Analysis/Reflection #5, Q1

As per lecture –  in a sequence you’ve called ‘colour’ you will have clips that are indicative of a particular colour or lighting state. To the right of that clip you will have that same clip repeated 2 or more times with different colour grades on it.

Take screen grabs of each clip then upload to your blog the series of stills that show us ‘before and afters’ of your colour grading. Provide a few different examples of at least two different clips – each with a description of what you did to the clip and why.

Before & After 1:


I decreased brightness as I thought the ‘before’ frame was slightly overexposed. I increased the contrast to darken the background and accentuate the colours of the bowl, the basket and the dumplings. I thought this was fantastic because it really directs the audience’s eyes to the dumplings now. I used the Three Way Colour Corrector to add a warmer hue to the frame because food appears more appetizing in warm hues. I specifically added a red hue because it accentuates the Chinese/oriental ‘feel’ of our doco.

Before & After 2:


I used the Three Way Colour Corrector to add red-orange hues to remove the awful green tint. I then played around with midtones and adjust the Midtone Blue Balance to slightly reduce the warm hues. My main goal here was to ensure this kitchen scene was consistent with the others which didn’t have this green tint. I prefer the much more neutral tone it has now; it doesn’t look like a dingy kitchen anymore. I also lowered brightness and contrast slightly as the transparent plastic containers (that are ‘white’ in the frame) seem overexposed. But in hindsight maybe the slight overexposure was okay.

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Analysis/Reflection #5, Q2

“In 200 words or less please outline your goals, desires – what you want to get out of this semester. You will review this later in the course. You may rethink this dramatically – this is a good thing.”

You were asked this at the beginning of the semester. Now, could you review constructively what you got from this semester – has the course lived up to your expectations, delivered what you expected, maybe even surpassed it?

I was super enthusiastic about Film-TV 2 at the beginning of the semester because I’ve always preferred non-fiction work to fiction – drama doesn’t interest me as much. We were instructed to develop and research an ‘idea’ we wanted to work on, instead of a specific topic; it was to be sort of ‘abstract’. Ideas rushed into my head: nostalgia, identity, migration, adolescence, etc. The problem, however, was that 12 weeks was too short a period of time to explore any ‘abstract’ idea extensively and produce a documentary of it.

Compared to Film-TV 1, there was less pre-production planning required. We just had to ‘flow’ with the story – you never know what gems you might find! But I was too optimistic. While we did uncover some interesting anecdotes from our documentary subject Mr Wong, they proved highly difficult and frustrating to edit in post-production. We struggled a lot with piecing the narrative together – what should we focus on? What should we leave out? Does the narrative make sense to the audience? How can we make the narrative more engaging and exciting? The feedback from the fine cut session was really helpful because as filmmakers, it’s hard to view our documentary from an audience’s perspective.

Also, another obstacle I encountered was actually approaching documentary subjects. In Film-TV 1 we held auditions, which attracted actors that wanted to be in the film. With documentaries, your intended subjects don’t necessarily want to be filmed. Being thick-skinned helps; some amount of persuasion is involved. I felt like I was asking Mr Wong for a huge favour, taking up his time, and disrupting the running of his business. There was no good reason for him to help us, but he did. When he rejected us the third time we wanted to go down to his restaurant for filming, it was expected. I felt so apologetic.

Overall I think Film-TV 2 fell short of my expectations slightly. I must clarify this is most definitely not the fault of my amazing tutors and classmates; this is mainly due to personal obstacles I have yet to overcome, namely my lack of filmmaking experience, lack of technical skills (re: equipment), and my lack of journalistic gutsiness. I went into Film-TV 2 disillusioned, with inflated expectations, so naturally the experience has left me a bit disenchanted. Nevertheless, I have learned plenty and I couldn’t have been more glad to have had the opportunity to explore documentary filmmaking in uni. Film-TV 2 has provided me with basic documentary filmmaking skills and knowledge, which I expect will be very useful in the future. I still retain a lot of interest in documentaries and I hope I will be able to explore one of those abstract ideas at great length someday!

