Monday, April 23, 2012

My experience with the 3D shoot

This was the first time I have ever shot in 3D.  I have read a lot about it online, especially in DSLR forums and such, since its so easy to do with them.  All in all, it was surprisingly easy, even though I really don't like 3D.  I hope this ease of production does not lend to an increase in terrible 3D movies, because that would be terrible for the art of film as whole.
That being said, it was fun to do.  It is always fun to build things out of cardboard, I guess, especially a robot costume with a large penis.  This was probably the weirdest thing I have ever filmed in my life, which I consider a good thing.  I am always looking to film odd things, so this really worked for me.  Katie and Nate did a great job acting considering the interesting situation they were placed in.  They were good sports about it.  I think it will come out really well.  We tried some handheld shots, though, and I am not sure about how that will look.  Of course, we had to secure the 2 cameras to an apple box with a lot of tape, then I held the apple box like it was some sort of Steadicam or something.  It should be interesting to see how those shots look, but from the preliminary analysis, they look pretty good.
Post-production might be a different story though.  I am not big on After Effects or any post-production really.  I am a big fan of realism, and I really don't like heavy special effects movies.  So, this will be a new experience for me.  Luckily, I do like to learn new things about technology, so I am happy about that.  Also, it really doesn't seem that hard to do at all.  It is actually pretty awesome that we have the ability to do all the post-production "in house" at UNCW.  You would think that there would be some epic computer necessary to render 3D imagery, but really I could do it on my laptop in a few hours.  Technology is pretty awesome.
However, even though this project was fun, I never really want to shoot in 3D again.  It is still just a gimmick to me, and I think it detracts from narrative and cinematography.  I will stick to realistic lighting and handheld camera work.

My Rough Theater

What is my rough theater?
Well if it has to be anything but a traditional theater, than I would say that it is just that.  With new camera technology like DSLRs and iPhone 4s cameras, I really can film anything, anywhere, and have it look pretty damn good.  I have been experimenting with my iPhone's footage in Final Cut and getting a pretty solid workflow down which can yield very impressive results.  48 mbps video encoding at full 1080p with a variable frame rate of 1-30fps is quite impressive for a cell phone.  After transcoding to ProRes 422 it hold us well in post as well.  I recently color graded some of it in Magic Bullet Looks and it surprisingly held up quite well when pushing and pulling exposure and playing with color.  I am impressed.  That being said, there really are no restrictions with locations now.  I don't need to rent a camera and take it somewhere to get good results.  I think a simple bounce board is enough to light a lot of outdoor locations, so with some bounced fill and a properly placed cell phone, great results are easy to achieve.
Furthermore, my Canon 5D really takes mobile filmmaking to the next level.  The quality is great, but even better is the lack of hinderance that the camera itself lends.  It is small, very small in the world of HD cameras.  I usually keep it in my car too, so in theory anytime I am feeling cinematic I could grab my camera and roll.  There is no need for a traditional theater environment to film something great.  The type of run and gun cinema is really quite rough, as the rough theater suggests, although it still gives from pretty striking results.
Pushing this even further is the cardboard/3D project.  This takes the DSLR revolution, pairs it with the 3D revolution, and proves that all you need is two cheap cameras and some cardboard to produce results. Its pretty neat to realize the ability that we now have.  10 years ago film students never would have been able to work so extensively with rough theater.  We are really lucky, and the exciting thing is that technology is only going to keep getting better and smaller, which is only going to push the limits of rough theater.  Sensors are getting more sensitive, allowing for less lights, and everything is getting smaller, making on location shooting that much easier.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Experience with the long take shoot

This semester has really cemented my appreciation for film, that is, celluloid (not the major).  Through this class and cinematography, I have gotten more exposure to shooting on film, and I really have enjoyed it all.  Hopefully this summer I will shoot my honors narrative on 16mm, so all the practice I can get it great.  
The long take shoot this Saturday was a lot of fun.  My group completely changed our shot right from what we had planned, but it definitely turned out better than what we had thought up.  Once we got to campus and saw that it was completely packed with prospective students, we wanted to take advantage of the crowds.  However, by the time it was our turn to shoot, they had all dispersed and campus was left deserted.  Thus, we took advantage of the emptiness, and the fact that the fountain in between Morton and Leutze was actually running, probably to impress the prospective students.  Chris kindly volunteered to get soaking wet, and we formed our long take's plot around this idea.  Stacey did a great job operating the camera, and I tried my hardest to channel my inner purse thief and provide a believable performance.  Everything went surprisingly smoothly, and I think we got the exposure right on.  That was probably a combination of luck and skill in both the shooting and development processes.  Hopefully the post-production will go just as well.  I already have some ideas for the sound design, and am looking forward to seeing the image at the right speed and reversing the negative.
It was pretty amazing to see everything actually work out for everyone.  No one made any real mistakes, at least none that affected their final product.  The whole class worked together well and answered each others questions, when they came up.  For the most part, everyone seemed pretty educated about the process and willing to contribute the best they could.  I think all the groups had great ideas that translated well into the long takes.  Probably most impressive to me was how properly exposed everyones image was.  I was nervous about how it would turn out, particularly because the cloud cover was rapidly changing throughout the day.  I suppose film is pretty hard to overexpose though.  I doubt we could've done that with a video camera and no light meter/monitor.  All in all, it was a fun experience.

