FMP – Test Shoots

Forest test shoot

This first test shoot was a result of the research I did on the short film ‘Sober’. I decided to practice showing contrast visually like they do in Sober, so I went to a small forest behind  house and found as many signs of human life in there as I could – mostly plastics and old rusting metal. I then made sure to also get shots of the forest looking completely natural and uninterrupted by people so that I had something to compare the human shots with.  

I am fairly happy with how this turned out. I used the music to help me know when to cut and I think the pacing is good, working well with the calmness of the forest. I chose my music to fit in with the serenity of the woods and I think it has an interesting effect on the way you view the man-made items in the shots. Instead of looking foreign and out of place like I had been expecting them to, the music causes them to meld into their surroundings. Even though I’ve been planning my FMP to be about how we are taking over the world and will probably be portraying humans in quite a negative light, this test shoot seems to hint that nature is the stronger one. Shots where you see grass growing up around a metal sheet or a bug crawling on an old tub, seeing nature thrive around the remnants of man, could be saying that however big and bold humans get, nature is always around and will be there to take over the land again when mankind crumbles. This was very unplanned and doesn’t fit with the tone of my monologue, so even though it’s quite a nice twist, for the actual film I must remember to get some slightly stronger music.

A technical problem I had with the filming was the exposure. Due to the bright sunlight shining on the camera, I couldn’t see that a lot of my shots were actually overexposed. This is why it’s important to know the basic settings of your ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop. Generally, I’ve found that ISO doesn’t need to be over 200 when filming outside in sunlight, and your shutter speed should remain at 1/50. This is information I understood only after shooting this test shoot, and so I never checked my levels while shooting, I just adjusted until I thought it looked right. This test shoot was good for me actually, because after I saw how overexposed it was, I really took the time to mess around with the camera settings and got to know them pretty well. My weakness in film has always been the technical side of it but this is slowly starting to change.

The one thing I will take from this test to use in my actual film is the editing style. It’s something I noticed whilst watching Edgeland that I liked a lot, where the shots are cut in time with the beats of the music. This test shoot is only 40 seconds long, so I could get away with cutting in time with every major beat, but for my actual film which will be roughly 2 minutes long I shouldn’t stick so rigidly to that. In Edgeland, there are a number of shots that are cut on a beat, but there are also some that are held for longer and shorter and change shots in between beats. I think it’s good to do a bit of both. You don’t want to completely disregard your backing music because it is there to aid you with the tone and pace of your film, but you also don’t want to be constricted by it and if you have a particularly good shot which deserves to be held for longer, you should feel able to do so. If you cut on the beat too many times, the audience will begin to expect the cuts and will be lulled into the rhythm of it, so by missing a beat every once in a while you keep your audience alert and interested in your film.

Narration voice tests

I used my forest shoot as the visual accompaniment for the voice tests I ran for my monologue. I didn’t have a specific voice in mind when I wrote it so I wanted to try a range of voices. Unfortunately I didn’t leave myself much time for this so I only managed to get three tests, but I think they’re a good range.

The first is a younger voice – it’s actually my voice – and although because I wrote it I knew exactly how I wanted it read, I still didn’t like how it sounded. I feel a young voice is too high, and lacks the depth needed to convey the seriousness of the topic. This test made me realise that an older voice would be more suited, because they are deeper, which I feel could make it sound as though they are carrying the weight of the years they have lived and are wiser and more aware of the damage humans have done. Young voices come with a sort of naive tone instead.

The second voice is an older, male voice. I think the gravelly edge to the voice adds an extra layer that carries the sound out more and lingers longer when you listen to it. It helps that he is also well-spoken and pronounces each word properly. What you don’t want is for words to get lost in the speech because that dulls down the effect of it. The only thing I would change about this is the upwards inflection at the end. It makes it sound more like he’s telling you a story or an interesting fact, rather than trying to convey a serious message.

The third voice is an older female voice. Again, like the young voice, I feel that female voices can often be too high and don’t carry as well. This voice is slightly lower and could work, but I feel that she has the tone wrong. The way I describe it is a ‘David Attenborough voice’, where it’s said slowly and in a matter-of-fact way. It doesn’t have the urgency, frustration, or solemness that’s needed for this monologue.