P.S.: Dear Robin and Paul, thank you for being ever so patient and helpful throughout Film-TV 1 and 2. While I am unlikely to pursue an actual career in film (my interests simply lean towards journalism/writing more), your earnest guidance and passion for film has been absolutely infectious and inspiring… I am truly grateful that you guys (as well as my group mates) have made my first foray into filmmaking a wonderful experience. Cheers. See you at the screening.

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Analysis/Reflection #4, Q3

From a distant gaze …” (1964) directed by Jean Ravel, picture Pierre Lhomme & Chris Marker, words by Louis Aragon, narrated by Jean Negroni, music by Michel Legrand.

Describe a few things that intrigue you – it might be shot construction, camera work, editing, overall structure, thematic concerns etc. Describe the camera work and why you think it has been shot that way.

What intrigued me most was how natural/organic and intimate the film seemed, and how it made me truly feel like an observer ‘from a distant gaze’.

On camera work:
The camera was most likely handheld, as far as I can tell from the ‘organic’ nature of the shots. It simply followed particular subjects in a very natural way. I think the way it was shot was meant for the camera to mimic the eye – how the eye simply wanders, without structure, as how it would when you people-watch/observe. The camera zoomed in heavily on the subjects, so as to assume that ‘distant gaze’ and also so they would not be conscious of someone filming them. The film was also shot in B&W, which I felt was significant. The choice to shoot in B&W minimised distraction and enabled the audience to focus solely on the subjects.

On shot construction:
I loved the close-ups, because they were so revealing and intimate. Since they are unbeknownst to being filmed, their body gestures and facial expressions, when observed up close, are honest and reflective of how they might be feeling at that particular point in time.

(On a side note, I almost feel like this film was made for extraterrestrials. Like, a bunch of them might screen it as a documentary on the human species on Earth on some faraway planet: “So this is the homo sapien… They are mostly known for their parasitical behaviour towards nature and tyrannical acts against other species not their own…”)

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Analysis/Reflection #4, Q1

In this clip from Forbidden Lies, Anna Broinowski’s 2007 film: describe in detail all of the audio, how it may have been recorded/sourced and how you think it has been edited / layered in post. (You do not need to describe how the music was recorded)

The clip begins with an old-school love song, with birds chirping— signalling happiness, romance—in the background. There is also whimsical, upbeat music as Anna reveals the each lie. It reminds me of Wes Anderson films, because they contain strong elements of fantasy – a connection I believe Anna was trying to make.

Throughout the film there are plenty of comical sound effects, which I believe are meant to portray Forbidden Love as fictitious to the point of hilarity. At 0:37, when Anna posits Forbidden Love as an falsified biographical account, there is the sound of a cash register opening, which I believe was used to imply that Forbidden Love is a story fabricated for monetary gains. At 3:44, there is a ‘ding’ sound when Anna debunks yet another lie (regarding Music Box), as though she’s trying to say: “Ding! Yet another lie!”

Most of the music and sound effects were probably royalty-free tracks sourced online, although I think the opening music was not, and the producer obtained permission to use the track.

During the scenes where Anna is outdoors and speaking, her voice was probably recorded with a boom mic. The mic might have been directed towards Anna, but the background noise was loud enough to get picked up. Also, the mic is simply quite sensitive, as I have found out during our own shoot.

Since sound design is planned during pre-production, the editor should have already had collected and/or recorded appropriate audio clips prior to post. I think what happened in post is this: the editor probably fashioned a narrative out of the audio first, sans video (like what I seem to be doing with my documentary). Then he/she would edit and layer the audio with video, followed by sound effects and music.

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Analysis/Reflection #4, Q2

Most applications reserve keyboard shortcuts for the functions that you use most often. It is really good to learn all of these as it will speed up your editing and additionally alert you to functions that the software developers and other users find important. (You can learn much about the software by looking at keyboard shortcuts).

