ANDREW PHAM

I had begun to think about coverage and découpage before I began this studio, but it would always have to be something that really felt self-educated. I searched the internet and commentaries for scraps of directors talking about why they selected this particular shot and what effect they hoped that shot would have on the audience, but it always felt strange that you really had to dig to find information on what is a very large part of a director’s job.

To hear that there would be a studio that would be dedicated to studying camera coverage seemed invaluable, and The Scene in Cinema managed to cover a lot of ground within the realm of coverage, but in the most inspiring way possible, it seemed to unearth just how much this aspect of filmmaking needs to be studied. Lessons would often end with questions, allowing us to think more in terms of why this particular style of coverage works in this particular way, and it was exciting to know that there was this huge, central part of filmmaking that was hard to grasp and mysterious and that it will be a lifelong pursuit to try to understand it.

One of the best ways to try to understand it is to go out and create something in response to it. There was an equal amount of focus spent on creating practical pieces, whether for our own assignments or for class exercises, and oftentimes these were made to help demystify a particular area of coverage that we felt drawn to or intrigued by. Then we would look back at our exercises and voice any observations we had about them. This system of providing feedback was also central to us gaining a greater understanding of the large topic of coverage, as perhaps coverage can come from as much an instinctual part of us as it can come from a cerebral part, so to go back and to pick apart what we had shot made some of the cerebral decisions clear as well as the instinctual.

The Scene in Cinema and Robin did a great job of attempting to present an under recognised and very elusive concept into a manageable and consumable area of study.

AYU MOKOGINTA

A recent quote from one of the recent readings by Roger Leenhardt said, “You can be moved by a great film without knowing anything special about cinema.  But then a specific kind of beauty escapes you.” and that was exactly how I felt the first week of this studio.

This studio has given me the opportunity to explore a side of cinema that I never truly pay attention to and introduced terms that I wouldn’t have known whatsoever. The amount of intricate little details provided in each example shown in every class were amazing and the atmosphere has always been a supportive and enthusiastic one, which truly pumped up my excitement for every single practice that we did!

A whole lot of things this studio made me appreciate a lot, especially in terms of understanding why the relationship between one scene and another is significant to the overall outcome of a film. It has made me grow more appreciative of the details of coverage that would’ve gone over my head. It presented ideas and also terms that I was never aware of and wouldn’t be aware of if it weren’t brought up multiple times. There’s always something great to take out of every lesson and to appreciate, from the readings, the terms and the exercises.

It felt like it was only last week when we first had our very first class and I was still hesitant with handling the camera. Weeks since I felt incredibly overwhelmed by the bulky tripod and the overwhelming number of buttons to push on a camera that I had no idea which switch is supposed to do what. There was, and still, so much to learn ahead.

In spite of having gone through all those lessons, I’ve yet fully grasped the concept of blocking and may understand quite a bit about decoupage, but it was never the intention to fully understand these ideas but to explore them and experiment with them. Throughout the semester, I grew more and more invested in the relationship between one shot with another and want to experiment more with how to do a cover and explore different sides of cinema that I’ve yet to discover. Aside from that, Robin has given plenty of enthusiastic lessons that motivated us and kept us engaged by giving interesting materials and also given great support throughout the process of each of our assignments.

All in all, it’s been a great semester and I learned a lot from this studio. I grew to appreciate the “beauty” that I wasn’t able to grasp when the semester started. It’s been an amazing experience with such a good spirit and supportive class where we all make mistakes and assist each other in our practice and exercises.

BRIGID COOLEY

I’d like to commence this blog post by stating how sad I will be for this studio to be over, and how greatly it has exceeded my expectations. I would also like to thank Robin for being the best studio leader you could hope for and for his dedication and enthusiasm for sharing his passion for découpage with us and exposing us to the wide world of cinema camera coverage!

I have submitted my final assessment for the Media Exhibition, which attempts to utilise the Vertigo Effect, or dolly-zoom effect in order to create perspective distortion for the viewer. Popularised by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), the dolly-zoom is achieved by dollying the camera in while simultaneously adjusting the zoom out, the subject intended to stay the same size in the frame. Therefore, the subject appears stationary while the background changes size, creating perspective distortion. While I admired the method, I couldn’t help to think that the Vertigo Effect was somewhat overused by directors following Vertigo, famous examples including Jaws (1975) and Poltergeist (1982) – the effect dominating the thriller category. While some may dismiss the Vertigo effect as a cheap trick, the Dolly-Zoom utilised in Robert Redford’s Quiz Show (1994) on actor Ralph Fiennes stood out to me for the subtlety it brought to the effect. In terms of découpage – I believe that used right, the Vertigo effect is an effective way to demonstrate the feelings of vertigo, or a sense of dizziness or unreality. Followed by a quick jump shot to a ‘moment of realisation’ the effect gives the sense of snapping back into reality.

