it just looked out of place. Once this shot was planted firmly in the middle, the only other shot that added anything to this montage was the ‘Pleasantville’ shots of the purple flowers. Most of the other shots from this project just seemed to pale in comparison, so I limited the use of this project in favour of the deeper and more engaging projects.

Night Lights, as mentioned, featured a joke told with glow sticks. Only showing part of the joke would confused the audience, as it doesn’t make sense if only a section of the joke is told. Because of this, I decided to only use the start and end of the project – from what feedback I was given, these were the best shots of the project anyway.

The Urbanisation also looked oddly out of place – the still images again providing quite a drastic change in pace and style, of course adding variety to the showreel, but also taking away a smooth-flowing showreel. I used the majority of Prague photos from the gallery, and tried to incorporate them better by using fade effects and splitting the screen up into four sections (I also did this to reduce run time).

Overall I like the way my montage turned out. I fear it may be a little on the long side, but you get a good idea of what each project has been about, and this montage clearly demonstrates all the varieties of styles and approaches I have used during this last term. I like the way the pacing changes for the most part – I think variety is important in a showreel, as it demonstrates ability to use different approaches to filmmaking. The music used was very general, but for the surrealism of some of the projects on show, a normal-sounding soundtrack is probably what this showreel needed the most.

I like the variation in the music as well (the montage is long enough to pull it off). It completely differentiates the start of the montage from the main bulk, which draws attention to the text at the beginning. Not only are audiences aware of my name (despite using Brush Script font, I believe the text is large enough to read clearly), but they also see me at several points in the montage itself, reciting Two Minutes, and also at the end surrounded by glow sticks. This is important, as it shows and names the person who created the montage clearly. If this was to be used to advertise my skills, people would now have a face to the name. The opening shot of the ‘Pleasantville’ flowers also shows a good use of editing technique that should distinguish my montage from others people’s.

The fade to black that cuts the opening shots from the main bulk of the montage works every bit as well as it did during the protest march project – it ‘prepares’ the audience for something exciting and action packed. The Brick catches the attention of the audience straight away – I still believe it is one of the best projects I created this term. Even with accelerating the footage, I don’t think this has taken anything away at all – by keeping the montage speedy (to a certain extent) it added more than detracted from the artefact as a whole.

Alongside The Brick, Two Minutes and Shapes are probably the most recognizable, and stay in the mind the most. Shapes and Shadows was the only group work I conducted during the term for this montage – ironically, it is also probably the project I was least happy with. The final project was nothing more than a play with shadows and lighting, and served no deeper purpose. This perhaps comes across on screen – however, some shots were deemed ‘pretty’ and thus slotted into my montage nicely. The token blue screen added a recurring shade of colour which I liked, as it gave a sort-of ‘colour consistency’ to the piece. The clips are recognizable to remind the audience of the project, yet are not overused (which is always a good thing).

Two Minutes makes the audience focus more on audio than visual aspects, which I have yet to discover is successful or not. I’m not too happy about the nulling down of the imagery (I did incorporate other shots from Two Minutes and overlapped them over my voice over to keep the visuals interesting at one point). I may have been better doing Two Minutes again in a re-shoot – re-doing the audio with proper sound equipment, and then perhaps using drama students to re-enact the stories within the poem itself. It was only due to time constraints that was not done originally – it’s certainly a style of filmmaking to look into in the future.

Dirty Text and Colourful Symmetry are – predictably – hard to tell apart visually. I know the slow-motion shots are from Dirty Text, but an unsuspecting audience would not know that – were it not for the ‘computerized voice over’, there would be hardly any differentiation at all. This goes against the montage – pretty though it looks, it is difficult to tell the two apart. The project still looks beautiful because of it, yet I feel I made two projects that were too much alike to work in this final montage – more variety was needed visually. Perhaps using the Pleasantville effect more would have worked in my favour, or perhaps using more mirror effects.

