Exercise: De-edit a sequence

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. 

 

Jurassic Park - Shots _244 (1)

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?

FRAME 

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.

 

Project 17

Choose a film with a nonlinear narrative.

  • Try to devise a diagram of the narrative structure that represents the relationship between the different time frames.
  • Upload your diagram and compare it with others.

This was more challenging than I first thought. I researched films with a non linear narrative so I knew what I was looking out for then scoured Netflix for such films. I started watching Total Recall a movie in which a man is plagued by nightmares (memories of his past) and as it’s a futuristic world chooses to have the memories of a spy implanted. Straight away I knew it wasn’t fitting the brief and opted for another movie. About Time, I had watched this only recently and it was fresh in my mind so reviewing it again I stared writing the diagram.

This wasn’t as easy as the diagrams drawn for liner narratives and I pondered over how to best represent the technique. In a flash of desperation I looked up at the sky asking for any idea and suddenly saw it, in the cloud positioning, the diagram I needed. I even took a photo (a few minutes after) as it sounded rather unlikely but here it is.

IMG_3298

With this diagram now clear in my mind I started work. About Time is a romantic, moving movie about a young man, Tim, who discovers that all the men in the family have the ability to travel back in time. His father warns him you can only travel back in your own memories. He decides to use this new found power to help him get a girlfriend. What ensues is a wonderful romp of a film as he falls in love, messes with time travel only to see they’d never met, stalk her until she relents and fall passionately in love. I love the premise of the movie and how in the end he decides never to use time travel again but instead make the most of every single day.

My diagram is below. It spilled over onto two pages. I structured his life in linear then all the corresponding arrows indicate him time travelling, As you can see it its quite tangled up

View from top left to right

 

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I had a look for other students portrayal of the non linear chart, however I didn’t find many. One person had found it too complicated and said they’d just decided to write the synopsis out. I am looking forward to seeing what my course mate Ashley does and will review it here.

Look for good examples of time being contracted or expanded.

    • Try to find at least one example of each technique listed above.
    • Try to identify a couple of examples of the same techniques being used in very different ways. Describe them and explain how they work. If possible upload examples.

Speed up the footage – in Jane the Virgin, Petra’s sister Aneska is typing out an email but struggling with the English. She types slowly and the narrator (who is very interactive) states that he can’t bear to watch this and the scene is speed up, it adds humour (something which this series focuses on) and moves the scene along rapidly.

Transitions – eg wipe, dissolve, dip to black (fade-in/fade-out).

In Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit the helicopter is hit by a missile. There is resounding panic and screaming then the scene fades to black opening up to the hospital scene. The scene then fades to a black swipe linking to the panning camera in the next scene. It conveys the time that has passed from the horrific attack and the contrast to the recovering room. Also it shows how the attack has affected him and how he must move on and struggle with the consequences and after effects of the explosion.

This is also used frequently in the Seven Samurai, for which Akira Kurosawa was famous for. And which George Lucas adopted for StarWars.

Jump cutting- Guardians of the Galaxy – the music starts up as the gang prepares for battle. The main character listening to music, the brief., Rocket preparing his weapons, military strategy. This continues for the duration of the song with the stereotypical but always effective hero walk in slow motion. It increases the energy, adds interest and makes what could have been a static scene have more atmosphere.

Cutaway – Used in Divergent in the scene when Christina is hurled over a chasm and left to cling on. She is rescued but the scene keeps cutting away from her hands slipping on the wet walkway and back to the reactions of her friends. This generates more drama and involves the viewer.

Empty frame – In the award winning movie, Paper Planes the scene when the Grandfather takes Dylan to the air museum the car is filmed driving along the road, filmed from the underside of a plane. The car drives into the edge of the frame before changing shots instead of showing the car parking. Again it adds more interest to a static scene and avoids wasting screen time.

Time Expansion – Slow motion–  Is there a more famous example of slow motion than the Matrix scene which revolutionised the action movie. Filmed not by a dolly but by positioning over twenty DSLR cameras together capturing a still from every angle and using computer technology to create the iconic scene. It shows how he has mastered his powers and is a thrilling scene to watch as he seems to almost control time.

Overlapping or repeating action  – Merlin – In the finale scene of the first episode the witch tries to kill Arthur. She throws the knife. Shot from the front, we see the knife flying through the air to Arthur who stares unable to move with shock. An extreme close up of Merlin’s eye glowing. Merlin staring in horror and running in slow motion. The knife from side on in slow motion spinning towards Arthur. A close of up of the knife spinning closer. Side shot, Merlin grabbing Arthur. Shot from the front. Slow motion still. Arthur being dragged away. The knife slamming into the empty chair.Using repeating action amps up the drama and reinforces the energy of the scene.