Find the keyboard shortcuts for Premiere (hint, film-tv blog) and note four or more functions that you’ve never used before and why they may be invaluable to your editing. (Different functions to what you wrote last semester)

  1. Razor tool (C)
    I use the Razor tool most often, to cut clips into segments. I hadn’t discovered its shortcut until recently. Prior to this epiphany, I often played a clip and hovered my pointer around the clip in the workspace. When I had decided exactly when and where to cut the clip, I would: 1) pause it, 2) drag my pointer to the sidebar, 3) click on Razor tool, 4) drag it back to the workspace, 5) align it with the red line, and 6) slice it. It was inefficient considering how many cuts I had to make. ‘C’ literally obliterates steps 2-5, and has saved me so much time and frustration scrolling to the sidebar to switch between tools. Invaluable? YOU BET!
  2. Selection tool (V)
    I use the Selection tool alongside the Razor tool – which means I use it to the point of abuse. When I cut up clips, I tend to shift the segments around, whether that be within the same sequence or between different sequences. I used to get so frustrated having to pace back and forth the sidebar and the workspace. My steps to using the Selection tool were similar to the aforementioned steps to the Razor tool – inefficient and deplorable. Again, various steps were obliterated, resulting in a more streamlined editing process. Praise be to shortcuts.
  3. Add Marker (M)
    I’ve been using the Add Marker tool a lot of late, mostly to leave notes and comments on different scenes of the film. This is really, really useful and indispensible because 1) it’s easier and much more organized to keep notes on the same platform/workspace. I used to jot down notes the primitive way, i.e. pen and paper, which I diligently accompanied with timestamps. How silly! 2) Sometimes not all of our group members can be present at editing sessions, and we might come into the suites at different times to edit. We have used the markers to communicate and update one another on progress, changes, and ideas.
  4. New Sequence (Cmd+N)
    This is helpful when I am cutting up clips and organizing them into ‘scenes’ or sequences. I use at least five sequences for a short five-min film, so I reckon Cmd+N would come especially in handy when I edit films of much longer lengths in the future. I can’t emphasize how irritating it is to navigate the screens of TWO huge monitors! Ah!
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Analysis/Reflection #4, Q4

Select from one of the readings and briefly describe two points that you have taken from it. Points that interest you, something you could apply to your own documentary.

Pawel Pawlikowski. In MacDonald, K & Cousins, M. Imagining reality, (p. 389-392). London: Faber & Faber, 1996.

What I seem to have learned about documentaries for the past few weeks has been: documentaries are not 100% reality, i.e. they’re not as objective as they seem to be. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I think when I first started Film-TV 2, I had the naive impression that documentaries were entirely objective, that depicted reality as is. However, they are often subject to the directors’ vision, values and beliefs, and can be far from objective. In fact, objectivity doesn’t exist at all – anywhere in the world. It is but an old myth, a dated polemic.

Pawlikowski makes very solid points in this reading. He says filmmakers ought to concentrate on ‘form’ and their ‘personal vision’ instead of simply ‘record reality’. He does not aspire to produce ‘objective’ documentaries – because god knows those don’t exist! – but to ‘show it as [he] sees it and to find a form which is relevant’. Documentaries ought to ‘disturb and show reality to be surprising, ambiguous, paradoxical, tragic, grotesque, beautiful’. What he essentially suggests is filmmakers should bring a sort of boldness to their documentaries. Be daring, instead of ‘objective’.

One director that springs to mind is controversial American filmmaker Michael Moore. In one of his films, Capitalism: A Love Story, he vehemently criticises capitalism and the current economic order in the States. And he does it in trademark Moore fashion – tackling a serious and contentious issue with humour and irony, but in an aggressive, uncompromising manner. This is immediately evident from the opening scene where Moore accompanies CCTV footage of bank robberies with an Iggy Pop song, Louie Louie.

