My Finished Film Opening Sequence

Friday, 23 June 2017

Evaluation Q1: Did you enjoy the main workshop day? What role(s) did you take? What were your best bits and why?

This term, I participated in the A2 prelim task, where we produced a remake of a popular music video. We chose the music video for the song 'Cool Kids' by Echosmith.

The original music video


I thoroughly enjoyed the main workshop day. It was genuinely thrilling to have been able to work on such a high quality set alongside professionals camera operators, directors, performance coaches, make up artists, hair stylists and runners who have all worked in the media industry. Talking with some of the runners during the day, they told us that the facilities available at our college topped those found in some universities, which made me feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to make this music video remake.

Our dressed set in the Seward Studio
My main role on the day was as a performer.

Me performing on camera 


Prior to the workshop day, I was cast as Noah, the bass guitarist in the American indie pop band Echosmith.

Noah Sierota 
I found performing as Noah extremely enjoyable. On an educational level, it was really interesting top learn the techniques our performance director Jasmine used to get the right emotions and movements out of us, whilst still making everything seem natural. For example, for a shot where Noah turns away smiling, Jasmine got the action out of me by handing me a joke on a slip of paper. This made my reaction of laughter look genuine, which really translated on camera.

Outside of education, however, playing Noah was a lot of fun. In the music video, Noah does a lot of quirky moves, such as jumping around and pushing his shoulders forward to the music whilst he plays his bass. Before the workshop day, every member of the band was given an opportunity to rehearse some of their signature moves - this made it a lot more natural on the workshop day to play around with the band member's unique characteristics. To perform a full take of the track pretending to play bass like a rock star was unashamedly entertaining.

Some moments with me pretending to rock on the guitar

I also took on some other roles throughout the day. I used the clapperboard to mark a few shots, which was an interesting job to have as it meant I could observe and participate in the standard dialogue that happens right before a shot is taken. For example, I learnt my cue to bring in the clapperboard was when Robin (our camera operator) said "Board in" and then I said the name of the shot after "Mark it". Having only used clapperboards in our AS tasks, where we didn't go through such stringent measures, it was a good opportunity for me to use them in an industry standard environment.

Me using the clapperboard to mark a shot
Furthermore, I helped transport pieces of the set on and off with the runners, such as the lockers. This gave me an insight into what its like being a runner, and from talking to many people throughout the week, this will likely prove important experience as many film makers start out as runners and stylists when they first enter the industry.

The lockers were transportable by wheeled platforms, and needed a couple of people to help keep them stable when they were being transported

Here is Sayo and Tom helping transport the lockers on to the set

My favourite moments of the day were:
  • Performing in the big band sequences.


  • Shadowing Dom and seeing what his job as a director involves: verifying shots, working closely with the cinematographer and performance director. 

Dom (centre), our director, discussing framing with Robin (left), our cinematographer and camera operator
  • Overseeing Robin using the camera and seeing it's functions.
We got to shadow Robin whilst he was filming and had opportunities to talk to him about how this camera worked
  • Getting my make-up and hair done by Lou and Roz, who were lovely to talk to; I enjoyed Lou telling me how she got to where she is doing hair and make-up for television and film.
Lou and Roz putting on makeup for Noa and Aisha - we had  a hair and makeup station  just left of the set. 
Me getting a touch up on my makeup and hair from the lovely makeup lady, Lou

Overall, I found the workshop day to be an incredibly immersive and entertaining experience. Initially, I was intimidated by the prospect of working on an industry standard set alongside professionals. But having completed the workshop, my mind was put at rest by the camaraderie felt by ever member; it was clear what everyone's role was and I never once felt like I was confused as to what I should be doing or where I should be. It was a very valuable experience!

video
A timelapse of the entire shoot day

Evaluation Q2: What have you learnt from participating in each of the prelim tasks 1,2,3 and 5?