The poor urban photo gallery just looks completely out of water here. They were a photo project alongside The Brick and Night Lights, but as mentioned, Night Lights was pretty much out from the start, and The Brick was stop-motion. This was the only project as stand-alone photography, and the moments when the montage stops completely to show a full-screen version of a photo just doesn’t work too well. It doesn’t help the fact that the first two from this project are daytime shots and all the rest are night time (that was just the way they turned out!) It adds variety, as I say – for better or for worse has yet to be deemed. But looking at it now, it may have been a good idea to ‘swipe’ them from one side of the screen to the others, or just keep them moving somehow using Ken Burns or something.

This, however, would now allow audiences to fully experience the visual impact of the photos (I genuinely did choose the best Prague ones – some I was really happy with). I wanted the audience to have a taster of some of the best photos… but even so, this seemed to be a montage of video clips, and the photos just seemed out of place. It needed to be in there though – purely as this is a montage of every project I’ve done for this module this term, including photography.

The text I used for all the projects was highlighted with shadows, as I am all too aware of the danger of white text on videos. It think the simple font face went in it’s favour, as it serves the purpose of being easy to read. At the speeds you need to read some of the text in time, it’s good to have simple font faces, rather than continuing the ‘Brush Script’ style I started at the beginning (another way this montage benefitted from having an opening sequence separate from the body of the montage.

As a final note, the music in the background seems to always become repetitive at the same point – during the close up on the purple flower right after the Dirty Text pull-focus. I didn’t write the music, and when you have something that fits a project this good, for me it’s best to work around it. It uses the same riff perhaps a couple of times too often – then again, that’s probably why the sound clip was free!

Montage Projects 6 + 8 – ‘Colourful Symmetry’

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , , , , , , on March 23, 2011 by Adam Broome

Bringing up the rear was the final montage project, a hybrid of two words and a somewhat ‘sequel’ to ‘Dirty Text’ completed the week before. Colourful Symmetry was designed to further my understanding of editing in FCP, particularly in terms of grading and colour technique. I also wanted to learn how to use ‘mirror’ effects.

The approach to this project was similar to Dirty Text – the only difference this time was that I was using a PDX10 as opposed to a Z5, so the quality was slightly lower, and there were no slow-motion shots. For the last time, on a nice sunny day, I returned to the memorial park, but avoided the forest this time. I had a vague idea of what mirror effecs I was looking for, and got shots of trees in the centre of the camera, along with some naturally-occurring symmetry as well. I took a video of several lakes and stream, trying to capture the reflections in the water. I also took some footage of local flowers coming into bloom, as I figured they’d be a good focal point for colour.

Then, just like several times before, the trip around the nature park was quickly followed up by a trip to Coventry city centre, where I got additional footage – one was an extremely long shot of my journey as I walked towards another park on the other side of town. This was sped up to about 1000% in the final cut. Once I felt I’d obtained enough footage, I returned to the editing suites and uploaded.

We were told not to do this a long time ago – upload images and overplay music. However almost every student on the course has an example of this artefact in some form or another – at least I can say I made my version of the artefact last when I saw no other way forward. Once the videos were uploaded, I sequenced them in a way I was happy, and re-sped the long shot. I used what I had learned from Dirty Text to grade most of the shots, and applied mirror effects to the 360-degrees ‘tree’ shot, which turned out more or less exactly how I had hoped. The shots of the duck on the lake were kept until the end – not did this fit the music, but it was also a ‘cute’ way to end the piece (much like with the squirrel in ‘The Urbanisation’).

Critically however, whilst meandering around the internet looking for ways to further improve my editing skills and make this artefact look better, I stumbled across something called ‘The Pleasantville Effect’. This effect is named after the film Pleasantville.

I remember watching the film many years ago when I was young – I didn’t think much of it (probably too young), but I recognised the name and knew what it meant straight away. The film used a very unique technique – the whole film is black and white, but half-way through, things start turning into colour. It’s much like the ‘arrival’ scene in The Wizard Of Oz or, the ‘red coat’ scenes in Schindler’s List (see below).

