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
- 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. 


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 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.

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.

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. 


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 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.

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. 


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.

How to Learn

The introduction of this project talks about what it takes to learn and where one should focus on when learning. Is it the improvement of skills, or going from one new thing to the other, or just let creativity work without really mastering the skills of filmmaking?

I've really procrastinated with this course. I wonder if it's because I'm doing an other course at the same time, when signing up for two courses I thought it shouldn't be a problem, because at university and schools I would take even 3 or 4 modules at the same time. But maybe with distance learning it takes a lot more discipline to work as hard on both courses as when forced to be a certain schedule. 

An other reason for postponing doing the work for the assignments is that I'm not confident in the technicalities of filming and that keeps me from starting it. I've been looking at a few movies, but have not spent enough time practicing to master it. The same counts for post processing, which will probably take a lot of time as well. 

Both sound like excuses and they actually are. The aim of the course is to learn these things and not stop because I don't know them already!

I have watched a lot of movies and started reading the books from the list, so I feel that I'm starting to look differently at images and image making, but now the main step is to get a move on and start shooting footage myself!

In this project I'm asked to reflect on a project, I'll do that on the last one.

* What I set out to achieve:
- I wanted to produce a movie in which the story is enforced by the camera angles and division of the story in sets.
- I wanted to convey a certain atmosphere in the movie, one of being alone, curiosity and a bit of sneakiness. 
- The audience should stay interested the entire shoot, I wanted to achieve this by bringing pace and enough changes of cuts.

* How can I identify what I achieved:
- By watching the movie a bit later with a fresh eye and see if I feel and see what I had envisioned. I can also ask other viewers to watch it. I asked for feedback from other students, but have not received any so far.

* What I achieved:
- I was able to shoot a movie that kind of keeps the viewers interest, although I think that some scenes are a bit too slow. The ones that worked for me are the first shot in which the camera follows the actor, especially compared to the next one where you see him walking away. That is taking just a bit too long.
- The scene in which the idea was that you could see the actor taking a bottle of coke didn't really work out well because it was too dark. Because of that it is also not really clear that he hears a certain sound. Because of this an important part of the story is not shown. 
- The scene where the actor walks up and down is nice, although there should have been an extra shot in the hallway where we could see him looking for somebody and show some expression so that we know that he is doing something that he's not allowed to.
- The scene in which he pours himself a drink is taking too long. Even though it's funny that all the coke spouts out, it takes away the essence of the story and makes the story dragging. 

* What I learned from this:
- I need to be more critical when editing the film. Some scenes can be shorter, or an other shot with a different camera angle can be added to add more dimension to the film
- What I see when filming comes across differently when it is being watched. With thinking each shot through and be aware of the technical challenges beforehand, I can plan it better and get it right.
- I'm too easily satisfied. I should have done a few shots again. But since I was already very happy to have my son act for these five minutes, I didn't want to ask more. So get a different actor next time!


Other questions:

* Is it better to struggle and improve your weaker areas or should you cut your losses and focus on your strengths?
- In my case I find this question not entirely relevant, because right now I only see weaknesses that need to be improved and no strengths to focus on! I do think it is important to get the basic skills right and up till perfection so that from there on I can focus on my creativity and insights in how I want the movie to look like. I think it is important to be encouraged by  glimpses of my strengths, but not be too complacent and think that I'm there. 
- An other thing would be that I enjoy learning and the struggle of going from no skills and knowledge at all to becoming aware of what is good, what I want to achieve and how to achieve it. Through that struggle comes a lot of fulfilment and fun.

* How can you really know what your strengths and weaknesses are?
- Before starting something I can sort of see what will come easier than other things. On the other hand, if I've never done something before, I won't know if it will be a strength or not. I think you can find it out by doing, taking risks, but also by staying self reflective and critical of what the work that has been done. 

* Who can you ask and where can you find out?
- I can ask other students and my tutor. Besides that, I can ask my family and especially brother-in-law, who has a production company. Although I don't feel like showing him anything at all, because I feel like such an utter beginner! I've also been watching instructional movies on and creative live and that has also helped me in knowing what works and what doesn't.

* How do you know if you have improved? When is it time to move on?
- I think you know when things come easier and almost instinctively and you feel that you're not struggling with the technicalities, but can focus on creative ways. I think it's time to move on when you're starting to feel too comfortable in what you're doing. 

