Howard Gardner, the author of ‘Five Minds For The Future’ (2007), is a researcher in psychology, who, in this book, looks forward to the future, in order to predict the ways our brains may need to develop. In his chapter ‘Minds Viewed Globally’, he introduces his ‘five minds’. They are:
The disciplined mind: which ‘knows how to work steadily over time to improve skill and understanding’.
The synthesising mind: that gathers material or information from various places and sources and collates these findings.
The creating mind: which breaks new ground in innovation.
The respectful mind: that ‘notes and welcomes differences between human individuals’, and,
The ethical mind: which analyses the ways that humans may be able to better the world.
Gardner’s concern is ‘to convince [readers] of the need to cultivate these minds and illustrate the best ways to do so…’, in order for people to stay current and thrive in the future. He believes that education is at the root of preparing people for their futures and thus, the education system should be doing more to include these ‘five minds’ into their curriculum. I agree with Gardner in that primary and secondary school teachers have been doing the same thing for a long time…too long. For example, recitation is a very simple way to learn and has been common practice for educational institutions for centuries, however, studies have shown that students cannot retain information through that process for much longer than a few days. Gardner comments that: ‘at the start of the third millennium, we live at a time of vast changes’. Hence, I think that education needs to change with the times and educators should not be afraid of these changes. They need to adopt new technologies into their teaching practices, so that their students do not fall behind in the future.
When hiring, Gardner asserts that employers will/should be basing their decisions on the ‘five minds’ and will/should be searching for individuals who have cultivated all five of them. Thus, teachers need to be helping students to grow these five minds, so that they will be eligible for the jobs of the future.
Shortly after commencing the RMIT Media Studio ‘Ways of Making’ I wrote a blog post noting my initial aims for and expectations of the course. It is interesting to look back at this piece now that I have finished the university semester, because I see how it may have shaped the way I went about completing the course work.
I chose ‘Ways of Making’ essentially because, out of all the other studios, I knew it would offer me the most freedom within the realm of filmmaking. Although I had no idea what I wanted to actually make in the studio, I just wanted to be able to have the option to do anything. In retrospect, it is very lucky that I did have this freedom as there is no way I would have been able to do the project I did in any other studio. Having had Paul Ritchard as a Studio Leader before also helped, because I knew that I would be learning about film industry practice, as well as improving my technical camera and audio skills. His guidance also ensured that the studio would be ‘hands-on’ and I would be able to do research-through-practice, which I would much rather do (and would learn a lot more from) in comparison to theoretical research.
The class time for the first half of the course was spent looking at various films and concentrating on technical skills. Originally I had written that I specifically wanted to practise using a dolly, because I had never used one before. I also wanted to learn more about colour grading and studying how to use lighting setups effectively. Thanks to Paul and Robin Plunkett, at least one three-hour class was dedicated to each of these practical skills. It was great to know that everyone in the class had a say in how the studio was run and that our questions and aspirations for the course would be taken on board. All of these classes definitely helped me in the second half of the semester when I was conducting my own shoots and editing the resulting footage. In fact, I employed all of these technical lessons into my final project: I used a dolly, I essentially had to light the shoot I was working on myself and I colour graded my own edits.
Which brings me to explaining what I actually did for the second half of semester. About five or six weeks into the course I was searching for something to create or to investigate, through making film. I work at a cinema that is infested with creative staff members: actors, filmmakers, writers, production designers, musicians etc. So initially I thought I would make the most of this and ask around to see if any of the writers had scripts I could use to create a scene or short film. The first one I asked had just started planning to direct his own short film and needed a cinematographer. Without even thinking that I could somehow mould this into a project for university, I agreed to be the Director of Photography. Luckily I spontaneously brought this project up in a meeting with Paul, of which he said: ‘go for it’; so I got to make the cinematography for the short film my investigation for the course. Although I am still not 100% sure it was the best thing I could have done this semester, (particularly because the class had been warned of the disadvantages of creating an entire short film), I would not have had the time to be involved with the production had I done a different investigation for this studio, and it ended up being one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Therefore, I am still happy I shot the film, which came to be called Touch On/Touch Off.
