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“Your goal must be a good story well told” Robert McKee (2005)…
… This was a quote that was first given to us when we first began the studio, as something to inspire us along the way. This became my goal for the entire studio, to tell a good story, and well. This was, of course, along with aiming to effectively explore and engage with the studio prompt of What possible aesthetic styles, development approaches and other parameters might shape the production of short- form educational videos about complex screen media concepts and processes? The assignments we were given along the way, worked exceptionally towards working towards this goal. We were tasked to make a series of personal videos across the year, before working up to our final big assignment – which was to prepare an educational short-form video for ACMI. These videos that we were tasked to make in assignments one and two, all required us to follow strict perimeters and timelines, in order to prepare us for the work that we would do for ACMI. ACMI (The Australian Centre for the Moving Image), at Federation Square, Melbourne, is Australia’s national museum of film, video games, digital culture and art. Given that ACMI is such a highly revered organisation, it was of much importance to us to be able to follow the timeline and perimeters given to us by them to the absolute best of our abilities. So, assignments one and two, were so helpful to me in order to prepare myself for what ACMI was expecting from us at the end of the semester. Being a part of Screen Lab, this semester, was an incredible experience, and I have walked away with it, with a much better understanding of what to expect when I finally begin to work in the media industry. I was able to learn to effectively work to tight timelines, and produce something that I was both proud of, and extremely satisfied with, all while working within the firm perimeters. I’m extremely excited to be a part of the exhibition at ACMI, as it’s something I can put on my portfolio, and truly be proud of. Despite the fact that we were confined to the spaces of our homes to learn, and didn’t have access to RMIT facilities, equipment, and didn’t even have face-to-face classes – I truly feel that the staffing team did an incredible job at keeping engagement and learning levels high, and I felt like I spent the entire semester well engaged with both my teacher and classmates – Even walking away from the studio with a few new friends. Who would’ve thought that could be possible in these times? It’s a testament to how well the studio was run, and how hard our teacher had worked to making us feel connected as possible in the face of this unprecedented moment in history.
Producing assignment four was trying, to say the least. I prefer to work on my own, but it would naïve for me to think that I will ever work alone in the real media industry, ever. Because of this reality, I really wanted to push myself this time around to be a part of a group, and learn to break down this anxiety I feel towards relinquishing control to other people, and learn to work with people to make my work better and easier to execute. I worked with Sarah Jackson-Harris, Jude Islip and Sherly Lim. I’m glad I chose to do this, as I felt overwhelmed with the pressure of all the assignments towards the end of the semester in all my classes, and couldn’t even begin to image how I would have coped trying to produce the assignment on my own. We began by adding each other on social media to create a group chat so we could have continuous contact with one another, and organise meeting together over zoom conference – Which would become our go to, to call and speak face-to-face. We were tasked to pick a prompt, from the set of prompts that were given to us by ACMI’s Field Carr, and create a concept to present and pitch to the class, Cat and Field. My group decided to go ahead and pick What is a Pepper’s Ghost? (In films but also Space Invaders even Tupac Hologram). We were extremely excited by this idea of creating a hologram, immediately thinking of all the creative possibilities there were to explore this prompt. After it had been taken it to class discussion to ensure everyone got their fair choice, and we had all decided our prompts, it was time to begin to work on our concepts.
We jumped into basically straight away, organising a call to work out our prompt after we had all finalised our choices. Our ideas were big, especially given all the restrictions surrounding the stage four covid-19 pandemic lockdowns in metropolitan Melbourne, but we were going to attempt to execute them anyway. Our idea was to make our very own Pepper’s Ghost sets, and record ourselves presenting the idea of the Pepper’s Ghost, while simultaneously showing how the Pepper’s Ghost works. We commenced our research on how this would be done, and I created a bunch of templates for sets to map out how to do it, and what we would need. We also created a presentation together on Google Docs, where we mapped out this research and concept idea. We pitched this presentation to the class, Cat and Field, and watched everyone else’s presentations for their concepts and ideas. I really enjoyed Beatrice, Georgia and Tiani’s presentation for the prompt Breaking the fourth wall. The feedback I had for them was the following: “presentation, looks fantastic. I can get a great idea of what you’re looking to do and you have good background information. 2. when you say reenacting, will this be you guys playing out a scene from an actual film or writing your own sort of script out with your own characters? 3. No suggestions really, just interested in seeing how you’re intending to incorporate live action with archive footage”.
