Media 6I: On the Day

In the week and days leading up to the actual seminar, I was relatively relaxed, thinking the majority of my work was done and I didn’t have to worry too much about what was actually going on in the day. Sure, I said I’d edit together some pre-show footage to project on the screen before the seminar started, and put together a little ‘Star Wars’ style intro and opening text crawl, but that’d be easy, right?

It should’ve been, and in many ways it was, but I definitely didn’t do myself any favours with the amount of time I allocated to the task. Something as getting the right font for the titles and getting them to animate properly took a couple more hours than they thought were needed, and they were a couple of hours I really didn’t have up my sleeve.

There were other blunders too, like when I exported out the opening sequence and didn’t realise I had left a whole chunk of footage in one of the layers that was supposed to be invisible, but wasn’t. This chunk of footage proceeded to obscure the titles I was working so hard on, which would’ve been a pretty embarrassing muck-up if I ended up showing it on the big screen.

Naturally, I ended up having to come in a couple of hours before the seminar started to re-export the videos, and naturally the videos took longer than usual to export. Henry was next to me too also rendering out an animated version of his poster background to use as the background footage for when the guests were talking, and of course After Effects was taking it’s sweet old time too. But in the end, the videos were sitting on our USB drives, and we were making our way across the road to plug them into the screens.

That was when I realised that stuff was getting a bit more stressful than it should’ve been for me. When it came to that moment, I was only focused on getting my USB drive into the seminar room’s computer and getting those videos working on screen. But I wasn’t ready to multi-task, which was the reality for everyone in our group. As opposed to the weeks of preparation for the seminar, this hour leading up to it had everyone running around checking each other’s status, trying to find extra help, or helping out others. Aside from getting those videos on the screen, I found myself trying to work out how the lights worked, testing the microphones and speakers, tracking down other group members who had seemingly vanished into thin air, and helping out with catering.

It was all hectic, but our group held strong, and we pushed through and pulled off what I think was a fairly decent seminar. So yeah. Yay.

Media 6I: Promo Video – In the Suite

The footage that we got from the shoot would only make up a third of the video. Most of the work was still to be done in the edit suite. Finding the right footage of Australian films and filmmakers, cutting everything together, recording the voiceover, grading the shots, mixing the sound levels, finalising the graphics, etc.

We eventually went with using the music straight from the latest trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and also ended up going for the completely over-the-top parody style by incorporating some cheesy Star Wars sound effects over our original footage (e.g. the sound of a lightsaber activating can be heard while there’s a shot of a boom pole getting extended). Chris then loaned his awesome deep voice as the narrator, starting off with some generic cliched lines before giving a pretty impressive delivery of our seminar’s summary.

There were some stresses that came with the process, among them being the fact that we were always in a state of waiting for the guest names to be finalised so we could put them at the end of the video. But with the deadline for the promo video nearing and the guest names nowhere in sight, we had to make do with just not including their names in the video at all. At the end of the day, it worked, and the rest of our group reacted positively to the video. It was a nice feeling after that was uploaded, knowing that my sub-group and I had played our part well and we could trust the rest of the group to do their bit too.

Media 6I: Promo Video – The Process

The idea that both Chris and I proposed was, in keeping with the seminar’s overall seminar theme, a promo video in the style of a theatrical trailer for a big budget action film. It would be completely over-the-top with epic music and an epic voice over, all to give the feeling that our seminar was like the next summer blockbuster showing at the movies. The plan was to also mix footage that we shot ourselves of people working on camera, audio and lighting gear, with some found footage of Australian films. The idea and structure was fairly simple, so we were confident we could get it done without too much hassle or stress.

One of the things we were mildly unsure about was the ultimate tone of the video. Sure, it was going to be epic, but did we want it to be over-the-top so much that it was obviously a parody? Or did we want it to just be simply epic, and run the risk of it coming off as unintentionally cheesy?

These were questions we didn’t really have an answer to yet as we went into the day of our shoot, where we set aside a few hours at the end of a Monday for the video team and some other helpers from the rest of the group to shoot the original footage for the promo. It all went fairly smoothly, save for the fact that we didn’t realise that the gear had to be returned within one of hour of borrowing it due to another group having booked it for the night. But we got through the shoot and got all that we needed, we hoped.

My involvement in all of this was mostly as the producer, having organised the shoot time and call sheet. It was an interesting experience, as I’m normally on the technical end of things as a camera op, sound recordist or gaffer. Normally I shy away from being a producer because I enjoy being the one operating gear, and I’m not the type of person that’s comfortable communicating with third-parties when it comes to shoots that require extra locations or talent. But for a small project like this, it was nice to have a taste for that kind of organisational position.

Media 6I: Delegation

When we first started learning about this industry seminar assessment task, I had my reservations due to the relatively massive size of the group. The past three years most of the group assignments involved teams of three to six, but this one involved about fifteen! It was a bit concerning as I wasn’t sure how we would go about splitting up the work evenly and fairly. With such a large amount of people, it would seem impossible to get everyone to contribute the same degree of time and effort to the project, so there would definitely be some people who would end up doing more than the rest, and others perhaps a little less.

