Wk 6 First Foray into the Dark

By the end of my first consultation with Paul, I had been given the green light to explore camera movement. He advised being aware of the wall and incorporating colours/textures (which I did not take into account seriously in this first round). Feeling rather disoriented still, I decided to stop moping and take the first leap.

Scroll down for some shots and link to next related post


I managed to shoot something! Congratulations! (Still fumbling in the dark though) My housemate was kind enough to be subjected to the lens again. Unfortunately, Her bed and duvet rejected. So change of plans: we will fold clothes instead of making the bed. Without purchasing anything, I wanted to see how my limited resources would work.


The minimalist set turned out looking clinical, in part due to the light blue bed sheet and props available. There were also restrictions: glass wall/window reflected the camera, position of lights easily cast my shadow, squeezy walking space and my short height. Mmm, stop whining.

On the bright side, there was the opportunity to film her reflection drawing the blinds. First time playing with reflections. Well, not exactly playing. I chose a pretty straight forward shot. I wonder now, how else can it be shot?


It was the first time Katherine played a character not herself. It was the first time I directed an adult for camera. So different tactics were used to guide at various points: 1) giving character backstory 2) staging and rehearsing specific movements like a timed dance, including “affectionate pauses” and “mechanical, habitual movements” 3) telling her to hum a tune she knows personally which is related to character motivation 4) to imagine a string pulling sternum towards ceiling, and a soft push on both lower back and abdomen.

I realised that to communicate clearly, there are some things better left unsaid. Instead of explaining all three characters in my head, I should have focused on one at a time. By the end of the shooting session, we only shot it one way so the difference between characters did not even matter. While I may be confused about the bigger picture, the actor needs to know what is wanted specifically from him/her at each present moment.


I was not familiar enough with the functions of my camera. The exposure kept changing whenever the actor moved in or out of frame within a scene. Setting to manual did not help. Where is my manual guide?!

It was challenging to judge the degree of focus due to my poor ability to wink and the small digital screen. crashzoom-focus-zoomout, check! Yeah better remember.

Here are a few of the shots:

Gaining focus (above) and losing focus (below)

Reflection (below)

Exploring various ways to create intimacy (all below)

Well, at least now I am aware of some challenges. Here are what can be done next time:

  • Do plan and list type of shots before shooting. Be more organised that way.
  • Do not have 3 characters simultaneously appearing in my head.
    Commit to one at a time and explain to actor clearly.
  • Consider what is necessary or unnecessary information.
  • Research other ways to communicate with actor. Have multiple tactics in arsenal.
  • Know camera before shooting.

So what’s next to explore? What can be added or taken away?
Stay tuned for new inspirations and motivations.

Wk 6 What Leads Me: Lyrical Movement

Hashtag, latest obsession.

No, that’s a lie. Sort of. I’ve been thinking about this for the past year now. “This” refers to camera movement in relation to a character’s movement. Take David Moore’s dance videos below as an example. He moves the camera and edits in a way which highlights or compliments the dancers’ movement, emotion and change in music. The camera has turned from a passive voyeuristic tool into an active participating dancer.

I’m not interested in contemporary dance.

Modern dance and its choreography videos are usually led by sound. Their movements are based on the beats and story of the song. (Generally, or at least back then, movement in Asian traditional performing arts are created concurrently with its music. I would love to film it one day. Oh but I digress.)

I’m interested in being led by camera movement – the performance quality of the camera itself. I want to explore how camera movement can enhance the lyrical value of a human, organic action.

The film “Departures” (2008) by Yojiro Takita gave me a direction: rituals. They are actions which are both performative and “natural”. Varied movements also give the camera more room to play with. Below is the opening scene of the movie.

Thus I have been inspired. What activity then should I film? Let’s try to make the bed. Why? Like the couch, the bed is both an object and a venue. It also has relationships with other objects in the room. On the other hand, it has bigger space which allows both big and small movements by humans, accompanied with different objects. This allows the camera more space to dance too.

Wk 5 About Sound (Part II): Led by Sound

Scroll down for video and process.

I always felt that the image on screen is a primary element of film while sound is a secondary element. So as a visual learner and logical person, my filmmaking journey had always been led by the vision in my mind. Sound was a follow-up during the editing and recording process.

As explained in my previous post About Sound (Part I), I could not imagine how our filmmaking process could be led, instead, by sound. I was confused because I thought we were meant to isolate sound from the image. Well, that is possible as a creative idea. However, it is impossible to do that in my head, especially during the early stages of brainstorming.

This is because film includes so many different knobs, buttons and axles. To work towards an end product would require one to consider various elements during the ideation and planning stages. Consider a silent film, and the process would still be led by the lack of sound. Consider our current sound project and it is about setting up the environment and editing which works with the already-recorded sound effects we have.

Sound Leading the Camera

The tapping and folding SFX we recorded previously were quite “clean”, i.e. signal to noise ratio was high. So I wanted to shoot at least one scene inside a confined space.

As a group, we did not listen to each other’s samples before deciding on set location so we were largely driven by collaboration and taking turns to play with the camera EX3 and H4 Zoom.

Sound Leading the Edit (and possibly the audience)

Alec wanted to capture the protest outside so we managed to record “noisy” sounds which have reverb and overlapping voices of various frequencies. This made me think about juxtaposing noise with a “quiet” visual and what that could mean.

In the film, there are three types of sounds which represent three different planes of consciousness. The sounds bring the audience into each character’s environment and also their headspace.

