The competent knowledge of the intended genre and the relevant use of appropriate technologies are areas that greatly affect the outcome of the practice. Equally, to the information learnt and implemented, both theoretically and practically, during the pre-production, production and post-production stages. The technical skills and techniques add to the delivery and help portray the assumed genre.
Initial Practice Proposal I intend to create a short, biographical, documentary film, featuring numerous subjects, as they reflect on moments from old home movie footage, either footage of themselves or someone else. From this, I want to understand how old movies inspire nostalgia and the role signifiers play attaching additional meaning. In terms of the documentary style, I’ve found inspiration from directors, such as Orlando von Einsiedel (Evelyn, 2018) and Charlie Tyrell (My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes, 2018). Both of these documentaries use home movie footage to give a more detailed impression of the subjects at a certain age, as opposed to only using imagery. Whereas Einsiedel has a more structured narrative, Tyrell takes an artistic approach by incorporating illustrations and graphics in post-production, which created a very visually appealing opinion documentary. In terms of the interview style and layout, the documentary director, Ed Perkins (Tell me who I am, 2019) takes a creative approach, which has influenced me to look at the ways I can create a more inventive layout. As I equally do not want to use a physical interviewer.
The earliest technical decision made, within the practice, was the idea to incorporate a projector into the methodology response video, as well as the video for the first practice review session (crits). Despite, the projection appearing reasonably clear in the methodology video, as shown below, the saturation was quite low and therefore some details were lost. This equally happened in the video for the review session but was worsened by the lighting I tried to create, due to quality and insufficient access to lighting equipment. Although this equipment did not work out as intended, the opportunity to create the effect of projecting, in editing was still an option.
This is an example of the first official practice produced, as mentioned above, for the review session and using the projector.
Early Examples of Editing
At the beginning of this project, footage was solely edited on iMovie, due to difficulty accessing Premiere Pro through the University login. This programme was used for editing the 6 video and audio responses, for the methodology, as well as the two practices presented in the project review sessions. Within the methodology videos, no effects were imposed, however, the screen in screen technique was used and text was added. Although it can complete many basic editing tasks and is a very reliable programme, more technical techniques are not available or of high quality.
The project experimented with imposing the overlay technique on iMovie, to create a translucent video on top of another. The intention was to perceive the overlay as a combination of the past and present and somewhat physically encapsulating the participants within the reality they are watching. Although the appearance was essentially achieved, the home movies frequently lost colour or appeared as silhouettes rather than people.
The timing sheets, shown below, are records of specific moments or signifiers, within a home movie, that were mentioned in the response videos. In this instance, they show timing charts from both the first crits video and the second. Keeping records of these moments made it easier to source and add the home movies at a later stage, when mentioned. This significantly helped when adding home movie footage, during the editing stages.
The Final Practice
The planning of elements involved in the documentary, before its production.
This simple, Photoshop storyboard details the range of shot types and angles implemented throughout the filming, as well as the number of participants involved in the shot. This initial stage of planning helped direct the filming, as it acted as a guide to indicate different shots to use for a more compelling video. The shot types were essentially inspired by previous filming opportunities, during the methodology response videos and the first and second crits videos. The storyboard also signals additional elements, such as possible background colours and recommended shot types and positioning for the participants if a projection was to be added in post-production. Through previous analysis of the genre, it is evident that documentaries use many different shot types to relay relevant messages, as tactics to make viewers feel specific emotions and to create a more engaging narrative.
A spare room was chosen as the intended location for filming, due to its neutral colour palette and the amount of space provided. As a backdrop was not available to hire, a blind was used to provide a clean, plain backdrop while also blocking out exterior light. Its light tone would be equally beneficial if a projector was used. The chairs incorporated were a simple design and would not draw away from the participant, however, they did complement the walls, as they were each different shades of blue. They were staged to give the participants space, while still within the width of the blind if that was solely shown in the background. The image below highlights this simple, yet effective composition.
