Posts tagged ‘video’

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.

February 20, 2014

Assignment 1: Framing

by Suzy Walker-Toye

For this assignment we had to produce a short sequence, of no more than five shots, that tells a simple story using images alone. I was on location in Indonesia when this assignment was due with little wiggle room in my schedule so my story was based on what we were doing there as the premise.

The story I wanted to boil down was we’re on a diving trip to shoot underwater. I knew I needed only 5 frames but I wanted to get enough alternate footage in case I didn’t like how it turned out so I storyboarded more than 5 frames with some of them as optional swap ins in my minds eye. This wasn’t far from the truth and I ended up reshooting:

Storyboard Sketch

These sketches represent the following:
1) Nice setting the scene shot of the boat on the water
2) (optional subjective POV shot 1) Getting the diving gear ready
3) Divers getting on the dingy
4) (optional subjective POV shot 2) Going along in the dingy with there other divers putting fins on.
5) (optional subjective POV shot 3) Falling back into the water (splash). This was initially listed as optional but I think its needed to bridge the gap in the story from above the water to below.
6) (optional subjective POV shot 4) Camera being handed down to me by dingy driver. This turned out to be too technically challenging to get a good clip of so this was binned as an idea.
7) Either taking photos of divers taking photos or filming the reef, depending on what the dive brings. As it happened I was able to shoot Jarret taking photos of the mantas which was what I hoped to shoot but I didn’t want to jinx seeing the ‘big birds’ by drawing them upfront just in case we didn’t see them.

The Final Sequence

Here is my final clip. see below in the evaluation section for cutting-room floor clips and the reasons for them but here in the final version is the following 5 scenes:
1) Objective POV: The boat context shot to set the scene
2) Subjective POV: Gearing up (short version)
3) Objective POV: The divers getting into the dingy and it driving away (this suggests traveling to the dive site without using up an extra frame).
4) Subjective POV: Falling back into the water.
5) Objective POV: Diving in the underwater world (Jarret & Mantas).

Filmed using Olympus OMD EM1 (with 12-50 and 8mm FE lenses) and GoPro


To be able to write the evaluation properly I should show my first draft, so I can comment on my thought processes of why I changed it in the final one. So here is my first draft, shot closer to the storybook sketches.

And here is a compilation of some rejected clips I wanted to talk about in the evaluation:

So evaluating each scene in the final clip…

Scene 1) Objective POV: The boat, Indosiren, sailing across the sea.

I wanted this shot to introduce the story and set the scene. We didn’t actually travel with the sails up but the boat is so much more majestic and I think the image of this for the story is much better for them. I could have been a beat or two longer but I was filming from the rib and didn’t want my audience to get seasick in just the first few frames! I framed the boat in the clip as I was framing it in my photographs, to be in a classic place within the frame with a bit of sea for it to sail into.

Scene 2) Subjective POV: Gearing up (short version)

My 1st draft starts the same but scene two is much longer, which I found quickly became tedious when I watched it back. Also, I thought that if you didn’t know about diving then all this messing about with a weird jacket thing didn’t provide any context and the flow of the simple story was then lost. Rejected clips 2 & 3 (see the rejected clips compilation below) are a quest to find a better second clip to provide context to help along the story. The time-lapse of everyone getting ready was just a little too far away to provide the context I sought and the dive briefing was just too dull to use up one of my 5 scenes with. In the end I trimmed back the gear clip to just the mask cleaning which is more obvious what is going on and its not too long until you see full geared up divers to get the reference. I filmed with with my GoPro stuffed into my wetsuit so I was quite pleased with the framing of most of it when I watched it back. It was very bright though and I don’t think the camera liked the exaggerated dynamic range so there is quite a distracting light bleed into the left hand side of the frame.

Scene 3) Objective POV: The divers getting into the dingy and it driving away (this suggests traveling to the dive site without using up an extra frame).

Scene three is different in the final from my draft. Initially shot subjectively, you see the other divers getting ready and getting into the boat, and then I get into the boat too. I found I didn’t need this and it was weird to have so much subjective footage and no way to see who was doing the filming (like the other subjective films we’ve been looking at on the blog the filmer is usually revealed somehow by either a mirror or someone else’s subjective view point). I thought the small amount of gear prep flowed better into the full geared up divers getting into the boat clip. This objective shot is actually also much closer to my story board sketch of scene three and how I pictured it in my mind.

4) Subjective POV: Falling back into the water.

This is actually drawn in the storyboard as scene 5, the optional scene 4 from the sketch didn’t work out (its actually rejected clip 1 so you can see why I rejected it). My GoPro as too low on me to make for good going along footage and I needed my hands free to put my fins on ready of diving. This falling back shot was exactly as I pictured it, and you really get the feeling of going over. Also, the water bubbles serve as a nice boundary shot between the above water and below water worlds.

5) Objective POV: Diving in the underwater world (Jarret & Mantas).
This final scene of the diver and the mantas is what all the prep has been about and makes the conclusion of the story.

I think overall as a final clip its disjointed because its boiled down to only 5 scenes, i would have included a lot more but I was sticking to the assignment brief. I’m glad I thought about (and sketched out) more than just 5 scenes so I had some options. On reflection, Its possible I could have skipped scene 2 and had the divers getting in the boat as the setting the scene shot then perhaps I could have more underwater scenes at the end, this was difficult to preplan what we’d see though since its not a zoo and we may just have ended up filming each other.

I think I need to strengthen my skills in filming subjectively, this is something that takes practice to frame up a shot without a screen on the video camera. Also, I didn’t provide a soundtrack to this clip because I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to add music to the assignment or not.

February 20, 2014

New Vimeo Account

by Suzy Walker-Toye

I thought it high time to get myself an OCA video account for this film course. You can find it here…

I’ll be uploading all the exercises and Assignments to it as I do them.

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.

October 23, 2013

Video Interview: Reuben Irving from the OCA

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Found this on the WeArOCA website (while looking for other students blogs of the course for part two of the first exercise):

Reuben Irving, the author of the OCA’s film course was in the OCA office for an interview about it.

October 18, 2013

A Camera Drama from ECAL

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The design students from ECAL were tasked with building apparatus to create videos that the world has never seen. This is what they came up with in their one week workshop…

My faves are Eyeball & Satellite (although that did make me a bit motion sick)!

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