The evaluation stage is the best stage to talk about my weaknesses, strengths and all the things I have learnt throughout this project.
Back in March, week 4 of the FMP, I finished my proposal where I discussed the things I wanted to accomplish and what I wanted my film to be about. 14 weeks later, I’ll be going through my proposal to see if I met all the targets I set myself.
The review section of the proposal was about what I have learnt on the course, and what I can use to help me with my FMP. I mentioned a film I made in December 2015 called Skinner ‘n’ Quinn which was a comedy detective film, and I said I wanted to expand on that genre. Looking at my film now, I think I have accomplished that goal, adding techniques to make the film look authentic to older films.
I also said I wanted to do more VFX work, to push my boundaries on what I could accomplish with VFX. With the selective colour effect and other small things, I feel like my skill set has increased, as it took a few days to figure out how I’d be able to pull off the main effect.
A lot of the things I wrote for the project concept part, I’ve used. I kept ‘The Hounds of the Baskervilles’ feel to my film, along with the main plot points. I also kept the idea of using flashbacks. The main story stayed the same as well. A lot of the changes I made came after the proposal, while writing and editing the film, but I kept my word when it came to the storyline.
At the very beginning, I made a big mistake by starting the script without watching any films or thinking about any of my characters. This was a stupid thing to do because I hadn’t established what my characters personality and attributes were before starting, so some of the lines I wrote didn’t fit with the characters’ personality once I figured it out. When I realised this, I began to watch, and take note of, different films, to gain inspiration from them.
I did change a few things on my script, including deleting a few scenes which slowed the pacing down or were irrelevant to the story. I had a scene where Mike Bolt was given the case and had a small chat with the inspector, but it seemed out of place because we know he was given the case by the inspector through the text he gets.
In another scene Mike Bolt was talking to people about the killer. I really wanted to include this scene, but due to the time, I had to cut it, which was unfortunate because we could have seen a lot more of Mike’s character come out in his anger. The last big thing I removed was Mike waking up after the nighttime scene, which I turned into an internal monologue while unconscious. This one took way too much time out of the film and the pacing slowed down as he walked through the house while recovering.
My research consisted of reviewing different detective/noir films as that was the style I was trying to capture. I was only going to watch three films: The Third Man, Seven and Chinatown. I watched them while writing so if there was anything I wanted to use as inspiration in those films, I could write it down. When I made the decision to use selective colour, I added Sin City to that list to see how they achieved the look. It was hard to find the time to review them as I had so much going on, which is why they were released late.
All the films were useful in different ways; Sin City for its style, The Third Man for its camerawork, Seven with its unsettling nature and cinematography, and Chinatown with its use of dialog. All these films inspired me in different ways and I think that shows in the final piece. Looking at what I got out of them, these were the best films to choose for my research. I could have reviewed more, but I got everything I needed out of these four.
The main thing I learnt from this project is how to control a group of people. It is hard when you have to control 5 people that need to concentrate but don’t. I needed to have control over all of them to get what I wanted in the shot. I started to talk to each person individually, to get them ready for the scene. There were moments I had to raise my voice to get people’s attention, but other than that, everyone was very willing when told to do something.
Now that I have experienced this type of leadership with a small group, I can build up and work with bigger groups which is very important because I want to make bigger films. If I get a chance to make a feature, I’m going to have control of 250-300 people which is a very scary thought. But if I start off slow with a small group, like this one, I can get more confident with larger groups.
I’ve also made improvements on my VFX skills by testing and failing with the selective colour effect. One big thing I learnt is to use multiple masks when masking around something. If it’s a person to mask out, I would normally mask all the way round but after dealing with masks in this project, I’d mask out different parts of his body which is a lot easier and, surprisingly, quicker.
If I had another chance to make this project again, would I do it differently?
I feel like the progression of my idea was perfected and changed for the better. The film that came out at the end was the best I could have done, and although there are a few things that can be improved like the VFX and sound design, that’s not changing it. I really like my idea, and I really like how I showed it so I wouldn’t change anything.
