Keeping the problem to myself
From shooting the film to the last titles I made, I hadn’t shown my edit to anyone. I did feel like asking for feedback when I roughly put the main story together, but I didn’t. I thought it was too raw and at a too early stage, that it didn’t show the idea I had, and waited until I thought it was polished before I show it to anyone.
That was a big mistake – I got too engrossed in the edit and didn’t have a fresh view whether it works. So three days before the deadline, a week’s worth of hard work felt like a mistake – because I had put effort but didn’t know if the direction I took was right.
So after polishing and exporting the film, I first showed it to a couple of friends outside the course. Generally, no one outside the UK didn’t understand the story. I guess it’s because the film is based around a game of Tag, which is a culture specific thing. Even though we do have similar games in other countries, the film is clearly made by Brits for Brits.
Another point was that it wasn’t too clear where the suspence is. We tried to shoot and edit the film as if the guy banging on the door is a stranger, but I think the final piece doesn’t show that. It looks like the Unknown man is Phillip’s friend and he was playing near his house, so he just invites him to join the game.
Content and pacing
When I showed my edit in the group screening lecture, it was the first time I was able to watch it as an outsider, probably because it was on a big screen, in another aspect and ambiance – and I noticed the first scenes (almost the entire first minute of the film) are a bit slow and repetitive. I received similar comments from two of my friends as well. I was aware while editing that it was an issue, but the clips I chose to use didn’t offer lots of ‘interestingness’ to keep the viewers’ attention in these first scenes. However, I went ahead with these scenes, so I can have the film running for more than two minutes. It was very tough for me to figure out how the film would feel like on screen before the editing was over – pacing, scene length and keeping the viewers’ attention were things I was having a hard time thinking about. I guess it just takes practice and experience. The next projects I work on are definitely going to involve more planning, working close with the brief, script and storyboarding.
Planning and organisation
One of the side projects I am working on is an animation short film (I am helping with sound). I have gained some insider view of the stages an animation production goes through. Since animation is a very time consuming activity, and they need to create every frame in the film literally from scratch, a lot of of the animation process is pre-production and planning. They create an ‘animatic’: it consists of the sketches of all the key frames in the film. It is like a paper edit, but a more visual and ‘alive’ one – you basically put the storyboard on a timeline. The animatic shows the accurate timing of each scene and helps animators and sound designers keep on track with the project. It is probably the most important guideline in animation productions, and I am considering using this technique in future live action productions.
Sound and visuals
Feedback I received also included a ‘thumbs up’ for the way I chose to use sound – it helps tell the story. I did pay very close attention to the sound design, and even tried to create a stereo experience in the film. However, one of my friends suggested I could work with the sound levels and style in the different locations – now the film sounds pretty much the same both in the outside and inside scenes. For example, one suggestion was to build up tension with increasing the sound levels from the running people outside and decreasing the sound from within the house, until the two meet at the door – this would help build another layer in the story and keep the viewers’ attention.
One of the comments the film received was for trying to create a contrast between the dynamic outside shots – which included more action, wider views and panning vs. the static and simple framing in the inside shots. There was also a ‘thumbs up’ for using close ups and filming from unusual points of view for Phillip – this made it feel more ‘intrusive’, ‘uncomfortable’ – which hopefully helped build tension and suspence. Of course, these were solely Chris Hammond’s decisions as a director and camera operator – we (the other members of the group) didn’t plan and think about it that much, and now I realise how easily it could have ruined the film and how invaluable his input was for the whole visual aspect of the film.
Music was nowhere to be heard in my edit. I now realise that it could improve the first scenes, where the action is a bit slow. From the feedback I received, some people were advising me to try and work with music, while others (for example Chris) said that as I try to specialise in sound design, it makes sense to just focus on the actuality sounds. I guess I need to try which works best. I did feel the film lacked something when watching it on the big screen in the lecture theatre, and I am planning to try and use some music. I am probably having a hard time thinking about it, because I have already seen a couple of student films (both by Media Production colleagues and other random films on Vimeo) that are using inappropriate music – it makes some of them sound too cheap and unprofessional, and I fear I may end up with the same problem. But until I try, I will never know.
With grading, I only went as far as making the scenes look consistent and fixing some minor white balance and lighting / contrast issues. I also tried to increase the saturation for the outside shots and decrease it for the inside ones – thus trying to show the contrast between the two locations and the difference in dynamics. I received a comment from James Dove that colour grading can be improved to add a more ‘filmy’ look to the final piece, so I went to search for online tutorials and had a go with it. It made sense – plus, I always do that in photography, so it was a logical thing to do it in video too. I don’t know if I achieved the filmy look, but the film definitely looks better this way.
I chose to include the name of the film on screen, but only in the end – because if I had included it in the beginning, it would have ‘spoiled’ the viewers by revealing the twist. The name is basically the punchline, so I chose to put it right after the end. I received good feedback on this decision, however there were comments the font was inappropriate. I have to admit I used it only because I had already worked with it in a previous video I made and I thought it looked OK (I didn’t really spend time searching for a font for this one), but after receiving these comments I realised it was too cheezy. I went ahead with Chris’ advise to replace it and use the simple font I used for the end credits. The improved version is not yet online, but it is what I handed in.
It wasn’t easy to receive feedback – most people would just say the film was OK or as one of my housemate put it: ‘not too bad for an amateur film’, which basically means ‘whatever’. At the group screening, the only people that were giving comments on the film before ours were Chris and me – and when we showed our film, no one from the audience said anything. Thankfully, they were at least asking how we achieved certain technical effects – like the famous shot of James looking around with the camera fixed at his face, or the clear sounds. But apart from that, there wasn’t critisism or comments on what can be improved – which is pity, because from a room of 50+ people that all went through a short film production process, I was sure they did have some thoughts. So when I came back home, I put a link to the film on Facebook and tried to ask people from the course for feedback. Thankfully, that worked better, and this post is more or less a result of the comments I received.
Before handing in the film, I wanted to put on board at least some of the comments I received – I changed the cheezy font and improved the colour grading. I want to make a whole new edit during the Easter holidays, starting from point zero and trying to incorporate the feedback I received. I do believe there is potential in the shots we have, and after seeing Chris’ and James’ versions of the film, I feel like I need to try and make my edit work better.