Posts tagged ‘film school’

September 20, 2014

Christopher Nolan Shares DIY Shooting Tricks of His No-Budget First Film, ‘Following’

by Suzy Walker-Toye

I really enjoyed the 30min interview with Christopher Nolan from Vice.Com:

I found it really interesting what he was saying about identifying the limitations and then writing the script to them rather than just having them in there and lumping it. For example, he makes the first four minutes of his film in his film club studio on a dolly and with great sound so that by the time people see that the rest of the film (all the outside bits) are hand held and with slightly dodgy sound they are already into the story and assume that its intentional. Also, he shot black and white because he knew he’d have issues balancing lighting with the little equipment available to him so once that decision was made he incorporated more film-noir style references into his script.

August 30, 2014

Storyboarding Tips

by Suzy Walker-Toye

I found this interesting blog post from cartoonist Ben Caldwell – tips on storyboarding from Dreamwworks!

The tips are basically these but visit his post to see the awesome illustrations that go with these tips:

  • Avoid flat staging unless when necessary
  • Lay down grids to help “ground” your characters & compositions
  • Use foreground, mid-ground, background, & far background to sell depth
  • Be mindful of screen space & camera positioning in your edits
  • When dealing with multiple characters try to logically group them to help making cutting back & forth easier
  • Be wary of composition in which everything is parallel to the frame
  • Careful of how you frame characters and don’t SQUEEZE them just to fit a shot, open up the fielding.
  • beware of vague “tightrope” floors, use perspective instead
  • Motivate your cuts

Tips on intimacy between characters:

  • over the shoulder shots & reaction shots help deliver dialog
  • characters squared off & looking at our left or right ear (depending on eye direction)
  • exploit different character heights if you need to establish or reestablish your shot


He also recommends a few other links including the amazing Toby Shelton, who shows us how its down with his Turbo storyboard at this link here.


Another very detailed post on storyboard sketching, specifically about directing the eye is here from the excellent seven camels blog.

This video clip shows how they did it for toy story.

August 30, 2014

Research: Diegetic and non-diegetic sound

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Project 13 Non-diegetic sound

Non-diegetic sound originates outside the scene. It is not directly justified by the image or actions. The most common example of this is the musical soundtrack. Another example would be voice-over or narration. Sometimes the line between diegetic and non-diegetic can seem blurred. The soundscape created for a scene may include a range of audio sources taken from archive or recorded elsewhere, but if the effect is to create a soundtrack that appears to be justified within the scene it is diegetic. Conversely sounds from within a scene may be exaggerated or manipulated so that they become abstract and therefore non-diegetic. Where either of these processes are used there is also a grey area where the definition is subjective.

The most common form of non-diegetic sound is music. Music can be used to create emotion or atmosphere, to follow events or even to predict them. It sets the tone of a film, implies a range of social and cultural references, provides clues as to dates and locations and identifies genre. Music also sets the pace of scene; it can be used to justify cuts, judge timing, expand or contract time and provide continuity.

(source: p70 of course notes)

One film which springs to mind as using sound very effectively is the 5th Element. There is a sequence which illustrates non-diegetic sound that sets the pace of a scene, give clues or cues to action and creates atmosphere and emotion. The one I’m thinking of is where the Diva is performing a partially operatic song on stage (so the music is diegetic) while Leeloo is fighting the baddies in the Divas room (where the music is therefore non-diegetic). The music links the shots and in both the music sets the pace of the scenes. Leeloo punches and kicks in time with the music and the action is created with quick cuts (also paced by the music). The music is also very emotional which lends atmosphere and tension to the sequence, almost as if the Diva is changing her song because she somehow knows what is going on.

