No Direction Home

NO DIRECTION HOME – Click to watch!

One can basically make out what the film,’No Direction Home’ is about within the first 30 seconds as a video of Bob Dylan performing ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ is played. The latter parts od the video prove that it is not just a concert you are watching but a documentary about his life. The song itself is shot in an observational mode. It is shaky aand the quality is not what you would call great, but that is exactly what lures you in and also tells you that there is more to come beside the song.

The video then cuts to a very hazy foggy screen with tree impressions on it. It is an abrupt cut between the two shots and it takes a couple of seconds before you realize what you are actually seeing. All the colour and fun of the previous concert is absolutely zapped out of the screen and this absolute contrast and long shot is very interesting visually just because of the difference. After this very quiet and dull shot, we hear Bob Dylan talk about time and freezing it, which has been a very interesting topic for me always and this was when I was sold to watching this documentary.

The film is basically a story of how Bob Dylan started out. We are taken back into his past, which he retells. The mode of documentary also changes here from observational to participatory as he recounts his life. The rules of shooting seem to have been followed to perfection here as we see him sitting on a stool, positioned to the right hand side and shot with the three point rule. The lighting is simple, only a key light is used here and shines on the offside of the face. The contrast is again high on the amount of shadow and light, telling us that the filmmaker enjoys mixing different things for the eye to see. I personally like this kind of film shooting as well.

In between the shots of Dylan recounting his past are black and white photos or videos, some abstract, which help in his telling. My favourite shot of these was of the record spinning.

There are two audio lines in the film, one recording his voice and the other playing old music to set the mood and imply how all that music played a huge part in his life. A third is added in between for fx sounds like wind, I think. A classmate actually bought my attention to that.

The use of black and white grades, old tunes and even Bob Dylan’s voice take you back, you don’t need to hear his words to guess what he is talking about. I can’t help but remember here an advice of a cinematographer that said let the audio and the image go hand in hand and compliment each other to tell your story. Don’t let one take over the other to render it useless. I think that has been achieved amazingly here.

So, in the end, though I haven’t seen this film, the first two minutes show me that it is about Bob Dylan’s journey to the world of music and being a rebel, growing up in a small mining town. Growing up, there is no direction home!

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Sound and Image – A beginning

When I started this semester, I wrote about not really knowing or understanding what this course was going to teach me and today, with no more classes to look forward to, I feel like the past two months have just really been a rollercoaster. I just wanted to be someone who could bring stories to life using a camera. I thought that’s what a director did and that’s who I would be at the end of my course.

I had no clue how much thought really goes into it or how many different roles you can play. I learnt how to light up my set and my subjects, to make them look beautiful in my film. I learnt how to play with the buttons, which made no sense to me in the beginning of the course, on the camera, so I can get varied effects while filming. I learnt how to set audio levels and what the difference between background noise and ambient sound is. I  learnt how difficult it is to direct people to do what you want nd how I actually like being control of everything. I learnt how to use Premier to editt my film and bring it to life. A different ballgame here all together with colour grading and the amazing effects. I learnt the difference between drama and documentary as well as it’s different modes along with so much more. But what i learnt most was myself and my prefernces, my likes and dislikes.

This course, though teaching me alot a lot of technical know hows, actually helped me explore myself and what kind of work what i like to do in the future. i understand now that i don’t like to concentrate on audio as much as i love being behind the camera. i love editing as well and i would maybe love to actually do that in the future. I would probably want to make docu-dramas for my career plan and would definately lik to work in smaller teams rather than larger only because of the control i can have with that.

Overall, it was a great learning experience and I feel like I can do so much even though I know we are just scratching the surface. This course has helped me be more sure of my choices as well as compelled me to explore the world of cinema.

Filming in 2015 – Modes of Documentary

Reading Bill Nichols’ modes of documentaries got me thinking about the different styles of shooting and how different they really are. I personally believe that we are really unlucky as we are here, thinking about making films in 2015. As we notice, all the modes that Bill Nichols has defined are or have been used since years and years and I believe that film-making is always bringing about a new way to bring out emotions from the audience. People are becoming smarter as they take in more and more from the media and just using a mode in particular cannot guarantee ‘authenticity’ to the telling of a story anymore. For example, I saw this movie recently called ‘Ask me anything’ which was very performative in nature and used known actors as the ‘OH SO HOT!!!’ Justin Long. Being that, it was very authentic to me as it told a story which came out of reality and ended at a very wierd place, which is how real life is. It was this ending which screamed authentic to me and pulled at my heart strings. Another example is a reality TV show like ‘Real Housewives’ which basically places cameras everywhere to be observational in nature, but the feeling at the end, other than guilty pleasure, is STAGED!! It is probably a reason why the youth today shun it even though it was the most popular thing on tele a few years back.