Write a short script extract for two scenes that connect different parts of the same day.• The transition should suggest what has occurred in between.

• Upload your script and ask other students to describe what they assume has happened in the intervening time.

• Is this what you intended?

I used Celtx to write the script, it was very enjoyable and I enjoyed telling the story using time.

I realised though after writing the Script that I had included a gap of ten years instead of the day so changed the ending.

Time Script First Edition   – Time Script Final Edition

 

Student comments

 

 

Project 16 – Other Narratives

Think of documentaries you have seen and try to identify which category the film falls into

Asking – The film maker goes into the project without preconceived ideas of the message or conclusion.

Telling – the film maker has a point to make or a message to convey

Pick a film from each category and try to draw a diagram of the narrative structure.

You may find there are multiple narrative strands. Can you identify the central narrative.

Telling – For this exercise I choose the beautiful Expository documentary ‘New Zealand Earths Mythical Islands’ the series episode was Wild Extremes.

Scan 40

I decided to design the diagram in a different way to the James Bond one. Instead I made a chronological list of each feature and a subject list, e.g. Wildlife, Botany, Geography. I also did a chart to monitor the pace of the documentary. As you can see it was rather calm with intermittent moments of drama but even tense moments were lightened by the narrators humour and you realised you weren’t going to see anything bad (Apart from the snails eating habits which I won’t go into as I can’t remove the image from my mind) Ironically the whole chart ended up looking like a diagram of the earths crust with mountains included.

This was clearly a telling documentary showing the viewer beautiful photography, the wildlife that lived there and stressing facts about each. The central narrative was clear, focusing on how animals, flora and people survive in some of the most extreme places of New Zealand. This was coupled by sub plots of how they raise a family in these conditions and the resourcefulness and evolution of these creatures such as the Blue duck family who’s home is the rapid and raging rivers of NewZealand.

Scan 41

For the scene to analyse I chose this beautiful one of Blue ducks learning to rage the rapids of their home for the first time. When you first watch it it’s a tense scene. The scene opens with drone shots of the river while the narrator informs you of the power and threat of the water. Just as you think this is going to be a narration of waterfalls he says ‘This is no place to bring up a family’ and a family of small Blue ducks swim into view. Immediately the scene is tense. This is reinforced by the close ups of the fluffy little ducklings looking so cute and innocent you can only feel dread. Mother duck leads the way and the ducklings gather nervously before taking the plunge into the waters.

Wide angle shots highlight the extreme contrast and defencelessness of the ducklings. The music is fairly light and expresses the emotion and energy well. Then the narrator says ‘it almost looks like fun,’ it’s a gentle expression but coupled with the sudden sound of a violin it sets your hair on end. The mother duck looks to the side and it is hauntingly reminiscent of the scene in Bambi where his mother stares to one side at the danger just before he loses her. Extreme close ups of the waterfall fill the frame and the diegetic sound overwhelms the music. “Sudden storms can cause flash floods. which can dislodge boulders let alone tiny balls of feathers.” As he finishes his statement the ducklings gather fearfully staring out of the frame nervously ready to jump into the rapids. Wide angles are used again. There is a moment where a wave seems to engulf the family but they surface as the narrator says,’their giant feet ungainly on land are perfect in the torrent’ The narrator has been playing with the viewer the entire time and as the scene comes to a close the music is triumphant. The ducklings power through the water scrambling onto a rock.

The narrator continues, “Their feet are perfect in the torrent, allowing this violent river to become…their playground.” The scene ends on a stunning wide aperture shot of one of the little ducklings drying their wings off, following the rule of thirds in stunning colour.

Asking

I found it quite hard to find a documentary that was asking something. I remembered this documentary we watched about the friendship between a man, Dean and a wild orphaned dolphin, JoJo aptly titled, My Dolphin and Me.

I watched it again charting the narration and realised that throughout there was the question of what was going to happen to JoJo. I needed to structure it in a different way so drew a rectangle and filled it in. Reading it from left to right it was put under categories. Meeting JoJO. The Danger from boats. Danger from humans. Fighting to protect her and finally the conclusion of the present. It was a really nice documentary, mixed up with home videos from Dean, re-constructions and footage of Dean speaking now. Also photos were used to tell the story.

Jojo - ChloeClik

The scene I chose was the one in which JoJo the dolphin crashed the dive lesson Dean was teaching. Again I structured it in a different way this time choosing to reference what type of shot each was. As there wasn’t enough footage from Dean to create a whole programme it was mixed up with photos, interviews and recreation videos and I have noted which is used and where. The notes are read from left to right.