Now we had nailed out our concepts, it was time to get cracking on producing our films. Our first hurdle was finding the stuff for it while all non-essential services were closed. We had to order a bunch of stuff from both Officeworks, and Bulk Acrylics, including black foam board, hot glue gun and glue sticks, acrylic sheets of glass and a crafting knife.
Once I had all these items, I was able to cut up the foam boards into a set for the Henry Dircks inspired small scale set, glue it together with the hot glue gun, and slide the sheet of acrylic in to create the holographic effect, once we place lights into it. We see this set in the video with the Magic School Bus and the Tupac Shakur example. I then began to create the John Henry Pepper inspired set, employing my mother to cut up the acrylic sheet into smaller pieces, which involved scoring and snapping with tools that I didn’t know how to use. Once she had cut the acrylic up into smaller triangles, I was able to stick them together with clear tape to hold it together and make the projection pyramid we see in the rest of the video. Once these were done, we were able to begin to move onto the filming phase.
The first phase of filming involved me writing up a script out of the information that was on the concept presentation. This would be to present in front of my green screen at home, and used to project me into these sets as holograms. We though filming the presentation on a green screen background would allow us to have more to work with. I proved to make a few mistakes during this process, and ended up having to cut down about 20 minutes’ worth of footage before getting a solid cut where I was happy with my presentation. Then I passed the footage on to Sarah, who was able to colour correct the green to a bright enough colour to Ultra Key it to a nice clean black. This we were then able to play with to put in the projection pyramid, as well as at the tail end of the video with green screen footage behind me.
After doing this process, we were then able to move into stage two of filming, which would be filming myself in these sets, as well as filming our examples that we were speaking about in the film on these sets. We originally were hoping that the restrictions would ease, so we were able to pass along the set to Sherly to film with her Sony A7. This didn’t end up happening, so I resorted to filming a majority of it on my Nikon D3000 on an 18-55mm lens. While I was able to get nice clean shots of the sets at a mid-range, I wasn’t able to capture a clear shot close up. This resulted in Jude creating his own projection pyramid out of clear CD cases, and passing it on to Sherly to refilm these close-ups, which we see in in the final cut. Sherly also took the beautiful shots at the beginning of the butterflies with her A7. So, in the end, it was a combined effort between myself and Sherly filming.
Editing began with Sherly, who put together our first rough cut we presented to Cat and Field. Then, she passed it on to myself, who put together the final cut. I then passed it back to Sherly to colour correct, play with the audio, as well as add in the Ken Burns effect we see of John Henry pepper and Henry Dircks, as this was something that was easier for her to achieve in her editing software – which is different to what I work on, Adobe Premiere Pro. She had already added this effect in in the rough cut, so I had to export my final to her to add these in for the sake of continuity. We then showed out rough cut in class, and received some feedback for changes from Cat, which Sarah edited and fixed up. After this was done, this was the final cut that we submitted for assignment four, and to ACMI.
While collaboration was trying, especially considering I originally didn’t want to at all, but I’m glad that I did. Working as a team was something that taught me a lot of lessons about the trials and tribulations of working with other people. The conflicts and tensions that arise, the creative differences that occur, and all of the other curveballs in between – It was ultimately, an extremely valuable learning lesson for me, and I’m glad that I was a part of creating this work for ACMI and successfully passing Screen Lab with my team.