For my film essay, I focused on my recent trip to Washington DC.
For my film essay, I focused on my recent trip to Washington DC.
Describe your final project idea. Please address the following questions:
A mixed-media artist creates art from found art and ‘returns’ it to the world by leaving it at her local bus stop, in the hopes that others will find and appreciate it. Another person begins to create and leave art there as well; she’s surprised but excited that someone else sees the world in the way she does, and tries to figure out who this person is. In the end, it’s the local skater kid who, through the art, found a way to express himself and his emotions, and the two end up forming a friendship.
3-5 minute video.
Montage and continuity editing.
I believe I have everything (actors, locations, I am making props). I want it to be very light on dialogue (if any at all) so I just need to find background sounds/music which might not necessarily be recorded by myself (I will use creative commons instead).
I think that combining video with voiceover, text, graphics, and sound effects can make for an overall powerful video essay. In traditional essays, you’re confined to (at the very most) text with some supporting graphics–and sometimes not even those graphics. Tone can become lost, as can the concepts of motion and sound. Not only do video essays offer a more holistic approach to the study of a subject, but they can address the needs of various kinds of learners by allowing audiences to read (subtitles or other text), listen (to voiceovers), watch (the video and graphics), and any combination of the above.
Finally, this multimedia approach can also be used very well for rhetoric, playing with an audience’s emotions. Say the subject of the essay is on the benefits of exercise. An essay, while it can be written persuasively, can only go so far. However, a video essay, with clips of people working hard and succeeding, victorious and energizing music, and a charismatic voiceover, may persuade more people that exercise can be effective.
Through the use of actors and voiceovers, too, history can come to life, making it more present and accessible for those who struggle with conceptualizing the past. Graphics and voiceover combined can also reinforce ideas that might seem abstract on a page. The possibilities are nearly limitless.
As far as ‘writing’ a video essay…what I would do is similar to both the method I use for regular essays, and for video projects. First I would create a ‘skeleton’ of what I wanted to say: beginning (thesis statement or introduction to the argument/idea), middle (climax), and end (acknowledgment and conclusion). I would look at what would be better as visual evidence, and what would be more successful as voiceover (perhaps the more complex ideas); then, I’d write a ‘script’ that had both my voiceover script, and a list or storyboard of shots and/or clips I need for visual evidence.
I liked, also, the idea of using text with ‘bullet points’ so to speak from the voiceover, which was done in the video essay on 12 Angry Men–if I decided that fit my subject, I would look for those ‘bullet’ moments from my voiceover script that would emphasize my ideas.
I really like the idea of a networked series. While I don’t think the audience-creator feedback loop is entirely original (webcomics and other projects (Homestuck and the other MSPAdventures are some major ones) often have pretty audience-influenced/involved narratives, and even the old Penny Dreadfuls back in the day were influenced by letters to the authors–I believe Sherlock Holmes(? or a similar character) was originally killed off, but public outrage caused the author to bring him back in a stunning twist…) the idea of having it not only be so interactive with audience members, but widespread across a variety of platforms, all more or less in real time, is pretty dynamic.
What also stuck out to me was the marketing aspect: the Instagram influencer paid to write SKAM on her chest in lipstick, the thousands of interviews with teenagers to find out what exactly they want from a television (or in this case, social media) series, the carefully quiet launch designed to keep the show away from parental gazes, even creating Facebook and Instagram ‘fan’ accounts in order to promote their content… there’s a quote from their social media manager in the article where he says “It’s about injecting our work into the right places, seamlessly.” It’s more than a touch alarming just how well they were able to target their audience and pull it off fairly seamlessly, attracting just the attention they wanted. Some of the fan comments I saw on Instagram were bizarre: commenting and acting as if the accounts were owned by kids in their own high school rather than paid actors in a work of fiction.
