Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Opening Scene Final

Preliminary task: Finished film


After we Storyboarding for our film opening, George created the animatics which allowed us to note how long we want each shot to last and therefore get the most truthful representation of the structure of our film .

Question 7

With our preliminary task offering a kind of introduction to the equipment and process you must go through to create a product I feel that i've been able to extend my knowledge gained from this first instance to improve and refine to a certain extent some of the key filmmaking skills.

Planning and research

Although i've never been short of new ideas in the past, with my knowledge of the media greatly improving over the last year, i've been able to link these new ideas to examples of similar work with more ease and my ability to acknowledge and identify influences of our own work or films within a specific genre have been enhanced.


Having used a wide variety of different shots during our continuity task I felt that the possibilities of how you can shoot a scene were opened up to me. During the storyboarding for our film opening I found that I had gained more of a filmmakers eye and was able to think in terms of the overall sequence of scene, shot by shot rather than focus on coming up with spectacular, one off shots. This doesn't mean any creativity was out the window, as I often wanted to push us as a group into being quite ambitious in our shot choices. (My idea for a tilt tracking shot moving from low down behind the computer in my bedroom for the bedroom scene proved very challenging to get a smooth take without any wobble. Consequently the shot wasn't used in the final edit). What I found myself pushing to achieve most was efficiency in the execution of a shoot. One of the main problems I’ve faced throughout the year whether with the preliminary exercise or the film opening is the difficulty of having to come back to a location having shot half the footage needed and then add onto this while trying to keep the continuity. This is near impossible if the gap between filming sessions is left too long. Other than time restraints I now feel comfortable using any school camera equipment on a basic level. The next step is to develop my operational skills of a variety of film production hardware so that I’m able to personalize and gain more control over the look of footage captured. Such as we've done with the Panasonic in learning how to effectively use manual focus.

image_editing.jpgEditing was the skill I was least sure about after our preliminary exercise because i had not done as much of the post production editing as I’d have liked to. However after doing a large amount of editing for our film opening I’m much more comfortable with the editing software Adobe Premiere Pro and although I’m clueless still to some of its advanced facilities, I'd now be able to take production footage and create a finished media product that was edited sufficiently and with some detailed work within the edit.
Going into the future I hope to further develop any filmmaking skills mentioned and to keep learning from my mistakes. Also, as our film opening showed, to continue to exploit new technologies within our media products.

Question 7

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Evaluation question 6

Voice Over

For the recording of our voice over we employed the help of principal music student Ed Watson as we knew that sound can be a tricky thing to get right and a bad recording could easily lower the quality of our product and make it look amateurish. A high quality condenser microphone was used to avoid background sound being picked up and using a device called an Emu my speech directly onto a computer through the music editing software Cubase. He then added a small amount of reverb and ran it through a virtual compressor with smoothed out my voice and background sounds by reducing the transmission bandwidth of the audio, removing the higher and lower frequencies. It is this kind of affects that along with plush, insulated studio gives radio presenters such as Terry Wogan such silky toned voices.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Evaluation 3

Our film would always be a hard sell to any potential distributers in the fact that it's a sort of Oxymoron. Romantic Comedies is a genre usually associated with big budgeted productions in Hollywood as opposed to small regionalised independent films. As many of the universal themes that run through our film are shared by the countless cheesy rom-coms made purely to make money over on the other side of the ocean, convincing distributers who seek to support films of artistic value such as The UK Film Council would be as hard as persuading big studios in Hollywood such as Warner Brothers or Miramax to pick up a film that was made on a shoe string budget and isn't exactly another Blair Witch Project.

As our film had theoretically been regionally financed by 'Screen South' it meant a large theatrical release would be an unlikely scenario due to the low profile our film would command and therefore are media product might be distributed by an institution that operated with more than one facility.

The works media group is distributer as well as a production company and is responsible for the distribution of Oscar winning documentary Man On Wire, Bend it like Beckham and Shane meadows film Somers town. With fairly restrained budgets, none of these films were intended to reach a large audience but through this distribution company people were able to see these niche independent films.

The Works banner

Evaluation 2

Evaluation question 5

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Evaluation question 1 (Part 2)

Untitled from daniel finn on Vimeo.

Evaluation 1 (Part 1)

They say there’s no such thing as a truly original idea and having gone through the process of creating a media product I’m able to understand what they mean. Every idea for our film opening was influenced or inspired by conventions established in previous media products. Are influences, found during the pre-production planning and research stage varied across genres and forms from Music videos, films and tv shows.

