Assignment 2 - Creating an atmosphere

Because we have moved over the summer and I haven't really been in one single place for more than 2 weeks these past 3 months, it has been a bit hard to find a familiar place to make the sequence. When we were on holidays in Sweden, I thought it would be nice to use the setting of our holiday home for the film. There was a nice lake and a beautiful forest with a lot of atmosphere already. However, when I look at the brief, it asks for an everyday setting and now that I'm done with the initial filming I wonder if this is everyday enough. On the other hand, I have been able to use the techniques that have been discussed and I guess that when you live in Sweden, this would have been quite everyday anyway ;-)

My scenario is that a boy hurries home so that he can be on time to watch his favourite television program. I want the mood in which it is filmed to be a mixture of threat and tranquility and let the contrast build up tension and release it in the end when the boy is sitting in front of the tv. There has to be a certain suspense and uncertainty, which I'll try to get through the use of the natural light on the lake at sunset, when it's getting dark and there is a lot of reflection on the water and fog. When the boy is at home, I want to show the warmth and safety of the home, and film the scene in which the boy is watching tv from the outside.

Storyboard:

 

 

Pre production planning:

In order to practice to produce the right atmosphere, I did some practice shots in which my daughter did most of the running scenes. Since this was early in the morning and the sun was bright, I tried to create a happy atmosphere, with bright colours and sunshine. With these shots I practiced the angles from which I wanted to shoot and the panning effects. Here are a few scenes from the shoot:

With the actual filming, I was able to follow the story board pretty well, although it was hard to get Aaron row through the middle of the scene, so that turned out a bit different, although it still has a bit of the surprising and curiosity is built up even more because we can't see who is in the boat. With the different scenes I tried to bring a diversity in the angle on which the sun is shining and I think this worked well. When editing, I did take out the scene in which Aaron is jumping on the rocks, because it breaks the continuity of the story and it doesn't make a lot of sense to be climbing and jumping off rocks when you're in a hurry. This is the first rough edit: 

As you can see and hear, there's still some editing to be done. I forgot to turn on the microphone when Aaron went inside, so I have recorded extra sounds of a door opening and closing and somebody walking on a wooden floor. I will also add the muted sound of a soccer match to put under the last scene where Aaron is watching tv. In order to make the running scenes more threatening, I want to up the sounds of Aaron's breathing and bring more contrast and darkness in the takes. And I did put the scene back in in which Aaron is jumping over the rocks, simply because I like the silhouette effect and the emptiness of the field and barren rocks.

An other issue was the edit points when Aaron is running. There was too much time between the beginnings of the scenes and the point in which Aaron comes running and it just was not smooth enough. It took me quite some time, fiddling around and even switching of scenes to get it the way I wanted. I'm doing a Davinci Resolve colour grading course on Lynda.com and I'm still not at the point that I'm completely happy with the results yet. It takes a lot of practice!

Project 10 - Sound - Exercise: Listening

It's funny how even the question to find the most silent place there is  can be difficult. At first I thought I'd go to the living room where there were no people, only to realise how much sound is actually coming from outside. There are birds, there's traffic and even the rustling of the leaves from the trees is a bit noisy! So I checked my closets and basement which was the quietest place I could find. But even there there are sounds of machines running, high pitch noises from the air ventilation system and noises coming from other rooms. When it is silent, I become much more aware of the sounds I am making myself. I can hear myself breathing, scratching my skin and tones in my ears.

We often have electricity cuts. Whenever this happens I am aware of the silence it creates, and how relaxing this is. As if a blanket of quietness falls over you, I can feel my brain relax in a certain way. When natural sounds have the overtone, there seems to be an inward, contemplative effect on the brain. I'm thinking how I can incorporate that in my films as well. 

One of the sequence of Project 2 is where somebody is knocking on the door and the door is opened. These are the sounds that you might hear:

- Walking towards the door
- Sound of an arm moving up and touching of materials
- Knocking on door
- Ongoing silent sounds while waiting for the door to open
- Sound of breathing or coughing, or anything from the person waiting
- Sound of steps coming towards the door, maybe sounds of doors opening and closing behind the door
- Sound of turning of locks and doorknobs. 
- Sound of opening door
- Sound of spoken greetings and more steps.

Thinking about the quality of sound is a totally new concept for me and I had to take some effort to come up with proper vocabulary to express it. First of all, I'd like to make a difference between high pitch noise and low, deep noises. In general, the high pitch noises make me think of bright colours, active sudden movements, like in the gym and electricity flashes. Low deep noises remind me more of threats, brown and grey, thick and slow. Low, loud noises remind me of thunder, danger and a vast quantity of something. Volume is in my opinion directly related to sound, the bigger the volume of something, the lower and darker. 

It's a good exercise to connect other senses with hearing. It's all part of a feeling, atmosphere that you sense. In making a movie I can see how all should work together or contrast in such a way that it has a surprising effect. 