Before the filming commenced, I decided to go through the home movies collected from each participant and wrote down interesting events that occurred and the timings. These could be examples of pivotal memories that would guarantee powerful and informative responses. This information was transferred in a schedule to known specific times to fast forward to if a participant ran out of memories surrounding that event. The number of clips listed within the schedule depend on how much footage was attained from each person and if the initial clip succeeded onto many other clips. The chart below details the schedule and represents the home movies disc number and time that the moment’s feature.
(D8 – 01:34)
(D12 – 09:44)
(D1 – 03:44)
|Baby Ethan-Garden |
(D1 – 12:45)
(D5 – 06: 18)
|2004 Christmas |
(D4 – 32:58)
|Nanny Grape Christmas|
(D8 – 56:55)
(D13 – 07:12)
(D1 – 05:54)
(D1 – 34:00)
(D7 – 35:02)
|1st Birthday |
(D4 – 36:02)
(D5 – 22:39)
(D13 : 26: 59)
(D2 – 18:18)
(D1 – 47:21)
|Baby Courtney |
(D4 – 48:22)
(D5 – 24:54)
(D3 – 23:33)
|Israel Water Park|
(D2 – 02: 36)
|Uncle Joe |
(D2 – 46:12)
|Anna swinging |
(D2 – 09:18)
|The boat |
(D2 – 1:15: 09)
The creation of the documentary, through filming and assisted by pre-production stages.
The number of participants involved in each session was dependant on many factors, such as relationship, age and how comfortable they would feel speaking alone. From previous filming experiences, single participants sometimes found it difficult to come up with things to say, although when placed in a couple, a more relaxed environment was created and discussions were prompted. The participants involved in the project, each filmed for an hour to make sure there was a wealth of clips to choose from and incorporate in the final video. The relationships between people also decided who would appear together, as those who were married or had a parent-child relationship now, featured frequently together in their home movies. In comparison to the single participant, who appeared more with people unavailable to be involved in the project. The mix of participant numbers contributed compositionally, but also when observing shared nostalgia between two participants or when memories were similar between subject not appearing together. The participants are shown below, in various numbers and angles.
The filming was shot from 3 various angles to capture different viewpoints of the participant, for example, a close-medium shot from the left, a long-medium shot from the right and a head-on medium shot. As the home movies were shown on a television mounted on the left side of the wall, the participant were looking up and not directly at the camera. I believe this adds to the documentary, as the viewer feels like they are watching a private moment happen, as if the participant is unaware they are there.
The project involved equipment hired from the University that proposed a level of difficulty, due to my unfamiliarity with it. This included a boom kit, a Canon 700d and a Zoom H4n Recorder. In preparation for and during the filming, the rechargeable batteries for the camera were constantly being changed and charged, so filming did not have to be stalled. During filming, I was predominantly focused on the camera and changing the shot types, while family members assisted by holding the boom. The attention directed at the camera was due to an earlier problems with the auto focus feature. In the first filming session the auto focus caused the camera to continuously move and blur, before it was changed to manual focus and had to keep being adjusted.
Despite, keeping a level of continuity between each filming session, i.e., the setting, lighting and shot types, on occasion the boomstick could be seen in the shot or the shadow was visible. Whenever this was witnessed, the issue was corrected or could be edited out in post-production. After each filming session, the memory card was removed from the camera and mike, to be downloaded on an external hard drive and then deleted. This was due to the limited space available on the sim cards.
Post – Production
The editing of raw audio and video material, in terms of cutting footage, adding effects and employing different techniques.
Before editing had begun, each filmed session was watched and divided into 5 or 6 notable clips that relayed significant participant responses. As there were over 6 hours of footage and this needed to be condensed into a 15 to 20 minutes video project, so marked comments were those that would appear most impactful. The clips were then placed into Premiere Pro before they were organised in editing. The images below, reflect the reviewing stages of the clips and their timestamps, so that section can be easily located and trimmed in post-production.
Premiere Pro was used as the main editing software for this project, as it provided an assortment of effects and techniques to enhance the video and audio. Despite, not being particularly familiar with its settings, I learned and researched relevant information when needed.