That said, the intense interviews, marketing research, and fan interaction do really seem to give the creators a better understanding of what exactly young people want…and even deeper than that, who they are. I do genuinely like shows like Riverdale or Vampire Diaries…but along with the torrid arcs and twists, part of what makes them fun are the cheesy, often grandiose lines that sound nothing like the way real teens talk. I watched the first episode on Facebook, and found a few of the characters’ instagrams, however, a so far a lot of the lines and interactions in SKAM remind me of my life and voice when I was that age. Still cheesy, yes, but in a “I’m 16 and trying to find myself” way, not a “this show was written by a 56 year old with a Masters in English and vague memories of high school” way. For a show that goes to such lengths to build facades, it really does manage to ring authentically. It would be interesting to see a story such as this push the limits, however, with the believable: high school drama is great as a subject, but it’s very easy to take as ‘real’ (as evidenced by all the fan comments relating to (or hating) the characters). I wonder if it would be harder to take a fantasy, science fiction, or even a thriller-type plot and create something similar, or if the suspension of disbelief would be just too much.
When looking at these works, I really enjoyed ‘Lake Como Remix’ and ‘Light is Waiting.’ I feel that Light is Waiting is the most artful of the two by far. Similarly to what Manovich discusses in his piece, Robinson takes pieces from various sources and puts them together to create a digital space that reminded me a bit of a fever dream (or perhaps a representation of the girls’ subconscious and primal fear over breaking the television set?). The truthfulness of the world is left slightly intact (unlike in some of the other pieces, like The Ceibas Cycle, where it was tricky to tell what exactly I was even looking at) however, it was still heavily manipulated by means of flipping, mirroring, coloring…I really liked Manovich’s explanation that “digital cinema is a particular case of animation that uses live-action footage as one of its many elements,” and I think this piece does a very good job of showing that in action.
Lake Como Remix, however, while I enjoyed it visually, I’m not sure if it counts as ‘art.’ Perhaps more of a documentation, since, if I am correct, he didn’t actually make it–just found the glitch and took advantage of it? It reminded me a lot of Yoko Ono’s ‘Apple’ exhibit, where she placed a single (real) apple under glass. Was that art? Yoko Ono did very little actual work, just let the apple rot naturally, occasionally swapping it out for another. Or is the art in the vision?–In the seeing of the rotting apple or the ‘rotting’ Google map, and putting it on display for others to see as well? I think, going off of that thought, you could go even further and argue that this piece could be connected to the Dadaists as well, with their challenging of conventional art and questioning of what exactly makes something ‘art’.
In any case, this piece is fun to look at, and–whether Mark Amerika ‘made’ it or just found it–it certainly does showcase a solely digital space that challenges the indexicality of computer images. Both of these pieces inspired me in making my own glitch video, Robinson’s in particular.
This is the final cut of my 2-minute profile of Professor Desiree Hellegers.
WARNING for flashing colors!
A face appears in the Floor Void…….
Our pod’s greenscreen project 🙂
If I was making a documentary about the Eagle Creek fire, since it happened quite a few years ago, I would focus on documenting the steps towards recovery: not only who and what was affected by the fire, but how they are doing now. Is damaged property still significantly hurt, or have properties been rebuilt, forest areas been replanted? How are those evacuated doing?–Did the fire have a lasting impact on their daily lives? With this angle, I believe that I would be able to find and capture quite a bit of visual evidence, since it would show what it occurring now. If I focused only on what had happened–the fire–I could probably find news footage, etc of the fire itself, and perhaps even some areas where the damage is very extensive, but if I wanted to interview someone whose home was in danger, but was only able to film a house that looks like a safe, stable home…it would undermine what I was trying to say. However, if I wanted to show what is happening now, I could show both footage of what had happened (trees burning) and show current footage (perhaps young trees planted where the old trees stood?) and it would still be strong visual evidence. Those I would interview in particular would be members of the US Forest Service, and those who were under evacuation.
For my montage, I tried to capture the feeling of being sick. I tried to isolate details that may seem abstract when viewed alone (tea brewing, the TV playing) but can be pieced together to form a snapshot of the emotions a person feels when unwell. I used repetition as well to reinforce the feelings of frustration and helplessness a person encounters when feeling under the weather.
