Evaluative questions: 2, How does your media product represent particular social groups?

Our 2 minute opening clip was intended to portray the holding room for a group of young male captives who were to be sold in the UK for labour, sexual, and other exploitative purposes. The captives are white ambiguous Europeans.

Both actors in our 2 minute clip are white, English, and are from soundly affluent backgrounds. This is how we transformed them into neglected and malnourished slaves for the shooting.

Categorising the appearance human traffic in order to present them accurately.

Taken from the Hope Revolution webpage (http://www.hope-revolution.com/Articles/87689/Hope_Revolution/Change_My_World/TEARFUND_HUMAN_TRAFFIC.aspx)is the passage…

“How human trafficking takes place varies with each case, but there are certain similarities that draw many of the stories together. Often it starts…with people made vulnerable by poverty being deliberately misled. They are promised easy, safe work with decent pay, yet what they end up with is horribly different. At other times people are simply taken by force, against their will, to the country in which their vulnerability is exploited. Alone, illegal and impoverished, many people who have been trafficked feel as if they have no option but to keep quiet and put up with the torment of a life of slavery.”

From this we can tag our characters to appear: “impoverished”, “vulnerable”, “exploited”, “alone”, “quiet” and “tormented”.

“Impoverished” was represented in our clip by them being held in a dark room with only a mattress to sleep on, and a bowl to eat and drink from. They also wore no clothes whereas wealthier labourers would wear clothes. (Also technically the traffic are not given clothes so they cannot conceal objects to aid escape/harm the traffickers/themselves.) The nudity and laying positions of the actors establish their “vulnerability”, dejection and despondency; and the handcuffs make them appear “exploited”. The bowed heads and incommunication between the two captives in the scene impresses a sense of lonesomeness and “quiet”. And the quick edit cuts from 1.16 – 1.26 show a sense of fear and “torment”.

We have visually constructed the description of this social group from what the Hope Revolution’s webpage informed us.

Questionnaire

In our questionnaire we asked the question –

What social group do you think is being portrayed in this opening clip?

White, affluent British? Abused minors with ambiguous nationality? Young offenders in government custody?

If people were to choose White, affluent British – the actual social group of the actors – then we had obviously not planted enough Mise en Scene and/or anchored our imagery to portray what we wanted. If people were to choose Abused minors with ambiguous nationality then we had succeeded in portraying the slaves in the film. If people chose Young offenders in government custody, then we had successfully shown that they were captives but the imagery would not have been execrable enough to show that they were in fact abused slaves rather than prisoners of Her Majesty.

Out of the 24 people we asked, all of them said we had portrayed Abused minors of ambiguous nationality. Obviously then, the steps we took to show the prisoners as “impoverished”, “vulnerable”, “exploited”, “alone”, “quiet” and “tormented” has successfully represented our desired social group.

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Evaluative Questions: 1, In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?

In the creation of our media product, our group had two main real media points of reference for the opening two minutes of films.

Harry Brown by Daniel Barber.

Hunger by Steve Mcqueen.

Both these films held the same kind of visual brutality we were aiming to create, and their title sequences were contrastingly simple and blunt compared to their actual footage. This was also what we intended to achieve because the calm of the credits emphasizes the distress in the actual footage.

Harry Brown

Here is an opening clip from this movie:

Following the uproar and fast paced moving shots of the high-speed motorcycle sequence, the credits appear on screen very slowly in white writing over a black background, and in complete silence. The quietude of the credits emphasize the velocity of the action. Though our clip does not have fast pace footage to compare to the quiet credits, we have produced fast paced edit cuts like the hands-in-handcuffs shots at (1.15 – 1.18) and the eye shots at (1.19 – 1.26), and our credits are all stills with a slight flickering in the letters; we have emphasized the strength and pace of the action in the footage by being simplistic and visually quiet in the credits like in Harry Brown. Also the colour scheme we have used in our clip is very similar to the one being used here. So, visually, our credits conform to a real media product’s title sequence.