I have attempted to create this sense in my piece, and although it short and used subtly, I hope it will be effective to my audience.

EMBUN TANAREN

This semester has been a truly eye-opening experience to my studies. Not only did I learn so much about the filmmaking craft and camera coverage but also gained an enormous amount of respect for those who dedicate their time to film production. Before this class, I only had a brief idea of what the filmmaking processes were like. I thought it was all very mechanical and that all is smooth sailing on set. I realise that is not the case at all. Filmmaking is an ongoing technical and creative process where one is bound to encounter their own unique problems or challenges. Even skilled and experienced filmmakers don’t know what to expect when coming on set. I have also gained a liking to the roles of a focus puller, DP, and production assistant. Another highlight was definitely the class exercises set out in each class. It encouraged collaboration, discussion and creativity. It was really enlightening to see the class committed to creating a piece of work.

I also would like to acknowledge Robin as without his dedication, thoughtful guidance, and consideration, I would be in the middle of a mental breakdown right now. Not only did his familiarity and knowledge of film practice keep us assured that we were in safe hands but it was also his love and passion for the craft that kept us inspired. I’m thankful for the time he kindly set aside to make sure I was on track and if I understood the class or assessment requirements. Robin really helped foster my learning experience and I am sure each member of the class would proudly agree.

It’s been a great end to the semester and to my first year in Media. I hope to continue learning more about the craft and absorb as many skills as possible.

ISAAC BEATH

The Scene In Cinema is not what I expected it to be, and that’s a good thing.

Upon reading the description of The Scene In Cinema, I thought:

“Oh, sick. They’ll teach me how to be a cinematographer.”

My idea of the class before our first lesson was that it would be a matter of learning the formula to effective, evocative cinematography. I was not entirely wrong; The Scene illuminated me to a world of beautiful coverage and thoughtful decoupage (the aesthetic interrelationships between shots), while telling me the opposite of what I perhaps wanted to hear.

There are no ‘correct’ ways to cover a scene, unbreakable rules about shot composition or guidelines about cinematography that make or break a film –  there is no formula.

Now, that’s not to say that there are not ways to potentially enhance your work – paying attention to exposure, focus, depth of field and continuity are good examples – however if I have learned anything from The Scene In Cinema, it is that the main thing one must consider when deciding how to cover a scene is motivation. In this, I mean one must consider why they are choosing to frame a shot a certain way, why a shot lingers or is only shown briefly, why they are eschewing a master shot and are instead repositioning the camera on the fly. The Scene encourages experimentation, but asks you to consider exactly why you want to break the rules.

It’s about a thoughtful approach to cinematography; there are no rules or restrictions other than those you set for yourself.

While yes, I have certainly become far better at framing a shot, structuring decoupage and gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of cameras, I have gained something I find far more valuable in my pursuit for a career in film – an awareness. I have found myself analysing films as I watch them without trying to, being able to appreciate or criticise the cinematography dependent on factors outside the realm of technical proficiency. This is undoubtedly due to this awareness of the importance of motivation and elements of decoupage that I would have never thought to consider if the studio had turned out the way I had expected.

I’m glad I was wrong about what I thought The Scene In Cinema would be; rather than pigeonholing me into a mindset that encouraged tunnel vision and had me producing the same work over and over again with slightly improving technical prowess, I was encouraged to think for myself as long as I did just that – think. My time in this studio has been invaluable, and our tutor Robin has been one of the most supportive, passionate teachers that I have ever had the honour of being taught by; it has been evident since day one that he genuinely cares about the education of his students the quality of the content he delivers. I cannot imagine having a better introduction to the studio system than The Scene In Cinema. 