Task 1: Complete an Audition Video


My edit of the audition video 


Early on in the first week of our prelim task, I auditioned for the role of Jamie, the guitarist, in a video alongside my peers Tom and Ray. I wanted to be Jamie because I thought I could pull off his relaxed, cool persona, and I ended up being cast as Noah. As we were auditioning for male roles, we lip synched to 'Can't Stop The Feeling' by Justin Timberlake. I found this task scary at first, because, despite having performed on camera before, I was still slightly uncomfortable singing and dancing on camera. However, I gained more confidence from performing in this video, and learned that it looks much better to let loose and look foolish when performing than to stay reserved. It was enjoyable to shoot and edit, and I had a good time with Tom and Ray fooling about with props, hats and awful dance moves!

Task 2: Learn and Practice Your Performance

We had two weeks to practice for our main shoot. In this period, we had many timetabled rehearsals with Jasmine, our performance director, where we practiced some of the dance moves exhibited by the performers in the original music video and played drama games - for example Woo-Ha, which required lots of concentration and quick thinking. These activities helped me develop my skills of performing big which helped me prepare for the large movements and dance scenes we would need to perform on our shoot. We also had sessions in front of the camera where we used emotion memory to convey a convincing performance. We summoned sad memories in order for us to look like we were upset, for example. This helped us prepare to show the same convincing performances on screen.

Jasmine and the band observing Ray on camera, as he practices for the emotional close ups 
Observing Jasmine do her job as a performance director, I picked up some good tips from the activities she was doing with us as ways of bringing good performances out of the people on camera.



I also used this time to practice my role as Noah. This primarily involved rehearsing with the bass guitar, which I had no idea how to play. I got a lot of help from my friend Ray, who is a bass player, and taught me the basic finger movements and general chords of the song so that I looked convincing enough. This taught me to be resourceful and seek help from my peers and people I know to help better my performance both on screen and off.

Ray on drums and me on bass rehearsing with our instruments
Task 3: Help to Plan and Organise Costume

It was our responsibility to liaise with our teachers and peers to decide and collate the items of our costume. My costume was agreed to consist of:
  • 1 x dark blazer
  • 1 x light blue flowered shirt 
  • 1 x black skinny jeans
  • 1 x black boots
My completed costume - as you can see, it very closely resembles the clothes Noah wears in the original music video, which I was very pleased with
I learned the importance that costume and props have on portraying the artist's brand. For example, Echosmith are a band of young, Christian siblings and from research, I discovered that this is the image they want to convey to their audience. 

You can see the innocent, family friendly image they are promoting for their band by their adoption of smart clothes and aesthetic views being posted on their various social media, such as Noah's Instagram page.
Their costumes in the music video are similar to the ones they wear in their posts online, exemplifying the importance of upholding the band's identity in their music video.

Task 5: Complete the Remake Edit

Out of all of the tasks in the prelim, this was the one where my skills were weakest; although I have had experience using Premiere Pro as an editing software to create our film opening last year, this music video required a more advanced skill set, particularly when tackling visual challenges, such as how to create a photograph flash effect from scratch. However, with help from my partner Noa, who has a great understanding of this tool, I gained a lot more skills from participating in this editing task, and I feel like I have a better grasp of how to create certain visual effects. I have learned a lot about grading and how to create subtle yet effective changes to the hue of shots, and the importance the colour scheme has to reflecting the mood of the song.

For example, we added a slightly blue grade to the opening shot, so as to give it a moody tone.

I also learned how to improvise a lot more with Premiere Pro to create unique effects. For example, there was no photograph flash effect, so we had to come up with ways to create them ourselves. We achieved this by creating a white title card and using keyframes to spike the opacity from transparent to high. This created a successful flash effect. 

Evaluation Q3: Are you pleased with the footage and your finished edit? Is it how you expected it to look? What works really well and what would you change?

I created the finished edit with Noa and overall, I am very pleased with how our finished edit turned out.


Our finished edit

After we named and roughly placed all of our shots on the timeline, I was slightly concerned that the finished edit was not going to match the original music video perfectly; for example, the lighting in the original music video is a lot more changeable, and at many times dims and flares during the shots, whereas our lighting set ups were kept consistent throughout the shots. We corrected this for our music video during post production. For example, in the original music video when the studio lights fade on the band in the penultimate shot, we created the same effect by adding a transparent black title card and used key frames to increase the opacity over time. This successfully created a light-to-dim fade similar to the one seen in the original Echosmith video.