Sounds with a flavour/smell: 
- Butter melting in a pan, something that is grilling on the barbecue, fire that is distinguished, opening of a bottle.
Sounds with a colour:
- Balloons popping, the sound of painting, writing, colouring
Emotions:
- Crying, laughing, giggling, silence, thunder and lighting, sirenes
Physical texture:
- The sound of tires screeching, ice-skates on ice, the falling of glass, nails on a black board, eraser on paper
 

Exercise: Atmosphere

In this exercise I want to create two different atmospheres picked from the list. The first one is a depressed person alone at home and the next, Oh what a beautiful morning. 

Preparation:

With the scene with the depressed person, I want the light to be as cool and dark as possible. When I think of a depressed feeling, I think of loneliness, lifeless, boring and disinterest, so I want the light to be flat and blueish, that doesn't show a lot of texture, and separates the person from its environment, in order to emphasise the isolated feeling the person might be feeling. I have just moved in an other house and we have a kitchen with white tiles and blue fluorescent light that I will use. The room doesn't have a lot of daylight coming in and gives a very enclosed feeling. I will add some lights on the sides to have as little as shadows as possible and give it a sterile, lonely feel. I don't have reflectors, but there is a light on the opposite wall that shines diffused light on the subject, making it quite bland and sterile.

For the beautiful morning scene, there has to be a lot of incoming daylight. I want to film a person opening the curtains and letting the sunlight come in, in order to show the difference from going from dark to light and the sun rays coming in and shining on the person's face. I'm only going to use natural daylight and the light that shines from the phone when the alarm goes off. 

I had some difficulties getting the light yellowish, although I did adjust the white balance. Looking at the sequence now, I think the light is still a bit too blueish. I'm doing a Davinci course right now and hope to be able to work on that in the near future. Looking back, I understand why the light is so blue. I adjusted the white balance to indoor lighting, which would correct the yellow light to blue, so with natural light, which is already blue, it becomes even bluer. 

I checked the blogs of other students as well. What I can conclude from all of them, including my own, is that the focus is still more on what is happening, from which the viewer draws it conclusion, then from the use of lighting and light itself. Maybe that's because we're not trained viewers and are too focused on our first impression, or the story itself, while it's actually our unconsciousness that makes us feel uneasy or happy. Exercises like this really makes me more aware and I'd like to practice it more and study the use of lighting in other movies better.

If budget, time and equipment were no issue, I would change my sequences. First of all in the depressed sequence, I would use a wider angle lens and film close up, so that you get a bit of askew look of the person and I would have been able to show more of the expression in the face. In the beautiful morning, I would have liked to add a shot with sun rays, so I would need an other lens for that as well. I've been watching a few diy youtube movies on lighting and I am surprised at the amount of lights that are used for seemingly natural or spot lights. I'm becoming more and more aware of the art of set up lighting and can't wait for my shipment to arrive so that I can read the classic on lighting as well!

Project 9 - Light and Colour - Viewing II

I've found myself watching movies and series so differently ever since I've started this course. For example, once you become aware of the use of colours, there are examples in every movie I see. With this exercise the first series that come to mind is 'House of Cards', that in its entirety is shot in greenish, greyish tones, giving it a very dark feeling. I find that there is not a lot of variety in the scenes and it looks as if they have been using the same filters on all shots. It is very effective in the threatening, uncomfortable feeling that I get as viewer while watching the episodes. There is no room for a sense of comfort and relief, let alone trust in the main characters. The lighting certainly works towards that as well. 

In the movie 'V for Vendetta' there are distinct differences between the scenes when the characters are in a safe environment, with a  like her or V's home and when the characters are in a threatening environment, or when threats are displayed. In the threatening scenes, we see a lot of blue and greenish light with red accents, accentuating threat and agression, while in the safe environment there is the use of natural light and yellow light, giving a sense of coziness and safety.

It's interesting to see how the colour of light has such a profound influence on how the viewer feels the atmosphere of a movie. It's good to be aware of that when filming myself and adjusting the white balance accordingly.

Project 8 - Balance - Viewing II

After analysing my own material, I'd like to show a few examples from how the Golden Section is used in almost any scenes in films and series. When the divert from the rule, there is almost always a clear reason for it. I think that the Golden sections mainly let your eye go from one place to the other, and when watching a movie that is what it is intended for; unconsciously seeing everything that the director wants you to see and experience. If this is not the case, there is a reason for it. Here are a few examples where you can see it at work: First a few scenes from the movie Nightcrawler:

In all these shots the idea is to show the intens gaze of the main character. He is a cameraman and able to film the most spectacular scenes. His thirst for action is emphasised in his gaze, so putting that on the lines of thirds immediately draws the eye of the viewer there.

The first shot of the trailer of the new upcoming Star Wars abides perfectly to the Golden Section. Everything seems in balance, the colours and textures as well. With the wide angle, you sort of expect a small figure to come from afar or from the side, but not somebody jumping straight in front in the middle of the frame. I always jump up, even though I know what's about to happen. It's a nice way of breaking the balance and the Golden Section rules and an incredible amount of tension is built up.

