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

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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.

In Review: Reflective Portfolio





Prior to entering the BaComms Media program, I had zero technical experience with filming and editing. So, as illustrated above, I continued to gain new technical skills and learnt most during the first quarter. We had two weeks to complete Project Brief 2. (There’s a typo error in the picture, it should be “PB2” and not “PB3”) Within that time constraint I, 1) consulted online videos and explored Premiere Pro 2) brainstormed personal portrait ideas 3) figured out how to use my camera. Being one of the least experienced in class, I felt the pressure to improve and excel. Nonetheless, I am thankful that Brian did not spoon-feed us because I was able to test my capabilities. Fortunately, the final product was well-received. This project had the least creative restrictions compared to others in semester one, enabling me to challenge my creative direction. I think it is my best work this semester. 

Since Project Brief 2 had consistently kept me on my toes, its completion marked the onset of a lull. The audio interview class exercise required us to use Audition CC. Its interface looked more complicated than Premiere Pro and I was trying my best to avoid opening the software. Reject!!! The following week, we had a video interview class exercise. That was not much fun either. The camera movement was jerky and we did not organise a reliable shooting plan. I learnt to work with whatever footage we had and took advantage of our failings to create a more comedic product.

At the same, we had been introduced to Project Brief 3.(There’s a typo error in the picture, it should be “PB3” and not “PB4”) It made me panic for a long time because I had no closed ones in Australia to be the subject. When I finally found someone, we had to work around clashing schedules and the condition that the subject’s face not be seen. It was an interesting creative constraint. I remember Paul’s advice, that sometimes limitations can benefit creative direction. And it’s true! Beth said not revealing his face added to the mystery.

I have learnt not to be fearful of restrictions and to manipulate weaknesses into strengths. The graph plateaus after week 7 because the semester’s latter half was geared towards collaboration and using the technical skills acquired thus far.



I try to bridge ideas learnt from my performing experience and current media studies. Is this a process of re-learning? Consciously journaling and drawing links help me become a more conscientious artiste. This way, I can derive new goals and inspiration for my film-making process too.

As artistes and inventors, it is essential to re-learn so that we gain awareness of upcoming trends. I’ve realised that media is both a tool and ever-evolving platform. We now live in world that requires humans to adapt to advancing technology, instead of vice versa. This is especially important because mediated communication is utilised across and between, all existing institutions and industries. We cannot run away from technology.

I also try to bring knowledge from my cinema contextual studies into my projects. I experimented with the following concepts: motifs, symbolism, repetition, rhythm of edit (where to cut), narrative structure, camera angle and perspective, etc. I want to experiment with soundscapes more, next semester!



This is a general depiction of my professionalism and work ethic throughout semester one. The first six weeks had me very excited about learning. I punctually delivered my work with much dedication and sense of ownership. I also made a point to actively participate during class discussions and have no problems providing constructive feedback to peers. I enjoy reading and thinking about thinking.

Unfortunately, I became lazy and demotivated throughout the second half of the semester. It could be due to my struggles during collaborations. I ended up completing tasks for the sake of it. I also lack the discipline to consistently make to-do lists and manage my time, especially after losing momentum due to illness. This is an occurring pattern throughout my life. I hope to “maintain the fuel” throughout the rest of my semesters here. Prevention of relapse: take care of health and JUST DO IT.


Graph 4 – PRACTISE

I think professionalism and practise go hand-in-hand. So where my drive dipped, so did my practise. After we completed individual projects (PB1, 2 & 3), we worked on collaborative efforts (PB4). As a team, we did not explore many creative options. We did not allow ourselves to experiment and fail. Our focus was scattered across various projects. I aim to rise up to the occasion and step up as leader in future team projects.


My sister and I were discussing about the way we process information and contribute at work. It seems there are two types of people in the meeting room: one who readily throws ideas on the spot and one who requires alone-time to garner inspiration. I am usually the latter. 

I enjoy being given a mission, then going off to do some private investigation before sharing a pile of ideas in the meeting room. Impromptu presentations are thrilling but I gain more confidence when there is time to construct my ideas in a coherent fashion. Having more time also allows more space for creative exploration. 