We used thus same effect for the fade to black at the end

We also corrected a lot of shots through colour grading. Adobe Premiere Pro granted us lots of opportunities to correct the look of our shots; we used ProcAmp to make small adjustments - to brightness, contrast, saturation etc. - and the Three-Way Colour Corrector to make major changes to the hue of some shots. After grading, I think that our music video remake looked more comparable to the original video and I was very happy with how it went.

Here is the Three-Way colour corrector tool that we used to change the grading for our finished edit. We mostly used the third one - highlights - as this created a very subtle grading that worked best to replicate the soft colours seen in the original music video. 
Besides the colour grading, I think our finished edit worked really well for other reasons:
  • It was easier than I expected to match up Sian's lip synching with the lyrics of the track. We achieved this by taking the shots of Sian/the band performing and lipsynching the entire song and placing them all on a high part of the timeline, matching her mouth movements to the lyrics of the track. This meant we could use the razor tool to snip out the shots and move them down to the main timeline (Tracks 2 and 3) when we needed a shot from a reocurring set up (e.g. whole band scenes, Sian close ups). 
Sian did a great job lip synching on the day, which made it very easy to edit
  • Our music video was very much our own. Whilst I was also happy with the footage that matched the original well, for some moments in our edit we used our artistic license to add our own 'flavour' to the music video. 


  • For example, we could not find the exact actions for when the cool kids were dancing, but as you can see above, we chose shots with different moves that we still found fun and entertaining. 
I am very pleased with our footage and our finished edit, and from feedback from peers, teachers and family members, it seems that other people found it just as entertaining. 

Evaluation Q4: How do you think your prelim experiences will impact on your approach to next term's music video coursework?

PRE-PRODUCTION

Song Choice - The prelim has helped me hone down reasonable song choice. I think 'Cool Kids' by Echosmith was a very good choice for our prelim task because the song has a very simple story to convey: people who want to be popular, but find 'coolness' in their individuality. This story is easily producible for a music video. For our music video coursework next year, I will keep in mind that our song choice is better uncomplicated, so that it is easier to create a story around it.

Meera portrayed the version of Sydney that's longing to 'be like the cool kids' 
Rehearsals and Schedules - I have learned the importance of scheduling and attending rehearsals ahead of the shoot. In the prelim, we had a schedule for everyone (cast and crew) to know when and where they were needed. Everyone attended the rehearsals when they needed, and thus everybody had the same training and understanding of what was required of them. For next year, I know it will be helpful to create our own rehearsal and shoot schedules for ourselves, as well as for any external performers. If we tailor it to our personal schedules, we can make sure that everyone has an opportunity to rehearse before the shoot and can attend times where they can participate in the shoot.

Our first rehearsal as a band
PRODUCTION

The Look - From the prelim task, I have learned that the visuals of the music video are key to conveying the image of the artist. The music video compliments Echosmith's innocent, family friendly identity with a pure white backdrop, bright lighting and the smart costumes (blazers, ties, dresses). I will use my new knowledge of this convention in our task next year to make sure that we approach the look of the music video as a reflection of the artist and what they stand for.
The brightness, smart colourful costumes, the silly dancing and smiles - all this helps convey the ethos of the band. 
Here is the studio lighting desk, where we created our lighting set ups and controlled the look of the music video
Compromising and Resourcefulness - I have learned that grandiose music video ideas are not good ideas when creating an A2 music video. 'Cool Kids' was a good example of a simple but well crafted music video that was shot in a studio with uncomplicated or expensive set ups. I understand that there are limitations with what we can do for our music video next year, mainly our week long shoot day and finite budget. However, I have also learned to be resourceful and make use of the facilities we have available, most notably our excellent studio we have at the school, which we can dress to look like a professional studio as we did for our remake.

