Narrative Image Sequencing

I wanted to create an image sequence of a single scene. The focus is on playing with framing to reveal a different aspect of the story in each image. The story unfolds in space instead of time.

The whole series:

The story is as goes:

  1. a man is taking a dump in nature
  2. he seems happy and is prodding the ground with a stick
  3. Turns out he is not just taking a dump! He finds what looks like fossils in the ground
  4. uh oh, who’s behind him?
  5. A bear?!!?!
  6. The bear is watching from a distance
  7. There are flowers in bear’s hand 🌼
  8. oh.. those aren’t fossils…

Brainstorming for a suitable story was particularly hard! The story has to unfold a little more each time the scene is revealed further.

Making the figurines

I used Super Sculpey clay to make the figurines because they are easier to sculpt and I also happened to have them. I stuffed the insides with crushed paper and propped up the clay with the metal nose wires from used surgical masks.

One problem is that I didn’t bake the clay. As a result the clay was very much mouldable and vulnerable to getting mushed. Several details got smoothened out after a while of handling the figurines.

I pre-arranged them roughly in my room to get a sense of how I would position them outdoors.

The Shoot

I found a plot of grass near my hall. Surprisingly, it wasn’t so straightforward to find a suitable place to shoot. This is because I needed access from many angles which wouldn’t be possible if the ground is too elevated/ slanted. There needs to be sufficient foliage cover and flat enough ground that the figurines can balance on. There also shouldn’t be too many ants ://

I set up the figures and shot rather quickly for 15-20min.  I thought that the natural lighting was rather nice that day. And then there was a torrential downpour… Luckily, I had taken enough photos.

Post-shoot

I imported all the photos into lightroom and adjusted their lightings and colours. I selected the photos based on their composition, their continuity with adjacent images, and their having sufficient difference with adjacent images.

For instance, I preferred this shot:

to this:

but I went with the latter because I feel that it has a stronger ‘revelatory’ effect in adjacent to the next image, in the sense that the image/pose is not as similar.

Some reflections

Overall this was a fun project! I’m quite content with how it turned out. I hope that the images can speak for itself without me explaining the story.

  • the full scene shot could’ve been better taken. Perhaps also the chaos of the grass was unnecessarily complicating the scene
  • the sculpting could’ve been improved to better convey the story — e.g. the pants on the man taking a dump doesn’t look like it’s halfway down his legs. It looks like he is wearing shorts instead
  • could have play with framing more — e.g. to have a more ominous mood when the bear is behind the man
  • check weather forecast before shoot
  • Sculpey clay looks quite nice with nature! I thought it might look out of place

 

Time-based techniques — 2nd attempt

I wanted to explore more ways to play with time-lapse. I took a time-lapse of the building opposite my hall room as the sun was setting and I was intrigued by the lights flickering on and off.

The rhythmic nature of the flickering was strangely melodious. This is especially so when staircases at different storeys successively lit up — just like musical scales. This inspired me to create something like a “light orchestra”.

I took several more time-lapses from a different vantage point — but this time round with the scenes unfocused. I wanted to draw attention solely to the lights without distractions from the architecture or moving humans. I set the time-interval to 2-3 seconds per photo and took around 250 photos for each scene.

I then pulled the time-lapses together in a timeline and attempted to sync the flickering of lights to a sound track:

It was quite difficult to sync the lights effectively to the music. If the melody is too sparse, the flickers are often too complicated to match up — rarely does only one light flicker in one scene. Conversely, if the melody is complex, it becomes impossible to correspond the flickers accordingly.

I took a few tries with different soundtracks before arriving at one that has a mix of simple, distinct notes, and a string of flowing, convoluted notes. I feel that this gives more leeway for the time-lapse to harmonise with the music.

I roughly categorised the time-lapse sequences into simple flickering and messy complicated ones. I started with an establishing shot of the night scene to set the context. Subsequently, I let the music dictate the accompanying time-lapse scene. Sequences are sped up and slowed down when needed. I tried to avoid cutting or altering any sequence, but this was done anyway in certain segments.

