BSc


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Thurrock Pitch

This task requires us to create a pitch for a film competition or festival. Richard, Frank and I decided to pitch our idea in the style of a kickstarter video (shown below). We are aiming to film in March, April and May so we can submit the finished film to Thurrock Film festival by the June 1st deadline.

 

 

As mentioned in the video, my primary roles will be directing and cinematography. This means that I will be responsible for directing the actors on set and lighting our scenes creatively in a way that suits the narrative. I will be working closely with Richard and Frank to ensure that the entire filming process runs smoothly and efficiently.

lighting plans

G DOGG LIGHTING PLAN 2

 

G DOGG LIGHTING PLAN 1

Cinematography

Aims and Objectives:

The main objective of this cinematography module is to devise, plan, shoot and edit a two minute narrative that showcases my skills as a cinematographer. The narrative has to be told entirely through the image on screen as no dialogue is permitted. We are required to shoot the film using raw cinema DNG files that we would have to go on to colour grade before submitting. My aim for this project is to produce a piece of film that encapsulates the lighting, style and aesthetic that I hope to incorporate in my future films. Through a combination of lighting, colour, camera movements and production quality, I hope to give my two minute narrative a cinematic yet true to life aesthetic that also evokes an emotional response from the audience.

Influences and Inspiration:

My first step in achieving my aims and objectives was to draw inspiration from films that have a similar style to that which I hoped to achieve and go on to research the work of their cinematographers. The first film that inspired me was ‘Drive’, not only because it is a favourite film of mine but also because it is unique in the way it looks with the colours that are used throughout, so I began my research on Newton Thomas Sigel who was the films cinematographer. The films powerful use of light and colour, most notably blue and orange, to portray the characters emotions and moods is something I also wish to achieve in my own work. I also found myself inspired by the work of Jeremy Saulnier who was the director of photography for the film ‘Blue Ruin’. This film is unlike ‘Drive’ in that it often uses only natural light sources. This may be less to do with technique and more to do with the low budget; however it worked in favour of creating a very distinctive and aesthetically pleasing film.

‘The key thing, for me, was to have a colour palette/lighting shift from the opening to the closing… he’s returning to his stomping ground and retracing his youth, and as he gets closer and closer to this origin, his colour palette warms, his wardrobe shifts from blue and white (at the beginning) to brown and green and warm earth on his face (at the end).’ (Saulnier, J. 2014)

I will approach my cinematography project with a similar mentality to Saulnier as I too hope to connote switches in mood and atmosphere through the use of changing light and colour.

Planning and logistics:

The idea behind my cinematography piece was based around a lonely male protagonist who is reminiscing about a past relationship. The film opens on a shot of the male protagonist sat in a darkened room looking thoughtful, and as the camera tracks to a close up of his face we intercut with scenes showing memories of him and his girlfriend. As the film progresses we see his girlfriend buying a train ticket as she prepares to leave, before his failed attempts to stop her. I chose this idea because the flashback scenes gave me a chance to shoot in multiple locations, use a wide variety of light sources and experiment with camera movements. Although we had practiced using Black Magic cameras and familiarised ourselves with the workflow of shooting raw in session, I decided to take out a Black Magic Cinema Camera to experiment in my own time in order to gain confidence before shooting my planned project. Below are the test shots I created:

 

 

 

 

Doing this gave me a good indication of how difficult it would be to shoot using only available light sources such as street lights and car lights. After I finalised my shot list I created an equipment list and booked all necessary equipment for the following week. To ensure that the filming process ran smoothly I created lighting plans for each of my scenes. In order to produce a look similar to that in ‘Drive’, I planned to shoot a specific scene in my lounge which would allow me to use artificial lighting and create the look achieved by Newton Thomas Sigel. I purposely used blue and orange as these are frequently used throughout ‘Drive’ as seen in the images below:

 

The bright, vivid picture that these colours will give the scene will juxtapose the flashback scenes, which will be predominantly dark and lit using only available light sources. I chose to do this as I wanted the difference in colours between the flashback and present day scenes to be obvious in order to show the change in mood and emotion.

