Dan Hume's Blog


Specialist Project Report & Final Video
December 4, 2011, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Specialist Project, Video

Final Video For Specialist Project

The Specialist Project brief states; ‘The intention is for you create an adventurous forward looking body of work that shows the industry or audience your vision of a future for some aspect of digital media.’

From the offset I was aware that for this project I wanted to produce something video based, that I could develop in relation to method of delivery in the extended major project. Digital publishing is an aspect of the industry I plan on embarking on with a view to post-graduate employment, and within this field there is a constant push for multi- media content, including video work. By focusing on video, I strive to both fulfill my brief and enhance my portfolio, and ultimately my employability.

I began by considering what technology people would be using to film in the next 5-10 years, as I have observed an increase in many independent filmmakers creating short films; then uploading them onto YouTube or Vimeo to share with the world. This is largely due to video cameras becoming more accessible and affordable to people with less disposable income, as they are cheaper to manufacture yet still provide consumers with tools that will allow them capture professional looking cinematography. I started to come across some videos that were shot on an iPhone 4, being particularly drawn to an independent music video that was put together in a really unique way.  Consisting mainly of compiled static shots, the footage had a sharp and crisp quality; reinforcing my theory that the editing makes the video what it is, making me realize how powerful the iPhone is as a tool. Anyone who has an iPhone has the potential to produce something unique.

I continued conducting further research, and discovered multimedia journalist Richard Koci Hernandez. Hernandez started out as a traditional newspaper journalist who then started using different tools to help him tell stories. In his case, it is the iPhone that he uses as his primary tool for street photography, and talks about how capturing photography on an iPhone has changed the way he works. People don’t automatically assume that you’re taking a photo when you’re using a mobile phone, so Hernandez discreetly snaps away at people on the streets by pretending to listen to music or taking a phone call; therefore capturing people acting naturally. This ‘discreet’ technique is something I want to embrace for my documentary, as I find people in their natural state fascinating. People tend to be very wary of cameras and I myself, get anxious when filming in public, therefore the iPhone was an ideal choice.

To link this concept of discreet filming into a specific subject, I decided I wanted to document life, making an observational piece. With the current recession, I have witnessed a different atmosphere in society, especially in London. I aimed to show that despite the economic climate people are still moving forward in this time of struggle and depression, hence the title of my piece Life Must Go On. Using a discreet device to film the piece means this will be documented in its rawest form. Filming in a public place can encourage unnatural behavior; this is what I want to avoid. I like to think of the iPhone as ‘The Invisible Camera’, something I would like to expand upon for my EMP.

Music is a key element in my documentary, as have a key track playing throughout the duration of the video. I’m using a Moby track called, Wait For Me, which I feel really sets them mood of my topic, for which I used two different versions both of which I requested from his website and have full permission to use in my documentary. I’ve interpreted this song in my own way and related it to my topic; people in power leave the people below them with nothing, but they still carry on with life.

I currently own an iPhone 4S, which allows me to shoot full HD video at 30fps. One bonus feature of the new iPhone is video stabilization, which helps reduce camera shake, giving smoother handheld shots, a very useful asset. The iPhone does however have limitations as a video recorder, posing challenges compared to more specialist cameras, for example the lack of depth of field, due to its small sensor. I also studied the documentary ‘The Man With A Movie Camera’ (1929), by Dziga Vertov, back when video cameras were extremely limited in their functionality. My approach to filming with an iPhone is essentially similar with its limited usability. I have approached this project differently to traditional filmmakers, starting with the technology aspect, then thinking how the iPhone could be used to film. I then began considering current issues as a starting point for a topic, with the idea of the UK economic crisis then leading me to contemplate sound. I felt music would be truly appropriate for this particular documentary, with the Moby track helping me visualize and strucutre the video without any storyboarding or much planning for the cinematography, as I feel you can’t plan a documentary; you just have to go out and start filming. Going by the rule of discretion, the cinematography is combined with conventional shots and some experimental shots. At certain times I had the camera by my waist when filming in strict public places such as the underground in order to really blend in with the crowd, therefore; I wasn’t looking the screen on the phone, instead I gave the impression I was stood listening to music. This unfortunately meant I was unable to see how the film turned out until later, however this proved successful in capturing the real essence of natural moments.

Portrait filming was another shot type I used at various points in the video, again allowing me to blend into the crowd and film in public places that were strict with photography. However you are restricted in terms of what see in a shot if you film portrait; therefore I decided to develop upon this technique and take three individual shots that consisted of a middle and two side shots. I also experimented taking shots in the style of artist David Hockney; something I wanted to explore on a previous project but never went ahead with due to the context. However, I have not used many shots in this style, as the time to render would exceed my processing software’s capacity. I believe the shots were successful in the context of my brief, giving a new perspective of the location. This technique allowed me to capture many different moments of a scene, compiling them into one shot making it more diverse. If I were to repeat the project, I would improve upon it by using more static shots for a more accurate compilation.

During filming, I found I did not use the Zoom H1, as it was impractical to use when filming at the same time; when handling it picked up sound made from just pressing a button. This may be due to the build quality, as plastic is prone to picking up sound when being physically handled. It is however a practical, lightweight device when on the move and is great for recording sound when stationary. Any diegetic sound used in the documentary came from the internal microphone on the iPhone, as while I was editing much of the sound from the clips got lost and chopped around, meaning when I rendered the video there would be moments of silence then sudden bursts of noise. This was unintentional but the overall result worked for the video and complimented the music, resembling radio static and integrating well with Moby’s auteur style of music.

I had hoped that someone would speak in the documentary, but was forced to eliminate this element due to the participant’s unreliability. I selected individuals showcasing an interest in politics and working in an independent business, and planned to record them in their working environment using my iPhone. I would then take the recording and place the phone in a completely different environment and record the footage from the iPhone on my DSLR. This would have been different from other videos, which is why I wanted to pursue it, however, this is something I could possibly look at for my EMP. During the post-production stage, I did an early edit of the documentary to enable me to observe how the video looked, analyzing areas requiring improvement. It was also a good way to showcase my work, gaining input from others to see if the message I aim to convey is clear. It helped me realize the video started quite abruptly and needed some sort of introduction, prompting me to add to the beginning of the early edit. I experienced some difficulties with Premiere Pro, when an error message occurred at the end of rendering the entire sequence. This was a real burden on time constraints, as it was working efficiently up until the last 15-20 seconds. This problem did delay my work; taking a good two and a half hours to render, however, after troubleshooting the issue I discovered this was related to the amount of ram on my computer.

Overall I am pleased with the result of the documentary, however the ideas I was unable to pursue could have refined the video to a higher standard. Although I used this project as a way of exploring new filming techniques, I also wanted embrace conventional techniques to create a professional end product using a mobile phone. The final piece is intended to be viewed as a comparison against higher end technology; taking on a raw subject with raw technology, and I believe I have produced something aesthetically in the same league of videos shot using more expensive and advanced cameras.

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