Episode 1: “Pilot”
I directed half of episode 1 and was on sound for the remaining half of the episode. I’ve critiqued the original half of the episode in a previous post, but now the new additional scenes are my main focus.
Overall, I believe this episode has a less goofy quality to it. The new scenes in the hallway offer more insight into the company and Duncan’s approach to his job (doesn’t act above others in the office despite his title). However, I found that there were often awkward silences that I would have preferred to fill with dialogue or with a backing track. The music in the background of the beginning of the episode is not seen again until the credits. I think it would have been useful to add music in the background of the other scenes because it would reduce the prominence of the echoey sound in the hallway. Due to the re-editing, the first scene in the reception area has less ruffling noise. The compromise is that the dialogue is lower in volume, but I think it sounds better than to have loud sounds from clothes ruffling. A result of this, was that I recommended to Matilda not to have lapel microphones in our outdoor scenes of episode 2. There was supposed to be a lot of movement (and even falling) in this episode and I felt I should capture clear audio with the boom mic instead. The handheld style was continued, but with less zoom-ins which we were told were ‘dated’. However, we had initially said that these pan-ins should be improvised, not planned. Relying on the the intensity and events in the scene, rather than forcing it. I think this worked however, because now in our entire episode, we have less of these zooms overall. The removal of my favourite shot was so the episode structure would make sense – introducing Christian at a later time. However, the shot of Duncan looking over his shoulder at the end of the reception scene was my favourite because it introduced the handheld approach we were using. The use of handheld cameras, as opposed to using stabilisers, seems less appealing to me now unless I have a trained hand. The camera is very shaky as Liz and Duncan move along the hallway. Usually I wouldn’t notice, but I was watching the episode while walking around my house, and the extra shakiness made it very noticeable. I’m not a fan of the purple filter placed over the scene in Duncan’s office. I understand it’s to help differentiate between the two offices – Duncan’s and Liz’s – but I still think it looks too artificial. And part of our use of a handheld camera, and trying to use as much of the lighting in our locations as possible, is to maintain a sense of realism. I find that the lights are too dark in the hallway, lighting only parts of the characters’ bodies. Here I considered the episode’s (or rather, the hallway scene’s) ability to be translated across different modes of viewing. The first time I watched this scene was on my phone, which, I have set on the option of regulating its own brightness. I almost couldn’t see the characters’ faces. The second time was on my laptop, which changes brightness according to level of battery. Finally, out of curiosity, I set the episode up on my smart TV. The scene was slightly dark, but bright enough to see everything in the shot. My TV is set up so the brightness has to be adjusted manually. If our intention was for the episode to be watched on devices like a phone, tablet or laptop, we should have made it to be much brighter. That’s what videos on Facebook are often doing, using white borders so as to brighten up the screen and attract attention. This is something we should have discussed more, but I’m still thinking about now.
Episode 2: “Slippery Business”
For this episode I was exclusively on sound.
I’m a big fan of the over-the-shoulder shots in this episode. They look much better than the front profile shots we’ve used before. They offer a sense of merely observing the madness, rather than being in the midst of it. Usually I’d prefer the latter, but in this instance we get to see the stance (and thus relationship) between Duncan and Liz. I do believe that we need some sort of transition between all of our scenes. It’s not noticeable in the first episode, but in this episode the cuts are too different. It reminds me more of a compilation of shots, which, if this were the first time I was watching the episode, I wouldn’t be sure if we were being shown the episode in chronological order. Are we crosscutting to different areas of the office? I very much like how Jen managed to cut the footage of the garden into the gaps of the bathroom door. However, while the intention was to make this look like some sort of mystical garden, the shots with the cars and buildings in the background lost that for me. Even the other park-goers in the background made the garden seem less like a magical toilet and more like a park in the city we chose to film in. When I was in the park I recorded a lot of atmos so the scenes could have smooth cuts. Unfortunately, the jump cuts are still noticeable through the differing levels of sound. The lack of music is also something that stands out for me. I would have preferred it with music because there are so many reaction shots without dialogue. It would have also helped with covering the jump cuts. The argument between Christian and Arabella in the garden is also cut off suddenly by editing. It would have seemed more natural if it had continued. We didn’t notice it would be a problem in post if the argument, which was mostly improvised, continued too long. From this I learnt that if I’m ever shooting a scene like this, I should encourage the scene to continue for a longer time, and then another take that’s shorter, and another take even shorter. These varying lengths of time should mean that no dialogue will have to be cut off. Obviously the dirty camera lens was a problem, but for some reason it’s not as evident as I thought it would be when I watched the footage in the editing suite. Perhaps that’s a lesson to always export the footage before you freak out about something wrong with the footage. My final note was that I wish Liz was carrying an office bag in the first scene rather than her purse. That’s something for production design to look into, however all of us should have noticed that she was coming into work without an office bag. The episode goes for 3 minutes and 48 seconds. I think we initially planned for our final episode to be longer at about 5 minutes. However, I think it’s a good length that an audience would be entertained. Long enough to establish different parts of the office, but not so much that it makes a viewer on the internet (expected to have minimal patience) bored or stop paying attention.
Despite straying from our original plans for our web series, our final product reflects our hard work. The two episodes are definitely not perfect, but if they were perfect we would have nothing to learn from them. With all the scheduling, location, availability, and technical problems we went though, I’m proud of the episodes we managed to put together. If I had no part in the production process I wouldn’t have any idea that we underwent so much trouble for six minutes of content. For that reason, the production of web series content continues to interest me and the next time I create something for the web, I will reconsider all of these critiques, and produce something within the wide constraints of a web series.