Aside from shooting some video for my previous university and school projects, I had never considered myself as a Director of Photography and I was not confident that I could pull off shooting a whole film for someone else. So I decided that in preparation I would storyboard all of the scenes for the film and I would also do test shoots for a number of the scenes. This definitely helped when it came to the real shoot day. However, even though Max, the director, and I had shared our various ideas for shots, by sending each other storyboards and having face-to-face meetings, when it came to the real shoot day, I realised that it was him who was going to have the final say on how things would be shot. As always, the lack of time was a limitation of how ‘creative’ we could be, so we often found ourselves resorting to the traditional two shot, shot, reverse shot method. This is efficient, but as a cinematographer, rather boring to shoot. Maybe this would not have been a problem had I decided to work on a project individually; but in reality that isn’t how the film industry works. Although filmmaking may not be totally ‘collaborative’, per se, it is almost impossible to create a film completely on your own. Ultimately, the film would have been far less interesting without the amalgamation of various ideas from the cast and crew who were all amazing. I specifically enjoyed working with the production designers and I realised how much more beautiful shots can be with good props, costuming and makeup. The production designers made my job a lot easier because they positioned the props in specific ways so that there would be a balanced composition within the frame. They also made the images really ‘pop’ with the use of garish colours, that suited the feel of the film. It has been really fun to grade the footage because of this, although difficult to not go crazy and saturate the colours to make them stand out even more.
Even though I do not explicitly say this anywhere in my original posts for the semester, it is evident that what I really wanted to do was test myself: Could I make something that I was proud of? (Because I never really had before). Did I really want to be an editor? (I had come into my degree believing that all I would ever want to do was edit film and thus I spent the majority of my time devoted to editing in my first two years as a Media student and as an intern). Could I potentially be a cinematographer? Do I have the skills to do it? Could I make something full form? (Because I hadn’t ever made something longer than a scene in my degree before).
Overall, I’m not sure I would say I am proud of what I’ve created. I’m proud of how much work I put into it and I definitely like parts of the film, for instance the chaotic pan/dolly shots and the closeups that I took with my favourite 50mm lens. But I still have so much more to do before I can say my final edit is ready and that I am happy with it. I’ve only gotten through about a third of the film, because it’s taken a lot longer to edit than I thought it would (I was hoping to have the whole film edited by now). Nevertheless, I would rather do a good job than a quick job, so I will just have to keep myself motivated and keep editing throughout the holidays, because I want the film to be something I can show future employers. The creation of Touch On/Touch Off was incredibly rewarding because I learnt a lot about the making of a short film and I also had the time of my life shooting it. For this reason, I am seriously considering moving my concentration away from editing and onto cinematography in the future.
So far I have edited 5 scenes for Touch On/Touch Off: scenes 1, 8, 9, 11 and 13 (joining 8 and 9 together and 11 and 13 together in the clips below). On average it was taking me about 1 hour to edit together 30 seconds of footage. Aside from initially looking over all of the clips for each scene, the time-consuming part was really editing the audio rather than the visuals. (I had already edited together the visuals for my test shoots of a few of these scenes, so I already knew what would work in terms of ordering). Although Premiere Pro is incredible at automatically syncing up bad sound from the audio recording on my DSLR with the good audio, it still takes a bit of time to do. In addition, adjusting levels became a problem once I realised how different the audio sounded through my good quality headphones in comparison to speakers in a room, or the bad quality speakers in my laptop. Thus, I had to keep testing the audio levels through different kinds of speakers to find a ‘happy medium’.
In saying that, as soon as the scenes were played in the cinema environment the audio levels sounded completely different again. This was the same for the visuals. To be honest, seeing the film on the big screen was a bit of a slap in the face, because everything seemed to look far worse when it was blown up to that size. The colour grading looked wrong – it was too white, too overexposed and far too saturated; even though it had looked seemingly natural on my computer screen when I was editing. There were also a few shots that I hadn’t realised were slightly out of focus, which degraded the overall quality of the scenes – all of these shots were (of course) shot with my wide angle lens; I’ve got to stop using it. Through this process I have realised that it is just as important to do test runs with the final footage (whether it be on different screens, or different speakers) as it is do test shoots, because you just don’t know how it will look or sound in an alternative environment. It has also left me pondering how I may be able to combat this problem from the start: from when I’m actually shooting. I have mentioned this before, but it is very difficult to get focus and exposure absolutely correct when you’re looking at a screen or through a viewfinder which is only a couple of inches big. No wonder I only picked up on a few mistakes when I watched the footage on a big screen: it’s literally 1000 times bigger than the screen on my camera! In the future I will definitely consider using a monitor to shoot with… all I have to do now is figure out if there is some way I can hook the monitor up to my DSLR without losing the display on my camera screen.
