Our finished film opening sequence

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Evaluation Q1: Did you enjoy the main workshop shoot day? What roles did you take? What were your best bits and why?

I had a really good time on the main workshop shoot day and I learnt lots of new things. The shoot itself was very successful as we didn't have to redo numerous takes. The atmosphere on the day was really positive and everyone involved was very energetic and supportive making the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. 

Below is a time lapse video from the day showing the set and the different lighting set ups used on the day.
video
On the day I had a few roles which ranged from performing in front of the camera to helping behind the scenes. My performance role was as Flower Dress Sydney. I had a few lines to lip-sync but most of my scenes consisted of acting and portraying a character. I didn't have much experience performing or acting so it was a slight challenge but after our rehearsals and as the day went on I became a lot more comfortable performing in front of a camera and have definitely improved my performance skills. Additionally I got to take part in a lot of fun shots that included fake snow and powder paint. 

Below are some screenshots of my scenes in the video.
A few of my shots in the video
Behind the scenes I got the opportunity to work alongside the crew and experience what it would be like on to work on a set. I got to use the clapperboard for some of the shots which I enjoyed. We also got shown the lighting set up at the top of the studio and our technician Emma explained how the set ups worked and how they could be changed in case one of us had to change the lighting set up for a shot. 
Me using the clapperboard
I also helped our performance directer Jasmine work along side Sian (who played the band Sydney) so that we could help each other when acting as Syndey. When Sian performed I stood behind the camera in order to help her feel more comfortable. This benefited both of us as we performed better when we sang with each other as it was much easier to let go and have fun.
Practicing movements/dancing with Jasmine and Sian
  The best bits of the day included:
  • Participating with my friends as we had a lot of fun together and it made the day a lot more enjoyable
  • Learning new skills and getting the opportunity to work with the crew
  • Getting my hair and make up done by the professional make up artists
Me getting my hair and make-up done
Working with friends

Evaluation Q2: What have you learnt from participating in each of the prelim tasks 1,2,3, and 5?

Task 1: Complete an Audition Video
In order to complete the audition video I had to learn how to successfully lip-sync so that it looked believable. To do this we learnt that we had to sing along so that the full facial and throat movement looked authentic. I found it hard to perform in front of the camera as well as keeping looking directly into the camera as I am not used to performing. I think doing the video with friends was what made it more enjoyable. We took a variety of shots so that when the video was edited with had a lot of options and we could chose what worked best.

If I were to do the audition video again I would try to relax more and let go a bit and I would also look into the camera when lip-syncing so that the audience is directly addressed. Below is my audition video.
Task 2: Learn and Practice Your Performance
We had many rehearsal sessions over the course of two weeks. This included whole cast as well as smaller groups of people. 

My role in the video did include some lip-sync so I had to make sure I knew the lyrics well. After a small meeting with our performance director Jasmine we decided that the main thing for me to be able to do was convey the emotion and the story behind the song. To do this I did a lot of research into the band and Sydney herself as well as trying to visualise each line of the song as we found that my expressions were more believable when I could imagine what I was feeling. 
I also had small sessions with Jasmine and Sian (Band Sydney) so that we could work on performing more. This worked well as we felt a lot more comfortable singing and performing in front of each other. In rehearsals we would sing along with each other to relax and get into the performance. I also practiced doing the walk as a band with Laith, Jack and Ray. This was useful as we all had to walk at the same time and in the same rhythm as well as remain in character.
Working with Jasmine and Sian

At the end of the video there is a small dance scene which we practiced as a whole group. To do this we all thought of one move and we would go down the middle of two rows performing this move whilst the rest of the class cheered and supported the person performing. This not only helped to build confidence but also made the atmosphere more enjoyable which made it easier for me to perform. 

Task 3: Help to Plan and Organise Your Costume
As part of the shoot preparation we had to plan our costumes. The costume I needed consisted of a floral top and skirt along with white boots and a white overcoat.
Our first decision was whether to find a top and skirt or to use a dress instead. Additionally as no-one had white boots we decided to use black boots instead. We eventually decided on a navy blue, white and pink dress. This also worked well with the pink coat we had instead of a white one. As boots looked to bulky with the dress we decided to use black wedge sandals instead. Below is a photo of my final costume that I wore for the shoot.
Me in my full costume
From planning and organising my costume I learnt how costumes can reflect the identity of a character and helps to connote their personality. Also it helped to improve my attention to detail as we looked to replicate the original in subtle ways such has having the flowers on the dress or the buttons on the overcoat. This also taught me how important all aspects of styling (costume, make-up and hair) are when creating a music video in order to represent the artist in a way you want.

