© 2015 ellathompson



Friday’s exercise (week 2) didn’t go so smoothly. In fact, it was very rough. The task was to shoot our given scene in three to five shots. But, this time, two things were different: we were shooting to edit, and we were to also take into account and value other elements like sound, lighting, performance and so on.

Our group went about this task inefficiently. As soon as we began walking around and searching for a location and throwing around ideas about a “green screen”, I knew we were going to take forever to begin shooting. We were heading in the wrong direction – we were placing all of our focus on the production design without even considering shot construction. We weren’t considering the shots that could overcome the concern of unauthentic location. And that made me incredibly frustrated during the whole ordeal. We were wasting our time. And I will say that I was aware of this and spoke up from the start, because that frustration still lingers. It was an exercise in shot construction. Not production design. The task’s purpose was to force us to be inventive and resourceful with our shots in a way that concealed (to some extent) the weaker areas of production / the lack of authenticity in our scene. The fact was that we could have shot the scene anywhere. We could have shot it entirely in extreme close ups to conceal the location and the unauthentic production design, and then have edited it so as to build that story space using sound. Thus, it was a frustrating half-hour walk for me with these thoughts running through my head. I knew that we’d run out of time and then end up saying, “OK, here’ll do.” That wasted time could’ve been put to good use thinking of shots and setting up shots and perfecting shots.

But at least we got our shots. (And at least I got to have a go at using the camera!)

I wasn’t all that confident with the camera, but I became much more familiar with it during the task. Although I didn’t do such a good job as camera-person, I’m really glad I had that opportunity to familiarise myself more with the Sony EX3. (I noticed that they use one Sony EX3 camera – among many other larger, more complicated monsters – to shoot the RocKwiz show which is where I’m interning. So that’s cool.)

A few things were rough regarding the camerawork. For example, in attempt to avoid the previous week’s mistake of startlingly overexposed shots, I overcompensated and these shots turned out really underexposed. We didn’t think about the lighting either – the characters are mildly silhouetted by the daylight entering the window in the background. Some of the shots were rough for other reasons as well – for example, a shaky pan-tilt, awkward composition of figures within the frame, and so on.

I did notice something though. During filming, I was not at all confident about shot composition. I felt that things looked oddly framed and awkwardly balanced and poorly composed and unconvincing. However, when I looked at the footage in the edit – on a computer screen – it looked much better. The awkward things didn’t look so awkward. The framing/composition looked far more convincing. And those revelations were huge surprises.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I felt that those shots looked odd through the lens at that time, but so much more natural on screen during the edit. Perhaps because I am far more accustomed to viewing on a screen than viewing through a lens. Perhaps the shots were awkward, but I became used to them. Perhaps because, during shooting, I was looking at each shot setup as a minute fraction of the scene before me – I was looking at it in terms of the overwhelming abundance of possible shooting options. Anywho, it’s interesting to note the difference in viewing while shooting and viewing while editing.

I also have to give kudos to the fantastic actors for their great facial expressions that gave the shots far more legitimacy than they would have had. And to Karl for his particularly strong performance – animated facial expressions and delivery of dialogue. Kudos!



During editing, I tended to prefer the part of performance that occurred at the beginning of the take before “action” was called. A lot of the snippets that I selected were from the ‘calling’ part of the take. I thought they were the best visual moment – the best performance moment – for the shot. The action was better paced. Some of the snippets I chose also exceeded the “cut” call. But it’s interesting to note that I thought the best parts of the action occurred before “action” even came.

My approach to the scene edit was standard. I joined shot to shot – we had six different shot setups and I repeated a couple of them. I made sure to emphasise the issue that the female character had something in her eye. I made even surer to underscore the male character’s concerned observing of her dilemma, and to build the tension before he awkwardly decides to offer help. I drew out the time by cutting – three times, I think – between shots of the female character struggling with her eye and shots of the male character watching (and struggling with the decision of whether to ignore or to assist her).

I put the tightest shot of the characters in the moment of peak tension – when he is awkwardly cleaning her eye. Then I cut out to a wider shot when she leaves. In this shot, we watch the confused facial expressions/body language of the man as the lady leaves and his ultimate resigned stare into space. We also see the back of the silent commuter as he shuffles to give room for the lady to leave. The shot recoils from the uncomfortably intimate preceding shot.

In attempt to salvage the exposure, I raised the brightest and balanced it with the contrast. I also tried to give the scene an ‘old film’ look by increasing the gamma and lowering the frame rate. However, it didn’t quite work because I could only carry out a fraction of the steps (I was watching a YouTube tutorial on how to create an ‘old film’ effect in Premiere) before Premiere came up with error reports when rendering. I couldn’t use “RGB Colour Correction” at all. So, the final version is halfway to an old film effect.

I layered two different train sound effects to create the story space of a train carriage – one was more of a hum ambience sound (with some train whistles) and the other was rhythmic clunking of rails heard from on board. I weaved these together and altered their respective volumes in certain parts of the scene – e.g. dialogue parts.

The scene begins with a fade in from white to the window shot. I’m aware that the fade in from white is cheesy, but it doesn’t feel as sudden a start as the scene did before I implemented this transition. It also helps to get the idea across – the lady has been looking out the harshly bright window and now has to retreat to her seat to recover because something is in her eye.

Something that was more obvious during the edit than during the shoot were the camera angles when cut together. I’m not sure if we breached the “180 degree rule” at some point during shooting, but I do know that some shots in the scene feel a little off. In fact, I had to cut the shot that I wanted to end on – the original (non-OTS) two-shot of the characters – because it looked conspicuously out of place following from the OTS two-shot. We shot the OTS two-shot from the extra commuter’s right-hand shoulder, rather than the left side which is the angle we had been shooting from for the large part of the scene. I’m not sure if this officially qualifies as “crossing the line” because he was not a speaking/doing character whose position was an anchor-point; he was more of a prop. However, the shot definitely felt strange when followed by the original two-shot (which becomes a one-shot). I think I need to be more conscious of the 180 degree rule during shooting.

I thought the final two shots were the strongest in the scene – the final two that we shot and the final two in my scene edit. I’m a fan of close ups, so I like the close up shot the most. It seems to be the most powerful shot, simply because it punches in uncomfortably close and amplifies the characters’ expressive faces. I also like the framing/composition of the figures – the man’s side profile and the lady’s front profile. I was surprised that I liked the final shot. It was one of the shots that I wasn’t originally confident about. I was worried it’d come out looking awkward. Well, it looks slightly awkward because of the whole 180-degree-rule issue, but it is also quite a visually interesting shot in the way that we use the extra commuter figure in the frame. It works better than I had anticipated.


Although the shooting process was rather rushed, I got more out of this task than I had expected! I was particularly surprised by the disparities between the way things looked and felt during shooting and the way they looked and felt during the edit. Perhaps it would have been different if we’d spent a week planning – shot-listing and storyboarding and so on – and developing a clearer, surer vision of how we wanted things to look on screen before beginning shooting.

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