This work ethic is helpful when datelines are far. However, in a conventional work space, I probably cannot afford to do that. I think this “learn-first-give-later” process stems from a lack of confidence and fear of sharing “stupid” ideas or making mistakes. I became aware of this mentality about three years ago and I’ve been trying to improve by being more of a “yes man”.

I practise by speaking out in class more often. I encourage myself to be present in the moment; actively listening in class, analysing and brainstorming on the spot then communicating my thoughts in a clear manner. 


I managed to achieve some goals set out before the semester started. This was achieved by committing to the individual projects and building up my media portfolio. RMITV was also very helpful in providing insight to the various roles and hierarchy in a TV studio. I need to work on collaborative efforts; to not lose passion and sense of ownership when moving as a team. I want to be a better leader too, someone who is able to facilitate members to play to their strengths! Cheers to future semesters!!!


Project Brief 3 – “Nic” Media Portrait


Assignment: Produce a 2-3min edited film about someone.

– any combination of photos, video, sound and text
– content must be centred around interview with subject

– film must include found footage which are attributed in closing credits
– at least one original component of must be recorded using school’s H2N Zoom or Sony MC50


My ideas and direction kept evolving; it was truly a creative process. (Maybe not so much “creative” because I could afford to play more with effects and transitions.) These changes taught me about being confident, open to limitations and crisis management. Compared to the previous briefs, this portrait was very difficult to plan. I felt a bigger responsibility to portray someone else respectfully. Along the way, I had also changed the human subject, story angle and visual direction of film.

I learnt that even if the creator may be conflicted, it is important to be assertive and communicate effectively. This way, others will trust the work and direction. When you’re not confident, fake it till you make it! It took a while before I dared approach a stranger to work with. However, by our second meeting, I knew not to waste our limited time. Although changes allowed us to shoot more, I prepared for the essential scenes before meeting:


(After someone finally agrees to participate) Initially, I aimed to use subject’s voice alone accompanied with found footage without recording any original video. This is because he frowned upon displaying his face. How naive of me! I soon realised it is nearly impossible to find online material; that others share the exact vision, much less uploaded them for public use. So it was inevitable that I scheduled another meeting with the busy man.

On the other hand, restrictive conditions like hunting for appropriate footage and creating a headless character, challenge me to think out of the box. In the end, the found photographs have helped to create a parallel narrative which refer to subject’s inner monologue, juxtaposing my original clips that portray his bodily, professional self. I took the opportunity to capture his physical traits and actions that are probably more telling of his personality! Using different camera angles, I explored how film editing can be “invisible” or obvious.

I am more confident using Premiere Pro now, this time using new tools such as razor, frame hold to freeze, effects for split screen and to roll track forward/backward. There was a technical glitch after rendering and ate into my time re-editing segments. But no matter what happens, we still need to deliver by the dateline.

I wonder how to incorporate the photographs in other ways. I hope to rise up higher to the creative challenge within our time constraint. There is also a lack of climax. This film is more descriptive than narrative. I want to include character objective and obstacle in future works.

Constantly assigned new projects, I realise we are not always going to love the work the boss gives. Especially with PB3, I learnt that professionals should be open to opportunities and changing circumstances. Sometimes, it’s being flexible to unforeseen circumstances that lead to our growth! So just do it!

Project Brief 2 – “Paranoia” Media Self-Portrait v2.0

*Note: Please increase your device’s volume.


Assignment: Construct a 1min edited film which includes the requirements below.

– at least 3x original audio recording trimmed, treated, mixed
– at least 4x photographic images
– at least 2x video max. 20s each
– at least 1x piece of text
– opening titles

Only self-created, original media to be used.


In contrast to PB1 (collage), constructing a film for PB2 allows us to create a more figurative and immersive environment by combining stationary and moving perspectives, change of tension and sound.

It was challenging to record and edit while keeping note of elements in film form. I tried my best to incorporate new knowledge from Cinema Studies: motif and patterns, function and meaning, development and unity.

To be genuine is to be vulnerable. An honest self-portrait would include uncomfortable emotions. Therefore, the content is largely based on my desires and insecurities.

Since emotions are intangible things, I aimed to direct focus away from the objects’ physical qualities. Instead, I explored their symbolic qualities. The narration supports this by following the visual pattern: an introduction of the subject’s positive trait (desire), followed by its negative trait (insecurity).

