#6 Reflection on the course

My goal for the semester was to get hands on with all parts of a production. Already, the semester has come to an end and I must say that it has really lived up to my expectations. I´ve gotten so much out of the tutorials. Everything from learning how to operate a camera in a professional manner to recording sound and really paying attention to the environment and the background. I´ve learned the importance and power of proper lighting.

A couple of months ago I was only watching movies. Now, anytime I put on a movie I am so focused on and compelled by the camera work, the framing, the use of different shots and angles. I pay attention to the lighting and the effects of it, the audio and how sound effects and ambiance is layered in the post-production. A simple thing as watching a movie is a totally different experience now.

As I am used to mostly working independently, the course has thought me how to collaborate better with others. I´m still tempted to step in and offer a helping hand or try to do everything myself, but I now see the importance of sticking to your assigned role because that´s what makes it all go around.

 

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#1 Rockumentaries

 

In the book `Introduction to Documentary´ (2010) Nichols list Some specific qualities of the observational documentary mode. It´s limited by what occurs in from of the camera, for example, it would be hard to represent historical events. The observational mode documentary attempts to observe aspects of the historical world as they happen.

This mode typically has no voice over, no supplementary sound or music, no re-enactments, no interviews or no behaviour repeated for the camera. As a filmmaker, you give up full control of sound to record what is said and heard in a given situation. This type of documentary is character driven and should simply be scene after scene of raw footage strung together.

Nichols (2010) mentions some good historical examples in his book. Gimme Shelter (1970), about the Rolling Stones´infamous concert at Altamont, California, where a man´s death at the hands of the Hell´s Angels is partially caught on-camera. Another one for the history books would be Monterey Pop (1969), about a music festival featuring legends such as Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Jefferson Airplane, and others.

One of the reasons observational documentary filmmaking is so appealing to me is because, as Nichols write; “In fiction, scenes are specifically contrived for us to oversee and overhear, whereas documentary scenes represent the lived experience of actual people that we happen to witness” (2010).

What immediately popped into my head while reading about the observational mode was music. My childhood dream was to be a music journalist, more specific; A Rock N´ Roll journalist. 15 years later I´m still keen on the idea. I would absolutely love to make performance-based documentaries AKA Rockumentaries. For example, follow a band on tour to capture a more intimate side, not only as performing artists but also as people.

 

 

References: 

Nichols, B (2010). Introduction to Documentary. 2nd ed. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. 172-179.

#4 Mini Documentary

VOX POP 

Reflection on the three stages of the Vox Pop production.

Pre-Production 

During pre-production, we assigned the different roles for each group member. We discussed how we would approach the interviewees since it can sometimes be tricky to get people on camera (strangely, some are to shy). Our tutor handed out questions that were to be asked. To give the overall a better flow, we re-phrased a set of questions that we would use.

We also went on a location scout. We found a really good area with amazing light, but unfortunately, because of the construction, it was too noisy. We eventually found a good spot, on the floor right above the library entrance.

Production

During the production, we set up shop and made sure everyone was comfortable with their assigned role. My role was the interviewer, so because of our choice of location, I had to go around and fetch interviewees. Not much through-traffic in our corner.

While I was conducting the interviews, I constructed the interviewees to repeat the question in their answer. This because I already had a plan for how it would look like when I edited it together. I also told them not to stare directly into the camera. I tried to control that by standing on the side of the camera, which we can see clearly in the footage (where their eyes are focusing). 

The boom operator did a good job with the sound, and the interviewees spoke clear and well. Unfortunately, we had some construction noise disturbing during some of the questions.

For a better next time performance, I think we´ll stay a little longer during the location scout in case some construction noise comes up. That way we´re aware (and prepared). It was hard to find any backup location since the task required us to be in the library.

Post-production

After importing the different audio and footage into Adobe Premiere Pro, I started organising the files. I created bins for the sorted through footage and named the different files. Next, I merged the audio and video and made sure they were in sync. Our group was very organised during the production, and because all the interviewees had to sign consent forms, it was an easy task trying to figure out all the interviewees’ names.

In Premiere, the project was organised in a very satisfying way that made it easy to work with. While editing I went through the interviews selecting answers to the same question adding them together in the sequence. During the first edit, I didn´t jump from interviewee to interviewee throughout the questions and it didn´t flow well. To make it clean I decided to cut it like all the interviewees’ answers first, second etc. question repeatedly.

I wasn´t very happy with the lighting. All the Vox Pop footage was affected by a harsh lighting and to much shadow. Some of them actually looked like something out of a horror film. Not suited for this “What-do-you-think-of-the-new-library” type of documentary. Therefore, during the first minute of the edit, I´ve tried out different colour gradings, especially focusing on low saturation in some of the clips. 

 

INTERVIEW

Reflection on the three stages of the Interview production.

