October 24, 2008

Constantine is a classic example of a movie that needs and uses special effects to carry the story forward; make it believable to an extent; and somewhat enhance the look of the movie and scenery of such that could not exist in real life. However, in any sort of SFX/VFX film there is the drawback that the special effects can hinder the movie and make it unrealistic. Because of the type of story being told in Constantine the film relies on the special effects to carry it forward. Even though one could suggest that the acting in the film is quite good, many other critics would suggest films like this rely more on the CG graphics to bring the film to life.

CG image

CG image

For actors and talent to act in a film with a lot of special effects, it takes a lot of skill to perform in scenes and shots, when sometimes they are the only one actually being filmed. The CG image is inserted through the post production stage and this means the actor must first and foremost be as believable as if they were acting with a real person.

Since Constantine is the genre that it is, the film required much work with green screen and VFX. Stunt work (where the man gets hit by the car at the beginning of the film), the colourising of the veins in actors, the distortion of faces in the exorcism, eyes changing colour, digitally enhanced faces, and morphing of characters are all very clear examples of visual effects used in the movie.

Demonised girl; coloured veins and demonised face

Demonised girl; coloured veins and demonised face

An even more clear example of the CG images is the bug man that fights with John near the gas station. When watching the behind the scenes part on the DVD we are shown how the creature is created and brought to life through SFX. The crew shot not only Keanu acting with a stand-in for the creature but also shot more footage of Keanu acting and basically fighting with himself. It is here that the actor is applauded in his talent to carry the scene, but without the CG images and SFX the scene would not be believable (who wants to see a guy fight mid air?!?!).

Bug man is just about to attack

Bug man is just about to attack in the background

If SFX is used properly and precisely it can work in synthesis with other parts of the film to enhance the look of the film and scenes. Though VFX has been used throughout the entire of the film it does not make it unbelievable but adds to the film in the sense that you think it is real. It makes you question yourself after you’ve watched the film in the sense that sometimes during the film you become unable to distinct what is CG and what is not. The SFX tricks you in a sense but that is the beauty of CG. As long as you can’t tell it’s CG then I think it works.

Everything stopped even broken glass except for Lucifer

Everything stopped even broken glass except for Lucifer

I recently watched the movie 21 (Blackjack MIT kids) and in the opening scene the shot is seamless, yet it uses two types of filming; one being shot in a helicopter; and one being shot on the road. You know that the shot can’t be shot all just in one medium yet the shot is seamless and fluid like running in from helicopter to the road shot. However if you look closely enough you can see that a transition occurs and the shot is actually digitalised to make a seamless shot (Pure genius!!). Like this other shots in Constantine like the stopping of time (broken glass stopped falling but the character keeps moving), and the changing from earth to hell all are such great work to make a great seamless fluid shot.



October 14, 2008

Jarhead begins and shows evidence of continuity editing (signing up for the marines, riding bus, and being assigned into a platoon- which would obviously take longer than it does). The main actor starts to tell his story and is broken up by a sergeant. The beginning is quite slowing moving except for the initial fight scene and when the sergeant is screaming at the marines. The scenes start to speed up again when the try-out for the snipers begin and builds up until one of the soldiers get shot when he tries to stand up under the barbwire and the final snipers and spotter have been decided.

the yelling sergeant

the yelling sergeant

Here after the marines start to watch the war film on the big screen and everyone gets ‘fired up’ with the background music, guns, helicopters and missiles. The next scene on the plane adds the background music as they arrive in the desert which helps with the moving-along of the film for some type of build up with a speech by the Coronel (soon after continuity editing with the trucks rolling into the desert is shown in a couple of shots to show how they get there and helps the motion of the film).

Another example of the continuity and advance editing is the part where they hydrate and hydrate and hydrate and hydrate whilst training in the desert showing short parts of what the marines do over a somewhat long period of time. This then leads up to the fight between the white and black scorpions- which could also be seen in some retrospect as the fight against Iraq and America. A voiceover is then heard from the main actor and he explains what goes on when they are in the desert. Even though there are not many visuals, the audience can still get some idea that time has passed because of repetition of certain words.