In the movie 'Inglorious Bastards' (2009) the first scenes show the round up of a Jewish family on a farm. It starts with a German general entering the home of a dairy farmer and ends in German soldiers killing a Jewish family hiding under the floor and one girl escaping. There is so much tension built up through the lighting as well as through the positioning of the lights and subjects in the frame. Looking at singular frames you can see how the director is using the Golden rule to navigate the eye through the scene to get a clear overview of what's happening, the tension in the conversation, the isolation of the farm and innocence of the French family. When the general asks for a glass of milk, the white colour and light on the table have an added function in the frame, symbolising how the general doesn't feel any remorse about what he's doing, the innocence of his victims and pointing to the people hiding. It's also interesting to see how we go from still shots to moving shots, that also build up the tension even more. In some scenes, the subjects are put exactly in the middle so that the viewer is forced to focus on what's going on at that particular spot and is not distracted by other things. The director intentionally uses composition and the use of light and movement to build up tension, get insight in the characters of the scene, focus on the fear and bring out the contrasts of darkness and light, innocence and guilt.

Insight into Trois Couleurs: Rouge

While looking up information for my post on light and colour, I found this short video that analyses Trois Couleurs: Rouge, the final part of the trilogy. I like how the movie is being discussed and it's a good example for me to learn how to talk about movies and the way it is being made. I often instinctively feel why I'm interested in something or like something, but I need to find the words to explain it as well. These short analysis are good practice.

Project 9 Light and Colour - Viewing - Three Colours: Blue

Before reading this part, I was never really aware of how the using of lights and change of lights effects the mood and meaning of a shot. After reading, I watched the movie Three Colours: Blue (1993, Krzysztof Keislowski) and found many examples of how the director uses this technique in his movies. Here are a few examples: 

In the first scene, we see a car driving in the dark on a highway, in the back is a girl looking at all the lights and dreaming away. Since I knew the girl was going to die in a car crash a bit later, these lights and scene symbolise how life is just passing her by and that these are the last lights that she might see. 

Because the first shots were taken at night, you can draw the conclusion that the family must have driven all through the night when the next scenes are taken at dusk. There is a thick fog. In the scenes before we already saw liquid leaking from the brakes, in these scenes it becomes clear that he is driving way too fast and that the visibility is almost nihil. The following scene the car lights are off and everything stops.

After Julie looses her husband and daughter in the accident, she has difficulty facing reality and wants to isolate herself completely from her former life, contacts and other people. In the following scene the light of the crystals of the lamp that used to be her daughters is reflected on her face while a friend enters her home and is looking for her. She doesn't respond to her friend at all. This shows how she is all consumed and isolated by the loss of her child and husband. It took me some time to realise what it was that was reflecting on her face, I like how this use of light adds to the unknown and sad feeling she must have experienced.

Here Juliette goes outside to enjoy the sunshine for the first time after the loss of her family. It is the turning point in the movie where she is starting to come back to her former self and starts building up relationships again. All of a sudden the sun is reflected brightly in her face.

As you can see, there are a lot of scenes where we can just see Julie's face with different lighting on it, the camera closes up on her often to shed a light on how she's feeling and where she is on her road of healing. In the next scene we see her standing in front of her closet where a rat has a nest with babies. She is really scared of them, but doesn't have the strength to kill them. So she borrows her neighbour's cat, puts it in the closet and closes the door. This scene is an other symbol for how she is shielding herself from the outside world. With the scene shot from the closet, the door is literally closed on the viewer.

This movie, actually all three from the trilogy are full of similar examples of how lighting, colour and sound are used in creating a certain atmosphere and sound. I could watch them again and again and discover new things all the time.

Project 8 Balance - Viewing

The idea of this project is to experience how the golden rule works in images and what effect it has on its viewers. I have worked with these ideas already in my earlier photography classes and have since then been using the principle quite a bit in my photography. With filming there's the other dimension of the movement of the subjects in the scene, which makes the planning of where to let the action take place and position the subjects even more important. I went through the latest videos I shot and made a few screen shots that show the effect of the golden rule and when it is not used: 

First you can see the examples of where the lines on the thirds of the image are all being taken by the subject or certain lines in the frame. In the fourth image the line is a bit diagonal, but the plant is still on the crossing of the lines. What I notice most is that in the way the subjects are balanced now, the eye is really forced to look from one place to other in the image instead of being glued in one specific spot, as you can see in the following images where the subjects are more placed in the middle.

I find that when the subject is not placed on the lines of the golden rule anymore, the image turns much more subjective. It looks like I'm in the middle of the scene instead of being a spectator. Because the eyes are not going from one side to the other, there is more focus on what is going on in the center of the image. I don't want to be stuck on always using the golden rules, but it is important to be aware of the effects of where you position the subjects in the frame and how it will come across to the viewer. Will they stay curious and wanting to look more, or do their eyes get stuck on one spot that is not too exciting and then loose interest? 

I also wonder in which way one should distinguish the moving subjects and set elements of the frame. Maybe if the set elements are positioned on the lines of the golden rule, the moving subjects can roam around anywhere and still be visually attractive. It's something I will have to figure out while thinking of the scenes and establishing the shots.