Here is another attempt with a different soundtrack:

Some reflections
  • creating a soundtrack to sync with the lights is probably easier, provided one knows how to compose
  • time-lapses of isolated, simple light flickers will be helpful when syncing with simple, distinct notes
  • overlaying sequences with different light rhythms can help to convey music with a distinct melody and a complex accompaniment

Time-based techniques

I wanted to capture the atmosphere of my neighbourhood on a quiet and sultry Sunday afternoon. Many things seem to come to a standstill in the heat, except the clothes draped over bamboo poles at every storey. These clothes almost like a staple sight of every neighbourhood in Singapore; hung out in the sun, fluttering to the tiniest gust of wind.

I took about 100-200 photos for each scene, at the interval of 2 seconds.

I added ambience noise along with some chimes in the background to convey an idle, quiet mood.

I also took another time-lapse of a construction site that can be seen from my house’s window. I took over a 35min period, at 3 seconds interval.

This is the view from my house:

The construction site is far away enough that I usually barely see any movement from my end. It was just a curious thought of “what if I just take a time lapse”? I wasn’t expecting much from it at all.

Surprisingly, there were in fact quite many workers moving around the site. There were also subtle movements that I would never have observed in real time — such as the lift transporting the workers to basement levels (?) in the bottom right. I thought the small quick movements contrast nicely with the general stillness of the whole scene.

The bustling around felt really cute and gave the impression of worker ants moving around an ant colony — simply because of how cubed-up the construction site is and how small the people in comparison to it.

Image with Motion

Update

I revisited this image and felt that the editing can do more work. In the original image, I felt that the colours are rather distracting. I tried to minimise this by adding an overall warm tone adjustment to the image.  However, the result remains less than ideal. Attention is scattered around the items in my room instead of being focused on the subject.

As such, I decided to grayscale the image and darken the surroundings. I feel that this brings more visual coherence and cleanness to the image. Also, I added a slight radial blur to the surroundings. This helps to further reduce distraction from the miscellaneous items while simultaneously creating an illusionary focal point on my selves.

The radial blur also adds an intriguing twist to the image — what’s in motion and what isn’t? It suggests that I am so absorbed in my work that I become oblivious to the passage of time. I am a monument of stillness in my room that warps with time.

This is the final image:

Original

I wanted to recreate the period of working from home during the Circuit Breaker. Then, our movements were mostly restricted to our homes.  And because I was working from home, my movements were further restricted to the small space near my desk. It’s curious that I constrict myself further when there’s less space available to move.

This was shot over 2 hours. Selected photos were overlaid to evoke a sense of motion. I masked my person out in each photo and overlaid them on a base image. I adjusted their opacities individually so that it appears that the different ‘me’s seem to occupy each position for different lengths of time.

 

Final Project: Animatic

The Man and the Tree

Story Synopsis

A poor man chances upon a magical tree that bears jewellery. He sells it for some good money, and realises the profitability of his enterprise. His wealth amasses and he soon forgets his humble roots. Where would his greed take him?

Process

As I worked on a graphic novel layout for the previous project, I did not have any storyboards to work with. While this means that I essentially need to start from scratch, it also means that I could play around with a different mood and style from the one I did for the graphic novel — which I did. But first, I had to trim the story. The original story was way too complicated and the story beats were extremely concise. There was no way I could pull that story off in a limited amount of time. As such, I shortened the story by removing the parts about his relationship with his friends and his transformation after his wealth vaporised.

I drew my storyboards digitally on photoshop. I chose an earthly, warm monochrome colour scheme to reflect the passions of the main character, as well as to establish a subtle relationship to the earth/forest/tree. I also felt that the clay-like, subdued colours also fit well with the idea of an ancient China setting with the 尘土飞扬 feels. On a similar note, I used a sort of chalky brush throughout the storyboards to evoke the same feeling.

Storyboards

The drawing process is straightforward. I usually start with a pinkish canvas, and then work forwards — from the background to the foreground in separate layers. I tried to keep the style consistent throughout by using the same colour palette and brush.

I chose to imply some scenes instead of explicitly drawing them out. This is the case for the part where the protagonist was about the cut the tree down.

I felt that to flesh out the entire scene of repeated chopping of the axe till the felling of the tree would be too drawn out and unnecessary. Thus I wanted to experiment with implied movements here.

To animate the scenes, I used either premiere pro or after effects. Simple keyframes were added for the motion. In the example below, I manipulated the positions of the hands and the fruit to animate the hand reaching out to pick the fruit up.