The first subject for example, is a flower. The word “beauty” highlights its general positive trait masses associate with. This is followed by a clip of a bee finding nectar. The words “rape” and “beasts” cause viewers to see the insect’s act as less natural but more invasive and crude. So the narration helps to paint a different picture (possibly the recent debate about women’s wear and catcalls).

I am frustrated with the soundscape. Since visual pattern is pretty consistent, sound becomes the driving force for suspense in this film but I was unsure how to create a clear climax. Furthermore, the narration is sometimes drowned out, even at maximum volume during editing. I thought the visual text at the end may be too corny and cause the suspense to die but I was being truthful and did not know how else to change the words.

All symbols portrayed are which consistently appear in my life. My family is very spiritual. Having seen death, we acknowledge worlds outside of our physical plane. I love hiking and have a strong attraction to natural elements as well.

Through this assignment, I experience the challenges in filmmaking such as pre-production scheduling and deciding when to move on with the process. I explored creative possibilities and identified my limitations to overcome.

(Director’s Cut) – Project Brief 1 – Lofi Media Self Portrait

The following are photographs and a video that I composed but did not curate for submission.

Check out the submitted works

Title: “Naik Puncak Gunung” (“Climbing Mt. Puncak”)
Objective: I love aerial shots but can’t afford a helicopter. Played with manual zooming and tilting. To open with a zoom in so viewers have no idea what’s happening but focus on the camera tilting. This camera movement allows audience to understand the folk song and partake in the journey of “climbing up” Mt. Puncak. Upon reaching the peak, the zoom out gives a bigger picture and a sense of fulfilment.
Why it didn’t make the cut: Frankly, I was embarrassed. I had put in a lot of effort in constructing the picture and kept losing my balance operating the camera. I was not sure if english-speaking viewers will be guided by the camera movement and understand this childhood song or if they would think it is plain rubbish. In retrospect, I should have just put it out there and test waters. Anyway, I had submitted a recording of a monologue (“Portia”) so there is no point fearing my own voice.


Singapore Skyline

Title: “Elements in Order”
Objective: This was taken in the newly opened National Art Gallery in Singapore. I aimed to depict a sense of balance with the presence of elements like water, earth (greenery) and concrete; and a competitiveness with clean lines and form around.
Why it didn’t make the cut: Submitted photo titled “Forward Looking” had similar elements, plus an optimism with the inclusion of a human subject.



Title: “Death”
Objective: To show frailty, vulnerability and the acceptance of life and death.
Why it didn’t make the cut: There is not much context to give from my personal experiences. So I thought it less relevant as a self-portrait. However, I am mystified by butterflies and moths as symbols for metamorphosis and a vessel for spirits of loved ones.


Awkward 1

Awkward 2

Awkward 3

Title: “The Luggage and its Banana”
Objective: My family and I are like nomads. We did not plan to but life had us moving form house to house. So I chose the luggage as a prop, symbolic to travel, transition and homelessness. My family members are funny so to create humour, the luggage has been placed at a park to feel out of place. The banana is there for added humour. I really like how the passers-by are busy and ignore the props, adding to an awkwardness.
Why it didn’t make the cut: It was very hard to drop these 3 photos, especially the middle one with the lady’s funny walk. I spent a long day at this location exploring different angles and positions. However, the audience doesn’t care about the process if the product is bad. After considering for a long time, I submitted the photo “Nomads” instead because it has a more obvious playful tone.

These are a couple others from the “Luggage Series”:

Awkward 4

Title: “Balancing Act”
Why it didn’t make the cut: I want its seat to be higher so the luggage looks like it’s playing but was not able to make it happen.

Awkward 5

Title: “Company”
Objective: I want humour but this seems more lonely than funny.


Title: “Vast”
Objective: I didn’t plan, simply took a picture of what’s beautiful. I love the colour gradient of the sky and how the land is swallowed in darkness. Melbourne must be the only city in the world where you can see the vast sky.
Why it didn’t make the cut: Can’t say it’s a “self portrait” cos a strong connection between the subject and my life is absent.

Check out the pieces that did make the cut here.