I consciously chose to shoot different scenes on different days. This meant there was enough time to create footage I was completely happy with and to shoot in a way that meant myself, the cast and crew did not feel rushed or pressured in any way. I found that the biggest advantages of shooting this way was that there was a comfortable amount of time to brief cast and crew, set up equipment and do multiple takes to ensure the best outcome. When it came to the grading and editing process I found that there was plenty of footage to choose from and this made the editing process quick and easy because it was shot well in-camera. During the shoot for the flashback scenes, the most common problem I faced was the lack of available light sources. However, I always managed to overcome this issue with the use of a light metre and multiple silver and gold bounce cards. There was one particular jib-shot I wanted to do which myself, Frank and Richard successfully set up after a few hours and I was extremely pleased with the outcome of the test shots. However, by the time my actor arrived we had already lost over three stops of light according to the light metre. Although the shot would have worked nicely with the narrative, I decided not to include it due to the lack of light available at the time. It was a late finish by the end of the two days, but I was pleased with the amount and quality of footage I had obtained.

 

The next step was to import all of my footage to Da Vinci Resolve to begin colour grading which is an essential part of the workflow when shooting raw. I found the colour grading process difficult to begin with as I only had a basic understanding of the program. When the footage is initially brought into the software the image appears very flat and lacks saturation. However, by following a tutorial by ‘The Curious Engine’ I was able to give my image the exact look I was aiming to achieve. I graded all of the footage I wished to use, and as the shots were light metered accurately the colour settings could often be copy and pasted. During the colour grading process I found it was very important to work using scopes as they give a very accurate reading of the image that allows you to fine-tune until you eventually have a clean looking image that you are happy with. The tutorial that I was following allowed me to work in a non-destructive workflow so that my footage would never be compressed or lose quality. Now that I had the image I wanted from Da Vinci, I exported proxies into Premier where I assembled an edit. This didn’t take long as I had a strong idea of what I wanted my film to look like beforehand. To bring the edit together I sourced some royalty free music online using www.bensound.com which offers a wide range of royalty free music that allowed me to find something that fitted well with my film. All that was left to do was take my edit back into Da Vinci and match the proxies to the original clips and export.

 

This entire project is something I have hugely enjoyed. Cinematography has always been interesting to me so to get the chance to shoot something exactly how I wanted was a great experience from start to finish. From the initial planning of the idea to assembling everything in post production, I have thoroughly enjoyed this project. I found myself inspired by other cinematographers work and I’m really pleased with how my finished video played homage to their work in their respective films. I feel as though I accomplished exactly what I was trying to achieve in that I have learned a lot about the role of a cinematographer and how important cinematography is in film. The blue and orange lighting is precisely what I wanted and I’m equally pleased with how the flashback scenes have turned out. I was pleased that the delineation between the colours I used was obvious, I think the key and fill light were separated nicely and balanced well on the characters face.

 

In order to gain objective feedback for our finished products, as a classed we arranged to come in to college and spend some time viewing each others finished projects and offering feedback and constructive criticism. The feedback for my finished film was largely positive and I was really pleased with the comments I received. I was pleased that people could clearly see how I had taken inspiration from my influences and portrayed that through my own work. The general theme of my film was also well received and I was pleased to hear that the look of my film worked well with my chosen style of cinematography.

 

Although I am very pleased with the overall feedback for my film, there are areas which could have been improved. The ending scene where the male protagonist is alone on the train platform looks a little flat compared to the other scenes, the feedback I received confirmed this. I was told that this shot needed ‘more depth’ and perhaps ‘different framing’ but because of the nature of this shot it was very difficult to get a closer shot of the male protagonist at that time. However I do think that if I had two cameras at the time then a closer shot of his reaction would have been great and really added something to the narrative. As this scene was being lit by one light source it was difficult to get the deep looking, dynamic shot I would have liked, but this could have probably been improved with Davinci Resolve and some more colour grading to make it seem less flat.

Overall, I’m really pleased with this project and I’ll definitely use the colour and lighting techniques that I learned in my future films.

