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Magazine – The Student Perspective

the student perspective

The Student Perspective Ian F. Hunt

From Website Designer to Filmmaker

Two and half years ago I started at the Arts University College Bournemouth, which from 2013 became the Arts University Bournemouth as an undergraduate studying BA Digital Media Production. I was convinced at the start of my degree that I would concentrate my studies and project work on web related topics and eventually graduate some three years later as a website designer. But thanks to a chance meeting with a guest lecturer from the professional film industry; my studies, my project work and future career interests have taken a radically different path.Studio Film Shoot

This key first lecture had a very simple concept; divided up into small groups each group would write, create a storyboard/shot list and edit/produce a 2-minute short film by the end of the day using the lyrics of a song for inspiration. Our group had the chorus from KT Tunstall’s, ‘Black Horse & A Cherry Tree’. For the production the technical parameters were set as follow, we were restricted to using a mobile phone to film, but we would have access to a suite of iMacs all running Adobe Creative Suite CS5 for editing, which meant we could use iMovie or Premier Pro CS5. I remember my only concern at the time was ‘where are we going to find a horse’ but of course we found one in the end.Green Screen Filming

I wondered about the mobile phone restriction for the project when we had access to several Sony HVR-Z5E Camcorders, but now I can see that this limitation was put in place in order to generate creativity. It would have been so easy to use the camcorders with their zoom lenses to capture the image of a horse from afar. But with just a mobile phone we ended up sneaking up on a horse in a damp field armed only with a recently purchased apple from the University Refectory to tempt the horse close and so get the shots we needed. By the end of the day I was hooked, in less than a day we had created a short 2-minute film, filmed in HD (on my Sony Ericcsson W995), edited in Premiere Pro CS5 and which was also a faithful representation of the lyrics from song chosen to be the soundtrack for our short film.

We are extremely lucky at the Arts University Bournemouth with access to a large number of cameras and film/video equipment including DSLR’s consisting of several Canon 5D MII’s, Canon 550D’s, 600D’s and 650D’s. This switch to DSLR’s has revolutionised the way we students approach projects, for example you can work individually or in much smaller teams on a project. Video clips are captured directly onto Flash or SD memory cards, no more capturing from tape. Another bonus of capturing your footage direct to SD cards means it is so much quicker to get video clips into the computer ready for editing.

As a creative University, students cannot help but be inspired and to be creative; this is helped by collaboration between the courses. I have worked with Acting, Makeup and Costume courses to make films, in fact all the essential resources and skills that a filmmaker needs.Canon 60D Green Screen Filming

Student Films – the approach (Not just for students)

Pre-Production

From the very early days of the short film unit and throughout the course it has been instilled into us that preparation that is pre-production is the key to the successful production of a film. But I’m getting slightly ahead; the process actually starts with the idea development. Student films tend to default to films about the Homeless and most recently Zombie films, I’ve made or been involved in the making of both. So how do you come up with an original idea for a film? There’s the mood wall, or a scrapbook of things that interest or inspire you. This can be anything; examples could be photographs of people, materials or just ideas for colours. The social networking site Pinterest has updated this concept recently, Pinterest lets you pin images of things that you like and/or inspire you. You can share these Pins with your collaborators and hopefully out of all of this pinning and sharing that unique idea for a film just pops out at you.

Sometimes a client sets the subject for the film and so the challenge then becomes how to interpret the brief and come up with a unique and interesting way of fulfilling the brief. Again the mood wall can help, as will a brainstorming session either with team members or your friends.

Now that you have your idea for a film its time to start pre-production, which means everything that you need to do before you start the actual filming process. Included in that list of things to do is to first create an outline of the film, a script if there is any dialogue, storyboards/diagram and a shot list. You need a film location and almost certainly actors unless the team/crew are also happy to be on camera. For some locations you will need permission to film particularly if it’s in a public area. You may need a risk assessment; we produce one of these for every film production in fact without one of these you will be unable to book equipment from the stores. How long is the film is it a short or feature length? Finally or maybe this should be the first thing to consider, where is your film going to be viewed? Online YouTube and Vimeo, on a self-hosted website, DVD etc.

Filming

To give you an idea of what is involved I produced a short film with another student of a Team GB athletes evening training session for the Long Jump. The pre-production, including the recce of locations took at least 10 days but the actual time filming was less than 2 hours. Most of this pre-production time was spent creating storyboards, shot lists and trying to come up with a unique way of producing a film that would make it more than just a video of an athlete training.

