Hello! For this assignment, we were supposed to come up with a story, prepare it in sequential images in video form. This includes sound design for this video.
A collaborative effort between Joshua Ashley Pereira and Chester Chia Wei-Ze
Introduction and Concept
The task was to create a video with sequential images. The theme given was about “reconnecting with an old friend”. With that, we began by generating several stories before coming to a conclusion with one.
Below are the story ideas we came up with and our thoughts.
Idea 1: The main character found his old toy bear and he starts to wildly imagine what happens to it when it went missing.
We were comfortable with the idea initially, even drawing out a storyboard for it.
We felt that the climax could be a little more present as it felt a little bit short in this version of the story. With that, we moved on to our second idea.
Idea 2: The Main character throws away his toy bear. The bear comes alive and makes its way back home. It gets thrown away in the end again.
This was a combination of Idea 1 and a previous concept with the toy coming to life. When we consulted with our professor, she pointed out that our ending would not make sense since our climax is not strong enough. More things need to happen in order for that kind of ending to take place.
The story had to be thought through again and there was a back-up story. This became our final idea.
Final Idea (Selected): A friend that reconnects with the character turns out to be a serial killer who collects shoes.
Sometimes when an idea does not work, it is best to start from the ground up. Hence our final idea is drastically different from our previous iterations. This idea was initially loosely based on idea 1, where the story starts of with Chester, our protagonist, receiving a bear as a gift from a friend. The story would then move on to reconnecting with that friend who turns out to be someone very sinister. The best idea was later dropped as we felt it would’ve been more natural if the friend reached him in a more “normal” method, via social media.
Before starting, we did some research on the types of shots we want to achieve.
For references to photography, there are two films and tv series we decided to investigate. American Psycho, Get Out and 13 Reasons Why. Not only for narrative purposes but visually as well.
The use of lighting in American Psycho, while flat at first glance, it is also well thought out. Light is cast onto Patrick Bateman (portrayed by Christian Bale) whenever he’s doing the mundane, indicating the double life he leads. But whenever he’s committing murder, the shot is much more diffused. A possible indication to show clarity of mind.
Similarly, Get Out does this trick as well, though not as much with lighting, but rather the deeper contrast whenever something’s amiss.
13 Reasons Why is also similar in that sense though with less subtlety, which works in their favor as the dark tone is meant to contrast with their warmer, brighter colour pallet whenever the mood of the scene is meant to be brighter.
Hence in the edited photographs, you’d notice we’ve adopted various elements to give our shots a better sense of atmosphere. For example, the colour starts to adopt a blue tint from a warmer colour set when a certain revelation occurs, setting the atmosphere as well as the emotion our protagonist, Chester, is feeling.
There are moments where half of Chester’s face is covered in light, like his friend. This is deliberate as it is meant to indicate the danger he’s stepped into. However, this effect is not as prominent as his friends’.
Story and Process
The beginning of the story is meant to reflect a common scenario most of us has faced before. An old friend who tries to reach out to you, seemingly like their missed you but really they’re trying to sell you some insurance scheme or be a part of their Multi-Level Marketing scheme (MLM). In a way, this short can be interpreted as a dark joke that pokes fun of this misleading creatures.
The main character, Ches connects with someone like that named Agi and decides to meet up with him. Ches gets invited to Agi’s house. Surprisingly, Ches notices that Agi has a messy shoe collection, with a shoe lying in the middle of his hallway. At the corner of his sight, he notices a motionless body. Agi being nonchalant, drags the body back in his room. As he returns, he notices that Ches had ran away whereby a chase ensues.
Firstly, we planned out the shots we wanted with a description so that we know what we wanted to do on the shooting day itself. Due to time constraints, we decided to do our storyboards in the form of bullet points. Fortunately, both of us come from an animation background so we understood how to visualize the shots from the bullet points.
1: Establishing shot of building and another shot of his room door 2: Chester, protagonist using the computer 3: Receives a message from an old friend, wants to catch up 4: shot of a street sign 5: wider shots showing ches standing under it, waiting 6: a close-up shot of chest, shoulder, someone put his hand on it, 7: Shot of both laughing, shaking hands 8: Door opens, friend enters first (indicating it’s his house (leg shot) 9: Upper body shot, friend talking to ches as they both enters 10: Ches see’s shoe collection 11: Ches looks at friend shoe collection 12: something caught ches eyes 13: He looks 14: there’s 2 legs sticking out from another room/ behind the furniture (wearing one shoe, the same kind that ches is looking at earlier) 15: Ches looks stun 16: Friend appears in frame and looked at what his looking 17: Give’s a “one moment” gesture 18: Goes inside room/ behind furniture 19: Drags it away 20: Ches backs away 21: Leaves house 22: Shot of friend, half face staring out at him from the door 23: Ches walking fast (motion blur present), looking back 24: ches looks down 25: pov shot of phone, typing 99- 26: side shot (torso) someone in front of Ches 27: Shot of ches looking up 28: Red light on friend smiling (bottom-up shot) 29: Ches face in horror (also red) 30: Shot ches shoe now part of his collection.