JESSLYN CHEN

In general, throughout the whole semester studio experience, the hands on work engagement easily gain so much of my attention and concentration. The execution techniques were critically engaged as mainly through one on one precise teaching. Many topics, both theoretical and practical were incorporated throughout the semester such as 3-4 shots, blocking, crossing the line, depth of field, shot-reverse-shot and more. In those few events, there are three most in-depth reflections from my perspective of thoughts and opinion that evokes my study interest.

The first theory would be about the learning process on planning, blocking and thinking ahead or not; staging. This theory is familiar, but unadaptable in modern filming industrial places. Doing practice and rehearsals, is a sort of a foreign approach and culture before the actual production phase begins because this practice rarely happens during actual shoots and also it is usually neglected mainly due to waste of time. I felt that blocking through the entire scene give guidelines and a clear direction among actors, allowing the control of space and limiting power among actors. Blocking through increases the impact of clarity and proximity of the choreographs, movements and detailing of the entire scene.   It is crucial doing rehearsals as a result, it gives the ability to visualise the scene before camera execution.

One of the many knowledge refresher is putting and learning your basics of common broadcasting skills. For me it is about lighting principles; hard and soft light source. How the versatility and manipulation of both techniques that will create tremendous effect and mood of the scene setting. Further illustrations are illustrated in the  diagram below:

Lighting type Factors
Soft light source 1.     Cloudy day

2.     No shadows can be found

3.     Bounce off the shadow

4.     More directional soft light

Hard light source 1.     Sunlight

2.     Dense shadow

3.     Directional hard light

4.     Bouncing key light

Improvements and reflections that are needed to make for the upcoming studio assignment; to-do list during camera setup; setting the depth of field: focal length, lens aperture and distance at which the lens is focused. Honestly, this conception is considered as a challenge to determine the depth of field between subject and background wise. My main problem is getting confused over the readings and couldn’t position myself for a specific formula to a perfect depth of field. Nevertheless, I will continue to challenge yourself putting into practice about the underlying theory of depth of field.

JOHN MAGALLANES

By the end of the studio, I have gained the knowledge of camera coverage and the understanding of decoupage. The inclusion of theory in a predominantly practical studio resulted in an enjoyable and informative experience. Comparing the work of other famous filmmakers and the way they conveyed meaning through the camera became an inspiration for the whole class to experiment with different techniques. Getting to use high-end professional equipment made it clear that this studio is serious about the art in filmmaking and the availability of this equipment gave me the confidence to complete the task that was given to me. This studio has been memorable due to the willingness of other studio members to engage in the exercises and content that was presented. It really did make me feel like I was part of a group of people that were truly passionate about the camera. The studio helped me understand the intricacies of filmmaking even more and the enthusiasm if our tutor inspired me to look further into the meaning of every shot and technique.

Learning through my mistakes and the mistakes of others was an essential skill from this studio and to which I can apply to future studios. There was no complete wrong way of filming a scene, instead, there were only bad ways of doing it. Through this studio, I’ve learnt that there are certain rules that dictate how the camera is used, whether it be its position (180-degree rule) or how the subject is framed (rule of thirds). While these rules can be considered conventional, we don’t necessarily have to abide by it and the decision to break a rule can be added to our own style of filmmaking. In summary, the practicality, as well as the theoretical elements of this studio, made for an extremely fascinating experience and to which I’d remember for a long time.

JONAH AHEARN

The Scene in Cinema has been my favorite part of the media course thus far by a considerable margin. I’ve met some great people and the class as a whole has bonded really well. This is entirely thanks to the fantastic work of Robin, through his unparalleled commitment and passion towards the course which makes the environment such an enjoyable place to learn and collaborate with others. I genuinely look forward to going to class every day and engaging with the fascination we all share for the filmmaking process. If there’s just one thing I take out of this class from a theoretical basis, it’s the flow of actors within a location and how they flow both on and off the screen. This was apparent in my analysis of ‘There Will Be Blood’ earlier in the year, whereby the way in which the camera transversed the space made it seem real and alive. It felt like there was a lot more going on off-screen, and it takes a great camera to actor relationship to pull this off. On a broader spectrum, I’ve learned to far greater appreciate the effort of the team behind film productions that too often goes unnoticed. The fact that a directors thinking does go unnoticed by their audience is a credit to them, and is arguably the most rewarding part of the process, as it means they are fully immersed in what they’re watching. I loved the focus on group collaboration and constructing a scene, getting feedback and improving it. It’s a tried and proven formula that worked really well in this class, and the quality of what we produced only grew as the semester progressed. As I’m sure everyone in this studio will agree, it’s been a great class to be a part of, and it’s a shame it’s ended so soon. We’ve developed some great friendships and look forward to continuing collaborating in the future. As Robin put it himself… ‘you’ll never have the opportunity again you have now to create stuff’.