Another thing that seems to strike the dramatic side of the film is when the main actor’s girlfriend’s letter arrives and when the rest of the marines tell him that she’s with another man and then he tries to call her and the conversation is cut short. The next scene then shows a video of the Captain’s wife cheating on him. It puts a major theme out to the audience, loneliness and betrayal.

Throughout the film a subtitle stating how many days the troops have been in the desert which helps explain the reasons why many of the marines are going through so many hard times especially the main actor (who seems to be going insane). A scene which shows the cause and effect is evident when the marines hear sound or gunfire in the distance (effect) and then the cause is shown afterwards where some locals are seen with camels. For a moment it leaves the audience wondering if something bad may happen or the locals with camels will attack them (leaves the audience hanging).

The voice over of the movie does a lot of the explaining (the why) in the film and tells the audience what they can not actually see. My favourite part in the film is when Tony’s first combat experience is seen in slow motion. Here the audience is drawn to the editing (slow motion) and shows the emotion of the actor and how helpless and scary war can be at times.

My Experience

October 1, 2008

From taking Digital Video Foundations this semester, it has helped me change the way that I look and enjoy movies. What Jules and Josh said was right. It will change the way you view movies. I don’t hate watching films; I just look at them differently. Previously, films were just a way to pass time and a form of entertainment with friends and I never knew how intricate the processes of making a film were.

I am currently doing my second last semester at Griffith with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Japanese and Marketing. Through starting my degree my interest in Japan grew and the opportunity arose to do a year exchange at a Japanese university. I took that offer up and travelled there last year. Soon after I arrived I got involved with doing some modelling and acting. I had formerly taken acting classes back in high school and had enjoyed making short films with friends in my spare time. As I became more involved with acting in films, TV shows and commercials I became more interested in the way everything was done from filming to editing (because what they shot during the day look so much more better in the finished product). Working on films and TV shows helped me appreciate how much work goes into lighting and especially film sets.

Although nearly to the end of my studies working as an actor opened my eyes up and ever so more whilst taking this course. The production side is so completely different to what us actors see and do. We are on set one second and off the next just performing. Digital video foundations taught me a lot about what happens behind the scenes and the countless hours that people have to spend on organising, editing etc. I remember seeing lots of lights at sets and microphones and that but never really realised how precise they have to be in order to get a good shot. And that helps explains why sometimes it takes so long to get a good shot. Because I’ve seen and done a lot of the practical on camera stuff, but never really studied the theory behind it all this subject taught me about the why, and the how of film making. I now can appreciate the production crew more and can in some circumstance understand why they do the things they do.

In all the classes and films based on visualisation, production, screenwriting, storyboarding, budget scheduling, framing & composition, lighting, editing and audio, framing and composition, lighting and editing would have to be my favourites. They taught me how to appreciate and know a good from bad shots and special ways to use audio and lighting and the effect that it can have on a film if used correctly. The editing part (not to forget all the parts integrated) I think will help me when I come to film and edit a film that I make someday.

I wish that I could carry on with more film studies because I have a passion for this kind of stuff and wish that I had done this subject much earlier than I have now. I see myself now much more alert to what’s going on in a movie and sometimes find myself a little critical of things. I see films more as a piece of artwork rather than entertainment and understand why some films flop and some are great. Great composition, acting, editing, organisation, and every other part that adds to a great film. I feel as I can connect with the director now and understand his motives around producing such a film and shooting particular scenes. Even though I will finish at Griffith soon I am sure that I will pursue film studies (or acting) either as a hobby or something more professional.


October 1, 2008

One of the first things I noticed about the lighting in Commando apart from all the various mistakes and somewhat unbelievable scenes and shots is the amount of lighting that the used in the film. At the very start of the movie you can see Matrix and his daughter having fun with each other. The camera shots are very straight face on and do not follow the rule of thirds. Also, the amount of light in the scene is a little unusual. It is midday usually having the sun directly above, however the actor’s faces are brightly lit up, almost gleaming and light bouncing off them. It suggests that maybe they were using a light reflection sheets so that their faces would be lit up.