The bird, its chirp and soft traffic noise depict a peaceful park-like environment outside. Then we get a visual of what is on the ground and although there seems to be no one, we hear noises of protest. Then a character appears, in deep thought trying to write. There is only one pen in hand but we hear multiple pens tapping. This indicates a surreal quality. Accompanied with an over-the-shoulder shot, the protest gets louder. Suddenly, it’s a wide shot of him and the din is disrupted by sounds which are reflective of the peaceful park-like environment.

In the above bit, there are two different types of sounds: peaceful park VS noisy protest. The latter represents the character’s chaotic mind-space while the former represents his actual physical environment. Then the audience is brought inside a room. Although the character moves, the scene is silent. This contrast puts the audience into a third environment.

The sounds have a pattern: ABCBA. This sequence is meant to connect the environments and characters together: the female character is imagining the male character imagining something. Unfortunately, this intention may be too far-fetched. My sisters did not get that at all.


It is possible for sound to lead the filmmaking process. We can record SFX before visualising and conducting our experiment around it. This approach may cause creative restrictions yet give rise to creative solutions. 

In fact, sound is so informative and provides a better understanding of the context. I learnt how it could compliment the visual or otherwise, be brought into attention as a storytelling device. The latter intention then becomes a fun way to confuse or surprise audiences.

Wk 5 “Abstract Image” Exercise 1B: The Couch


Put together a one to two minute “abstract” film – work that does not attempt to represent external reality, but rather seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, colours and textures. Shots can be recorded using a camera or phone. There should be at least 6 of 30-second shots which investigate a place.


Why a couch?

It is convenient. Shooting at home makes it more likely my housemate will comply to be the subject of experiments. Plus, I did not want to risk lugging around an expensive, heavy camera alone in public. This novice wants to tinker with camera functions. Setting up at home allows me to study at my own pace.

It is not just a couch. More than a common object, it is also a place. The confines of a couch functions to host activities for entertainment, socialisation and comfort. One does not simply sit on a couch. One strategically rests one’s soft bum with legs crossed and cushion in arms to watch a movie, eat dinner, chat, snore away, possibly bum-to-bum. And I am sure you have more ideas, dear reader.

It is also a symbol of luxury, to a certain extent. I regard it as a secondary furniture; its presence a sign of disposable income. With all the fun activities it associates, the couch would usually be in company of other luxury items such as a television, laptop and/or coffee table. The couch is only functional because of its relationship with various other objects, humans and dogs.

This film aims to portray the relationship between human and couch. From a couch, it becomes the couch.


Below is a justification of some of the more significant shots. Not all shots used are listed. Not all shots were applied to the final edit.

1) Watching a movie is an event. How to show the significance of a couch during one’s pre-movie preparation process?




2) How to translate the abstract feeling of comfort and excitement into something visually relatable?




The Sony X200 was effective in capturing serious or mundane actions due to its stationary position, smooth movement, exposure and focus functions. In contrast, the iPhone 6 Plus shoots very expressive tracking shots. The popcorn scene above shows how a phone can imitate the movement of one’s head to indicate surprise, curiosity and comedy. Its mobility also allows more interesting sounds and textures when moved against the sofa.

Sony X200 steady on tripod not mobile
consistent focus (manual) shaky without tripod (weak muscles)
smooth zoom and pan
play with exposure (manual)
iPhone 6 Plus very mobile difficult to mark positions without tripod
captures interesting sounds due to movement and friction cannot adjust focus and exposure separately
pressing zoom button creates unwanted sound

Wk 3 About Sound (Part I): Confused

Below is a one-min edit made last semester. I roughly explored the significance of sound preceding a cut and the impact of music. It was not previously uploaded on this site and now seems like an opportunity:

The above video is not what this post is about. I am writing to explain why I am confused:

For our third exercise, we had been assigned to film our individual “expertise” on the condition we record sound effects before recording videos on a later date. I did not understand the reason for the specific task sequence.

Paul explained that films usually have their original soundtracks and background music prepared before shooting scenes. I was quite surprised but immediately comprehended. In most cases directors and music composers are not performed by one person. Both leaders need to orchestrate a different group of people. Both the visual and music of a film can feed off and affect each other. Furthermore, the director/editor may want to compose the visual action in relation to the beats of, or change in music because sound is a powerful manipulator of emotions.

The purpose of our exercise is “so that the sound leads the images. When you record sound after vision, it’s often an afterthought. When you record it first you concentrate solely on the sound.”

However I do not understand how sound can lead. It seemed impossible because I visualise the shot before imagining possible sounds present in the scene. So isn’t the film still being led by the image?

Then Paul advised us to “shoot to edit” and “it’s just another way of doing things, good to disrupt, do things differently”. Something clicked in place, albeit softly.

Perhaps, I had been regarding sound effects as unimportant. To “shoot to edit” gives me the idea to imagine, creating rhythm with sound effects and the moods it could evoke. In this way, sounds effects would lead the editing process. Ahhhh, ok typing this right now I finally understand what he means by “sound (leading) the image.” I had misunderstood. I was overcomplicating things and did not see the bigger picture. Something just clicked in place, loudly.

Unfortunately, at 0457 in the morning, I am unable to illustrate my finding with appropriate vocabulary and grammar. So allow me to present somebody else’s work and words. The video below has rhythm and harmony between action, sound effects and narration. Meet Sonia.

My completed exercise is uploaded on About Sound (Part II). Stay tuned, the fog is lifting.