A lot is accomplishable with our Seward Studio; for example, we could set up an infinity white as a backdrop, which looked very professional and stunning on camera
An example of a compromise: we could not get hold of a deer prop for one of the shots, so we used what we had to hand instead, and ended up dressing Sailesh in a Panda costume. We liked this addition so much that we ended up making a cameo out of the panda and he can be seen in more than just this one shot. 
Efficiency - During the shooting of our prelim, keeping a planned shoot schedule was crucial to finishing the shoot in time and with plenty of footage to make use of; we managed to end our shoot early in our prelim, purely from being professional when on set, being on set on time and acting on directions quickly. For our task next year, I will make sure to be proactive in knowing where I need to be and what to do for each of the shoot days, as well as being a responsive and energetic performer so as to achieve good takes right off the bat.

Our media teachers (and Chris, our old technician) standing in front of the shoot board, which we taped on the wall at the back of the studio. We could easily find it at any time and find out where we needed to be and when. 

POST PRODUCTION

Grading - From finishing the prelim, I learned that a lot can be achieved from grading, such as creating a mood appropriate to your the song (see post 2 for more information).

Although we could not achieve perfect lighting conditions to match those seen in the original Echosmith music video, we could fix shots in post production to look better. Next year, I will not create too many different lighting set ups for the shoot, as this takes a lot of time and effort, and instead understand that many things can be accomplished using the ProcAmp and Three-Way Colour Corrector tools on Premiere Pro to change up things like saturation, hue, brightness, contrast etc.


Editing - Editing our prelim, I realised that a lot of the editing rules that I had picked up from completing our film opening task in Year 12 had to be unlearned when creating our final edit for the music video. For example, the music video for 'Cool Kids' exhibited no continuity editing and many jump cuts, with some shots only lasting a few milliseconds. I will understand these conventions of music video editing when creating the edit for our main music video next year and showcase my understanding of how music videos are made by using lots of jump cuts etc.


You can see the conventions of how music videos are typically edited in the sequence above: many unrelated shots being spliced together in very quick succession.

Overall, I found the prelim to be an enormous learning curve for me. I had a great time and will use what I've learned for the music video task next year. 



Sunday, 2 April 2017

This blog is now closed



That's all from my AS Media project. I hope you have enjoyed looking through my blog!

Friday, 17 March 2017

Evaluation Question 1: In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?

In the opening of our film, we followed and challenged the conventions seen in relevant media products.

Our film What Happened to Peter Smith is a mystery drama that follows a police investigation into the murder of unpopular teenager Peter Smith. Throughout the film, the detective uncovers details surrounding Peter Smith's murder through the interrogations of five teenagers who were the last to see the victim; this is told through flashbacks to the night Peter disappeared. The detective, whose job is on the line with this case, arrests an innocent teenager to wrap up the case, letting the other suspects, who are revealed to all have some hand in Peter's murder, to leave scott-free.

FORM

Opening sequences generally have a standard form - in order to work as an opening sequence, they they need to fulfill certain functions and contain certain features:
  • they establish the tone of the film
The opening to The Nice Guys uses an upbeat soundtrack to create a comedic, lighthearted tone, despite the tragedy of the scene:


Our film opening also uses an upbeat soundtrack to create a lighthearted tone, which also conflicts with the tragedy of Peter's disappearance/murder.
  • they set up enigma codes that intrigue the audience 
The opening to Se7en conveys a sense of mystery through the fleeting images of evidence we see (primarily words like 'sexual' and 'murder' ).


Our film opening uses similar enigma codes by introducing the characters in a similar way; showing only portions of them and at first never giving the audience the whole picture.
  • they identify the protagonist
  • they often include opening credits
The opening of The Usual Suspects include opening credits of their cast and crew, superimposed on the stretch of water.


Our film uses opening credits superimposed onto the action of the opening sequence. The 'typed' transition that these titles have compliment to the formal atmosphere created by the interrogation room, and the suspenseful tone that goes with it.



  • they include idents of the companies that produced and distributed them 

Our film opening includes our distribution and production company idents in the beginning of our film opening.