SCENE 1 EDIT
I had already edited this scene before, but I thought I ought to re-edit it after the feedback I got from Paul and the rest of the class. I decided to replace the tilt up shot with a wide angle shot, because the closeup of Will’s face was too out of focus (not that the wide shot is much better in the end). I may need to play with the audio levels a bit more as well because the sound of Will putting the phone back down on the table is too loud in comparison to everything else.
SCENE 1 FIRST EDIT
SCENE 1 RE-EDIT
SCENE 8 AND 9 EDIT
For the purpose of making narrative sense with using just these two scenes I actually put scene 9 (the cafe scene) in front of scene 8; however, the order will be reversed (back to normal) for the final edit. I am happy with how the three cutaways at the beginning of the scene establish the cafe environment. The crunching sound effect for the toast eating shot is a little bit out, so I will need to fix that up later, but otherwise the initial soundscape is pretty good; I particularly like how the dialogue about Metamorphosis comes in before we see who is talking (thus creating a J cut). I think I could have continued in this fashion by moving onto the next shot before the character finishes his lines to make the scene flow slightly better.
I can’t believe the big pan/dolly shot for this scene worked. Although we did many practices before Bridget (who plays the waitress Claudia) had to actually carry the tray of full coffees, it was still a scary shot to shoot, because we had to do it in one take. There’s one part of the shot where I wish I had’ve moved the camera a bit faster to keep up with Bridget as she walked, but overall, it’s pretty good for only getting one chance to shoot it. I made the decision to cut from this long take to the mid shot of Peta slightly early (i.e. before the camera finished panning), because otherwise it showed too much of the background of the set: there was a washing line next to the ‘cafe’ and I wanted to avoid displaying any remnants of the actual house we were shooting at.
I think this scene would dramatically improve if I added some diegetic background music to emphasise the chaotic vibe of the cafe; maybe something manic and jazzy. This would further highlight the tonal differences between the crazy cafe scenes and the relaxed and dreamy scenes of George wandering around Melbourne. To an extent, the ‘slower’ editing and acting/staging style of the park scene differentiates it from the cafe scene. We purposely didn’t include any camera movement in the park scene so it would feel more calm and ‘stable’, in comparison to the cafe scene/s. Nevertheless, I think some ethereal music for the park sequence would also strengthen the tonal contrast between the two scenes.
I think the edit for this scene is fine, but I really need to fix up the sound effects. At the moment some sounds are too loud and others are missing altogether. The problem is that we only got one wild audio track for this scene and not all of the sounds I need are there, so I may have to get some royalty free foley off the internet. My only other considerations for modifying this scene is possibly taking out the high angle shot of George falling onto his back (by cutting back to the wide shot) and maybe using a different shot of the tree canopy because the current one is quite shaky.
SCENE 11 AND 13 EDIT
Again, I have played with the order of these two scenes. There is meant to be another scene between them, but I liked how they fitted together, so I decided to edit them next to each other, even if it is just for the studio screening.
Depending on how this cafe/angry customer scene fits into the final edit, I may cut out the first shot of the sequence with Claudia scrubbing the concrete where she dropped the coffee. Even though it is a nice continuation from the cafe scene prior to this, I don’t like the shot because the background is very overexposed (because I was exposing for the foreground). We also don’t have enough audio to play over this shot to continue it on into the next shot of the customer complaining. (For some reason we only recorded the part of the complaint that was in the script and did not think to do some improvisation to start the angry customer off on her rant). I think it will work better if we cut straight from scene 12 to the mid-closeup of the angry customer mid-protest.