The key concept in the end was to try and capture the drama in the sport by showing the build up, the explosion of effort required to be the best at their sport. The filming took place on a very cold and dark Winters evening under stadium floodlights; this is where the DSLR’s low light abilities make it the ideal camera for the job. Having researched the key elements of the Long Jump, the dramatic build up at the start where the athlete psyches themselves up before starting the approach the run up to the launch point. These would be the scenes to capture and for dramatic effect using close ups and different angles.

During the filming process we decided to film additional shots not in the original shot list. This is always a good idea and this proved true for this film as we used most of these in the final film. Additional shots could include those taken at different angles and distances of the scene planned shot list but they could also be of anything. That is anything that adds to the films interest, for example a full Moon, wind in the trees a Sunset or Sunrise.Green Screen Setup

Don’t forget the importance of Sound

As important as the visuals are the sound has equal if not greater importance. Many problems with visuals can be fixed in post production but sound usually cannot, so this has to be captured right at the outset. This highlights a problem with DSLR’s most of which do not have a headphone socket and the means of monitoring the sound being recorded. There are ways around this e.g. using Magic Lantern but the only way really is to record using a standalone sound recorder like the Zoom H4N rather than record sound direct to camera. I personally use Magic Lantern on my Canon 60D which means I can monitor the sound being recorded from my cameras hotshoe mounted Rode Videomic.

Post Production – EditingStudio Shoot Canon 5D MKII

Premier Pro is a non-linear editing program and it is the preferred editing tool for our course although we do have access alternatives including several Avid editing suites in the University used by the Film Production course.

Remember those additional shots? I used these so that I could create rapid cuts to match the music soundtrack. Cutting to a different shot for each beat of the music. Modern editing trends mean rapid cuts especially in an action film, these cuts add to the dramatic effect, the quicker the cut the faster the pace of the film.

The choice of music is important to, I’d already researched the perfect soundtrack with a beat to match the movement building up to a crescendo at the end perfect for this type of on screen action.

Towards the end of the editing process is the time to add special effects (if required) and colour grading.

Get Feedback

It is always a good idea to preview your film to a group of friends before going public with your latest creation. I usually upload my film to YouTube as unlisted and then send the link to friends for their comments. Typically I fully expect then based on the feedback to have to do several changes to the final edit before the film is ready to go public. For University assessment we present our films to our peers for critique, this is when you find out if its good, could be better or it’s a real stinker. But no matter what the feedback is positive or negative learn from it, this can only help you to be a better filmmaker.

Downloads

Download the original article as a pdf – download Student Perspective

 

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Moving Image – Voices

An assignment for Bournemouth & Poole College. Student Films – A team project involving the research and development a short form video for presentation on the Internet and DVD.

[youtube.com/watch?v=vyvEwjB95sg]

Idea Development

1.1  Develop a concept of moving image sequence

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

The Hook (logline)

Dave a Serial Killer confronted by and judged by his victims in his dreams is found guilty and is dragged down and into hell.

The Synopsis

 

Opening scenes

Dave is sleeping fitfully at a table when he begins to hear voices. The voices grow more distinct and suddenly he finds himself standing at a lectern surrounded by darkness when a face appears before him. This is the face of his prosecutor and judge.

Main Character – Dave

Dave an ordinary looking guy, who is assumed from his appearance to be leading a perfectly normal life and to be working in a boring 9 to 5 job etc But he is in fact a Serial Killer who lives out his fantasies at night stalking the streets looking for his next victim. Six years later and he’s killed his 6th victim he now finds it’s easier to kill the 7th and now he’s up to 12 in just 7 years.

But he’s haunted by his victims who talk to him in his sleep until the night it all becomes real.

Scene 1

Dave has fallen asleep at a table it is a fitful sleep the voices torment him as usual their overlapping voices crying out and begging for mercy but they are impossible to hear clearly. Then there is silence until suddenly there is just one voice calling his name over and over again.

Dave awakes but instead of being asleep at a table he finds himself standing at a lectern in semi-darkness. The voice comes again from out of the darkness and then a disembodied face appears before him.

The face unknown to Dave does not give a name but begins to inform Dave that he is on trial for his soul.

Scene 2

One by One the faces of his victims appear out of the darkness in turn accusing Dave of their murders. Only the disembodied faces of Dave’s victims are ever seen and they appear to float in the darkness.

The verdict is guilty and the judge tells Dave that his soul will be collected and taken to hell.

Scene 3

New voices come out of the darkness darker and menacing. Hands appear from out of the darkness encircling Dave from behind and begin dragging him struggling into the darkness. A final cry from Dave as the darkness envelopes him.

