Liminality: Final Project

For my final project I a video essay that worked with elements of montage and compositing. The word “liminality” has always been something I come back towards. When writing papers in media studies and in general education classes, it was a concept that I revisited in a variety of contexts to help me understand the human condition. It’s a topic I can talk about at length, both in its sociological/anthropological concept and societal necessity as well as its mythopoetic context as an extension of the chthonic underworld and life-death cycles that are abundantly symbolic in world mythology. It often acts as a precursor that alerts me that what I’m about to read will be of interest to me. As such, I thought such a broadly used word would make a great topic for a meandering video essay done in a stream-of-consciousness manner. Some shots have elements more of motion graphics or kinetic typography, abstract imagery that doesn’t imply any causality or cinematic space. Other shots are used independently, clips of stock video and out of context footage. My voice appears with text or with video of myself. This all bleeds together defying attempts to construct a narrative space and leaving the audience with only the ideas, a liminal space in itself. And as liminality is by definition an unresolved state, I left the video on a hanging note, intentionally making it feel incomplete and unresolved.

Nicole Davis Loop Assignments

Continuity Loop

For my Continuity Loop, I decided to do something simple, so I made a bowl of cereal. I mainly focused on the cereal itself, never moving the frame from the bow. I used extreme close-up and close-up shots to show the main focus of the scene, which is making the bowl of cereal. I also made this loop an infinite loop through the opening and closing of the cabinet door to get the bowl for the cereal.

Montage Loop

For my Montage, I wanted to make a funny and fast-paced scene of picking out a movie for movie night and starting the movie. I used multiple different angles of the room and close-ups of actions used to play and choose which DVD we were going to watch. I used some scenes and exaggerated movements to make the scene look funny such as cutting to a DVD case hitting a wall after it was taken out of the tv shelf.

Infinite Loop

For my Infinite Loop, I chose to further edit the first loop I submitted of my cat walking on the top of her cat tree playing with her feather toy. I really liked it since the scene is only one camera angle making it a simple shot, and the top of the cat tree makes a circular pant which she walks on to get her toy. I edited the end seconds of this loop to be the first few seconds of the loop so her walk around the top of her tree would be continuous.

Continuity Video Assignment

For my continuity assignment I chose to make a video of myself “drawing”. To do this, I started off with an establishing shot, or shots rather. I used multiple shots in quick succession telling the audience quickly what I will be doing. I start by showing my table, then quickly add glasses, drawing utensils, and a drawing pad with cuts in between. After establishing my workstation I switched to a high angle shot of me opening the drawing pad. Followed by me picking a drawing utensil in a closer and a less angled shot. I proceed back to a high angle view that’s showing me starting to draw. I then switch to a close up of myself drawing, with the pencil and my hand visible through the reflection of my glasses. I then show a close up of the finished artwork, but spoiler alert, it isn’t mine. My video ends with a different close up of me breaking the 4th wall.

After making this video I’ve gained many insights, I can tell what works and what doesn’t, which was actually difficult for me to do during filming. I think the quick succession of me placing items in the frame worked well, though I noticed there are very slight differences between some frames, caused due to my movements between the cuts. I tried to follow the 180 degree rule when I could which I think worked well, but sometimes it felt like I couldn’t get the best angle so I had to be a little more flexible with my angles. Something else I now notice that works well is my hands and the items in the video contrasting very nicely with the dark table, it is very clear to see what I was doing in the video. Which is actually my favorite part because the camera focused very nicely and I love the fact that the reflection of my hand and the pencil is visible on my glasses, this was unintentional so it is a nice surprise. What didn’t work so well is the camera losing focus by the movement of my hands, but this is probably something I can fix if I get some practice with my camera settings. Similarly the camera loses a little bit of focus in the final shot. Overall though I do like how this turned out, I was able to follow continuity. I think every single shot was clearly after the previous and that was my main goal for this particular assignment.

 

Who Needs Bullet-time Anyway? | Run Lola Run

Screenshot of Run Lola Run, timestamp 14:04
Screenshot of Run Lola Run, timestamp 14:04

Sony Pictures Movies and Shows’ Run Lola Run (1999) is a German film that layers sequences to create compelling 20-minute montages that mirror the narrative’s 20-minute premise for Lola to reach her boyfriend, Manni, and recover 100,000 Deutsche Marks. There are many scenes of Lola running through the city, however many of these shots are manipulated so time feels like it is artificially slowed down. This effect simultaneously emphasizes Lola’s race against the ticking clocks heard throughout the film and artificially makes Lola appear to run faster than she should.

Consider the scene 16 minutes and 19 seconds into the movie where Lola races around the corner and the camera cuts to the inside of a car pulling out of a garage.

Screenshot from Run Lola Run, timestamp 16:19..
Screenshot from Run Lola Run, timestamp 16:19.

The camera cuts to a close up of the driver before showing Lola running towards the camera. We then see a reverse shot of the car emerging from the garage followed by two shots that cut on the motion of Lola running past.

Screenshot of Run Lola Run, timestamp 16:28.
Screenshot of Run Lola Run, timestamp 16:28.
Screenshot of Run Lola Run, timestamp 16:28.
Screenshot of Run Lola Run, timestamp 16:28.

