Mini-Documentary: Prompt #6

Vox-Pops

Introduction

The Vox-Pops exercise really helped in understanding shooting in an impromptu manner for non-fiction. It gave me a clear perspective of a bunch of do’s and don’ts. However, the process of arriving at the video you see above was a long drawn one which can be broken down into the subsequent sections:

Pre-Production

The announcement of the project and us being assigned into our respective groups happened in class. As part of the pre-production all we were asked to do was scout for a location within the new library and possibly add to the list of questions to be posed to the participants. However, this process was very brief and hence most of what we achieved on the shoot day was spontaneous. The nature of flexibility that ‘Vox-Pops’ usually offer helped in us being able to arrive at a decent accumulation of information despite minimal pre-production process.

Since, the questions we had in hand were pretty effective we as a group decided not to add more. Was far as the location was concerned we decided to go with one that would allow us the flexibility to shoot without disruption, despite it not being the most characteristic location within the new library. A decision which has eventually cost the effectiveness of the video in general.

Production

On the day, we decided to set up in a quiet corner of the library and shoot with the background of the wooden glass windows. This background was plain and very uncharacteristic, however logistics of the moment demanded that we went for the ease of directing traffic as opposed to framing up with a better background.

We operated cohesively and effectively as a unit. My primary job on the day was to source the talent, get them to appear in front of the camera and get the ‘talent release forms’ signed. This also involved in briefly telling them what we are trying to achieve through the project, nevertheless this seemed more simple in description as opposed to actually doing it.

The whole process was pretty simple as we managed to get 7 groups of people for bytes and then went on to get our overlays, all within a time span of one and half hours. This process of doing things spontaneously within a given time frame really pushed each and everyone of us to go all guns blazing and in turn brought the best out of us.

Post-Production

Upon completion of the shoot it was my job to offload all the footage after shoot. The next day saw us as a group syncing each and every image with the audio, an exercise which was again driven by me in the edit suites.

However, upon reviewing the footage the first thing that struck my eye was the lack of a characteristic background and the ineffective overlays (B-Roll) we as a group shot after the interviews. This meant our process of editing and putting together an effective piece is going to be pretty hard, given the fact that we failed to achieve a few things on shoot.

Technical Attributes & Performance

Overall the technical attributes of our interviews was marred by the lack of an interesting background. This was important because we went with a background that lacked in bringing out the essence of the library. What further goes against the effectiveness of our footage is our staging of our participants. We staged them right beneath a shining light and failed to adjust our ND filter or our exposure accordingly. As a result, the spotlight on the participants faces make them appear over-exposed. These were the two big technical glitches in our interview footage.

Apart from the interviews, our B-roll footage wasn’t the best or characteristic ones that we could have obtained. They lacked a sense of bringing out the scale or essence of the library and as a result they fail to sit effectively within an edit. Thankfully, we had B-roll footage from other groups to give us the necessary fodder in terms of working as inserts.

The performance of the participants were short, crisp and effective. However, a little more planning leading up to the shoot would have enabled a more interesting interaction. Right now it feels like a pretty straightforward question and answer session between two parties, this is a done to death concept but there is only so much one can do in Vox-Pop situation with total strangers. This is where I feel more interesting questions from our side and better staging techniques could have helped in creating a more effective video.

Lastly, the framing and focus for most parts of the interviews work well. However, looking at all the footage in the edit one gets the feeling that we should have framed a little closer (tighter) on the participants owing to a lack of an interesting background.

The Edit

For most parts of the edit I found that fast paced cutting between the interviews worked as a technique. Again, this was only after landing on a select few and establishing a story pattern among them as we went through the edit. Of all our interviewees, the five people represented above came up with good, detailed responses. Some of their responses could actually be accentuated with the use of the b-roll footage and some we just weren’t proactive enough to shoot.

Again, starting the edit with a few frames of the library helps establish the setting and interspersing each section with a ‘question slate’ really contextualises the responses. However, what really works for the edit is its direct approach of showing people talk about the place as opposed to layering it with more and more abstract b-roll images. The b-roll comes in only when the interviewees describe about their favourite feature in the new library and that technique is apt and appropriate keeping the pacing of the edit in mind.

Also, the uninterrupted running of a soundtrack adds to the mood of the interviews. I went for a samba track as it gave the video and the ‘Fast-forward’ overlay of the tour in the end a zesty and energetic tone. It added to the narrative as opposed to taking away from it. However, in retrospect the whole ‘fast-forward’ tour in the end of the edit could have been done with more precision if we had staged such a thing keeping in mind that this was a technique that could be used if the need arises. A failure to do this again resulted in a very abrupt fade out at the end.

