Sound Design: Your first ideas are shit.

What is a sonic portrait even?

After thinking about it for a bit while feeling sick over the Recess Week…in Phuket. I came up with a simple idea about happiness. Sure, I didn’t feel as much for this, but time was tight and there was a part of me that wanted to take a completely different approach and idea as compared to Project 1. I thought about the last time I was happy and was immediately pointed to the zoo trip for Foundation Drawing on the Monday of Recess Week. Sometime after lunch, while I was 80% done with my submissions, I felt a rumble in my tummy, a churning of the belly; a desperate need for release.

I thought about the last time I was happy and was immediately pointed to the zoo trip for Foundation Drawing on the Monday of Recess Week. Sometime after lunch, while I was 80% done with my submissions, I felt a rumble in my tummy, a churning of the belly; a desperate need for release. 😐

Knowing that it was just about after lunchtime, the restrooms near the food court would be crowded. Thinking I was the very smartboi, I went in the other direction, to where more animal enclosures were, believing that I would find another toilet.

Then another rumble, and another churning, and this time: a sharp pain. Quick as a bunny with nothing on it (no clothes, no fur or anything) I sped back to the food court, passing by tranquil sun bears and the lazing Orang Utans – and my classmates, painting.

(This story has gone on for quite awhile, hasn’t it?)

So there I was, rushing to the restroom, knowing that I might break at any moment- knowing that I would face the most dreaded Singaporean thing: a queue.

Upon entering the restroom, I saw kids and adults walking about or doing their business. Let’s not go into detail about that. The point is: all the cubicles were occupied – except for one. “Don’t get your hopes up,” I told myself. “It’s going to be clogged or…have ‘murals’.”

Hesitantly okay no that’s not true, I barged in. AND IT WAS CLEAN! And there was toilet paper.

That is true happiness.

TL;DR I needed to poop and there so happened to be one empty cubicle that was both clean and had toilet paper, in the zoo, just after lunch.


So that was how I came up with the initial idea– and also my fallback idea.

Now, after vomiting out this idea/concept, I thought of a new idea, albeit just the idea. I want to explore the sounds of omnipresence sans omnipotence. I expect that it will be near impossible to depict the sounds experienced, literally. As such, I might attempt to take a metaphorical approach.

For now, I imagine immense pain, which makes me think of the ringing in the ear (tinnitus or something like that). Just a place to start for now.

Alter Ego – Post-submission;

or how I’m a slow thinker and require some time before I can properly reply.

After all my submissions were done and I had some time to think, I managed to answer the question of what aspect of the film I made was anti-kitsch.

I think that it was the face that I was trying to use visuals that were nothing fancy to tell the story. I made no use of bokeh shots, no use of camera movement, no use of actors. There was no use music and no use of video transitions. I did, however, make use of the fast colour corrector to desaturate my visuals. It was a conscious decision to desaturate by quite a bit as opposed to completely grey-scaling the footage. I think that in this case, it made sense and doesn’t compromise on my anti-kitsch approach. To make use of colours would be to send a strong visual message and by dulling the colours, there is new beauty to experience. That, to me, is the heart of anti-kitsch.

Alter Ego – Editing

I had wide shots, medium shots, close-ups, flat shots, and angled shots.

I had the words. Now I needed the sentence. I made two rough cuts, all of which I dislike at this point.

In the first cut, it was intended to be done with a monologue by “Sabina” talking about choosing lightness and the loneliness and other things that come with it.

In the “frontal cut”, it would be more from the perspective of “Sabina” just coming to the realisation and understanding that this is, fundamentally, her. She will never change, but maybe she wonders what it would be like if she had chosen otherwise.

Some shots were not great. I like the first one better because the emotions come out better. I am hesitant to desaturate the colours to manipulate the emotions, making it more dramatic than it ought to be, which is actually meant to be more contemplative. Still, I will do it because aren’t we all here to try. Anyway, having colours could be distracting and conflicting to the story.

