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Old October 12th, 2010, 08:50 AM   #1
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Watch and critique my first short film

Shot an a Sony HDR XR500 and edited with Sony Vegas.

It's called Shut In, it's nearly 15 minutes long, it's my first film, I know it's flawed personally and it's not the greatest thing ever but I'm still really proud of how this one came out.

I want to do more shorts in the near future, and the more honest criticisms of the film the more I'll know where to improve, so please feel free to critique any and all aspects of this film it will only help me in the future. Thanks in advance.

YouTube - Shut In
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Old October 13th, 2010, 03:05 PM   #2
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I'm surprised more people don't critique in these threads- criticism's good!

Anyway, my tuppence-worth... By the way, this is probably going to be a long, in-depth post!

The idea was explored well and the script was strong- reminded me of the narration in films like Fight Club! Performance was good although it would have been nice to see more internal drama (but a lot of that comes from certain shots and I'll get onto that). A lot of new filmmakers try to tell the story solely with dialogue, so it was great to see that you chose certain shots to tell the story for you- the shots of him cleaning the windows with the outside reflections in the glass was a good way to show his separation from the outside world. I think the end with his doppelganger would work better if the landlord had been more than a voice earlier on. We shouldn't see his face, obviously, but an over-the-shoulder shot of the door open a few inches would've made us realise there were other people out there and when the doppelganger arrives we can put two and two together much more effectively.

Lighting wise, it looked like you were using non-practicals in some shots (and by "non-practical" I mean movie lights as opposed to lights in the scene)- and while some set-ups worked better than others, you'll find that as your lighting technique improves the standard of your work will jump immeasurably. Have a look into basic lighting techniques (there's a book by John Jackman that really explains things well and there're probably threads in the Photon Management forum too)- using a key light, using fill, lighting eyes etc and remember that lighting goes hand-in-hand with camerawork like exposure, shutter and gain. Some shots were overexposed with hot spots due to lights being too strong/close or the camera not being set at the right exposure and some were too dark. The end is a good example of the latter- I know that bringing lighting gear outside would be difficult and largely ineffectual, but a softened camera top light could have helped. It might also have been worth shooting that sequence during the magic hour so you get enough light to see or change the location so you have more street lighting to work with.

On the camerawork side of things, the images you got from the XR500 were generally very good. I would suggest not using handheld so much, though. While it adds energy to your film, it also shows up the weight of the camera and thus reminds audiences of home video material. If you put it on a tripod, audiences tend to think it looks more professional or filmlike. There's an art (and a lot of kit) to making handheld look expensive and it usually means shoulder rigs, steadicams or heavier cameras. Make what you've got work well and an audience won't really notice.

I would suggest getting an external microphone for the camera though. Onboard mics tend to pick up camera handling noise as well as record fuzzy or tinny audio. Good sound like good lighting will raise the quality of your work no end! The voice over, though, was quite clean- it was just the dialogue that was patchy in places. And while we're on the topic of sound- the score was very atmospheric and helped tell the story well.

The only thing I would say about the editing is try to make it seamless. There were a few jump cut moments in the film which could be corrected by cutting on action or using the 30% difference rule. If jump cuts are intentional, make it an obvious stylistic choice. Otherwise, strive for invisible editing. I also think the film could be tightened up a little in editing to speed up the pace early on.

Overall, you told a story and told it well using the the language of film to do it. Many people's first films never achieve that- I know mine sure didn't! Keep up the good work and remember to aim to improve with every project- if you're not moving ahead, you're rolling backwards!
Daniel J Brant
Corporate, Fiction and Promotional Video-
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Old October 13th, 2010, 06:34 PM   #3
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Thank you for your kind words and for your criticisms, definitely the kind I was looking for.

Some of the hot lighting was intentional, the scene where he turns the lamp on and looks around the house was definitely one, and the jump cutting was a stylistic choice, up to this point I've only edited music videos and editing without music is hard, thanks again for your words, I'll definitely remember them on my next project
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Old October 16th, 2010, 04:45 PM   #4
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I've seen this sitting here and I'd love to view it but don't have the bandwidth for 15 minutes at the moment.....but when I have it, I'll view it.



Having just read your critique, I'm now keen to view Ed's vid......and I agree, it's a pity more people don't critique, as you point out, criticism, especially constructive, is a great learning tool for all, particularly for the novices....such as me ;)

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Old October 29th, 2010, 09:00 PM   #5
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Just a little tip for when your editing sound from an on camera mic in vegas. I find it helps alot and makes it seem more fluid if you ungroup the audio from one shot and extend it/crossfade into the audio from the next shot. It often times helps smooth everything out and makes transitions less harsh.
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Old October 29th, 2010, 11:20 PM   #6
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I really like the music. The film was good but I think the music was VERY well done for it being your first. Very contemporary.
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