The communist world is fallin’ apart
The capitalists are just breakin’ hearts
Money is the reason to be
It makes me just wanna sing Louie Louie

Moore later brings in religion, condemning capitalism from a Catholic vantage. The documentary, in its entirety, was based on Moore’s Catholic upbringing and personal beliefs – that capitalism is evil, immoral, and against the teachings of Jesus. Religion isn’t quite ‘objective’, but Moore brought it in because, like Pawlikoski said, documentaries should be shown as the director sees it, through whichever form he feels is most relevant.

The topic of my documentary isn’t as controversial, but this reading has urged me to present Mr Wong in more surprising and unexpected ways. His story is a dime a dozen in Australia: man with dreams comes to Australia in the hopes of setting up a better life for him and his family. He works hard, he makes sacrifices, he succeeds. What’s new? How is this one Chinese migrant different from the thousand others? I want to explore his idiosyncrasies, I want to present him in utmost honesty. I don’t want this to be just another trite migrant story.

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Analysis/Reflection 3, Q1

Paste the link here from your version of the abstract editing exercise.

Then reflect on the whole process – Consider: the quality and usability of your recordings; the effect of layering and juxtaposition of both the audio and the video and; the things you learnt from working with this kind of audio and video.

I felt the video recordings Krystal and I made were useful and versatile, but not so much on the audio end. I thought it was really fun working with abstract audio and video (though the end product might have been better if we had better audio) because you can create various meanings simply through the arrangement and juxtaposition of audio and video clips. It was a very experimental process and I loved it. I just wish I had done the video recordings prior to the audio, so I would have known what sort of audio to record. I was tempted to use royalty-free music, but that wasn’t in the brief…

Before editing my footage, I went to Vimeo for some inspiration and found some wonderful videos which made good use of video and audio.

The Essence Of Sound from Susi Sie on Vimeo.

This video is a really good example of a creative marriage of abstract video and audio to create meaning – in this instance, it portrays the “essence of sound”.

GENERATION TO GENERATION from Phillip Montgomery on Vimeo.

I like this video better. It is more straightforward, and I absolutely loved the usage of voiceovers here – a Antoine de Saint-Exupéry poem narrated. The voiceovers give context to the video and together they create meaning; a story. The fuzzy quality of the audio also lends an aged quality to the entire clip – simply lovely. I wish I could produce something like this someday!

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Analysis/Reflection 3, Q2

Select from one of the readings and briefly describe two points that you have taken from it. Points that excite you, something that was completely new to you. (Please put a full stop when you return so we get a paragraph break. Makes it easier to read.)

Rabiger, M. Directing the documentary.

  1. Interviewing is not as straightforward as it appears.

    During our discussions, my group and I tend to focus on the technical aspects of our documentary production, e.g. visuals, sound design. How should we frame the interviewees? What angle should we shoot from?

    In hindsight, I think those are less important factors when compared to the heart of our story, in which interviews play a crucial role. Rabiger highlights how important and difficult it is to conduct a successful interview. It goes beyond a simple Q&A; it’s more like a meticulous extraction of material, of stories, and of feelings. One of the ways to go about that is to think of myself as a “catalyst”, as Rabiger puts it. Interviewing requires skill and empathy. In fact, it requires more than that. As an interviewer, I am an intruder, and I am asking for details of a person’s private life, thoughts and feelings. I might even have to cross some boundaries. In such, I have to be sensitive, yet brave. I have to forge relationships. Since that might take time, I have to be patient as well. There is so much more to the interview process than I’d imagined.

  2. The truth that isn’t.

    The truth about truth is that it isn’t entirely true – in Rabiger’s words, “truth is always provisional and to some extent fictionalized”. This was a particularly interesting revelation to me. I always operated on the notion that documentaries were 100% factual, true, real. But Rabiger is right: while a documentary might aspire to be a “truthful record”, some truths are inevitably suppressed and some, elevated. This really is unavoidable. From the get-go, the director must have decided he wanted to present a certain issue in his documentary in a specific light. (He also could have made the decision during and/or after production.)

