ABSTRACTIONS pt. 2: Further experiments with an abstract video shoot

The abstract/haiku edit

Shooting: My Group’s Shots

I found shooting abstract footage, with the prompt of ‘shadows’, quite challenging. Finding shadows to shoot was an exercise in training my eye to frame what it sees, to see creatively, and training my mind to think visually. After finding the shots and imagining the desired outcome, the challenge, then, was to translate that through the lens.

One shot, with the brown, autumn leaf on the grass, became quite effective due to the sun fading behind the clouds, creating a sort of natural cross-dissolve or transition. This would be fun to further play with, in ‘Post’.
The vision in my mind’s eye, however, looked very different to the footage. The desired outcome was an ECU of an individual grain of grass, with others out-of-focus and the shadows dappling across the grain. The more I learn about cinematography, the more I understand the ambition here (but, certainly not the impossibility). This kind of shot would require me to develop a number of skills, which I’ll list below, and also, perhaps, a macro lens.

Skills which I’d like to build upon, based on this exercise:

  • Setting up a shot (basic framing)
  • Setting up a more advanced shot, ie. from an angle too low for a tripod (how to keep the camera stable etc.)
  • Achieving shallow depth of field, which includes
    • Further understanding aperture
    • Focal length
    • Shutter speed
  • Confidence! (You will notice I mention confidence throughout a number of reflective posts. I explain why here.)

The shot of the bicycle wheel wasn’t correctly white balanced, from this I learned to hold WB paper at a greater distance from the lens, in the position where the subject will be and angled towards the source of light. Also, as you may notice in the footage, the WB becomes worse as the sun reveals itself from behind the clouds. Evidently, a camera operator must re-balance when lighting conditions change!

Other shots (ie. the bicycle shot discussed above) looked great on the LCD screen of the camera, but overexposed in ‘Post’. The lesson: never trust the LCD screen! Or at least, always be sceptical of it. Check the viewfinder and pay close attention to ‘zebra lines’ (and/or) peaking indicators.

The Edit: Haiku, Audio and Editing

After finding the visuals of the water fountain that fit so perfectly with the foley and ambience recordings I had made, I found editing somewhat difficult. Difficult, because the shot was so beautifully constructed that I almost didn’t need to do anything to it and the more I tried, the less satisfied I was with the outcome. I chose instead to play with ‘duration’ and challenge the audience’s patience, somewhat reflective of Bresson’s ideas that are discussed in this post. In line with Bresson’s thesis, I focused on speaking to the audience’s emotions with affective sound and leaving fairly neutral (albeit, beautiful) visuals (with all credit due to the cinematographer Jeremy Pritchard).

The first edit is pretty standard, no effects. Honestly, watching this I feel like it works, but I was eager to take the sound a little further.

In the second edit, I play with sound, adding some reverb, chopping up the sample and experimenting with panning. This has a nice, ‘voices in my head’ kind of effect, but when you listen to the words of the haiku, their juxtaposition to the created meaning is stark, almost jarring. I was fairly happy with this edit, yet, when it was played in a ‘showing’, the audio was all wrong. Levels were universally too low and some of the effects were almost redundant. This was a good lesson in the need for mastering.

The third edit is just that, my attempt at mastering. This is probably my favourite edit.

Edit #4 is where I start to really experiment. I wanted to try overlaying the haiku with a reversed one and playing them simultaneously. This alludes to the experience of paranoia or mild insanity that is mentioned in my examination of a sequence from HBO’s Oz (1997).

Edit #5 gets really wild. I used my recording of the haiku, yelled. I was interested in the effect of overlaying whispering with shouting. One extreme to the other. I also added an Ableton Live ‘beat repeat’ effect to the original whispering, randomising changes in rhythm. I added an ambient bass sample to underpin the whole sequence, then played with some panning and audio filters on the other files. This was a fun experiment, but I think it took things too far and the audio ended up existing in a (mess of a) world of its own, completely independent of the visuals.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

*Featured Image Credit:
RMIT Masters of Media. 2017.


Video #1

Footage and Videography: Jason Cheetham
Sound Design and Voice Acting: Jason Cheetham
Edited By: Jason Cheetham

Video #2

Footage and Videography: Jeremy J Pritchard and Nonny Bulle.
Actor: Nonny Bulle
Sound Design and Voice Acting: Jason Cheetham
Edited By: Jason Cheetham


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