Video Brief: 'Continuity task involving filming and editing a character opening a door, crossing a room and sitting down in a chair opposite another character, with whom she/he then exchanges a couple lines of dialogue. This task should demonstrate match on action, shot/reverse shot and the 180-degree rule.
1) Who did you work with and how did you manage the task between you?
The group members were Ellie Brackpool, Georgie Thoupos, Aidan McGiff, and myself. Georgie and Aidan both acted in the scene, and Ellie managed the set, the sound and assisted with the camera, providing extremely valuable opinions on framing and composition. I took the role of director because previously in Media Studies and in the prelim work I acted quite a lot, so this time I felt it would be useful to get some experience with the camera under my belt. As Georgie is new to Media Studies, acting allowed her to ease into the process, Ellie chose her role with it being one she enjoys as she could contribute all-round, and Aidan acted to give others like myself time with the camera as he has had good experience directing already. However, we all took responsibilities with the camera, including the actors (in shots where they were not in frame), and contributed to the direction of the sequence. When we edited we split into two pairs rather than staying as a four in order to give us all as much editing experience as possible. Ellie and I edited together, and Aidan worked with Georgie, each pair taking the same narrative with a slightly different interpretation in terms of shot selection, length and order. I believe everyone had an equal contribution to the group; there was no natural leader but we all had enough confidence to put our ideas forward.
2) How did you plan your sequence? What processes did you use? What theories did you try to take into account?
Hesitant and possibly unconfident at first, to plan our sequence we sat together as a group and brainstormed ideas verbally and noted them down on paper until we came to a conclusion. Although our planning was mainly based on ideas and vision rather than a certain, set-in-stone order of exact shots, we wrote and drew up a series of some of our main shots on a storyboard. We also constructed a rough script to give the cast an idea of what to say. Also during pre-production, we planned how and where we would set up, which involved moving lots of chairs out (and finding a place to put them temporarily) and bringing a table on set to make it typical of an interrogation scene. Unfortunately we were unable to attain our first-choice set as it was unavailable, so we had the challenge of planning to film in a relatively small, limiting space. Later on in the process we decided which props and costumes would fit in with the idea, and found out who would be able to provide us with them. We made it a focus to include and adhere to all of the theories and conventions of continuity set by the brief, as well as other rules, and in addition, imply a clear sense of genre through our own knowledge. The little planning that we did benefited us greatly, but if it wasn't for our successful improvisation it would have become a time-consuming obstacle.
3) What technology did you use to complete the task, and how did you use it?
We used the school's digital cameras (Canon HV30) with an attached shotgun microphone and a tripod, and Sennheiser headphones to shoot this task, filming in different positions with a variety of techniques and angles. Examples of these include fully extending the legs on the tripod to create establishing high-angle long shots and handheld closeups for a human, gritty feel. We shot the scene indoors where the light could easily be controlled, but we did not require this anyway; the natural light from outdoors was sufficient. We used Adobe Premiere Pro to edit our sequence on computers designed specifically for editing. Using this we could cut the starts of shots introducing each shot/take with a clapperboard, and endings we believed carried on for too long, piecing them together in the order/pace we believed fit our perception of the idea best. In the process, a fair few shots were scrapped, but we dragged the ones that we believed were the most successful onto the timeline. By using Premiere Pro's razor tool we could cross-cut separate narratives, and make a conversation look like a series of shots whereas in reality much of it was two shots cut between in a shot/reverse shot. Unlinking audio from video proved very useful, for example cutting away from the closing door but still being able to include the sound of it closing at the correct time in the next shot. Fortunately, with my previous use of this software in Media Studies I was quite familiar with the editing process and its challenges.
4) What factors did you have to take into account when planning, shooting, and editing?
