Sunday, 3 January 2010

Evaluation Part 4

How did you use new media technologies in the construction and research, planning and evaluation stages?

When carrying out my research I used several short film DVDs that were available through school, the one I used most being the Cinema 16 DVD, but I also did a lot of my research on the internet.
I looked at several short film websites when carrying out initial research, including the BBC short film website,, the FutureShorts website and Each of these websites had a wide range of short films that I was able to watch and analyse to establish a comprehensive range of codes and conventions.

The website that I used most was as they specialise in unusual, usually animated shorts that were very interesting for me. Around the time of Halloween, also, they had a special page devoted to horror shorts, and this was very useful for my research as it provided me with ideas and inspiration for my own horror film. was useful both in research and production. For research I was able to watch many short films but it was also useful for the whole production process. Once I had a concept I was able to embed videos from youtube to highlight my intertextual links and inspirations, providing more understanding to my film.

The Futureshorts website provided links to their Youtube site, which had many live-action shorts that developed interesting ways of telling stories and warping reality. As Youtube is a global search engine I was also able to search for more independent short films.

The Internet Movie Database ( is a very useful website that I frequently use, particularly when researching as it contains reliable information about all sorts of films, from indie to Hollywood blockbuster. This allowed me to research intertextual links that my film might have with ease, meaning that my film was more relevant to the rest of the film industry. Imdb is also useful as it had information about directors and actors that I was able to incorporate into my film.

The first task that we got charged with was creating an anamatic that could be aired to the rest of the class. To do this I used a Canon A620 camera that I’d borrowed from a friend. We were then asked to upload the pictures and produce an anamatic using Final Cut Express 4. Previously I had only used Sony Vegas and iMovie 6.0 to edit clips, so at first I found Final cut difficult to get to grips with. However, once over the initial hurdle of finding out what functions did what, I found it much quicker and more efficient to use.

Again we used to produce our media blogs, just as we had for the AS coursework task. This was helpful as I felt familiar with the website, and knew how to upload videos, pictures and word documents. This year I was able to use the advanced setting that allowed much easier editing of my blog, despite the odd glitch of having to change back to the old editor in order to be able to upload videos.
In conjunction with Blogger I used the site to upload word documents such as my storyboards, screenplay and ancillary texts. This site allowed me to upload these things at PDF files and then embed them onto my blog. I used my home scanner to upload the images onto the computer, and this meant that I was able to sketch them out freehand and not on the computer which would have been much trickier.

For the ancillary task of the film poster, and my teaser poster as well, I used Photoshop Elements to manipulate images together. For both posters I had more than one image that I required to work in the same frame, and Photoshop helped me to do that using lasso, layering and magic wand tools. I was then able to convert the image into a JPEG file so that I could post it on my blog.

I was able to use the same model of mini DV camcorder that I used for my AS coursework, a Canon MD101. As I had previously discovered these cameras are easy to use although some of the settings are confusing and temperamental (for example the white balance function doesn’t always work properly). Similarly the zoom function has to be used with exact precision in order to get the correct speed. In one of my shots, the one revealing the arm on the ground, had to be slowed down in editing as I was unable to get the zoom tool to work slow enough. One flaw that these cameras have over a mini DVD camcorder is that the tape has to be manually rewound to the correct place in order to ensure previously filmed footage is not recorded over.

I chose to set part of my film at night time, and from previous experience I know that it’s very difficult to get a clear image on the mini DV camcorders when it’s dark, so I asked my friend’s mother (a director of independent films) if I could borrow a pag light and reflector screen. When using this equipment I was able to pick up much more of the scene that I would otherwise have been able to. I was also able to get light from the fire that I used, and when that was the main source of light it gave the shots an eerie feel that added to the overall sinister mood of the scene.

As one of the main problems with the AS productions was the low sound quality, the media department invested in a boom mic. Unfortunately, due to weather and unavailability of the equipment, I was unable to use it in my production, and this did mean that my sound quality was compromised. In the worst effected sections I was able to use a portable digital audio recorder. which creates mp3 files that I was able to upload onto the computer and use to over-dub the pre-existing sound. It was fairly simple to use unlike the boom mic it doesn’t come with a dead cat that would reduce the background noise. However, it was a vast improvement on the other sound I had, so it was a good idea to use this equipment.

