Preliminary Task - The Anti-Climax

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Closing Post

It's the end of the project now and I've really enjoyed it. I'm really pleased with the final piece, even though we did have quite a few problems with it along the way. However its turned out great and I've had so much fun working with my group.

Anyway its been a long but fun project (with a lot of work!) and I've learnt so much.
Thanks to my lovely group members Ben and Selina for being great to work with and to everyone in the Media Department!

This blog is now closed!

Evaluation - Question 7

7. Looking back at your preliminary task, what do you feel you have learnt in the progression from it to the full product?

Preliminary Brief: Film and edit a character opening a door, crossing a room and sitting down in a chair opposite another character. A couple of lines of dialogue must then exchanged between characters & match on action, shot/reverse shot and the 180-degree rule should be demonstrated.
Video Brief: The titles and opening of a new fiction film, to last a maximum of two minutes (all video and audio material must be original, produced by candidates, with the exception of music or audio effects from a copyright-free source).

I feel I have learnt a lot since completing the preliminary task and I think my skills have developed.

The brief to the preliminary task seemed quite simple and had a main objective of making the continuity successful during filming and editing. Therefore during the preliminary task, the sequence was kept uncomplicated and controlled, as we concentrated largely on continuity.

The brief for our opening sequence was much wider and required me to be controlled as well as creative. We had to think of an opening sequence that included aspects from the preliminary task, one that worked well and was interesting. For this brief, I was aiming for perfection, and saw the preliminary task as a learning process that prepared me for this stage.

After reading the brief, the next stage was the PRE-PRODUCTION; research & planning.
This stage was kept fairly short for the preliminary task due to time constraints, however I still learnt a lot from it.
Before we could begin shooting our short sequence, we were able to produce:

  • A storyboard
  • Shooting script
  • Dialogue script for our final idea.

These proved to be really helpful and had a huge impact on our final piece. The storyboard allowed us to visualise the sequence and ensured that every member of our group had the same vision for the sequence. The shooting script meant we could order to shoot specific shots, ensuring we used our time efficiently. We were also able to do location reccys for the preliminary task.

This planning prepared me for what was essential for the opening sequence. However it was necessary to go into more detail for the film brief and the preliminary task didn’t prepare me for this. As a group however, we knew that it would be more complicated and required more planning to save time and make fewer mistakes, and we were therefore organised.

At the production stage of the preliminary task we could not have a test shoot or reshoot due to shortage of time. This meant we just had to shoot the final piece, allow no space for big mistakes and really think it all through thoroughly.

However we had produced a:

  • Shooting script and arranged the shot order of how we were going to shoot. This organisation meant we saved time and knew every shot that we had to shoot, ticking them off along the way.
  • The process of running a shoot used during our preliminary task was very efficient. Before we shot each individual shot, the director would say “sound ready, camera ready” and then name the take and then say “action.” We carried this method into the production when filming our opening sequence to a film. It meant we could check everything was ready before we shot and when we came to editing, we would be aware of what take and shot it was.
  • We also allocated roles to each member in our group and therefore made running the shoot a lot easier. Everyone knew the role they had to play and this made it a lot more efficient. We used this method during filming of our film opening sequence and this really helped as it took a lot shorter to shoot than it could have.

From the final opening sequence however I have learnt that a location reccy as well as a test shoot and re-shoot is important. It allows you to correct mistakes or change things that you didn’t notice whilst filming.

From the progression from my preliminary task to the full product I have learnt in this stage that:

  • We need test shoots
  • Re-shoots are really important
  • There needs to be time allowed for more takes of shots so that you can pick the best take
  • I have also learnt that it is useful to shoot with more shot types of angles and distances; this was especially worthwhile for our nightmare sequence.

Overall time was a main factor in both and I have learnt that allowing more time for shooting can really improve the quality.

Once we had all our footage, we could begin the next stage; POST-PRODUCTION/EDITING.
During the preliminary task our main aim was to construct something that makes sense. We didn’t have to consider a story behind it, it didn’t have to be a film opening and restricted time meant we just had to keep it as simple as possible. This editing process reminded me of the basics needed when editing, such as capturing, adding onto timelines, unlinking, razoring, chopping up clips and re-ordering the sequence.

From this experience, it meant I could save time whilst editing the final product of the opening sequence. However I did learn that constructing a narrative is quite hard, especially since I assumed that the simple sequence of the preliminary would be easy when it wasn’t. I also learnt that footage looks different on the camera to when you put it on the computer and you must therefore take this into consideration whilst filming so as not to encounter too many reshoots.

