Developing Research and Practice and End of Year Review

Before joining the FdA Film and Photography, I was previously on a Level Three in Creative Media so I joined this degree with a least some prior knowledge of the two main subjects, because of this I don’t feel that I might have improved as much as some of my peers may themselves be able to reflect upon, although I have indeed improved in various different areas in the time that I have been on the first year of this course.

Most of the shorter term goals I set for myself in the personal development plan span two years, as I would section it that way based on the stages in which I would become a journalist or a writer. Start with the Foundation Degree, then an Hons and finally a Masters.

Certain goals that I set for myself I believe I have achieved as I continue to learn the subjects, via various means including theoretical and practical work. My major goal for the year was to improve upon my writing skills in regards to essays. I feel I have in most ways met this personal goal, the work I have handed in for evaluation over the year has improved over the last by having a more comprehensive and wider subject range as well as overall better literal writing. Although it may seem a small improvement as I want to work more in the theory based side of media, it is essential.

I also stated in my PDP that I wanted to learn more about the theory in film and photography, once again I believed I have achieved this through out the year by taking studies into the theorists of the subjects for use in year modules.

On the practical side of the degree I also think I have improved in areas that I desired, I set a task in the PDP to gain a better understanding of the technology used in film and photography. I believe I done this by working on my own projects. I have become much more proficant with certain softwares such as the Adobe programs, Photoshop and Premier Pro.

Overall I believe the year to have been a successful one and in many ways a continuation of the course that I was previously on. I’m gaining more knowledge in the practical and theory based elements of media. Although I am leaning more towards the writing based work of the degree thus far. As I stated before, because a lot of these subjects aren’t quite as new to me I feel that through researching and learning in both forms, I am now able to look at them on a more detailed level than I was when I started the year.

Bill Nichols Documentary Modes

I have mentioned the modes theory in my previous post in which I made an evaluation of my documentary module. In this post I will be discussing how I applied these to my research and practical work.

Nichols proposed that documentary films could fit into six different categories depending on various factors such as the style that they were shot, the subjects that they contain in their context and structure.

These six modes are as follows…

The Expository Mode. In this mode that narrator comments upon footage and discusses it in a formal manner. The most common form of documentary, presenting facts and information.

The Poetic Mode – In this mode the documentary is presented in rhythmical fashion, some what akin to poetry in the literal form.

The Observational Mode – In this mode, the audience simply sees what is in front of the camera, with no interruption on the part of the crew.

The Participatory Mode – In this mode the crew or leader of the documentary will interact with world that the film is capturing, this will often involve giving interviews.

The Reflexive Mode – In this mode the audience is made aware of the documentaries state. It will challenge the audiences perception of the events within the film. These often involve subjects that are uncommon.

The Performative Mode – In this mode, the leader or narrator of the documentary will place a high emphasis on emotional engaging the audience. (This may also include the use of re-enactments).

I used these modes as a gauge of the documentaries that influenced me in creating my own, as well as to place where mine would fit so it could be analysed afterward.

1. ANDERSON-MOORE, O. Nichols’ 6 Modes of Documentary Might Expand Your Storytelling Strategies (Anderson-Moore, 2015) Anderson-Moore, O. (2015). Nichols’ 6 Modes of Documentary Might Expand Your Storytelling Strategies. [online] No Film School. Available at: http://nofilmschool.com/2015/09/nichols-6-modes-documentary-can-help-expand-your-storytelling [Accessed 1 May 2017].

The Golden Ratio/The Fibonacci Sequence

In thinking about the theory behind photography I have bought myself back to one of my earliest lectures in the year with Tony, although brief, the subject was captured my interest.

Quite a complex subject with claims dating back to 400BC in Ancient Greece, the golden ratio is considered to be a structural form of mathematical beauty with the number sequence 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 and 34. This can be applied to composition in photography to create what this theory would claim to be a beautiful image. Myself I am interest in what could be considered to be perfect composition as I believe alternately that beauty in images comes more from expression and timing than any technical point.

Although I did attempt to apply this theory to some of my work early on in the year with my Introductory Skills module, I was unable to do so due to time constraints, as setting up the image with the principle of sections of the image relating to the ratio of the mentioned sequence is quite difficult.

I would like to use this theory in some of my photography work next year, this is one of the practices that I want to attempt now that I may be more experienced.

  1. HOM, E. J. What is the Golden Ratio? (Hom, 2013) Hom, E. (2013). What is the Golden Ratio?. [online] Live Science. Available at: http://www.livescience.com/37704-phi-golden-ratio.html [Accessed 1 May 2017].

Propp’s Narrative Theory

For my third and final module of the first year with Buzz we were asked to create a concept for a short script, present it and then write the aforementioned script. As part of this we also had to take note of theorists in narrative.

Because my scripts concept was designed in principle to oppose many of the known behaviours and roles of characters I chose to acknowledge Propp’s narrative theory as it is well known in the film industry as the standard from which most major big budget films are made from.

