Documentary Reviews



I love Cactus. I got to see it in it’s rougher stages in class and it was nice to see the final cut at the screening. Hannah’s Grandpa is such a likeable character who has clearly led an extremely interesting and diverse life. There were a couple of things tweaked between the screenings and I think the film has improved for them.

I was left wanting to know more about Alec after he glanced across several aspects of his life and even had some minor interest in the Saint Kilda Cactus and Succulents club. How many such clubs exist and who knew there was such a thriving community. This was a simple, heartwarming and interesting story. The pacing was spot on and left me satisfied but curious.




Waves was a simple story, told well. I thought the Cinematography was wonderful and it was an absolute joy to watch. The very start of the documentary when the camera quality was ordinary had me thinking the film was going to be underwhelming, however I think it was a very clever move because it made the actual body of the film so spectacular. The editing together was really great and I think did a great job of capturing that draw the ocean holds on man.



Mosaic is a very timely film. In an Australia that (politically) suffers so much from the fear of the other it is great to see stories like this. The participants were such engaging, interesting characters who are valuable as individuals as well as how they enrich the broader community with the culture and personality they can inject. I also found the technical aspects of Mosaic great. The cinematography was certainly cinematic and sound quality great.


Chinese Whispers


I found the concept of this documentary really interesting and will be looking out for the episodes still to come. I like that you took the approach of teasing us with the broader concept but having the sense to focus on only one story for the purpose of this short. I also thought the production quality was really great; excellent sound and camera work.


It did take a little while for the concept to properly click and i’m not sure if that’s an issue or not. It certainly didn’t diminish my enjoyment but perhaps was a bit distracting at some points.

Colour grading exercise

Colour G 1Colour grading exercise.

To begin with I played with the grading on the shot of the dumpling baskets. It was the most obviously over exposed shot of our shoot to me and quite an iconic image for a story about dumplings and chinese culture.

I first wanted to warm the shot up and bring out the baskets so I drifted the master over towards the orange/yellow, section. Then I played with the brightness/contrast bringing them both down.

Colour G 2

I think this has a nice effect and more accurately resembled what I picture of steaming baskets when conjuring their image in my mind.

To contrast with these warmer tones I was also curious what taking it to a cooler place and then amping up the brightness/contrast would do. I took the master of the three way colour corrector towards the cyan/blues and then, as i said, amped up the contrast. I was surprised to find that I actually like the look of the cooler tones on this shot. The contrast might be a bit extreme – I don’t want it to have an obviously edited look.

Colour G 3


I then had a crack at another shot, this time with the dumplings in the basket out in the dining room – a vastly different lighting situation from the kitchen. This shot was taken in a much calmer setting so I think on a basic level the colours are pretty good.

colour G4With the first attempt at altering I just brought a little more blue in to give the shot a cooler look. Again I was surprised that I liked the blue tones through the image. I had just roamed around the circle seeing what I liked and I think because the yellows and oranges were brought out in quite a true way with the original shot it was nice to have a hint of blue come in.

I then lowered the brightness a little and upped the contrast a schmick. I am quite happy with the result. I think it helps to focus the eye on the details a bit more.

Colour G 5


Feeling confident using the master track, I decided to venture away from it in the second attempt and see what the effects were of bringing out the blue in the Shadows and highlights but bringing out a tiny bit of pink in the midtones. I decreased the brightness more so than the last attempt and hightened then contrast likewise.


colour g 6Similarly to the first attempt I think the contrast works well in highlighting more so the details of the image. I don’t think I like the greeny tinge to the image though so I think I’ll probably pursue the blues more in the final piece.

Going forward we’ll need to make a decision as to what kind of hues we want in the film. I think I am leaning a little more towards blue rather than orange/yellow now after this exercise. Time and time again in Film and TV I have learned that as soon as I actually take the time to give something a go, the task seems far less daunting and colour grading has been no exception! That being said, I think I wouldn’t want to underestimate the fastidiousness required to do a good job of it!



Film and TV Goals Reflection

I was absent from the first 2 weeks of class this semester so did not complete a formal goals/desires blog post. However, I did come into Film and TV 2 with a strong desire to familiarise myself with the camera. I had as yet, had nothing much to do with operating the camera through Film and TV 1 and Broadcast media and I wanted to finish up my degree with as much knowledge as I could in setting up and operating the camera.
I am really happy with the progress I have made. I now have an understanding of all the steps I must go through before pressing record (White Balance, Exposure, Gain, Focus etc) – which makes me feel a lot more competant! That being said, a lot of the routine of setting up got thrown out the window when shooting on the fly with our documentary subject. I took out the X3 and the Z7 early on in semester to play with the camera at home then I managed most of the filming on location for the documentary – something that would have been hugely daunting for me last semester. I can go forward knowing I have the basic skills required to further experiment and play with filming and hopefully be of use in a professional setting in the future!

I had also wanted to take advantage of the resources available to us at RMIT like access to the Lynda tutorials and ensuring I was involved in the editing process- gaining skills in Premiere Pro. I have found the Lydna tutorials really useful and wish I had time to watch more of them. As it was the “Documentary Editing with Premier Pro” was hugely helpful in making cutting a rough cut together an efficient process, particularly learning that I could scrub through footage in the thumbnails and being more relaxed about just grabbing the basic idea of something. It was also prompted me to focus on cutting together a visual story first and then worrying about the narrative. This goes against every instinct I have but i think sped progress along and gave me a framework to bare in mind when it came to editing the narrative (how much footage vs narrative we have to work with etc.)

My goals for this semester were quite simple: I wanted to work on someone else’s idea to enable me to consentrate on enhancing my technical and practical skills. After writing the script in Film and TV1 I wasn’t ever able to step away from worrying about the story and focus on other things so it was nice to have the opportunity to acquire new skills. I also wanted to make sure I was involved in the editing process because I hadn’t had the opportunity time wise to contribute anything of any use last semester to the process. I am happy with the progress I have made through the semester and am looking forward to developing my skills further in future projects!

Film and TV 2 – Week 3 Reading – Aesthetics and Authorship

Rabiger, M. Direction the documentary, (p. 54-57). 4th ed. Burlington:Focal Press, 2004

Rabiger discusses the different modes of documentary storytelling referencing both Renov and Nichols break downs. In Nichols’ definition of his 6th category, Performative Documentary he highlights the characteristics as “concrete and embodied, based on the specifics of personal experience, in the tradition of poetry, literature, and rhetoric.” This struck me as a style to be considerate of when approaching our documentary (tentatively titled ‘Adulthood’). My group members seem to be very interested in pursuing an abstract take on the documentary and I think it will be useful in informing the narrative structure to recognize that we will be asking participants to reminisce  and/or articulate their own personal conception of adulthood and we want the abstraction to be grounded in something. (is that an contradiction of terms?!)

The other message I took from the reading was that while there are different modes of documentary, you don’t need to be bound by the characteristics of any one mode; you can assemble and personalise the stylistic qualities depending on your motive.