An objective POV

The idea of this exercise is to take the same story from the last one, but shoot it from an objective point of view. This means that instead of seeing what the subject sees, we see what the subject does from different angles. 

I sketched out my story board and will explain with every image what idea I have with the scenes.

Scene 1 and 2

Scene 1: Woman sits at the table, long distant shot, eye level to show a general impression of the room and the fact that there is nobody else around. Because it is shot at eye level, we can see a bit of the boredom in the expression of the woman's face. 

Scene 2: Somewhat low angle shot that focuses in on the eye that sees the bottle. I want to keep this a close up shot to show the eye language, so that there is an identification from the viewer with boredom and curiosity.

Scene 3: Shot from a back angle in which we can see the person walking to the kitchen. Because we only see the back, curiosity is built up about where the person is walking to.

Scene 4: Camera from low angle where box is to show eagerness of the face and the dominating effect of the bottle.

Scene 5: Medium shot from the side. Objective eye level view that distances viewer from person and creates a moment of silence. The subject turns around quickly.

Scene 6: Subject walks from the pantry to the hallway. It is not going to be a birds eye view, but high angle. I'm just not good at drawing this! We can see the subject looking around the corner and walk back. Because it's taken from a distance, the entire movement from walking out of the pantry and back is very clear. 

Scene 7: Subject is medium shot from a low eye level, the pantry is visible. The subject gets the bottle and pours herself a drink. The low angle and closer shot shows the intimacy and secrecy of the moment.

First I recorded the movie with myself as the subject. I did notice that it was hard to focus on the subject, so I asked my son to act instead and change the alcohol addiction for cola.

While shooting the sequence I realised a few things: First of all, I really need to learn some more technical skills to be able to get the quality better. Second, having my own kid as an actor does not work and I might better spend more time and be the actor myself. 

Looking back at the video, I see that the first part is too fast and that I've skipped the second scene. Because of this, there's not really a built up tension and explanation of what is happening, which should actually be the entire idea of the video.

I looked at a few other videos from other students and was first of all surprised to see such a difference in the results! It shows that from the same narrative so many different interpretations can arise. Paul's video starts with a close up shot from a man who wakes up. The close up effect brings an immediate sense of curiosity, because you don't know the circumstances in which he's waking up and just as the man doesn't know what might have happened while he was sleeping, the viewer doesn't know what is going to happen at all. My idea was to start with a wide angle view to show the surroundings the subject is in, but compared with the close up, it doesn't bring any suspense at all.

An other shot that I really liked was the one in which the drink is in the foreground, close up, and in the back the man is sitting on the couch looking at it. This immediately settles a kind of a relationship between the man and the bottle. The bottle is bigger and dominant, the man smaller. In my clip it's not even possible to see what the subject is looking for, so it takes a lot longer before the viewer knows what's going on. Since the subject is only looking at something and walking towards it, it's not particularly interesting.

An other thing I noticed again in watching my own movie and that of others is that pace makes such a difference in keeping the viewer's attention. I want to be more aware of that when shooting the final image for this assignment.

Camera Angles - 'City of God'

Ever since I read this part on camera angles it's hard to watch a movie without thinking all the time how the angles work! I find it interesting to see how some directors use these different angles extensively, while others kind of stick to the standard mid angle view. It's important to keep in mind that the angle is different than the distance from which the shot is taken, although both work together in establishing a specific effect in the scene. I also notice that a low angle viewpoint can sometimes distort the scene and I find that these are mostly taken from a shorter distance.

I watched 'City of God' (2002) a few weeks ago and was really struck by the creative use of camera angles. The movie on the whole is one of the most excellent ones I've seen, but together with the way the narrator told the story, the way the shots were taken gave the movie a very surreal, almost humorous feel that eased down the pain and cruelty of the story itself. The movie is full of good examples of how the camera angle create a certain atmosphere or alter the meaning of a scene. Here are a few that I'd like to discuss.

In the opening scene of the movie we see a few kids preparing a chicken for the grill. This is looked at by an other chicken, who gets very nervous and then escapes. As it turns out later in the movie, it is a crucial happening towards the plot of the movie in which the gangs are caught or killed and the main character becomes a famous photographer. The escape of the chicken also symbolises the escape from the main character from gang life. 