Finished Video:

Sound Design: No Country For Old Men

Sound Design:

Aims and Objectives:

The purpose of this sound design project is to plan, produce and deliver a 5 minute 5.1 sound design piece for an exert from the 2007 Coen brothers film No Country for Old Men. During all stages of production I hope to achieve a greater understanding of the sound designing process and develop my skills as a sound designer for my own future films. I also hope to achieve a finished product that meets a high standard necessary for successful film sound production, meaning that it needs to add something aesthetically to the film whilst being technically perfect with no playback or format issues. Whilst researching my sound design project I was inspired by a video called ‘Portrait of a Sound Designer’ on Vimeo, this video made me look at sound design in a different way. I really like the way Ali Lacey works and how he creates his sounds using anything he can find. This creativity and professional workflow is something I hope to replicate when creating my own sound design. Ali Lacey uses anything he can to create brilliant sounds and I plan to experiment as much as I can with anything I can find in order to make accurate sounds that compliment the action on screen. During my research I also became inspired by Craig Henighan, the sound designer for Daren Aronofsky’s 2010 psychological horror Black Swan. Craig Henighan inspired me in a completely different way to Ali Lacey in that his sound design for this film in particular really adds to the cinematic experience of the film by taking what’s on screen and giving it a mood, entirely through the sound design, a great example of this is the club scene where Natalie Portman’s character, Nina is dancing with Mila Kunis’ character. Here we see how Henighan begins with loud music to set a mood of normality in the club but then the scene takes on a sinister tone when the dance music is replaced by eerie circus-like music infused with ghostly sounding laughter and voices that surround Portman’s character connoting a sense of entrapment and teasing mockery. The sudden cut back to the loud dance music leaves a sinister aftertaste on the scene that remains with the audience throughout the film, foreshadowing the characters mental state. Ali Lacey and Craig Henighan are two sound designers that inspired and influenced me in my own sound design projects, I wanted to replicate Ali Lacey’s creativity and experimental approach to creating and recording sounds and I wanted to replicate Craig Henighan’s creativity in adding mood and atmosphere to a picture through sound design.

Craig Henighan – Black Swan Sound Design

Portrait of a Sound Designer – Ali Lacey

Black Swan – Club Scene –

Equipment List: Recording Equipment: Zoom H2N, Mini tripod.

Logistics and Planning

Knowing that the recording process of sound design would take a long time and that I would have to record a lot of sounds from home I decided to buy a microphone for myself rather than having to depend on frequently booking out equipment from college. I decided to buy a Zoom H2N microphone as I had used one at college before in practice sessions and found it easy to use and it delivered a great recording. Our second session on Sound Design in class provided enough test footage to know that I was getting a decent microphone. (http://www.garethskinner.co.uk/sound-design-session-2/).

Before recording anything for my sound design I watched the 5 minute sequence from No Country for Old Men a few times over just to familiarise myself with the theme of the film and begin thinking of ideas for the recording process. After I felt comfortable with what I had to create, I created a rough list of the sounds that I would have to create,these sounds were strictly used to denote the action taking place on screen – ‘see sound hear sound’ aspects of the film such as footsteps, gunshots and impact sounds that were evident on screen. On a separate list I wrote down any ideas I had for connotative sounds such as ambience, music and non diegetic audio.

See sound – Hear Sound List: Footsteps – road, pavement, wooden floor. Gun click, lock shootout, impact sounds, gunshots, breathing, windows smashing, doors, opening/closing, foley, car engine, car crash.

The initial list for my denotative sounds seemed short but the sounds i noted down required multiple variations. For example, although I only noted down ‘footsteps’ this would include footsteps on wooden floors at different speeds, different footwear for each character, changes in location and many more factors I would need to take in to consideration when recording. This list was simply used to separate what I would have to create from what is seen on screen and what I would have to imply, suggest or connote what was making sound.

Connotative Sound list: Ambience/ music? Radio? Background Sirens? Voices? Impacts? Again, this list was used purely to separate areas of sound.