An alternative end is to have Dave dragged invisibly into the darkness where the hands then reach out to grab him and drag him to Hell.

Fade to end credits.

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Voices – Script (First Draft)

Opening scene

Dave is sleeping at a table in front of his Wall of Newspaper cuttings showing all his crimes, his murder victims and how the Police are still baffled by the “By The Numbers Killer” – when he begins to hear voices. The voices grow more distinct and suddenly he finds himself awake and standing at a lectern/dock in near darkness when a light suddenly comes on and in the surrounding darkness a face appears before him.

Scene 1

Judge:              David Wake up – Wake Up David

Dave:               What’s happening – how did I get here – who – what are you

Judge:              David Tiberius Gregorshi you stand here now to face your accusers – to account for your crimes and to receive our judgement for the final destination of your immortal soul.

Dave:               I must still be asleep – I’m just having a bad dream – I’ll wake up soon and this will not even be a memory.

Judge:              This is no dream you are here to defend yourself – you are accused of the murders of so many people – each one an innocent victim chosen at random by you. Behold the first one comes.

Scene 2

Amanda:          I remember the eyes – no emotion – dead eyes – yes he’s the one who killed me.

Dave:               It’s not true – I’ve killed no one – it’s a lie I tell you – all lies

Judge:              David you have not understood why you are here – we know you are guilty of all the crimes you have been accused of – that you have killed all these people to satisfy your evil desires your only hope of salvation of your soul is the forgiveness of your victims. That there is some small hope that there is something good in you that will save your immortal soul from eternal damnation.

Amanda can you ever forgive him – to save his soul – forgive him for his crime against you.

Amanda:          I’m sorry but I cannot – I only met him that one night – and then there was the horrible things he that did – no I can never forgive him – I can remember every second of that night as if it had just happened – no I can never forgive – let him rot in Hell.

Judge:              Thank you Amanda – I’m sorry you had to go through this – you may leave us now.

Dave:               This is insane – I don’t need this  – I’m leaving – What the hell I cannot move – what have you done to me – why can’t I move.

Judge:              You have no choice – you cannot leave – a judgement must be made – you must hear from your victims.

Behold the next one comes

Mary do you know this man before you – is he the one

Mary:              I did not want to come the memories are too painful – yes he’s the one – he’s the one who killed me – may his soul rot in hell for all eternity.

Dave:               It’s not true they are all liars – anyway I do not believe in all of this – there is no Heaven just as there is no Hell – this is all a trick to get me to confess – but I won’t you see –  there’s nothing you can do that can make me.

Judge:              (The Judge turns to his left and looks into the darkness). My brothers have we heard enough or do we still need to call the other witnesses. (He nods as if answering someone although there is no sound)

A judgement has been reached –  my brothers and I have no doubt that there is no hope for you – you have shown no remorse for your actions – indeed I can even now see into your mind that you plan to go on killing.

Our judgement is that you will indeed suffer for the evil that you have done – that your soul suffer the eternal horror that is hell – the demons have been summoned, they will be with us soon – do you have any last words.

Dave:               Fuck you and your demons – I’ve told you before I do not believe in any of this crap – now let me go before I break free and do to you what I did to all those others.

Scene 3:

A Terrible noise comes from behind Dave

Dave:               What was that terrible noise – it sounded like the screaming of thousands of people

Judge:              They are here – the demons from Hell have come for you – they only wait for my word before dragging you to Hell.

Dave:               Wait, I’ve changed my mind – I take it all back – please don’t let them takes me – I beg you, just give me another chance.

Judge:              I see now that you realise the truth – you have no understanding of what awaits you in Hell – your imagination at it’s worst cannot even begin to compare to what your immortal soul will have to endure for all eternity – the time for remorse has passed there can be no appeal.

The camera turns towards Dave. The Lectern has gone and Dave is on his knees seemingly praying.

Dave:               Don’t let them take me – please, I can make everything right – please don’t let them take me – just one more chance.

Judge:              Demons – The final judgement has been made – follow your master’s orders and take him now.

Dave is grabbed invisibly from behind and dragged kicking and screaming into the darkness. Hands reach out from the darkness to drag him down into Hell.