Hunger

Here is an image from the movie which was very important to us in terms of a visual starting point:

As one can see here imagery is dark and stagnant. Nothing appears bright or clean. The man is stubbled, his hair tousled, and he is semi nude. He sits on a dilapidated mattress in a dingy room. Cast about the room are various bits of paper. In our footage, imagery is dark and nothing is shown to be very clean. We also use run-down mattresses and have paper strewn across the room. Visually, the scene of our holding cell conforms to Mcqueen’s depiction of a cell in Hunger.

The visual brutality in Hunger is on par to match what we intend to show if we were to make the whole film, and the title sequence is very similar. The title sequence here is also very simple like in Harry Brown, and the music is…. MUSIC

The treatment to our movie bears a likeness, in some ways, to the real movie Eastern Promises  by David Cronenberg.

Eastern Promises is a London-set, Russian gangster movie and its plot, like Honey’s, heavily involves themes such as organised crime; human trafficking (more specifically sex trafficking and prostitution in this film); drugs; and graphic scenes of violence. The same setting and the same themes in Honey and Eastern Promises leads to the clarification that Honey has a storyline similar to a real, successful media product.

 
Our feed-back questionnaire on this question
Our questionnaire was designed to give us other people’s answers on our evaluation questions. The questions concerning Evaluative Question 1 are as follows:
What genre would you label our film as?

A) Comedy

B) Horror

C) Thriller

D) Action/Adventure

E) Other

and

From a technical and stylistic view-point does our film portray itself as more of the beginning of a feature length film, or the beginning to a television programme?


In my post named “Planning” I state that we are attempting to anchor our 2 minute footage to the Thriller genre. The statistics pertaining to the first questions are as follows: Out of the people we asked 0% said they thought our film was a Comedy;  54% said they thought our film was a Horror; 46% said they thought our film was a Thriller; 0% said they thought it was an Action/Adventure; and 0% said they thought it was another category. We asked 24 people.


So almost half the people we asked agreed that the genre was clearly established in this 2 minute piece. This shows that we have effectively created a mood which is obviously serious. There is no Comedy or Action/Adventure evident in our footage. It is easy for one to see why people chose the Horror rather than the desired Thriller option considering we deliberately engineered the clip to scare the audience. The imagery was dark and disturbing, and the music married into this theme well. But although it was scary it was still supposed to be a Thriller. This only shows an audience reaction to a two minute opening which was supposed to be scary though. So we achieved scaring the audience but in doing this sacrificed the distinguishing of the exact genre.

Obviously we aimed for our footage to represent the beginning of a film rather than a TV series. The statistics pertaining to Question 2 were as follows: 0% of the people we asked said our footage looked like the opening of a TV programme, and 100% said it looked like a movie. We also asked 24 people here.

Obviously we have completely succeeded in establishing the notion of film in our footage rather than the notion of television. The statistics show that we have successfully conformed to a real media product.

We summarised the comments people wrote on the back of our questionnaires in this paragraph below. I wrote this to be a fair, objective, and impartial summary of comments, making sure to include every negative and positive point which was made.

Through the collation of comments left on our survey for Honey, the positive feedback we received summarised to say: the effects that we used to optimise the efficiency of colours, sound and imagery built tension and were mostly visually and aurally coherent (however, one individual thought it was perhaps over-edited, and another thought the coloured shots of the hands and the eyes detracted from the overall desired dull aesthetic); 100% of people asked stated that the order of the shots, actual footage and pace of the two minutes portrayed a definitive film genre; 100% of people also stated that Honey‘s representation of a particular social group – abused minors with ambiguous nationality – was completely evident; our created set was commented to be “authentic”; suggestions were made to condense the ident to a few seconds rather than ten seconds (but, our research showed that generally idents are around 10-13 seconds in duration); and although the emotive response was definite – unhinging and disorientedthe distinction between Horror genre and Thriller genre was not, perhaps due to a complete lack of plot. We had many comments saying tension was very well built throughout the piece and no majorly negative comment was made.”

From our comments then one can see that it was ambiguous as to being a Horror or a Thriller but the notion of a film was definitely created and a mood was also definitely created.