To produce my soundtrack I used both Ejay and Cubase. Ejay is a programme that specialises in dance music and so it was appropriate to use it for the diegetic music in the first scene. It’s a simple drag-and-drop programme that has pre-recorded music and vocals that I used to produce a successful track. For the second half of the narrative I wanted a more gothic soundtrack, and was able to use Cubase to produce this. On Cubase we, I and my composer, were able to change the input to different instruments so we could generate a unique track that fitted in specifically with my film. This process allowed me further understanding of how different instrument can be put together to create different and specific moods.

Due to time constraints I used both Final Cut 4 and iMovie when creating my final piece. I was able to transfer footage easily between the two programmes, so when I required more complex editing I could do this in Final Cut, but the basic editing I found took less time when using iMovie. Being far more advanced that iMovie, Final Cut was able to help me edit my video and sound precisely, so that it all fit together as well as possible. In my original idea I had planned to use Final Cut’s split screen effect, but as I changed my idea this wasn’t needed in the end. However, when experimenting with this effect I was able to get used to using final cut, and learnt to use the programme efficiently. This effect could not have been used in iMovie as it only had one track for editing, in contrast to Final Cut’s 99 tracks.
Final cut comes with the application of Live Type, a programme which creates titles that can have effects and animations added onto them. I tried out a wide range of these effects to get a title that fitted in with my film, but after asking some of my target audience, and looking at the conventions of horror shorts I decided instead to use a simple fading title, white on black background. I still used Live Type, however, as the range of formatting tools is much wider than that of iMovie. I was able to use a gothic font to fit in with the genre that I wouldn’t have been able to use otherwise. Transferring Live Type files into iMovie is just as easy as into Final Cut, just drag it in to the track.

Throughout the production process I used the social networking site Facebook to air my rough cuts to my target audience (but also other audiences in order to establish an understanding of how different audiences respond to the same footage). This is an example of the new media that is available now, that makes film more accessible to everyone. It also meant that I was able to get a wider range of much more useful audience feedback than I would have got having just aired my film to my media class.

As we had to hand the film in on a DVD I used iDVD 06 to create a DVD project file. In iDVD one can select a theme and then adjust it so that can reflect the genre of the film. However, if the theme used is too complicated it can take much longer to code and burn the disc, and so I chose a fairly simple theme, just changing the background image to a still from the film to add continuity. Once all the files are uploaded and in place (and after I made sure it worked!!) it was very simple to press the burn button and let it work away. It does take a while to code at first, particularly if the files are very long, but in comparison a half-hour long project I have previously made, it was very quick.

Using all of this equipment and software has allowed me to produce a product that I feel is quite successful. I think that the narrative is interesting and unique, but has elements that people of my target audience, 15-25, can relate to (the idea of teenage relationships and the troubles that come with them). Although there are several things that I would like to improve on I think the overall opinion of my product has been positive. I preferred working on this project to working on the AS coursework task as I was able to stretch out and create a full narrative, rather than just an introduction to one.

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Evaluation Part 3

What have you learned from your audience feedback? 
Throughout my production I have been continually getting audience feedback so that my product could be as sucessful as possible. 
  • Due to my initial anamatic not proving popular with the focus group I had available (as it didn't have an interesting twist in it, a very important convention of short films) I decided to change my concept completely and merge it with a sinister cannibal story. When I ran this story past a selection of the target audience they were a lot more positive and so that is the one that I chose to develop.