This scene is successful in conveying the overall narrative of the movie because it gives the viewer perspective on how quickly Lola is moving and her frantic state of mind. Lola is only on screen for a few seconds of this sequence and framed using medium long shots or long shots to show her racing past. The camera cuts away from her quickly each time she is in frame.

In comparison, the camera lingers on a close-up of the driver and his astonished face which amplifies that Lola is moving at an unnatural speed. Her lack of reaction to nearly being run over by a car shows the viewer how singularly-focused she is on reaching Manni.

The careful continuity of this scene explains the current action on screen in addition to setting up the following two iterations of Lola’s run. Because the camera see so many angles of this scene, the viewer is able to understand where they are in later sequences that are edited with fewer shots than this first version. Establishing this location and introducing the driver allows for additional storytelling later in the movie without wasting time on re-establishing continuity within the scene itself.

Week 2: Frame Analysis “The 400 Blows”

Long – captures students in a reform school playing soccer.
High angle long – the main character, Antoine, comes to the edge of the field to throw in the ball back into play.
High angle medium – while the teachers are distracted, Antoine makes a run for the hole in the fence.
Wide angle – as Antoine breaks through the fence and makes a run for his freedom he is chased by one of the teachers.
Medium long – Antoine jukes the teacher by hiding right before he starts to run in a different direction.
Long – Antoine runs through a nearby village without looking back.
Long – he finally reaches the coast.
Extreme long – a view of a beach, something Antoine had never seen before.
Long – he takes a breather by a tree before he throws himself onto the next stage of life.
Low angle long – he goes down the steps and onto the beach.
Long – Antoine keeps moving forward.
Long – he looks out into the sea, as if standing between his past and future.
Close-up – Antoine’s gaze; a scared and a misunderstood boy in an uncaring world.

Aftermath: Long Day of Play

Aftermath: Long Day of Play is a short film focused on conveying a story through the use of framing. Our story begins with a medium shot of the dog’s toy box clearly in disarray. The camera cuts to an extreme long shot showcasing how the dog has strewn toys across the room before cutting again to a long shot of the dog sleeping. Next, the camera cuts to an extreme close up of a stuffed dinosaur toy that has stuffing coming out of one end. These shots convey a former chaos returning to peace now that the dog is asleep. This idea is further supported by cutting to a pair of close up shots of the dog at rest. The film ends with a long shot to bookend the piece and re-orient the viewer before moving to a new scene.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qd6JZhpfeEU

 

 

I Had Some Ideas About the Framing… | Marvel Studio’s Captain America: The First Avenger

Marvel Studio's Captain America: The First Avenger movie poster
Marvel Studio’s Captain America: The First Avenger movie poster

For this week’s inquiry into framing, I have decided to focus on the first scene in the post-credits sequence of Marvel Studio’s Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). The entire sequence can be divided into two parts: Captain America (aka Steve Rogers) waking up in a strange environment and his attempt to escape said strange environment. I am focusing on the first part of the sequence and examining how framing choices bring the viewer into Steve Roger’s plight.

Marvel Studios is now well known for their inclusion of post-credits sequences or “Easter Eggs” at the end of their films. At the time of release, Captain America: The First Avenger was only the fifth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so each post-credit sequence was highly anticipated, and not a sure thing. Including a post-credit sequence was far for routine for most movies of the time, so every moment felt like a surprise gift for fans. This was especially true when the credits finished scrolling and the screen cut to an extreme close up of Steve Rogers.

Steve’s slow awakening and initial confusion about his environment mirrors the way viewers are trying to orient themselves within the scene. As Steve looks around viewers are able to see more of the “recovery room” Steve finds himself in. As both viewers and Steve become acquainted with the scenery, the scene shifts to a reverse angle of Steve sitting up.

The scene shifts tonally as successive cuts between a concerned Cap and the vintage radio playing in the background ensue. The back and forth here feels like Steve is tensely conversing with the radio broadcast. The tension is momentarily broken by a woman in period dress entering the room, however, tension quickly returns as Steve and the viewer begin to suspect something is amiss.

Body language and facial expressions are key to interpreting the unspoken motivations for both characters in the scene. The camera pans and zooms to reflect which person feels in control of the conversation. For example, when the woman initially enters we see very controlled medium shots of her standing square and tall, yet slightly turned away from the camera. In contrast, Steve Rogers is framed so he is looking over one shoulder at the woman and appears ready to run at any moment based on the way his hands grip the side of the bed. Ultimately, this allows the camera to further emphasize when Steve goes on the offensive in the conversation by shifting to an over-the-shoulder view towards the end of the scene.

Just when he thinks he knows what is going on, the tables turn on Steve again as the extreme close-up shot of the woman pushing a panic button pays off. Two heavily armored men burst through the door which triggers a physical reaction from Steve. As he is reeling backwards, the camera lingers for a fraction of a second before following his motion and zooming in on his shocked expression. Each precise camera movement contributes to showing the viewer how Steve Rogers is feeling in the moment. The viewer is drawn into the scene and Steve’s perspective through the use of medium and close-up shots that bounce between Steve and other elements in the scene.

A shot-by-shot explanation of this scene can be found in the graphic below:

A graphic explaining each type of camera framing used in the first scene of the post-credits sequence in Marvel Studio's Captain America: The First Avenger.
A graphic explaining each type of camera framing used in the first scene of the post-credits sequence in Marvel Studio’s Captain America: The First Avenger.