FADE TO BLACKOUT

****************************************

Shot List – (provisional)

Film: Voices
Shot Order/Storyboard and Dialogue Ref
Shot No: Storyboard No: Dialogue Reference:
1 1c CU – Dave Wake up Dave – Dave Wake up
1c 1 XCU – Dave as eyes snap open
2 2 WS – side on shot Dave & Judge What’s happening
3 4 CU – Dave standing on left I must still be asleep
4 7 MS – Looking over Amandas shoulder It’s not true
5 11 MS – Over judge shoulder This is insane
6 11 Zoom in It’s not true they are all liars
7 11 Zoom out Fuck you and your demons
8 11 Zoom in What was that terrible noise
9 11 Zoom out Wait I’ve changed my mind
10 14 CU Don’t let them take me
11 15 to 16 Zoom out as Dave is dragged kicking and screaming backwards
12 2 Wide side on shot Dave & Judge David Tiberius Gregorshi
13 5 CU – Side shot of Judge This is no dream
14 8 MS – Judge facing David David you have not understood
15 9 CU – Judge Thank you Amanda
16 8 MS – Judge facing David and then pan to show Mary has appeared You have no choice
17 9 CU – Judge – turns head My brothers have we heard enough
18 9 CU – Judge They are here – the demons from hell
19 9 CU – Judge but zoom out I see npw that you realise the truth
20 9 CU – Judge but more side on Demons – The final judgement
21 6 XCU – Amanda I remember the eyes
22 10 CU – Amanda I’m sorry but I cannot
23 13 WS – Side shot over judges shoulder showing Mary looking at David I did not want to come
24
Cutaway and Additional Shots
25 ECU Dave
26 ECU Judge
27 ECU Amanda
28 ECU Mary
29 CU Dave side on
30 CU Judge side on
31 CU Amanda side on
32 CU Mary side on
33 CU Amanda hands in front of face – Crying?
34 MS Amanda looks away
35 MS Mary looks away
36 MS side shot of Dave being dragged
37 CU Hands on Dave being dragged
38
39
40

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2.2 Research Content – Film Influences

The original inspiration for the Film Voices comes from an award winning Theatre production called ‘The Verdict is Yours’ produced by the Festival Fringe Theatre Company rather than from a Film. In the play the main character the man accused of murder is visited in his jail by the ghost of his victim. A trial is played out on stage with the audience acting as the judge and jury, deciding the fate of the accused murderer from evidence provided by a live prosecutor and the ghost of the alleged murder victim. The audience was left to decide whether premeditated murder was committed or was it an unfortunate accident? A key part of the original production was the magical appearance of the ghost who appeared to be floating on the stage.

Film Influences - Silence of the Lambs

Film Influences - Silence of the Lambs

Film inspiration comes from the iconic film ‘Silence of the Lambs’ the characterisation and visuals associated with and played by Anthony Hopkins. The idea that a relatively ordinary and sane looking man could have perpetrated such violent crimes. A serial killer and cannibal a terrifying idea and against the moralities of modern civilisation. The idea of making the Voices character to appear as ordinary as possible would add to the effect of  Film on the audience implying that no one knows who anyone really is.

For the trial, inspiration comes from the 1957 film ‘12 Angry Men’, the scenes in the jury room with a fly on

Film Influences - 12 Angry Men

Film Influences - 12 Angry Men

the wall camera positioning and zoom operations etc. The films narrative also offers ideas on how to develop the script for the film Voices.

Another influence comes from the 1990 film Ghost in the scene where the murderer of Patrick Swayze’s character Sam Wheat by the character Willie Lopez played by Rick Aviles who having been killed in a road accident is pursued and caught by the shadows (minions of hell) in a New York street witnessed by Patrick Swayze’s character. The scene ends with Willie Lopez being dragged backwards into the darkness and presumably to Hell. The sounds used in the film an angry growling type noise was particularly effective and it would be worth attempting something similar in the film Voices.

Film Influences - Ghost

Film Influences - Ghost

Another example includes the Film Franchise ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ where there are multiple scenes of victims being dragged invisibly across walls, ceilings and corridors. A simple similar effect could be achieved by tying a rope around the actors’ waist and dragging him backwards ensuring the rope is not visible on camera.

Film Influences - Nightmare on Elm Street

Film Influences - Nightmare on Elm Street

In general the visualisation for the film will use many of the techniques familiar to Film Noir in particular lighting effects. The aim is to light sparingly as there will be little set and target lighting to the faces of the ghosts only leaving the bodies unlighted. This will give the effect that they are disembodied – voices only. Using the 1994 Film ‘Double Indemnity’ as a good example of Film Noir in particular it’s lighting which mainly concentrates on the faces of the characters. This effect could be achieved by using hand held torches; experimentation would be needed to see how effective would be including the possibility of mounting a light on the camera or tripod so that light only appears where the camera lens is pointing.

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