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The DVC / UWOL Charity Challenge
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Old January 11th, 2011, 07:55 AM   #1
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Under Another Sun

"Perspective" is such a broad theme that one can tackle any number of ways: Literal lines meeting at the horizon? Camera point-of-view? Or, as I opted for, something that leads the viewer along to discover a change in perspective through a main character's experience.


Initially I thought of a poetic and more abstract approach, but in the end thought a structured story -- albeit one that illustrated the idea without being in-your-face -- would be better. The idea being that we gain perspective through travel and through being confronted with the limited time we have before mortality takes over.

So, in an unnamed cold, wet city we have a nurse called Mary caring for terminally ill patients who has never traveled and whose world is tunnelled in. She is caring for a Mr Gilmard who is well-traveled and who sees her reduced condition. Before he dies, he organises to let her to see what she is missing, effectively handing her the life-changing opportunity she needs. It's a gift that needs to be bestowed, even through ruse....

On a technical note, I had to piece these images together gradually, between my job duties. A trip allowed me to grab some airplane and airport footage. Rain is daily here, so that was easy to grab outside my office, but I deliberately wanted to make it look cold and uninviting in reference to Mary's inner state, so blued it down. That was in contrast to her "discovering" a new world towards the end, where the saturation and more "open" composition of the shots conveyed the new experience she was undergoing.

I live in a city where one has to be careful walking around with expensive video gear (which is why a lot of the outdoor stuff was filmed on a Sony camcorder rather than my 7D). The main scene that required a bit of intensive shooting was the nurse-patient interaction. After carefully lighting scenes for the last DVChallenge which had a more fantastical bent, this time I wanted very much to go with natural light and practicals to underline the smaller, more realistic canvas I was working on, and to play up the grim "smallness" of Mary's initial state. That was also why I mainly shot handheld throughout.

Even if this entry didn't have a "punchline" or final twist, I still wanted to inject a sort of discovery into the process, which is voiced by Mary.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the capoeira shots came from a school that regularly trains on weekends in a park and which was more than happy to be filmed.

My actress, Priya, wanted to go with a lighter touch, do a comedic set-up, but for this one I resisted. I see these challenges as great opportunities to try different things, and -- even though it's less entertaining -- my goal was to mix a realistic scenario with a little understated drama and still have a pay-off.

What do you think? (Please, feel free to criticise everything from technical execution, to script, to pacing -- for me, that's how I learn to improve my game!)

Last edited by Marc Burleigh; January 11th, 2011 at 10:06 AM.
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Old January 11th, 2011, 09:20 AM   #2
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Hey, Marc.

Well done on another great film - very beautiful and surprisingly moving as well.

How did you achieve that almost hyper-real effect with the opening visuals? Was it in camera or in the grade and is it just a bleach bypass/ blue filter and some cool slo-mo & DoF work or is there more going on? The first shot in particular was absolutely stunning.

All IMHO, but I thought both actors were excellent and that the film was a real step forward from Catnip both in terms of pacing/structure and your use of music. The dying man's last line was a little difficult to make out the first time I heard it, but that could just be down to either my lack of familiarity with the accent or me forgetting my earplugs too many times when filming gigs ;)

I really liked the open ending, as you say there is a pay off but it also feels like the start of a positive journey for the main character - for a film centered around a death and someone who cares for the terminally ill it's a surprisingly life affirming piece.

Look forward to watching more of your stuff, although hopefully we won't have to wait until the next DVC for you to get behind the camera again! let's see that comedy...

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Old January 11th, 2011, 10:03 AM   #3
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Henry: nice words! I'd like to reply in kind, but your entry isn't in the first round of the discussion table, unfortunately, so I'll have to wait for that.

On the technical imaging questions: the first shot was done through a window, focusing on the drops of rain with the skyline out-of-focus, as you can make out. I added a sky darkening filter in post, and coloured it towards the blue/purple end. The flicker is a standard filter in FCP (called flash or flicker, can't remember), which just had thunder foley added. From there, I layered some more sounds (traffic, wind, siren, dogs, rain, etc.) along with the narration.... then when it came to the title image I stripped out the sound but the wind to give an audio space. The title image was a zoom down to a road as a car passed.... I slowed it down and added a slight motion blur (which mainly gave the water on the road an otherworldly smooth look).... All the opening images were shot with the Sony camcorder (now, though, I have a long telephoto for my 7D, so later entries should be more DSLR and less consumer camcorder).

I was a bit worried that the key phrase by the patient wouldn't be understandable.... I boosted all the narration and dialogue to make them audible. I think it's the accent that made it hard.... I was just hoping that the title of the movie (which is half the phrase), and repeating it later as the circle is closed would help understanding. If the actor were still around, I would have tried dubbing a new try, but he ain't so I just went with it.
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Old January 11th, 2011, 12:24 PM   #4
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My pleasure, Marc.

Many thanks for the detailed opening shot breakdown. Proves you don't always need to be using pro kit to get great images.

The audio was probably just me. I film a lot of live rock/punk/indie gigs and, like I said have a tendancy to forget my earplugs! I am a bit deaf as a result. I stopped the film and rewound and it came through clear the second time I heard it. The actor really was very convinvcing though. Where did you find him?
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Old January 11th, 2011, 01:03 PM   #5
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My real job is as a reporter, and the French actor is a TV reporter I work with occasionally. He'll be happy to hear you liked his performance -- he kept saying he was lousy (more used to giving dry, straight, factual deliveries than dying existentialism), and feeling self-conscious about his accent in English.