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Experiences with Film

I learned a lot from this assignment.  Mainly, it was a serious learning experience to watch hand drawn animations translate into actual visual movements.  The whole time I was doing it I really had no idea what to expect.  I didn't quite know how long to extend movements/how quick to make things rotate, etc.  Even with the keyframe drawings and trying to think in terms of 24 frames per second, I still had some trouble trying to understand just what it would look like when projected.  That being said, I think I timed mine out pretty well.  They could have lasted a little longer I guess, but there was a certain ethereal quality about the speed/image relationship that was mysterious.  You couldn’t quite tell what anything was, and that was definitely part of the allure.  Also, random chance seemed to play a role as well.  I am sure that many “experts” at these techniques meticulously plan out their work, but I like the serendipitous aspect.  For example, the magazine transfer turned out cooler the second time I did it.  The first time, in class, I tried to choose images that I thought would look good together.  In the end, it all went by so fast it didn’t even matter.  Then, the second time, I just sort of cut out cool looking parts of the magazine and layed them out randomly.  It ended up better than the first experiment.
If I could do this all over again, I would incorporate more rayogram stuff.  I think that turned out the coolest.  It also was the most intensive and/or difficult part.  There are a lot of extra things you need rather than just film and a paper clip, for example, chemicals and a dark room.  Scratching on top of the rayograms really added a lot of depth.  More or less, it seemed like the more techniques added on top of each other in layers, the cooler and more complex the image turned out.  I really liked the part I animated, not because of my animation, but because I painted the film behind it.  First, I used tape to mask it, then painted on either side of the tape with different colors.  It ended up being a pretty neat and dynamic background.  However, I’m sure there are times when you could add too many elements to the image.  That being said, I would like to try again! 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sound Reading Response

The relationship between audio and visual image is one of the most important things in a viewing experience, in my opinion.  Working with Shannon's film really opened my eyes to this, even though I already had a pretty good idea of the concept.  Certain scenes demand a certain tone of music, and when this is off it is very noticeable.  The "anempathetic" concept Chion mentions in the reading seems to lie somewhere in the middle.  The music is neither appropriate nor inappropriate.  Perhaps documentaries make use of this more than any other form.  Narrative films generally seek to bolster the mood of the plot/characters, whereas many documentaries wish to remain non-biased.
Another thing Chion touches on is the "mickey-mousing" effect sound can have; accents in the sound design can draw attention to certain movements.  This is often used in animation.  Again, I worked fairly extensively with this on Shannon's film, and the effect is quite striking.  It really changes the focal points of the scene for the viewer.
Finally, I found Chion's numerated conditions for sound to temporalize images quite interesting.  I'm always a fan of academic analysis of somewhat obvious/taken for granted things, so this was right up my ally.  I think I am going to show Chris McKee this article; his 495 experimental is attempting to be somewhat of an audio Kuleshov experiment, so this definitely applies.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cameraless Filmmaking Thus Far

First off, I have to start by saying that this has been a completely new experience for me.  I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and have been thinking about other opportunities to incorporate these techniques into my repertoire.  After taking History of the Avant-Garde with Dr. Kase, I was very curious about how exactly some of the films were made.  Of course, we discussed some of the techniques in that class, but I really wanted to get a hands-on appreciation for how difficult, or easy, some of the films would have been to make.  That being said, I must say that most of those films must have taken many many weeks if not months or years of constant work.  Now that I have worked in some of the ways that the filmmakers did, I have a serious appreciation for their craft and talent.  Most of all, I have gained a new appreciation for pre-visualization.  It is one things to sit down and begin to scratch film, but it is entirely different to scratch film in order to realize an abstract vision.  
Sequential animation of natural forms is logical; however, organic shapes and forms interacting with each other on a frame-by-frame basis is all together something much more intensive.  First, it seems there must be a solid vision or idea.  Then, you must be a skilled enough craftsmen to create that.  Anyone can animate a person walking from left to right if they take enough time.  The keyframe techniques we discussed last class allow for a concrete and mathematical formula to rigidly outline the art.  What though does it take to create something outside this formulaic realm?
This seems to be where the real craft comes into play.  Taking that into account, this whole experience has actually given me a new appreciation for narrative filmmaking pre-production.  Of course, I valued the time it took to sit down and draw overheads or storyboards.  But, taking this new concept of abstract implementation of formulaic practices seems like it could lead to promising new visualizations of storytelling in both the narrative and avant-garde realms.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Synesthesia and Cymatics

Synesthesia has always been fascinating to me.  In fact, my younger brother, a student at the University of Chicago, is actually trying to publish his first fictional novel which centers on a synesthetic victim of neurological trauma.  The creative implications of the synesthetic condition are quite interesting and open-ended.  Pertaining to the Wikipedia article, I found the concept of the "color organ" to be very intriguing.  Not only does it seem like a way to understand synesthesia better, but it also seems like it would be very useful in teaching people to play an instrument.  Instead of reading sheet music, you could simply assign colors to chords and play a horizontally oriented painting.  I might try that sometime.  This idea is similar to the binary composition of Peter Kubelka's Arnulf Rainer, in which the filmmaker alternates white noise and silence to a series of strobing white frames and black frames (we saw this in History of the Avant-garde with Dr. Kase).  The resulting viewing experience led me to begin to associate white noise with the white frames, since there was a clear rhythmic and visual association.

As for cymatics, this is utterly fascinating to me.  This sort of cross-referencing between seeing and hearing seems like it is a very promising area of research in terms of understanding more about human perception of sound.  Particularly, the relationship between sound and the visual image could be aided by cymatics.  We discussed this fairly extensively in Dr. Laudadio's Writing About Sound class, and I did my final senior seminar research paper (for my English major) on some psychological affectations of sound on basic moving images.

On a side note, below is a link to a video of some people engaging in a sort of cymatic-like experiment.  I found this a while ago because I like the band that one of these guys is in (they also run a company called Robot Repair which makes music for famous commercials).  But, when I found this, it made me happy to see they were artists too, not just commercial musicians.