The first scenes in which the knives are sharpened and the mojitos are prepared are all low angle, canted shots. There's dancing and drinks. Now and then it turns towards the chicken at eye level and then alternating back to the preparations of the other chickens in low angle.

Viewpoint: The viewpoint indicates that this is what the chicken is seeing and making the chicken want to escape. It's a subjective point of view. When focusing on the chicken the point of view becomes straight and more objective, guiding the viewer towards understanding of the fear of the chicken.

Relationship: At first I thought how nice the atmosphere of Brazilian was portrayed, then after the point of view was switched to the chicken, I realised that what we saw was what the chicken was seeing and then the scene became much more threatening.

Status: The point of view indicates that the chicken is much smaller and vulnerable, but when turned towards the chicken it shows the angst of the chicken and possibilities to escape.

Suspense: The combination of the different angles build up a lot of suspense, because it's showing the increasing distress of the chicken, especially when there's the scene of the chicken feathers on the ground and the coming of a plan for escape.

Mood: The mood starts off as an almost feel good movie. Because of the low angle, we can only see the kids laughing and preparing a dinner. When the angle changes and the chicken is shown, the mood gets grimmer, but still quite happy, since the subject only seems to be about the escape of the chicken.

As you can see in the remaining part of this clip, the escape is filmed from a wide spectrum of angles as well. There's a great alteration in pauses and action. Both work together in building up the suspense. There's an alteration of high and low angle when the kids are chasing the animal, accentuating the uncontrolled way the city is built up from different layers of houses, little streets and shacks. From here the main character and narrator of the movie comes in the scene and through the changes of angles from POV to eye level directed at him, we can see his life passing by and we see him watching his life pass by. 

In the next scenes we learn about the life of gangster Little Zé. In this part we see a swift from the beginning in which the child Ze starts killing that is filmed mainly in an objective eye level point of view to a series of low angle point of views in which the viewer sees what the person sees before being shot. A crazy, violent boy with no boundaries. 

Viewpoint: In the beginning scenes we look at Ze from an objective, distance point of view, indicating the outside circumstances in which Zé grew up to be a gang leader. From there on the killings are shot from a low angle of view, indicating how mentally disturbed and violent the boy was from within.

Relationship: In the scenes with the more objective viewpoints one might still feel some sympathy for the boy and the circumstances he grew up in. The more the viewpoints are lowered and canted, the more the viewer starts to detest the violent and disturbed character.

Status: In the first scenes with the objective viewpoint the viewer is a safe bystander and the character is not threatening to the viewer, in the later scenes I feel like I am shot myself and the Zé becomes a threat to the viewer as well.

Suspense: The way the scenes are set up create a lot of suspense and expectation. I think it's because of the constant switching from one angle to the other and events happening from very unexpected angles, sort of disturbing what is going on. Peaceful scenes turn out to be very violent and the angles in which these are shot accentuate what is going on.

Mood: Strange enough, because of the constant changes of angle and quick pace of the movie itself, the mood is very grim but continues to stay light hearted as well. 

In other scenes I have noticed that during violent parts, the director decides to take either a distant hi angle view, or low angle, but hardly ever at eye level. In each scene there is a deliberate change of angles to work the atmosphere and story as much as possible. 

There is so much more that strikes me about this movie and the way it's directed, I'm sure I'll get back to it. 

Telling a Story

This chapter is all about becoming aware of how a movie is structured and chipping the different elements that make the story. For me it's new to watch a movie from this structural point of view, instead of just being drawn into the story or subject. 

What I especially noticed in this part are the requirements that each elements of the movie need to have in order to make the story or subject coherent and believable. There has to be a certain logic and consistency in the story, which is also made through the set up of the scene, lighting, background and placements of the subjects included.  

Each frame is sort of a next step in the movie. To have meaning, it needs to show the location the step is taken, the direction in which it is going and the speed as well.

The idea of this exercise is to tell a story in 5 frames. I did not choose a nursery rhyme, but a typical thing that could have happened in a school situation. I used to be a teacher and guess that deep down I'm missing it a bit :-)

When drawing the story I concentrated on showing the setting in which the story takes place, and how that also effects the line of the story, I focused in on the expressions of the characters and on the cropping of the frames themselves in order to give all the essential information to understand the story. I hope it's understandable and welcome all comments!