I have decided to go for the second voice, the male voice. In an ideal world, I would go for someone even older to voice this, maybe late 60s early 70s, because you would really be able to hear the years of life in their voice. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anyone willing or free to do it, but I still think this voice is good. It’s clear, deep and can have a slightly frustrated tone to reflect how frustrating it is to watch humans use the planet as if it’s theirs.

Jib Shots

As I said I would in previous blog posts, I took the jib out for a quick test shoot before I used it in my film, just to make sure it was suited. It wasn’t a very successful test as I was rushed for time I don’t think i got a chance to properly work out the best way to get shots using it. My lack of time also meant that I didn’t get very many shots. One of the main problems I found was that even though the weight was on the end as a counterbalance to make it move smoothly, I still struggled to get it to move without it jolting. You can see in my test shoots that a lot of the smooth movements are sandwiched between awkward  and judder-y ones. It was only at the end of the shoot that I discovered the reason for this. I was in such a rush putting the jib onto the tripod that I had forgotten to fully tighten the screw, and as a result it would loosen easily, causing the jib to wobble any time I moved the arm. This was very frustrating to find out, and I must remember when I’m actually shooting that even if I’m pressed for time I should do a quick last check of equipment before I press record, because it’s easier to fix it then rather than in post-production.

The other problem I had was control. In the clip, you can tell that I’m not fully in control and it moves about slightly wildly. The reason is because I’m trying to see what the camera is capturing whilst also controlling the arm. I have actually found a solution to this issue. Instead of holding on to the end and moving it that way, I’m going to actually very lightly hold the part where the camera is. The benefit of this, other than being able to see what the camera is recording, is that I can control the camera while I do it. I can do pans and tilts whilst simultaneously moving the jib, and the effect is very floaty and weightless. It’s also useful if I want to change the focus mid shot.

In general, I’d say this test shoot made me slightly worried about using the jib in my film. I want practice with it, but I also don’t want to add in shots just for the sake of it if they’re not going to look very good. Edgeland showed me that sequences of still tripod shots can be just as effective as having lots of moving shots if you have movement within the frame (grass in the breeze, tide coming in and out etc.) and you have good composition. Also, I learned from my test shoot that you can actually get a surprising amount of movement by just using the tripod to do pans and tilts. The tripod I used for that test was very old, plain and simple and still managed to do some quite nice panning shots with it. I’m still planning on using the jib in my film, but I’m thinking that only two or three shots be done with it may be a better idea.

speed drawing test shoot

(please ignore the bad quality)

I said in my latest research post that I had been thinking about showing the contrast of urban and nature by including a speed drawing of an urban scene over the top of a natural image. To test this out, I got a piece of perspex cut to A4 size and placed it over the printed out image. The picture is of a forest and although you can’t tell from this video, the drawing shows trees being cut down and a ‘new property development’ sign stuck in the ground. If I were to do this properly the image would be a lot larger, I would get somebody who’s good at drawing to do it instead of me, and it would be filmed on a proper camera instead of a phone. I wasn’t too fussed about that part of it for this particular test, I just wanted to get a general idea of what it would look like. My thinking behind this was that I wanted to reflect the quirky style of Douglas Adams’ quote, whilst also still showing contrast. However, since then my film has developed slightly and has become much more bigger. The monologue shows the basic mood and tone I want to convey, and the solemness is something that isn’t really evident in this drawing time lapse. Even with some intense backing and music darker moody lighting, the shot is still incredibly underwhelming and I don’t think it fits in at all with my film. Had I more time I might have tried something like ‘Monster Hunting’ by PJ Ligouri, where a drawing is layered over the top digitally, but for this film I think it’s a lot safer if I simply scrap the idea.

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2 Responses to FMP – Test Shoots

  1. Pingback: FMP – Final Evaluation | Catriona Fish

  2. kendalcollegefilm says:

    Excellent post, Kitty, showing strong practical development and good pragmatic decision-making.


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