To show two of Eisenstein’s methods of montage, I found this scene from The Devil Wears Prada:
In it, main character Andy has finally become fashionable (at least to the standards of her high-fashion workplace), which is shown in this scene by way of a montage of her daily oufits. I believe the techniques of this montage fit fairly well into the categories of rhythmic montage and metric montage. I believe it could be considered metric because–although I didn’t count seconds or frames–her outfits change fairly regularly, and don’t seem as focused on what is happening in the scene as cuts in other montages’ may be (in that Andy is just walking to work; she performs no grand actions that elicit a cut in the montage per se). I believe it is also rhythmic, however, in that the cuts are still somewhat based on what is happening in the shots (the cars that drive in front of the camera, Andy walking behind a building). The way these cuts and montage methods play on the audience’s emotions is by showing Andy’s repeated outfits in a metric way, the audience feels proud of her for stepping up to the job. If we saw instead Andy walking to work in just one nice outfit, we might think she looked good, but without the repetitive evidence of her maintained fashion success, it wouldn’t be as effective. The metric quality to the montage reinforces this, as it makes the scene feel very concrete: this is a solid change that Andy has made. If it was less metric, with greater time variations between the outfit changes, it may make Andy seem uncertain or less committed to her choice.
Another montage scene I found is the ‘Zero to Hero’ song from Disney’s Hercules:
While lighthearted, this montage is, in my opinion, a good example of overtonal montage. It utilizes metric in some places (a good example is at the very end, around 2:07, where it speeds up in order to show just how much Hercules is doing), and rhythmic and tonal in others. An example of strong rhythmic montage is at 0:54, when Hercules is kicking the lion. The continuity cuts of him kicking the lion, and the lion then flying over the goal post, combined with cuts to the following shots of the satyr cheering and the muses holding up their score signs are all clearly based on the actions occurring within each shot. Finally, while pretty heavy-handed (it is a kids’ movie, after all) there are multiple examples of tonal montage as well. One example of this is at about 0:45, when the coins are falling on the muse. While showing coins fall over the muses may not mean anything literally (Hercules is the one making the money, after all, not the muses), symbolically, showing the rain of golden coins no matter where it’s occurring is effective because the audience will associate the wealth with the subject of the montage (Hercules and his rise to success). This overtonal montage does a lot to reinforce Hercules’ success in a short time period. By showing the audience solid evidence of his flight to fame, along with some metaphoric imagery to further draw out the emotions of the audience, and finally finishing with the fast-paced metric montage, Disney is really driving home just how rapidly (yet deftly) Hercules is moving up in fame and fortune.
Using both continuous and discontinuous cuts, I constructed a montage scene that depicts a young woman’s search for the truth. I used both postcards and the growth of the web of papers and string upon the wall to insinuate time’s passage as well as create a linear story. I used primarily the technique of rhythmic montage, cutting based on framing and motion.
I created three loops, two with small narratives and one cinemagraph.
My first loop is called ‘Cause and Effect’; I tried to utilize continuity editing to create a never-ending sequence of catastrophe.
My second loop is called ‘All We Lost.’ In it, I tried using contrast and montage to showcase both the character’s romantic hopes and dreams, and the stark reality she’s now living in.
Finally, I created a cinemagraph GIF. It doesn’t have as much of a narrative, but it was very fun to make. There is some stuttering that I couldn’t quite remove from the image, but I really enjoying making this cinemagraph and would like to continue experimenting and improving in the future.