I managed to find a clip of the scene I was referring to on you tube:

When thinking of other examples of music and other non-diegetic sound used to create atmosphere, tension and emotion, one cannot help but think of any horror film you’ve ever seen. There is always some damsel in a flimsy outfit or innocent teenager heading into danger, and how do you know there’s danger before you see it? Well the music hints that there is trouble brewing of course! There is a famous sketch by comedian Eddie Izzard about this phenomena. (reference is at 8:30 in the following clip)

The Monty Python films spring to mind when thinking about sound that is hard to identify as either diegetic or non-diegetic and intentional confusion of diegetic and non-diegetic sound. In a similar way to the Blazing Saddles reference in the notes these films play on the sound effects you’d expect for a scene and then turn them on their heads, for example in a scene of King Arthur riding into view through the fog accompanied by the sound of hoofbeats, we see that actually he’s pretending to ride (he’s just walking along as you might on a hobby horse) and his servant behind him has two coconuts banging together to create the sound of the “horse”. This carries on throughout the movie. I found a clip of this too:

I was a bit puzzled at first re Music (non-diegetic) used to identify social and cultural references, but then I started to think about what sorts of music are in films that are a set abroad and realised that I couldn’t think of a film that is set in Mexico which doesn’t have at least some Mexican music in it (some examples are Desperado, Zorro, From Dusk till Dawn, the list goes on). Then you have Bollywood films which are filled with music which has cultural references even non-Bollywood films such as Slumdog Millionaire and East is East have Indian music in the soundtrack as a cultural reference. Films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon also have cultural music in their score.

August 23, 2014

Assignment 2 – Creating Atmosphere

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Assignment 2 is about creating a strong sense of atmosphere in a scene. I chose from the list of activities and atmospheres provided, not just because creativity failed me at supplying my own story (I find that the hardest part of this course so far) but I found it an intriguing challenge to try and make a paranoid cup of tea.


Making a cup of tea comprises of fairly simple steps so I decided to use this as my shot list outline (we were restricted to no more than 12 shots)

• Go to kitchen
• Fill kettle with water
• Boil kettle
• Get Milk from Fridge
• Put tea, Milk and hot water in a cup (assuming we’re not using a teapot)
• Optionally add sugar
• Stir and drink

But how to make it have a paranoid atmosphere? Different shooting angles? Different colour schemes? Lens choice?

I thought it was important to have a sense of why the character might be paranoid, my actor Jimmy J and I came up with some ideas from simple to silly here are a few

1. He’s a Germaphobe.
2. He doesn’t like the way the tea tastes from the zip-tap water but isn’t really allowed to use a real kettle (for health and safety reasons) but does anyway.
3. He’s totally paranoid about something, he thinks it’s the tea or something about the tea but actually it’s the giant lion or sea monster in the room, or outside the window, eyeing him up.
4. He’s sure something is wrong, he drinks the tea and collapses. Someone sinister/official (men in black style) comes in and puts the tea bag in an evidence baggy and leaves.
5. Same as the previous one but that official waves a black gloved glowing hand over his face and steals his face & identity
6. He’s a total mess until he’s had his tea!

I storyboarded (see below) a blend of ideas 1,2 & 6 (I actually storyboarded it several times as we made adjustments). The planned premise is that he’s a very British Gent who is a mess until he’s had his tea and then everything is just fine. Originally we discussed having him clutching his own briefcase with full tea making equipment (including a teapot) but for practical reasons abandoned this idea (most briefcases just aren’t deep enough to hold a kettle & teapot). So it’s all about his paranoid state of mind, I wanted him to be really dapper at the end when the tea was made and the world was put to rights again so at first we messed him up, creased his suit, had him buttoned up wrongly and shirt hanging out (we had to shoot the tidy scenes first though). The clip is split into two mind states, the paranoid mess and the dapper gent, so I wanted there to be visual clues, not just in his dress and acting but in the film process itself. I decided to go with shooting the paranoid mess shots with a fisheye lens, its distorted – like his state of mind. Nothing is quite right. Also, I planned to edit the colour of the film differently between paranoid mess & dapper gent. Additionally, I wanted the action to ratchet up as he gets nearer and nearer his goal of finished tea, so I planned lots of tighter and tighter cuts & closer and closer cuts in the storyboard. To validate my theories I did a bit of research online and watched a recommended example of a paranoid film – Dark City which I reviewed here.

