This semester I participated in two collaborative project: One is “when I open my eyes” which I am the main driver; the other is “Life with Coffee – Latte Warms the Heart” which I participated.
Project One: When I Open My Eyes
Recruitment and creation of the project.
As the whole project diver, I create Facebook private group and build a Google Folder to save and share our group’s stuffs.
There is a close-door group on Facebook. As we had found our main crew members at the beginning of the project.
Main Actor & Pet owner: Florence
As she is raising two cats, She is very familiar with animals (cats especially).
Sound Designer & Voice over: Alex
He suggested himself in CMP classes about talents of sound designing.
We have cooperated with him before and he is a good partner. I believe that I can learn a lot from him.
Production assistant: Tammy
Tammy can focus on details and very reliable. She is also good at data searching and resources exploring.
Director Assistant & Post-production manager
Cici is my partner and she is our assistant director and post-production manager. She is skillful about processes of post-production and she has talents in animation.
Assistant: Simone and Sofii
They joined in as supporters when project needed helps.
The development of Facebook group and mobile application of Facebook message were very useful when we started to discuss and plan the project. We share contents such as YouTube links, Blogs and web links which are related to our project. We discussed and communicated instantly in group chats. When individual teammates didn’t keep up (too much information and too many messages), I informed and communicated with them alone.
Preparing stage of the project
As preparing is the most important part of a project (refer from this course), we did a lot of preparing at the beginning indeed.
We did not determined which animal we would choose for our animal-view-angle short film at the beginning. By following principles from “Directing and producing for television” (Cury, 2011), We tried to ask about experiences of raising pets from classmates who has pets before, which we believed it can bring some inspiration or sparks of ideas. I and Cici considered normal dog, cat, rabbit, hamster, and little pig. We even thought about hedgehog, Totoro (a special hamster which is bigger than normal ones) and pony. After all, we selected cat. Reason of choosing it is because cat and dog are ordinary and we are not familiar with movements of special ones, which it would be difficulty to simulate it by camera movements. The reason why we did not choose dog is dog is too fast to simulate. We watched YouTube videos that made from GoPro cameras tied on dog’s head. They are all fast and shaky, which are hard to make. During this time, we have met Simone Lau who was studying bachelor of media in RMIT. She was very interested of our project and she has two dogs at home. Therefore, we invited her to join our project.
Here’s some reference inspire us to make the story:
- Dear Kitten: Regarding The Dog
- Garfield: The Movie
- How our pets see us
- Whiskas Australia, the photos they take from cats
Cici and I have made some lines of the project. Unfortunately, we are incompetent of writing English stories. Thus, we invited Alex and Florence, who are English native speakers, to create the script based our story. We have learned a lot from “From Script to Screen: The Collaborative Art of Filmmaking” (Seger & Whetmore, 2004), which it helps us constructing the basic structure of the story. After several discussions, they understood our story and our visions. The whole group has reviewed our story and discussed about the personality, age, emotional situation, and feelings of the cat. We finally determinate that it is a male cat as Alex will dub for the cat in video. The script written by Alex is marvelous, but some parts of it are difficulty to make. Therefore, we decided to adopt it when we are making it.
Processing stage of the project
Before starting shooting, we planned a lot. We listed equipment and props what we may need in filming. The important gear is GoPro with selfie stick. I practised the special shooting with my iPhone 4s with selfie stick and imitate a dog showed our idea can be worked.
Shooting location was selected to be home of Simone. We made a excel sheet which everyone written their spare time on it. But there was a problem. Because Simon is not a master of media student as everyone else. Our schedules are different mostly. Plus, nearly every teammates has different time schedule. Their spare time was occupied by different stuff such as part-time work or other study plans. Settling a steady day to film together is a challenging job.
At that time, most of our group member were free at weekends. However, Simone had other plan at weekends. Because of that, we switched to Sofii’s house as the new shooting location for decreasing the time.
While we were filming at Sofii’s house, we have confronted several problems.
- There is red light in scene when we shot under sofa with the GoPro camera. There are indicator lights on GoPro thus those lights were caught by the camera. This problem is solved by putting tape covering lights, which was found by Sofii.
- Considering challenges of performance in front of the camera, Yuri suggested another solution. He suggested to use real dog and cat. We tied the GoPro on the head of a cat then shoot freely. After shooting, we add sound and voices later. This suggestion completely overthrow our plan. We intended to agree it at first, but we declined this suggestion at last. There are several unachievable points:
- How to fix the camera and how to stabilize the image.
- Indeed, animal activities are interesting, but it will significantly increase works of post-production processes.
- When the dog meet the cat, camera will catch each other’s GoPro camera. This will inevitably increase difficulties of editing.
- There is no sufficient time remaining for changing current plan.
- As Sofii had to go to Sydney for graduate ceremony, we could not continue our shooting of later part. Another week was passed. In urgent, we sought helps from Simone again. Fortunately, Simone had time at that weekend. But we only had Tammy and me who were available in that week. Everyone else had other plan to do. There is another challenge which is the distance of Simone’s home. It is really far from city and this is another reason we decided to change location.
When we filming at Simone’s home, we had become extremely efficient. As we changed location, we had to re-film those old parts.
- Simone had asked tips of shooting before we started. Tips included scenes we would make at that day. This made her quickly understand our procedures and steps. I found this is genuinely effective. And this method is proven to work during the shooting.
- Simone has great sense in front of camera lens. Her performances are superb. She had watched clips we had made before, and she understand the character and character’s job. On the other hand, we fixed the script based on challenges we had confronted in earlier shooting. We asked Simone playing according to tips instead of script. It gives her more liberties and free choices than before.