GENRE

A mystery-drama is a sub-genre of crime. Crime films have crime as the main event in the plot and is an umbrella for many sub-genres.
   

Please observe my presentation below to explore the conventions of the mystery drama genre.



Our film opening uses some of these conventions. For instance, our film opening is set in an interrogation room, which is one of the iconic locations associated with mystery drama, and in this location, we included as much iconography associated with the interrogation room as possible so as to strongly establish the genre of the film.

Please click on the image to zoom in
Here is the interrogation room from Broadchurch (TV) for comparison 
We also incorporated a lot of the same formal language associated with an interrogation room scene from a mystery drama into our dialogue:
  • "Interview suspended."
  • "I think it's time to call your lawyer."
  • "On the 26th of November..."
Our characters also follow some of the traditions seen in mystery drama characters. Although the characters are not yet murder suspects in the film opening, the opening does show some typical detective/suspect interactions like you would see in an interrogation event from this genre. Some typical examples include the 'uncooperative teen' and the 'distressed relative' mystery drama archetypes, portrayed respectively by the characters of Raj and Cherish.


Raj chides the detective instead of taking the case seriously.


The detective fails to calm down Peter Smith's girlfriend Cherish.

One character we had a lot of inspiration for was our detective, DC Sean Mann, which is a character type that has been iconised after many on screen iterations. 

The image of the detective heavily used the conventions associated with this character type. 
Narrative Structure

Film's tend to follow a similar structure of progression. Tzvetan Todorov recognises this structure in his theory of a classic narrative pattern. Inside Out is a film that follows this pattern, which I have illustrated in my video below.

Please click play on the video above to see my video on Todorov's Narrative Theory

Todorov also discusses the various attempts at a resolution, where there is hope that the disruption will be fixed, but the attempt is proven false.

Our film both uses and challenges this classic narrative pattern. There are many attempts at a resolution, as the detective follows false leads that do not solve the case.

However, because of the nature of most mystery dramas, the disruption naturally occurs very early on, so there is usually a minimal or non-existent look at an equilibrium. One example of this is in the mystery film Vertigo (1958) by Alfred Hitchcock.

Please click play on the video above to view the opening sequence for Vertigo

Similarly, our film opening begins with Peter Smith already missing and his schoolmates being questioned about his disappearance. Therefore, the balance has already shifted.

Furthermore, at the end of our film there is no satisfying resolution, as the police arrests the wrong suspect. This means that the new equilibrium settled in the conclusion of the film either doesn't exist or is one that does not benefit every character in the way that a new equilibrium might in the conclusion of a film like Inside Out.

The narrative of our film opening is not linear like most film openings; it does use a typical narrative that goes from point a to point b in chronological order, such as the opening of Vertigo. We challenge the typical narrative of a film opening by intercutting different interviews together in our film opening, meaning that the interviews happened in different scenes occurring at different times. Although the interviews are not happening simultaneously, the way we intercut them together makes it seem as if the narratives are in parallel, therefore making the story of the opening clear.


Here, two different interviews are cut seamlessly together to make it seem as if it were one flowing conversation; Tyrone says "No-one likes that prick", the detective asks a question and it is Simon who answers.

Our film opening does use some conventional character roles. Vladimir Propp suggested that characters occupied certain character functions that would drive the narrative, and in the slide show below, you can see the seven main character functions Propp suggested with the example of the mystery/comedy film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.


  • The detective is the 'hero', attempting to restore equilibrium by bringing justice to Peter's murder. He is the agent of change - by instigating the questions he poses to the teenagers, he gets closer to the truth behind Peter's disappearance.
  • Peter Smith is the 'victim', his disappearance (eventually seen as murder) being the cause for the disruption. 
  • Cherish is the 'princess', giving the detective motivation to find Peter through her emotional delivery. However, she is shown amidst the other teenagers to be as guilty as any of them - this shows a challenge to the character function, as Cherish could simultaneously be the princess and secretly the villain
Talia from The Dark Knight Rises is an example of when a princess can simultaneously be a villain
  • For the story of the opening sequence, the officer is the helper who gives the detective news on Peter's death in the scene to assist his solving of the case, even if he is only a minor role.
No-one is immediately identifiable as the villain in our film opening. That is because it is by discovering who the murderer is that will bring about the equilibrium (that's typical of the narratives of mystery films). However, although the villain isn't identifiable, they still play a big role in causing the disruption by murdering Peter Smith.

