Gone – A Journey in 10 Shots

The Brief

Using the technology and skills you have studied so far on the module; you are now going to produce a more in-depth moving image piece as part of a team.
1 – Find a task or journey
2 – Plan a storyboard into 10 steps
3 – Shoot using the restrictions listed
4 – Basic edit (no transitions) in Premiere and export
5 – Produce soundtrack using Audition

This exercise requires you to initially think creatively about a journey or task you have experienced. Choose something that you can repeat a number of times so that you have the option to revisit for research and production. A ‘journey’ could be your route to University, a bike ride, walk alongside a canal, a shopping trip or jogging. You may wish to consider genre and approach it appropriately… a comedy about who is next in the bathroom, a horror walk through the park etc. Once you have shot and edited your video, you will then create a sound track. Working within the restrictions below, you must create a sense of pace, environment and meaning through sound.

Specification:
1080P Video (shoot on Video Camera, DSLR or Phone)
Must be shot on a tripod/static (no camera moves, zooms, focus pulls, handheld etc)
Must use exactly 10 shots (10 clips only on the timeline)
Must use at least 10 sources of audio (including voice, spot and environmental)
Must use at least 10 ‘layers’ of sound in Audition’s multitrack
Should be 2mins long including titles and credits
No use of music
Audio set/hard limited to -12dB (technical demonstration in Week 20)
Dialogue (if used) can be recorded on location but all other sounds must be produced in Audition

Headphones are recommended for the fully immersive experience that we sought to produce. The video follows our protagonist through the emotional stages of grief, represented by each room. The doors that connect them as well as the time scale have been kept deliberately vague to enforce the metaphysical element of the narrative.

Preparation

Sometimes the limitations of a brief can yield unexpected creativity. In this instance, the exhortation to explore non-literal ideas lead to our consideration of an emotional journey rather than a physical one. The clearest example of that occurred to us to be that of grief, which has a popularised division into a variety of stages, which we condensed in line with our shot limit.
Drawing on a variety of influences, our storyboard featured camera angle ideas from directors like Hitchcock & Lumet, especially works like 12 Angry Men (1957); the visual narrative itself owes a lot to the work of Gaiman & McKean’s Mirrormask (2005) and by extension therefore, the work of Terry Gilliam who often explores the mind in physical spaces. As a group, we established a Google Drive folder in which to collate our respective contributions. This included some production documentation that helped us track our progress. We also decided to contact an amateur actress known to a member of the group, whom we thought would be able to bring our ideas to life more effectively than we could on our own.

Sound Design

Although the whole team had creative input in every area, my primary responsibility was the sound design. As this is a representation of an emotional journey, we wanted this to be reflected in the way the audience experienced the sound. That is, we wanted them to feel connected to the protagonists experience, prompting a soundscape with hints of ASMR ideas and the audio equivalent of point-of-view storytelling.

Each scene was created using the sound recordings from the video shoot as a guide and the video itself for further cues that either were not picked up or in some cases, sounds that we wanted the audience to experience that didn’t naturally occur at all. The bending of the record (which we originally expected to snap) was created by scraping a balloon and then slowing the sound down. The explosion of glass was more literal, but a controlled recording was performed using a cupboard as an isolation booth which was safer as well as creating a huge sound.

Following the alignment of all the physical sounds, we then moved on to sounds that extended beyond each shot, tying them together and beginning to add some cohesion to the overall structure of the sound. We also used these to create further emotional narrative. The sound of a clock gradually slowing down alongside the almost imperceptible sound of a computer fan processed to sound like the swelling of blood flow to the temples all eventually crescendos to a sudden stop as the candles are blown out, setting the stage for our final acceptance scene, where our protagonist is finally able to move on to the outside world. In this scene, there is complex interaction between the inside shot and the outside, where the direction of steps changes as well as the quality of the traffic noise as the door is opened. The latter was achieved by automating the volume and the frequency of the high shelf in the EQ, transitioning the traffic noise from muffled to full range, as one would experience it moving through the door.

Reflections & Lessons

As our first significant piece of mixed media work, this has set a high benchmark for me. The finished video is of a significant enough quality that every member of the team is proud of our work and excited by it.

Organisation was our primary difficulty, not because we failed to plan but because we failed to account for some cumulative effects: availability of our actress combined with the Christmas break during which most of the team was out of the country resulted in some shots being filmed in January while the sounds were being assembled. The team worked with great flexibility though, regularly communicating and promptly uploading new material as it was completed. The way in which internet technologies assisted our workflow as a group is hard to understate here. Ultimately, the most significant victim of this late bunching of tasks rather close to the deadline for comfort, was the presentation. Our slides were adequate but we were left with no time to rehearse the presentation or even discuss it in great length. Having given ourselves clear conversation points, we improvised the delivery itself but with everyone being familiar with or directly involved in every aspect of the project we found there was plenty to say.

One thing that is starting to become very evident is the individuality of the creation of media projects. While many industry standards exist in deliverable terms, the methodology is very personal and varies depending on how people work both alone and in groups. I have been developing my audio production skills independently for some time and I have found myself leaning towards open source software and specific plug-ins that I know to be more effective than the native options of most programs, including Audition & Reaper, both of which were used in this project.

Apart from the intricacies of scheduling group work, I have identified two important personal growth points. Firstly, that it is easy to take for granted the things that you think you hear in any given situation. There is always more going on than you can consciously process and even a silent room has a ‘sound’ as you experience it, meaning that one must learn to pay exceptional attention to the details of what you hear while shooting a scene. Secondly, the things you hear do not always correlate with the experience you wish to impart to your audience. Watching each sequence with this in mind, I had to learn to think about the relative importance of each action and how much attention I wanted to call to it. The bending record was an important tension point although in reality it made little to no sound, so a dominant sound had to be imagined, while some shuffling of feet that was vague and hard to read on screen made a substantial noise that we chose to omit from the final edit. In total, only 2 on-set audio clips were kept: the drumming of fingernails that was impossible to overdub accurately but fortunately recorded from underneath the table during the shoot, and the scream which is inimitable.

Overall this was a remarkably ambitious project with a sophisticated, nuanced narrative. I feel we delivered on that ambition with a beautifully shot and recorded piece that I am please to include in my portfolio, although I may not always push at the boundaries of the achievable.

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