But eventually I learned that, with a good group, this wasn’t too much of a concern. If anything, it was actually a welcome to relief to be delegated a certain area of work to focus on and not have to worry about the whole project. When you’re working in a smaller group, if one person doesn’t pull their weight, you find that you’ve got to do a much larger portion of the work if you want to cover for them. That’s why it was refreshing to be able to compartmentalise, and focus completely on what you had to do and not have to worry on the other aspects of the project.

In terms of my group’s project, my main job leading up to the seminar was to work on the promotional video, along with a small team of some of the other group members. I’ll go into a bit more detail about our process of creating the video, but for now I’ll mostly just talk about how our sub-group worked in relation to the other teams.

As I said, it was a really nice change of pace to be able to focus on a single aspect of the larger project and be able to really hone in on it. Of course, there was a lot of collaboration with the other sub-groups; we were constantly communicating with the poster and graphics team to make sure our branding was consistent, and we were always in contact with those in charge of the guest management and seminar planning so that the information we conveyed in the video was correct. But at the same time if an issue popped up in one area of the seminar preparation, for example the organising of the guests, as selfish as it sounds, it was nice to be able to say ‘that’s not my problem, I’ll let the people in charge of that area take care of it.’

It really came down to trust, the trust that the rest of your group would pull through, and I’m glad we had it. It really did make the process of organising and promoting this seminar much more stress-free and enjoyable, and I’m happy that’s how one of my final assessment tasks in this program turned out.

Media 5: Done

coverBAM! Justice in Diversity, my group’s final project for The Art of Persuasion, is finished at last. It was definitely a challenging final week, but I’m pretty happy with the results. A lot changed in the last week, as Ajeet’s computer troubles meant that he couldn’t animate the panels any more, which meant that the job fell to me. In exchange, Ajeet and Aravindha handled the sound mix and the final export and submission, whilst I concentrating on making some god damn speech bubbles fly around the screen.

But this project was very rewarding in how it built my familiarity with Adobe programs, mostly Photoshop and Premiere. I’ve had my fair share of technical troubles, but at the same time we were able to create some cool results such as the above comic book cover, which I’m pretty proud of.

All in all, this subject was pretty cool. As I wrote down at the start, it opened me up to the wide world of documentary, and these projects brought a variety of challenges that have helped me improve my craft and the way I work. I would’ve liked to have done a bit more in each class aside from look at class work every single time, and having to work with students from a different year level was another kind of challenge. But, at the end of the day, I enjoyed this course and don’t regret choosing it. Thanks Liam!

Media 5: Stretch

A post from 30 May 2015:

It’s the final stretch to the end of the semester and frankly, things are intense. My group missed the rough cut deadline for our final project last week which was a pretty big letdown and, honestly, it wasn’t that surprising. It took us a fair amount of time to get any sort of traction and see any sort of progress, and that was bound to catch up with us later down the track.

Even the pre-production phase (deciding on the concept, the script, the delegation of roles, workflow etc.) took like two or three more weeks than it should have. Disagreements about what we wanted to say with the project and how we were going to say it hampered us while other groups were goin full steam ahead with production.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t happy to be working on the project. The concept was great and it was something we all felt was interesting and also a topic we wanted to explore. The concept had a lot of strength, but we knew it was a lot of work. Planning out the story, writing a script, gathering comic book images, cutting out characters, constructing backgrounds…all that in itself is a huge task, and that’s just the prep work. I knew bringing everything together into the format of comic book pages was going to be a massively time consuming job, so early on I suggested to change the way our roles worked. Instead of one person writing the script, one person putting the pages together and one person animating, we ended up splitting the task of putting the pages together equally between the three of us: two scenes each.

The process of constructing the pages, whilst arduous and at times tedious and frustrating, was actually pretty fun and satisfying, especially once you finished a page and got to zoom out on Photoshop and see everything come together. Plus, I felt my familiarity with Photoshop increase tenfold. The only things that soured the experience were the stresses of deadlines and technical difficulties, as always, as well as the realities of group work.

It was probably the underestimation of the time it would take to make pages and animate them that caused us to miss the rough cut screening. A task like this isn’t something you can throw together the night before, as my group learned. It sucks, and it’s a mistake I hope doesn’t happen again when it comes time to submit the final cut.

Media 5: Bias

Another Media 5 post from April 20 2015:

So I just showed the rough cut for the first documentary project this semester. For this project I’ve teamed up with Ajeet, and we’re in the process of creating two very different documentaries. As has happened with most groups in the studio, we started out collaborating on both films, but gradually delegated and diverged so that we’d handle one documentary each. The one I’m handling is a simple topic: the awkward silence on trains. It basically consists of footage recorded on board trains, observing the absolute lack of sound and conversation between strangers.