As for tools for the job: while I'd love a Red and a dolly set up and a lighting kit and pro sound mixer, I'm happy to just work up slowly with what I have. (In fact the shot of the snow-capped mountain in the plane was shot on a pocket Sony CyberShot -- because the best camera often is just the one we have with us.) I prefer to concentrate on story and take it from there with whatever tools I have on hand (trying though to get the best quality shots within the limitations of each tool; even if I had a Red, for instance, I still wouldn't be walking around Brazilian streets with it. Some people sell their old cameras. I tend to hoard them, and as they become more out-of-date I think of riskier shots I can get with them. That Sony may well be a candidate soon to fix to the front of skis or low on a motorbike -- something I'd never do with pricier gear. The challenge is to make it match superior footage, possibly by giving a creative reason for it being different.)
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Old January 11th, 2011, 01:07 PM   #6
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I'm looking at basic lighting solutions for my corporate work at the mo. Nothing fancy and as cheap as I can manage! Will let you know how I get on...
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Old January 11th, 2011, 02:18 PM   #7
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Marc,
The film has an impressingly high standard. I have watched your work several times.
The editing, the sounds and the shots with different viewpoints and close-ups are really talented.
The acting is also well done.
I appreciate the colour changes through the story as well.
Nevertheless, I think the colour managing is the weakest part in your film.
In my taste, the colouring effect is a bit too excessive, especially in the last part where the scenes look oversaturated on my screen.

There is something to learn from your work.
I think I will look at your film one more time.
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Old January 11th, 2011, 02:42 PM   #8
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Thanks Finn-Erik.... that's why this comp and this board is so great. We pick up external views and can recalibrate our future work as needed. I'm taking on board your comment about the grading. I deliberately set out to desaturate and the first part, then oversaturate the second part to emphasise the life it showed, but I can appreciate I may have taken that too far. It's not a cartoon. I could have, and probably should have, made it more suggestive than excessive as I did.....

(That said, I found as I was desaturating and adding a bit of blue that I quite liked the result -- it looked a bit filmic. Whereas the second part felt more video-like..... Probably not helped that it was, in fact, shot with a consumer cam.)
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Old January 11th, 2011, 04:33 PM   #9
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Rather than saturating, you might be able to add a "warm" golden hour style wash to the second half just as you added a cold "blue" wash to the first half?

To be honest the saturation didn't bother me but if it was something you'd like to alter that would be a logical way to do it...
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Old January 11th, 2011, 04:44 PM   #10
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Funny, Henry, I started out with that, but found it made skin look unnatural. I think the problem is that the outdoor scenes at the end were shot on the Sony, with consumer-calibrated colours and a low dynamic range. I probably could have got away with an Orange filter more easily with the Canon 7D. Or maybe it's just I'm a neophyte with grading, still. So much to learn.
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Old January 11th, 2011, 05:09 PM   #11
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Marc, if I could grade anything to look half as good as your film I'd be happy ;)
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Old January 11th, 2011, 07:21 PM   #12
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Ah, Marc--I wondered about the shot from the airplane. Which came first, the trip plans or the idea for the film? :) Regardless, way to work it in--made it seem like a high-budget production.

The colors worked well for me, as in, nothing took me out of the story. Speaking of...very nice story! It didn't need any twists or big endings; it ended just as it should have.

Nice guy, to leave the gal who helped take care of him such a gift. I would have liked it if the girl was just a bit more compassionate toward him, both while she was conversing with him and when she found out he had died. As it was she seemed a little cold...but perhaps you wanted it that way to convey kind of a humdrum existence?

Your use of locations is excellent; made me think we traveled to a far-off land. You have good vision and sure know how to make great use out of what is available to you!
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Old January 12th, 2011, 01:03 AM   #13
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Hey Marc,
What can I say? You create some very good images, and you get a nice cinematic feel from even consumer grade cameras.

I strive to have an understanding of lighting the way you seem to. I really appreciate your video on an aesthetic level.

I don't know how I felt about the music. I can't put my finger on it, but I just felt it somehow wasn't right for the images. I don't know if it's right's free music, or where it's from, but at times it felt like too much. Something simpler could be just as if not more effective.

Otherwise it was very well done, and I was happy to watch more than once.
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Old January 12th, 2011, 08:25 AM   #14
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Hi, Marc!

A very touching story and a great use of a consumer camera! Liked your camera work a lot!

I agree with Lorinda, that there could have been more compassion in actress's performance.

I also think that the story would have benefited much if it had longer time to develop (more events, also when she discovered there is no sister living there, etc. More challenges until she comes to the conclusion! It felt too easy.), but we all were under a time limit.
It was my feeling that the resolution was a bit rushed, and so I felt that the main message is also too much "straight in your face" like pushed on.
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Old January 12th, 2011, 08:52 AM   #15
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Andris, I think you're dead right -- and that's exactly the kind of structural insight I'm happy to receive. Yes, agreed, there needed to be more development (I wanted her to struggle a moment before taking the trip, and she needed another experience or two on the ground at the destination before she realised what the ruse was and why. I think I could have fit it all in under 5 mins by cutting down the hospice scene and a couple of other techniques.... The only problem was not having my actors.... Both ran away for the Christmas vacations, one to Canada and the other to France. But of course filmmaking is not about excuses -- it's about planning, and it was my fault for scripting a story that I wasn't able to finish in time.

Thanks Andris, that's a valuable comment you made.
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