I wanted to use the kitchen at work, mainly because it supported the storyline for point 2 by obviously being a public kitchen so the mise-en-scene is mostly taken care of, but also because it has the same constant lighting (with small variations depending on the weather outside the windows, although they are mostly sheltered by another building next door). My friends health isn’t always predictable so for practical reasons we needed the potential for repeated access to the location. This posed some problems with curious co-workers during filming but nothing which couldn’t be overcome. Also, the sink & fridge is on one side of the room and the plug (for the kettle is on the other) which poses some sequencing considerations which I worked out with several iterations of storyboards. I did the story boards on post it notes so they could be rearranged during this planning process, I think this worked well, we also took some test video to see which angles might work best and that fed back into the story board before our day of shooting.

Please click them to open the gallery with descriptions. Ignore the numbers in the corners because they got a bit thrown out when I replaced the cupboard scene (at place 3-4-5) with the fridge scene which logically had to be later in the sequence but I’d already numbered all the posits.

Discarded cupboard scene:

This section was written after the filming but before the editing
What went well:
The late addition of the trip to the fridge into the story board was a success, originally I had him doing the peering in shot into the cupboard. I thought that the camera being inside the space when he opened the door was quite atmospheric and I didn’t want to lose it but we were slightly bending the story trying to think what he’d be getting from the cupboard if he was bringing everything with him. This shot was one of those which I felt worked particularly well with the distortion on the fisheye lens too. We had to put this one on manual focus so the focus didn’t shift as the door opened.

The footage was much less shaky than I’d anticipated – hooray for stabilisation on cameras. I used my Olympus Em5 camera instead of my GoPro this time so I had flexibility on lenses. I’ve shot a few short clips with it underwater but not really used it in anger so I was quite pleased how easily it was to use. Obviously I used a tripod where I could but sometimes I had to hand hold.

The macro lens shots of the kettle looked like they might come out as I’d imagined them in my head so I look forward to editing that together. Also, I shot extra footage to get the diegetic sounds for the soundtrack so I’m cautiously optimistic that it won’t have to be silent.

We didn’t film the shots in the same sequence as they will finally appear but I think I have all the shots in the bag for editing together nicely. For example, close up shots & shot where Jimmy doesn’t appear could be shot at a later date if we ran out of time so I planned those in last, whereas the shots where Jimmy is nice and neat (which appear at the end of the story) had to be shot first so that we could then crease up his suit. We had to be careful of continuity errors and took photos of things that we’d set out so that we could set them back into the same position when we came to shoot a scene which would show them in shot.

What went not so well:
I decided in the planning stage to use the fisheye distortion as a visual device to indicate all way not right, I knew then that it wouldn’t be ideal for every shot but I felt it was more important to be consistent across the paranoid mess portion but sometimes during filming I wished I could zoom in a little, the fisheye focuses very closely but its angle of 180 degrees and I’d forgotten just how wide that feels when you look into the view finder. I’d only done test footage of a couple of shots with it so when filming the whole sequence I revealed where it did and didn’t work so well. I’ll wait until I’ve edited it all together to really decide on whether this was the right approach to take or not.

As I’ve already mentioned, we used a public kitchen which was prone to interruptions. We only had an hour to do the shooting (which extended into two because we just had not finished). Even when people were not in shot they were making footsteps or other sounds which would have been discernible in the final sound track.

One major downside of the location was lighting. It would have been nice to have some nice contrasty & atmospheric lighting. I’d taken this into account somewhat in the planning stage and planned in the storyboard to shoot some scenes across the light (maybe also use a reflector to bounce some back on him) but although we choose a sunny day for shooting it soon clouded over and we lost that contrast effect.


What went well:
I like the effect of the fisheye lens.

I was surprised how well the colour change looked when I’d post processed the footage and Final Cut Pro isnt as difficult to get to grips with as I thought it would be (re Assignment 1 feedback). When I first applied it, it looked very overdone but when I played it back later it looked almost normal until the end when you see the normal colours. I might have to up the effect a little, I’m yet undecided. I’ll see what my tutor thinks.

I shot enough footage, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough and would trouble at editing time but I mostly had enough for the choices I wanted to make about the sequence.