Pre-Production

The pre-production was mostly learning about lighting and setting the mood for the interview. I watched this three point lighting (also known as documentary lighting) tutorial which was really helpful. It´s basically about lighting the subjects from three different sources in order to control the shadows and balance the contrast.

Production

We started out by rigging up all the camera equipment and setting up the lighting. We used key light, which is the main source, fill light and backlight, which separates the subjects from the background. My role was recording the sound. Since we were operating with a boom we did a test round, to check sound levels for all the participants.

The topic was “Home” but we narrowed it down to a discussion about the participants’ neighborhoods. One of the participants were selected host and lead the conversation around the table. Everyone spoke in turn and there was some discussion. A problem we faced was a lack of communication from beforehand because some of us thought we agreed on having the boom in the shot and others did not. Since the conversation around the table went so freely we felt like we couldn´t interrupt. There were some bad attempts trying to get eye contact with the crew. For the sake of the sound, the boom operator had to hold the boom higher and higher, which is tiring. All the twitching and movement resulted in a lot of noise which we can hear in the edit. In addition; next time we need to have more shot variations.

Post-production

After merging audio and video I made sure that the footage was synced correctly. There wasn´t really much footage to work with, so I decided to rather than focusing on making a finished edit I would experiment with different colour gradings. I wanted to try different colour grades to see different effects (the additional clips at the end of the edit).

To fix the sound, I tried to adjust the levels and block out the noise but it didn´t really work out great.

The best documentary pieces I see is when the interviewees are “controlling” the documentary. In the edit I wanted the participants/the interviewees to lead the conversation. Therefore, I didn´t add any explanation text.

 

 

 

#5 Colour Grade

For the colour grading, I’ve chosen three clips with different starting points in their original form.

No.1 has a strong contrast and shadow on the subject. No.2 Cold No.3 Warmth.

 

No.1:

 

Anthony Johansson 360 flip

Original

 

1.1purplestor

1.1 Purple Haze: Adjustments made: Low fade and saturation. Sharpened.

1.2pinkskiesstor

1.2 Maybe exaggerated a bit on this clip, but the pink skies were nice. Made it warmer by adjusting temperature and tint. lowered the white tones and increased highlights.

1.3overexposedstor

1.3 Lowered the saturation all the way down and also toned down the blacks. Toned up the whites and the contrast. Adjusted the shadows a bit for a darker effect.

 

No.2:

 

Marius Barstad Hardflip

Original

 

 

2.1warmstor

2.1 Adjusted the temperature for a warmer look while also sharpen the contrast to make the lines more visible and give the clip more depth.

 

2.2sundownstor

2.2  Made the temperature even colder and toned down the exposure and contrast to give it a midnight blue feel (Norwegian summer night, that is).

 

2.3lowsatstor

2.3 Peaked the contrast and whites for a grainy old look. Toned down the blacks. Turned the saturation all the way down to strip the clip from colour, toned the contrast up high. This to complement the skater and the sky. There´s a strong contrast between the two.

 

No.3: 

 

Robin, Andreas, Anthony, Einar

Original

 

 

3.2dreamlayerstor

3.1 Lowered the saturation and gave it a faded look. Like a dreamy layer.

 

3.1darkenedstor

3.2 Darkened the clip. Adjusted temperature and tint and added more depth by adding more shadow. Turned down the saturation for a colder look but not losing all colour.

 

3.3BWstor

3.3 B/W Super low saturation, faded background and the boys in black in focus makes a strong contrast.

 

 

#3 Forbidden Lies

I´ll describe in detail all of the audio from this clip from the documentary Forbidden Lies.

The clip starts off as a cheesy ´music video´ of a fan-written song. The music is layered with what I would assume is stock sounds of tweeting birds, chimes, and a car engine. But it could also have been recorded. There´s a loud `swoosh´ sound when Dalia throws of her hijab and the sound is even more emphasised when the hijab falls to the ground. The scene is interrupted by the sound of a cassette pausing, shortly followed by a pound. It´s a hard cut in the dramatic sound which grasps the audience’s attention when journalist Rana Husseini in a voiceover claims ´this is not the truth´. There´s a scratching sound as the burka dressed woman vanishes in the dessert. Clearly layered sounds of a camera shutter and a cash register chiming. It sounds like stock sounds. I believe they´re sourced externally and not recorded as ambiance. The sound effects are used as a transition between scenes. Rana, the journalist says the book is an insult to all Muslim women.

Continuing in a voiceover, Rana talks about honour crime in Jordan and her journalism career. I think they’ve used a lapel because even when filming outdoors the sound is loud and clear. Less disturbance than with a boom. While she talks we hear the sound of her typing away on her keyboard. For the sit-down interviews (except the authors´) they´ve used a boom to record sound. 

Dr. Amal A. Sabbagh is talking about factual errors in the book. Bells are chiming when the frame cuts to a close-up of the book. The chiming sound reoccurs throughout the clip to divide the different topics of the dialogue.

