Choose any scene from a film or TV programme. Load this into your editing package.
I was slightly concerned starting this exercise due to copyright issues and I noted that some of my course mates had the same problem so for that reason I have uploaded the finished video into a separate file instead of uploading it to Vimeo.
Here is my finished exercise as a file in Dropbox.
I chose the scene from Jurassic Park in which the T-Rex escaped it’s paddock. While watching it I wasn’t sure what I would do to cut it down to the minimum as the scene is fantastically created, each cut works well in amping up the drama.
Watch the scene a couple of times, try to identify if there is any particular rhythm to the speed of the cuts. Does this change as the scene progresses? Is the rhythm suggested by action – dictating how the cuts should be made, or is it created by the cuts themselves? Cut the scene up into each of the individual shots.
Around 30 shots. Varying in length. Characters reactions filmed throughout.
In the beginning T-Rex has more screen time. The children are arguing in a frenzy trying to turn the torch on . Shot of the T-Rex looking down. Pause in the arguing as they stare up at the T-Rex, it gives a rat sudden break then the T-Rex lurches it’s head through the roof of the car.
I decided to experiment. For every change of shot I played a chord on the piano holding it for as long as the shot was. Listening back I could literally hear the pattern of the screen shots.
Excuse the heavy breathing. I tried it first with humming and had an asthma attack.
I would have thought there would be more shots than there were to create action but the action was based on fear and most of the shots were fairly long. In contrast the scene in Quantum of Solace was so fast paced your eyes couldn’t focus. It shows how nowadays some directors think we need it fast to be dramatic but looking back at an icon such as Jurassic Park proves otherwise.
When the T-Rex attacked it was fast paced but mostly each scene was fairly equal in length. Apart from lengthy ones. At the finale especially scenes were slower. Giving the viewer time to take things in. Creating contrasting scenes.
I used Collage Maker to create the following collage.
Look closely at each shot. List the elements of composition within the shot and try to think what purpose each element serves. What effect does it have? Identify the motivation/justification for each element. Identify the motivation for each cut. Could you have cut any earlier in the shot?
One – Side shot. T-Rex. Shows contrast car and T-Rex. Fear. The children are in the car. Motivates the change…
Two and Three – to their reactions
Four – Side shot. T-Rex pushes the car.
Five – Camera pans as Tim scrambles into back of seat. They struggle to turn off the torch that is luring the T-Rex in .
Six – High angle shot. Children oblivious as T-Rex stares down. Vulnerability.
Seven – High angle. Children look up. Silence.
Eight – T-Rex smashes head through roof. The glass breaks. Side shot illustrates this. Screaming. Sudden. Unexpected.
Nine – Subjective view. Small hands on glass with T-Rex trying to kill them. Highlights how weak they are in comparison. Feels like they won’t escape.
Ten – Digital zoom or dolly zoom? Camera thrust down at children. T-Rex subjective view.
Eleven – Fourteen- Repeating side shots, repeated hand shots. Blurred close ups of children screaming. T-Rex’s eye huge and fierce.
Fifteen – Pan down from T-Rex to children screaming. This shot is repeated several times later. Familiarity though intensifies the fear as their predicament gets worse as they are pushed down into the mud. Sets the scene
Sixteen – Close up of Tim screaming.
Seventeen – Pan. Shows Grant in the car staring in horror. Pans to Ian who clears condensation off the window so he can see clearly. Motivates scene t
Eighteen – Side shot of T-Rex. Now viewed from the angle of the car. T-Rex flips car over.
Nineteen – Car flips over completely. Children screaming.
Twenty – Close up of Grants reaction.
Twenty One – Side shot. T-Rex guts car. Screaming.
Twenty Two – Close up of Ian.
Twenty Three – Pan down again. T-Rex to children who are being pushed under mud by the weight of the T-Rex on the car.
Twenty Four – Pan as Grant searches through suitcase to get the flares.
Twenty Five – T-Rex shrieks. Pan down again to children. Sinking further under the mud.
Twenty Six – twenty seven – Close up of Tim and Lex screaming.
Twenty Eight – Grant leaps out of car waving flare to distract the T-Rex
Twenty Nine – Close up. The T-Rex looks up and roars. Attention away from the children.
Thirty – Steps back in fear. He is in trouble now.
Very interesting to see the repetition of shots to reinforce the predicament. I read that in writing you should always make things be really bad but then make it worse. If your characters a trapped in a room make it worse and fill it up with water, add a crocodile. Make it so bad until you think there’s no hope. And that is the same concept with this, the T-Rex is bad enough but then to almost drown in the mud, quite literally out of the frying pan and into the fire. It keeps the viewers interest and ensures they keep watching.
Try to cut each shot down to the absolute bare minimum.
Reconnect your shots and see how short you can make the sequence without losing its meaning.
I was worried as to whether I would lose the energy of the scene but feel I have captured it. I cut each shot down, removing repeating shots as aforementioned. I especially like the shot where it shows the T-rex then Grant then the T-Rex, Ian’s reaction and finally the T-Rex again. I feel it captures how they would be feeling.
Upload your finished sequence and invite comments.
Here is the finished clip as a file in dropbox
• Does your sequence still convey the meaning you intended? • How does it feel? Has it changed? Why?
• Has the feeling affected the meaning?
The sequence still captures the intense drama feeling. The fast paced scenes build up energy. I think it would work as part of an action sequence but feel the slower shots of the original give the viewer time to stare holding their breath before being hurled into it once more. I repeated one scene to make it even more horrifying. I let it end on the final slow scene of the T-Rex shrieking to capture that nostalgic moment that can’t be replaced.