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Weeping into the Fire of the Sun: Directing the VT and Studio Camera-work

As the Director of the VT, for me the process began with many meetings with the director, where we discussed in detail the meaning of the drama, and consequently what meaning the VT should then have. I researched colours in different films, looking particularly at the significance of colour at pivotal moments and significant events. I wanted the colours used in the VT to show meaning in the film, and help to carry the drama forward.

How Colour Affects Emotion:

I looked into how different colours in the VT could alter the viewers mood. It needed to reflect the description in the script, ensuring the film made sense to the viewer. However, it also needed to be unnerving enough to the audience to indicate something is seriously wrong, and accentuate the irony of the very relaxed characters.

BLUE:

-cold

-earth

-unknown

-natural

-night

-isolation

 

RED:

-Fiery

-passion

-anger

-hot

-destruction

-violence

This massively affected which colours appeared in the VT, especially the ones added in during the edit. Through this research we were able to create a ‘sky’ that was unnerving whilst fitting the rather comical descriptions by the two characters. The combination of using relevant colours at relevant times allowed us to create real meaning and depth within the simple VT; the sky changing at points during their conversation.

Furthermore, during the edit with the overall director and the editor, we decided that applying moving layers to the video would add yet even more dimension, making the sky appear even more foreboding and as though something is very wrong, disastrous even. We added ink and smoke effects, accentuating this further.

 

Planning for GOLDEN-HOUR:

As the overall director wanted the sunset capture to begin at golden-hour, it was important that the shoot took place at this time, and so we needed to know specifically what time golden-hour would occur. Of course, this takes place at different times throughout the year, and so I created a chart exhibiting when exactly golden hour and sunset would take place, so we could then plan a date and time to shoot.

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Camera

Furthermore, as one of my roles was studio camera operator, I had further meetings with the overall director (Dylan), to discuss how I could make my shot most effective. I suggested to Dylan that instead of actually moving the camera to track in on the characters (which would alter the focus and consequently be difficult to attain), that I zoomed in very slowly, creating the same feel as though the camera was actually moving. Not only did this look effective, but by using this technique, the vision mixer was able to cut to my camera at any given time, as my movement was so subtle and continuous. This was definitely a technique I will remember in future productions, specifically in dramas, at it created the feeling of being absorbed into the film, and created tension throughout.

Directing a music video with Geoff Posner

Learning how to Direct a music video with British producer and director, Geoff Posner was an incredibly positive and rewarding experience. Following a previous assignment when I created the music video for the BSMNT magazine show, it was particularly useful as I was able to reflect on what I had done in the past, and put Geoff’s  teachings and advice to practice in the present. I learnt to seriously consider how best to capture music effectively, live.

Counting Beats and Bars

Before we jumped straight into Directing a live music video, Geoff introduced us to counting beats and bars, and how to keep track of them in a song (in this case, Tom Odell’s, ‘Another Love’).

Note-Match-1(Music Notes, 2017)

Geoff Posner went over the basic fundamentals in written music, explaining how long certain notes last within a bar.

Crotchet: 1 beat

Minim: 2 beats

Semibreve: 4 beats

Quaver: Half a crotchet beat

Semiquaver: Quarter of a beat

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We worked out that ‘Another Love’ by Tom Odell was written in the time signature of 4/4. The simplicity of this time signature proved ideal to beginners like ourselves. It was basic enough that we could both keep track of where we were in the music, whilst directing cameras at the same time. As I had volunteered to try my luck at directing the music video, I was told to alter the camera script somehow, to make the finished video look more effective. How I changed the script was entirely my decision.

Initially, I decided that it would be helpful to first observe others direct the music video, that way I could get to grips with the structure of the song, and the already scripted camera movements. This was an effective approach, and after a couple of run-throughs from other student directors, I spotted areas in the music video which to me, didn’t correspond with the track as effectively as they potentially could. I went on to alter the script afterwards, towards the end of the song, adding in cuts and more moving and tracking shots to reflect the build in emotion within the song.

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Once my turn to direct the live video approached, I made sure that I had already selected my team around me, and informed them of the changes I wanted to make. I then informed Geoff, who checked over my edited version of the script to make sure it all looked as though it would work. I communicated these adaptions to the crew on the floor via talkback, and when everyone was ready and clear of their task, called for a rehearsal to begin.