Untitled from daniel finn on Vimeo.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

filming session 1: the party scene first attempt

After completing our storyboards for our opening extended POV shot and having tested and establishing our filming technique for the sequence we felt confident about shooting the scene. Filming a party scene was always going to be difficult, we had the dilemma of whether we wanted to shoot at a real party or whether it would be better to try to gather some people specifically to film the scene. We found problems with both, if we were to film at a real party structuring our shot would prove difficult as because of the nature of the POV it meant people would have to be specifically placed in order for the attention to people gave to the camera was evenly spread out across the walking sequence. Because the POV shot needed to be captured in a continuos shot, several takes would be probably needed because of its complexity and need to get it right which would put a strain on peoples patience especially when they just want to have fun and unwind at a party. On the other hand gathering enough people to create the right conditions and recreate the atmosphere of a party could be a logistical nightmare and hard to justify to those involved who have to give up an evening when its only for a 20 second shot.
 In the end we thought that because of the nature of the shot, blurry and slightly jumpy to reflect dream like state, and our filming techniques and equipment we would go for authenticity and film at a real party. George Russell from our group was hosting a house party on Feb 3rd and so we decided we would use this as our opportunity to shoot.
The location was perfect, with a large black door that entered onto the downstairs corridor from which I would be able to move, wearing the headcam, up the stairs located on the right onto a narrow landing and past a few room doors until i turned a corner onto wear Leah (playing the girl) would be positioned ready to lead me into the bedroom at the end and push me onto the bed. The red of the carpet and walls on the stairs and the narrow yet lengthy landing added perfectly to the hazy, overpowering of the senses mise en scene we wanted to create.
The only thing was that we hadn't expected the lack of patience and level of commitment to filming we would need in order to capture the shot the way we wanted. It was a big effort for us to not only round people up for filming after the party had started (we had meant to film earlier but I was unable to get a lift to his house until later) but organise ourselves. Once everyone was in place and we were ready for a take, inevitably there were problems with the camera, first it kept swinging about whenever i moved as we hadn't found tape to hold the sides to the helmet. Then every time we went for a take I found that my nose kept pushing against the buttons on the camera, cutting the footage short.

An example of an early and most successful attempt at capturing the scene.

Having taken a break in filming to find some tape to fix some of the problems mentioned, people where only in the mood for partying and we ourselves just wanted to have a good time and didn't have the will power to try to round everyone up again.

Although ultimately the filming was a failure i think we all learned something about the process of shooting a scene and the traits needed to successfully capture the shots you want. There are always going to be problems whenever you film and you just need to make sure you are as prepared to deal with them as best you can by the work you do before hand and by trying to create the best conditions for filming. I think where we went wrong was not specifically in choosing to film at an actual party but in under preparing slightly in not taking enough test footage using the headcam and making the significant improvements in order so that we could be efficient on the night.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

How we filmed Our POV shot

POV shots are notoriously tricky to film as you have to get the balance right between creating a realistic viewpoint yet not filming a shot that’s so shaky it completely disorientates an audience.
Fliming techniques vary for POV shots from resting the camera on the shoulder  to using harnesses to hold the camera to the chest. However because we wanted to have the actors hands in shot it created more of a challenge, it meant we had to film hands free whilst still managing to control the movement of the camera. This ruled out any handheld techniques and we didn’t want to use the idea of attaching the camera to a harness around the chest as we wanted to get the realistic eyeline of the character/actor.

Although we couldn’t find any videos online for guidance.  We did find someone who had asked for similar advice.

One of the responders mentioned the technique they use in skiing/snowboarding freestyle videos of attaching a camera to the helmet of the skier/snowboarder.  This got us thinking about how we could make our own Helmet Cam.


Having seen the breathtaking footage that people have been able to capture using head cams we realised the effectiveness of this technique and decided to adopt it within the context of our own project.

Sanyo Xacti VPC –HD2000  
We singled this camera out because of its thin build, we couldn’t attach anything too bulky to a helmet otherwise it wouldn’t fit over the actors head.

Using the resources we had, we took the white hard hat that was laying unused in a cupboard for our helmet cam.

After experimenting with the positioning of the camera on the helmet we settled with it upside down, so that the lens was right between my eyes.

We practiced holding the camera in place using tape but we soon realized we would need a stronger hold between camera and hard hat to keep it in place. Then we came up with the idea of screwing the camera to the hard hat using the screw from a tripod attachment.

We took the equipment over to the tech department and they drilled a marked hole in the helmet. We could now put the tripod screw through the top of the  hard hat and screw it into the bottom of  the camera.

From our test footage we were generally pleased with the outcome, the camera was in the right position and I could still fit the hard hat over my head. Our only problems were that the camera didn’t stay in place when I moved my head instead swinging loosely from side to side and that the lens was often titled down so that the camera didn’t capture the eye line view of the operator. However we felt confident that we could fix these problems by using tape to hold the camera steady and tighten the hard hat on the actors head so that it wouldn’t tilt down.   