As we shot this task within school, when shooting we had to plan to capture as much as we could on camera before and after the changes in period. This was because other pupils would walk past the set, inevitably talking and making disruptive noise, so although we had the hour and 20 minutes of a double lesson, realistically we knew we would have about an hour of shooting within that, which would also account for setting up. We were aware that we may have had to anticipate fire drills, consider natural and unnatural/controllable light and negotiate to confirm availability of our set. Other students were shooting their prelim tasks in the media rooms so we had to keep sound/noise within reason, arrange with them who would use which areas at what time in the lesson, check whether anybody planned to use the same props as us from the department, and ask whether we could be granted permission to do so in the first place. Quite a major cause for concern was shooting within a very small, limiting set, so we had to do a walkthrough to see which shots we could realistically take.
Along with this were the continuity theories and rules, and the way the audience would interpret what they would see (we may know what the scene is about as producers or directors but it has to make sense to others). During the editing process we had to put these theories into practice with some success, in order for our sequence to have a relatively seamless narrative flow and make clear enough sense. Also, when editing we took into account pace and shot length, as well as whether we would actually require each shot we planned and filmed. Another thing we had to adapt to was the fact that we were restricted from using any special effects or sound effects in our sequence; in the suite we decided to leave the 'down the barrel' shot until the end, where an audience could expect the gun to be fired without actually seeing or hearing it.
5) How successful was your sequence? Please identify what worked well, and with hindsight, what would you improve/do differently?
I believe our sequence was quite successful; the idea was very simple and complied with the demands of the brief; Aidan walks through a door, crosses a room and sits opposite Georgie with whom he exchanges some lines of dialogue. In particular the 180 degree rule with our shot/reverse shot in the conversation was executed really well, and there was no issue with jump shots and the 30 degree rule, in the sense that shots were individual, and appropriately changed distance, angle and framing, despite shooting on a tiny set! However, there were a few small errors with what I find most challenging in continuity - match on action. For many of our shots the action was matched well with no noticeable problem, which we must give ourselves credit for, but a minority of others blocked us from achieving a seamless, professional looking flow between them. Without a wealth of successful shots, matching the action from approaching and opening the door at different angles proved the most challenging to edit, although Aidan and Georgie's separate edit was surprisingly successful compared to what Ellie and I managed. The three consecutive shots right at the end were cut within only two seconds in quick succession, but in spending more time trying to perfect it, our partnership did a relatively decent job to create good continuity there. The continuity issues were minimal, but given more time (or if we gave ourselves more time by working more efficiently), they would have been simple enough to clear up quickly during shooting and editing. Apart from slight tendencies to smile uncontrollably at times, the acting from Aidan and Georgie was actually quite convincing, which would help one to suspend their disbelief while watching the scene. In hindsight, better planning of shots (e.g. a shot list), and a more concise, succint dialogue would have compacted the scene and taken less time to shoot and edit, allowing us to perfect the continuity further, especially matches on action. It would also put us under less pressure to film in a rush, allowing us to film more takes and thus eliminate errors such as the camera being jogged. I believe the group communication and dynamics worked excellently in this task, the division of roles worked well, everybody contributing equally and effectively and the whole process including editing was smooth, with no internal issues.
6) What have you learnt from completing this task? Looking ahead, how will this learning be significant when completing the rest of your foundation coursework, do you think?
From this task the rest of the group and I learned the importance of good planning and pre-production, especially under time constraints, debatably as a result of minimal, possibly insufficient planning. It teaches us to appreciate how much planning is needed in real-world media to create successful continuity. Our skills and knowledge were refreshed, especially in terms of speed and accuracy in editing, which I believe we did well. We also were reminded how behaviour on set impacts on the efficiency of the time we used to shoot, as the fact that many shots had us in hysterics meant we had to shoot more takes than would be ideal. This will be significant when completing the rest of the foundation coursework because it has significantly boosted my comfort and confidence in editing which previously was very little. Particularly in situations where I don't have a wealth of great shots to use, I now feel I can still create a successful sequence, whereas before the prospect would have panicked me. Getting used to working with a group to create a piece will be elemental experience for upcoming work, with emphasis on getting to know the skills and personalities of other members of the class, any of whom I could potentially be working with on coursework.