Equipment Testing : The Dolly

The dolly is a shooting platform often raised onto a track to create a smooth movement whilst filming. It is like a train track in which you put the tripod onto the trailer and it is pushed along. The dolly creates an even and neat movement; something a cameraman wouldn’t be able to do by holding the camera him/herself.

Since we have a dolly track available at school, we decided to test it out to see if it would be any use of us in our film opening. We took some test footage to see what the dolly can offer as well as how it can be operated.

We thought a sequence and technique we want to portray in our opening is a “through the wall shot”. This is something which we can easily do at our location as well as a technique which can show our filming ability. To show this technique, we set up the camera and dolly going into the computer room. The camera would start outside the room and the dolly would slowly work its way into the room, facing the wall.

Here is our footage:

We were quite pleased with how the footage came out and how easy it was to operate the dolly. Therefore we have decided to use the dolly in our production of the opening. The through the wall shot would create an atmospheric transition in the film against the foggy atmosphere. It will suit the theme and genre perfectly as well as showing our skill in filming techniques.

To Do List

Here are a list of things I need to do for pre production (some points are also linking to the production of the film):

Blog Posts:

  • Film “Review” – Panic Room (DONE), Fight Club (DONE)
  • Ident Production
  • Storyboard Animations – DONE
  • Location Scouting (DONE), Actor, Props, Costume + Makeup
  • Fake Blood Tutorial
  • Steadicam Testing – DONE
  • Dolly Shot Testing – DONE

Things to do before the holidays:

  • Storyboard Animation – DONE

Things to do in the holidays:

  • Film footage ready to edit – DONE

The First Plot Idea

To make further progress into creating our own film opening, we developed our first plot opening. In order to create a film opening which will look like it is actually from a film, we had to put together a plot for a whole film. Here is our first idea down below:

Stewart Trapper is a British man who moves up north to his home town along with his family, after getting made redundant twice and then getting fired due to his addiction to alcohol. In trouble with the law due to  turning to thievery during tough times, Stewart only has his family for protection and comfort. When Stewart stumbles back home after a lonely night of drinking to discover his family dead and a stranger stood in his house next to the bodies, Stewart brutally kills the suspected murderer using his bare hands in a drunken outrage. The protagonist, and now murderer, wakes up after blacking out the night before and then painfully rediscovers the crime scene all over again but this time he is sober. Stewart is a man who believes in the saying “It is not who fired the shot but who paid for the bullet” and when he discovers a note in the strangers pocket that reads of instructions to kill his family, Stewart makes it his goal to tract down the orchestrator of the murder immediately after he disposes of all the victims bodies in a abandoned castle ruin. Getting drunk every night to drown his sorrows, slows down his progress in finding the Man who supposedly orchestrated the killing of his family however he remains ambitious when he wakes up the next morning.

Eventually Stewart comes to discover that it was him who killed not only his family but also a stranger who was simply there to check out if everything was alright after hearing screams. The note found  can also be explained as it turns out to be written by himself when yet again he was drunk. Each night when stewart would get drunk, he’d turn into an abusive monster capable of killing his own family and then would simply forget about last nights previous events and repeat the cycle. While getting drunk during the nights when he was looking for the Murderer of his family, his drunken self would try and hide any clues that would lead to him which meant the cycle repeated its self until drunken Stewart made a mistake that sober Stewart finds.

Stewarts only way out of this situation is death.

The Remake of the ‘Reservoir Dogs’ Opening Task

For our next task, we had to remake one of the most famous openings in the history of film. We worked as one big group to recreate the opening of ‘Reservoir Dogs’ – a 1992 action/thriller from the famous director that is, Quentin Tarantino.

This is what we had to recreate:

Planning

This was what we obviously started with. We discussed who would be which character, where we would film it, costumes, makeup, props, how we would film it etc etc.

The characters are: Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), “Nice Guy” Eddie (Chris Penn), Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney), Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker) and Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino). We then decided who should play each character, this concluded with: Adam playing Mr. White, Owen playing Mr. Orange, Katie playing Mr. Blonde, Sean playing “Nice Guy” Eddie, Kieran playing Mr. Pink, Millie S playing Joe Cabot, Grace playing Mr. Blue (was originally going to be Emelia but, she was not here on the day) and finally, Millie P playing Mr. Brown. I took charge of the camera.

Costumes were quite simply a black blazer, black tie and black trousers – with the exception of Sean who needed to bring in a blue jacket and a gold chain for his role. However, for makeup, girls drew on moustaches and beards, if necessary. We drew on chest hair for Sean so, he fitted the role even more. For props, we bought in fake cigarettes, a toothpick and a homemade, pretend cigar. For the diner scene, we used a tissue holder from the canteen like it shows in the diner in the film. Another key prop/costume essential were: sunglasses. These were key as most of the characters needed them. They were easily brought in by the people who played these characters.

For location, we decided to film in the school canteen for the very start of the opening where the characters are in the diner. For the actual walking and opening credits, we found that the best place was to film in the “drive way” of the school. This part of school allowed the dolly track to be set up and moved easily here.

Filming

This was the most difficult aspect of the task as we didn’t have a whole day like the original film did in order to film the opening. The English weather is also very unpredictable so that proved another difficulty.

We started off by filming the part in the canteen. This was because, it gave us a starting point and, that it would be easier to edit together since it links in with the opening theme. We did two takes for the scene in the canteen as we only had one lesson to film it. This scene was fairly easy to shoot since it just required the camera to be placed onto the tripod and kept in the same place for the whole of the scene – it required no dolly track. The most difficult part was making the shot look exactly like the one in the film.

