The Initiative Post

Recently I watched Yi Yi by Edward Yang, and I thought that it was relevant to the camera exercises that we had been learning this week as one of the things that stuck out most to me in the film were the frame compositions and the lack of close ups.

The whole movie is filmed in a very simple, peaceful and unobtrusive manner. Edward Yang a lot of the time seems to set his camera down somewhere and let the scene play out. However, I don’t think this makes the film or the image boring at all. When watching a scene from the film, it felt as if Edward Yang had carefully framed the image beforehand, and worked the blocking of his actors to move and breathe within this very simple and quiet frame. To me, it came off as a very simple way to film. However, the whole movie is not just static shots. There are several instances where Edward Yang will move the camera, however, the movements themselves are very simple and do not draw attention to themselves. Most of the time they were very small pans or slow lateral tracking shots.

The overall very simple aesthetic of the movements and framing made the camera feel very omnipresent, almost like a third person narrator. It always kept its distance and acted a lot more as an observer than an intruding force. This was further extended as I realised that by the end of the film, to my memory, there were very few close ups throughout the three hour running time. I thought this was very peculiar and interesting as it is rare for a film to stray away from using close ups, but again I began to think about the camera as an observer, as something that tried to give the audience as large and even of a perspective of all the numerous characters in the film as possible.

I did like and connect to the style, but I wanted to know why it worked in this film, when for almost any other film this slow, simple and distancing visual style would make it feel very dry. That’s when I realised that the style and form of the film was in line with the content of the film. The film has a very broad and even, despite following the lives of an average family in Taipei, epic story, with numerous characters. With all these numerous characters I felt that Edward Yang made a large effort to have the audience connect of feel a sense of empathy for each and every one of them, and that’s why it was important to present them as honestly as possible, the good and the bad, to show all parts of them, and a very fitting way of doing this would be to show who they are, present them in a frame, and to just let them live and breathe in that space, along with other characters, other people that come into their lives.

Reflections on this week’s classes

From the first two weeks of classes, I had learned about the basics of recording audio and the basics of framing and composing a shot. The practical exercise of recording audio made me realise that I really know nothing about recording audio. I began to understand just how much depth and complexity there was to recording even basic audio. I also became more aware of deliberate soundscapes after watching a scene from “In the Line of Fire”, where I began to notice how every sound in the scene was exaggerated and carefully considered. It made me begin to think about planning out how the audio, and the style of the audio should be during pre-production. It also made me aware that I should be making a lot of pre-meditated decisions about how I am going to have various audio set-ups during pre-production, and to understand the location that I will be filming at and how to accompany an audio set up for the situation.

I also had a practical exercise with the Sony EX-3. I was not there for the first lesson, so I did not shoot any of the scenes from that class. I was, however, at the second class where we went through the footage that was shot on that day and analysed it. We went through aspects of the footage such as white balance, exposure and composition. I found I learned the most by understand why certain shots were underexposed or overexposed, as that is something that I don’t have a great understanding of. I also found the white balance exercise interesting, as again, I don’t have a strong understanding of how to have a correct white balance, and I thought that it was very helpful to have a practical way to correcting white balance (using a piece of paper or something that is white).

What do I want from this course?

I chose this studio because it seemed like it would be a very practical, hands-on studio. This really appealed to me because I feel as if I am lacking in understanding a lot of the technical aspects of filmmaking. Something else that was really important was not only the learning of technique, but the application and thought that went with it, the ability to learn how to be able to make the form support the content, or even the other way around.

To be more specific, one of my desires would include to just in general gain a strong proficiency with more professional cameras. I have a small amount of experience in handling cameras, however they are often for personal and home use, which can be limiting. My desire to want to become proficient in being able to use more versatile, complex cameras comes from a desire to want to understand lighting. I think that the advantages of using a more complicated camera comes out mostly when it is matched with an understanding of cinematography and lighting, so I feel as if I would get the most use out of learning about cameras if I become very proficient in learning about lighting and cinematography in general.

I would also like to learn about other aspects in filmmaking that I would probably not push myself to  learn outside of the classroom such as audio, as it is a very hard thing to understand well and I think that I would learn about this aspect of filmmaking a lot better and with more motivation if I had some form of guidance to go with it.

I am not sure if this is something that is specific to this course but I would really like to gain some sort of experience with directing actors. This is something that I think is fundamental to filmmaking and something which can only really be learned by doing. I hope that by having some experience with directing actors that I would improve my communication skills and know how to better express what I want in something that I create.