I have had a few people say I should submit it into film festivals, which I have considered, and have done some research to find one that’s the best fit for my film. I have put it up on my YouTube channel with my other films and it will stay up there until I hopefully find some attention. I’m basically building up my portfolio with my YouTube channel and maybe sometime soon, something will come out of it.
Now that I’ve finished everything, it’s time to move on, hopefully, I’ll get the grade I need to carry on and get a degree in film which will then carry me on to bigger and better things.
VFX is a make or break situation with this film so everything I put into it has to be perfect.
Adobe offers this brilliant feature between Premiere Pro and After Effects which is their dynamic link. Dynamic link is when you can send a clip from Premiere to After Effects by right-clicking a clip and press ‘Replace with After Effects Composition’. What this does, is that it sends the clip off to After Effects but stays where it is in Premiere. When I change something about that clip in After Effects, save it and then head back to Premiere, that change has been brought over with Dynamic Link.
This feature is a lifesaver when it comes to busy projects because you don’t need to export footage from Premiere and do all the changes you need, then export it again in After Effects then add it back to Premiere. With Dynamic Link, it’s just on click and it’s connected. It’s the most useful tool Adobe has to offer.
The smallest effect I did in the film was removing the noise from the image, making the image less grainy. This is a subtle effect but when it’s in use, it makes the image clearer and less busy so it’s easier for the eye to focus on things. The plug-in is based in After Effects.
In After Effects, in the effects panel, go to Noise and Grain and drag ‘Remove Grain’ onto your clip. The first thing you should do is change the ‘Viewing Mode’ to ‘Final Output’ and now you can begin removing noise. Once you’ve added the plug-in, it’s already done part of your job but you can raise the ‘Noise Reduction’ and ‘Passes’ slider up a bit more until you’re happy.
There are a lot of sliders in the other drop-down menu’s but I didn’t have any time to learn what they all do to the image so I just stuck with the basic two sliders. This plug-in is very powerful with what it offers and is very easy to use and learn. It’s not good with massive amounts of noise but if there is a little bit, then it’ll do wonders.
Another effect I did multiple times was removing a person, a piece of scenery or an object in a reflection. This is a must-know effect when it comes to After Effects, you just need to put some time and care into it, and it’ll look great. I’ll be using the removal of a car park in the distance for the example.
I’ll be doing this once again, in After Effects. The first step is to track your footage in a 2D space. I tracked the small blue dot just under the tree which gave me a nice track because TJ didn’t walk in front of it. Tracking in After Effects is very easy. You have the footage you want to track highlighted then you click ‘Track Motion’. This will bring up a ‘Track Point’ on your footage. You can move that to a place you’ll get an easy track. Things to look for: make sure nothing passes over it and that it’s a sharp edge. This just gives it a more solid track to work with.
You can also choose to track the rotation and scale, which will bring another ‘Track point’ up that you need to find a second tracking placement for. I didn’t need these two as I wasn’t moving towards the car park or rotating the camera.
Create a Null object on your timeline and press ‘Edit Target’ and choose the right Null object. This is where your tracking data will go. Press the small sideways triangle and that will track your footage forward. When it’s done, hit apply.
Now that I have my solid track, I can begin hiding the car park with the surrounding trees. I masked around the tree on the right-hand side and moved it over to cover the top half of the car park.
I then masked out some grass beside and under the lone tree and moved it over the car park to completely cover it.
I then masked the lone tree out and brought it in front of the grass so it isn’t cut off at the top.
I then parented them all to the Null object so they would be able to move with the camera movement, selling the effect.
I really enjoy making these types of effects, hiding something that only you know is there is fun and a good skill to have.
With no doubt, the biggest effect in this project is the selective colour effect. I used it on the blood in the last scene and the case file. I’ll cover both because they are two methods that achieve the same effect but done differently.