After we filmed that scene, we went outside to do the main part of the opening: the walking and opening credits. For the crab shot, we set up a dolly track by the side of the drive way. The cast placed themselves like the characters were stood in the original opening. They walked at a normal speed and, I pushed the dolly along just a little bit behind them. This meant that I wasn’t ahead of the characters at all so, the audience get to see all of them come into the shot.

For the close ups, I placed the camera on the tripod and I put it in front of the characters, slightly zoomed in. The actors then walked on the spot to give the illusion that they were actually walking. To film the final shot, the camera was placed in the middle of the driveway. The actors then walked away at a normal pace.

Editing

In terms of trying to get the opening to play exactly like the original, this part of the task could arguably be the most important. I started off by playing the original opening next to the open FinalCut Pro window. This meant that I could compare the two whilst I was editing and made sure that I got them the same. I exported all of the clips into the blank project. I put the audio of the ‘Reservoir Dogs’ opening onto the project and put the clips on from there. I removed all of the audio from the clips to ensure that the background noise was not interfering with the soundtrack and so, that I could start off with a, you could say, “blank canvas”.

I cut the clips down in time with the real footage, which meant putting it time with the music. The hardest part was definitely putting the transitions in and finding the right ones. However, once I got the hang of it, I found it quite easy. The text was also very difficult to get exact especially finding the perfect colour for it to look as accurate as the font in the real opening credits. Another difficult part was making the text move up the screen. Even thought it was a challenge, I finally got it to work.

Artefact

Here is my finished remake of the ‘Reservoir Dogs’ opening sequence.

Evaluation

There are some good things and bad things about my remake.

Pros

I think the cuts between scenes worked really well as they were very close to the original. This also links to the similarity in transitions with the fade outs. The font I chose was a very close, if not, perfect replica of the real thing; the colours also suited it too. I also think the timing of each shot and scene were very close too. Even though it was difficult, it worked out in the end. Another difficult aspect was getting the right composition of each shot as well, especially to get it as similar as the real ‘Reservoir Dogs’ opening. However, with the right placements, I managed to achieve the right close up as, it still had some of the environment in the background.

Cons

I could definitely improve on the steadiness of the camera whilst filming the first walking scene with the dolly track. This was because, the camera wasn’t tightly put onto the tripod when moving along the track – this caused the shakiness. Continuity was also a big issue as at the end of the opening, the characters have their backs towards the camera in the wrong way. This meant it looked like the characters walked around in a circle.

Obviously, if I did this task again, I would definitely correct the improvements to make the opening as perfect as possible. Overall, I do think it was a good remake with a limited amount of time and for a first time.

 

Preliminary Task – Take 2

We did another preliminary task but, this time it was (hopefully) an improvement of the first preliminary task. This time, however, I had to apply the 180′ rule, match on action and shot reverse shot.

Planning

This time, we only had about half a lesson to plan out idea…therefore, we only had a brief amount of time. We came up with a quick idea of a first date and we then decided to find actors. We also found a room to shoot in which was, the irrational room.

Filming

The filming process was fairly simple. We had a very small space to work in but, we made it work. We had about 6 people who showed up to act which was very helpful. Everyone in the group helped direct the shot and we all had different roles: Kieran filmed, Millie helped with the clapper board and me and Sean directed the sound. We did the main shots first (the conversation and entering the room). When we had finished with those shots, we repeated them but on the other side (obviously using the 180′ rule). Finally, we added in some extra shots of the actors footsteps walking to the room and holding the door handle (the door handle shot demonstrated match on action).

Editing

The editing process was probably the most difficult part in the whole process. After exporting everything, I made things easier by completing the film first which gave me a good base to put my sound onto. Like any editing process, matching the sound to the footage was probably the most difficult part. I also needed to make sure that I cut the shots properly, one after the other. This made the film flow like an actual film.

Artefact 

Here is the finished product.

 Evaluation

I feel that the second take of the preliminary task went a lot better than the first. With applying the rules (180′ rule, match on action and shot reverse shot) made the finished product look a lot better. This time, the editing process was easier to do which was mainly because, I had a larger selection of footage which I could choose from. The actual  story itself isn’t the best but, that obviously wasn’t the main focus of the task. In future projects, the plot will be a lot more detailed and precise.

Preliminary Exercise – Planning

Task : Film and edit a character opening a door, crossing a room and sitting down in a chair opposite another character, with whom he/she exchanges a few lines of dialogue. 

In order to achieve the task, we need to show all of the things above. We will use different camerawork techniques to achieve this as well as using the right skills with the boom pole, microphone and sound recorder.

The location of filming will be the conference room and the glass corridor. The conference room is the perfect location as the story and theme of our short film is a job interview. The job interview will just be a basic job interview, we did this because an interview would be a great way to show shots between characters whilst they are having conversations. Here is a layout and idea of what the dialogue will be like. 14355825_1589625358006399_117662001_n14330917_1589625378006397_2018152661_n

 

The opening will start off with wide shots of the empty corridors. An extreme close up of the characters feet walking down the corridor will be shown (this will be done by putting the camera on the floor and simply letting the character walk past it. There will then be some more extreme close up shots: the character opening the door, pulling the chair out and shaking the interviewer’s hand. In terms of the conversation, the shots will mostly be reaction and over the shoulder shots. The final shot of the film will be the interviewer and interviewee shaking hands (since the candidate got the job).

Here is a layout of what the shots will look like (this is to just a guide for when we are filming).

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