I wrote the lines while looking at the edit so that I could fit the words to compliment the visuals. I used Paris, Texas as a point of reference in terms of delivery of the lines. I did not want to give off the exact same emotions as the movie. This is, after all, an entirely different story.

An amazing piece of monologue from Paris, Texas

What came out was a deeply boring video that will put you off within the first few seconds. Still, this piece of work is for me, mostly.

I felt that the delivery of the lines were too lifeless, but I didn’t want to go too much in the opposite direction. What I needed was to go up by about 20%, or change the lines.

I gave in eventually and watched the film adaptation of book – 3 hours of my time. It did not really help me in coming up with lines but it did give me a small understanding of the feelings of Sabina.

Ultimately, I made it more of a mesh between the two of us. I felt that there were enough parallels in character that infusing her thoughts with mine would make sense.

Geez. I’m embarrassed to post these up. Most people have nice process visuals and all I have is failure. I must have re-recorded the lines at least 10 times. More tweaking to audio and lines needs to be done, but I think I am set on the visuals. I chose not to completely desaturate the footage because I think that black and white is almost stylistic already. What I want to achieve is the footage being dull but having interesting composition. Likewise, there is good and bad in choosing lightness or weight.


Alter Ego – The Purpose of Art

Having not actually filmed much and also adopting the Werner Herzog philosophy of having a broad idea of what I wanted to shoot and going to the locations to let the shots present themselves, in place of having a storyboard, I took quite a number of shots.

Coincidences always happen if you keep your mind open, while storyboards remain the instruments of cowards who do not trust in their own imagination and who are slaves of a matrix. If you get used to planning your shots based on aesthetics, you are never far from kitsch.

Werner Herzog


Coincidentally, Sabina is against kitsch too. (More on that in the previous post)

I used the movie “Before Sunrise” as a point of reference for this film; opting not to be influenced by the movie adaptation of The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

The history/memories of characters throughout the film: Before Sunrise
These places have significance to the characters. Do they have any effect on anyone else without context?
These places have significance to the characters. Do they have any effect on anyone else without context?

Before Sunrise is one of those films that had a profound impact on me as a teen. I still go back to it to learn about filmmaking. One of the many moments that I remembered from the film was the ending where we see wide shots of places where the two protagonists had been throughout the night. Because we’ve been through the journey with them, there is a feeling of, perhaps, nostalgia. I can’t quite pinpoint the feeling with words. Maybe it is the feeling that these places have a magical hold on us. They are just places to everyone else, but these places are memories to us. Yes. That is what I am trying to achieve; or at least just a fraction of.

The difference is I am jumping straight to the epilogue and expecting the audience to fill in the blanks themselves. This will either show my confidence or failure as a storyteller.

After my research, I had to come with a story for what would be shown in the 1 minute of film. Keeping in line with the character not having friends, I went out on my own on Chinese New Year to film the places I used to hang out with friends. The story is an epilogue. Imagine a person having gone through so many relationships and now has no one. This person is reflecting on his decisions.

I made my way to Pasir Ris and started with the nearest place, Coral Secondary School.img_5600-1

And found that they had already slapped a new name on top of the body and essence that was my school.

This was where my CCA was held most of the time.
Just a small part of it left

But I digress.

I walked the route from school that I normally took to get to the basketball court below a friend’s house.

I would have liked to film in the canal where we would foolishly play but the water level made that impossible
The basketball court and house
Occasionally we’d go to the playground just up ahead

Next I went over to Loyang point and Street 21 where my primary school was, and still is, located.

This one basketball court in a church that we’d just casually walk in
My favourite mini mart, now a 7-11
My favourite mini mart, now a 7-11
Still mostly the same
Still mostly the same
Another one of those basketball courts and playgrounds.

After all that I walked back to the MRT station and ended off the day’s shoot with the area near my house.

