Portfolio essay

How has my practice changed over the duration of the semester in this studio? What have I learnt?

Starting off the year, I was unclear of what this course had in store for me and what the outcomes would be. The first project we did was a presentation based around a case study – I chose to do my presentation on Youtuber I like quite a lot. Filthy Frank is possibly the dodgiest and crude Youtuber out there, making videos ranting about particular types of people and pranks that really push the moral boundaries. It’s in this sense that we can see that his style of humour is an acquired taste. When presenting, I could see that almost everyone found what I was showing was ‘weird’. Only one person was laughing from what I remember. This presentation really showed me how broad online video can be, but also the moral boundaries users push when it comes to racking up views online or just making a funny video. The online landscape is filled with trolls, and the fact that people can essentially post whatever they want does make you question what’s really right and wrong when it comes to online content.

Moving forward into Project Two, I paired up with Kim to again tackle another case study and create sketches from it. At first, we both wondered if comedy was a good plan – we both had done comedy as our case study for Project One. However, we weren’t exactly funny individuals, so we decided to look into the travel video genre, using the works of Devin Graham as our main case study. This was the first time I had really done sketching in video form, and at first, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I was lost for a long time trying to figure out how to create so many sketches based from one case study, but once I found out that the sketches were there to be used to analyse the case study, it became a lot more clear. I was very proud of the sketches I created, based from Graham’s work. The feedback I received was positive towards the technical side of things, but I was advised to try looking more into form and narrative next time, which definitely opened up my eyes a bit more to the aim of the course. At the end of the day, we are exploring narrative/non-narrative with online video practices.

Thus, when it came to Project Three, we had a general idea that we wanted to explore narrative in the travel video genre, but we just weren’t sure how to do it. After discussions about a ‘video diary’, we landed on the concept of data collection, which is something every can do on their smart phones. I think this applied heavily to the studio prompt, as the readily accessible software on phones allow for people to share their content online so easily. This also gave our project a more DIY approach, which was encouraged throughout the course as it is essentially a characteristic of most online videos. Again, this time we were producing more sketches – even more than Project Two. I still had problems though as I found it difficult to create such a large amount of sketches based on the concept we had decided to explore further on with. As this wasn’t a case study, it was difficult for me to come up with sketch ideas as I wasn’t analysing something. Mainly Project Three ended up being a series of experiments based around particular apps Kim and I had looked into, along with playing around with narrative structure.

The panel responded well to our presentation and concept, but marks were deducted as we didn’t create 14 sketches. I believe if I put more time into brain storming more ideas for sketches based around sampling and data collection, we would have received a higher mark. In the end, even the sketches I had created I wasn’t particularly happy with. For some reason they didn’t turn out how I wanted them to – I wanted the narrative structure to really come through. However, Kim’s work was very strong, and her Moves sketch was what we decided to proceed with for Project Four.

This finally leads us to the current state we’re at, as we’ve just finished Project Four! Now that we were focused with a particular concept, I thought the work we were creating was a lot more stronger. All the iterations Kim and I created were based around Moves as were advised to become ‘Moves’ experts. The sampling has also become a big part in the way our footage has been captured. The final prototype I was very happy with, and I think mainly because it was the first time Kim and I were working on it together – all the sketches we had made previously were individually created. However, we extensively worked together to create the final prototype, and I think the end result was pretty terrific.

I’ve definitely got a better idea of the aim of the course now then I did at the start of the year. At the end of the day this is course about experimentation and creating something that hasn’t been done before. I think I’ve learnt from this experience that in order to create something new, there’s a lot of trial and error – all the sketches that we made previously can be seen as this, but they were also research which is another factor that led to our final project. Research and analysis is something that needs to be done as it allows us to understand both form and technique.

Thus, I think I have taken away a lot from this course as I created content I never thought I would in this course. Sketching is something I would like to continue doing, even once I graduate – I think it gives filmmakers the chance to experiment and test out certain ideas which might come into play later. Of course, working in a team is something that helped a lot this semester, which is interesting as the class, including me, voted against working in pairs. I definitely now see how working in a team can benefit you a lot, as you can share ideas and obviously use each others strengths to create something. As I graduate this semester, these are things I will take onboard moving forward as I head into the workforce.

Split screen experiment

This experiment was a continuation of the ‘split screen’ look that we had used in project three. I planned out a route that I was going to follow and used Moves to track it. There were a ton of challenges I faced here with the app itself. Firstly, it’s very unreliable with it’s tracking. The plan was to head straight from home and then PT all the way to St Kilda beach. The app didn’t track my movement from home until I’d walked 5 minutes away from my house. Number 2, Moves has a problem recording your current location – you must be completely still for it to register the place you were in at all. Otherwise, it would just note you down as either walking or whatever transportation you were using.