  • Once I had filmed my initial footage for the night time scene (the first scene that I filmed) I pieced it together in sequence and showed it to my media class [this rough cut can be found here]. They were able to give me good, useful audience feedback that I was able to use to improve the scene. They suggested focusing more on the arm shot, as it was difficult to see and needed highlighting, and also that I might want to  draw out the ending a bit more as it was too abrupt. One person suggested showing some of his clothing discovered in the woods the next day by some passer-bys, and as other people agreed this would be effective I developed it.
  • After I had filmed the internal scenes I pieced it together with the other footage and put the video on popular networking site Facebook. This was so that I could get an extensive range of feedback from my own age-group, as this is the target audience for my film. As I am friends with several media students on Facebook, I was able to get more technical advice, as well as general plot and aesthetic feedback from others. They suggested improving on the sound quality (which I did by adding in a voiceover when the girl speaks) and they provided suggestions for the type of music that I should use. One person suggested using the stereo to provide music and I developed this to produce the diegetic soundtrack that I settled on. 

  • Taken from the inital audience feedback I changed the shot of the arm and then added an extra section at the end, including fading titles (a common feature in many short films I researched) and a panning shot of the woods floor coming to rest on the male characters show that has been discarded. At this point I also had a soundtrack which I put on the footage. I then posted this new rough cut on Facebook to recieve more feedback. 

  • From this audience feedback I established that the soundtrack was popular, but the dance track at the start needed to be edited so that it wasn't quite so loud at the start. I then had the idea to make the music diegetic, growing louder and quieter depending where the camera was in relation to the stereo, and then cutting off when the door shut. Many people thought this was a good idea so I used it.
  • At this point I had pretty much finished my editing, but I showed to my media class again to ensure that there wasn't anything else I could do to improve it in the time left. My media teacher suggested that I needed more exposition at the start that shows the relationship between the two characters, but then members of my target audience said that the begining was the right length, if not a little too long. As they were my target audience I decided to keep it the length it was. It was also suggested that I could add some foreshadowing about the cannibalism, either by including someone eating some meat in the background, the characters walking past a butcher shop, or some sort of poster in the background. Had I had the time to reshoot the scene, I wanted to put a large "Meat is Murder" poster behind the two girls as they enter, as in this film eating meat does actually invovle murdering a human being. Unfortunately I ran out of time and resources and was unable to include that.

  •  Also using the networking site Facebook I was able to publish my film poster and get audience feedback on that. It proved to be popular, and although it was suggested that I should take out the rating and BBFC mark, I felt that it would be sensible to keep these in as they are both common conventions of promotional film posters.
 I found it very useful to have audience feedback throughout the production process. It was particularly useful to be able to air my rough cuts to my media class, as they are not only in my target audience, but they also know technical skills that I could apply to my product realistically. Also through my audience feedback I found out that there is a distinct difference between the opinions of the youth audience and a slightly more mature audience (involving the exposition at the start of the film). This is something that I can use in future productions to understand the audience more fully.

Ancillary Text 2 (Magazine Article)

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My magazine article followed the conventions of a film article that I discovered during my research. I was careful not to divulge the entire plot, as this would make the actual film obsolete, but I included a brief synopsis to provide the reader with the basic storyline and leave them interested in the rest of the film. I put this at the start of the article so that the reader had more of an idea about the film before reading the rest of the article.
 I kept a colour scheme throughout my article, keeping a simple white and blue formatting. I think this makes it look more professional and fits with the conventional model of a film magazine article. I did this by colouring the title block, drop quotes and indented captions with blue.

When looking at a Star Trek article from Total Film Magazine I saw that they used images of the production process, and I thought that this would be a good thing to do. Articles include this as it gives the reader the impression that they have more to offer than other sources, and that they're seeing something that other people won't. Because of this I included and image of me during the editing process, and one of the two main characters reading through the script.
Another common convention of magazine articles is using drop quotes taken from the text that are formatted in bigger, coloured letters. This is because the reader will be drawn to them first, and that means that they will generally be positive or summing up the content of the article. I included positive quotes from some of the actors (actual quotes that I asked them for) to fit with this convention.
I included the image from my promotional poster, although not with any text on it, instead of stills from the film in order to provide the reader with some idea of what the film would look like without giving too much away. I think that this is the most dramatic image I could have used within this criteria, and it will tie in with the other ancillary task.
At the end of the article I included when a film would be aired on a pre-established short film channel, as this s a common way of ending a film article. I kept my formatting simple as I think that looks more proffesional, and I kept the usual columned format to conform to the standard article model.