I thought it would be a really great idea to learn this and get something really productive out of a simply artefact. I saw the tutorial for it, which can be found below, and it took me step-by-step through the process. I used the shots of the flowers to implement the effect, only bringing the bloom into colour, and leaving the rest of the image black and white.

Here’s the tutorial I used on how to make this rather ‘spiffy’ effect:

Overall, I think the effect worked really well, and I can see it coming in use in the future. I’ve not seen many students on the course use this effect yet, and for me (whose knowledge of editing is… was limited) this was quite a big step forward. Split-screen and wireframes were experimented with during the production of this artefact, but it didn’t look right, and I decided to save those effects for the actual montage itself.

The final piece of the puzzle was choosing the music, which came from the regular site FreePlayMusic.com. The tune is called ‘Witches Approaching’, and I fell in love with it straight away. The music was over-the-top, but that was sort of the point. This tapped into what I had already researched around symmetry itself – it doesn’t take much to make symmetry (or distorted version of symmetry) to seem like a threatening and rather sharp affair. The music added a certain gothic atmosphere to the images (despite the images being taken mostly in the sunshine), and I think that really added to the piece. What the visual elements lacked was compensated for in the soundtrack.

I liked the way it turned out overall. I think it complements Dirty Text nicely – the pacing is completely different, as is the content. The former worked on a much deeper level, whereas this piece was just something that looked pretty and sounded intriguing. Nevertheless, despite the simplicity of this artefact, the editing skills I learned from the production will no doubt benefit me in many projects to come, meaning this project has achieved it’s purpose 100%.

Montage Project 2 + 9 – ‘Dirt’ + ‘Text’ = ‘Dirty Text’

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , , , , on March 18, 2011 by Adam Broome

Dirt.

It has been a dark cloud over this Montage Of Beautiful Things since week 2 (in my case anyway). Initially the idea was to have a P.O.V video with two conflicting sides of the same mind. The idea was humourous and simple, yet it also delivered a significant message. A message that I deemed too strong to simply be implied in a comedic artefact – an idea that became a narration, and then became a monologue, but which still didn’t work – right up until week 9, when the answer presented itself:

Text.

DIRT – FIRST SEQUENCE – ‘The Walk’

The initial idea was to create a montage project every week (fat chance), but by week 2, wedged between two rather good attempts (Wall and Time) sat this little idea here. My initial thoughts about the word ‘dirt’ led to a fascination with bad language, and I wanted to do something revolving around that. This led to the idea of using dirty minds, or dirty ways of thinking. I knew this would create a humourous video, which would have gone down well given the rather serious nature of my other artefacts. I also knew the idea was simple – P.O.V shots and a voice over, sort of like Peep Show, a clip of which can be seen here:

For simplicity’s sake, I figured the best way to go about making a video like this would be to do a video from my own point of view, and trace a series of thoughts that actually go on in my head (foul language and all). However, despite seemingly having all the components, there seemed to be something missing… something rather important. That was, the inclusion of ‘dirt’ itself.

I went to the forest between Coventry and Warwick University (beyond the memorial park) with a PDX10, and filmed a journey that I took through the woods. Initial thoughts were largely focused on whether or not I was making back to civilization alive, but then (with a certain irony) I started included thoughts on what I was actually going to do for the ‘dirt’ project set by my university this week. The trail of thought crossed back over the War Memorial Park, and it was over three minutes into the film before the answer of ‘what is dirt’ was even remotely answered.

I asked myself time and time again, and the notion I concluded was that I wanted to represent dirt as something that other things grow out of. Everyone else in the year seemed to have completed an artefact based around cleanliness. I wanted to do something different. I started my film with a shot of my foot stepping in some mud (ample amount in the forest), which started the ‘conversation’.

I came across the problem of needing a two-way conversation, and so decided to make 2 alternate versions of myself, effectively me talking to myself inside my head. The idea started off okay, but yet it made the artefact needing to be quite long, in order for an audience to understand the context of what was going on. To make things even more complicated, I also came upon the notion that dirt did not have to be physical – physical dirt was obvious and boring, and I wanted to do something metaphorical. The idea of having the ‘dirt of society’ is a common one, yet if I could create the sort-of parable that without poverty, the higher-classes societies would not exist, my artefact would have weight, which is what I was aiming for.