However, I went well with the footage I shot. I think it all looks very nice, and I was following through with the ‘sampling’ idea, filming every 5 min or so depending on where I was. This also gave me a chance to plan what kind of shot I was gonna get, whether it be a close up or a wide. The breaks in between filming really gave my shooting style a meticulous edge.

When editing, I placed all my footage along with a screenshot of my Moves journey onto a 1080p timeline in Premiere Pro. To show which stage of my journey the audience was watching, I placed an arrow at the point of the ‘Movesline’ and also added a ‘ding’ sound just for a bit of extra style to the piece. For each location, I had a master wide shot which would play the entire time, and then had little small close ups that would add a bit of context to the place as well.

Focusing on an idea – Moves app

After our seminar critique, we thought it would be an interesting idea to explore our Moves sketch. Moves is a really interesting app. It’s used a lot for fitness, as it can calculate your calories, etc. but it also tracks where you’ve been via GPS, and thus we can use this really well as a data collection software – something we can potentially form some kind of a narrative with.


However, on its own, Moves has no visuals via photos or videos, even though the app’s layout is visually appealing. Another thing we plan on taking from our Moves sketch is to create a ‘split-screen’ layout, with the Moves interface on one side of the frame, and have photos and videos of the journey we take on other panels of the screen. We may also be using other software as well for this photo/video data collection, such as Snapchat, Vine or Instagram. At the moment, we are using Moves as much as possible, and really getting to know the app really well.

Sketch 4 – Narrative through stills

This sketch was based around telling a narrative through the use of different phone apps that allowed you to take photos, edit them, and share with friends. I ended up using Snapchat, Instagram, and the built in phone app of Iphone. The main narrative of the sketch was getting from point A to point B. I went to St Kilda Beach and walked on the pier, taking snaps along the way with different functions of the phone apps. After collecting a few images, I placed them in my editor.

I wanted to see what it would look like with different styles of photos placed in a linear order. It’s something that everyone does when they go on a trip – take images from different apps, either it be on Instagram, Snapchat, or photos shared on Facebook and social media. The end result doesn’t work as well I would’ve wanted it to – I should have taken more images. However, it does show the difference in what each app can do, and what limitations/advantages it has. You can add text and emojis to Snapchat, Instagram has a lot more filters and editing options, and the Iphone photo app allows for panorama photo taking.

I almost think if I had kept the phone interface in there, it would’ve worked better to look more like a narrative. The end result slightly feels like a slideshow. However, you can see the progression of shots, and again it shows what elements I could take from these apps and apply them in the future, for example the ability to draw and put text into the content I create through Snapchat in a really easy way.

Sketch 3 – Snapchat story

I’m an avid user of Snapchat. One of my favourite functions of the app is the story, which is a essentially a video diary of sorts. Snapchat is essentially a video/photo messaging app, where people use a lot for sharing funny or special moments with each other. If you message with a snap, the person you’ve sent it to can only see it for the duration of the snap. However, if you add it to your Story, friends can see it for 24 hours. Thus, the story mode I feel is a more effective platform for our genre of a travel/video diary hybrid.

The sketch I did was on the day of my cousin’s wedding which took place at Mt Dandenong. However, all the way over there, there was no reception whatsover, and thus I couldn’t add any snaps to my Story after my first three which I had already shot earlier in the day. Two of these were stills, while the last shot was a video, of the car travelling through Mt Dandenong.

The thing that is interesting about Snapchat is that is technically a narrative, but the way your snaps look and feel can be jarring, which again adds more to the concept of a video diary. It takes the best things you see in the day and highlights them for your friends. I can definitely also seeing it applied to something like a travel video. Even the Snapchat team themselves update a story based around a location or event, grabbing snaps from different people and compiling them together.

Sketch 2 – Non-linear Narrative structure

The idea for this sketch came from one of the set criteria sketches, where we had to base one around the concept of an unconventional narrative style. Thus, with this in mind, I decided to try to create a narrative in a non-linear format, with the video jumping from different timelines. In the video I recorded myself walking towards the train station, and then getting on the train itself. In the train, I record the movement of the outside whizzing past. When I brought it into my editor, I cut everything together in a pattern, with the walking scenes followed up by a cutaway of the train setting. The video ends with me with arriving on the train, followed by a shot of me leaving it. It kind of ends where it starts.

This sketch allowed me to play with form and structure, which was something I didn’t focus a lot on. The non-linear structure is something I’m not sure would work with a ‘video diary’. Although I was trying to tell a narrative, it didn’t come off as well as I wanted – it is hard to see a narrative through it. However, as I was recording throughout the entire journey, it definitely allowed for some heavy data collection, which did give me the chance to experiment with the footage I got. Also, the jarring cuts suit the video diary genre. It isn’t ‘travel’ video-like though, which may be something we can try with it moving forward.