The central narrative of this scene is clearly narrating the story of JoJo crashing the lesson but there are underlying messages such as wondering how things will turn out with a wild dolphin interacting with people and any repercussions. Every single scene adds something to the programme and in this case the final shot motivates the next story “But when his search for human interaction went beyond Dean and his students, Grace bay suddenly became a dangerous place.”

FullSizeRender

Compare your diagrams with the other students. Do you notice any patterns? 

ASHLEY – http://www.ashley.lauryssen-mitchell.com

Our charts both tend to follow the same pattern, we both use colour and wavy lines. We both describe each scene in chronological order but I didn’t use the Three Act structure which in hindsight I should have.

I followed the narration of the animal documentary listing each category and with My Dolphin and Me mapped the friendship between Dean and JoJo, the adversity and struggle to protect him and the conclusion.

I liked how Ashley wrote about the man Pat Campbell, how he was introduced and his thoughts and feelings towards BP

 

It’s really interesting to see how each diagram from each student differs so much. I would say looking at mine it represents the students character. I am very artistic, I love drawing and this reflects it. Also the way in which the story was written and the many stages.

Project 16 – Documentary Research

The last exercise was to do with following the structure of Hollywood type movies or those with a three act structure. This exercise focuses on documentaries. We seem to be having a documentary week in our family as there are a lot on TV at the moment so I found myself studying and analysing at ten at night. Bizzarely my mind seems to be quite active then so I made the most of it.

There are several types of documentaries the course tell us.

True life stories – these are documentaries which often include acted reconstructions of the event such as ‘Jane was walking to work when the tsunami struck’ then showing Jane looking alarmed with a voice over. They usually focus on human interest stories.

Investigative reports – such as the Horizon programmes looking into certain topics of all genres. For instance Are E-Cigarettes more harmful than standard cigarettes? There are examples of peoples stories, clinical trials, debates and in this example the presenter even tried E-Cigarettes for several weeks to see the repercussions on his body. There never really is a final outcome though. Such as in this where they didn’t really know the answer and would have to trial it for much longer. But these reports are very informative, fascinating and contain an abundance of information.

Observational Documentary – At first I wasn’t too sure as to what this type of documentary was. I found this quote though “Observational documentaries attempt to simply and spontaneously observe lived life with a minimum of intervention…The films aimed for immediacy, intimacy, and revelation of individual human character in ordinary life situations.”  This made me think of the documentary Child of our Time, a huge project following 25 children who were all born at the turn of the century from birth onwards. “The aim of the series is to build up a coherent and scientifically accurate picture of how the genes and the environment of growing children interact to make a fully formed adult” It’s a fascinating series and would be also described as both a telling and a showing documentary but mostly showing.

After reading the course I did some research to discover other types of documentary.

It turns out the concept of types of documentaries was formed by the American Theorist Bill Nichols who created six modes of documentaries.

Poetic. Observational.Participatory. Expository. Reflexive. Performative.

The Poetic Documentary

“Instead of using traditional linear continuity to create story structure, the poetic documentary filmmaker arrives at its point by arranging footage in an order to evoke an audience association through tone, rhythm, or spatial juxtaposition.”

Poetic documentaries are usually those that have some importance to the presenter, film makers or characters.

As the name suggests, they are rather poetic creations, the photography is artistic and creative and music is used to enhance mood and emotion. There is no continuity editing. I didn’t know there was a name for this type of documentary so admit it took a bit of time watching some to determine their main features. I would say they are the equivalent of a song in film terms, showing an insight into the world in beautiful imagery and rhymic quality, there is no linear narrative but songs and poems can be used to enhance feelings.

attempt to create a feeling rather than a truth.

Observational documentaries.

These are the atypical, fly on the wall where the filmmakers react to the moment without prior planning or preparation. It often feels exactly like a fly on the wall that takes off buzzing judging by the shaky footage in scenes of motion. The viewer can feel the energy of the scene. Used in programmes such as Catfish, Big Brother and in a spin off type, The Only Way is Essex.

However it is also used in more intelligent documentaries such as nature programmes, though I wouldn’t call it unscripted, filmmakers must react to their current situation which is why it is in this category.

Participatory

A documentary where the film maker engages directly with the interviewee. It feels more raw and less scripted.

Expository

Probably one of the most common documentary devices. and when one thinks of a documentary it usually is this format. The viewer is given information and the footage proves this. The viewer can form their own opinion but as the narrator is already doing this it is more often that not one to relax with.