Scene 13 was simple to cut together visually, but the atmos, foley and soundtrack creates a complex soundscape. I think I could improve the transition into this scene for the final edit by getting rid of the fade from black and bringing the background noise in a bit earlier. I think the song works well to create a ‘Melbourne wine bar’ ambience and helps to establish a relaxed vibe, which reflects George’s state of mind at this point in the narrative. I may need to alter the EQ of the mosquito foley to make it sound more like it’s actually coming from within the wine bar environment and maybe also figure out a way of making it look like the mosquito was actually squished onto Will/George’s arm, but I’m not sure if people notice this or not.
All in all, I don’t mind the edits, but I think I still have a long way to go until I can safely say they are ready for a proper screening as part of the film.
Shoot day 3 consisted of filming both of the scenes at the train station and the short scene at the coffee shop. Even though we only had three scenes to shoot, two of them were the longest of the film, so it still took a whole day to get through them. I had test shot part of scene two at the train station and scene four at the coffee shop before so these were slightly easier to shoot in terms of framing and camera positioning.
My main problem for the day was exposure when shooting scene two. Again, we were shooting under a verandah area at the station, which was cast in shadow. Thus, exposing the shot became difficult because the actors were standing in the shadowed area, but we had to do a few wide shots where the sunny platform was in frame. We made the conscious decision to expose the actors correctly in the shade and let the sunny areas outside the shelter ‘blow out’ a bit. This was a shame, but it was either that or underexpose the actors, which looked odd because they were the focus of the scene. Letting the background blow out has never been a preference of mine and I don’t think I’ve ever had it happen, never mind, made it happen. However, I don’t necessarily think it matters so much in this scene, and it doesn’t look too bad losing detail in the background, when the main focus is the character anyway. Overall I’m glad I chose to overexpose the background, rather than change the whole location of the scene, because I think the staging works well. The location was perfect for the script because there was a myki machine right next to a bench, where the characters could sit, and you could also see out of the shelter to the walkway. Ultimately we will be able to adjust the exposure (to an extent) when we colour grade the film as well, so it shouldn’t look as bleak by the time we’ve finished with it.
I am particularly excited to edit scene four, because the performances were inspired: well timed and genuine (I believed them even just watching them through the camera). It was great to work with semi-professional actors (like Will who plays the main character) and professional actors (like Eddie who plays ‘The Ex’ and ‘The Handsome Stranger’), because they know a lot about film, they treated the production process with the respect, they were used to waiting around for crew to set up and most of all, they look natural and sound great on-screen, rarely needing more than one take to nail a line.
Last weekend I had shoot day two and three, out of three, for Touch On/Touch Off. Not that I have attempted editing any of it yet, it seems to have turned out well. We were (again) very lucky with the weather: no rain and clear blue skies, which means that the scenes we shot on these days should look consistent with those that were shot on day one. Although we had less scenes to get through per day for these shoots in comparison to day one, it was just as exhausting, because we were shooting on location and were thus moving around a lot more.
On the Saturday we shot five scenes, which were all set in different areas of Melbourne, mostly around Carlton and Rathdowne street and around Princes Park. These scenes were, in general, much easier to shoot than the cafe scenes on day one, because we had a smaller cast and crew. In fact, all of the scenes we shot on day 2 either featured just Will (who plays the main character), or just Will and one other person. Thus, I expect that editing these scenes should be a smoother process than editing the cafe scenes, in terms of continuity.
Throughout the process of shooting this film, and doing the test shoots for it, I have discovered how much better my 50mm lens is in comparison to my wide angle Tamron lens. Even though the 50mm Canon has a much shallower depth of field (it has a 1.4 aperture), thus making it more difficult to keep subjects in focus, it creates a much crisper image than the wide angle. I (unfortunately) used the Tamron lens for most of the shots for this film, because I often needed to squish into small places with my camera and because we needed quite wide shots to show off different planes within the frame. Shooting with the 50mm does take a bit more time to set up because of the shallow depth of field (therefore mark points for actors, as well as focus points, must be spot on), but it is definitely worth the effort because of the image quality. I am disappointed with a few of the shots that I got with the Tamron and I feel like this has let the film down a bit. Thus, in the future I would preference using the 50mm wherever it is possible to do so and I am considering buying a better wide angle lens, maybe a prime, to get the image quality to match the 50mm, F 1.4 standard. Nevertheless, the majority of the shots are usable, so the film should still come together nicely.