Throughout the film you can see a lot of different styles of lighting. In many of the small location area scenes the lighting of the scene and the light reflecting of the actors suggest a three point lighting system with the key, fill and back light used. In many of the battle scenes, especially during the day, they are outside and a high-key lighting style would be mostly used because the director wants to show Arny’s muscled body and is evident through close ups on his biceps, chest and painted body.

In other parts the crew have used lighting to light up the scene but leaves the shot somewhat unrealistic. The cliff where Sully is dropped off is lit up but the only light should is from the roadside light and wouldn’t usually go that far down the cliff. In the same scene they crash the car into the pole and the only light is above, yet from side on it seems though as if there is a fill light reflecting light on the actors.

In the final battle between Matrix and Bennet and when Matrix and the girl go to get guns and are caught by police, the scene is set at night (note that when they enter the shop it is daylight but when they exit it is night! That can’t happen in a matter of seconds!) and the crew have obviously used lots of light to light up the scene (nice backlight in smoke scene) and when there is backlight usually the foreground actor would not be seen but because of key light and fill the actors face is lit up (everyone knows you can’t see that well in the dark).

I do though have to acknowledge towards the end battle in the corridor with the pipes and furnace, knife scene etc. they have used mood lighting to set a certain feel (good against bad) with dark shaded areas and slightly lit up areas. But when the fire comes he grabs the furnace door with his bare hand but doesn’t get burned, what the?!?! Other scenes and shots also show light bouncing off Matrix’s body and arms one second but then the light disappears the next, yet he’s under a tree. Strange isn’t it.


September 19, 2008

Elephant has to be one of the slowest paced movies I’ve ever watched. There is little dialogue and much of the film is just following of the characters. It is somewhat random to a first viewer and hard to understand. In the midst of all this though, elephant presents a rather realistic story of a gun shooting in an American high school and what brings these sort of people to do so.

A lot of the camera time is focused on the characters, leaving everything but the main character in the shot out of focus or blurry. The composition is fairly good but in the sense of the rule of thirds most of the time the character is in the middle of the shot but usually eyes or other parts lie on the four points.

The light and colour in the film seems to be grainier or dull adding to the theme of the movie. Bright lighting and colours would probably not work with this film. At the school when they are shooting in the hall ways and corridors you get that nice beaming white light at the end of the hallway as the actor is walking to it and the light drifts down towards the actor giving a nice artistic shot. You can see though that they have basically used what lighting that was already available using natural light etc. It does not seem to have much artificial light.

The soundtrack of the money of what little there is adds to the feel and emotional side of the film with that soft drum and flute (it’s that eerie sound) when they walk through the corridors. Also when the main shooter is at home he plays the piano and this music describes the way he feels about the people and world around him suggesting sadness, sorrow and anger.

On top of this, a lot of the dialogue and background noise included in the movie not only comes from what you see on screen but off-screen as well. Most of the time, you can hear other conversations, outdoor noises, machinery in the kitchen and a variety of other types of sounds. For this to happen they would probably using boom microphones for main dialogue and then adding extra sounds recorded off screen to the finished movie. The Foley work in the film as well is quite good because they help to push the movie along with sounds of objects and actors walking through hallways.

Kill Bill Vol.2

September 18, 2008

Some people would suggest that Kill Bill vol.2 is not as good as vol.1, and in this case I would probably have to agree. However, vol.2 still carries a lot of great themes, ideas and most importantly, great cinematography. Like all of Quentin Tarantino film, the scene lines, sets and cinematography are very artistic, lifelike and easy to watch. They carry such a smooth transition between each shot. Although, most of his films follow the composition rules (or rule of thirds), some of his shots reject this rule and most of the time Tarantino pulls it off.