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Establishing the conventions of the Independent film as a Genre

Knowing the difficulty we would have in bringing together two contrasting genres, with the subgenre of rom-com not usually connected with the idea of an ‘indie’ film, we thought it would be important to understand the camera techniques and other features which help to define the conventions of this form of film.
I felt it was important to trace this idea of an ‘indie’ movie as its own identifiable genre back to it’s origins by observing the work of John Cassavetes.                                                                                                              
John Cassavetes- The Godfather of Independent film
"People have forgotten how to relate or respond; what I`m trying to do with my movies is build something audiences can respond to."
As an Oscar nominated Director, writer and actor John Cassavetes is best known as the pioneer of American independent film who tried to peel away from the dominating Hollywood film industry he worked in to try to create films that were closer to truth and reality.
What defined his films from the mainstream of Hollywood wasn’t just their low budget value, it was their use of improvisation and attempts to capture realism through adopting a Cinéma vérité style.  Unlike in hollywood films he wanted the audience to be aware of the presence of the camera through the combination of naturalistic camera movement and more abstract, less generic use of editing and camerawork that is prevalent in ‘truthful cinema’.
Here is a clip from the 1968 film Faces. starring Cassavetes' wife Gena Rowlands it was only the second film that he both directed and financed independently. The film was nominated for 3 Oscars which shows the filmmakers high regard within the film industry. 

A closer look at Cassavetes filming style:

After observing the filming techniques Cassavetes used in his films and understanding his ethos, that would go on to establish certain conventions for the independent film we felt more confident in applying this to our own ‘independent film’ opening. Lingering on shots was a technique I think could work well in establishing the lack of excitement and unglamorous lifestyle of our young protagonist when filming the bedroom sequence that will introduce his character. Also by subverting character roles with the protagonist being an unlikable nerd we are complying with Cassavetes ethos of not creating an idea which is completely generic.

As part of our research into independent film, I thought it might be worth taking inspiration from one of Mike Leigh’s film’s Happy-Go-Lucky. Although british, and a more modern filmmaker, Leigh uses similar methods and processes to Cassavetes such as producing a script through improvisation with the actors and it is this single visioned filmmaking that has lead to his films classification as ‘indie’ films even if sometimes they are financed by large film studios and achieve commercial success.
As the director of critical hits such as Vera Drake, his films are often referred to as gritty and dark, so it was refreshing to see him produce a film that was equally complex with 3 dimensional characters but had a positivity and light hearted tone that also fitted with that of a rom-com.

Speaking at the New York film festival in 2008 Mike Leigh expressed his reasons for holding shots for long periods of time such as the two shot at the end of Polly’s first driving lesson in the film, was because he wants the audience to be aware of the organic nature of the performances.  I would agree with him that by giving the performers space to breathe in this way allows the audience to understand each character. I think that ultimately in order to create an opening which is both absorbing for the audience and which fits the conventions set by our brief we will need to use many of the filming techniques established by directors like Cassavetes and Leigh and also think about the overall tone of the film that is influenced by it’s genre.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

film opening: Research

For our idea of a dream sequence we wanted to get it very much from a single persons perspective as dreams often are. We wanted the scene to feel very vivid yet the camera shot to be completely different to those we would later use so as to set it apart as his fantasy not as part of his reality. To get his perspective we would need to use a POV shot that would help to capture people’s reaction to him. We imagined the camera pushes through a crowd of people capturing their adoring reactions to him whether as a boy giving a high five or a girl winking flirtatiously at him. We wanted a POV that matched the characters exact eye line so that the viewer felt like they were in his shoes.  We looked for examples of how this type of shot has been done to great effect before. The one example that immediately sprung to mind was the Channel 4 comedy series Peep Show which uses the pov shot when combined with narration to really put you in the head of the two main characters. Most of the show is shot from either Mark or Jeremy's POV even when both characters are involved in a shot reverse shot. By hearing their strange and disturbing thoughts and their view on the world it makes for genuinely original and hilarious show. 

However it was a different example that really captured our imagination. The music video to The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up.

We all liked way in which they tricked the audience into thinking it was a male characters perspective when at the very end they reveal it to in fact be a girl. It made me think that if they were able to make us believe in the gender of the character just through the actions you see them doing then we would be able to make the audience believe that the person is attractive and the life and soul of the party without physically showing them. It is all in the camera movement and the other actor’s interaction with the camera. We liked how they jerked the camera from one point to the other reflecting the characters ever changing point of focus and the frantic nature of the whole video with time slowing down and speeding up as well as the camera spinning reflecting the persons wasted state. It was also effective having both the actor’s arms in shot and the interaction between the camera lens and what was in shot with water spraying the screen as the individual takes a shower or when a towel covers the screen when she is drying herself. It is these techniques that really make you see the screen as the persons eyes and face and that bring the action to life.