KHANG NGUYEN

When I found that I was sorted into The Scene in Cinema for this semester, part of me was very excited but also anxious at the same time. I didn’t know anything about cinematography at all as well as not filming anything from a camera such as the EX3 that I later would encounter almost every class. But then, this means that I can learn something new every lesson, which is something that I always want because after all, it is all about making progress. And then, I realised from the very first class that this is a highly practical studio, which makes the whole learning experience even more fun. I probably sound very much like a kid in primary school right now, but week by week, I always looked forward to the class and wondered what we would learn about. Maybe it is because, as Robin said in one occasion, this studio provides a very unique look into cinematography, which makes it even more extraordinary of an experience.

Robin is an amazing tutor. His knowledge in the world of film craft is amazingly broad, and I am proud to say that I have learnt so many valuable things from him in the course of 12 weeks, as I am sure all of us in the studio have too. The fact that we learned about so many different aspects of filmmaking is something that I did not expect in week 1. Initially, I thought “Oh great, I’m gonna learn how to make a movie”. That turned into “Oh cool, I’m gonna learn how to operate a proper camera” in the very first class. Then “Oh wow, I’m gonna learn how to watch a movie?” So so so many different aspects, from something extremely technical like the depth of field to something like the roles of different people on a film set. The studio completely changed the way I watch a film now, as I now pay more attention to the smaller details and constantly asking myself “Why this scene is shot that way?” This is something that I certainly did not expect at all. Apart from that, it was great being in the same studio with amazing and talented individuals like my classmates. All exercises were so fun in cooperating with them and there are many things I also learnt from them throughout the last three months. For this being my first studio, I have cherished every moment of it. Eventually, all good things come to an end…

LILI CALLISTO

I cannot believe this studio is over, it felt like we’ve only just gotten to know each other!

I would do it all over again just to absorb all those little things that I didn’t have enough time to write down. Never before have I been given the freedom to dictate my own learning like this studio. An exciting prospect but also a terrifying one. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of the last two assignments. The revelations and unique aspects of filmmaking I have learnt from simply investigating two areas of coverage are now so valuable to my future endeavours.

I often doubted my own knowledge and technical skills as a filmmaker. I had little confidence in how to shoot let alone cover a whole scene; from storyboard to screen! I often look back at how little I knew about coverage and I am now so grateful to be able to be introduced to this area of study by Robin. When discussing coverage with other students from different film schools, my friends had no idea what I was talking about. This made me so happy to know I was exploring such a unique area of filmmaking.

I want to reflect on a few things from this semester, starting with how much I have improved on a technical level. I was intimidated at the start of the semester to pick up a camera, or any piece of equipment really. Despite this intimidation, I thought I understood basic functions such as focal length, depth of field, aperture, exposure etc. and yet I didn’t really. It’s quite remarkable how just knowing how to use the camera properly can inform creative decisions as well. I now have shot ideas I wouldn’t have previously and a better understanding of what is actually achievable. I still have a lot more to learn before I am completely on top of camerawork but I’ve certainly made a huge improvement in these past three months.

Beginning the practical investigations was a huge learning curve for me, I haven’t had much confidence in just jotting down an idea and running with it, and this is simply what I did. I took a bit of a gamble by sticking with my idea of exploring the difficulties of a ‘one-shot’ after Robin had mentioned in class how he perceived it to be a ‘show-off’ type of camera movement, which, don’t get me wrong; I did agree with! However, this worked to my advantage and I really succeeded in exploring the pros and cons of a single long interrupted shot and in response, Robin gave me a whole lot of great feedback that only pushed me to work harder! Never in my student years have I had a teacher who spends so much time responding to my questions and queries in such depth, providing me with a fresh perspective and deep understanding of our area of study which can often be overlooked. For this, I am forever in debt to the priceless advice shared with me throughout this semester.

This studio has given me a deep understanding of what it means to cover a scene efficiently and furthermore, confidence to produce a whole set myself! A huge thank you to Robin for teaching us how to successfully cover a scene and being persistent even when we incorrectly dismantle a tripod.

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