I thought the sound worked out quite well in the end. I shot extra footage just for the sound track and that paid off. I had to spend some time in FCP working with the kettle boiling soundtrack to get it to flow nicely (because the kettle took much longer than was shown). Here is a screenshot of that area of the clip with the various little sub audio clips blended in. Its loud and overbearing on purpose because I think this serves to ratchet up the tension he’s feeling as he’s getting closer to completing his mission.

Final Cut Pro X Screenshot

I think the quick cuts around the kettle boiling and the footage of the fridge worked well. Just how I imagined. I know I didn’t follow the 12 shots rule of this assignment but my clip would have never worked the way I wanted if I had stuck too hard and fast to the instructions. I think this worked well for this clip and I hope my tutor agrees!

I like how the happy hat flip looks at the end – thanks Jimmy for humouring me on that 🙂

What went not so well:
I found it a struggle to edit down all the footage I wanted into under 3mins. I started making harder cuts and choosing to miss out on some of the closeups that we shot. I even sped a few bits up. After a couple of reviews of that I removed most of the speed ups (they looked a little odd) and cut more severely, even now I’m not completely satisfied. There is definitely an art to this. Some clips I wanted them to be shorter but I also wanted the whole action of what he was doing so there was an internal editing struggle, for example the 2nd shot where he is walking in. I wanted him to walk in, get the kettle out and walk towards the sinks. I couldn’t see a way of keeping the action but shortening it, there seemed to be no cut point. I suppose I’ll get better at editing with more practice as the course continues. I cut the getting stuff out of the bag shot (after he comes back from filling the kettle) right down and it looked a bit abrupt, I put him doing a shifty look in as a distraction from the harsh cut but it still looks a bit hard in my opinion. The main footage is now 3mins, the uploaded file is now slightly longer only because I added the title & credits.

I didn’t notice how prominent the WC sign on the door in the first shot was until after I’d edited and was playing back the whole clip! Its not relevant to the story so had I noticed it was there whilst filming I would have tried to cover it with something or shoot with shallow DOF to blur it out a bit.

I should have taken more control of the settings. There are some technical issues which I only really noticed on playback on the computer. for example the fluorescent lights flicker in some of the shots. And although I shot the fridge scene on manual focus I thought the other shots were ok when I reviewed them on the camera, however on playback on the computer I noticed that the focus occasionally shifts unintentionally during the shot. I could try and claim it was another ploy to show his state of mind but I don’t think anyone would buy that 😉 Some of the hand held shots could be steadier and straighter (although its hard to tell straightness with a fisheye anyway so its not too noticeable).

During the filming I made sure I wasn’t noticeable in any of the many reflective surfaces however I didn’t release until computer playback how noticeable the reflection of the camera/tripod was in some shots. Its easy to forget just how amazingly wide a fisheye is! 180 degrees is a lot to cope with and I should have been more observant at filming/review time.

After reviewing the final clip several times (and showing it to some people) I’m not entirely sure that the reasons for his paranoia are as apparent as I thought they were. There seems to be some confusion as to why. I think the little plastic bags of cup and spoon etc all brought in from his home weren’t as obvious as they would have been if I’d have left in the unloading of them all from the bag.

Apparently (according to my husband) you can tell I’m not a tea drinker because no one puts the milk in first when using a teabag *sigh*.

What I learnt for next time:

Having an actor is harder than just filming myself and what’s around me at the time (re Assignment 1 feedback). So superb planning and adjustments are essential.

I need to get my storyboard reviewed by a tea drinking consultant (or whatever equivalent for the next project) to check for plot holes (re the milk first issue). Also, my backstory should be much simpler.

The posits were a great idea but I also need a shot by shot tick list while filming to be sure not to be distracted. It worked out well this time because I wrote one just before we started filming but next time I should be doing this earlier in the process.

More border patrol on footage. I should review the footage on the camera much more carefully (even when on a time budget) for unwanted things showing in frame.

Take control of the focus and DOF settings because its not always obvious on small screen playback when things have flickered.

Install a little bubble spirit level into my hotshoe while filming for straighter shots. And research what kind of reasonably priced rigs are available for making steadier hand held shots.