A problem that we were going to have to face if we were to go down the internet dating route in our opening was how to film someone on a computer and the website itself without boring the audience. A film I saw recently that did this well was The Social Network which focuses on what could potentially be quite a boring story cinematically, the creation of Facebook. Of course its an intriguing story otherwise no one would make a film about it but director David Fincher still had to solve the problem of filming long sequences of people just programming at computers.

He managed to overcome this through treating these moments as action sequences using close ups and quick editing between typing hands, looks of concentration and the computer screen itself. In this way he was able to bring energy to the scenes and capture the complete focus, quick thinking and drive behind the protagonist, Mark Zuckerberg that lead him to ultimately create Facebook. I think that although the protagonist in our film is very different from that in The Social Network we can still adopt a similar approach in trying to convey his escapism by creating a dynamic and engaging internet browsing sequence.

Film Opening: Initial Ideas

In order to create an interesting and engaging film opening we needed to have a good and original idea that was central to the narrative we would setup. After discussing different ideas in our groups the one that seemed to resonate most with everyone was the concept of an online dating romantic comedy. What attracted us to this idea was the thought of trying to bring an original slant to an often tired and unoriginal genre (Jennifer Aniston be warned!). Something as prevalent as internet dating and online interaction, as a relatively new phenomena, has yet to be fully exposed onscreen. The only films of any note on the subject being The Social Network and Catfish. By exploring this subject and by also subverting character roles with the youth protagonist, the hero, being an unconfident, unpopular nerdy kid rather than a handsome ultimately Hollywood style leading man, will hopefully help us to create an opening that will move away from the blockbuster, Hollywood film plot that  has defined the rom-com genre. By being original our film will be more in the tone of what small independent films are about, exploring new ideas that often hold up a mirror to society and use realistic characters that people from a specific area can relate to. An example of this is This Is England which focuses specifically on working class skin heads in the north of England in the 1980’s and is therefore will not appeal to world wide audience in the way Blockbuster films do.
Taking this core idea and how we wanted our young protagonist to be, we developed our initial idea into a vague scene-by-scene structure for an opening. We wanted to start with a very short dream sequence which falsely portrays the young protagonist as a hugely popular figure in which he walks through a party before flirting with the girl who would later be identified as the main love interest, this scene would then cut to the character in his bedroom either asleep or getting ready to go out as a nerdy, awkward teenage boy. By presenting two contrasting scenes straight away we hope to surprise the audience by setting up a profile for the main character, which leads the audience down one trail of what the style of the film is and its conventions before immediately challenging these expectations. It is vital that a film grips an audience straight from its opening and by catching the audience out in this way the viewer is far more likely to be intrigued by the film and its main character. Also by creating an illusion of the identity of the character it tied in nicely to one of the themes that fitted with the online dating aspect to the film, the idea that anyone can be someone online.
After briefly re- establishing the young protagonists identity we would introduce the online dating element with the character looking at his computer. We had thoughts on how this could incorporate into our opening credits, with each name being displayed as an online profile. It could also potentially introduce the love interest through a video post he watches on the website of her. Here we thought we could make use of our trip to New York, which would be a fantastic location to film a quick clip. With our film opening only being 2 minutes long it may be that this is all that we include with the young protagonist having an online profile on this dating website in which he falsely presented himself as a popular, attractive guy.  Interacting with the love interest online through a false identity. However if it fitted in we could potentially have the two characters bumping into each other at the very end of the opening, thus setting up the rest of a film by breaking the equilibrium.
As a group we also decided that we needed to come up with a rough outline of how the film would play out if we were to know if our idea had any potential. After all we were not just creating a 2-minute short film, there had to be enough substance to our initial idea that a whole feature length movie could feasibly spawn from. We came up with the idea that the young protagonist had something he couldn’t miss (something that is important to his future: an interview for Oxford/Cambridge say) but because he bumps into the girl he does miss it and this causes repercussions that develop the plot. Also to fit in with the genre conventions, there is a key hurdle that he has to overcome in order to win the girl. She doesn’t know he is the same person as the one she talks to online and this can be an area for humour with her thinking he’s gay or the problem of getting out of the ‘friendship’ category.
In discussing how the full feature length version of our film idea would play out it gave us confidence in our plan for the opening and that the idea was strong enough. I think the thing we are going to find hardest is being able to reflect the type of film wanted in our brief through a genre were the conventions do not match that of most independent, regionally financed films.

Our Brief: Film Opening

For our brief we had to create the opening 2 minutes to an independent film featuring a young protagonist and that appeared to be regional funding. This would mean that when coming up with ideas for our film opening we needed to think about the conventions implied by this brief and how are opening for a film will reflect this. For this project I will be working with Leah Beavis, George Russell and Alice Griffin.