Task 5: Complete the Remake Edit
For the edit I worked with Sian. The process consisted of watching and renaming all the takes, putting the shots on the timeline and cutting them so they matched with the original, editing the speed for the slow motion shots and then finally grading all of the shots. I found the process quite time consuming as looking through the takes to choose the one that looked closest to the original was a long process. In addition to this putting all of the shots on the timeline was also time consuming as this music video is consisted of a lot of quick cuts and short shots.
Me editing our music video
The grading process was a lot longer as well than our last project as there were a lot more shots to grade. However to speed the process up with graded one shot and then copy and pasted it for all of the shots of the same take. The tool we used when grading was ProCamp. I was pleased with the way we graded our shots as it we made the majority of them look almost like the original. Below are some before and after pictures of a few shots we graded.
Grading to show match to the original
Grading to show colour pop
From completing the remake edit I learnt that when editing a music video you break the rules of continuity so that the audience remains engaged through the use of quick cuts and inserts. Additionally the editing has helped me to develop and improve my existing skills in Premiere in particular my grading. 

Evaluation Q3: Are you pleased with the footage and your finished edit? Is it how you expected it to look? What works really well and what would you change?

Below is our finished edit.

I am really pleased with our final video. The quality of the footage we got is really good which helped to create a successful music video remake. I wasn't expecting it to look as professional as it does and I wasn't expecting us to match the actions and lip-sync as well as we have done.

I think what went well was:

  • The overall grading of our shots, especially the close-ups of Sian and Jack (who played Noah, the bassist). 
  • The accurate lip-sync matching (as seen in the first gif of Sian)
  • That nearly all of our cuts match the original (as shown by the second gif of Jack and Sian)
Good grading match


The main thing I would change would be the lighting as it is quite different to the original. For example in some of the cool kids close ups their faces are lit from the other side. Below is an example.
Opposite lighting for cool kids shots
Also the lighting meant that there were no shadows on the bands in some shots and also that our version is a lot brighter than the original.
Lighting difference between our band shots and original
Some shots were really hard to recreate such as the break-dancing at the end so we filmed alternatives instead so we had a variety of footage to choose from. This can be seen in the gif below where Jack does something different to the original move.
Finally what I would change in the edit would be a small shot in which we covered a quick insert shot which can be seen below.
Overall I feel that our remake was very successful and I am extremely pleased with our edit and all of the footage we took. 

Evaluation Q4: How do you think your prelim experience will impact on your approach to next term's music video coursework?

By completing the prelim I have learnt a lot about all aspects of making a music video. Our next project will be to create a music video of our own so this prelim has taught me a lot of new skills that will be useful. This includes learning how to use all the technology involved such as the camera, lights and sound desk. Additionally the performance and lip-sync skills I have learnt will also be useful should I need to perform in my own video or instruct other actors on how to perform.

Below I have summarised what I have learnt from the prelim and how this will be beneficial for pre-production, production and post-production.

Pre-production
Performance Schedule

  • Have a clear sense of what genre our music video will be as it will affect styling and lighting decisions
  • Schedules for any performance rehearsals or group meetings to discuss set design/lighting/costume
  • A clear and detailed shoot board and call sheet so we know the order of shooting, who and what is required for each shot and also to make sure we get all of our shots filmed
Production
  • To have a designated assistant director (or all share the responsibility) to make sure the shoot goes smoothly and timings are followed
  • Having a variety of footage and takes so that we have options when editing
  • Ensuring our performers actually sing along so that all the mouth and throat movements are accurate and believable
  • Being supportive and encouraging so that the performers feel comfortable in front of the camera
  • Using a variety of lighting set-ups to create different moods as well as making sure all the lights and cameras are set up/handled safely and that no wires are bunched on the floor. Additionally to have someone cable bashing when someone else is filming on the hand held camera
    Set up on the day
Post-production
  • Having an edit schedule so we all know when we are editing and so that we know how many sessions we are each doing 
  • Grading shots using tools such as ProCamp and Three-way Colour Corrector so that it fits the style and genre of the music video
  • Discontinuous editing and rapid/montage shot transitions as shown by the gif below


On the whole the prelim has taught me a lot of new skills which will be vital for the production of our own music video as well as making me realise how much time and effort goes into making a music video. The experience of remaking a music video was so positive and so I am really looking forward completing the project next term.

Friday, 31 March 2017

This blog is now closed

My work is now complete for this project. I hoped you enjoy my blog and thank you for reading.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Evaluation Post 1: In what way does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?

Our film is called 'Shadow of Your Past' and is in the crime thriller genre. Our opening both challenges and uses the typical conventions of real media products of the thriller genre.

Our Film's Plot

'Shadow of Your Past' is a film that follows a young black woman in her mid-20s whose name is Shania Morcott. She is a high profile lawyer who becomes the victim of a revenge stalking by a rapist who she had previously prosecuted. As the film progresses Shania becomes increasingly paranoid and is eventually kidnapped by the stalker. She is rescued by the police but the stalker escapes. The film ends with Shania moving away and trying to rebuild her life, but the stalkers whereabouts are unknown and he may still be out there.

Form

I think that our film opening follows the typical format. In general film openings tend to include titles and credits, a soundtrack and either dialogue or a narrative voice over. Additionally our film opening introduces the main character and establishes the genre.
Genre
Below is a mind map of the genre conventions of thriller films. There is also a key at the top. The mind map shows the typical narrative, characters, settings, iconography, sub-genres and themes of thriller films. I have also indicated which conventions we included in our film and also real life examples. Please click and drag to navigate the mind map. Press present mode to make it easier to view (the first of the three white buttons in the top right corner). 