With the blood, I used a plug-in in After Effects called ‘Leave Colour’. On the bottom clip of the timeline, I added the plug-in and picked a dark red as most of the blood in this shot was dark. I changed the ‘Match Colours’ from ‘Using RGB’ to ‘Using Hue’ which allows only the colour you pick to be shown. If I had picked ‘Using RGB’, it wouldn’t have the same softness as ‘Using Hue’. I put up the ‘Amount to Decolour’ to 100% and then played with ‘Tolerance’ and ‘Edge Softness’ until I got something I was happy with which is shown below.
When looking at it, something was off which I narrowed down to some of the blood being in black and white next to the hand on the shirt. I started off masking around the area I wanted the extra blood in because if I change the sliders on the main clip, everything else in the clip would look different. If I did it this way, I can get that extra blood but also keeping the same look on the rest of the hand. I added the ‘Leave Colour’ plug-in again and got that extra blood I was wanting.
That was the selective colour method using a plug-in but there was one other method I used that took a lot longer than the method above. The second method was with the masking tool for the case file. If I used ‘Leave Colour’ on the case file, the colour of it is too similar to TJ’s hand and a few other things in the scene.
The first thing I did was put tint onto the main clip at the bottom of the timeline. This is the tint that is tinting everything but the fingers and the case file in the final shot.
I duplicated the footage three times and removed the tint on one of them. The one that isn’t tinted, I put above the bottom clip and masked the case file out, keyframing the mask if the folder moved at any point. I also masked out the book on the left-hand side which is currently being covered by a finger.
On the clip above, I started to mask around TJ’s right hand, which will make the fingers black and white. I did this for all the fingers that went over the book or the case file to give the effect that the only thing coloured is the case file.
I did the same for the left hand as well, making sure the masks have no mistakes or any overlap, making part of the case file Black and White.
When I finished keyframing the masks, it looks like everything, including the hand, is black and white with only the case file coloured. This gives the shot a unique and interesting look and, in my opinion, is much better than plain and boring just black and white or just colour.
The two methods are used for different reasons and they both work well. The masking does take a lot of time but stick on a few podcasts and get stuck in, the time will fly by.
The reason I used this effect is that I wasn’t wanting a plain image, I wanted to have something interesting going on that makes people want to watch it. If I just did black and white or just colour, I feel like my film will just be very ordinary and unoriginal. I wanted to add something to it and this was the perfect thing to do to get people watching and asking why I did it that way.
That was all the VFX work I did on ‘A Lonely Wanderer’, and looking back at my proposal, where I said I wanted to push my boundaries with this type of work, I feel like I did just that. If I didn’t do the selective colour effect, I would have failed on my goal of pushing my boundaries in VFX work but once I locked down I wanted to do this effect, I knew it was going to be a challenge and I knew it was going to be tough.
Editing started the day after I finished the final day of shooting in which I gave myself a week and a half to lock my edit to allow time for VFX. I started out with no music which, if you’ve seen the final film, music is a big part. I knew I wanted music as something that drives the story along, so I started editing a scene that didn’t need music, the conversation scene. With the amount of bloopers there were, I had to sort the footage out because it was impossible to try and find the right lines.
Once I found my music, I began editing at the beginning of the film and then moved onto the montage. The montage started out very simple, it was slow in a few places with long shots taking up around 10-15 seconds. I then filmed the close-up shots of the case file on my desk, in which I needed to be careful not to show the surroundings, only the object. I shot about 15 seconds and then sped them up so they were either 5, 10, or 15 frames long. I spread them out during the montage and didn’t come up with putting them at the end until I finished the VFX which was around 3 days before handing it in.
I sort of overlayed the editing and VFX process just so I could show people what my film would look like in the end and get some possible feedback. Editing took around 2 weeks to complete and then an extra couple of hours when putting the sped up shots on at the end.