However, although this idea was a really good idea, it was the failing point of this initial attempt. Myself as an artist have no right to make such a sweeping statement. Seven minutes in, when the voices finally got round to discussing metaphorical dirt in a modern society, it just made me sound egoistic. It was a good point, but also a sensitive one. It followed the ideals that governments should fear the public, and not the other way around. Yet the delivery did not make that impression. I was unhappy about it, and given the sensitive nature of the message, I decided to discontinue my production of this first piece. I was now already behind on ‘City’ as well, and with one word a week for the next two months, I knew this would be a burden for quite a while yet.

The voice-overs of the first piece were conducted using my favourite compilation of using a reporters mic attached to a Marantz in my room. I tried to convey two theatrical sides of my personality – the serious and the crazed. It was my intention to show extracts of this first project on my post, but the audio files seem long deleted, and as the rest are merely unedited shots of me walking with a camera, it doesn’t really amount to much, so I’ll move quickly on.

DIRT – SECOND SEQUENCE – ‘The Slow-Mo Monologue’

By about week 7, ‘Shape’ was in the bag along with ‘City’ and several others, giving me the first window in weeks to return back to ‘Dirt’ and start developing a new idea. The idea of the poor being the dirt to the rich would still be the main focal point, and I would still need to impose this idea using verbal communication. This time however, I had a better idea – I would create something of a ‘slow-motion monologue’ – that is, a monologue that is overplayed with slow-motion shots. I would take several shots of the first and the city in slow-motion, and then incorporate the monologue, the same way I used audio in the first sequence. This project would then also allow me to explore the ‘Smooth Slow Record’ function on the Z5 cameras, which we had been introduced to weeks before, but which I had not yet got round to experimenting with.

I made several test shots in my room to understand the benefits and limitations of smooth slow record. I managed to get some good shots – notably what would become the opening shot, the ‘360 loop shot’ (which is no safe way to take videos with a Z5). The original test shots can be viewed here:

After conducting this test shoot, all that was left was to return to the forest and get the shots. I took the forest shots first, and got a variety of shots. Ever shot was taken in smooth slow record. I got several 360 loop shots, several spinning shots, and several ones that corkscrewed or twisted. The beauty of it was that without smooth slow record, it was really jittery and unprofessional. With my steady hands, throwing the Z5 camera around in the space of 6 seconds led to really smooth transitions and footage of almost impossible shots. I also experimented a lot with pull-focus shots, and got some really nice ones of zoom-shots cutting through large portions of forest land. I subsequently went to the city to get the ‘urban’ footage, though I was increasingly aware of including people in my video. Thus, I went to more secluded areas to get footage of waterfalls, pigeons, and walls. There were also several shots of buildings, but they looked boring on the final cut, and were thus cut out.

The footage was placed in Final Cut Pro, and awaited my monologue. However, only a few words in, I realised that sadly once again the artefact didn’t ‘fee right’. My voice, despite devoid of any emotion other than pessimism, just didn’t seem to fit the message I was trying to get across. I still sounded judgmental, and the effect I wanted still seemed to be eluding me. I had no answer to how the monologue was going to work out. Thoughts of doing a complete re-vamp using the collected footage was in the works… right up until the final word was unveiled, and the answer unveiled.

DIRT + TEXT – FINAL SEQUENCE

We were set the ninth word, ‘Text’, and I immediately coupled it with Dirt. ‘Colourful Symmetry’ was already set, with me now combining words to reduce the workload by 50%. It took mere seconds before the pieces of puzzle fell into place. From last year, I knew that my Macbook could essentially ‘speak’ the words I typed on Pages documents. The Macbook would be the futuristic, non-human narrator of the piece. Although my name would be on it, this would now be a post-modern, experimental-narrative-orientated piece that made the point without stepping on too many toes. I tried the robotic version of the monologue, and realised it worked. I was happy with the set-up, although recording the ‘speech’ function through the Macbook led to a lot of feedback from the mics, meaning I had to record the Macbook monologue the same way I’d recorded my own voice throughout the past weeks.

