The Montage Of Beautiful Things – Evaluation and Reflection

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!

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