For the next sequence, the three of them (The Author, the journalist and Dr. Amal) are reading the same phrase from the book. This specific section must have been requested so that when editing the film, it would be easier to overlap and cut between all of them reading out loud.

The reading session is interrupted by a sound of a camera shutter followed by the voice of Dr. Sabbagh talking about how the Jordan river does not run through Amman. The journalist reads out loud from the book. As the frame changes back to the author, Norma. their voices are overlapping as they read the same phrase from the book. Norma´s voice is layered over another voice.

Dramatic sound effects with a resemblance to the music from the game show Jeopardy plays while we see a Map voiced over by Rana and Dr. Amal exposing factual flaws from the book. Upbeat tunes start playing. Clearly layered during post-production.

While Norma is reading from the book the arguments from the journalist and Dr.Sabbagh showing the re-enactments. The music plays continuously and as the lies in the book are revealed, sound effects are layered on top; rattling of change, camera shutter, the cash register. The cartoon sounds as the Hyatt Hotel is taken apart.

The sound effects are in tune with the footage on screen. The lighting of the cigarette could have been live sound but the rest I believe is edited in during post-production.  

The clip continues with Rana´s voiceover and her having a conversation over the phone. The phone call might have been recorded using a recording software because the dialogue is heard as a clear conversation.

 

#2 No Direction Home

 

The opening scene is a clip in warm colours of Bob Dylan live in concert. More specific, it´s Dylan performing his revolutionary 1965 song ´Like A Rolling Stone´, which completely transformed his image from a poetic folk singer to an absolute rock star. We´re cut straight to the line, No Direction Home which is the title of the documentary. Already here the audience know what to expect; The story of Dylan´s road to being one of the most influential musicians of our time- and the path which lead him there.

The music finishes without warning. The next clip is a quiet winter scene.  The transitions of the B/W still images of hazy fogged trees.switch from CU-MCU-WS. It´s a hard-cut contrast to the opening scene. After the second transition, Dylan´s voice narrates. He goes on about ´how you can do a lot of things that seem to make time stand still, but of course, no one can do that´. The whole vibe from the scene is cold and silent, compared to the first clip. After Dylan´s philosophical thoughts `Drifting Too Far From The Shore´by The Monroe Brothers starts playing while a B/W still image of a house takes over the next frame. The viewers soon understand it´s Dylan’s childhood home. The Text “Many Years Earlier” appears on the screen. What we get from this is an understanding that part of the documentary revolves around Dylan’s childhood. And what lead him to pursue a career in music which again leads him to become the influential voice he is, even today.

As photos of a young Dylan and B/Ws from his childhood pops up on the screen, Scorsese’s use of images illustrates the key points of Dylan´s interview. There´s a nostalgic vibe to it when Dylan talks about his childhood and his hometown.

He speaks of what led up to his pursuit of music. When he first started playing the guitar, the first time he listens to music on his dad’s big mahogany radio with a 78” turntable. He opened it up one day and there was a country record in. It was `Drifting Too Far From The Shore´, which is also playing in the background while he speaks. At the end of this part, a selection of photos fills the screen. Dylan as a young boy, a video of a turntable and then footage from Dylan´s interview. In the interview footage of Dylan, he says the sound of the record made him feel like he was somebody else, that he was maybe not even born to the right parents. To the viewer, It’s obvious that this moment in his life was one of huge influence.

It cuts to a B/W clip of a street with a banner which reads “See the Iron Mines 1 Mile North”. Footage from the mine is also shown. Music is playing in the background while Dylan talks about his hometown. “What happens to a town after it´s livelihood is gone…it decays and blows away”. B/W clearly represents the past.

Colour clip of Dylan in an interview setting reminiscing back to the life on the farm, the mine, the harsh weather and the pit, where everybody worked. It was so cold you couldn´t be a rebel, you couldn´t be bad, he says. There were no philosophy, idiom or ideology to go against. – Which again leads up to the documentary showing that is what he eventually did.

Photos of his father’s electrical store and the town are shown when Dylan talks about his first job sweeping up the store and how that was supposed to teach him the discipline of hard work and the merits of employment.

This almost 3-minute long edit by Schoonmaker is a good indication of what we can expect from this documentary and what Scorcese is trying to tell; How Dylan came to be one the most influential musicians and poets of our time. He wasn’t born into the music scene. He rebelled against his upbringings and against taking over the family business so he could follow his own life-philosophy and change the world. The rest of the documentary will show this by using both stills and videos of a young Dylan cut in an efficient way going back and forth from the past till now. The edit switches from colour to B/W image to effectively tell a story separating the now from the past. The use of music gives a nostalgic feel. Also the use of old photographs. Schoonmaker and Scorsese will continue to use this method throughout the rest of the documentary. It’s a very effective way to show the story in a sequent.