Colour correction and grading was a lot simpler this time around with the film only being Black and White. I added the tint to an adjustment layer which is above everything in the screenshot. I then added Brightness and Contrast to the same adjustment layer to bring the blacks out a more and make the image a bit darker to suit the world. This just gives the timeline an extra bit of tidiness as I can shut off the tint in one click. The shots that were tinted in After Effects only got a Brightness and Contrast adjustment layer as they didn’t need to be tinted again.
The sound was a pain in this project.
The music I got was from ‘The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble’ who have an album called ‘I Forsee The Dark Ahead, If I Stay’ who are a very experimental band who create such interesting and unique songs that still have Jazz elements to it but is done in such a weird way that it’s creatively mesmerising. I used the first two tracks from this album, Celladoor and Lobby, which fit perfectly into the environment and world I showed off in the film.
It was very hard trying to find music that fit perfectly with what I had in mind. I went on countless Royalty Free Music sites but everything just sounded cheap and bad. Using a professional song is a lot better than sifting through bad, royalty free music all day with no luck.
When it came to adding sounds, most of them I did without the internet. The knocking on the door was recorded at my back door with me doing the knocks and the vibration of the phone was me recording my phone vibrating. The only sound I got off the internet was the bulb smashing because I don’t want to cut myself and get glass everywhere.
The voiceovers were done the Monday before the hand in day. TJ and I went on Skype, I typed in the things I wanted TJ to say and how he should say them. It went smooth with a few hiccups with the internet along the way but we managed to get them all done. It was good we had communication when he was doing it because there were a few moments where he didn’t do it the way I wanted or he made a mistake and didn’t notice. With this communication, I can tell him exactly what I want and even give him an example with my voice.
I did try and do everything myself but most of the time I don’t have the resources to do what I need. In this type of project, you really need to push yourself to show people what you can do and talk about how you did certain things.
Production for my film went smoother than I was expecting with only a few things that made me change my script, but nothing that completely altered my overall idea.
The first day of shooting was 12th May at my grandparent’s house where I shot Mike settling into his new base of operations and looking through the case file for the first time, and the main body of the montage. This took a couple of hours, with no problems whatsoever. I did notice a few extra things I needed when I got back home, but nothing that ruined the scene, and they were very easy to shoot at home.
The next shooting day was 17th May where I filmed the night time scene with Mike interrogating Adam about why he’s in the evidence. This is the same day I filmed the blackout scene as well. The conversation went as well as trying to keep a puppy still, it took some hard work and effort but we got there in the end. We had a lot of bloopers with Toby and TJ laughing at each other but I got everything I wanted out of them because it was getting late and they wanted to get home. The blackout part of the scene was over very quickly. I ran through everything I wanted and we got it done in only a few shots.
Hound Tor shooting day, the last day of shooting, also went very well, but with a few hiccups along the way. The big one was the fact I had to change the location of the fight scene as I didn’t expect the Tor to be so busy. When we came to the fighting scene, we found a place on the side of the Tor which worked better with what I had in mind. I had TJ and Jowan with me filming the first two fights, and then after kunch, I got the rest of the actors to come to play the other killers. This worked well because it took around 4 hours to film everything before the reveal of the killers behind the rock so bringing them in the morning would have just wasted their time because they’d have nothing to do.
I specifically brought Jowan because he is very good at fight choreography,so he could help me make it more fluid and realistic. Jowan and I planned the first two fights together with him playing the killers, so he wasn’t just planning the fights, he was performing them as well, which was even better because we could get those fights done very quickly.
When everyone else got to the Tor, we had just finished the fight scene so the timing was impeccable. It was a challenge getting everyone on the same page but it was fun, and I learnt a lot by getting everyone in place, getting them ready and making sure they knew what they were doing.
Overall, shooting this film went quickly and easily. There were little problems here and there, but mostly went off without a hitch.