The final stage of both projects is the FEEDBACK & EVALUATION.
For the preliminary task, there was no need to consider the target audience; it was just constructed for media students’ learning experience with a theoretical approach. Therefore it taught me the technical side and meant I could take into account factors that went wrong in the preliminary task for the real full product. This included noise such as camera noise which was difficult to solve and also other people that aren’t involved in the piece.

For the final opening we had to find a location that wouldn’t have this problem or was easily solved. As we were made aware of how it takes longer than we think and doing it on a strict time basis isn’t suitable, we knew to allow ourselves a lot of time for the various parts of the project, without leaving it to the last minute. I have also learnt however that target audience and appeal is an extremely important part of making any part of a film, especially an opening. Receiving feedback throughout the whole project is really important to keep improving it and finding out if it attracts the audience.

The preliminary task also showed me how working as a team was extremely important when it came to all stages of the project.

Evaluation - Question 6

6. What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing this product?
From the process of constructing this film opening sequence I have learnt a lot about specific technologies.

During our shooting days I furthered my knowledge of the hardware used. We used:

  • A Cannon HD mini-dv camera to film the footage. Despite the fact that we shot on a HD camera, we didn’t use HD. Along with the camera, I had to learn about using the batteries and tape.
  • The camera could then be attached to the tripod, which I had to learn how to use effectively whilst filming. It gave us a wider range of shots, such as more movement, different angles and distances. This variety of shots enabled us to make our opening sequence more interesting.
  • During filming, we also had to use lights if it was too dark. We used a pag light just to add extra light; however we didn’t have much of a problem with lighting as we filmed during the day.
  • During the filming process, we used two types of microphones; an external mic and a tie clip mic. We didn’t use the other type of a microphone; a boom mic, as we filmed in a house and didn’t need it for long distances. We started by using an external mic for the dialogue when the character is on the phone to his mum, however as this dialogue turned out unclear, we re-shot using a tie clip mic. This gave much clearer sounding dialogue. I also learnt however that microphones often pick up unwanted sound and camera sound. The camera sound could be decreased during editing; however we had headphones attached to the camera so that the sound technician, allocated to someone in our group, could check the sound whilst filming shots. The other person in our group concentrated on directing and filming the shot. This was done to make the filming process as efficient as possible.

Once we had finished the filming process, the next step was editing. This meant we had to learn about the technology of software.

  • Adobe Premiere Pro was the main programme used to do the editing and we used non linear editing.
  • We also used After Effects and Photoshop to design the titles that we placed throughout the sequence. The newspaper articles and images featured in places of our opening were also done on these programmes.
  • Fireworks was used to produce our company name and logo, ‘Unplugged.’ We had quite a few problems with this but we finally got it to work and feedback told us that it was a good design.

Overall my skill in the programmes that we used throughout the project developed hugely and I learnt that you can improve a lot of things and solve a lot of problems using these technologies.

We used a lot of techniques with the technology available whilst both shooting and editing.
  • During filming, the hardware we were using meant we could record sound effectively without it being unclear.
  • We also could include camera movement such as pans and tilts as we had the tripod.
  • We could also portray with lighting what we were trying to achieve of 3 point lighting to make it look as professional as possible.
  • During editing we could use techniques such as capturing footage, rendering clips, adjusting speed and duration, cutting up clips, adding audio (soundtrack and non-diegetic) and also including visual and audio effects and transitions.

As well as technologies from shooting and editing, I learnt other things such as how to use Blogger as I hadn’t used this before. I learnt a lot about these techniques and realised that these technologies can have a huge positive impact on our final product.

On summary what I have learnt is:

  • I have reminded myself of non linear editing on Adobe Premiere Pro. I’ve also advanced my knowledge of it from before as we experimented with more techniques this time such as with sound and the pace of shots. Also how to edit it things that we haven’t filmed such as the newspaper articles and images.
  • I have also learnt more shot types and advanced my camera skills such as with movement and continuity.
  • I have also learnt that health and safety is an important factor and this must be considered with things such as leaving the lights to cool down after you’ve turned them off as they get hot.
  • I am much more comfortable with handling the equipment whilst shooting and my easy of use has improved. Also small issues such as portability of equipment is important and it is most practical to use a car to take the equipment as there is quite a bit of it and it can be quite heavy.
  • I have also learnt that there is so much scope for creativity despite our low budget and limited equipment. I learnt that once you’ve understood all the technology it is so easy to use and you can create so many different effects.
In Hindsight...
  • To minimize the amount of shoots that we need and reduce the re-shoots, we should watch back footage on location and look out for mistakes that we might not have noticed while filming. (this was a huge problem as when we got to the edit suite and watched it on the computer, we kept noticing small details that caused problems and meant we had to reshoot.)
  • ALWAYS think about sound as we had quite a few problems with this and in the end had to reshoot some dialogue with a tie clip mic. Some was done on location but we also did some at school.
  • Always consider mise-en-scene as we had to re-shoot for problems such as bed sheet covers being too feminine and therefore unrealistic.
  • Sometimes we had a problem with camera focus such as with the feet shot so if we were to do this again we could have tried it on the manual setting.
  • Could have used a few more interesting shots such as at the start of the opening not revealing the protagonist’s face until we see his reaction to the news broadcasting. This would have built up tension and made the nightmare sequence more disorientating.
  • We could have used more experimental shot types such as more movement or interesting angles. However we struggled with this as it was filmed in quite a small space in a house.

Overall if we were to do the project again, I feel id be a lot more confident to make these improvements and therefore increase the quality of our final product.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Evaluation - Question 5

5. How did you attract/address your audience?

We decided to stick to certain conventions of thrillers and appeal to what the audience knows and will therefore enjoy. It is also a genre that is popular with our target audience; therefore this will also gain their attention. However we also challenged and changed some conventions in order to create further interest and curiosity among the viewers. We also drew on people’s likes, fears and real life experiences.

As our opening sequence is a thriller, we mainly tried to create suspense to interest the audience. We built it up to the moment in the sequence where we intended for the audience to be shocked. We also tried to achieve suspension of disbelief and get the audience into the world of the film. We wanted them to see it as realistic as possible.

We then wanted to build up the audience’s anticipation as the protagonist leaves the house. The audience is now aware that he is the villain, but become anxious as to what’s he going to do and who’s it going to happen to.

We also wanted the audience to ask questions and therefore to create and build up enigma in order to interest the people into watching the rest of the film. This was successful as many of our audience at the screening commented that they would be interested in watching the rest of the film. Also many wanted to know why he was carrying out these murders, which would be revealed later on in the movie.

Everyone fears a serial killer. Our main character is killing innocent people for a decision that wasn’t made lightly and was out of their control (deserting him during a battle.) There is this notion of realism that it is actually possible for this to happen to someone and for them to be so deeply affected by a certain experience that it changes them forever. It is also ironic that he joined the army to prevent further upset and worked as a team with these people who he is now killing for revenge.

In the market, there have been a lot of films released relating to war such as Apocalypse Now (1979) and Saving Private Ryan (1998) and we therefore thought we’d use this theme but add a twist to it. I thought this interesting take on it and overall film image would appeal to people.

As the main storyline involves actions that have taken place as part of a recent issue; the war, we thought it would relate to people who have had real life experiences in the war and understand how that may affect people and cause them to do things that they normally wouldn’t do.

We also drew on what the audience knew and therefore made the setting of our opening sequence familiar and realistic. It is in an ordinary suburban house which many people will be able to relate to.

Overall I think we successfully addressed our audience and attracted them to watch our film.

Evaluation - Question 4

4. Who would be the audience for your media product?

The primary target audience that we have aimed our media product at is:

  • People of ages 17-30.
  • Both genders – we originally thought it would appeal to males more as it is stereotypically a ‘male genre.’ However after we conducted our audience screening, the feedback that we received was positive from both gender and the majority of males and females said they would watch the rest of the films.
  • Of all ethnicities, but mainly British audiences as it is more familiar to them.

We chose this range because we believe the film will appeal to a younger audience as they can relate to the main character and the themes and topics of the film as they are recent and modern (Iraq War.)

From audience research, we discovered that younger generations of people tended to like psychological thrillers and intriguing plots, and we therefore decided to base our age around this similarity in interests and therefore draw on what they know. This was also proven in our audience screening of 15-17 year olds where the majority were interested in the film.

At the start we believed the audience may have been slightly older, however as our plot progressed and we began to make changes, such as making the protagonist an ex soldier, we changed it as we think it will appeal to this core audience more which was proven in the feedback at the audience screening.

Our secondary audience is:

  • Both genders aged 16-35.
  • We chose this wider audience as we believe anyone with interests in the theme of our film would be interested at these ages and of any gender – people interested in war-themed films, but this is with a twist (attracting niche audience). Also people that have actually participated in the war (majority men.)
  • We also believe our film could appeal to families as it has an interesting storyline and all generations of people would understand it.

Evaluation - Question 3

3. What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why?

As our film is a low budget student production it would struggle to achieve a place for viewings in large chain cinemas. It is not really blockbuster material as it doesn’t have that image normally associated with blockbuster movies. It is therefore likely to be distributed on a much smaller scale. Without much exposure, it would struggle to gain a cult status (where the film is low budget but successful), however there is a possibility of this being achieved.