As in comic books, time in shows, movies, or animations may seem straightforward but is almost always manipulated. Because of this manipulation, movies that are roughly the same length could take place over a year (like in The Devil Wears Prada), span decades (such as The Age of Adaline), or occur in a single day (such as Labyrinth). Some ways that I can think of to show the passing of time (or lack thereof) are the focus of the shot and the length of the cut, and are similar to the comic-book techniques discussed by McCloud. I found a clip from The Hunger Games that illustrates this pretty well:
In the clip’s opening, as Prim’s name is drawn for the Reaping, the camera shows us a lot: the crowd of District 12, Effie Trinket, Katniss, Gale, Prim herself…however, the camera lingers on each of these shots, forcing the audience to slow down, to feel first the tension and then the disbelief that Katniss (and, to an extent, Prim and the rest of District 12) feels. The camera also shows quite a bit of what might be cut out of a faster-paced scene: details like Effie walking back to the microphone from the bowl of names, or Prim realizing her name was called, could be shortened substantially with continuity editing. However, the director’s choice to linger on these small details once again draws out the scene, adding to the slow tension and making what might be in reality a short few seconds (how long could it take Effie to pull a name, take a few steps, and read it?) feel instead like an eternity.
In contrast, take this fast-paced clip from the aptly named Fast Five, where they are trying to find a way to get past a security camera:
The shots are short and to the point, and frame what is important: the cars, the crew, the camera. There are no lingering shots of the garage they’re in, or views of them doing more than swiftly stomping on the gas or brake, shifting gears, whipping the wheel around. This choppy yet effective way of editing fits what we can assume is days of driving into roughly the same time as it did for Prim’s name to get called.
Other ways of manipulating time could be montage (such as the iconic training sequences in the Rocky films) or just skipping what the audience already knows about, such as in Harry Potter: in the first film, the Sorting Hat ceremony at the beginning of the year takes up much more space than in any other films; the audience now knows what happens, and it only needs to be referred to rather than be outright seen. To a more banal extent, this technique is also in many scenes when a character is shopping, going out to eat, etc: unless it’s important to the plot or character development, we don’t need to see the character walk down every aisle and pick up every can of food. Of course, this technique can be used in reverse as well, such as showing how the character’s life is slow by showing the very bland details of everyday life, slowing time for the audience as well, before launching them into an adventure.
My film for this assignment was based on a fortune teller reading her own cards–and seeing something awful in them.
My opening shot of the match was an extreme close-up–I did this to create a ‘bookend’ effect with the final shot, as well as to create an air of mystery and intrigue, hopefully to draw my viewer in. My next shot is my establishing shot, in which the fortune teller continues the action of lighting the candle, and which includes some clues as to who she is and her profession: the cards aren’t visible yet, but a statuette and crystals are. The next shot is a match-on-action close-up of placing the crystal down, and then picking up the cards. The reason I had the actress place the crystal first is to help establish a little more of the ceremony of what she’s about to do, by setting up a workspace/altar, before introducing the Tarot cards. My next cut is to the fortune teller’s hands beginning to draw the cards, before focusing on each card drawn. I did this cut to better focus on the cards themselves as a whole, before introducing the individual cards of the reading. However, I wish I had filmed it a little longer–as it is, it’s almost more of an interruption than an addition. I am taking this shot as a learning moment.
The next few shots are of the three cards drawn for the reading. In these shots, I took the 180 degree rule and inverted it slightly by jumping from one angle to the opposite for the first two cards drawn. I did this intentionally to create a moment of confusion and discomfort for the viewer, as the card reading is a negative one, creating angst for the fortune teller as well. I chose cards that looked visually bad (3 of Swords, 9 of Swords, and Death) and used extreme close-ups in order to show the audience the illustrations.
The final card–Death–being placed begins as a close-up, then zooms out to show the whole spread. I did this zoom to shift the audience’s attention slowly from the single card to the whole spread, similar to how a Tarot reader has to consider both individual card meanings and the ‘big picture’ of any given spread while doing a reading. The Tarot reader herself is seen doing this in the next shot, which is another close-up as well as leading into a motivated POV shot. We have already seen what she’s looking at (the cards) but this action/POV is continued in the next shot, which is similar to the establishing shot and shows the whole table and layout. Again, I did this for a bookending effect to tie the opening and closing shots together to help create a better-flowing narrative.