Style

Every film in the crime genre has a very distinct tone and style to it, and it is often established in the very first scene.

Some crime films establish for a shocking, dark tone:


The opening scene to The Goodfellas (1990) - please note the emphasis on shadows and artificial lighting - shifting from the warm glow inside the car to the harsh red at the trunk to signify the unmasking of their murderous personas. We used one artificial light source to create and cast long shadows, utilising the Chiaroscuro effect of suggesting moral ambiguity through shadows. 
Some crime films establish a mysterious tone:

The opening scene to A Clockwork Orange (1971) - please note the long, reverse zoom that reveals more of the absurdist, futuristic-styled set pieces and presents the audience with more questions. We framed our film opening similarly, gradually increasing showing more with the framing until the location of the action is revealed. The close ups refuse to lend a full picture, creating enigma codes that creates mystery surrounding their characters - why do they seem so anxious? Where are they?
We wanted the style of our film to be entertaining and suspenseful. Therefore, we used some elements that would establish the typical darker tone of a conventional mystery/crime drama, whilst also incorporating elements that would keep the film upbeat and enjoyable, so as not to make gloomy and predictable a story about a murder. 

One film that achieves this balance very well is the British crime-comedy film Snatch.


The opening to Snatch (2000)

We used a very similar grading to Snatch, keeping the colour palate monochromatic in the grey/blue scheme. We also used similar editing, using some quick cuts to keep the rhythm pacy. Most notable is our soundtrack, that was inspired heavily by the soundtracks used in the opening Snatch and the theme to British heist drama Hustle - both of which are very upbeat musical tracks with emphasis on 'snapping' percussion and quirky guitar riffs. 

Here are the three soundtracks, including the track we used in our opening sequence, Funky Suspense, for comparison. Please click on the arrows below to scroll between them and click the enlarge icon to make fullscreen.

Binary opposites are another stylistic choice we used to create a sense of antagonisation between the detective and the interviewees. When two people who differ are placed on frame together (e.g. formal/informal, young/old), Levi Strauss' theory of binary opposition explains how this sets up a conflict between the two contrasting figures on screen. 

It is a staple of most interrogation scenes in crime dramas to have conflict between the detective and the interviewees -

A scene from crime film Hackney's Finest (2014)

- so we used binary opposites to display this conflict:
  • the detective spoke in received pronunciation/most of the teenagers used slang ('He's safe' - Raj)
  • the detective wore formal shirt and tie/the teenagers wore informal clothes (e.g. hoodies, sweaters)
  • the detective has a stony facial expression/the teenagers were more expressive
With some research of relevant media products, we developed a broad understanding of the genre conventions of mystery dramas, as well as the basic conventions of the form of film openings. Our final product demonstrates where we have used these conventions, and where we have challenged them to create our own unique film opening. 

Evaluation Question 2: How does your media product represent particular social groups?

With six main characters being portrayed in our film's opening sequence, we had ample opportunity to represent social groups. We had to make some important decisions regarding the representation of our predominantly teenage cast, because it was important to represent young adults in a way that did not exclude our primary target audience, made up of 15-25 year olds.

We decided that it would be important to not alienate any facets of our audience by having a skew towards an ethnicity or gender in our cast. A lot of media products create complex and meaningful identities in their teenage ensemble cast by having a diverse band of characters of different ethnicities and genders.


When deciding how to represent particular social groups, we decided both to use and challenge certain stereotypes associated with those social groups. Please observe my presentation below on our intentions and motivations when choosing how to represent young in our film opening.


Press the play button to start the presentation, or navigate the slides by clicking on the dots at the bottom of the screen. Press the bottom right corner to make full screen.