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Honey. The Final Cut.

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Editing diary

So we reached the post-production stage – editing. We imported our video files onto the iMac at school and put them onto Final Cut editing software.

Our editing took us around 2 weeks and we worked things in this order:

1. Firstly we had to look through the 40 minutes worth of footage and carefully note down what shots we wanted in our 2 minute production. This was the longest stage of the process.

1a) We had to find about 40 seconds worth of artistic and teasing shots which look so obscure the audience would not know what they were looking at.
1b) We had to then find 40 seconds worth of establishing shots of the holding cell which allow the viewer to see that the footage is set in a dark, prison-like place.
1c) We then had to find 40 seconds worth of shots of the prisoners in handcuffs sitting against the walls of the prison and laying down which would then clearly show to the audience the nature of the footage. In having the shots displayed in this order there is clearly a climax to the footage – the viewer is unsure what s/he is seeing, then the viewer is given an idea, and then the viewer clearly sees what is going on and then it ends.

2. We then had to cut up the footage and put them in the correct order and trim them so the timing was precise. We also had to add colour effects to the flashing strobe parts as well as dreamy effects to the extreme close-up of Henry’s eye which jumps forward and to the sides.

3. We then had to put in the credits.

1a) We decided when exactly each credit would come up (this involved going into milliseconds).
1b) We then looked at fonts and decided that our credits would be similar to Barber’s Harry Brown in its simplistic style which would heavily contrast the action going on stage.
1c) Make the credits on LiveType and implement them over the top of the footage in the right times.

4. Harry is in a band and likes his music and opted to make a soundtrack which would marry the footage so I gave him a detailed timetable of where the credits came in so he could put in the sound of a thud whenever a credit came in.

 

1

Here is some footage we took on set.

 

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYKu4QsC%5D

As one can well see, the footage is predominantly useless and runs on for a long time with only a few moments we can use in the film. This footage is …. long and we only used ….. in our final footage. This was common practice for us to trawl through all the footage and note down exactly what seconds of each footage we wanted to use. Whereas I lacked in skills of manually operating the software, I was more than proactive in planning exactly what shots went where and selecting the order in which the shots came. This gave a detailed structure to the footage.

Here is an example of the artistic and obscure shots we wanted for the first 40 seconds –


 

Here is an example of the establishing shots we wanted for the second 40 seconds –


Here is an example of the establishing shots with the actors which we wanted for the third 40 seconds –


2

After planning the order which the shots were to come we cut them up and timed them which was a simple process on Final Cut. The more complex process was the colour transition between shots. Like I stated in the planning, the lighting for Honey is very unique and took a long time to get right (we had to use the reflector and a floodlight facing away from the set), therefore a lot of the shots are lit up different because the lighting is always wavering and changing. This made the editing blatant and did not have a professional seamlessness you see on real productions. To fix this problem we used a quick colour transition effect on Final Cut which drained the colour of a shot very rapidly until it was black and equally as rapidly filled it again with the brightness of the next shot. This way each shot slid into each other without having some shots extremely brighter or darker than the other. This visual effect we used was called “Dip to colour dissolve” under Transitions.

The shots where Henry flashes in various different colours meant that we had to alter the colour scheme of the shot. We did this using “Chroma keyer” effect.

This allowed us to play around with the colour from the dull greyness of the cell to a lucid dream-like progression. Our finished flashing shots looked like this…

and this…

3

We researched into how many credits we wanted to have and in what order. After deciding we drew out how we wanted them to look (simplistic).

The different titles are displayed on different sides of the screen for variation (variation is the splice of life!). Honey takes up the whole width of the screen to signify importance.

We had to choose moments in the footage where the background was light because the credit was just a black screen with a stencil cut out of the letters with the action going in the background – you could see the footage through the letters. We chose to keep the titles simple because the film is supposed to be realistic and so we decided fantasy-esque credits would be inappropriate.