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The rehearsal was a success, and so we decided to go ahead and record the performance. Once again, I communicated with the members of the gallery, making sure that especially the vision mixer was confident in what she needed to do, ensuring fundamentally, the correct cameras were cut to. Next I spoke with members of the crew on the floor through talkback, asking one of the camera operators to speed up one of his tracking movements a little.  I found that complimenting and thanking my team was a really important and valuable component of the production; it helped people to feel confident in what they were doing, and to take onboard criticism which I felt contributed to a smoother record overall.

One aspect Geoff advised me on was to make sure that I focused on the monitors and the cameras, instead of looking down at the script overly. I took this advice on-board during the recording, and although i found it somewhat difficult to keep track of the music and script whilst looking at the monitors, it helped me to communicate if the framing wasn’t quite right, or a shot needed to be changed. I also feel with more practice, keeping track of camera scripts along with music would become easier, and seem more natural.

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 Conclusion

Overall, I was very pleased with the way the recording went. With thanks to Geoff Posner’s advice, and the hard work of my team, I was able to capture a smooth, professional looking recording of the music video. In reflection to my changes on the script, I think they were effective, indeed accentuating the emotion in the song, and build as it neared the end. I feel the moving shots were particularly effective, and helped to draw the viewer in; a technique I will most definitely remember for relevant, future productions.

 

Reference list:

Music Notes (2014). Note Values. [image] Available at: http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/Note-Match-1.jpg [Accessed 23 Apr. 2017].

Music Notes (2014). Note Values Rest Values. [image] Available at: http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/Note-Values-Rest-Values.jpg [Accessed 23 Apr. 2017].

BSMNT

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My team and I developed our idea for a magazine show. We wanted it to have a ‘live lounge’, musical and youthful feel, and found inspiration in images of underground, trendy music venues. This lead us to the theme and name of our show; BSMNT, pronounced basement, standing for ‘bath spa music ‘n’ talent’. We then went onto create a presentation which we would later pitch to our peers, in hope of creating out own show.

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After winning the pitch, and creating the concept for BSMNT, my team and I were able to choose and allocate preferred roles. I was elected as director of a VT insert, and as the vision mixer for the live show.

Directing the Music Video for Saint Loe

I first approached this task by brainstorming what the VT could be. Since I helped to form the idea for the show in the initial stages, I felt confident that I had an understanding of the style, and content needed. Through this understanding, combined with research on popular television shows, I decided that having a music video inserted into the show could add an interesting element, that would break up some of the ‘chat’.

After copious research and meetings with the band, discussing their style and taste, as well as discussions with other members of the BSMNT team, I came up with the aesthetic concept. The band we decided to choose, (Saint Loe), often played with acoustic instruments, and admired the likes of Mumford and Sons, so with that, I researched their videos and visual style.

I noticed Mumford and Sons’ running theme consists of lights and old fashioned, ‘shabby’ walls or stage settings. They seemed to follow an, ‘English country’ theme, which can be seen both in the locations, and their dress. I took inspiration from this style, using an old, English temple as the location, and bringing in a light halfway through into the built up section of the song. I created a story board with a selection of inspirational images, which on the shoot, proved very useful to reference back to; keeping the theme running throughout.

 

I applied research from Directors and cinematographers who collaborate well together, and who I admire.

I kept in mind techniques from this research, especially when designing the shots in the video, and choosing which cameras and lenses to use.

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I worked closely with my team, showing them the storyboard and making sure we had a shared vision, so the outcome would be as we all expected, and so the team all felt valuable and involved.

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Overall I was very pleased with how the shoot went, and later the edit. The brilliant team communication meant that it was well planned and organised throughout the creation process. I think the choice to use DSLR cameras was successful, and the pulls of focus added a stylistic element that can be seen in many Mumford and Sons music videos. In addition, my idea to add the glitter onto the drum added another dimension to the video, to keep it entertaining and original. This, mixed with the clever timing and choice of shots in the edit all contributed to create a successful VT which integrated well into the recorded show, which we also planned to have a ‘rustic’ feel, decorated heavily with lights.

Vision Mixing

As the vision mixer, I began my role early; attending tutorials beforehand to really get to grips with how to set up the desk correctly, so that I could play in the different VTs, and use fitting transitions. This proved to be a good decision, as on the record day, I was able to confidently use the desk and follow the director’s shots accurately.