Propp proposed from the basis of his studies of hundreds of Russian fairytales that all narratives have certain elements. First starting with character roles. Some of the most obvious amongst these are characters such as a ‘hero’, a ‘villain’, a ‘princess’ etc. These characters would all behave in a set way according to their roles, they may have distinct personalities but will likely do certain things within the context of the story. Examples of these could be along the lines of, ‘the princess is saved by the hero, because he is the only one deserving of her’. or ‘the villain creates problems which the hero will eventually overcome’.

The second proposal from Propp was that all narratives also follow certain functions. I have found that these are less foolproof than the character role theory but these are again often seen in most film media. Examples of these that can often be obviously seen in film include. Absentation, when the hero set of on his journey, leaving home. Villainy, the villain commits an act that harms the ‘hero’ in someway or form. Or finally Liquidation in which wrongdoings or problems created earlier on within the story are dissolved or fixed.

I put this theory in context with my own script concept and found that most of the character roles do fit in some form or another. By example, in my script one character represents two people by one of the characters being a creation of his sub-concious in the form of his own writing. Because the character who is writing the path for the other one often makes decisions that lead to negative affects on his fictional counterpart. One can’t strictly define him as a hero, although he is the protagonist, although he would also fit into several of Propp’s other character roles, such as the false hero, villain or guide.

In regards to functions, I found very little that did actually fit my scripts concept. Because it was written to more or less oppose the concept of standard storytelling in the genre of romance, this doesn’t honestly come as much of a surprise. Characters are left in a state of limbo and thus never really have completed functions.

1. PROPP, V. Vladimir Propp (Propp, n.d.) Propp, V. (n.d.). Vladimir Propp. En.wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Propp [Accessed 1 May 2017].

2. WILSON, K. Mediaknowall AS&A Level Key Concepts — Vladimir Propp (Wilson, 2017) Wilson, K. (2017). Mediaknowall AS&A Level Key Concepts — Vladimir Propp. Mediaknowall.com. Available at: http://www.mediaknowall.com/as_alevel/alevkeyconcepts/alevelkeycon.php?pageID=propp [Accessed 1 May 2017].

Reflection on Visual Culture Presentation

In mid March I was asked to ‘lead a seminar’ by Tony for the Visual Culture module. This has sharply divided my personal opinion on my own work. Mostly due to my struggles in presenting work, this has been one of biggest obstacles of my year thus far.

My chosen topic for the presentation was postmodernism in film, a complex and wildly variable choice. I believe that this idea was again a very individualistic one, the subject matter was also an engaging choice of topic, very few people without an interest in ironically modern philosophy would be aware of the subject. The presentation had a genuine opportunity to be informative.

Although the subject matter was good and I believe the research and background that made the foundation of my presentation was in good form, my nerves and anxious nature let down the experience. My inability to communicate in a clear way to the audience caused information that was already quite complicated and interpretable to be become convoluted.

Overall to improve upon this I need to focus more on my public speaking skills, although this is not quite as easily improved upon as other areas.

Documentary Module Analysis/Reflection

Finishing at the end of March, the documentary module has been one of the most challanging tasks of the degree thus far.

Continuing on with the theme of dream psychology that I undertook in my Introductory Skills unit, I decided to make a documentary based on the influence that dreams can have on creative practice.

Although I believe this project to have been a success in many ways, mostly in the theoretical sense. I believe it to have fallen short in the practical element of the module. Beginning with the positives I will be discussing my Documentary project, The Dreamer.

In positive the concept itself was interesting and unique, a topic that very few other people had touched upon, notable or not. The research and concept backing that found to justify the purpose behind the documentary was also interesting, with influences from the likes of Salvador Dali and Godfrey Reggio.

Negative aspects of the documentary mostly came from the film itself. A lot of the production had to be rushed to meet deadlines. Although many scenes, especially ones involving landscapes and re-cretions came out well. The short itself lacked a wide variety of subjects to speak about how they felt dreams affected their creative practices. To be able to reach the deadline on time, I placed a heavier emphasis on one of the interviewees and his position as a documentary filmmaker himself, placing re-enactment footage in-between to add an off-kilter pacing.

Overall this was a successful project, no quite so much so as the previous Introductory Skills but as it was my first time working in the field of documentary filmmaking, I believe I made a good attempt, the concept was excellent in practice but slightly wanting in execution.

 

Exeter Trip – Group Work

In this post I will be mentioning an example of co-oprative work on the course this year. In an ironic turn, the only actual project that I have worked on this year involving group work was the Exeter trip in September. This is because I primarily take preference to working on my own, to envision projects and like to bring in my own people who I know personally.

Between myself (and at the time) four others, we were tasked to make a short film with the subject revolving around a chase. To do so we took a camera and tripod and shot by the waterfront, town centre and St. Thomas train station. As a group we took turns to man the camera and act in the film. We also shared are concept ideas between us and as a whole came to a decision on what we put to film.

After this we then returned to the university the next day to edit individually a sequence based on the footage taken, they were all vastly different. I stylised mine after the Carol Reed film The Third Man, by converting the footage to black and white, using fast cuts and pro-longing certain pieces for atmosphere.

Narrative and Script Development

In preparation for my upcoming script writing project which I have titled April 14th, I have been studying the scripts of notable writers and their works that I have taken influence from.