Here is an example of one of the credits (one can see its complete simplicity):

4

We all agreed that the non-diegetic soundtrack had to act in a sort of narrative that strung all the shots together. They needed to marry with the credits and footage well. We matched up the obscure and revolting footage of the prison-like room with an atonal and arhythmic soundtrack which would act only to be ambient and atmospheric but presenting a pulse beat every time a credit was shown.

The non-diegetic soundtrack was created off GarageBand off purely synth and electronically produced sounds, however there are samples of diegetic coughing featuring in the track which was a real cough recorded off a mic. The diegetic dog’s bark was electronically produced also. 

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Shooting Diary

This is an example of the width of the garage we were shooting in:


This is an example of the length of the garage (and where I stand is where the room ends):

 

This visual representations of the space we had to shoot in gives one a clearer idea of how little said space we had. However, although space was not exactly capacious we only shot in one corner of the garage, which is all we needed, and the lighting and cameras fitted well into the adjacent corner. Here is a picture of the set before creation:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is during:

And here is our completed set:

Whilst we were preparing to shoot, an old friend – Steve (above left) – promised us he’d visit our set since he was holidaying in the UK (up at a hotel in Norfolk). He only stayed for a while but said “A lot of the films I’ve made probably could have worked just as well 50 years ago, and that’s just because I have a lot of old-fashion values.” After that he said “Stevey phone home.“, and then he left. 

We had the set completed half an hour before we were to meet the actor – Henry Saker Clarke – down the road at the supermarket. Our actions were time-conscious but not rushed. We were able to build the set with the desired quality as well as being swift enough to meet Henry at the agreed time; we stayed on top of things because we all new the time constraints and what needed to be done at what time.

12.30 to 2pm = Building the set.

– 2pm to 2.30 = Meeting actor and running through basic instructions.

– 2.30 to 3pm = Shooting obscure, teasing shots which wouldn’t fully allow the viewer to fathom what was being shown.

– 3pm to 3.20 = Shooting the set without Harry and Henry. These are panning shots which allow the viewer to know that the shot is of a dark and dilapidated room.

– 3.20 to 3.45 = Shooting the set with the actors present. This included a variety of panning shots, pull focuses, and dolly shots which was now fully explicit and allowed the viewer to completely see what is in the room. These are the climatic shots.


12.30 to 2pm

After clearing the garage we took two mattresses from my house and walked them to Andy’s and set them up according to the Location Plan (see post named “Planning”). We took tissues too. We scrunched them up and placed them around the set to appear like these were perhaps the captives’ only washing utilities. We brought with us the metal bowls noted in our prop list as well, and placed them next to the mattresses like they are the captives’ water holder. (This is a direct reference to the captives being treated subhumanly.) We changed the concoction for our fake vomit; instead we used a mix of rice pudding and red wine; this we placed on the floor near to the corner mattress. We took with us the handcuffs too which we obtained from my father whom is a police officer. (These, on inspection, were rusted steel and archaic compared to handcuffs of today. They were neglected antiques of my father but were the only pair he was permitted to issue us with. So this prop is contextually incorrect and not an appropriate version of suitably contemporary handcuffs. In editing we only showed the handcuffs in the darkest shots making them indistinguishable and appear only as generic metal handcuffs.)
We then set up the lighting tripod and the camera tripod; we accordingly adjusted them until they were facing how we wanted them. Then we rushed to Budgens supermarket on foot to rendezvouz with Henry Saker Clarke, our actor.

2pm – 2.30

We agreed to meet Henry at Budgens because it is a well known locale, and thus the chances of his parents/driver getting lost trying to find us are greatly minimised. This decision was made because, in doing this, the event of them spending time to find Andy’s house wasn’t applicable and so our schedule was still on track. We told Henry what we wanted to create in our opening 2 minutes; visually, stylistically, and artistically, and we helped him to understand what we needed from him. Henry is all skin and bones, and holds the perfect physique for a malnourished young man! Considering most of his shots were semi-nude we instructed him to bring a dressing gown for warmth between cuts. The last thing we wanted was poor old Henry getting a cold! After we felt the on-set of coldness in the garage we took a transportable radiator from Andy’s inner sanctum and fired it up in the garage behind the camera.