The first couple of scenes for the day went well, but I did find it much easier to shoot the scenes I had test shot already, for example scene 8. Although storyboarding a scene does help to prepare me to an extent, I have found that the process of test shooting is much more beneficial. When physically practising to shoot and subsequently edit a scene, you get a better idea of how shots will ‘fit’ together, how characters (and the camera) will need to move through the space and you also get the chance to trouble shoot any problems that could potentially arise on the real shoot day. For instance, I was able to think of better ways to shoot the shot of the phone in scene 8, because I had already had to deal with the reflection/glare problem during the test.
We had some problems with framing while shooting the ‘Doughnut girl’ scene, because we hadn’t been to the location before and so it took some time to get an idea of where we would place the characters and where we would shoot from. This was particularly difficult because we didn’t have a lot of room to move with the road being on both sides of the footpath/street corner we shooting on. Luckily there was a free car park in the middle of the road so I could shoot the long shots from there. The sun also became a problem because it was reflecting off the ‘free doughnut’ sign, thus making it appear over-exposed on screen (even though everything else was correctly exposed within the frame). Looking back at the footage, I think we will be able to ‘cut’ around this problem so-to-speak, if we only include the parts of shots where the doughnut girl is facing away from the sun.
The first two park scenes went pretty smoothly because I had test shot one of them and they only featured Will. However, I did come across an issue with my tripod (that occurs with all tripods I have used) while panning. When the tripod is on a flat floor (for instance inside a building) and the camera is level, then a panning shot will generally turn out perfectly i.e. the whole shot will appear straight/level. However, when you’re on slightly slanted ground and you pan, the shot will turn out slightly ‘wonky’ by the end frame, even if you have the start frame completely level. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out a full-proof solution for this, at least with my tripod, aside from getting the base of the tripod level to the ground (rather than just getting the camera level); but even that can be unpredictable and very hard to perfect so that you get a level frame throughout the whole pan. As a result of this problem in scene 10, I decided to do a couple of alternate takes. Instead of panning to follow Will/George walking to the park I just shot two static shots – one of him on the phone and then one of him walking off into the park. This gives us options when editing, just in case the panning shot turns out noticeably wonky (which I think it will, because our eyes are so used to the natural horizon line).
Our last scene to shoot on day 2 was the slowest and the most problematic, yet the most fun (and funny). I thought we had solved the audio problem of shooting close to the fountains (mentioned in my blog post ‘Week 9 Reflection’) so I spent a while planning out the shot with Max, the director, around the pond. Once we started shooting there, Felix, the sound guy, decided that shooting by the fountains was not going to be possible (because it was so loud in comparison to the actors’ voices). This was a shame because we had to sacrifice the narrative for the audio quality, which I’m still not sure was the best decision, but it wasn’t up to me in the end, and we made it work anyway. The reason that we wanted it at the pond was because the character: ‘The Ex’, was giving his dead fish a funeral and letting it free in the pond and that’s when he would coincidentally run into George, who is hanging out at the park. We had to substitute the pond setting for a park setting (with the fountains in the background), thus losing a bit of narrative sense.
Shooting the flashback shot for this scene was one of the funniest things I’ve ever had to do and was a great end to the day. The Ex and George (played by Eddie and Will), had to lie directly under the camera on a picnic rug as I shot them from quite closeup and from directly above. I had my legs and the tripod legs awkwardly standing between their limbs as Eddie licked Will’s face. This, as you can imagine, took quite a few takes as we all kept laughing, particularly Will and Eddie who had only met once before, but performed amazingly well nevertheless.
This week I did a test shoot for scene 8 of Touch On/Touch Off (using my housemate as a stand in for Wil, who plays the main character, George, in the film). Although we will be using a tree in Princes Park for this scene, I decided to just test shoot the sequence on the nature strip outside my house. I like the wide establishing shot at the beginning of this scene because the tree branches help to frame the character in the shot. However, I think it might be better to punch the framing in a bit tighter so that the character doesn’t seem so distant.