For the script I am writing, the biggest influence has come from Michel Gondry’s 2004 film, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. I have taken inspiration from the concept of changing things in reality from the subconscious. In my script thus far a character is featured writing his own script and comments upon the events with it. Much like the voice over in this example page.

Another influence from within this page that I have been inspired by is the somewhat ethereal and slightly unnerving descriptions of the characters, in the script below it lists a description of Clementine ‘Clementine doesn’t respond, she continues to eat robotically’. This description is interesting to me because it give a real impression of distance and absence from reality.

I would like to incorporate traits like this into one of the characters in my script, as I believe the absent and mysterious nature of character description like this would play well in a screenplay based upon a man’s self created psychological disillusion.

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1. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF A SPOTLESS MIND PDF (“Eternal Sunshine Of A Spotless Mind PDF”) “Eternal Sunshine Of A Spotless Mind PDF”. https://stephenfollows.com. N.p., 2003. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

Artifact One – Logic Pro X

Link to artifact one

For my first artifact, I have chosen to make a piece of soundtrack music.

The piece was influenced by various artists and score composers, The first and most major influence was the Social Network score composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, taking from its slow burning industrial style to create a sense of heavy atmosphere. The other major inspiration came from Scottish musician and Under The Skin score composer, Mica Levi. I took an interest in how she used space between instruments in forefront of the composition and atmospheric synthizisers in the back.

In this post I will be detailing the editing process behind the creation of the piece of music that I composed in Logic Pro X.

To begin the composition, I selected a drum loop from the Logic X loops library, eventually deciding on a loop called Rivals Beat 01 with a Tempo of 69.

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After this I then stretched the drum loop so it would have a longer duration and began experimenting with various virtual instruments and their styles such as bass, keyboard and lead sounds with the on screen keyboard.

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After some experimentation I chose to use the Alchemy instrument set. I decided upon this because of its wide range of instruments and it’s inclusion of many more modern styles. The other plugin instruments in Logic did offer sounds and pre-sets that were interesting but these ultimately didn’t sound right for the type of music I was making and seemingly placed an emphasis on emulating older keyboards from the 1980s and 90s.

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Using Alchemy, I then recorded two audio tracks within the project. These keyboard pre-sets were named Burning Pad and Cosmic Waves respectively. Beyond this point all of the instruments were recorded in the key of C.

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After this I then re-recorded the audio track using the Cosmic Waves pre-set and added more variation to the track and ran it for a longer duration to act as a background atmosphere through the track. I also chose to push the volume of the Cosmic Waves track down in the mix by 4 Db. This was done to give the track a looming presence within the mix.

Also in this screenshot is an inclusion of an audio sample from the NASA website. This sample is in the public domain and can be used non-commercially.

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I then went on to add a Reverb effect to the sample, this screenshot shows the interface of the effect I chose. Various elements that make up the effect are shown on this interface but the ones that were changed majorly are the Pre-delay, Spread and Rev.

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After this I added a second effect on to the NASA audio sample. Phaser. I added this along with the reverb to make the voice in the sample sound distant, difficult to understand and otherworldly. To create the effect I changed the LFO rates one and two, the amount of sweeps in the stages and the level of the mix.

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After this I then manually copied the audio on the Burning Pad track and copied it into further sections of the track and began to add more lead instruments into the piece. Still using Alchemy, I added a pre-set called Bellatrix and recorded more lead with the on-screen keyboard.

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To layer the lead synths, I added another keyboard lead with Black Sun as the pre-set. Having this on the track helped to balance the lead synths and the atmosphere keys and blend them together.

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After this I added further atmospheric synths in the form of the Arctic Shimmer pre-set. I also placed a slight amount of reverb on this track, although it is very small it was done to help give the impression that the sound was coming from the back of the mix.

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I then went on to separate the first loop of the drums so as to add a fade in, because I felt the piece needed to be more dynamic in its introduction. Starting from all the tracks being at the peak of volume sounded to immediate. So by having the drums fade in and the background atmosphere track being pushed down in the mix by about 4 Dbs, it takes 10 – 15 seconds for the piece to reach its full volume.

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To finish the piece I then added a bass track. This was the last addition to the track because I wanted to create all of the subtler elements of the piece before adding what usually turns out to be the loudest.

I chose the pre-set Juicy Pump Bass from the Alchemy instrument set and recorded a baseline to accompany the atmospheric sections of the track. After recording I then once again made the decision to make the bass track quieter in the mix by pushing it down 5.2 Dbs. This was done to be fitting to the style that I wanted to create this score based piece in.

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After the completion of the track, I then exported the project so as to streamline all of the tracks into one audio file. In Logic Pro X this process is referred to as bouncing, to bounce to project.

When the project is exported you are given various options based on different audio codex. I chose to export my audio piece in Wave or .Wav format in 24bit resolution as this is the highest quality and least compressed audio file type, because I chose to render the file in the highest available quality, it takes up a large amount of hard drive space for a 3 minute track, with the audio file being around 60 megabytes. This is the opposing to the standard and more common audio files types also available on this software such as .MP3 and .AAC which produce files around 8 to 10 times smaller but compress the elements of the audio more heavily.

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