Sketch 1 – Vine

I was a new-comer to Vine, so I was excited to see what I could do with it. Vine only allows for a six second video, where it is played on loop when viewed in the Vine app. It’s interface is really quite simple, and takes an old-school and DIY approach to the way the user ‘cuts’ in their video. Holding down on the touch screen will allow you to record, and letting go pauses your footage. So, using such a user-friendly tool, I tried to apply what I had taken from Project Two, and apply it to Vine.

I went down to St Kilda beach, and there I took three separate shots for a Vine video. With this sketch, I was editing and shooting all from my Iphone, so I wanted to create the same kind of feel that I had emulated with the sketches of Project Two. I deliberately added a lot of movement to my shots, with pans and move ins. However, what I really love about this is the sound. The constant crashing of the waves and the beach ambience I think adds a very documentary feel, and plays more into that video diary genre we had wanted to explore as well with the travel video style.

This is probably one of my favourite sketches of Project Three. I think Vine has a great DIY element that plays perfectly into data collection – it’s just so easy to capture and record moments with this app. I can definitely see this becoming something we can expand on in later stages of our project.

Project Three – The ‘Probe’

Kim and I started off our Project Two sketches with the theme of online travel videos – using Devin Graham and Philip Bloom’s work as case studies. This type of genre allowed us to play around with technical filmmaking and learn about techniques, but we were told we needed a bit of a look into ‘structure’ and ‘content’ – how would we create some form of a narrative with this type of online video. Thus, when coming up with ideas, Kim and I took this into mind and tried to come up with different themes that could produce 14 or more sketches.

  1.  The first idea we had was a ‘first person’ narrative exploration. This idea came from Kim’s teleportation sketch, which had a positive reaction when we presented it as it explored a narrative of some kind – the camera moving through Melbourne to arrive at Queen Victoria Market. However we both felt it was too specific, and that it would be hard to produce a lot of sketches out of something that was so ‘on the nose’.
  2.  The second idea was to focus on using specific devices, such as a DSLR camera, GoPro, or mobile phone. We’d be exploring what limitations there were, different effects you’d get with the camera, and how it would play into the travel video genre.
  3. The third idea is what we ended using as our chosen theme to base Project Three around. The idea is to use data collection software from mobile phones to create a video diary of some kind – to play around with these different applications and to see what we could do with it and how it could play into travel videos as well. As we talked more about it, we found it we could create some kind of hybrid of travel video and video diary, using software that every day people use.

A video diary mixed with the travel video genre we’ve been exploring could be an interesting combination. It’s so different to use high production cameras than phones. However, this will give us the chance to play around with different apps and also work more on narrative form and structure rather than just playing around with technique.

The main things we will be exploring are:

How can we successfully create a narrative through different data collection softwares? What limitations and perks does each one have?

What can we take from our sketches in Project Two, and apply it to this style of a ‘video diary’?

OVE Project 2 Sketch – Colour Correction

Filmmakers look for a camera that has a high dynamic range, and also shoot their footage in a flat profile. This allows them to have a lot of room to work with in post production, particularly with colour grading. It allows them to go into their image and really tweak the image and the colour to go along with a certain look they are after. When it comes to scenic videos, it’s all about boosting the saturation and making everything look beautiful and colourful, while retaining a cinematic quality. Philip Bloom’s work is quite vibrant, but retains an old-school retro look in the way he’s done his colour correction.

I took a shot I got from a rooftop and used that as my shot for this sketch. I shot this with Sony a7S which has a high dynamic range, and thus the initial image was quite flat. I’m not an expert at colour correction so this was a challenge for me. To grade my image I used magic bullet looks as it is very user friendly. Essentially I wanted to push my saturation up but to also add a bit of a filmic look to the shot, so I added a bit of diffusion to the image to bloom the highlights.

Colour correction is something I don’t think I a lot of people notice when they watch a film, but it is so important to the image. Thus, it’s something I hope to improve on and to explore more as we delve deeper into this genre.

OVE Project 2 Sketch – Slider Shot

Similar to the Glidecam, Sliders are tools used by filmmakers to help add to their production value, moving away from that cheap doco look. Almost like a dolly, Sliders allow your camera to move steadily on a track, moving from left to right, or back to forward, depending on how you configure it. Great thing is is that they are extremely simple to use and unlike dollies, they take no time to set up. Slider shots are used a lot in scene videos to add a bit of visual interest to shots. Just a bit of movement makes a shot of a historic landmark just a bit less boring, and again, adds a certain level of production value to the look of your work.

I used the Warp Stabilizer tool again when creating the Sketch for my Slider shot, as I do not own a camera slider. When shooting I used my monopod again to get my hands away from the camera body, and moved from left to right, trying as hard as I could to shake my hands at all and to keep the shot steady. I experienced the same problem with the Glidecam shot – there is a distinct digital look to the way the shot has been stablized as you can see a bit of wobbling and digital zooming with the shot to reduce the in-camera shake. However, I also think the subject I chose worked really well for this kind of shot as well, with the foreground of the bushes and the background being blurred out. It gives me some ideas about what kind of shots we could do in the future.