Project 7 - Extra practice focal length and angle

I have bought a new camera, a Blackmagic Compact Cinema and I have been practicing with it. I'm still working on learning Davinci Resolve, the editing and colouring software that comes along with it, but here are a first few shots in which I'm trying to discover the different effects angle and focal length have on the image and overall atmosphere. 

Because right now I only have one lens, I'm a bit limited in the focal lengths I can use, but overall I'm starting to make more conscious decisions on which settings to use and I'm more aware of all the visual techniques that can help play a certain atmosphere. Looking ahead at project 8, where we think of balance and the Rule of Thirds, I see how the change in focal length also effects the overall balance of the image and brings a certain pattern along on how the image is perceived and whether the viewer's eyes are led to a certain point, which gives more air and an open feeling, or gets glued somewhere, bringing a more claustrophobic feel.

The Master - Usage of depth and focal length

A few weeks ago I watched the movie 'The Master'. When I went through the latest projects I realised how much the director made use of the mentioned techniques throughout the movie. I'd like to talk about the way the character of the main person is established through the use of depth and the angle of the lens. The main character is a former soldier, who is mentally unstable. I noticed that there is a difference between the scenes where you can see how he interacts with his environment and how the viewer is more directed to his inner feelings and thoughts. With relation to others, he isolates himself, does things that are just wackier than what the others are doing. Most of these shots are wide angle shots, with a high f-stop that create a sense of depth in the scene and gives you a good notion of how he responds to his environment. Here are a few examples:

It's interesting to see that the first two scenes are taken from exactly the same place, but one with a fish eye and the other with a 50 mm lens. The first is the establishing shot, showing the beach and the main character, but because of the fish eye effect, the viewer already gets a bit of a strange feeling about the entire situation. In the second scene, the main character checks what it would feel like if he chopped of his hand. Here the viewer is directed to that detail, focusing more on the person and his arms being exactly on the lines of the golden triangle.

On the other hand, in the scenes where we see more of his inner state of mind, or the minds of other characters, longer focal lengths are used, putting all the focus on the eyes, or specific part of the character that is highlighted. 

The same counts for the usage of space. The angle and focal length work towards establishing a certain atmosphere, for example in this little room when the main character is talking to a totally not interested psychologist and he gives answers that are only about sex. The room seems small and totally insignificant. An other shot is of the soldiers who need treatment for their mental illness that shows the multitude of them and how they all look the same, even though they are very different.

In the final image you see the main character doing a respectable job in a department store. The shot is taken from a straight front angle, with a focal length of about 50 mm with a depth of field that is wide enough to show the entire person. With these settings, you get the feel that he is all normal again and would not believe all the weird things you have just seen in the scenes before.

In all these scenes, the camera hardly moves. It's only the composition, lighting and settings of the camera that make the atmosphere so weird and completely set the idea that we are dealing with a crazy, traumatised person. 

The entire movie was filled with these cinematic techniques that enforced the already fantastic story into one of the best movies I've ever seen.

Colour and Texture

I know later in the course I will dig deeper in this subject, but since reading this little note on colour and texture I’ve been noticing the effect it has on dept.

This little scene of my daughter rollerblading is an example of how the sense of dept changes once she’s in the scene.

Looking back, I think it would have been even more obvious if Michelle had been a bit more in the foreground. I still really like the effect her appearance has on how I look at the setting.

Images with depth

I have been working a lot on this assignment and trying to create different atmosphere in different settings. Since I'm on a holiday, I was able to photograph my children and holiday home a bit for this exercise. I've also practiced filming on my new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, which has been a lot of fun. 

Here are a first set of images taken on the beach. I wanted to show the different atmosphere and how the sense of depth changes when changing focal length. I realised that a lot also depends on where you place the subject and from which angle you photograph. First a few images from the interior from the cottage.

The first image was taken with a focal length of 50 mm, so it shows you about what you see yourself. Because there is only natural light, there are more shadows and clear highlights, which accentuate the lines of the window and table, bringing depth in the image and balancing the interior and exterior. Because the eye is led to the window, there is even a stronger sense of depth. I would categorise the image as refined/mature and reasonable, because it has a bit of a calming effect.

In the second image i used the same focal length, but with the flash to make the light flatter. because of this, I immediately feel more locked inside and the image is much flatter and duller. It also has an oppressive effect, since the viewer is not so drawn to the exterior anymore.

When taking the third image I wanted to create a complicated and confusing atmosphere by changing the angle, use a flash and opening up my lens. Because of this the lines are a bit distorted and the sense of depth is confusing because even though the diagonal lines point more towards a certain point in the image, because of the flat lighting the eye doesn't really know where it has to go.