- Before every shoot, we would do a rehearsal first. All locations and movements of actors and cameras, changes of character’s emotion and developments of the story must be practiced before real shooting. It had been proven to save much time later and the whole filming process is much more fluent than before.
- The second part of shooting was finished at Simone’s house. We have added Cici’s story. Considering I did not have spare time at that week and Cici is a reliable director, I only participated in preparing before shooting and shared footage filmed before. Cici followed previous shooting style very well. However, the GoPro camera used in second part is another one and its color leans too pink. Cici made extra efforts at post-production on color correction.
We followed some very useful suggestion from Biewen (Biewen, 2010). We assigned audio works to Alex one week before recording. Because Alex’s personality is a little shy, simulating a pride and vivacious kitty is a challenges. Although it did not reach the desire result, he still bravely tried different styles which are not his specialty. He kept checking the effect of sound, asking feedbacks about the emotion, the effect from us. He has spent a considerable amount of efforts on it. This is a mistake of my determination. I only concerned about the experience of sound recording but ignored matching the personality of the character and the sound actor. This is a main reason of questions to our work.
Because we have changed the story a lot in shooting part, we need to fix lines of script for dubbing. We changed some parts, but we kept the monologue of the cat. For a voice actor, lines written by himself are familiar.
During sound recording, I explained details of the psychological situation of the cat to Alex. Cat is curious and timid, proud and stupid, sleepy, angry but afraid of his master, jealous and sad, and enjoy the joy and the like. We conducted two times of sound recording. The second one revised the first one. For example, the time of when cat has an emotional reaction.
Editing and post-production
After I collected all footage, I organized the sequences of every footage and categorized them. All images of cats in this video is Florence’s cat. I used Photoshop to make the logo and utilize After Effect to create visual effect at the beginning of the video. Because I mastered Photoshop and I have Affect Effect’s workshops at this semester, I can develop motion effect.
The first draft has sent to Cici for decoration, color correction, transitions, visual effects and subtitles.
Tammy edited and organized all sound clips made by Alex. Based on my requirements, she fixed some extra sound effect downloaded from freesound.org (there are links below) for reinforcement of emotional expression.
After we shared the draft to everyone, we gained some good feedbacks. We changed sound and effects twice. The first draft is too long (It is 14 minutes) and teacher suggested to be between 5 minutes to 8 minutes. It is hard challenges. Patrick taught a jump-cut trick. I tried this method once, but there are still aspects hard to decide. Then I got a useful advice: asking someone who has never watched this before about which part of the video is boring and unnecessary. We asked Chi. After making difficulty decisions, we finally shrink the main part of the video under 9 minutes.
- There were always unexpected accidents.
- There are many things which cannot achieve the desire results. During the filming, director has to adopt his plan all the time for the best result he can have.
Project Two: Life with Coffee – Latte Warms the Heart
Video link: https://youtu.be/VPX5pb2AnzA
While I worked with Jessie’s team, my role is Visual effect designer and assistant cameraman. My job was creating animations and assisting shooting.
In that project, I’ve learned a lot new skills. During collaborate with Jessie team, I have used after effect to create proper animation, which I have learned this from elective course (illusion of life) and after effect workshops. For improve my animation skills and fulfill requirements from Jessie, I also watched tutorials from internet to gain necessary skills.
During the project, I have learnt many key elements for the future work. The whole project has taught me how to cooperate with others while still fulfill my own creative ideas. There are three main points I have gained.
First, I have learned how to lead a team. It is a very important part to work in media industry. At beginning, you have to find correct crew member. You must pay attention on daily life and expend my social circle to prepare my options. There will be too late if we only start to search for staff while we finish the idea. Team member decides the execution level of the project. On the other hand, communication is very important. It always has problems that members providing different solutions. And teammates may split in agree or disagree group. As a leader, it is essential to hear their ideas and balance the team. For example, sometime, the discussion can be very hot and may cause arguing which may cause quarrels between teammates. Sometime arguing is useful and sometime it is dangerous. It is a delicate problem that is need to treat seriously.
Second, how to cooperate with others while I am a member instead of a leader. It is also very important for me because I may not be a leader every time. As a team member, the most important thing is that I have to understand my role and pay enough efforts to do as best as I can. I must understand what I have to do and give my supervisor my concern or feedbacks about my work which can help the team and myself from potential problems. For example, when I work with another as a cameraman, I have to keep ask ideas of the director about what image is she wanted, and I have to provide my own suggestions about how to refine the pictures. Although sometime she did not accept my suggestion, I did not abandon my responsibility as quit the team but I still did my works following her instructions.
Third, to produce a good quality work, plan and execution are equally important, and the balance of these two are the key of success. For me, plan can determine the top level of the final work and the execution can decide the bottom level of the work. And during the work time, these two will conflict to each other through the whole project. The work condition and situation are changing all the time. Therefore, it must facing the unpredictable problems all the time. Execution may require change the plan to suit the current situation and the plan may insist to change execution method to solve the problem. There is no correct answer for such dilemma and it decide a producer’s professional capability.
At the end, all these problems need experience to solve. That is why a professional consultant is very valuable for a team. I have gained a lot of priceless experience from this subject and it will still require more in the future, which it is the key element for my career.
Biewen, J. (2010). Biewen, J. (2010) Reality Radio: telling true stories in sound. Dilworth: U of North Carolina Press.
Cury, I. (2011). Directing and Producing for Television: a format approach. MA: Focal Press.
Seger, L., & Whetmore, E. J. (2004). From Script to Screen: The Collaborative Art of Filmmaking. USA: Lone Eagle Publishing Company.