Once that was done, we could decide the locations of the shoot and coordinate with our friend, Agilan, who gladly decided to help us out for our project.
Joshua’s Hall Room
The main process was that we took several shots for each frame in our storyboard so that we are able to pick the appropriate ones to be used for our final video. For some of the shots, we decided to video it during the shoot so that we can capture the essence of action when we convert them to photos. The selection was based on how interesting the shots looked and whether it is able to carry out our story.
Applying what we’ve observed in our references, we decided to use contrast and color to our advantage by having it evolve as the story progresses.
Introduction & Concept
This task was to be done individually, whereby the task is to edit these photos in a video format with audio.
Video editing was something I’m familiar with as learning it was a prerequisite back in my polytechnic days. However, that does not mean this task came without problems. Editing a series of photos is a lot different from videos. That’s because in video clips, it is a lot easier to tell when to cut the footage. When a shot lingers on for too long, or if it’s too short, you’d be able to detect but with photos, I felt much more blinded/restricted. But it was a welcomed challenge.
But wait, before I commence, research has to be done!
Reference 1: Christopher Nolan
Inception and Interstellar
Christopher Nolan is one of many directors that I find interesting, he has the ability share complex ideas that people can generally understand/follow. But the key thing I like in some of his movies is showing a visual cue that makes people go “OHH”, especially towards the end of his films as it often “changes” everything. An interesting pay off from just a single to a couple of shots.
Reference 2: Edgar Wright
Shawn of the Dead, Baby Driver, Hot Fuzz
Edgar Wright is one of my all time favorite directors. His timing is impeccable when it comes to action, chase and comedy. One of my favorite shots in all of movie is the one shown in the gif. The detective reentering the shot to continue his stare is hilarious. He does this for more than just a comedic effect. In Shawn of the Dead, similar shots were present where a character would walk out of frame but pop back within the same shot, though not for comedy. It’s such an interesting choice that I wanted to do something similar, though not as easy to pull of with just photos as it looks a little more confusing as the character would disappear and reappear again. But that’s not to say I had nothing to take away from Wright, his high energy chase is something I wanted to reference from.
Step 1 was to layout my photos, not focusing on the pacing just yet but to see if the story still made sense as I played it on my timeline. It didn’t, I almost had a panic attack. Thankfully with the edition of sound (temporary) and a bit of stretching and cutting, I saw that it made a whole of difference.
I consider myself a neat editor, I like to nest scenes together so that I have some clarity as to where a portion starts and ends. It also makes it easier to color correct.
Audio, while messy looking are arranged according to purpose, from ambiance, to human sounds to objects.
The more I go on with the editing, the more things started falling into place, there are many shots I wished I could use but had to leave it to the cutting room floor for the sake of the flow and clarity of the narrative.
The sounds used were a mixed of stock sound effects from our Professor’s library, to personal ones, ones Chester and I made and from royalty free websites.
It being a horror/thriller, it was tempting to go exaggerated but its a personal belief that the real horror or just immersion in general comes from when you feel like you’re part of it, hence I didn’t want the effects used to be too distracting but rather present, to better immerse my audience into our narrative. Hence, audio used were more towards to realistic type. You might also notice that there are a lot of audio files that are stacked on stop of each other. That’s mainly because I had to combine a couple of sound effects to get a specific sound I want. One example is the part where Chester’s friend, Agi, open’s his main door. There are a couple of sounds overlay-ed onto each other, such as, footsteps, keys jingling, door handle and door creak. Searching for the right sounds to mix in together was tricky especially when you’re trying to make it sound authentic.
One the video editing side, I element I added that I felt added a lot of life/intensity is the camera shake. Some subtle, some not so. Each shake has a reason behind it, from Agi’s cool and composed expression, a subtler shake (or even none) during the chase says a lot about what he’s feeling as compared to Chester’s more erratic shake which exudes terror.
The video went through multiple edits after exporting. I’d watch it at different times during the day, just to get a “fresher” look and made adjustments I felt was necessary.
This assignment was a mixture of fun and frustration. Coming up with a story that Chester and I were confident with took longer than expected. I’m very grateful to have worked with Chester and he’s every positive and encouraging when I share my ideas while also speaking up when he felt that elements could be improve. Him being very expressive is a bonus as he was a pretty convincing actor.
A couple of things I learned during this assignment, planning your shots goes a long way, while our final iteration did not have a storyboards, the bullet points were still extremely useful. Especially since Chester and I came from an animation background, ti was easy for us to visualize our shots just by reading the points. Editing sounds to this degree was something new to me, mixing sounds in together, trying to get it sound natural, making sure the ambient sounds made sense, all were a challenge, but extremely educational. Making a cohesive story out of just still images, especially when you add the element of time is something very new. All these time I’ve worked with storyboards but it’s a lot more different when still images is the most you could go.
Special thanks to Agilan who (after being treated to a lunch of his choice) gracefully volunteered to be our antagonist!
End! – Thank you!