The equipment I used was a very simple setup with nothing fancy. I used my Canon 600D which I’ve had for over 3 years now with its kit lens. I used a very flimsy tripod that has seen better days but worked fine for what I wanted. There were a couple of shots where the actor’s face was too dark so I grabbed my reflector and a torch and shone a light on the golden side of the reflector. I went with the gold side because the lights in the room were very warm so if I went with the silver side, his face wouldn’t look good.
Time management was so important during this project. With people off doing their own projects, it leaves little time to get everyone together to film. We needed to communicate and cooperate as a group, to say when we are free and for how long. Luckily, I only had three shooting days but a few other people had 5 or 6 so making sure everyone was up to speed with what I was doing was important.
Overall, I think production went well, little to no problems and everyone was happy.
Costumes are a big part of a film because you want people to take the characters seriously. Also, the character is made by their clothes, they need to fit the personality of the character because if they don’t, they’ll feel off and not themselves.
With Mike Bolt’s clothes, I wanted to be scruffy, have stains on his shirt and not take much care of himself. He would have dirty trousers with tears at the end of them and then a long overcoat when he’s outside. I was going to go for a hat, like a fedora or something similar, but decided against it because I feel like it would be too much and I had money to worry about. I’m sort of aiming for the stereotypical detective but I don’t want to be too cheesy as I want this to be a serious film.
The Moors Killer was an interesting one to pick out clothes for because, in my head, I had no idea what it would look like. Obviously, it’s human but I don’t want to reveal that until the end so I wanted it to be fully black to hide its identity. I found a mask that covered the mouth and found a thermal hood that will go over the head and leave the eyes exposed.
Props need to look real to be convincing. There’s no point of trying to use a plastic gun for close-up shots because it’ll look fake which I need to take in consideration. I bought retractable knives for the final scene, knives where the blade goes inside the handle when pushed against something, giving the impression that my character got stabbed. With a bit of fake blood splashed on, you’ve got yourself a convincing knife wound.
I also bought folders that I filled up with documents and pictures. I wanted it to be thick, with all the kills the killer has done for Mike to look through as the film goes on. I got 25 pale folders with one holding everything together while the others are categorised by information and crime scenes inside the case file. I looked online and Rymans seemed to be the best as they had exactly want I wanted. I feel like this worked well, especially when I did the colour against black and white effect.
A shot list is the text version of a storyboard. It’s a table that is 5 columns across and, depending on how many shots there are, a lot of rows. This allows you to plan your shots out before getting on set so you don’t have to think up every shot when you are there. In my case, this is great because I can’t draw, I’m really bad, so showing people what I want in a way that’s understandable is great. It’s the best way to get everyone on the same page as you. I made the one below but hardly used it, I only used it as a little reminder of what I was wanting and then from there I went full on Guerrilla filmmaking.
The first column is the shot number which is the order the shots go in.
The second column is for the shot types. To be able to do this properly, you’ll need to learn all the shot types so you can describe exactly what kind of shot you want. Below, there are 8 options I could have chosen. Starting from the first on, they are; Extreme Long Shot, Long Shot, Medium Long Shot, Medium Shot, Medium Close Up, Close Up, Big Close Up and Extreme Close Up. The last one would need to be even closer to be counted as an Extreme Close Up but it gives you an idea of what they are.
The middle column is the angle of the camera when shooting. The easiest is eye level, where the camera stays completely flat. The next one is the low angle, which means the camera is low down to the ground looking up showing the character in a dominant or powerful way. The final one is the high angle, where the camera is up high looking down, which can signify when a character is weak. Each angle can tell the audience different things about the character and what their personality is like.
The fourth column is for movement, how the camera is behaving. There are three main options. The one I use often is handheld meaning the camera isn’t on a tripod but is shaking because when you are holding the camera by hand, it’s never going to be still. I used handheld when a character is confused to be able to signify, through the camera, that he is unsettled.
The last column is the description, which I copied and pasted from the script, explaining what the shot is showing.
A shot list, for me, is the best way to show what I want from a shot and what I want to portray in how the camera is positioned.