Recording/Post Production After I had created the lists of sounds I needed to create, I got straight on with the recording process. I chose to record my sounds in chronological order so I always had a clear idea of what I had left to do. Whilst this workflow worked well for me in terms of keeping track of what I had done, it did have drawbacks. There were times where I had to go back and create the same sounds on different days where I could have done it all at once. For instance, I recorded footsteps on multiple days at different times when in hindsight it would have been easier to record all the footsteps at the same time. During the recording process one of the most frequent occurring problems was noise when recording. Because of the nature of the scene, a lot of the recordings sounded more realistic outside but this meant having to deal with background noise and weather conditions. As I found out during our first session in class, having complete silence during the recording process is of vital importance to get a good, ‘clean’ sounding recording. (http://www.garethskinner.co.uk/sound-design-session-1/).

Using the footsteps as an example again, I tried to recreate the sound of footsteps on pavement indoors but the surfaces just didn’t sound realistic and when dropped into the Premiere Pro timeline, it was evidently inaccurate

The recording process went smoothly and I was pleased with the sounds I had created. There were a few sounds which were difficult to recreate or source but I tried to be as creative as possible when recording and eventually got a sound I was pleased with, often using unorthodox items. For glass smashing I used the sound of a walnut being smashed, when a shotgun was fired at a door I used kindling and bubble wrap was used to recreate the sound of curtains being pulled.  Using everyday objects to create accurate recordings that fit the film sequence is definitely influenced by Ali Lacey and his workflow. The Premiere Pro sequence settings:

Sequence Settings_SD

After I had recorded all of my sounds, I spent some time labelling and organising my sound clips in to specific folders so I could easily find the clips when assembling my edit.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 10.23.01

 

With all my sounds recorded, labelled and imported to my project I started my edit. Like the recording process I tried to edit my sounds in chronological order. The most common problem I found was timing and synchronising. Footsteps in particular were difficult to synchronise and on occasion I had to use effects to make it work. Although I watched the footage at the same time as recording to try and match up the timings, the recordings were sometimes too fast or too slow. This usually meant having to speed up or slow down parts of the recording using the speed control in Premiere whilst maintaing the pitch.

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.36.52

 

Because of the way I had clearly labelled my sound recording and set up my project, the editing process went well and I had a smooth and fluent workflow. In the space of a few days I had a completed edit that I was pleased with and all I had left to do was some minor EQing and to export my finished product. To make sure I was happy with all of my sounds I went through my timeline on Premiere and solo’d each individual sound to make sure it sounded natural and suited the film. The main thing that stood out to me was the voice clip I recorded for Josh Brolin’s character when he got in the truck. Because I recorded the voice in the sound booth for a clean sound, it sounded too ‘clean’, there was no atmosphere in the background and it felt and looked unnatural. So I added a Low Pass effect to the clip and altered the setting a small amount which gave a much more true to life sound.

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 17.38.32

 

In order to export our final 5.1 mixes, we had to export through a few programmes so we could bypass the setting in Premiere that prompts you to purchase the ability to export in Dolby 5.1. After I exported my project through Premiere, Audacity and Encore I played back my finished 5.1 Sound Mix in the sound booth a few times just to double check there were no problems and overall I was very pleased with what I had produced.

 

Critical Evaluation: In order to gain objective feedback for our finished products, as a classed we arranged to come in to college and spend some time viewing each others finished projects and offering feedback and constructive criticism. The general feedback for my finished sound design was positive. I received some really useful feedback and people were honest with their opinions on what worked and what could have been improved. Everybody seemed to agree that aesthetically it worked, I was told by Jon that I had ‘accurate acoustic qualities of foley’ and that I ‘created a three dimensional world through richness of tone and depth’. The feedback for the car scene specially was largely positive, with the EQ of my voice recording sounding correct and natural, this was really pleasing to hear because I took the time to edit that sound accordingly so it would sound right. I also received feedback on areas that could be improved which was very useful to hear.