2.30 – 3pm

These shots did not involve the actors. We took extreme close-ups of various props – the water bowl, the mattresses etc. Andy took the manual pull focus shots here whilst I operated the lighting and used the reflector. Because the shots we were taken here were not designed to fully show the viewer the scene we only used close-ups and didn’t use the dolly at this point.

3pm – 3.20

We took panning shots of the rooms here and finally used the dolly. These were wide, establishing shots which we planned to edit in after the teasing shots we shot before this. The panning shots were good and smooth but quite bland but we made these more interesting by using the reflector to light up wherever the camera was facing. This maintained the candle-light, eerie feel. The dolly shots were dynamic and very pleasing but the only problem was that the floor of the garage was not completely smooth and meant there were some bumps in the footage. We edited these out later though.

3.30 – 3.45

We repeated all the panning and dolly shots this time with the actors on set. We then did a zoom shot of Henry in handcuffs for variety although we were advised to use a dolly rather than a zoom for focus reasons. We also took an extreme closeup of his cuffed hands and operated the light so it flashed at random intervals. Later we edited these shots with a blend of colours to give a surreal effect. We did some more extreme closeups of the actors body. Some of these shots were pull focuses. These obscure, extrem close ups of the actors would be eloped into the teasing shots we took between 2.30 and 3pm in the editing. We finished with one long dolly shot of the entire set with the actors present.

3.45 – 4pm

Henry headed off home and we cleared up the set.

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Equipment For Shooting

Camera

The camera we are using is the Canon Legria FS306. From first impressions, it is not large and cumbrous but of a fitting size to be hand-held or set upon a tripod. It is also lightweight. which produces good quality footage.  The Canon website gives the specifications on the item:

http://www.canon.co.uk/For_Home/Product_Finder/Camcorders/flash_memory/LEGRIA_FS306/

– “The LEGRIA FS306 records movies straight to SD or SDHC memory cards – easy to carry and ideal for sharing.” – Considering our editing is all occurring on an iMac, this feature is useful because we can just put the memory card into the iMac and begin editing immediately; rather than enduring an oblique process of converting our footage to specific file types.


– “Letting you get closer to all of the action, the DIGIC DV II processor combines with the optical precision of a genuine Canon Video Lens to deliver the reach of a 41x Advanced Zoom.” Our piece revolves around extreme close-ups, much panning, and zoom shots; therefore the camera’s capability of precise zooming is much needed in our production.

– “Shoot for up to 3.5 hours on a single charge. The intelligent battery displays remaining charge in minutes. When you do need to replenish, it takes just 20 minutes to recharge for an hour’s recording.” – All filming is going to take place in a garage therefore the camera will need to be fully charged to operate throughout the entire filming process. We have only borrowed the camera from the school and estimate to have it from wednesday to monday, but only shoot for about 2 hours. This camera is capable of operating effectively for 2 hours, therefore we have avoided time-wasting on having to stop to charge.

– “Record steadier footage, even when you’re moving. The LEGRIA FS306 features an Image Stabilizer with a new Dynamic mode, which compensates for a wider range of camera shake.” – The image stabilising feature is important for our piece because there is a large amount of panning to shoot because the footage is purely scene establishment. Without shaking camera movement, the footage will look less homemade and more professional. There is many panning shots using a wheeling dolly so an image stabiliser would be invaluable.

– “Dual Shot sets all controls to automatic, making the camcorder really easy to use. You can shoot high quality video and photos, without the bother of switching between settings on the Control Dial.” – A pre-setting to the camera mitigates the chances of us not fully understanding its operating.

– “Record stunning, panoramic widescreen movies in true 16:9. Monitor your video footage the way it appears on a widescreen TV via the 6.7cm (2.7″) 16:9 LCD.” – The size of our footage is large enough to express detail but not too large to ruin quality. A useful feature to present a more attractive piece.