Next are images of the same house, but from the outside:

Again the differences in focal length and angle change the atmosphere of the place. I took the first two images with my lens as wide open as possible. With the first image, I stepped back and shot the house straight, creating a refined and reasonable view on the house. The second image was taken with the same focal length, but because it's taken from an other angle and closer by, the house looks a bit more daunting and has more dynamics to it. In the third image I took the photo with a longer focal length, giving the terras an oppressed feeling, because the space it covers gets more compressed. The house doesn't look half as spacious as it does in the first images. I purposely stepped a bit forward, to not show the side of the the house, which closes up the scene even more. In the fourth image, which I took with a 50 mm focal length, the stifling feeling is already less and the image is much more exciting and shows more depth because of the strip of grass in the foreground. Finally, the last image was taken with a 50 mm lens, but I choose to photograph it straight  on and not showing too much of the sides of the house. I find this view is the most uncomfortable and does't give a spacious effect at all.

Here are a few images taken on the beach. I tried to use the same principles of lighting and use of different focal lengths.

In the first and last image you can see how there is not much depth in the image because of the usage of the long focal length, even though the subject in the foreground does create a sense of depth. I would like to categorise these images as refined/mature/reasonable, because the eye is totally focused on the subject and not distracted by the background. This focal length is a good way to focus on the characteristics of the subject and focus on this. In the next image there is also just one subject in the foreground, that I also lit with a flash. Because of the wild angle and the lighting, there is a sense of depth, but still the main focus is on the subject. I do think the image has an adventurous feel to it. The third image has more depth, because of the other people in the background, which also takes away the focus on the boy in the foreground. I still find this image very dynamic, because there is a lot going on.  Looking at the 4th image it shows that the angle and placement of the subject also plays a decisive role, it immediately looks less adventurous than the others, even though the sense of depth is still there, it all seems much closer by. I find this image a bit more confusing to look at.

The first and last image show how the colour and contrast also have an effect on the atmosphere. The first image is much duller and doesn't have as much contrast as the other one, giving it a much duller feel to it. When I compare the 4th and 5th image, even though they have the same colour scheme, the contrast of the horizon and water brings a lot more dynamics to the image than the one taken with the longer focal length and therefor only showing the sea in the back.

Overall, I think I can conclude that in order to create depth in an image, one has to find the ideal combination of using a wide angle lens, different colours and textures and contrast in the lighting. An other important factor is the placement of the subjects and whether the eye is able to roam around the picture from one place to the other. A telephoto lens really compresses everything together and in order to get the right atmosphere, I really have to make conscious decisions with the placement of my subjects and lights in order to get the right sense of depth.

Creating Depth with Lighting

This exercise delves deeper in the effects one can create through the use of the position of the lights and different focal lengths. Now that I'm writing this blog post, I realise that I've done something wrong. While I was setting up the lighting, I've concentrated mostly on filming the lights, how they look different with different focal lengths, while the idea is to show how atmosphere and a sense of depth can be created through the different ways of lighting subjects. So I tried it again with subjects, but realised it didn't really make a lot of difference. But it was good practice anyway!. This is the first short movie of the different set ups I made. 

Again, my apologies for the shaking camera, very short clips and grain. I hope to work on this the next time.

Scene 1: I kept the main fluorescent light on that is very diffuse and one spot light on the table. I notice that the room looks cluttered and small and that there is not a lot of atmosphere in the room. Even when changing the focal length it had the same kind of effect. I guess this is because every element is lit in a same way and therefor the eye is not particularly directed to one specific place, giving it a boring, cluttered impression.

Scene 2: There are two lights away from each other. The room looks much longer and bigger, even though the light coming through the door shapes the room, making it less long as what you will see in the next scene.

Scene 3: I'm zooming out on the light and while I'm doing that the distance between the two objects seems to grow. It's interesting to see the light diffusing the more I'm zoomed in. This makes the room smaller and the image less 3 dimensional.

Scene 4: The light coming through the door makes the distance between the lamp in the from seem smaller, but the table further away. Obviously there is a change in perception when the eye is led through a different path than straight to the table on the other side. The shape of the room seems longer because of this effect.

Scene 5 and 6: Here I'm zooming in on a candle with Christmas lights in the back. I wanted to show the effects of compression on light and how the distance seems to get smaller the more I zoom in on the subject.

Scene 7 and 8: Here the difference that diffused light on the scene makes is very obvious. The small lamps are on in both scenes but seem much closer to each other when the fluorescent light is on and everything is lit equally. When this light is out, the other lights seem much further away from each other, even though there is no change in focal length.

Scene 9 and 10 Here I wanted to see the difference when the light in the back was shining on the back wall and reflected back in the scene. Personally I think it brings in more space, but the fact that both scenes are shot in wide angle is the most deciding factor I guess.

Scene 10, 11, 12 and 13: Again I'm alternating focal lengths and looking at the difference between diffused and focused light. It's interesting that when there's just the one light, the size of the room doesn't seem to matter at all and all illusion of space is created with just one single light.

The next footage was shot later when it was dark outside. What I notice here specifically is that the quality of the image is so much better with directional light compared to when the fluorescent light is turned on. The change in atmosphere is also quite discernible. The smaller the lights, especially when they're zoomed in, the warmer the atmosphere and festive the feeling. I also notice that the room looks much bigger when there are multiple light sources with a direction to it. 