Ancillary Text 2 Research and Ideas

For my second ancillary task I chose to create a magazine article about my film. I had to do research about what existing magazine article were like. I used 2 main sources; Total Film and Empire, popular film publications.
 I looked at several different editions of both magazine, to get comprhensive look at the codes and conventions of film magazine articles. From observing the articles in these magazines I have discovered some common ingredients in designing an article. Things that were present in most, if not all, of the articles I looked at include;
  • Stills from the film - There is usually at least one still from the film OR
  • The poster - either promotional or teaser, although occasionally both are used. 
  • There is often at least two columns of text in magazine articles, as this means that more text is fitted onto the page, saving space and money. It also adds to the aesthetics and breaks up the text into smaller sections so it's easier to read for the audience. 
  • The headline of the article is generally followed by a smaller caption. The first one will often be a confusing or interesting title, so the caption will often be used to explain it
  • Quotes from the text can be picked out and placed in a seperate box, usually using a different font or colour, so that they are more noticable and draw in the attention of the reader.
  • There is always a colour scheme throughout the article (In the title, the drop quotes, the formatting and outlines).

  • Other forms of media can be advertised, usually at the end of the article. This could be a product (dvd, computer game etc.) or a website.
    Many articles (such as this one from Total Film) include production pictures or the cast or crew. This gives the reader the impression that they are seeing something that other people won't see, and makes the article more appealing.
    I will try and incorporate as many of these conventions as possible when creating my magazine article to produce an interesting and authentic piece.

Ancillary Task 1 - Final Poster

 This is the final production of my promotional movie poster. Although I developed other ideas, this was the one that was most sucessfull.

I originally started developing the first concept that I came up with. For this image I planned to have a single image with very little editing. I went out with my actors and took some pictures but it didn't turn out the way that I wanted. As you can see the cannibals aren't noticable enough, and having the poster set in daytime does detract from the sinister feel that I was trying to put across in the poster, so I decided to develop another concept.

My second concept was the one that I then developed. Although I had originally planned to use images seperate from the film for the poster, I found I was able to use stills, and decided that as this would link the poster closer to the film it would be a better idea. I chose a still from when the girl first says his name at the bridge, as he looks worried but not terrified.
As you can see in the draft sketch that I drew, I'd planned to have an image of one of the cannibals masks fading out of the dark. I took a still from the end of the film as the cannibals swoop down on him for this idea.

I think this would have been effective and would have provided a link with the teaser poster, but it was difficult to place it so that it looked good. I tried it out but it didn't produce the effect that I wanted, so I changed my idea. It was also difficult to get an image of the cannibal that wasn't blurred as it was taken during a very fast-paced bit of the film.

I then decided to incorporate the fire into the poster as this is where he discovers that they're cannibals. It's an important setting to the plot and also fire connotes danger so it would suggest that the action is dangerous. I took a still from a clip that I didn't actually use in the film, but it looks very effective. It has the cannibals crowded around the fire, looking down at it as they are before he talks to them. I decided to put this in the background to provide anchorage about what he's afraid of.

Using Photoshop Elements 5.0 I was able to take these two images and put them together. Having used the lasoo with magnet tool to outline the image of Ash, I then put it on a seperate layer in front of the fire image. I then had to blur the edges of the primary image so that it looked as though it had been taken at the same time. I had to adjust the colour saturation and hue so that it looked like he was standing near the fire, but on Photoshop this is very simple and easy to do. This is the image that I used on the final poster.

Also on Photoshop I produced the text that was required to produce an authentic looking promotional poster. I took the tagline "in the woods no one can hear you scream..." directly from the teaser poster as this would provide a link between the two, and I kept the font and colour the same. For the title Masque I tried to use the same text that appears in the titles, but when asking fellow students their opinion it transpired that this didn't look good. Instead I chose to use a Sans Serif font in a dark orange colour (the orange signifying fire). I then applied a slight filter over the top of the text to suggest the words had been burnt, and then put a "ghost" behind the word. This symbolises the supernatural, and adds to the mystery of the poster.