When planning, don’t under estimate how long simple things (like walking into a room or filling a kettle) take to complete. Shoot them several times from different angles for extra cutting options or just plan for them to be a major time sink and really make sure they are essential to the story.

Filming takes MUCH more time than I’d anticipated. 1 hour filming time for every 1 minute of intended footage sounds about right, this would allow more time for reviewing the footage for each shot more carefully.

August 20, 2014

Viewing: Dark City (1998)

by Suzy Walker-Toye

***This review contains spoilers***

In the planning stage for my assignment 2 I did an internet search on paranoia in films just to see what would come up. One of the links I found was this top ten list of paranoid filled movies. I remember really enjoying Dark City when I first watched it (many years ago) so I took this opportunity to revisit the film with a more critical eye. The exercises in the lead up to A2 have been around mise-en-scène, compositional rules, colour & tone, and lighting so I tried to keep those in mind as I watched (and anything else that might help me out in my atmospheric A2).

There are many plot synopses of this film already online so I won’t go into too much detail on that, this is more a review about what I noticed about the film. Essentially though, an alien race, the strangers, have the ability to stop time and change the layout of the city (they call this tuning). They have set out an elaborate experiment on the human inhabitants, wiping their memories each night and replacing them with others to see what they will do. One man, John Murdoch, wakes up with the abilities to tune as the strangers do but with no memories, on the run from the police (because he was about to be imprinted with the memories of a murderer), he tries to find out who he is and what is going on in this city. One thing to note also is that I watched the cinematic cut not the director’s cut (which I read about afterwards and is apparently quite different), my dvd only had the one version on it.

One of the main things about this film is that the story is set in a city that is in perpetual night time so all of the film (except the end) is shot with artificial lighting. The tone of the film is dark & moody with dark green tones in backdrops and warm light with strong contrast on the human characters faces. There are lots of shadows (as one might expect of a film with this name). The mise-en-scène of the city shots looks like something out of an Edward Hopper painting (but a lot more dark & brooding, with less colours). I love this quote from another review I read:

“Its vast noir metropolis seems to exist in an alternate time line, with elements of our present and past combined with visions from a futuristic comic book.”


DarkCityScreenshot-6 The strangers live under the city and you see them in a sort of subterranean auditorium. When the scenes switch here the tone & colour of the film is noticeable much cooler and bluer. The strangers have pale white faces and all look and dress very similar, this adds to the unease of these scenes. The mise-en-scène of these shots are very sparse, you don’t get a sense of them at all. Just rows and rows of almost identical people. The light on their faces is also a cold blue, emphasising their pale features and its often lit from below to make them even more strange and sinister. DarkCityScreenshot-12


Unlike in the streets above where there are streetlamps and lit up storefronts, here it’s not obvious there the illumination is coming from. When the action is ramping up, while they do the tuning and change the city layout, there is lots of quick cuts between the blue under the ground and the yellow above at street level scenes which provides a nice visual contrast (when I noticed this I felt pleased with myself for already having the quick cuts and the colour changes in my A2 planning, otherwise I would have added it).















The only thing that is really a normal colour is the memories and the ending because they are in the daylight. The memories are denoted with a strange circular blurring effect around the edges (like a lens baby might create) and a sound effect so that you know they are memories (it’s more effective and less corny than I just made it sound though).



Throughout the movie I noticed that the mise-en-scène of the interiors was only the barest minimum the scene needed, by which I mean because each scene is actually an interior that the strangers had to construct and fill with items that they thought relevant it is all detail which they would have needed to go to the extra effort of thinking and making for the human experiment. I noticed there was a lot of repeating motifs in the set design too, archways and circles and very geometric shapes for both internal and external scenes – as if the whole city had been designed by one collective mind (which its revealed later that it has). There are a lot of centre of the frame compositions and many scenes filmed over the shoulder of another character, or down a long corridor with steep perspective or through a doorway or archway with another character silhouetted so you could see past them. It seemed to add to the claustrophobic atmosphere of being penned in on all sides by this fake city, or going miles to nowhere down a long street or corridor. I put some screenshots I took of this below (I really need to find a better way to screen grab than my iPhone) although there are much better ones here.