Coming back to how I would do things, I think I would always mix up modes instead of sticking to one. For example, ‘Samsara’ is both observational and poetic or ‘Chronicles of the summer’ is participatory but at the same time has elements of observational mode as well. I also think the topic we are making a film on also in parts dictates what modes we end up using. But again, personally I love news shows like ‘The Project’ or ‘Saturday Night Live’ which are obviously performative rather than expository.

Choosing the mode I like best is really difficult because I am still an amateur who has to play a lot before I settle on a style. Having said that, the performative mode is probably the most exciting to me right now. There are so many stories out there that we watch or see come alive but sometimes taking a more subjective mode to dictate the emotions can be more powerful in telling the story. For example, the first Indian athelete to win at the Olympics as well as Commonwealth Games was Milkha Singh in 1958 and 1960 respectively. Various documentaries have been made about him and others like him in the past, but he was truly celebrated by the entire nation in 2012 when a film ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ came out chronicling his entire life as an athelete. The film was performative with all the bollywood jazz of music, dancing and drama, but it was a hit and for the first time all of India was able to realize what this man had achieved for the country. The fact that we can amplify actual occurences using performance and still get a message out , while entertaining is ingenious. This is how we grew up too, with stories with morals and lessons hidden in them. I also love that it gives the viewer a choice of enjoyment on the visceral level or understanding on the conceptual level.

The growing trend of using this mode of film making has taken over both Hollywood as well as Bollywood. More and more documentaries are being released in the form of feature films and are seeing a high like never before, which in turn is really challenging documentary makers all over the world. You can’t just put together five shots and call it a documentary anymore. Some really good examples of such films are ‘Exodus’ chronicling history, ‘Troy’ and ‘Haider’ which is probably my favourite. It is a retelling of life in Kashmir during the partition, through Macbeth by Shakespear. I think it’s an amazing way to pull people out and deliver something worthwhile. There is no question of authenticity as we see our audience drink it up.

Moments – Abstract Piece

Nigaahein. Hindi for eyes. The song I used is about conveying messages, feelings and emotions through what an eye can see, which cannot be conveyed with words. I got a few great shots when we were sent out shooting a few weeks back and putting it together I had a few ideas or first thoughts. But I finally setlled on this because I feel the video is a great representation of my everyday life here in Melbourne. The song itself is copyright free for me as it has been composed back home and the singer was a housemate back in the day.  I decided not to use any music from the copyright free website as I have done that in the other videos we made this semester. I had this piece sitting with me, so why not, eh?

Nostalgia. I go back home for the winter break and everyone has been asking me how melbourne is. My family wants to see what I saw everyday. That I think is the essence I am trying to capture here. We never had any form of a video for this great track and I sorely hope I have done it justice.

That out of the way, a few weeks back we went and recorded both video and audio randomly without really knowing we would have to use it together to make something. Looking back at it now, I imagine even abstract comes out better if we have some semblance of a plan. While putting this video together, my head was swimming with ideas of what I can do and what would really make it stand out from what everyone is doing as we were working with the same footage. I would like to go out and do it again, someday maybe to make a real video for my song.

Audio

Suprisingly, we actually got some great audio clips. We even got one guy singing va-va-vroom into the mike, which I think sounds very European in a way if I were to use it. A lot of background noise was recorded as well, which doesn’t work too great for us. I noticed if you want to record some fx sound it’s almost impossible to get good quality because we couldn’t really isolate it. We were able to get sounds of footsteps and doors clicking shut out back, where the ambience noise was much quieter. Also using metal fire escapes worked better than we thought with footsteps.

Overall, I decided not to use it in my video as I felt a minute was really less to incorporate these very well, trust me I tried. For a longer video, I could definitely see it. Also it was so random and I couldn’t really build a good contrast there.

Video

I ended up not recording what I wanted as I was last on the list for recordings and with barely any time left, we rushed to the place I wanted to do it. We found it locked as there was a meeting going on in the room that lead to it. But, no worries, my friends did get some pretty good stuff that we could use. The actual activity of recording went really well as we were a close knit group, really easy going, and complimented each other in everyway. I enjoyed the process more than most other activities just because I had a group who understood and respected each other. I think that is really important if one wants to have a good product in the end.