As Ash is an unknown actor I had to write "introducing" before his name, so the audience is aware that he's not a big-name actor. As short films don't often have famour actors in them, this isn't a problem. When researching film posters I discovered that they usually have at least one rating or review on them, usually from a famous source or film magazine. I chose to make mine from Total Film, a well established film magazine, as this would attract the audience that would read this publication. Like the rest of the text, I chose to put the review in orange with the burnt effect placed on top of it. This ties it in with the rest of the image.

The billing block I chose to be in white text as this is a common convention of film posters with dark colouring. It is in a plain font, as it's not the focus of attention. Coming Soon is written in bigger font as this is also common of promotional posters. The BBFC 15 rating mark is placed off-centre, just above the billing block, because this is also not the main focus of the poster but does need to be visable. The billing block contains several different important roles in the production of a film, roles that I noticed were on many movie posters.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Evaluation Part 2

In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products? 

Short films are generally anywhere between 3 and 15 minutes long, but I found most were within the 4 to 6 minute bracket. Therefore I made sure that my film fit within this time scale so that it conformed to this general rule. It lasts roughly 5 ½ minutes, so fits comfortably.
My characters develop conventions of not only short films but television dramas and blockbuster films too. My female character, who remains nameless, was based on Effy Stonem from the Channel 4 drama Skins, although the stereotype of mysterious,

practically silent girl is also present in several other existing texts (e.g. Maggie in 17 Again, Ray in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, Eli in Let The Right One In).

She is presented like this to provide narrative enigma (what makes her so interesting to him?) and also to foreshadow that she will be part of the sinister action later one in the film (connoted by the dark clothing, the almost trance-like way that he follows her without really thinking about it). My central protagonist, Chris Parks, also fits in with convention. He represents the shy, quiet boy who has trouble with confidence and therefore girls (much like Alex in 17 Again, Ron in the Harry Potter series and Christian in Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge).
All of these characters are very shy, and when presented with the chance to talk to his one true love acts foolishly and bashfully (although they generally get a sudden burst of confidence like Christian).

In Masque I’m challenging the stereotypical gender roles. Generally the girl would be shy and reserved, with the boy being the confident one that commands their attention, but I chose to reverse it in this film. This is very like the relationship between Effy and Freddie in Skins at first, and that’s what I tried to imitate. I think that the shy male character would appeal to a female audience, as vulnerable men tend to do, whereas the strong, confident, sexy female character would attract the male audience.
My soundtrack both conformed and challenged conventions of the short films that I researched. The music in short films tends to be primarily to build the tension or enhance the mood of the moment, but for the first section I chose to have diegetic dance music coming from the stereo. I chose to do this to provide anchorage of the age-group of the characters, and also to provide a light-hearted atmosphere to contrast with the sinister one later on. It also allowed me to play around with lyrics, and I was able to time the girl looking into the camera with the word “night”
to add another hint of a sinister plot. However, towards the end of the dance track I put in quiet, drawn out strings notes in order to add a slightly uneasy edge to the music. This drawn out minor key music continues throughout the corridor scene. This provides a narrative enigma; why is the music sinister when the action appears to be very positive? For the second part of the narrative I chose to have a stereotypical soundtrack, using timpani, violins and French horns to reflect the tension and the more dramatic moments in the action. I think that cutting it up was a good idea as it places more emphasis on certain important moments, but I ran out of time towards the end of production so was unable to do this as well as I’d like. I did like the way that the crescendo of drums ended just at the point when they started to rip him apart, and then faded to quiet music for the shoe shot, and this has proved popular with my target audience.
The storylines of short films are generally stranger and quirkier than that of feature length presentations, as due to their short duration they do not have to develop a storyline too thoroughly. However, I chose to base my film around cannibalism, a subject that can be (and indeed has been, e.g. Silence of the Lambs)
developed into a longer narrative. I decided to use cannibalism as the twist because it was interesting and sinister, and provided much scope for several possible storylines. I decided in the end that I would try and merge this idea with my original idea of the love story, and came up with the final narrative.
When researching horror shorts I noticed that the titles were often white text on a black background that faded in either midway through or towards the end. I found that after a particularly tense part of the action the titles faded in to produce most fear in the audience as they have to imagine what’s coming next. Therefore I decided that I would try and use this, and placed a fading black screen just after the cannibals descend on him.
This also acted as a break between the night time scene and the final scene set in the morning.
I sought to conventions in order to make my film stand out and be more interesting, although merely developed some as they had proved successful in other texts.