Below is a prezi explaining in detail the choices we made for our lead character based on our genre.
Narrative Structure

Style
The aesthetic we wanted to give our film was very naturalistic in terms of lighting and effects. During the editing process we graded our shots to have more of a grey colour scheme to make the shots appear bleaker. This is typical of thriller films, such as 'Gone Girl' from which we took inspiration. 
We have two soundtracks in our opening. One is a classical piece of music (called 'Ever Evolving') consisting of only a piano which creates a relaxed and gentle atmosphere. The other is a more fast-paced soundtrack (called 'Codename') with drums and stringed instruments helping to build tension during the red herring sequence. The two pieces of music help to create the desired mood in each part. Firstly a more soft, calm mood which contrasts with the suspense and tension later on, emphasisng the danger and uneasiness.

The wording and order of our titles were inspired by the film 'Se7en' along with the effects we added to them. The shaking effect adds to the uneasiness in our opening and hopefully adds to representing the genre better.



Our film's credits



An example from 'Se7en'


The font we used for the credits was very simplistic as we didn't want to distract from what was happening on screen. The font for our title was different to the rest of the credits as was the effect. We were inspired by the film poster for 'Shutter Island' for our font choice as it was simple yet bold.


Overall I feel that our film opening follows the genre and form conventions of a thriller film opening. Hopefully this means that our film will be easily identifiable as a thriller to our target audience and will be similar to the existing films in this genre. 

Evaluation Post 2: How does your media product represent particular social groups?

In our film the main social groups are gender and ethnicity. Our lead character is a black woman in her late 20s and so we decided to mix the two groups and focus on the representation of black females.

Representation of Women in Films

Women are often underrepresented in the film industry with their roles being limited to the stereotypical, traditional roles. 
Additionally some female characters are objectified in films and their main purpose is to act as something to look at for both the other characters and also the audience. This essentially makes them sex symbols instead of characters of actual substance. An example is Gisele Yashar from the Fast and Furious series - an action thriller series of films. She is portrayed as a strong, independent woman however there are comments and scenes where her body is objectified by some of the male characters. Gisele knows that she can use her body and her sexuality to get what she needs. Whilst she is an empowering character, the fact that her figure and appearance are a key feature of her role shows that a woman's intelligence and courage isn't enough. 

During my research I found a report of a study where the portrayal of female characters were analysed in the top 100 grossing films of 2016. Below are a few pie charts I made using the statistics from the report which are relevant to our film opening and it's main character.

Representation of Black Women
Cookie Lyon from 'Empire'
Black women aren't as commonly represented compared to white women in films and television. There are both positive and negative representations of black women. We didn't want to represent our character in a stereotypical way. For example the character of Cookie Lyon in the TV drama 'Empire' is based on many common stereotypes associated with the black ethnicity such as crime, drugs, prison and music. Despite the fact that she is a successful, strong-minded business woman, she is represented negatively.

Another common representation of black women are in films such as "12 Years a Slave" or "The Help" where their characters are either slaves or treated as inferior to those who are white. This provides a voice for black actors/actresses and even though these roles are based on history and the truth, black actresses shouldn't only be seen in these roles.

Lupita Nyong'o acting in '12 Years a Slave'
Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer acting in 'The Help'
How We Wanted to Represent Black Women
Our main inspiration in terms of our lead character was Annalise Keating from 'How to Get Away with Murder'. This is because Annalise is a strong, independent woman who stands up for herself and doesn't allow anyone to walk over her. Additionally she works in the legal profession which is the same as Shania (our character). Annalise also has flaws, showing that she has a humane, emotional side as well. Similarly the lead character in 'Scandal' is Olivia Pope and she is said to be extremely powerful professionally and strong emotionally, despite having a complicated and flawed personal life. 
There are many strong, independent, powerful black women in TV dramas however there are fewer examples in the film industry. We would hope that our film can have a character that can fill the gap. Recently the film called 'Hidden Figures' was released. It is a film about three black women who worked at NASA during the Space Race. This was an inspiring film as not only are they women working in a dominantly male work field (challenging gender stereotypes) but they are also black women. The film has a positive representation of black women and hopefully will encourage more films with black female leads.
We also wanted our main character to act as a role model to the younger side of our audience (16-19 year olds). This was done through her personality and her costume. The use of a blazer and a black and white dress represents her in a smart, formal manner which highlights her professionalism due to her high profile job. This is further emphasised through her leather briefcase which presents her as organised as well as portraying her job as briefcases are commonly used by lawyers to carry documents to courts. Her organisation and also her sophistication are also conveyed through the set design. The rooms in our chosen location (Sian's house) were dressed to give a structured, neat and minimalistic feel as well as being quite feminine (as seen by the heart made of flowers on the wall in the picture below). 
Overall, I feel that we challenged both gender and ethnicity stereotypes through our lead character Shania Morcott. Shania is a driven, determined, strong minded, independent middle-class woman. She challenges the gender stereotypes of being weak, sensitive and having a domestic lifestyle.We positively represented black women and hopefully created a character that is inspirational to teens and young adults.