While premiere pro worked fine for most animations, the excessive layering of assets was cluttering the work space so much that I moved over to after effects sometimes so that I can add the animations into premiere pro as individual video clips that were already pre-animated. This usually applies to scenes that have a foreground, midground and background, which I find to be neater and easier to do on after effects rather than stack three layers on premiere pro.

For example, in the scene where fruits were piling up in the wheelbarrow, it would have been a big headache if I have 10+ layers on premiere pro and have to plough through one by one. It was a lot clearer for me to animate on after effects and then transfer the exported video over to premiere pro.

Panning shots were done by drawing the scenes on a longer/wider canvas.

Example of a panning shot

Audio wise, I first added the sound effects so that the character has a basic expression and movements such as the rustling of clothes can be understood by the viewer. The sound effects also help the viewer integrate into the scene. For instance, an airy forest ambience is added at the start to set up a mysterious forest atmosphere.

After which I sourced for sound tracks to accompany the scenes. This was very difficult for me because the story has many varied moods and it was hard to get the different sound tracks to be compatible with each other and come together as a cohere music accompaniment for the entire video.

Lesson learned

I think the animatic could be more elaborate towards the end; the storyboards are more sparse then. Scenes were switched when they could be fleshed out even further. I am also quite unsatisfied with the music choices as I feel that some sound effects don’t match that well and that some music tracks do not match the scene as well as I would have wanted. Also, perhaps there can be better music transitions other than the basic fade in and fade out.

As I completed bulk of the storyboards in one (very long) sitting, I realise that this can easily cause one to forget to vary the camera angles/ choose interesting compositions. Perhaps this is why there was a storyboard assignment preceding this project — so that we can plan out most of our shots and decide whether those compositions can make it. Working on panel after panel without seeing the whole picture can end you up with less-than-interesting shots. I do feel that I can improve my animatic with more dynamic camera angles, movements and compositions.

It was rather difficult to pace the video and match the audio together. When I did the first cut, it was awkward in every possible way. Some scenes were too fast, some were too slow, some had uncomfortably loud audio,  and some don’t even match the audio at all. I abandoned the first cut, and worked the images/videos in tandem with the audio in the next attempt. This turned out to be better — it seems to be easier to plan and pace the story.

And of course, one other takeaway will be time management. I couldn’t estimate how long it will take to execute what I had in mind and thus I was overly ambitious even when it was clear to anyone else that it will be impossible to finish. While the storyboards were drawn a lot quicker than I thought, it was the audio that I did not anticipate. It was a lot tougher than expected to find suitable sound effects and sound tracks, especially since in many cases I only have an inkling of the mood I want to portray. Having to rush the entire project from scratch in 2 to 3 days also explains why the storyboard become less elaborate towards the end — quite a regret but it was out of my means. Perhaps a simpler story should be chosen next time ?

Conclusion

In all honestly, I am happy with what I made, even though I’m still rather disappointed that I didn’t complete in time. This is my first animatic and its really amazing to see my drawings string together to tell a story. Truly grateful for the very fruitful semester!

Self Portrait — The Story of My Life

The Story of My Life:

 

With the theme self-portrait, I wanted explore my relation with books and how it has shaped who I am. I’ve always loved to read when I was young, be it English or Chinese books. Some books have left particularly strong impressions on me and I’d revisited them over and over again, always finding something new each time. As such, I wanted to express my lifelong relationship with books — not just a specific phase of my life but the evolution of my relationship with them. Thus, I chose to depict my relationship with books chronologically.

The first stage would of course be to identify the books that I want to use. I came up with the following list:

  1. Piggy Book by Anthony Browne
  2. Lily of the Forest by Brian McConnachie
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  4. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  5. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
  6. Perfume by Patrick Suskind
  7. Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
  8. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  9. The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin
  10. 金庸武侠小说 by 金庸 (actually a pity that I didn’t add this in hmmm)

Eventually, I settled on 4 books:  Piggy book, The Little Prince, To Kill a Mockingbird and Perfume.