It uses photos, films and objects  to document true life events such as in Coast. Some feel however that they only present one version of the truth and often one sided.

Reflexive

The film maker engages with their subjects in this type of documentary thus paving the way for the narrative.. It can be seen as a making of, a behind the scenes. In Nature documentaries it is now common to include ten minutes or so of how a certain part of the documentary was filmed. It provides an insight for behind the scenes and how it was filmed.

A powerful example is Stories We Tell  https://www.nfb.ca/film/stories_we_tell/trailer/stories_we_tell_trailer12/

Performative 

Where the film maker is the main character. My friend Patrick Corr’s movies could be classed in this mode. The film maker directly engages with the viewer and you are shown a glimpse into their world whether they are climbing a mountain or exploring incredible new worlds.

It was really fascinating investigating into all the different modes of documentary. It took quite a while to watch the videos and get a feeling of what it takes but I’m glad I did.

 

 

 

Project 15 – Narrative Structure

As you watch films, pay attention to the narrative structure. Try and identify if the film conforms to a three act structure.

If it does, can you pinpoint the beginning of Acts 2 and 3?

Can you identify any other narrative structures? Try to sketch out a diagram of the structure of the film.

In Part four we are learning about how a narrative is constructed. While not every story conforms to these rules, in general, all movies echo this structure.

Act One – this is where we are introduced to the characters and the story. Everything is usually calm until

Act Two – where the protagonists world is flipped upside down and they battle through until

Act Three – where everything is resolved (unless it is a sequel or one of those movies that like to leave the viewer hanging with unanswered questions in their heads.

As a writer, this type of exercise really appeals to me so it was to my great pleasure that I spent the morning re-watching my favourite movie, The Living Daylights. Of all the Bond movies this is my favourite, there isn’t gratuitous violence, the plot is twisting and hard to grasp hold of, the action comes thick and fast, it’s sprinkled with humor, Timothy Dalton plays Bond as Ian Flemming envisaged him in the books and importantly the romance aspect of it is not just based on using sex as a means to get answers. It’s romantic and sweet and you can see that James Bond really cares for Kara. There isn’t even any sexual content which I think was important for this. James Bond is someone you genuinely like in this movie.

Below is my analysis of the movie, I think it is probably too detailed but the plot is hopefully clear. I’ve used a graph to mark the pace of the movie, the blue is gentle and general discourse while the red denotes the action scene. The red and orange are the most extreme action scenes.

Scan 39Scan 38

I did find it hard to determine the beginning of Act Two. It felt like it came in almost immediately. There was brief calmness before we were hurtled into the murder of the OO agent, the car chase and explosion. However, it could also be said that Act Two started when the British Intelligence help Koskov defect. The more I look at movies the more I think that there is almost another act, for a Disney example in Finding Nemo the beginning starts where Marlin and his wife the clownfish and waiting for their children to hatch when they are eaten and Marlin’s wife is killed, thus sealing Marlin’s character. However, it could be said that Act Two begins when Nemo disobeys his father, goes into the open sea and is captured by the scuba diving dentist. However the start could just be named the Prologue, as with James Bond or just as it’s named, the Cold Open ensuring the viewer is glued to the screen and unable to stop watching.

The start of Act three though was again difficult to pinpoint. Was it when they escaped all the explosions and drove off in the car. Or perhaps more likely when the arms dealer was killed and Kara was playing in the orchestra.

Part Four

And I am onto Part Four. Can’t believe the course is almost over, I just love making movies so much, every single day is filled with so much fun and interest I feel so happy doing this course. But nothing lasts forever and I’m sure this next part will not be the easiest. I am thinking ahead for the documentary and have lots of ideas. At first, I was thinking I would film it at the local zoo but then I remembered how I am ill every time I go there so decided to choose a place I could go to frequently. So at present I’ve chosen Lytham seafront, it’s a nice stretch of green grass, a simple promenade and sea views. But what I really want to focus on are the people, the stories played out there every day. I already know that I want to show it dawn until dusk.

Below are some ideas I have for it.

  • Starting with a sunrise over the sea. Gentle imagery. Try and get earlier and watch the murmuration of starlings. Should be a nice opening.
  • Dogs fill the promenade. On a trip there the other day I came across more than ten dogs in five minutes.   Narration – “There’s something in the air. The pound of excited paws, yawning owners and a volley of barks fill the misty air. William Tell esque music and paws start bounding across the prom. Wet noses. Will take my friends dog there early morning. Tracking shot in mobility scooter racing dog in it.

I will fill in more ideas as I think about it.