The whole film has been building to this, the final scenes are all in blazing daylight but the centrally based compositions and perspective shots maintain the look of the film even with the darkness alleviated.


April 5, 2014

Exercise: Spaces

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Project 6 – Mise-en-scène

The term mise-en-scène can be literally translated as ‘putting in the scene’. It refers to the placement of objects, and the arrangement of space within a frame. The term originates in the theatre where all perceived space has to be represented in a fixed frame, ie the stage. The arrangement of items and actors may produce a cosy living room or a battle raging over a mountain range, both contained in the same absolute physical space.

The mise-en-scène can also affect the overall atmosphere and meaning of a shot. A cluttered crowded space has a different feel to an open exposed place. The placing of different items within the space can change the emphasis placed on them. Items in the centre and foreground are likely to be more noticeable than items at the back or edges of the frame.

(source: p35 of course notes)

This exercise (p37) is about the atmosphere of a space.

Capture four shots that have the following feel about them:
• An oppressive, cluttered space
• An open, honest, simple space containing one intriguing item
• A stark, empty hostile space
• A warm, friendly, cosy space

Cluttered space

Above is my cluttered, oppressive space. It feels oppressive to me because there is so much stuff crowding in and a sense of disorganisation. This is amplified by the clock ticking away – so much stuff to do and time is running out. (This is my desk btw which is why I mostly sit on the couch with my laptop).

Open space

Above is my open, honest, simple space containing one intriguing item. After I took it I thought the mix of lighting was a bit weird, I was originally thinking that the daylight would make it look more open (which I think it does) but it sort of clashes a bit with the colour temp of the halogens (despite my trying to even them a little in Lightroom).

Stark space

This is my A stark, empty hostile space, I thought of waiting rooms and institutional spaces. The cat box got me thinking about the vets (although I didn’t tell my model that). I’ve make the colour temp a bit colder to give it a more institutional, strip-lit look.

Warm comfy space

This is my warm, friendly, cosy space. I left the book where it was rather than remove it to give the impression the owner has just stepped out for a moment. The soft cushions and sprawling cat look pretty comfy and inviting to me. I pushed the colour temp a little warmer to over egg the feeling.

November 12, 2013

Emotive Frames

by Suzy Walker-Toye

On p24 of the course notes we’re asked to pick a few emotive frames from movies we’ve watched… here’s a couple which sprang to my mind.

The Grudge

The Grudge movie screenshot

This film scared the absolute crap out if me and I haven’t watched another horror flick since but I do love this frame. You see the little boy looking though the banister from a viewpoint below him. He’s obviously terrified by what he sees (due to his wide-eyed expression & hand tightly gripping the banister), the frame is intense and focused right in on him (so close that the top of his head & hand are chopped out of frame). The whole frame is on the slant because we’re looking up at him watching down from a slight angle.

Kill bill

Kill Bill Movie screenshot

This frame is from kill bill part 1, where the Bride gets beaten almost to death. It’s the reason for the whole revenge filled double feature.

In this frame, it’s a tight crop, intensely emotional. You can see a part of her veil so even if you’d not seen the film you could see she’s a badly beaten bride. She’s looking off to one side in despair, for some reason I can’t work out the fact she’s looking off to the side of the frame she’s nearest to seems to intensify that.


Thor movie screenshot

This is a very call to action shot, the frame shows the view from behind Thor while he holds his iconic hammer aloft before the whole court of Asgard. The people in the frame run off all sides suggesting a massive crowd so even if you’ve never seen the film or heard of Thor you can instantly tell from this frame that he is come kind of warrior/ruler.

NB. Film Stills sourced from

November 5, 2013

Subjective Viewpoint

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The recent exercises have been about a subjective viewpoint (first person view). I remember the first time I’d seen that sort of filming was for the prodigy music video (smack my b**** up) (please note that link is not safe for work, it’s the uncensored version of a video that was banned from MTV for its nudity, violence and drug use)

It plays on gender stereotypes and uses the usual form of subjective view character reveal – the mirror, to add a twist at the end.