I've looked at the work of other students, starting with Richard Down. I notice in his images that he has paid attention to what effect the light has on the height of the room. He also brings more depth through adding lights on the side. I've done that as well, but in his examples it's much more obvious. All in all this exercise has made me aware of all the possibilities that different kind of lightings bring and how much they effect the way a space is perceived and a mood is established. 


Depth

The idea of this exercise is to discover the way the image changes when using different focal lengths. First of all the depth of field becomes bigger as the focal length gets smaller and the image looks less compact. Second, when the focal length becomes longer, the objects in the image are much more compressed and the depth of field seems to be much smaller. I videoed a simple setting from my balcony and two chairs in the hall. I had already practiced and looked at these differences in my photography course, but during this exercise I did practice how to focus on the objects while zooming in and out. I had already seen on a Lynda.com course that one has to zoom on the back screen in on the thing that should be in focus, then adjust the focal ring and start filming from there. I hope this will help me in the future, because I often find it hard to get the focus just right.

Here's the little video from my testing:

I left my tripod in the car that's why the footage is so shaky. What counts now is that I've learned that I can really manipulate the way things look apart from each other and how to separate an object in the scene through depth of field and a longer focal length. The longer focal length does ask for a tripod, right focusing and enough light on the subject to make it of good quality. Now I can start thinking how I can let these differences play a creative part in the stories I'll film.

The Graduate

We got a subscription on Netflix, which gives me the wonderful opportunity to watch some classics. One of them is 'The Graduate' (1967), starring Dustin Hoffman, Ann Bancroft and Katherine Ross. I loved it! The story is funny and full of unexpected turns, the script is well written. But what I mostly noticed was how the camera angles and point of views supported the overal feeling of the scene and story.

The first parts in which we get to know Benjamin are all shot with close up shots, revealing very little from the environment Benjamin is in and giving a very confusing feeling to the audience. It had a very claustrophobic feel to it, to the point of almost wanting to wind the movie forward, because it was so suppressing. Then, when the story unfolds and Benjamin discovers himself and what he wants, the shots become wider and more is seen from the environment and the place he is in. It literally gave me a sense of relief.

In the very last scene, when Benjamin and his bride have escaped sit down in the bus, the shots go back to a close up of their faces, just like in the first scene of the movie when Benjamin is sitting in the plane. Together with the expressions on their faces, you get again the feeling of: Now what? and Where are they headed next? Even though the movie has a sort of a happy ending, because of this final close up, the story ends where it began, full of insecurity and uncertainty about the future.

Exercise: Spaces

It's strange how I get blocked in my studies just because of having to do one simple exercise or write a blog about a movie that I watched. I know there's a lot I'd like to say or show, but I just can't get myself to sit down and write or just grab the camera and shoot. Even though this exercise is really not that difficult, I experienced the same again. But never mind, here are some images!

The idea is to create four different spaces that have a certain atmosphere and reflect on the elements that define the atmosphere and whether I succeeded in creating it or not. I decided to take images of different spaces in my house instead of restyling the same room all the time. When looking for atmosphere, I notice that there are a few factors that I find important. I'll describe it with the pictures below.

1. An oppressed, cluttered space.
Thinking about what this would mean, I immediately thought of a dark, small room with lots of items lying around. What does oppressed mean? I think it's the feeling that you can't breath and want to get out. There are quite a lot of cluttered spaces in my house, but I found the cabinet under the stairs the most oppressed, since the ceiling is very low, it's dark and kind of claustrophobic.

When I look at the images I find that the angle from which the images are taken and the empty spaces in the top and bottom of the frame really work towards the feeling of oppressiveness. I wonder if I had shown the ceiling as well, the effect would have been stronger. I already see a difference in the image where the low light is visible, suggesting a very low ceiling. I used a flash when taking the photographs. Because of that, there is not a sense of depth or shadows in the images, which don't help either. In the last two images I zoomed in on a few items to see if that made it more oppressed or cluttered. I don't think so. I think it's better to show more and create the atmosphere through the relationship of the room, the light and items, than zoom in on one specific thing.

2. An open, honest, simple space containing one intriguing item.

When I think of open, honest and simple I think of a room that is almost empty, has a friendly atmosphere and has a clear function. For this image I choose our hallway and the fussbal table as the intriguing item. Here are the images that I shot.

I had already taken the paintings off the wall to make sure that the space was simple and not distracting. I did find that from the angle towards the windows the bars in front of the window were very distracting and complicating the scene. So I turned towards the other wall, to make the windows work towards the door. Still, with the angle from eye height and not showing the corridor, I found the scene still to closed, so I lowered my angle and made sure that the part of the corridor on the side was visible, to create a sense of openness. I found that the fussbal table needed to be a bit smaller in the scene, so I took a step back and placed it more on the line of thirds to make it more intriguing. In conclusion, I find the room open and honest, but I'm not sure if the fussbal table is intriguing enough. Maybe if it had been a smaller object on the floor, or on a table with a spotlight on it, it would have looked a bit strange in the scene. Now the lines of the table are to much parallel to the lines of the wall, not giving it enough visual contrast and interest.

A stark, empty hostile space

When I think of stark and hostile, it automatically gives me the notion that it should be empty, without any natural materials, signs of personality, coziness, lots of metal and dark light. In my house I though the staircase would be a good space to create that atmosphere. But also in taking these images, I realise that the angle from which the scene is shown has a big influence on the feel of the image and the scene. I wanted to make sure to show the metal elements of the staircase, because that gives me the feeling of cold, stark and unwelcoming. I think the final image gives the best impression, since it's the darkest, shows a shadow of the railing and show the bars the best. 

4. A warm, friendly, cosy space 

A warm, friendly and cosy space should show elements of human interest, relaxation, nature and beauty. The living room seemed like the best place to show that. Again, there are a few shots with different angles. In this case, I find that the image that zooms in on the chair, the pillow and the books gives the best atmosphere. In this case, it doesn't have to be open, there just have to be elements that remind you of good times, relaxing and coziness. 

I learned from this exercise that when filming a certain scene, the objects, angle and lens really play a deciding factor in defining the atmosphere. I am more aware of the importance of knowing exactly where to place the camera before shooting and thinking ahead of what atmosphere should be created and whether the interior conflicts with that or not. 

Mise-en-scene

For this assignment I watched Lars Von Trier's 'Nymphomania'. In this movie a lot of attention has been put into the mise en scene, through composition as well as through lighting. The mise en scene have different functions in the movie. In most cases they work towards setting the atmosphere of the story and character involved, but in a few cases, the mis en scene play an active part in the narrative itself. One example is when the main character is asked to tape away all parts of her life that remind her about sex and we see her room in which literally everything is taped off. The main scene in which the space plays an active role in the movie is the bedroom of Seligman, where every detail of the room and its interior are actively connected to the story of Joe. 

Seligman's room. 

Seligman's room. 

How does the scene feel?
- The scene feels warm and safe, but on the other hand it is neglected, dirty and a place that is hardly ever visited. In a way the room is confined, there is only one small window and behind that window is a brick stone wall. 

How has this been achieved?
- The place feels safe mostly because of the yellow/orange warm lighting and the interior that doesn't contain any threatening or glossy items. On the other hand, the room is dirty and full of artefacts that don't really seem to belong to each other. This gives it a bit of an alienated feel. Most shots are wide angle, or subjective points of view and taken from such an angle that the room seems to be quite spacious. It's not till the scene in which Seligman says that he only gets to see a glimpse of sunshine once a day that one is pointed to the fact that it's dark and confined.

Has the mise-en-scene played a part in this?
- The mise-en-scene is actively used as reference points in the story, so that the viewer familiarises itself with the room and all the details in it. It seems that in this scene Joe's life comes together and is put in perspective, giving her a way out of her addiction and destructive life. 

Is there any meaning conveyed by the mise-en-scene?
- Because the movie is built up in chapters that are all derived from objects/images in the room, the room becomes a very interesting place, giving emphasis to the fact that a place like this can actually tell the story of somebody's life, or that you can find meaning in the most trivial things, which underlines the idea that everything and everybody in life is connected to each other or is an explanation of the other.  With the room being a symbol for Joe's life, it brings a different meaning to a seemingly boring room, but also emphasises the sad state she's in. Because Seligman can explain all of Joe's stories and is the habitant of the room, the mise-en-scene connects their life together very strongly and builds up a very intimate bond, it actually is the first relationship Joe builds with a man that doesn't have any sexual load to it. When this feeling of safety and intimacy is established, also because of the mise-en-scene, the end scene of the movie even more shocking and disillusive and it shows how a mise-en-scene can play an active room in establishing ideas about the characters, bring the viewer along in the story and also play a part in the disillusionment of a scene.

When I think about the movies I made for Assignment 1, I think the mise-en-scene in the movie of the turtle, where you can see his fish bowl in the room is the most successful. The small world of the turtle in the bigger one exemplifies the feelings of being trapped and the concept of that there is more than just the bowl you live in and that one would like to escape that.

Assignment 1, an other attempt

After recording the movie in the closet, I wanted to do some outdoor filming as well, in which I could add a scene with a subjective point of view that built up some tension. The story is that two innocent girls walk in a field, are attacked by two boys, they fight with their swords, the boys run away and the girls chase them over the hills.

The first shot is a wide angle one, that shows the innocence of the girls, how they are just walking around, having a conversation in a natural peaceful environment. With the second shot, the POV is subjective, showing how one of the boys sees the girls walking towards him. The idea is to build up some tension and let the viewer wonder who is looking at the girls. In the third shot we're back to a wide angle objective point of view, from where the viewer can see the boys coming from the bush and jumping out of the tree. In the fourth shot, the angle is low and closer to the children. The idea is that the viewer is in the midst of the fighting and can see the scared expression on the boys faces when they run off. In the last scene the boys are chased by the girls over a hill. The boys are scared and run out of the scene. This is again an objective wide angle shot.