The scene where Bill and Kiddo are sitting talking at the fire presents a front on shot with Kiddo on the left and Bill on the right on either sides of the fire. Usually, this 180 degree talking shot would not carry two people talking face on in the one shot Tarantino breaks up the shot with the crackling fire in the middle of the screen. Also Bill is sitting at a slightly higher angle than Kiddo (suggesting superiority) with a sloping mountain pass in the background. It creates somewhat an artistic feel to the shot that in theory shouldn’t be acceptable.

When Kiddo goes to see the master up in the temple, the first seen where she sees him, he is sitting in the centre of the shot covering barely just the centre of the shot. However, the shot includes, perfect horizontal lines where the master is sitting (stairs) which balances the shot horizontally and for the vertical there is a statue that is sitting to the left hand side of the screen yet again making perfect balance creating an artistic feel.

My favourite shot of many in the movie is the shot sequence when Kiddo is returning through the desert. The shot begins with the sun flare centre screen and fading into another shot with Kiddo emerging where the flare was position. You see her walk towards the middle of the shot with heat waves beaming off the desert sand. She’s the only one in focus. She is dirty, wearing no shoes, but as the camera slowly closes in and she gets to the top of the mountain the camera acts as her eyes panning from here left to right focusing on the car pulling into the caravan. The camera then switches sides and a close up of her dirty yet determined face floods the shot and zooms right into to her eyes. It gives you a sense that revenge is just around the corner.

West World

August 29, 2008

West World though somewhat an old film it has the potential to entertain and gives a sense of nostalgia. The structure of the film follows the structure of the ‘3 Act Structure’ and one could suggest that it is a perfect example of the fundamental way to scriptwriting.

Act 1 – who, what where
Act 1 sets of with a reporter asking people about their holidays in the worlds. It acts as an advertisement for people to get out of their everyday lives and live in a superficial world where the guests are holidaymakers and the people living in the world are not actually human but machine/robot droids replicating every minor detail of that of a human (except for the hands of course). The story moves along with two men that are taking a holiday to ‘West World’ where they become cowboys again.

Plot point 1
It is at plot point 1 where the malfunction problem of the droids is revealed to the audience. It is at this stage where the real problems begin to start.

the malfunctioning droid

Gunslinger: the malfunctioning droid

Act 2 – Pinches and half way point
In Act 2 the audience is shown the rebellion of the machines/droids as one of them (Gunslinger) retaliates and returns to search and kill one of the two men. It is the confrontation part and the first pinch in Act 2 of the film. The half point of the film shows a snake biting one of the main characters. It shows the audience that the machines have now lost control.

Plot point 2
Here is where the droid (gunslinger) that already has been killed twice has come back and hunted down the two main characters. It is here that the droid actually kills one of the main characters. This is not supposed to happen and this now leads into the resolution where the other main character tries to escape death from the droid.

Act 3 – Resolution
Here in the resolution in the film is where the alive remaining character runs from the machine and tries to escape death. The remaining character runs through other worlds and discovers that everyone is dead. He tries to kill the machine with acid but the machine comes back. He then kills the machine with fire and the machine dies eventually.

Speed Racer

August 21, 2008

Speed Racer, though a little hard to sit through, had a rather comical side to it. Adapted from the animation Speed Racer, it was formerly contrived from the original Japanese version Mach Go Go Go. Both the anime series and the movie was action packed with technology and danger. The plot follows the world of an ambitious young man who falls in love with racing and becomes a professional racing car driver like his brother.

The original version

The original version

Because the film was based on a cartoon animation the conceptualisation of the story for the directors of the movie was already set out. However the only challenge for them was to add the watchability characteristic of the film so that it could be enjoyed in modern day. The use of computer generated animation and a lot of green screen effects the directors of the film have pulled of a somewhat believable movie (though this may be due to darkening the lighting to cover up rendering in animation). Though as an animation one could suggest that the film was not just targeted at the younger generation but also the past lovers of the old version of the cartoon.