Floodlight

Obviously in a shut-up garage the lighting was non-existence, so we are taking with us a floodlight. We needed a flash feature, as well as a straight continuous flood of light.


The light we are taking has both and the controls are easy to use.



Tripod

We need two tripods to situate our camera on and our floodlight on. This way the light will always be facing in the way we want it and is not exposed to be changed through gentle knocks; and the camera will be facing the way we have manipulated it to be. Also there is no shaking image from the unfixed camera unless we have deliberately made it shake to indicate an inexactitude in the prisoners’ sight and consciousness. The specs on the tripods are that they have to be adjustable for height and rotation because we are shooting two boys laying supine on mattresses from a position of height (to indicate an inferiority of the prisoners) and we need the camera to rotate horizontally to pan the scene in several shots. The tripods we are taking have these specifications. A picture is below attached to the dolly.


Dolly

We are using a dolly: a tripod with wheels. We are not taking a track which might be an issue considering the garage floor is uneven but we cannot obtain one. We are having a shot where the camera traverses the room and establishes the whole scene; for this we need the dolly.


Reflector

An important part of our footage is the lighting. If we had no lights and tried to shoot, then our footage would be too dark and images would be indiscernible. If we had the lights on or we had torches/other lighting equipment shone on the set, then the effect we wanted (to create obscure shadows and partially light the set in a flickering manner of which could even disorientate the viewer) would be lost – the set would be too brightly lit. To overcome this issue we obtained a reflector.

It looks like this:



To create the flickering effect we would shine the floodlight onto the reflector which would be situated off shot; the reflector would be angled to reflect the light back onto shot; and a person is needed to hold the reflector to make the angling correct, and this person gently shakes/wobbles the reflector. This effect is in place to resemble the prisoners’ inexactitude of sight and consciousness.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=4421836&dest=-1]

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Media at Lincoln University

And now a momentary break from the 2 minute constructive assignment.

 

AS and A2 QEGS Media took a day trip to Lincoln University as prospective students to look at the Media facilities and envisage what the Lincoln’s Media course had to offer. Whilst we were there we engaged in a variety of activites which involved the learning and application of media production skills.

– We made a 5 minute game show.

– We broadcasted a 5 minute slot on Siren FM.

 

Gameshow – LIAR’S BAR

LIAR’S BAR is an exercise the media students complete within their first couple of weeks at Lincoln. It is a paradigmatic gameshow involving a game host questioning three guests whom each present a verisimilitudinous anecdote all with a similar theme. He then decides which two are lying and which is telling the truth.

I played the role of one of the guests. And…ha…the anecdote was actually true. Unfortunately this meant I didn’t have a production role in the exercise but I did learn that timing is crucial in gameshow production. In our first run-through the timings of the diegetic theme tune was off. And in the second run-through the timings of the lighting was off. This video is of our second and final attempt. A team of around twenty of us put this together in under forty five minutes.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=4295069&dest=-1]

Radio Broadcast – Siren FM’s “The QEGS Takeover”

We made a 5 minute broadcast on who we were, why we were at the univeristy, and what we had been up to.

We were split into three groups. One group was to write the introduction to the slot, one was to interview each other on what we thought of the university and what we had been up to, and the other group was to make the jingle.

I was in the group who took the interviews and opted to be the interviewer. I didn’t operate the recording device, but learnt in my part to speak fluently and confidently for the broadcast. I also learnt to make the dialogue attractive: humorous, flowing, and vivid. This was to create more interest for the listener rather than black and white interviewing Q and A style. This helped me understand that mediating information can be more effective and more profound if it is made attractive.

The same concept arose in my mind when making LIAR’S BAR too. The presence of a theme tune was not just a unique indicator for the show, it was also catchy. The lighting was bright, dialogue was also attractive in LIAR’S BAR. If the production at the beginning had been slicker, the whole exercise would have proven my point that attractive media can be the most understandable – the attraction procures interest, interest leads to understanding.

I realise that this is what I should have implemented into my pitch in order to make it as successful as possible. I must remember this concept for when we edit our footage in the constructive assignment.

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