The type of media institution that would consider distributing our film would be a distributor such as Dogwoof. It’s a UK based film distributor and “is renowned for supporting independent film in non-traditional ways.”
They have set up Dogwoof Indie “to support independent filmmakers and promote fresh talent in the film industry.” They launched it after the success of a film and now aim for Hybrid Distribution (cinema, DVD and internet VOD).
They help filmmakers by giving them direct access to professional film distribution services and offer “a choice of the services they need, whilst letting them retain the rights to their film, controlling costs, and actually having the chance of seeing revenues and profits.”

Another example of a potential distributor is Guerilla Films They have continued to support British and Irish films through distribution and intend to increase their output over the next few years. They are happy to consider any completed film looking for UK distribution, especially British or Irish ones.

The distributor plays a really important role in the film industry. It offers exposure for films and gains larger audiences to improve how successful it is. Once the film is delivered, the distributor determines the release strategy and release date. The distributor then presents the film to exhibitors and negotiates agreements to have the film shown in cinemas. They then develop a marketing campaign to interest the target audience and then launches the film. Our film could be shown at independent cinemas, such as the Phoenix cinema in East Finchley. It offers regular events, festivals and one-off screenings which would be ideal for distributing our film as we could have a one night screening at a student film festival for example. This would be most likely to attract other students, scouts for young filmmakers, people interested in the genre (thriller) and generally local people attracted to watch the film. From this, it would help generate further interest, and if successful, there could be additional screenings more regularly for an extra few days.

However it could also be at a film festival such as Exposures, the UK’s largest festival of student image work, which takes place every year in Manchester. Another example is Screentest, a UK’s National Student Film Festival that helps promote student films and film-makers throughout the UK. Every year they host a three-day film festival in Bristol, with celebrity speakers, screenings, workshops and an awards ceremony. This would probably be the easiest way to screen our film; however the distributor may be able to gain interest from old, independent cinema such as Phoenix Cinema which is likely to appeal to a wider audience.

Another method that could be used to distribute our film would be the internet. This method is a lot cheaper and can achieve popularity quickly through word of mouth. The internet is also a cheap way to market our film and get more people attending the viewings. An example is who concentrates on independent film distribution through the internet. They intend to “create a digital film library with the widest breadth of content possible and broaden exposure by making hard-to-find works available through Internet distribution.

Our Production Company – Unplugged Productions
would make mostly independent films on a low budget, similar to ours. There it is most likely trying to reach people locally and possibly nationally. However as it is an independent British film it would not make sense to try and distribute it on an international scale.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Evaluation - Question 2

2. How does your media product represent particular social groups?

Our media product focuses on a few certain social groups. This includes young males and soldiers currently in the war, over-protective mothers and news reporters.

Characters commonly associated with the thriller genre would be the male villain and killer. An example is Norman Bates in Psycho (1960), a young male psychological affected and killing people dressed as his dead mother. The main character in our opening sequence is:

  • White, British male
  • Young, aged 24 years old
  • Occupation – recent ex soldier in the Iraq War
  • Still obsessed with the war – get the sense that he hasn’t left his experience behind and has affected him irreversibly. This is shown in the fact that he still dresses in army clothes, has photos related to it and refers to the war during phone conversation.
  • He appears normal, but is mentally unstable
  • We are made aware from the opening sequence that this man was originally a hero in the eyes of society as he had recently taken part in the Iraq war and received a war medal. However, the audience soon find out later on in the film that his fellow soldiers let him down by deserting him during a battle and leaving him to die. This experience has made him revengeful and now this hero has a twisted mind and it’s his participation and experience in the war that has turned him into this villain. This is therefore breaking conventions and exposing the darker side of the war and its negative effects that can effect one’s mental health

Other social groups that are represented are the stereotypical, over-protective mothers. This is shown in the protagonist’s responses in the phone conversation. We are made aware that the mother is anxious about her son’s safety due to the recent killings and the pattern forming from this of war soldiers being murdered. Her anxiety and concern is a complete contrast to the killers as she is unaware that it is in fact her own son committing these crimes.

During our search for someone to do the voice over for the news report on the television, we had to take a lot of factors into consideration. The person had to represent and be similar to real news reporters. We made a decision to use a man’s voice as we wanted the story to sound as serious, intense and powerful as possible. In order for the person to be suitable for the role, they had to be able to speak as clearly and as comprehensible as possible, with no comical effect.

We chose to place our main character in an ordinary house in the suburbs of London. It’s not overly-furnished and appears completely average to reinforce the image of a single, middle-class man that lives alone and therefore adds to the realism.

Overall I think our film opening sequence represents particular social groups effectively and therefore appeals to people, especially those who belong to these social groups.