Today I watched the first episode of peepshow (from the Filmography of this course). This uses mirrors & reflective surfaces such as windows so you see who the character is but also multiple character first person views. As the next person is talking you see that person from the other characters pov, sometimes even with an accompanied inner monologue. It was interesting and very clever but I didn’t find it realistic viewing, it sort of comes across as gimmicky after a while. It reminded me of beer-vision (pretty much what the prodigy video plays upon) where you focus down onto only one thing with narrowed focus because you’re drunk.

November 4, 2013

Exercise: Visualisation

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p21 is about subjective visualisation (first person views that is).
We were to imagine the situations described below, Place ourselves in the scene and then (badly) sketch out what we’d imagined. Then answer a few questions on the scene. I espceially liked this bit:
Don’t worry if you are not an illustrator. These are to aid you own memory not win art prizes.

You are talking to someone in a shop
The person is facing you talking in an animated way, using their hands.


Photo I imagined is in a coffee shop where the baristas are often quite demonstrative when asking if you want whipped cream on your coffee & which sized cup etc. The counter where you pay is always squashed in between sections for cakes & sandwiches etc.

• What was left out at the edges?
The rest of the counter was left out and the credit card machine is cut off as a small square in the bottom left.

• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
The stuff behind the barista, you are aware of stuff but not what. The exact details of the menu & adverts are also muddy

• Why did you leave them out?
I wasn’t focusing on them, I was looking at the guy

• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
I left an impression of them so yes.

Knocking on a door
You knock on the door. You wait.
The door is opened.


You may have conjured up some images of things you looked at while you were waiting. Nope, our door has frosted glass and I always try to discern what all the blurry shapes are as someone comes up the hall to answer the door.

• What was left out at the edges?
Most of the door
• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
The pattern of the glass

• Why did you leave them out?
Couldn’t remember the exact pattern

• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
Yes because my drawings are so great people will immediately know what all the swirly grey smush is 😉

In the next scenario you may imagine several images to cover the action described.
You are having an illicit affair
You are alone having a passionate conversation with your loved one. A sudden sound in the background causes you to glance round.



This one was the hardest because I couldn’t really imagine having an affair. If I was having a passionate conversation with my loved one then I’d be totally focused on them (although they’d obviously be much more handsome in person). If a noise made me glance around I think I’d guiltily look at the door.

• What was left out at the edges?
Only the thing of focus was in the two drawings, the person and then the door area

• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
The room behind the person

• Why did you leave them out?
Not relevant to the scene

• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
Yes because there is ways some background

Some questions posed on the next page are:
• Which sequences are the most effective and why?
It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Subjective scenes are best for when the viewers are supposed to take on the persona of the character so you see what they see. So in this case the mid range view of the shop keeper or where his face & hands are really close in.

• What makes a convincing subjective sequence?
Sequences where you focus on what the person would see without turning their heads or pan & scanning are effectively because that is what you’d see in real life.

• What gives the sequence a sense of atmosphere or tension?
Probably for a subjective scene probably leaning forward close into the action would give tension.

• What information is conveyed in each frame?
This first one (A mid shot taking in the shopkeeper and his immediate surroundings. The hands are centre frame) conveys the shopkeeper in his surroundings. It provides context to the scene.
The second one (A medium close-up of the person you are talking to. The face and hands.) conveys just the action of the shop keeper talking
The last one, the objective view (shows both characters, ‘you’ and the person you are talking to.) conveys both characters so you are in the scene as a fly on the wall, there but not involved.

November 2, 2013

Exercise: Building a Story

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p19 is about exploring the function of a frame. One large, complex scene can be captured in one frame but also, you can break out some details from that which could be frames in their own right. You could even use these new frames to tell a new a different story without the original context.

Here is a famous painting by Dutch painter Joachim Wtewael:

Kitchen Scene by Joachim Wtewael

It depicts a kitchen scene where the main action is the man cutting up the fish and the woman putting creatures onto a large stick.

These three smaller scenes have been taken out as frames from this painting but they could spawn off other stories.
In this scene a young boy is trying to feed his dog from the bucket but the dog is disobedient and wants to eat the mangy left over fish lying on the floor of where he lives.


