Abstract Sound Exercise

I found the sound recording exercise interesting, not only because of the ‘candid’ capabilities of the uni-directional microphones, but also because it is rare for me to solely concentrate on audio, rather than vision.

We started off in class learning about the sound recording technology (a Zoom H4n), which I had used before to record the audio for some footage I shot last year on a DSLR camera; even so, it was a good refresher course. I then headed out with Annick to record some atmos and foley sounds, taking turns in directing the microphone and controlling the H4n. We started off seeing how far we could push the technology by hiding around the corner of the tech desk in building 9 and recording the conversations of people talking to the tech guys. I found myself making comparisons between a microphone and a camera: with a camera you can ‘enhance’ what the natural eye can see. By using either a telephoto lens or zooming in on your subject you can ‘see’ a lot further than what you would be able to without the apparatus. Similarly, with the uni directional microphone we could hear things a lot clearer and from far further away than what we would be able to with our ears.

It was also a good exercise to simply stand and listen to our surroundings, trying to pick out particular things we wanted to record. (Usually when I am filming something at university I am more so looking for aesthetically pleasing things to film, rather than listening out for intriguing sounds in the environment). However, I think next time this exercise would be better suited to individual work. Now that we are all comfortable with the recording technology I believe it would be advantageous to set out by ourselves to really concentrate on the noises of the city without the distraction of talking to someone else about what we should record. I find that completely blocking out my vision and zoning in on the sounds surrounding me is an incredibly meditative process because it is an exercise in focusing all of your attention on only one of your senses. After listening back to my sound recordings, I feel like they would have benefitted from a little more thought and attention to detail, which could have possibly been achieved through more efficient use of time and by being able to ‘fly solo’.

Week 1/2 Reflection of Class Exercises

The first two weeks of ‘Ways of Making’ have essentially been a crash course in camera and audio recording setups. Even though I have worked with similar cameras before and have used the audio recording equipment in the past, it has been a really good revision process to get my head back into filmmaking mode. This week I realised that I have really missed being out in the field actually creating video content.

Last semester I did a straight editing studio, which was great because there is definitely a part of me that gets a lot of satisfaction out of sitting at a computer all day chopping up video and audio clips. However, on top of this I was also doing a great deal of editing for my internship, which meant that for the majority of my week I was sitting in a dark room looking at a screen. As much as I love the creative process of editing, with computer work always comes numerous technological problems that often take hours trying to fix (and that part of editing, I definitely do not love). Thus, these last couple of weeks have been a breath of fresh air, because I’ve been able to get out of my chair, out of a dark editing suite and into the real world, working with other people on really fun little filming exercises.

My favourite exercise was shooting abstract 30 seconds clips, because there was no limit to what we could film and we weren’t shooting to edit. I think this freedom gave my partner Gabe and I a chance to really concentrate on the technical details of the shot: the exposure, the white balance, the focus, the framing and the depth of field. In the end I thought we shot a few really nice clips and I believe they turned out so well because we had the time to set up properly and we didn’t need to think about continuity problems or narrative flaws.

All in all, I’ve realised that taking time to set up a shot properly is always worth it and also, maybe I don’t just want to work as a film editor, maybe I want to be a part of the pre-production or production process (rather than just post).

Week 2 Research: Sicario

Midway through 2015 I scored a part-time job working at a cinema, which fortunately meant I got the perk of free movie tickets. I purposely tried to get a job working at a cinema because I thought that while I’m studying at university I may as well make money in a place where I am surrounded by the things I am studying: films. I am lucky enough to mostly work in the ‘Gold Class’ section of the cinema, which means that I am constantly walking in and out of theatres with various different films showing. Often I am walking in on the same films again and again (for instance, I think I know Star Wars: The Force Awakens shot for shot now). Although I originally thought this would get boring, as a media/film student, it only gets better the more times I view a scene from a film; I get to study the different parts of the scene every time I see it: the first time I generally concentrate on the dialogue, simply to understand what is going on in the story, then every time after that becomes more of an investigation into the visuals and soundtrack.

As well as these few glimpses of parts of films, over the holidays I also got to sit down and properly watch a lot of the films in full. As many of my tutors and lecturers from RMIT had told me I should be doing over the years, I started taking notes on all the films I had been watching at the cinema.

For instance, I took notes and drew some frames from Sicario (Denis Villeneuve, 2015), a film that I only got to see parts of. There are two particular shots from the film which I think are completely brilliant. Emily Blunt who plays the character Kate Macer is lying down on the couch. As she is kissing the man on top of her, Ted (Jon Bernthal), she looks around to the coffee table to see what he has just taken off his belt. At this point the keys he has put on the table are out of focus and the audience’s attention is drawn to Kate’s gaze. As she looks around, the editor of the film Joe Walker has cut on action to a shot of her reflection on the glass coffee table.

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This cut and shot is disorienting for a second or so, because it seems to take the mind a moment to register why the shot has suddenly flipped upside down. What is amazing about this shot is that it is motivated. In this one frame we view Kate looking at the object and we also get to see the object itself, once the camera pulls focus from her face to the keys.

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Instead of cutting from her looking at the keys to a shot of the keys, which would end up being a standard reverse shot in most other films and TV shows, Villeneuve has essentially worked out a way to do it all in one take. I think this kind of cinematography is wonderfully innovative and I hope to be seeing a lot more camera coverage like this in other films coming out this year.

Initial thoughts on ‘Ways of Making’

Coming back to university for my third and final year of Media at RMIT I wanted to do a studio where I had the freedom to create something that I really wanted to make. That is why I chose ‘Ways of Making’: the studio at least sounds like it won’t limit me to working within only a fictional or non-fictional realm, nor will it dictate the methodology I use to create my films. My main goal this semester is to make something or be a part of something that I am proud of so that I can use the material in the future when I am trying to secure a job in the media industry. I want to be able to show my friends and family a film that I worked hard on and am entirely happy with.

In order to do this I will need to learn about filmmaking through practical and theoretical research. Some skills that I particularly want to learn or improve on are colour grading, setting up rigs for dollying/tracking (which I have never done before) and lighting (artificial setups). I also believe that I won’t be able to do everything in or for my film by myself. Thus I would like to collaborate with my fellow studio peers as well as people from outside my own course. For instance, I would like to work with (preferably trained) actors, sound designers and writers.

My expectation of this course is that it will teach me how to be a better filmmaker and prepare me for the ‘real’ world e.g. how to act on a film set. Hopefully we will also get to explore the blurred line between documentary and drama films. I find Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008) a perfect, but extremely rare example of how subjectivity, objectivity, fact and fiction can blend into one film to create a kind of ‘hybrid’ form of cinema. It uses animation (a film form generally associated with fiction and fantasy) to present a true story about war, but from a subjective and possibly warped perspective of reality. I would love to investigate more films like this and maybe employ some of these techniques into my own work.