Overall, the edit is well paced but nowhere close to finish as more work on the colour correction and sound scape is pending. These areas along with more creative image overlays and text can ramp up the energy of the final edit.

The Learnings

In all these were the things I had personally learnt through the different stages of this project:

  1. Plan better in order to account for the final edit.
  2. Be a little more aware and spontaneous on shoot to check if the frame or the staging works.
  3. Find ways of ramping up the interest in post-prodcution. This would eventually mean investigating pathways of approaching the whole thing in an interesting manner.
  4. Finally, keep working in a direction where one can have the option of editing the final product in more than one ways.

 

Interviews

 

Introduction

The interviews were an interesting editing project because it came with a uniques set of challenges. However, the process of progressing from one stage to another was far more dynamic and open than the ones with the Vox-pops.

Pre-Production & Production

There was practically very minimal pre-production involved in getting these interviews done. Considering they were all shot amongst ourselves and everything including the staging and execution of them just came about on the day.

However, the shoot itself was very interesting in terms of the unpredictable nature of it. We did not no what kind of response we would eventually get but the theme of talking about our respective ‘Homes’ brought about a very interesting dynamic amongst the participants. Also, on the day I just happened to double up as the person who picked the interviewers.

The staging of the interviews made for a casual, cross-cultural exchange which also happened to inform the flow of my edit. However, the interactions as a whole needed more veering in a certain direction. Personally, the portion I happened to direct was the only one where I posed a few questions at the people as opposed to the other two were the participants were left discussing amongst each other. In retrospect more work in the pre-production in terms of giving the theme more thought and questions would have steered the interviews in a more creative direction.

Post-Production

Once the footage was available, I happened to don the task of syncing the image to the audio for each interview in creating a common sharable project file for the whole class. Thanks to some malfunctioning in the syncing process, we had to do it manually and I was up for the task. Once that was done the we made our own personal copies and dealt with the edits thereon.

The Edit & The Process

Upon reviewing the sunk footage, it became clear that a lack of preparation and the suddenness of the shoot meant that these interviews were going to be long-drawn and very elaborate. Hence I wanted to focus on the theme and keep the edit to cut for a story. The whole idea behind this exercise was to get people to reflect on the word ‘home’ however with the diverse representation we had in front of us I thought it would be best if we focussed on different attributes of the different people shown in the video.

The breaking down of the video into segments like ‘People, Places and Things’ is just a pacing mechanism where a single text can contextualise the broad range of the discussion that is to follow. Also, the abrupt introduction with music and text to follow sets a lighter tone to the overall video without taking away from the overall flow of the story.

Since this exercise was largely based on responses we obtained bereft of any planning the nature and style of my cutting demanded that I remained with the interviewees and sustained their story. Not intercutting between them in a fast manner has helped bring out the essence of the cultural-diversity and makes for some humane moments on screen. However, the lack of image overlays was a deliberate choice as I felt staying with the characters and playing around with pacing the footage would bring out the story more effectively.

Technical Attributes

For most parts the images were well framed and in focus. However, what really went against making it a bit more interesting is not lighting each interview differently and staging them in a more interesting manner. The frame for such interviews would have been more engaging if they were shot outdoors, because the characters would have been forced to interact with an exterior environment which would have brought about a different kind of response to their interaction with each other.

Also, the lighting across different set ups did call for a more proactive and creative engagement from our side as a crew, which seemed to have not happened and as a result there is varying light tones across the different batches for the same set up. This is not necessarily a bad thing but in some places it feels like the lighting was a bit too odd (Specially on Zemmy with her backlight and on Moriarty and Bella with their Key where its a little over exposed). Hence being more aware of lighting for different people across the same set up is a definite take away.

The performance was varied and inconsistent. This is an issue that needs factoring going ahead in the future, regardless of the lack of a pre-production process.

The soundtrack was chosen only because it aids a certain tone to the interaction happening on screen. However, it is still very rough and unfinished and needs a better pattern of continuity. What would help the edit as a whole is giving it a grade that would neutralise the colour tones across the different interviews, that way the video will look like it is a whole as opposed to it looking like different fragments of separate pieces.

The Learnings

  1. Construct more than one cut to obtain options of telling the story.
  2. Be more alert to how questions can shape interaction on shoot and prepare accordingly.
  3. Shoot different overlays after going through the rushes, that will help in setting up a different edit style.
  4. Explore more dynamic camera angles and staging as opposed to shooting front on.
  5. Work on a differently paced edit just to see if it does justice to the story.

 

 

 

 


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