After hitting the cards from the table, she leans over to blow the candle out; this action is continued in the final shot, a close-up on the candle itself being extinguished. I open and close with the candle to visually open and close the scene: my thought was that the light coming and going acts similar to a curtain on a stage opening and closing, or a spotlight coming on and off.
Overall, I am pretty happy with my results of assignment. In the future, I would like to take more care in having an even larger variety of shots so I am not stuck with a long or (as is the case here) short shots. I am also going to work with brighter (visually) concepts since, as it turns out, my camera is not superb with low light settings. I am excited to continue learning and improving.
For my framing assignment, my ‘whodunnit’ is more of a ‘whatdunnit’. I tried to capture a scene of a young person suddenly faced with the supernatural, and their attempts at dealing with it. I tried to use a variety of shots and cuts such as an opening medium long shot, some medium close ups, regular close ups, some extreme close ups and a downwards angled shot. Due to the small nature of my filming location, I wasn’t able to get very wide long shots, but I plan to explore those more in the future.
I didn’t want to go too crazy with effects since that wasn’t the purpose, so I just used clear string to pull the book off the shelf, and items I had around the house such as iron pills and a garlic clove since iron and garlic ward away ghosts.
The scene I chose is from “No Reservations” (2007). It’s towards the end of the movie.
medium long shot – setting the location (Bleeker Street restaurant)
Medium shot turning into medium long shot (focus shifts from waitress (I think her name is Lily) entering to the kitchen behind her)
medium long shot further establishing location (kitchen)
Lily: Guy at table seven says if he wanted it cremated, he would have ordered it rare.
Kate (chef): That is rare.
Medium shot. I like how the director maintains a physical division (the table/hanging lights) between Kate and owner/manager Paula to represent the growing emotional division between them.
Paula: Apparently not rare enough.
Kate: Any rarer and it would walk out of here and hail a cab.
Paula: Look, these are ad agency people, they spend a lot of money here. No tantrums tonight, just fire another one.
Medium to medium long shot. I think it is another good choice to continue the shot and to show Kate turning her back to Paula, rather than just cutting to Kate’s face and potentially undermining the symbolic nature of that movement.
Kate: Okay, fire one rare steak on the fly.
Close up. The close up of the flames flaring up is a good foreshadowing for how Kate’s temper is about to flare up.
The lines in these shots are just kitchen things, Kate asking how the plates look, etc.
Close-up. Further reenforcing the quality of the restaurant by showing the extensive work going into the food.
Medium long shot, again showing the hard work, fast pace, and quality of the restaurant, this time seen from above (I believe to better show what is on the cooktops/counters).
Medium close-up panning/tilting into close-up of the steak. I believe this close-up is to show how good the steak actually looks, despite what the customer is saying–which is also a metaphor for how Kate is under-appreciated (or feels like she is) by Paula.
Lily: From the asshole on seven again. He wants to know if you’ve ever seen a rare steak before.
From the close-up on the steak, it tilts into a (medium?) close-up of Kate.
Cut to a close-up (pans from side view to behind her). It’s hard to tell from the screenshots but she’s going through the kitchen doors, into the restaurant. I believe the purpose of this close-up is because whereas before, the focus was on not only Kate, but Paula, Lily, the food, the kitchen–but now the focus is entirely on Kate, just as her focus has shifted from her kitchen to this one terrible customer.
Medium close-up, still focusing on Kate, but also showing more of the restaurant-goers: both as a contrast to the stark, almost frightening image of an angry chef with a raw steak, and to highlight Kate’s behavior as they begin to react to her.
Medium close-up to build tension (where is she going??)
Medium long shot as Kate slams the steak down, stabbing it into the table (oh, so that’s where she’s going). Also to highlight just how bizarre the raw meat and carving fork look against the pristine, elegant table.
Kate: Rare enough for you?
Medium shot. I like how this shot is angled lower on the customer, so we’re both literally and metaphorically looking down on him.
Customer: Are you out of your mind?