The main problem I had with this scene was shooting the phone. It was difficult to capture the ‘3 missed calls from work’ that are meant to flash up on the screen when the phone is lying flat on the ground facing straight up at the sun. The glare makes it so that you can only see the reflection on the screen. Nevertheless, I did actually like the reflection of the tree canopy because it foreshadows the last shot of the scene. I think if I framed this shot a bit closer in I could capture the notifications on the phone better and hopefully get a few seconds of the tree reflection when the phone screen goes dark as well. I think the phone we’re using as a prop for the real shoot is also newer than the one I was using, so hopefully the screen light will have a bit more ‘oomf’. It is also a shame that the grass in this shot looks so dark (I think it was caused by either one of our shadows); thus the colouring does not match up with the other shots in this scene. However, I think you could get the grass looking the same in each shot by colour grading and masking out the phone.
I experimented with a shot I hadn’t storyboarded for this scene as well: the high angle shot of George falling onto his back. Although this shot didn’t edit into the scene as smoothly as I would have hoped (there were some issues with continuity), I still think it is worth including because the last frame of the shot is quite beautiful:
It also works well with the proceeding POV shot of the tree canopy at the end of the scene.
This week I edited together the first scene of Touch On/Touch Off. It definitely helped to have done a test shoot for this scene beforehand, because I knew exactly what shots we needed to get and I knew how I was going to edit it together. This gave me the chance to fix a couple of things that were wrong in my test shoot. For example, I created a more dynamic lighting style, using artificial lights coming through the right-hand side window and a soft light coming from above. I also punched the wide shot in slightly closer:
Unfortunately, I had the exact same problem with pulling focus as I did in the test shoot. Even with a focus puller, it was incredibly hard to get the actor as well as the phone in focus within the same shot, because the 50mm lens I was using has such a shallow depth of field and it is also difficult to tell whether or not the subject/object is in focus on my tiny display screen. I think what happened is that I had marked lines for my focus puller on my camera’s focal rim for the first take (which was in focus, but was framed incorrectly and is thus unusable) and then at one point the focus puller slightly kicked the tripod and the actor also moved slightly, but we didn’t change the focus marks. Hence, the actor appears slightly out of focus while he is on the phone. For this reason, I think we will have to cut back to a wide shot once the phone is picked up.
I spent more time editing the sound for this scene in comparison to the test, because it was 1. more important and 2. a much easier process editing the ‘properly’ recorded audio, rather than the audio I had captured with my DSLR camera. I think this is one of the reasons why this scene flows so much better than my test shoot.
In class this week we also did some colour grading. I’ve hardly touched scene one yet, aside from saturating it to highlight the colours to make it seem ‘happy’ and ‘morning-like’. However, I think I will work on this scene a bit more so that all the shots match each other in colour tone. I will also use the masking tool, as I have done below, to spotlight some of the points within the frame e.g. the watch.
Saturday 14th was the first shoot day for Touch On/Touch Off. Overall, it went really well, it wasn’t nearly as stressful as I thought it was going to be and thus it ended up being really fun to work on.
The day before the shoot, the production design team, as well as the directors and myself helped to set up the makeshift hipster cafe we would be shooting. (Max, one of the directors also did a run through with some of the actors). It was literally mind-blowing how we managed to transform a very old garage into a bohemianesque melbourne cafe/set with a bit of paint and some hand-me-down set walls. This was the first time I had really worked with production designers and it made me realise how much goes into creating the ‘look’ of a set; and it also made me appreciate how much better a good production design team can make a film.
That day I picked up a Kino Flow light, an LED 1×1 panel, a couple of light stands, a dolly, an extra tripod and plenty of shot bags. This was great (mostly for my confidence), because we got to practice setting everything up for the next day. It gave me some reassurance in knowing that I wasn’t completely hopeless at lighting a scene. We also put the dolly together in preparation for a couple of shots. However, after some test shooting, we realised that the dolly wasn’t completely smooth. The cracks where the pipes connected were only small, but when the wheels of the dolly ran over them they created a noticeable shaky effect. The fact that we had the tracks on slanted concrete didn’t help either. We tried to fill in the gaps with blue tack and tape, and we created some resistance on the ground using material and newspaper under the tracks. These things helped a bit, but they still couldn’t completely get rid of the shake. Therefore, we decided to only use part of the dolly where there wasn’t any cracks in the track and we also replaced some of the shots where we were going to dolly with panning shots instead.
This is a photo of Rhys setting up: he was kind of director, kind of grip, kind of gaffa and kind of production designer.
Here is a video that Max the director made about the creation of the set:
The actual shoot day was quite long and I constantly felt like there was heaps for me to do, particularly because we were fighting with the light. Even when the sound guy and the actors weren’t involved, being a DOP, I was always trying to get cutaways of the cafe or cleaning my lenses and charging batteries etc. (The cast and crew were all extremely well fed though, which was great because it kept us going strong throughout the day). We were lucky with the weather because it was consistent – however sunny it was, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We would have preferred it to be slightly overcast to get more even, diffused light because the shadows were harsh and it was difficult to expose for the sunny areas as well as the shadows. The weather looks good for our next two shooting days, but hopefully it’s sunny (without clouds) as well, so that the film looks consistent. (Whatever happens though, the film is set in Melbourne, so I’m sure viewers will understand). I mainly used the Kino Flow light to spotlight the subjects’ faces when they were in shadow, because it gives a nice, soft coverage. We ended up lighting Scene 1 (the kitchen scene I have test shot), using only artificial light, because we were shooting this scene at the end of the day on Saturday and so we had lost almost all natural light. We replaced the kitchen’s fluorescent light with an LED panel overhead (because it had been flickering, creating banding in the frame) and then we had a Kino Flow shining through the window as a replacement for sunlight. I think it ended up looking pretty natural, which we were happy with.
Although I got a little stressed when certain shots weren’t working how I wanted them to, the day was mainly stress-free, because everyone’s questions were being directed at Max, and not me, which allowed me to concentrate solely on framing and lighting. This was an experience I had never had before. I thought I would feel the pressure of having 20+ people watching me shoot a scene, but I was so focused on what I had to do, that I never really noticed everyone’s gaze. It was also great to work with Max, because he was amazingly calm throughout the day and took all of my ideas on board. The first AD, although rushing us through some shots when we were running behind time, did her job magnificently. She made sure that all the exterior scenes were completed before we completely lost sunlight, she ensured that everything was set up safely (gaffa taping all the power cords to the ground), she called all the shots and she let us do our thing when we wanted to do some creative alternate takes. It was incredibly enjoyable and has made me reconsider my original desire to become an editor. When I first entered the degree, all I had wanted to do was post-production, but now I am seriously contemplating focusing on cinematography.
Amazingly, most the footage is usable i.e. in focus. The first shot we took on the day has a lot of lens flare which is a shame (and could have easily been fixed by using a hood on my lens), however, it’s not completely unusable. I also wish we had had more time to shoot the main ‘chaotic’ cafe scene in a couple of different ways. We ended up only really getting two alternate shots of the action: one long dolly/pan shot of the action and one closeup of the primary actor in the film. However, I would have really like to get more different shots of the scene e.g. a closeup of the waitress’ feet tripping over, so that I could create a rapidly edited sequence that builds in intensity and thus reflects the chaos of the scene.
PS. This is where I am up to on my schedule now (surprisingly only a couple of days behind):
This week I am getting prepared for our first shoot for Touch On/Touch Off, which is on this weekend. I decided to do a test shoot using my friend Megan who’s an actor, who generously lent me her kitchen for the shoot. Unfortunately it was raining all day and so I didn’t get to do scenes 4, 8 or 10 with her, because they were all set outside. However, luckily the weekend is looking great weather-wise, so at least we shouldn’t have to worry about adverse conditions on the real shoot day.