An important swing
An important swing (of friendship)
"Hallucinations" playing, the construction workers, and the sky without a star
“Hallucinations” playing, the construction workers, and the sky without a star.

The next day, I went to more crowded places for variety before heading back to school.

Places we used to go to think about impossible things
Places we used to go to think about impossible things
Spaces that no longer belong to just us
Spaces that no longer belong to just us
Places that are just places now
Places that are just places now
A coffee table
A hawker centre table
The basement green table?

The feel I was going for was somber and I know that it will turn out coming off as some prick with a stick up his butt- BUT I wanted to try taking something seriously for once. I always talk about how philosophy seems pointless because there is no answer. That is because I can never bring myself to make a stand. I am trying to make a stand and because I am, I have to question myself endlessly.

With that in mind I ask myself, “Who do I make art for?”

A lot of times I don’t want to answer the question because an answer might define me and I am supposed to be “light”.

The next couple of shots are pick up shots that I hold no feelings or memories of, but I took them anyway because they evoked an emotion that I wanted to convey.

screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-9-29-10-pm  screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-9-29-26-pm

What is the purpose of my art?

To entertain? To express? To communicate?

Alter Ego – Beginning

Over the course of the 2nd week, we came up with a list of people we felt an affinity towards and while it was challenging, it was quite insightful.

5 Fictional

  1. Archie from Archie’s Final Project
  2. Johnny from Naked (Mike Leigh)
  3. Sabina from The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  4. Bojack Horseman
  5. Steven Universe

5 Public

  1. David Foster Wallace
  2. Rene Magritte
  3. Kenny Omega
  4. Albert Camus
  5. Bo Burnham

5 Known people

  1. Tan Cheng Swee
  2. Josiah at sixteen
  3. Daryl Teo
  4. Ragu
  5. Kai YiAfter coming up with the list, we narrowed down the list to 2 per set. We then elaborated on each characters’ traits.

2 Fictional: Human/Mythical Qualities | Dilemma | Why affinity

Bojack: Self-destructive, self-loathing, bitter | Searching for happiness instead of being content | I tend to believe that attaining a certain things will make me happy instead of being content. At the same time, being content is hard because then I lack things to strive for and that goes against my own “purpose” which is to be striving for acclaim for my stories.

Sabina: Confidence | Choosing a “light” life results in her irrelevance in the world | While not confident, it is uncanny how the both of us always find ourselves feeling both alone and irrelevant even though not necessarily being physically alone.

2 Public: Human/Mythical Qualities | Dilemma | Why affinity

Bo Burnham: Intelligent comedian | Struggling with cashing in on his “artform” as entertainment to live comfortably while other people actually have to work hard to earn a living | He holds a cynical view of the world that I relate to.

Camus: Philosopher | Absurdity – Physical Suicide, Philosophical Suicide, Recognition | I have spent quite a bit of time trying to find the answer to the absurd question “Is there a meaning to life?”

2 Known: Human/Mythical Qualities | Dilemma | Why affinity

Ah Kong: Creative with what he has, makes lemonade with lemons or in his case, sculptures with coconuts | Naiveté | We are both very shy but we enjoy telling stories, in our own ways.

Me at 16: Mind open, soul overwhelmed | Where do I go from here? | Echoes of these thoughts still plague me. Anything is possible and it is entirely on me to make decisions. There is no right or wrong, only what is meaningful and I am still trying to figure out what is meaningful.


In class, we wrote letters from the perspective of our alter ego. I chose my Ah Kong because it was the one I was most confident with in being able to get the nuances correct.

Josh I have some old cds I want to put some music in my phone. Can you help me? When you get back this weekend if you have time no rush.

Also I want to transfer the photos from my Samsung to the iphone. Can that be done? Can you help me?

I want to photocopy some old photos to put in my iphone. Can you help me?

Many thanks for your hard work kong kong.

However, I was not satisfied with this level of comfort. Because of this, I opted to work on another character instead: Sabina from The Unbearable Lightness of Being.