The techniques used to communicate the idea of nostalgia and home movies differed throughout the video. The practice rotated from participants with a projection, participants with no projections and just home movies with audio. This allowed different messages to be translated, such as projecting images next to the subject allowed the viewer to understand their story and make a link between their past and present. The masking technique allowed the home movies to be cut out and projected on the plain background behind the participants, like a green screen. The feathering effect also allowed the participants to fade into the background. However, the absence of the projection caused the focus to remain on the participant’s story and enabled viewers to pick up on smaller details they emit, like facial expressions. It could also make relating to the subject easier, as the viewer can imagine their own home movies.
The home movies featured with participants audio in the background, creating a fly on the wall effect for subjects and allowed viewers to take in signifiers of the past. The home movies were set as a smaller frame size with a cream-beige backdrop to show continuity with the main colours within prior clips. The background was previously black, but my supervisor suggested that the backdrop could possibly link to the other clips. This colour is more complementary to the videos colour palette and does not interrupt the flow of the video, as black previously did. It also was technically beneficial as the participants audio could be edited to cut out pauses and mistakes, without notice.
The colour of many videos was altered, due to poor lighting and so the added saturation helped to correct this. Amongst the saturation, the shadows, highlights, intensity and vibrance were increased to adjust elements caused by the downward casting light and lack of external lighting equipment. The image below details the before and after appearance of a video after these corrections were amended.
The beginning and end of this explorative documentary shared a common link, as it features audio from the home movies to narrate. This offers a better alternative than going straight to a voice-over, as the audio has nostalgic traits, such as dull or static tones and the speaker sounds completely natural. The phrase “it is recording”, heard from a 2003 home movie, also hints at the subject matter of the documentary and offers a rhetorical question.
The voice-over that follows this phrase narrates the central idea of the video and gives viewers an indication of the importance of home movies. Alongside home movies, the script detailed the occasions this footage was predominantly captured at, the realities of what is captured and introduced the overall research question. This allowed the viewer to think about how they would answer the question, before others responses were given.
The voice-over audio was altered to sound similar to an old telephone, to continue the old-fashioned, gravelly sound that appeared at the beginning of the video. It equally allowed people to transport themselves to the same time, as the home movies being shown. The video then transition into the response but was bridged together using the static screen, shown at the start of the film, in the background of the title. This static appearance is very familiar with home movie footage, as it marks the end of the footage, unrecorded footage or that there is an error and the footage cannot be played or has been taped over. This backdrop is an effective bridge, as it symbolically signals to the viewer that one stage is ending and another is beginning.
The text below is the speech heard during the voice-over.
Home Movies are a preservation of significant family moments. Whether it be a birthday, Christmas, a ceremony or a general occasion to be remembered in the future. They would have been captured on a family camcorder by anyone willing to hold it for a long period of time. Each cassette would hold unfiltered footage of the great moments … not so great moments … and sometimes no moments at all. Despite this, every second captured an important instance in the past. Taking you back to a time long since forgotten. So this poses the question ‘how does old home movies footage instil a sense of shared nostalgia’ ?
The participants were arranged, so clips of the same people were evenly spaced and shorter and longer responses were placed in succession. They were also arranged depending on the memories told, as moments of slight similarity highlighted shared nostalgia and contributed to the research question. Overall, the responses shared were detailed, informative and gave a raw, personal insight into the people being watched. In the concluding stages of the video, questions were asked to summarise the participant’s experience and to gain additional opinions on nostalgia and home movies as a medium. Initially, I can be heard asking these question, but after further review the audio was not to standard and was replaced with written text on the screen, this allowed the questions to seen more clearly.
Although the initial intention was to end on the questions, I felt as though the home movies should be the viewer’s last thought and short clips were included of the participants younger in their home movies merging into their present selves. This not only showed the link between the past and the present but highlighted the importance of feeling nostalgic and looking back at these memories, as time moves so quickly.