What I did notice though was that no-one was really bothered with white balance and the other things that we have learnt about and there wasn’t much experimentation that took place. I think everyone was more focused on the content and not how it would look which would be a major problem if we were actually going to get any money shots.

Editing

Like I mentioned before, putting it together, I really wanted much more. But, overall I really enjoyed the process. I worked using all kinds of things that premier has to offer. I know that I absolutely hate the effects you can put in between shots. I like the sudden cuts. I loved playing with the colours and I feel it produces a very different feeling to the video, adding to the nostalgia value that my song creates. I also wrote a few haikus and I felt it took away from my video rather than adding to it, so I went without. I also tried putting in subtitles but decided against it as I felt it took away from the eerie unknown feeling now.

I also realize I’ve used a lot of people in my video who, on a normal basis I would have to take permission from before putting there, but I figured since they are people I am currently working with, this once it wouldn’t really matter. Also, I am not using my video for any commercial process or even in my portfolio as it is just me having fun and creating something personal.

Colour Me Blue

A Road to NowhereScreenshot (1)

This is a screenshot of my original video. It was taken in the afternoon light travelling down a road. I tried playing with quiet a bit and some of the effects I created were pretty awesome.

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With this Screenshot, I make the picture look sunnier by reducing the shadows that you can see in my original shot. It looks like a hot afternoon’s shot, doesn’t it? To do this all I did was use three way colour corrector and bend the three colour grades towards reddish and greenish tones along with reducing the intensity of the image.

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In this clip, I simply moved the colour correction towards more pinkish tones to get an older times look to it. Those days with crappy cameras and hippie eras. This road of Goa has been photographed in such colours quiet a few times and I love the fact that I was actually able to imitate it somewhat.Screenshot (8)

In this image, I used both the Luma Curve as well as the Three Way Colour Corrector. The curve looked more like an S rather than a diagonal line when I was done with it and I tried to increase the shadowwing to give it a dawn kind of feel. The day is just starting.

Taj Mahal

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Before doing anything, this was a shot of Taj Mahal, taken early on a winter morning.

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In this shot I dimmed the brightness and increased contrast by 27%. I also increased the red tones using three way colour corrector. I did this to make Taj Mahal stand out, to create focus on it.

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This I think is my coolest effect. I kept the contrast and brightness levels I had set in the previous image and added the change colours effect. I then played with the hue, saturation and lightness.   I did this to achieve another way of making my Taj Mahal stand out which it didn’t in the original shot.

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In this picture I increased the colour balance, mostly red and green. I also increased the contrast a little bit. It now looks like I’m at the start of telling an ancient tale. This would probably be an opening shot.

Sunburn – Music festival

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This is an original video I made at the Sunburn festival in Goa. As you may notice the quality is pretty bad. So I did a few things, check it out.

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I thought this was really cool for a credits scene. It helps the logo to really stand out. I did this by lowering the brightness and incresing the contrast. I also used the three way colour corrector to increase the pinkish tones.

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For this image I played with the RGB curves to make the image look like there was more than just blue lighting. I like the way the colour combines together. It’s great for music festivals.

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To take the lighting out completely, I used Video Limiter. It changed my image to black and white while still leaving the logos in colour. It’s a pretty cool thing to do because if you actually imagined doing it, it sounds next to impossible or at least a lot of work.

Shooting Drama

A few weeks back we were given a task in class. A task to shoot our first drama – Lenny. It was exciting, confusing, fun and wierdly awkward. The scripts themselves were handed out by our teacher and we were put in fairly large groups for a scene so small. We had to divide everything we did into three categories – Pre-production, production and post-production.

Pre-Production – Planning and Storyboarding

This was the easy part. We all fell into our seperate roles with no problems as they came straight from what we enjoy and the skills we have, if not our personalities. There was absolutely no chaos as I sat with Scott and we decided out angles, shots and camera positions. I wrote down the kind of shots we would want, most of it came from my knowledge of stuff I’ve already seen in similar scenes in movies and it was really easy for me to imagine how I would shoot everything. Scott did the drawing of camera positions. We explained it all to the other two members we were working with. Vivi wanted to do storyboarding and Dey wanted a call on locations. It was fun, yes. But I feel that we all missed the point somewhere as what we did that day just lay forgotten in the next stages.

Production – Ready, Speed, Rolling and Action

This is probably when everything shot to hell. We did the actual shooting two days in a row. None of us carried our plans with us. We just went out and shot. The first day we ended not recording a lot of the shots that we had thought we did because quiet a few of us were not sure on how to use the camera. All the record buttons don’t record. How wierd is that. The two actors didn’t do anything but act. Everyone wanted to play camera man. No one really paid attention to the sound. When I was at it, I could here everything so clearly, including a couple whispering away to each other in the distance, so I’m guessing the volume was turned up way too much. When we heard what we had recorded, we could hardly even make out the dialogues!

The director did no directing, he just called out action and cut. Not everyone got a chance to play with everything. We were confused and after a point everyone took the excersise lightly enough to just get it over with. We kept missing team members and there seemed hardly a need for so many anyway as a lot just stood around and watched it all go down. I wish we had more guidance and structure to this task even though it wasn’t for earning points. Our first shoot and we missed the enjoyment in it!

Another thing we absolutely missed at was our log sheet. We just wrote different shot numbers and scene numbers as we weren’t sure how they were going down due to lack of our planning sheet with us. We were all writing in it, which probably added to it, so I can safely say, it turned out useless in the end.

We did manage to get all the scenes, just not the way we wanted. No one was really happy. Maybe lack of communication was a big reason as well, as we were all busy trying to make each other happy.

Post-production – Premier

Finally going through what we had and what we recorded was dissapointing to say the least. But using Premier and seeing how films are put together was actually a very fun task for me. Paul told me that this was probably as boring as it gets because that’s what drama is really. But I was happt to play with it, try to give it filler scenes, a different music to cut the voice altogether and play with the colour to make it look cooler. I felt like I could do so much even though I knew we were barely even scratching the surface with what we had learnt. I decided I was going to make the most of what we had and play with it, do a french number, ha. Different camera angles, longer than usual scenes, less cuts, absolute scenario scenes in between to cut from the intensity but giving it more intensity in the end. I enjoyed it, even though the sound sucked, some shots were missing and I could kept thing of all the things I wanted to shoot now that I was actually looking at it.

 

In the end, it was fun, confusing and definitely lacked structure and on our part a lot of knowledge I wish we had before we went out to do something like this. I have gotten to play more with the audio recorder as well as the camera in my future classes and I feel like I do have more knowledge on both. I would love to give it another go.

Richard Leacock – The feeling of being there

Richard Leacock was a man who introduced some of the most artisitic and innovative takes on documentary filming. What I found in the article was a lesson I am going to keep reminding myself over and over. A lesson on breaking the rules to make some of my own.

Reading this piece, I was sitting there with a pen and paper, ready to jot down the two most interesting points. I ended up filling the page. His description of the inevitable absolute disruption caused during film-making was captivating. I could feel the fast pace and excitement and I want to be there, doing that.

“To capture spontaneity, it must exist and everything you do is liable to destroy it.” Film-making is a difficult difficult field where a lot of things don’t make sense, but make complete sense at the same time. Anurag Kashyap, one of the most famous film-makers in India started out writing scripts with no dialogues. He wrote stories and captured spontaneous dialogues from actors playing the roles.

I think there are a lot of ways to capture spontaneity but it’s risky business all the same. In the last article I read, Pawlikowski said that the best film-makers were the ones who took a lot of time to follow their subjects and I think Richard Leacock was one of these best. I believe, spontaniety can bring about what superb acting cannot and there are some amazing examples of this out there. Sometimes, when we click pictures and we capture a moment in time that no one was posing for or expected, they come out to be some of our best shots which we can look at over time and always have a story to tell. They never get old. It’s an effect I wish we could turn on and off.

I also loved the idea of having more than one perspective to make a film. For his last project, Leacock had three camera men filming from their own point of views, capturing absolutely different senarios within one concert, to one music peice. Using absolutely contrasting images or perspectives opens up an entirely new world of possibilities. At the moment for my class, we are working in pretty large groups and before this I was a little angry that I have footage, all shot in different light, by different people, with different colours and I have to put it together and make it look good. But now I am looking forward to the prospective of doing just that. I guess, you can always think of what the film is going to be, but the journey there changes it and you never know how it will turn out. But I think that’s what Leacock meant when he said “a film should have the feeling of being there.”