Evaluation Part 1

How effective is the combination of your main product and ancillary texts?
I think the combination of my main product and my ancillary texts is effective, and they worked together to produce an authentic and believable promotional package. I chose to create a promotional movie poster and a magazine article for my ancillary texts and I think this was a good choice. Both ancillary tasks have certain intriguing aspects, although neither gives too much of the plot away to make the film not worth watching.
For the poster I wanted to incorporate the masked characters to provide a link with my teaser poster. Although they were different masks, I think it is possible to associate the two images successfully. With the teaser poster I was unable to include an image of the central protagonist as this would have gone against the conventional model for a teaser (e.g. James Cameron's Avatar poster doesn't include any of the characters). However, I was able to incorporate Chris Parks onto the promotional poster. I had an image taken from a still in the film (at the point when the girl says his name at the bridge) that had him looking worried and a little scared. I then took another still of the cannibals around the fire to place in the background, to suggest that it’s them that he’s scared of. This provides narrative enigma for the audience; why is he scared of the people by the fire? I think it makes an interesting overall image and entices the audience to watch the film.

Also to tie in with the teaser poster I included the same tagline in my promotional poster. Although some films have had different taglines for different promotions, (e.g. Nolan's The Dark Knight; teaser poster "Why So Serious?" and promotional poster "Welcome to a World Withough Rules") I decided that the same tagline would provide more anchorage that the two posters were referring to the same film.  I used the same font for the tagline as well, although made it different from the rest of the font on the poster. The billing block and “coming soon” were written in white, but the tagline and film title were a shade of orange that I took using the palate tool on Photoshop from the heart of the fire. The fire connotes danger and is a sinister source of light in the darkness, so this provides anchorage that my film is quite dark in nature and has a sinister plotline.

The actor that I used in my film, Ash Caton, is mostly unknown so when including his name in the poster I had to use the word 'introducing' to indicate that he is not a well-known actor. Having un-heard of actors in a common convention of short films as many short films have very limited, if any at all, budgets, so I think it was important to incorporate this in the poster.
My magazine article followed the conventions of a film article that I discovered during my research. I was careful not to divulge the entire plot, as this would make the actual film obsolete, but I included a brief synopsis to provide the reader with the basic storyline and leave them interested in the rest of the film. I also included positive quotes from some of the actors (actual quotes that I asked them for) and placed them in bigger, coloured letters so that the reader is drawn to them first.

I kept the formatting of my article very simple and minimalistic as I didn’t want it to look too overdone and tacky. I think being blue and black on a plain white background gives it a more professional look. This format was taken from my research into film magazines such as Empire and Total Film. I included the image from my promotional poster, although not with any text on it, instead of stills from the film in order to provide the reader with some idea of what the film would look like without giving too much away. I also included images of myself editing the footage and the actors reading through the script to show the full production of the film rather than just the finished product.

I think that both ancillary texts provided the audience with interesting images and information that would make my film appealing. Having a four-star rating on the poster from Total Film, a well known film magazine, would not only show the audience that the film is a good one, but also make it appeal to readers of the magazine, potentially widening the target audience. Similarly, including positive comments in the article would make people want to see why critics have acclaimed the film by watching it themselves. I think that the images used will make the film appear interesting and appealing to the audience, and that’s why I think that my ancillary texts are complimentary to my film. I think that the overall package is very effective and would attract a wide audience.