Having decided on the gist, I decided to express the chronology by presenting them in a literal picture of a timeline — where I walk through scenes and through time.The motifs of the books are deliberately drawn out in an absurd and almost surrealist style— to symbolize the fact that while they may have shaped me, I have retained my own unique understanding and takeaways from them. The constructed book world becomes a literal representation of my internalisation of the books. This is seen in the repeated emphasis of peculiar items, such as the nose in Perfume. The background was layered in space to provide depth and an illusion of parallax scrolling when moved to the left.

inspiration and reference

At the beginning when I was still undecided on the style and mood and presentation of the video, I chanced upon @thegalshir instagram, whose simple animated illustrations really caught my eye. It was then that I decided to make my video in a similar sort of surreal, quiet atmosphere.  However, I didn’t quite manage to get the minimalist feel.

I was inspired by the way the video “Community Standards – Facebook” convincingly presented a parallax scrolling effect. Some inspirations that I added include the scrolling “text” floor to make the characters look like they are actually walking across ‘something’, as well as indications of a ground (eg rocks) here and there.

Community Standards – Facebook

My colour scheme was heavily inspired by “Supergirl”. I also really liked the animation and transitions :”)

Supergirl

Storyboards

Storyboards were more loosely drawn because there is no need for a clear visual image of each frame since the placement of individual motifs are isolated and unrelated. I was more interested in identifying the main motifs and deciding the position of particularly important ones.

Drawing process

I drew each book world on 7880 x 1080 px canvas on photoshop and layered each element so that I can animate them individually when I move over to after effects.

You can see that each asset has a separate layer here

Each world has a distinct dominant colour. More than just a transition in hue, it also represents how I feel about it. For instance, I chose green for To Kill a Mockingbird because I read it as a coming of age novel and it had a very formative influence on me in terms of shaping my moral view. Thus, it symbolises a period of personal growth and maturity, and green resonates best with that.

I placed bookshelves to mark the transition between books and phases of my life. Each shelve is different in that it depicts stuff that I was engaged with at that point in time (eg diapers, Pri 1 math book or JC Physics). It also foretells the mood of the next scene.

For the scrolling text on the ground, it was literally a long stretch of text that was scrolled past. Excerpts were chosen from each book.

Here is one example of an excerpt I extracted from Perfume. It’s amazingly descriptive and I can’t imagine how the original text is like when the translated version is already so exquisite:

His discerning nose unraveled the knot of vapor and stench into single strands of unitary odors that could not be unthreaded further. Unwinding and spinning out these threads gave him unspeakable joy. He would often just stand there, leaning against a wall or crouching in a dark corner, his eyes closed, his mouth half open and nostrils flaring wide, quiet as a feeding pike in a great, dark, slowly moving current. And when at last a puff of air would toss a delicate thread of scent his way, he would lunge at it and not let go. Then he would smell at only this one odor, holding it tight, pulling it into himself and preserving it for all time.

Moving on to character design, there were actually 7 characters initially (I was crazy).

I outfitted them based on what I wore during that point of my life, e.g. 3rd and 4th girl in Tao Nan School pinafore, 5th girl in Nanyang Girls’ uniform, and 6th girl in Hwa Chong uniform.

The crawling baby was animated using the puppet tool. Pins were added to her torso, head and limbs and then individually keyframed. This took way longer than I thought because she was just flopping around with arms at weird angles at the start. It only started to make more sense after I studied some baby crawling videos online (which I really should have done first). 

The walk cycles for the other characters were created using Adobe Character Animator which I happen to see its tutorial on Lynda.com when I was learning the puppet tool. It was a lot more straightforward than I thought — match the part of the body to the software’s preset and the software will animate the walk cycle for you. However, I think this is a tool that should be seen as a short cut when you don’t have enough time because honestly the walks are still quite awkward even after experimenting many times with different placement of the pins and manipulating the behaviour. On a different note, the dynamic link between photoshop and character animator and after effects was extremely helpful when I had to go back and edit the character for whatever reasons.

When I transferred the photoshop files to after effects, I’m not sure why but the sequence of the layers will be reversed. As such, I could only resolve that by adopting this weird naming convention of ‘front’, ‘mid’, and ‘back’ so I roughly know how to resequence them in the right format.

