Shelter Me: a short abstract film
We recorded the audio content for this project a week before we shot the video content. I recorded the audio with Carey Scheer. We had around an hour to capture at least 6 recordings. We had no theme. We recorded a range of sounds including traffic, sliding doors, air-conditioning units, water fountains and trees in the wind. We worked well and collaboratively and gathered an interesting range of audio.
I shot the video with Anna Jones a week later. Andrea had suggested we choose a theme and that we don’t’ relate what we shoot to our sound recordings. We chose the theme of motion. We had about an hour to shoot 6 shots of no less than 30 seconds. The aim was to capture shots that we not necessarily recognisable or familiar, that could take on a different meaning when juxtaposed with other images. We were also asked to experiment focal planes, texture, movement and with the camera settings (depth of field, exposure etc.). We shot effectively and creatively, sharing decisions around the selection and shooting of the images.
For the edit of this abstract piece a few new elements were added to the mix. We were asked to use other people’s audio and video and to select a haiku to use as a theme.
To start the edit I read through the choice of haikus and got a feel of them and at the same time looked through the video content that the other student teams had shot. I really liked some of the images shot by Solly’s group and decided to work with them. I thought the video images were powerful and abstract and lent themselves to the task of creating an abstract piece. As we shot at night, they also had a brooding, urban, industrial feel which I liked. Knowing the images I wanted to work with I then selected this haiku:
It’s cold – and I wait
For someone to shelter me
And take me from here
Finally I listened to the audio that Solly and his team had recorded and thought this would provide me with a reasonable range of choices.
Once I was really familiar with the video and audio I started playing with the images. Having just read the excerpts from Bresson (R. Bresson, Notes on the Cinematographer, 1986) in the drama reading I realise that I am very image oriented. The image certainly was the driver for me in my first rough cut. I wanted to capture the sense of coldness, loneliness, isolation and abandonment captured in this haiku. I did find some of the video limiting as Solly’s team had done a lot of experimenting with focal length during the recording so it was hard to get a good length of a fixed shot, but with such a short video I could work with this. I also struggled to find an opening image. In the end I have used one image that Anna and I recorded, the first and last shot on the video of the sliding door. Being a sucker for a story with a beginning, middle and end, I liked the sense of opening and closure that this image gave me. I worked with keyframes to alter the opacity of the clips as well as cross-fading in and out of most of the images to have a sense of flow between images.
Having around a minute of footage that I felt reasonably happy with, I started to lay in the sound track. The audio from Solly’s team provided me with some really good traffic noise and sounds of people talking in a cavernous space. Both these sounds could be used to create a sense of an individual feeling alone and isolated even in the middle of a busy city. What I found lacking was some industrial noise to give build the sense of an urban and machine driven environment. Eimen had a great track capturing a mechanical beat which was perfect. He also had the track with the eruption of laughter which again I could use to create a sense of being alone among people.
Initially I had expected I would add the haiku over the images as words. But I found this too static. I recorded the haiku on my Zoom H4N recorder with a Rode microphone. I recorded the whole poem and then re-recorded breaking it up into words and phrases. I then layered these in on a new audio track. Rather than read the haiku straight through I found it really effective to break up the poem, sometimes repeating the phrases when that supported or heightened the impact of the image.
It felt like the sound was working well balancing the recorded found audio with the reading of the haiku. It also felt like it could work without music. But I was interested to see what music might add. I found a track by Chris Zabriskie on Free Music Archive (FMA) that I really liked. It’s an abstract piano piece called I Need to Start Writing Things Down that starts with really simple clean and clear notes and slowly builds to a complex 7 minute track. I have used Zabiskie’s music before and it’s great for this kind of work. He uses a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license allowing users to download and share as long as he is given credit in the project.
When I added in the music, the words I quoted from Kurasowa in a previous blog rang so true. The music brought the work to life and gave it another dimension. I used the opening minute of the track as its clarity and simplicity really reflected the theme. I did also play with using a section from 5 minutes into the track where the music is more complicated and Zabriskie brings in a great new, deep chord that is repeated. I played with using this track with the aim of ending the video on three of these deep chords. They suggested some sense of finale and gravitas. However, this meant I had to fade into the track at the start of the video and this seemed not quite to honour the work and didn’t give the start the bang it needed. So after playing with both options I went for the simple, single note opening.
So with three levels of audio going on I found mixing the sound interesting in terms of getting a good balance across the tracks. I worked with my headphones on and it all seemed good but when I exported to MP4 and played in VLC the haiku recording was dominated by both the found sounds and the music. I then had to work to balance these better. I worked without headphones and also used the audio clip mixer panel in Premiere to check the audio levels of all three tracks as I worked through the piece. I increased the volume of the haiku and decreased the music track and the found audio tracks. I also used the keyframes to adjust volume up and down around the haiku. In doing this I also found that I realised I could work the haiku in better with the music. I had layered the haiku in relation to the visuals only and realised that I had missed a real opportunity to work around the great notes of the Zabriksie track. I now use these notes as beats to lead into or out of the haiki. I think the audio is now working much better and communicates what I was looking for: a balance of diegetic sounds, music and the haiku.
As a visual person the major lesson learnt for me in this edit was the role of sound. I have been aware of it but it was a great opportunity to play with the sound, to work with and without music and to see the effect of different types of music on the piece.
Technical issue with export to VIMEO
When exporting the video I chose settings for VIMEO upload. When I uploaded to VIMEO I had a statement that said the video was interlaced and may result in a distorted video. To change this I needed to deinterlace all the separate video tracks. Before attempting this, I made sure that my source and outputs were the same, setting both to ‘upper’ rather than ‘progressive’. I also noted that I’d saved it at 720x 576 rather than 1920 by 1080 and an aspect ratio of 5:4. I changed both of these in my second export. My second export also noted that the interlacing may cause a problem however in this export there were green flashes visible throughout the video. These could be seen as quick flashes also in Quicktime.
I worked with Andrea on this issue in our last tute, de-interlacing all the video as well as setting the field order for all the clips to ‘no fields’ rather than ‘upper fields’. This still didn’t resolve the flashes. We decided that I would submit the export that didn’t have the flashes but has a letter box look with the 5:4 aspect ratio. I will follow up with Paul to see if the issue can be resolved just to learn a bit more about what’s going on.