When I look at the final result, I think of all three films this is the most successful, even though there is a lot of room for improvement. First of all, there should be a bit more pace between the 2nd and 3rd scene. It looks as if the story sort of stands still and everybody is wondering what will happen next. Second, the scene taken from the tree is not scary enough. Maybe if it was zoomed in to a closer look at the girls, the idea that somebody was watching them would be more obvious. Third, I need to give more directions in the acting and take as many shots I need  to be all happy and think that it is at its best as possible.

The Big Lebowski

This weekend I watched 'The Big Lebowski'. First of all, it was really funny and I was surprised by the quality of the script, the turns in what happened, the responses of the main characters and the atmosphere that was created in every scene. All was really well thought out and artfully constructed. Especially the scenes in which Dude was bowling and the bowling itself was emphasised. Bowling was filmed from almost all angles possible, even from the point of view from a bowling ball itself, giving a seemingly boring activity all the excitement and importance that it had to the main characters. Here are the introduction scenes that captured me straight away.

The Big Lebowski (clip3) - the Titling and the Bowling Alley, 1998, movie, viewed 9 September 2014, [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qke0hOZPO4]

When doing the exercises and the assignments I found myself a bit impatient to draw the story boards and had more of the attitude of 'just wait and see when I'm filming'. It's an attitude I really have to overcome. When I read the following article, I was pointed even more at the importance of drawing everything out and thinking everything through. Funny enough the movie itself is a story of the most relaxed person I've ever seen, not planning at all, it doesn't breath at all that it was all so meticulously prepared!

"Anyone who's worked on a Coens set marvels at the attention to detail. Every camera angle is drawn out on a storyboard months before filming begins, first in extremely crude thumbnail sketches Ethan creates and later in more fleshed-out drawings by the Coens' longtime storyboard artist, J. Todd Anderson. Looking at them now, you see that a sketch of a relatively insignificant shot – like a close-up of Jesus, a rival bowler and sex offender, ringing the doorbell as he goes door-to-door telling his neighbors about his criminal history – matches the finished scene with perfect precision. "The Coens are the most fiscally responsible filmmakers that I've come across," says Finkelstein. "Whatever they tell you, you know you can take it to the bank. They're so precise in their vision and execution that it's just astounding."
"Everything in the script has intention to the point that it's rhythmic," Moore says. "I remember Ethan just coming up and giving a direction where he asked me to remove [a word]. Those are the kind of directions they would give because they have that much specificity."
 

Green, A 2008, 'The Big Lebowski: The Decade of the Dude', . Available from:.http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/the-big-lebowski-the-decade-of-the-dude-20080904#ixzz3CkYwEPvt, [Accessed on September 8, 2014]

 

Assignment 1: New attempts

After my tutor's report and thinking about it, also before that, I realised I had to work more on my videos and not just be happy with whatever comes up. So this summer, I asked my children and family to help me out a bit. I still find the stories a bit bland, but just pushing myself to film a bit more and focus on the different point of views did help me.

Besides that I decided that I wanted to learn Premiere Pro. It's been a bit of a stretch and even after working on for at least 10 hours I still don't find that I really know how it works. So I edited the movies that I shot this holiday in iMovie, a program that I find very easy and user friendly. When starting from scratch Premiere Pro is a really daunting and complicated program. This coming time I'll just invest a whole lot more hours and trust that it will get a bit more intuitive at a certain point.

So here are two more videos that I shot: The first one is about a father who accidentally locks his son in the cupboard and frees him again. I tried to use different angles and perspectives, starting with a wide angle shot in the first scene, to show the cupboard, the fact that father and son both come from a different direction and that one can go unnoticed even in a small space. 

In the second shot we see the doorknob moving and a part of the stairs. This should convey that the boy can't come out, is in a bit of a panic and the dad walks up the stairs without noticing it. I chose an objective point of view, because I want to stress that the boy isn't noticed and on the other hand create a sense of emergency with the viewer. 

The idea of the third shot is that when the dad pulls the plug from the socket and the sound of the vacuum cleaner stops, he suddenly hear the noise from down stairs. This scene is taken from a high angle, so that the direction in which the dad moves is visible and the connection with the stairs and the ground floor is made. I don't find it very successful, and this is mainly because I didn't have the right lens and enough space to get everything in the frame that I wanted.

The fourth shot is a subjective shot, in which we can see the view of the boy and experience the darkness before the door opens and the sense of relief on the dad's face. 

The final shot is objective again, medium wide, but not so wide as the first one, because I wanted to focus on the expression of the boy and the embrace later on. Looking back I think I should have changed the angle just a bit and zoomed in a bit more.

I think there's still so much that I need to improve in my film taking, although I think this is already an improvement compared to the turtle story, because it is much more narrative. On the other hand, I find that in this movie, there shots are just a bit too slow and too much of the action is happening on the sides of the frames, especially in the first shot. I should have framed that a bit better, or tried another lens. The difficult thing about it was that there just wasn't enough space. I'll need to think about other solutions to still get the wanted effect, maybe filming from a different angle?