Medium long shot. Similarly, this shot is tilted just slightly upwards, lending Kate a rather tall, powerful air.
Kate: Yeah. That’s why I’m in therapy.
Medium shot. Again, we are looking slightly down on Paula and the customers.
Paula: I’m so sorry, I’ll get you a new tablecloth–
Kate: Oh, no, please, let me take care of it. (she yanks out the tablecloth from under the plates etc).
Medium close-up, again very distinctly setting Kate and Paula across from/against each other.
Kate: That felt so good.
I would call this a medium long shot because it covers the whole area of the restaurant, bar, etc, with Kate walking from being closer in the frame to almost out the door. It’s hard to see in the screenshot but she’s handing her chef’s apron to the waiter.
Medium shot, again tilted down on Paula. I also think it is an interesting angle, since it also shows the rude customer and the destroyed table behind her; symbolizing how without Kate, all her restaurant has is wealthy customers but empty tables?
Long shot, as Kate hails a taxi. I like how this shot places yet more distance (physical and otherwise) between Kate and the restaurant/Paula.
Here’s the scene in full, if anyone would like to watch it. It’s one of my favorite movies, although I’ve never studied it shot by shot before. The director is Scott Hicks.
I believe that while these iPhone films drew on aspects traditional film, they’re also utilizing the flexibility of the iPhone to its greatest extent–which is, in my opinion, one of the most obvious ‘automatisms’ of iPhone video as a medium. I also agreed with Ben Lindbergh’s ‘Rise of the iPhone Auteur’ and what Steven Soderbergh mentioned within it: that the iPhone not only creates a more natural, even intimate filming environment (which comes across in the end result), but also opens accessibility to those who may not be able to enter the otherwise very expensive world of film.
Détour was my favorite of the two films, and I think it also highlighted the inherent flexibility and mobility of using iPhones in professional or otherwise higher-end film projects. The bright and whimsical spirit carried over into the filming, becoming especially powerful when combined with special effects. A good example of this is the scene when the family stops to picnic, and the man in the hammock watches through binoculars. The camera rocks from side to side (again, highlighting the easily mobile nature of the iPhone) as the man swings to and fro; this is emphasized by the food on the picnic table rolling back and forth, a fun way to further illustrate the in-motion nature of both the film’s story and camerawork.
The use of moving cameras to illustrate tone in film is not exclusive to smart phone filmography, but I believe that iPhones do offer even more potential to explore this style of filming. Even in the past 50 or so years, camerawork has gone from relatively stationary, acting purely as a window for which the audience to view a scene through, to more of a door: a way to draw the audience into the scene. Consider this emotional scene from the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which the character Holly Golightly learns about her brother’s death (the video should start at the start of Holly’s meltdown…if not, please skip to about 1:15 in):
The scene is (more or less) carried solely by the actors’ performances. The camera does move, but to follow the movements of the actors. It doesn’t necessarily offer any additional insight to Holly’s emotional state.
In contrast, here’s a scene from the 2016 movie The Girl on the Train, where the character Rachel Watson is talking to her ex-husband’s previous mistress/current wife (should start at the beginning):
It’s another emotionally charged scene, and this time, the shaky camerawork helps support, even to draw out, Rachel’s fragile but determined state of mind.
Similarly, there is an intimacy of watching videos on one’s own phone that is very different than the almost ceremonial act of going to a theater, or even the casual act of watching it on a television set. The small screen creates a connection between the viewer and the viewed that is more personal than that of a viewer and a larger screen; in my opinion, this is another interesting aspect of phones that I believe will continue to grow and be explored.
I believe that both the small size and easy-to-use/easy-to-access nature of the iPhone will lead directors and producers to continue exploring this aspect of film, adding yet more dimensions to the emotion of film projects.
Hi, I’m Mallory. I’m a DTC major and an English minor. I’ve done some video editing and animation for other classes, and I’m excited to learn more now. Here’s a video I made last semester for my Design & Comp class: