Our brief for this short film was that we had to do a short action sequence of a ball rolling off a table. The film could be no more than 60 seconds long, but realistically, it probably won’t need to be more than 20 or 30 seconds long. The reason for this is that the film doesn’t need a narrative, so you don’t need to create a backstory to explain why the ball is rolling. The point this project is to focus our attention on using editing, music and shots together to create a specific feeling. The other reason for this project is to ease us in to the move up from handycams to DSLRs. With the handy-cams, there was very little to do other than press record, but DSLRs, you are able to control white balance, aperture and ISO to get your desired image.
When we first began talking through our film, we gave most of our focus towards the backstory, because that’s what we were used to, considering it had been important for our last few films. We decided to use an orange as our ball, and the reason why it rolled off the table was because it fell out of a fruit bowl. It was at this point that we became caught up in the story, and we forgot to work out exactly how we were going to make it exciting and tense like an action sequence should be. We started trying to work out why the orange fell out, with ideas such as the table being knocked and we even thought about a banana pushing the orange out. We started trying to add too much in, and tried adding obstacles in the way of the orange rolling, like coffee mugs and books. I had imagined it to look something like the mouse trap game I always played when I was young.
When you watch action scenes, the story line is always fairly simple, and it is the camera-work that tricks you into believing there’s a lot going on in the shot. The cuts are quick, and show the same scene from different angles, giving the illusion that time is being stretched out to keep you in the action for longer. This scene from Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost ark is an example of that. If you imagine the reality of the situation, Indiana Jones doesn’t actually take long to escape the temple, and the sequence is mostly just him running, but by the end of the scene you are exhausted from watching it. The shots are cut together so you see him running from the side, the front, the back. You see shots of the arrows being shot and multiple ones of the boulder rolling. All of these are put together in quick succession so you feel disoriented and rushed.
(These shots fit into just a few seconds)
Both natural sound (the boulder rolling) and unnatural sound (the music) are loud and exaggerated, and they build up in a crescendo effect to raise your heart beat so you feel the tension. In short, the scene is made into an action scene by the editing and the audio, rather than the narrative. With this in mind we changed our thinking.
We decided to keep the narrative as simple as possible, whilst still sticking to our original idea. The orange rolls out of the fruit bowl, and you don’t know why because that’s not important. It rolls across the table and falls off, dramatically. We didn’t need anything more than that because our next step was figuring out how to make it like an action scene. We agreed that we would need to film lots of different shots of just the orange rolling, as well as lots of different shots of it falling out of the bowl and off the table. This gave us more footage to work with, so we could cut it up as much as we liked and experiment with different angles to see which gives the best effect. Also, films like Indiana Jones use lots of different shots together.
We still wanted to add something else, because if you look at this scene from Captain America Winter Soldier as an example, sequences like this often have slight pauses that break up the action. These pauses can act either as a chance for the viewer to have a breather from the action, or as a way to build up tension to prepare the viewer for another moment of action. To fit this into our film, we decided that the orange wouldn’t fall off the table at first, it would just stop at the edge. There would then be a pause as you wonder if it’s going to fall, before someone knocks the table, causing the orange to fall and breaking the momentary suspense. It’s only a small detail, but I feel that it gives the film the right pace, because if you had the orange falling, rolling, and falling again all in one quick-cut motion, it might feel like it built up and up but never really came to a conclusion. With the pause in, the orange falling off the table is emphasized, meaning that that moment becomes the conclusion.
- Long establishing shot – pan around orange on the edge of the fruit bowl
- Stationary shot – *pause* orange falls out of bowl onto table
- Series of close shots – shows the orange rolling across table from different angles
- Tracking & wide shots – orange rolling across table (these shots including close ones can be cut up and arranged during editing)
- stationary extreme close shot – orange stops at edge of table *music stops & it’s silent*
- Mid (?) shot – someone knocks table
- *dramatic music starts again* Tracking shot – orange falling off table (slow motion?) (possibly 2 or three shots?)
Possible extra shots for 4 and 5: – tracking shot. Birds eye view of orange rolling across table.
– stationary shot. Orange rolls into camera lens
– stationary mid shot. Shows table from the side. Orange rolls across the shot
– tracking shot. Side mid view of orange rolling across table.
First test shots
Because our film is fairly simple and short, we are actually going to shoot it twice, the first one being a screen test, so we get a full view of what it’s going to look like. However, before we did this, we wanted to do a couple of test shots, mainly to try out the DSLR’s and see how they would affect the way we film, and also to test a couple of our trickier shots that we weren’t sure were going to work.
One of the major difficulties we discovered was the focus. As you can see from our storyboard, the majority of our shots are close shots, and we want the focus to be on the orange, meaning the depth-of-focus is very shallow. When the orange is still, there’s no problem. However, as soon as the orange starts rolling it is very difficult to keep the focus on it. To combat this, we had to spend a lot of time practicing refocusing the camera as we were filming, which was harder than we thought as it was easy to change the focus too fast or too slow.
Another problem that we hadn’t considered, is that oranges are quite difficult to control. Because of the shape, they don’t roll straight and this could lead to some continuity errors because the shots won’t line up. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a way to fix it, we’ll just have to take multiple shots until we get it right and buy the roundest orange we can. Also, our film requires the orange to very specifically stop at the edge of the table, and we don’t have enough control over it to get it to do this. Wilson in our group suggested that instead, we could film the orange rolling away from the edge of the table and reverse the clip during editing, which I think will look quite effective.
Apart from that, our first tests went fairly well. We all got a chance to try the camera and get familiar with it and because we tested out a few of the shots, we now have more faith that our storyboard will work when we do our proper screen test.