    For example, I recently watched No End in Sight, a 2007 documentary critisizing the American occupation in Iraq (extremely insightful documentary – I highly recommend it!). Clearly, the director Charles Ferguson had decided to present the American occupation in Iraq in a negative and critical light. He crafted his interviews based on that and chose participants with congruous opinions. As such, Ferguson might have left out certain details that might have been crucial but weren’t in line with his film. Similarly, with John Pilger’s Utopia, Pilger lambasted the Australian government over its treatment of the Aborginal people, but was criticized for his lack of objectivity.

    So, I misunderstood documentaries a little and it was interesting for me to find out documentaries, while non-fiction, are not entirely factual all the time and are skewed for the most part. There is also the element of embedded values. We might operate or produce the documentary based on some normalized values and/or stereotypes. Rabiger urges that we don’t have to strive to be politically correct 100% of the time; instead, he suggests we simply “avoid feeding into whatever is still considered normal and just shouldn’t be”. He also adds a list of questions we could ask ourselves during the research process to avoid reduce inaccurate presumptions – will be using that! Really helpful.

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Analysis/Reflection 2, Q2

Select from one of the readings and briefly describe two points that you have taken from it. Points that excite you, something that was completely new to you.

Week 2 – Documentary storytelling for film and videomakers

  1.  “Finding” the story during production
    In Film-TV 1, we made a drama short which was quite planned and scripted. Now, in Film-TV 2, we’re making a documentary which doesn’t necessarily have to go according to plan. When interviewing, there’s no need to stick closely to your scripted questions. Go with the flow of the conversation; be open to new insights, stories, plot lines. I think, as a greenhorn in documentary making, I would feel obliged to stick to my questions and my anticipated version of the film, just because I’m afraid the resulting film might not have a proper structure. I’m writing this down because it reminds me to have faith in my subjects and to allow stories to “flow”.
  2. Telling a chronological story, but not chronologically
    There is always a stigma that comes with non-fiction – that it is boring. I always thought that of documentaries – that they were straight up hard facts. But I think completely otherwise now. You can still get creative; you can still dramatize documentaries and spice up non-fiction stories. The only thing is you can’t distort facts. Also, I reckon the beginning of a film is always important and perhaps even more so for a documentary – it needs to capture the audience’s attention and lock it in. The beginning has to make the audience ask “why?” and want to know more. Knowing the film does not have to be set in chronological sequence allows more room for creativity and experimentation with the beginning and subsequent flow and presentation of events.
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Analysis/Reflection 2, Q1

In the lecture we screened a short film called ‘End of the Line’ – the film shot in Broken Hill.

Please describe in 300 words or less if you think they achieved what they set out to do.
You may not remember much detail, if so, it could be helpful to talk about your first impressions, after all this is what most of us are left with after one viewing. The treatment which we showed in the lecture is available here. Feel free to write to any categories you wish. eg. story, choice of participants, sound, camera, editing etc.

I think Jacqui and her team didn’t exactly what they set out to do, as stated in their statement. Apparently, the production process didn’t go according to plan and the film turned out rather different from what they had intended. However, I think they still managed to depict the “simple life” and how disillusioned we might be.

They gathered a few interviewees who were willing to share about their lives in Broken Hill. Many spoke of the “freedom” in Broken Hill, and some even wanted to die there. Most of them seemed content, yes, but if given a choice, would I want to live in Broken Hill? Nah. We often glamourize the “simple life”, thinking life with nature and far from the city is beautiful. But the truth is perhaps closer to what was depicted in End of the Line – that the living conditions aren’t posh spa resorts, but tiny, decrepit, and insipid towns such as Broken Hill. It was quite eyeopening. When you think about the “simple life”, you don’t exactly think about your neighbours. I remember one man saying you can be and do whatever you want in Broken Hill, and its residents were eccentric in their own way. You never think about living with other weirdos.

Overall, I think the film was successful in putting a grim spin on the fetishized notion of the “simple life”. It depicted reality as is, and I really enjoyed that.

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