To achieve the illusion of space and the parallax scrolling effect, I arranged the individual assets such that some are nearer to us and some are further. As seen from the top view, the elements are all spaced out. I then used the 3D cameral tool to scroll from left to right. However, this was an extremely tedious process as I had to rearrange the elements again, and because the elements near the front will scroll past faster (hence need to space out even more).

The scrolling text was actually a big headache because I couldn’t bare to leave the words unreadable for the viewer but at the same time I didn’t want it to be occupying even more attention when there is already a lot of things happening. As such, there were a million attempts of the same text but in different font, different colour, different font size, different width of the entire text box, and different orientation on the 3d plane. I’m just glad I found what I wanted.

Music wise, it was straightforward — I chose them based on the mood of the book.

Reflection

I am very satisfied with the final product, especially since it was very tedious and time-consuming. It was really cool to see stuff that you drew coming to life. I particularly like the little prince sequence as it looks really surreal and the sense of space is stronger. The music was a good choice too. That said, if I were to improve this further, I will improve the pacing of the scenes — seems too long (almost boringly so) at the front before transiting into the book world, and the assets nearer the front flash by too fast in some cases. I will also introduce simple animation to the assets surrounding the character so that it is more interactive and immersive.

And also, thanks Erwin for the ultra-clear and helpful lessons this semester!!!

 

 

 

 

Graphic Novel

Scene: The man, furious at the fact that the tree is no longer producing fruits with precious pearls, came to cut the tree down.

SKETCH

FINAL

Review & Critique:

Did the storyboard / story turn out as you hoped?

Yes, I am quite satisfied with the final page layout, especially because it has went through a lot of revisions. I am happy with the colours as well as I think it brings out the slightly gloomy/ foreshadowing feeling without being overly dark. However, this layout has differed from my initial expectations in the sense that I initially wanted to include the depiction of the felling of the tree as well. However, as I worked on the each panel, I realised that the story will be too condensed if I were to to include both the cutting and falling of the tree. Hence, I left this page as purely illustrating the scene where the man arrives at the tree and starts chopping it with his axe. I believe this gives the reader more room to breathe and assimilate the content.

What would you do to improve it?

I think the top few panels are not dynamic enough. The part where the shoe steps into the grass should have way more power and strength to it, as if the man is stomping down. I initially included a frog jumping away in shock, which I think would have helped to bring out the stomping effect but I couldn’t draw the frog well so.. ? Also, I think that panel transitions could be better in the cluster of panels on top as well. Perhaps this could be helped if I chose to draw from other perspectives, e.g. I feel that the snarling/smirking mouth doesn’t fit that into the big picture right now.

What skills do you need to improve?

I need to be able to draw objects from various perspectives better. In the bottom panels, drawing the axe actually took me way way longer than expected because I just couldn’t get the shape of the axe to be right.

Also, I want to improve on my background design because I am always at a lost of how to fill in the background. I have resolved the problem here by opting a simpler way of filling in colour gradients and simple foliage here and there. I do hope I can learn to draw trees and grass and bushes better.

On top of that, I hope to improve panel transitions. I didn’t include the above page layout in the final work because I feel that the transitions are not done well and seem too repetitive. I only realised this after colouring the comic and seeing it from the big picture. The repetitive chopping of the tree coupled with the tree swaying back and forth (which itself isn’t illustrated clearly) made the layout look very boring. I wonder what can be done to make the falling of the tree more dramatic and clearer to the viewer.

What are the most significant things you have learned so far?

This project was really quite challenging for me, and so it was very enriching. Firstly, I’ve learned about panel design. Deciding panel arrangement, their sizes, how close they are to the next, how they serve the story etc., these were more complicated than I thought and a lot of experimentation was done. I think it probably comes with experience to know how arrange and sequence the drawings and panels so that it tells a seamless story that readers can follow easily. I have also learned to play around with perspectives so that the panels are more interesting.

In addition, I have learned to incorporate comic elements which I was rather unfamiliar with since I don’t read much comics. Stuff like sound effects or motion lines or panel-to-panel transition were really unintuitive. For example, just figuring out how to draw motion lines in Photoshop took me hours long already…

 

 

Assignment 3: Dreams

The Dream Engine

brainstorming process

This project took a way longer time to conceptualize than I had expected. As I did my brainstorm, I realized that there are many different takes on the word itself: the word can refer to dreams as an aspiration; as a form of daydream where one builds castles in the sky; and also in the literal sense—where one falls asleep and the mind reconstructs past experiences. 