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During the sessions I attended, I made many notes which I was able to keep beside me during the record of the show, incase I felt unsure of my next step. Upon reflection this was a sensible decision, and one which I will continue to use in future productions when learning how to use a new piece of equipment.

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Writing a Drama Script

Research

The process of writing a script for a television drama, for me and my team, began with a fundamental stage; research! Through acknowledging different television series which we both enjoyed and admired, visually and in terms of content, we devised our idea; a patient who is trapped in a coma following a (near fatal) accident. Although they are aware of their surroundings, this is invisible to everyone else, and consequently they spend the episode, quite literally, fighting for their life as they try to express that they are still alive, before the life-support machines are turned off.

Stranger things (2016), the series by the Duffer Brothers was a major inspiration for me, in terms of visual style. The dark atmosphere of the room seemed to fit perfectly with the dark studio in which we had to work, and created the sense of isolation, and confusion which we would want to display in the character. The dark space felt like a way we could really represent the patient’s mind, carrying with it connotations of loneliness and fright, as well as drawing on the typical childhood fear of the dark that would resound with most people. I think that research was certainly the fundamental aspect of creating the idea for the drama, and by blending current trends with our own ideas, we were able to invent an original, yet relevant concept.

Multi-camera television programmes Shows that inspired our creative vision:

-Stranger Things

-Grey’s Anatomy 

-House 

-The Vampire Diaries

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Here is a mood-board I created, using images from Stranger Things, and a hospital image from the moody and immensely popular, teen-drama, The Vampire Diaries:

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Upon reflection I think this to be an effective concept for a short television drama, both visually and in terms of narrative content. It has the potential to be engaging for an audience, despite the short timeframe in which the story has to develop. Perhaps the level of frustration in the characters encourages the audience to empathise with them, and perhaps even become a little frustrated with the situation themselves.

 

Target Audience: WHAT TO CONSIDER

Of course, when writing any kind of television content, one of, if not the most important aspects of consideration is who the content will be shown to. Whilst in the early stages of researching and planning the television drama, categorised different areas of target audience, and what we needed to consider. Age, gender, media habits and current trends were held within our priority, and after researching Netflix and modern, popular dramas, like Stranger Things (2016), decided that a younger audience whom tends access these sorts of shows would be our target. This also reinforced the importance of research into trends, and what young audiences of around 15-25 would prefer to watch. All of the shows we researched are generally considered popular within this age group, and we thought it may largely be to do with the nature of the characters.

Character profiles

We decided that we wanted the characters to be fairly young, following the trends we spotted of shows with younger characters gaining more popularity.

Max Miller:

Max Miller is a 20 year old apprentice builder

Dr Jane Allen (voiceover):

Dr Jane Allen is a 45 year old neurosurgeon 

Holly Miller:

Holly Miller is a 37 year old single mother

 

Open to Edit style of writing:

By using google docs to write our drama, we were able to continue working on the project when the team and I were apart. It also enabled us to leave honest feedback about each others work and contributions. I feel this was a useful and productive method of working on the script, and I will use this technique in future team-writing projects.

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Writing the Script

Following the development of the characters, and concept of the drama, we began developing an outline, and then a script. In our team of three, we first created the different beats of the show, recognising and developing different turning points which would be necessary to move the narrative forward. Already we knew that we wanted the piece to begin with Max’s mind waking from his coma (his body still motionless), to the sounds of his mother’s voice arguing with a doctor about whether to turn off his life support. We thought that immediately this would create the sense of urgency and tension which we so desired for the drama, and by following Max as the protagonist, we could use him waking from the coma and figuring out what is happening as exposition in the piece.

Together we worked through the script, reading lines aloud to see if they sounded believable, and also to work out what should come next. I found this a useful technique; it helped to illuminate dialogue that wasn’t necessary, and work out areas which needed more finesse. In addition, the fact that we read the script as a team meant that we had more opinions to work with which definitely helped to refine the script.

In retrospect, I think that the ages of the characters would have worked well had we gone on to create the show. Considering we were aiming the show at a younger audience,   it was important that the protagonist (Max), and his mother whom we also encouraged to vouch for were at an age similar (enough so that the viewers could relate and empathise more directly with the characters), perhaps  by focusing on age group, we were able to touch on subjects with more relevance to our audience, and therefore create a drama with more potential to be received well.

 

 

Reference list:

Tom Sawyer (2016) Stranger things – Russian spy. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31i47MR56Dw (Accessed: 15 April 2017).