The shooting process was simple enough, yet brought with it its own set of challenges. I was only recording from the camera of my iPhone, which allowed me to be as covert as possible, since the obvious presence of a camera wouldn’t go down so well if I was pointing it in the faces of strangers. Still, I had to be careful with it. As soon as I started looking down at the phone screen and looked at what it was recording, or tried to adjust the angle, it was an instant give-away that I was doing more than scrolling on Facebook. I tipped off a few commuters, and that made for an even awkwarder silence.

The interesting and debatable thing about this whole project was how uncomfortable I felt as the recorder. In our readings there’s a lot of talk about how the presence of a camera inevitably affects those in front of it, but we’ve got to remember it affects whoever’s behind it too. I felt like I was, and I definitely was, intruding on these commuters’ privacy without their permission by recording them without notifying them. But the justification for this was that it was for a documentary trying to highlight the nature of the wider public, and not to highlight or zone in on any particular individual. Is it still wrong to go ahead with it? It’s debatable.

Another strange point that I picked up during this project was something that someone brought up during the presenting of the rough cut. They had noticed that the cut of the documentary featured almost exclusively male commuters. There were hardly any shots that had females as the focus. I don’t think I noticed this during filming or editing, but once it was pointed out it was impossible to ignore. Was there some sort of unconscious bias or sexism at play here, that influenced me either when I was choosing who to record, or which shots to include in the cut? It’s strange, but now that I think about it, it’s possible that I did feel a notch less creepier filming guys than I did girls, and maybe that’s a product of the ideology and attitudes permeated by society today. Should I feel more at ease filming males than females? Is it because I’m a guy? Is it because somewhere, deep inside, there is still the notion that females are more vulnerable and thus off limits compared to males?

Things to ponder.

Media 5: Reasons

YAY for retroactive blogging!

All semester I haven’t been able to access this old blog because I forgot the password and I was too lazy to have it reset, so I’ve just been writing down posts on the Notes in my iPhone. But now, with a few hours left till the deadline, I guess it’s about time I finally get the damn things online.

Anyway, here is my first post, from April 10 2015:

The Art of Persuasion: Impressions, Reasons, etc.

It’s been about a month into the semester and this new studio-based system for the media course. So far I”d say it’s going well, at least better than some of my previous courses. I’m not entirely sure why I chose this studio. I was never a big documentary buff, and I’ve never been really that invested in politics or social justice. It may have something to do with me getting only a P for Film TV 2, a course about documentary, and wanting to make up for the mediocre mark. One of the main reasons for that result last year was that I took a back seat in regards to group work. While the rest of my group were great and were totally on top of things, I was content to just sit back and cruise along. The group did fine despite my little input, but I still should’ve made the effort to contribute more. As a result, this year I’ve been trying to take the initiative again and be more organised in terms of collaborative work.

But I think the main reason I took up this studio might run a little deeper. So far throughout the Media program there’s always been a little dilemma at the back of my mind: I don’t think I want to be making fiction films for a living. I love being a part of the creative process, but a life of film making doesn’t seem like it’ll fit me well. I think one thing I’m after is a more clear and direct purpose to work towards for each project. This is one of the reasons I also took up Creative Advertising as an elective as well as choosing this studio on political documentary. There is an overt message and meaning you want to convey every time, whether it be to sell a product or  make a political statement, as opposed to the ambiguity that sometimes comes with fiction film making. This notion sits better with me, and I hope it stays like that.

As for the course itself, so far it’s been interesting, especially as I hadn’t watched much documentary beforehand. Seeing the breadth and variety of the form has definitely opened me up and made me more aware to the possibilities it brings.

Film TV 2 – Analysis and Reflection 5B

Well this is awkward, I didn’t actually answer the question asking to outline my goals and desires at the start of semester since I was on holiday and didn’t quite get around to it. But anyway, this course feels like it’s gone by in one massive blur. Starting the course about three weeks late, I was expecting much of the same as Film TV 1 except with the substitution of documentary for drama film, and in many ways it was. But at the same time, I learned a lot interesting stuff that comes with filming real life as opposed to a fictional or constructed world. Stuff like various forms of documentary, how to deal with participants, and different approaches to vox pops and interviews. Putting together our documentary has been a lot of fun (I’ve been blessed with having a really hard-working group once again) and it’s also been really cool seeing other groups’ works progress. All in all, I feel like I’ve drawn a lot from this semester, despite admittedly falling behind on lecture attendance, readings and some of the analysis and reflection tasks (eek!). Definitely looking forward to the screening this Friday and seeing everyone’s work on show!

Film TV 2 – Analysis and Reflection 5A

Some colour grading screen grabs and words about them.

Original Shot

2aGrade 1: Boosted brightness and contrast, and injected a bit of cyan in order to emulate an overcast morning.2b Grade 2: Added yellow midtones and boosted highlights. Also brought down the brightness and contrast. Trying to evoke a ‘flashback’ or ‘old-timey’ feel here.2c


Original shot


1aGrade 1: Slightly boosted brightness, contrast and saturation and added some purple midtones to give the image some more overall vibrance and colour. 1b Grade 2: Lowered saturation and added a blue tint to give the image a gloomy and dreary look.1c