One-Shot-Film Complete

posted under by Philip Howlett
"Suburban Memories" is the title I've chosen for this piece. The aim of the video was to display the fragility of suburbia. People and families will display a 'facade' of perfection and happiness. To the outside world, all can look prim and proper. Things however can go wrong, and when it does, everyone knows about it. I drew the inspiration from dramas such as "Desperate Housewives" and films such as "The Stepford Wives". They display a very American suburbia with white picket fences, perfect gardens and happy, beautiful people. I wanted to get the message across that this is common across the world, England included. Other films I thought of during the creation of this film were "Donnie Darko" and "Blue Velvet". Both of them are set in your standard suburban "middle class" environment. There's something very evil and disturbing lurking beneath the facade however.

Luckily just down the road from where I live, someones life went spectacularly downhill, and the entire neighbourhood got to see. I didn't want to retell the story of this person, as I felt that was too personal, and I didn't have enough specific information. What we did decide as a group, was that the reposessed home would be a brilliant place to shoot our film. We knew we wanted to include it in the filming, but with the restrictions of the brief we were struggling to see how we could give the video a clear narrative. After speaking to Deborah in a surgery session we realised that sound would be the best way to do this.


Download WMV - 640x480 (3000kbps) 21MB

We filmed the video and recorded the sound separately, because we wanted to create a phone call which played throughout the sequence. I think in the case of our video the sound was much more important than the video, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be evaluated. Looking at the camera work to begin with, I think it meets our aims. We wanted to have a slow zoom out and then pan across the street. The only problem I can see with this is that there is some slight jerkiness on the zoom out, and some instances of bad focus. I don't think this takes away from the video however. For my edit, I chose to change the video to black and white, because it suits the narrative. It's a sad video and quite down beat, so black and white can compliment this. There's no vibrancy or colour which lightens the mood as a result, and what you get is quite a miserable, dull image.

Another success of the video is that it doesn't reveal everything instantly. At the very start all you can see is a character touching a wall. The zoom out provides a slow realisation of what's going on. You're being presented with the story slowly so it's not all given away at the beginning. You can see from the characters stance, and reaction to touching the wall that there are bad memories in that home for them. You're not told that it's someone who once lived there, but you get the impression that he did live there just based on the way he acts. I think this is quite an achievement for the visual portion of the film. We were successful in creating a mood and emotion just through the visuals alone.

Another important part of filming was that we could display some contrast between the repossessed home, and the currently inhabited ones. By zooming right out, and getting all of the homes in shot you get the visual contrast we were aiming for. The viewer can see that this is area is still lived in and that life continues regardless of other peoples misery and upset.

I used a simple transition at the beginning of the film. I didn't want to use anything to distracting or over the top. I decided that a dissolve effect, gradually decreasing the opacity would be fitting. It looks professional, and it suits the slow pace. I didn't want anything to harsh to start the video and I think this transition worked perfectly. As the conversation progresses you get a feeling of anger and tension between the two people. When the phone is suddenly hung up I wanted the video to match it. I decided no transition would be used, and instead a quick cut to a black screen would be the most effective. The conversation and video are terminated at once.

The sound was a much more difficult process in terms of both recording and editing. As a group we decided the most effective way to record the conversation was to do it straight in to a microphone, then make it sound like a phone call using premiers audio effects. Using a three dimensional recording device we were able to manipulate stereo sound. Listening carefully to the dialogue you realise both sides of the conversation are dedicated to a specific speaker. While I was happy with the actual dialogue I wasn't happy with how it sounded originally. Doing some research I found out that phone calls don't output above 3Khz or below 1Khz. This site explained that I could use effects such as "high-pass filter" to get a realistic phone call effect.

Once I had it sounding like a genuine phone conversation, I needed some phone sound effects to add authenticity. Using a sound library I've know about for a long time called flashkit I found some useful sound effects. The first I found was a an effect similar to a phone being hung up or picked up. This is used twice in my audio, the most effective use is at the end when the person hangs up. You get a very jolting hang up sound as the video cuts out. The second effect I got from this site was a typing sound. As someone is phoning from a call centre I felt it would be effective to get some ambient sound in. You often hear someone typing, people talking or phones ringing during a call center conversation. I put this in a new audio track, and dropped the volume in the audio mixer to get a feeling of layers of sound. The useful thing about flashkit sound effects is that they're all free to use how you like, so I have no worries about copyright infringement.

One really big problem we encountered during sound capture was that playback was very quiet. To overcome this I had to put the sound level up to it's highest, and then add audio volume effects over the top. A side effect of this is a lot of "white noise" throughout the conversation, but when listening it makes it sound more like a phone call. While this wasn't deliberate, I'm more than happy with the outcome.

The final sound effects were a ringing tone, and a hang up tone. Luckily Dean had these sound effects on his computer already, in the Apple Garageband application. All that was left to do was to adjust the levels of all the audio, and delete the original videos audio track. I wanted to make sure the volume was at a constant so it sounded seamless.

While the voice acting could be better, and there are some minor problems in the visual department, I think this project was really successful. We organised our time well through out, and everyone was happy with the narrative and direction. We thought about the mood, environment, sound etc and we remembered what we'd learned in seminars. Following a brief, while restricting, does give you specific guidelines to follow which I found to be useful. I hope everyone enjoys what we created.


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