After narrowing down my options, I decided on taking dreams in the literal sense. Some ideas that came into my mind were sleep-walking and lucid dreaming. In the end, I chose to explore the relationship between physical processes (in the brain) and the dreams experienced by consciousness.

Concept

This is an experimental film that explores the workings of the brain during periods of dreaming. In particular, a fresh take of transitions between the subconscious (dream) state and conscious was experimented.

I interpreted dreams as an interaction of the conscious and the subconscious mind. Raw materials of dreams are sourced from our personal true experiences and are united/combined/compounded. Thus dreams are opportunities for our brains to reorganise and unravel their huge storage of memories. It is also a time where we can relieve certain penned up emotions,  and explore uncharted territories that have always held your conscious mind hostage.

Hence, in this video, the dream tracks represent our latent desires and fears that present themselves when our conscious mind is at its weakest defence. When we get transported to the dream world,  our conscious mind concedes control. Dream tracks are supplied by our subconscious mind and we have no choice of what we want but to experience them all. Our conscious mind, however, still has some autonomy because ultimately the dream tracks were only possible because of our conscious experiences (hence the part where the dream track can be skipped).

To make the memories distinct, and to characterise them, I associated each memory/ dream track with music. As you probably can tell, my film is very much music driven. Music has a strong foreboding effect right at the start and very effectively sets the mood for the dream. To me, music is something that transcends the conscious and the subconscious (I mean there must be a reason why we randomly recall annoying tunes) and is at the same time intimately related to emotion. Thus, in the video, the musical tracks defines the dream and it is the medium through which our emotional states manifest themselves in the creation of dream experiences.

The three genres that I have decided to work with are: joy, fear and love. These three deal with emotions that are very much intuitive and raw. We often encounter them in our daily lives and the expression of these emotions runs the entire gamut from us outrightly sharing them with the world to suppressing them in the deepest trenches of our heart.

On top of that, the three dream sequences are all filmed to be somewhat absurd, weird and illogical but the protagonist doesn’t feel that at all. While this adds a comedic effect to my film, this closely aligns to how we experience dreams; they can be downright impossible and we wouldn’t suspect a thing.

Script

StoryBoard

Storyboards were made prior to filming. Even though they were not followed strictly during the actual filming, I realise it really helps you better visualise scenes and choose shot angles. If you look closely at the storyboards here, some scenes are actually very different from the final film (eg brain scene) Some storyboards were even redone after I reccee-ed the site.

 

 

These storyboards are revision of scenes that were drawn already.

Production

I wanted to personify the processes in the brain that gives rise to dreams. I felt as if it was not interesting to merely depict neurons firing as the brain selects memories with which to improvise. Therefore, my preliminary idea was to construct a physical brain (either out of PLASTICINE or by animation) which selects the audio dream tracks to be “played” out in a dream. The brain will then pulse along to the beat and mood of the music. The content of the conjured dreams will adhere to the mood and genre of the track being played.

Ultimately, I chose to do away with the clay model and took to characterize the mental world in the form of a computer interface. I thought that this was more suitable for my film because transitions between “brain states’ and “dreams” can be established more clearly. This was one of my greatest concern because viewers can get confused easily if “brain state” and “dream” are too similar/stark in contrast and the transitions here and there are just like ???.

For the brain world, I wanted to have the computer (aka the brain) select files from folder to folder to play. Initially, I videoed the Windows 98 desktop to depict the brain inner workings and selections of dreams.

Screenshots of the video I made:

I wanted to include a programme to wake the protagonist up, but the simulator couldn’t do it :”)

I thought it was interesting to include the computer interface, but I eventually abandoned this idea because it didn’t serve what I want. The flow of the video was less ideal with it, especially because the ploughing through of folders within folders was all too confusing for the viewers (and I do have many things going on in my video already).  I settled with the simplified current version of a MS dos-like interface (the prerequisite to have windows), which I feel best allude to the pivotal and yet backstage roles of the subconscious mind.

The typewriter effect that I found on youtube tutorials are really troublesome to do as you need to do key frame by key frame where the next letter appear in the next key frame. That’s a crazy amount of effort for such a small scene. I also tried typing the entire phrase and then mask each letter with each key frame, which didn’t work out either because the letter will be slowly revealed from left to right instead of just appearing immediately.