There were moments in the film where the foley was ‘too pronounced’ which after hearing it played back through a proper 5.1 stereo system is something I agree with myself. I think this could have been improved by simply dropping the entire volume level slightly on the footsteps toward the end of the scene. There were also times when the panning of a sound was too obvious and unnecessary, again this is something I completely agree with after hearing it played back. Footsteps in particular were panned from right to left throughout the film when I think it would have sounded more realistic being just left in the centre. Panning any sound really accentuates the movement of a character and sometimes this can become off putting. Finally there was slight issue toward the end of the scene where there was a slight earthing buzz that must have come from one of my recordings. This was a little disappointing for me because I checked through my final export so many times to make sure nothing like that could be heard but I think I must have not heard this because of the quality of the headphones I used to edit and mix my sounds with.

Playing back our final products in a very high standard 5.1 system was always going to sound very different to what we’ve heard before. However this is something that has to be thought about when taking on sound design, the quality of 5.1 playback allows you to hear frequencies that you can’t hear on low quality headphones. This is definitely something that I’ll consider in future sound design projects. Overall I feel very pleased with my final sound design. I think I accomplished what I intended to produce and I learnt a lot about the process of sound design for film. I became a lot more comfortable with recording and editing equipment and now have a completely different outlook on the importance of sound in film. It’s an extremely creative process that can really elevate a film and create an aesthetic that can’t be made using images alone. My influences, Ali Lacey and Henighan, definitely helped me to accomplish something I was proud of. Using everyday objects to create sounds was something I thoroughly enjoyed doing and something I’ll look forward to doing again on future projects. I also learnt that sound design is not simply a case of recreating the sound you see on screen, it’s often the sounds you can’t see that make the biggest impact and alter the way we look at and experience films.

Finished Video:

 

Appendices

Cinematography: Session 6

The aim of the morning was to get a basic understanding of filters, diopters and custom lenses. In the afternoon we had a portrait lighting workshop with the media make up department.

In the morning, we split in to two small groups and went out with the Black Magic Camera, a set of filters and diopters and a selection of lenses. Pictured below are some still taken from our short filming session:

In the afternoon we began to set up the lighting and camera for the media make up workshop. We used a basic lighting set up (pictured below) and we were ready to film as soon as the make up students arrived. The purpose of this exercise was to see the difference that make up makes when filming RAW and straight away we saw the difference that silicone based make ups makes on camera compared to filming somebody not wearing make up. With students who were wearing silicone based make up we noticed that light fall off was much more natural whereas students without make up had more reflective skin that bounced more light back to camera. This made it obvious that the subject was being lit which is obviously something we want to avoid. Pictured below are a selection of stills from the media make up workshop that really showcase the difference that make up makes on camera.

 

Cinematography: Session 3, 4 & 5

Sessions 3, 4 and 5 were all centered around getting used to the post production process when dealing with RAW.

Session 3 was spent getting used to DaVinci Resolve – the software we use to colour time. Using the footage we shot the previous weeks, we all got the footage on a hard drive and attempted process the files. We learned about the best way to accurately process RAW footage for a Rec 709 colour space (HDTV, consumer projectors). We went through three different techniques for debayering our footage but I concluded that the second way was ideal for me. This process involved using a 3D LUT (look up table) to convert our footage to 709 which gave us a much more dynamic contracts and colour. Whilst the other two methods had their positives, they weren’t ideal for us. The first method we learned involved using a project level 709 conversion but because of the ‘one size fits all’ aspect of this conversion we had to compromise aspects of our footage and didn’t give us as much control as the second method. The third technique we learned gave us a great looking image with dynamic range but it was a more complicated workflow. I would only consider using this method if I wanted a very specific aesthetic to my footage that I couldn’t get any other way.

The following week, we were told to shoot a simple 5 shot sequence that we would then edit, process and deliver using the methods we learned the previous week. The idea of this exercise was to get us used to creating proxies and using DaVinci Resolve to colour time our footage. This workflow would allow us to edit and colour time our footage without it ever being compressed.

 

Notes:

Aesthetic principles: 1: Shadows toward camera – ‘lighting from upstage’. 2: Proximity – Closer the shot – More significant. 3: Light meter for accuracy and consistency.

Secondary Correction: The isolation and control of individual elements – Achieved in two ways: masks and keying (chroma and luma). ‘Looks’ – Adding a tonal hue or luminance change to the whole image.