The shoot went OK. I was actually surprised some of the shots I had planned for this scene worked out in the edit. I particularly thought that shot 2 would be too close to cut into from a wide establishing shot, however I think the audio and the cut on action eases the intensity. Unfortunately I had to rush through the shoot, because Megan had to leave, so I couldn’t spend much time on the shot I knew would take the longest: shot 3. I really like the pull focus from the phone to Megan as the camera tilts up to follow her hand; however it was really hard to do this shot without a focus puller/grip. I essentially didn’t have enough hands to pull focus, as well as tilting the camera and calling the phone. Thus, all of my takes turned out shaky and Megan never quite ended up in focus, because I wasn’t tall enough to look over the camera to see where I had marked her focus point on the focus rim of my camera. Nevertheless, I think I’ll be able to get this shot perfect with a bit of help. For the real shoot, I will also do some alternate versions of shot 3: I will cut to a closeup of the phone and then have another shot that we can cut to which is just a static mid-closeup of Megan putting the phone to her ear. I will also frame the establishing shot a bit closer to the actor, because I think this shot feels too open and shows too much of bench.
I wasn’t overly happy with the lighting, because it just looked very flat. I did put a small lamp behind Megan as a back light, but it didn’t do much against the sun, which was streaming in from the 2 floor to ceiling windows, directly facing the kitchen. I tested different positions for Megan to sit in around her lounge room/kitchen to see if I could get any better lighting effects. I particularly liked the light at her dining room table (pictured below), because I was using the windows as a back light. But unfortunately, the scene looked very bland, because I couldn’t pull the dining room table out from the wall and so Megan was sitting right up against a white background (which also made it difficult for shooting). In addition, I wasn’t able to expose for both Megan and the outside, so the exterior appeared blown out. On the real shoot we will at least have some more lighting equipment, plus, the kitchen we are shooting in only has a small window at one side, which should work to our advantage in creating offside lighting.
In week 9 I met up with the sound recorder, the first AD and one of the writer/directors to talk about Touch On/Touch Off (mainly about the sound). We decided to go to Princes Park (pictured below), because we are shooting a couple of our scenes there and we wanted to check out the location, the atmos noise and the lighting. We will be shooting this scene in the morning, so it was a bit of a shame we visited it in the afternoon, as the lighting conditions will be different on the day. Nevertheless, we can just reverse everything we practiced to suit the morning light. We scouted out a nice grassy area next to a tree where we are planning to shoot one of the scenes. We will most likely be shooting with the sun as a back light and thus we will also need to use a battery powered LED panel to ‘fill’ the actor’s face.
For another scene, we are planning to shoot by the man-made pond in Princes Park. While visiting the location we noticed a couple of things which could interfere with our shoot. Firstly, there were quite a lot of people sitting around the pond and secondly, it was a very noisy area. The pond is situated close to a tram line and a busy road, plus the fountain in the pond is extremely loud. Therefore, we are considering either doing ADR, wild lines (which for some reason the sound guy is against), or finding another location for the scene. All in all, it was good to explore the location prior to shooting there so we were aware of potential problems that could arise.
This week I also finished all of the storyboards I needed for our first shoot date on 14 May:
In class I was also lucky enough to do a lighting test for scene 11 of the film, with help from my peers. I was directing, as well as shooting on my DSLR camera. Amy was first AD, Annick was on camera 2 (using one the Ex3s?), Helena was on audio, Tim was noting down the different lighting setups and exposures, and the rest of the class was helping gaff. It was a rather uncomfortable experience for me, because I generally don’t like directing (particularly when a large crew is involved and I’m on camera; I don’t react well to the pressure). With the added stress of lighting, which I feel totally unfamiliar with, it was a rather daunting process. The thought of having to direct lighting as a DOP for the short film is still freaking me out a bit. However, after watching the footage back, I feel much more at ease. It turned out better than I expected, and the practice definitely helped me get a feel for the different lighting setups that are possible for the cafe scenes in the film. We played around with using a 2000 Ari red head (diffused), LED panels and Dedos. My favourite take (on both cameras) is take 8, using a diffused ‘2000’ positioned right of camera. I like it because Bliss’ offside is illuminated, there are no harsh shadows and the outside is exposed correctly, as well as both of the actors. The only problem is that when Alex stands up in this shot, he shadows Bliss, which makes it very obvious that there is an artificial light coming from camera right. However, I think you could cut and change camera angles before Alex stands up and still make the scene appear ‘naturally lit’. Thus, I will be aiming to replicate this camera setup for the real shoot next weekend.