To solve this, I simply used Microsoft Word with a black layout and typed the words while using screen recording from Windows Media Player. I will then fast forward the recording and match it with keyboard typing sound effect. Yay, shortcut found.

Beyond the mental world, I wanted to film scenes that are archetypical of a certain emotion, but with the quaintness and oddity of the dreamscape. I envisioned that these bizarre scenarios will be humorous as well, to better resonate with the viewer in its depiction of the absurd. As such, I decided on casting a friend in three disparate and unique scenarios: happiness, horror, and romance. These three were chosen because they were very distinct from each other.

Locations of the shooting are all within NTU :D

  • Joy — clearings near clean tech (the mosquitoes are insane there)
  • Fear — stretch of road between canteen 1 and canteen 2
  • Love — Pen & Inc bar in Northspine

As the storyboards were planned before commencing the shooting, the process was way faster than I expected. It really helps to have the backbone for the visuals to be planned out. Nevertheless, I experimented with a lot of different shot angles during the actual shoot. I guess this is why recces of films sites are needed because it will reveal different possibilities for angles that are impossible to imagine if you sit in your room and draw from your mind.

post production

I had a lot of footage to work with because while the general narrative was planned, I did not consider what I wanted for the duration of the entire film. And thus I went on to shoot each dream sequence such that it can stand alone. The sequence that was very obviously cut and shortened is the one of fear — it no longer contains my initial idea that the protagonist kept returning to the same spot when she tries to escape something unknown.

For happiness, I decided to depict the protagonist in a picnic on a sunny bright warm happy day. For the music, Tchaikovsky’s waltz of the flowers was used because it resonates with the mood and is perfect for this nature scene! In terms of colour, I opted for a more warm, saturated and yellowish scheme.

For horror, I depicted the protagonist running along dark streets, with an extreme close-up to drive home the expression of horror. I originally intended for the protagonist to run on and on, yet finds herself at where she began regardless of the turns she made. However, I was unable to add the entire sequence due to duration constraints. Instead, the sequence is shortened (or ‘paused’) and skipped to the next dream track. For the sake of mood, glitch effect is added. The footage is grainy as it was shot at night but I chose not to apply any reduce noise/grain effect on it as I feel that the emotions feel more raw and scenario more menacing with it. As for music, I began with a few bars of creepy solo piano, which degenerated into a low grinding sound in tandem with the development of the hellish character of the film. For colour, I have lowered the exposure for the entire sequence and used an eerie greenish-yellow colour to accompany the scene. 

For romance, I depicted a couple on a date. They can do none other that an excessive show of love with a perfect mix of shyness. The casting of the same actress as both the male and female protagonist lends itself to the absurdity of the dream (and low budget of film), and also adds a humorous spin to the scene. I chose a saxophone solo for the music because it suits the bar setting and is often associated with the romantic genre. In terms of colour, a reddish tint is applied to symbolise the blooming love. Colours are also more faded with green in the shadows to evoke a nostalgic feel, reminding everyone of the times they were in love :D

The film concludes with the protagonist twisting and tossing with happiness and falling off the bed. I wanted the brain to initiate a process to wake her from her dreams, but in the course of filming, I thought it was more apt for the protagonist to be suddenly awoken due to the intense lovey dovey emotions felt in the dream.

Reflection

I learned so much from this project just by playing around with the camera. I have only just discovered the manual focus function. Shooting in the dark also taught me about how low light conditions can affect the footage but I have yet to learn how to resolve this (other than post production grain removal and avoidance of high ISO levels). Perhaps the option would be to prepare another light source to be used on site (which is like… duh), but I wonder what can be done in a limited scenario such as in this case where there was just me and the actress. I’ve also played around with after effects for the first time as well albeit its just basic functions like zooming with motion blur (which isn’t even that obvious given the grain) and reducing noise.

Cutting and stringing the footage together was harder than I thought because it just doesn’t look good sometimes. Also, music was a problem: even when I pace the footage together with the music, the sequence still looks odd when I replay it. Several versions had to be made before a satisfactory one is realised. It is really tough to get the rhythm right.