In this scene the new story could be that they are two lovers having an illicit affair, cozying up by the fire but the woman is hearing her husband coming home.


In this frame the woman could be mixing up paints for the mad one-legged artist behind her.

November 1, 2013

Exercise: Telling a Story – Part 3

by Suzy Walker-Toye

So in part one of this exercise I told a familiar story in 5 frames only (Jack the beanstalk), In part two I commented on other students familiar stories and here in part 3 we get to make up out own story, only five frames again though. Please excuse the horrible drawings, trust me that the story looks much better in my minds eye, the course notes do point out that these sketches are only supposed to be a personal aide memoire storyboard 😉



This is based on a true story, which has happened to me and many other photographers, however here wildly exaggerated for comedic effect & with an alternative ending. Its essentially the vilification of DSLR users by the police and other security officials.

  • Frame 1: Nice scenic view of Big Ben & Westminster from across the thames – the sort which might make a nice photograph.
  • Frame 2: The view point draws back and you see the gaggle of tourists all snapping away at the view with compact cameras and phones, eyeballed by many CCTV cameras of London. A bored policeman stands by taking no interest in them.
  • Frame 3: The tourists have moved on and a photographer appears. You can tell he’s a photographer by the big camera, tripod in hand and backpack full of gear
  • Frame 4: The policeman is on high alert, its clearly very suspicious behaviour to be taking photos with a big camera, the policeman accosts the photographer to find out what he’s really up to.
  • Frame 5: Not satisfied with the answer (or more likely the backchat) the policeman chases the photographer away with threat of violence (thats supposed to be a truncheon and not a sword in the sketch, not too many policemen have swords as standard issue these days).

Before I get hate comments from the po po – I’d just like to point out that I think this would in no way happen in real life! Apart from a documented propensity to judge people by the size of their camera gear I know the police would never do this. When I was asked (in this very scenic spot) what I was doing they seemed satisfied I wasn’t a terrorist and left me in peace to take my photos.

Other comments/reflection:

As I mentioned in part 2, I really liked the depth to the scenes I noticed in the other students storyboards so I tried to include that here. You know you’re in the same place because of the background. In frame one I included the boat on the thames so I could show it in frame two to be a middle ground because you don’t see big ben in the second frame. The backgrounds and CCTV poles serve to provide continuity between frames as the story unfolds.

October 19, 2013

Exercise: Telling a Story

by Suzy Walker-Toye

A film can be split into acts, then scenes, then shots, and finally frames. We can actually tell a story with only frames (a bit like a photo essay). In the course materials they told the story of little red riding hood in 5 frames:

  • Ms Hood in the woods
  • Ms Hood meets the wolf
  • The wolf attacks Grandma at her house
  • Ms Hood tending to grandma (who is clearly the wolf dressed up)
  • The wolf chowing down on Ms Hood.

The challenge for this exercise is to tell another story in 5 frames & sketch it out. I have chosen to continue with the fairytale theme, and will be telling you the story of Jack & the Beanstalk. Here are my five frames (no sniggering at my sketching abilities please)!

Jack & the Beanstalk

I found it useful to write out the story and underline my 5 salient points plot so I could pre-visualise them before putting pencil to paper.

Jack & The Beanstalk:

Jack is broke. He gets sent off to market to sell his cow but swaps her for magic beans with a stranger he meets along the way. His mother is furious and throws out the beans. Overnight the beanstalk grows and Jack climbs up it to a giants house. Jack befriends the giants wife and managed to steal a goose that lays golden eggs. Shamelessly, he goes back again. He steals a magic harp and this time the giant almost catches him. The giant chases Jack down the stalk but Jack cuts it down and kills the giant. Jack and his mum live happily ever after with their ill-gotten gains.


Please let me know what you think in the comments below. Would you have chosen different scenes for your 5 frames? I think it would been nice to show a frame of the giants house, or maybe the goose. Or perhaps a closeup of jack with the axe cutting down the stalk? However, then I would have gone over the allowed limit of 5 frames. My husband said my cow looked like she was rolling her eyes, “Oh no, not these bloody beans again”.