The directors of the film The Wachowski Brothers like in many of their other films tend to follow a centre style and genre. You could say it was a textbook style storyline (sympathetic character, urgent difficult problem, bad odds against major problem, the crisis of the last chance to win and the problem solved by the central character). Just like in their other films like the Matrix (most closely related with CG animation) and Assassins, they almost always are centralized around a central character that has to overcome this difficult problem (good guys vs. the bad guys theme). Though some people may Speed Racer is not as good as their other films, one must take their hats off to the actors with most of the film done with green screen.

Because Speed Racer was an animation prior to becoming a feature film the Wachowski Brothers were somewhat limited in the way the story could be tuned and directed keeping in mind that changing the way the film may turn off previous lovers of the cartoon. Yet I suggest they stick to films like the Matrix and Assassins.

My favourite movie

August 12, 2008

I have so many favourite films, but if I had to choose one it would be from Sean Penn’s Into The Wild. Such a great film with nice wide beautiful scenic shots with a great solid story to tell. I’m not anti Hollywood or anything but I really believe that a good film has to tell a story, a good story, and be somewhat realistic and something that we can relate too. I also like the Australian film Wolf Creek. It had awesome cinematography and good locations and was directed really well given that it was the directors first feature film.


John Jarratt in outback horror film Wolf Creek.

John Jarratt in outback horror film Wolf Creek.

Last year in 2007 I was living in Japan going to University and working part time as an actor. I was fortunate enough to work with some very creative and inspiring directors cinematographers and all kinds of people. My favourite Japanese film would have to be Sugar and Spice (and also another one, but forgot the name). The locations used in the film really captures the mood and helps add to the feel of the story. The acting in both films was really good and artistic work in the film has to be commended. Have had the chance to work on films like these (as an actor and backstage staff) you really get to appreciate the work people do. There are some amazing people out there.

Brick and Enter Zombie King

August 8, 2008

click for a full review

If there was any movie that I would ever enjoy burning, it would be ‘Enter Zombie King.’ It comes down to everything; the acting, the camera angles/shots, the sound, the directing and cinematography. This film shows exactly how not to make a good film on a low budget. Some people would argue that the film is ok in regards to its low budget. However, in a comparison with the film ‘Brick‘ one would have to suggest that ‘Enter Zombie King’ lacked in many areas. Even though ‘Brick’ had a larger budget that budget was used wisely and effectively taking in mind that their budget was still very small.

Check the Brick trailer out.

It is clear to anyone that in the development stages of Enter Zombie King, the film was not clearly conceptualised, planned or allocation of the budget in specific areas. On the other side, when viewing Brick you can feel and see through the film that it had been clearly thought out and conceptualised. Though I would have to agree Brick had a better script, so did too Enter Zombie King yet failed to follow through in the acting.

Enter Zombie King had organised great locations to film in but they again failed to follow through with cinematography and directing of the shots (front on in your face home video style shooting not good!). Acting in the film was absolutely nowhere near to a satisfactory standard, where a lot of unneeded pauses were evident and general movement in the scenes including the fighting choreography lacked in realness. You most well go see a wrestling match instead of watching this poorly put together film. The score of the movie sounded like a cheap Nintendo video game and during the postproduction of the film the editor could have cut the scenes and shot more closely together for a sense of flowing-ness. For future film makers though, it is a good lesson in not what to do in making low budget film.

Check out IMDb's full review

Brick was an escape and quite a relaxing film to watch. Since the film had been thoroughly thought out from the development and preproduction stages, with well known and good locations, the production of the movie had a big effect on the finished product. The acting, cinematography, scenes, artistic feel of the film topped anything of Enter Zombie King. Everything was well visualised with great locations and a vast array of different camera angles and shooting styles with nice lines in each shot, made the film have an artistic feel which helps capture the audience and making it easy to watch. Even though not many extras were used in the film having just a few actors on the screen gave it an empty feeling of sadness and conspiracy which added to the mood of the film. Postproduction of the film, including the score, background sounds (foley), and editing and filtering was well done. The score matched the mood, and editing was well put together.

Overall, Brick gets the thumbs up and Enter Zombie King can burn.