Then, I went about experimenting with editing technique, having just learned how to use grading, and now seeking to expand my skills beyond my boundaries and secure an ‘intermediate – advanced’ level of understanding the full capabilities of ‘FCP’. I used my revised knowledge of editing and just ran about all over the shop – almost every single shot in the final cut has been edited in some way or another – we’ve got de-saturations, grading, opacity controls, fades, flips, reversed shots… and of course it’s all in slow-motion. To top it off (and to cement that word ‘text’ clearly into this project) I included random words that held the most relevance to the point I was trying to make (e.g. ‘Foundation’ and ‘Empire’). The whole video was so surreal the words suited the project perfectly. Believe it or not as well, this was the first project where I’d actually learned what a ‘wireframe’ was.

My editing skills have probably doubled with this project, and it has been a long time coming. This is likely to be one of the most surreal pieces for my montage, yet will not look out of place alongside my previous efforts. It’s a lot more post-modern than most of my work – I don’t tend to do this type of video production. But for what’s it’s worth… I quite like it!

The final version can be seen here. It is uploaded on Youtube, as access to Vimeo for myself is now out of bounds until after the deadline date:

Montage Project 7 – ‘Light’

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , on March 14, 2011 by Adam Broome

For this week, we had to create a project based around the theme of ‘light’. I felt that our ‘Shapes’ project had already covered light in some detail, but decided to make another artefact nonetheless – preferably something to do without shadows. In the lecture, we were introduced to the idea of using very slow shutter speeds to create ‘light drawings’. Light drawings were initially created by artists such as Picasso (see below), but as you can probably tell they required a good hand in order to make them look good. You also need good co-ordination, as the image you ‘paint’ is reversed on the lens in front of you.

I figured doing simple light drawings was a bit too simple for me, so I wanted to mix things up a bit. Picasso used flash photography to include stills of himself as he made his light drawing, but although I wanted myself on the reel, I felt that flash photography was not the way I was going to do it.

I decided early on to use my DSLR camera for the project (Nikon D5000). I intended originally to use a PDX10 with a slow shutter speed, but I realised that would not work for making proper pictures. I set up my room and plunged it into dark, and used two glow-sticks to make my ‘paintbrushes’. Not wanting to jump ahead too fast, I started with a few simple light drawings, some of which I really liked, and thus included them in my final piece. After the initial shots were taken, I decided to ‘draw’ out a lightbulb-orientated joke. The first one to come to mind was the mexican one:

‘How many Mexicans does it take to change a lightbulb? –> Juan!

I just got to work writing out the words. I realised early on that whole words such as ‘change’ were not going to be completed in one shot alone, and nor could I replicate the word as a noun for a picture (in the way I attempted to do with the word ‘lightbulb’, I drew a picture instead of spelling a word). My way to counteract this problem was to break the word down into two letters at a time, using one hand for one letter and the other hand for the other. Then, in editing, I would speed up the letters in quick succession to hopefully spell the word and differentiate it from the other text. Again, all letters had to be back to front in order for them to make sense through the lens. The shoot overall took about thirty minutes. Looking back on it, perhaps blank-space photos between words may have worked better to create the entire sentence.

Finally, I wanted my own photograph as a way of ‘signing’ the work. I experimented with various positions using the glow-sticks, before finally just getting in close to the lens and twirling them all around my head to light my face up from all sides. The final shot was the one I was most happy with (a lot of shots didn’t turn out too well, as I had to hold my head perfectly still for four seconds whilst moving the glow-sticks around). It made quite a nice to end to the piece I thought. I chose a sort of ‘rave-esque’ music track to place in background to fit the neon-style presentation of the work.

It would have been nice to use more colours – blue, green and yellow most notably. However, it seemed I only had red and orange, and once they were cracked open… that was that.

http://www.vimeo.com/20710623