Red Sail

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The arrival of the end.  My journey here is almost done.  Soon I will be moving off into the world to find my own place.  To care for my own little plot of earth like Candide.  Yet, before I take off, I leave you this last post.  This final mark and sending off into the world.

As written about previously (Assignments -> Final) I decided to shoot a small film during Cambodia in the style of Baraka.  The aim was to provide a glimpse into another world and to show that places are very, very different then our but nonetheless beautiful, captivating, and wholly incomprehensible.

And so I did this very exact thing.  I took my camera.  I opened the lens towards a strange land and I left it their to linger for a while.  This is the final product:

– So what were some problems with filming?

First, I shot everything without a tripod.  The reasoning was simply I didn’t want to lug around a tripod and set up a camera because, well, filming during the trip wasn’t the goal.  The film was a side project as a way to have some tangible reminder of where I’d been and to come to terms with some important issues about filming through this small vignette.  But as  a consequence, I was left with footage that was completely unusable because my hand was too unsteady at times.  Hence, the ending is somewhat abrupt because the sunset over the Cambodia countryside is entirely too shaky.

Second, the flow of the film and the jumping from shots was challenging.   I didn’t choose locations or select shots.  I filmed as I went, without much oversight on how I was going to put it all together.  This meant, as I went to edit, that I had to put the footage together in some way that made sense.  And this was hard because the footage didn’t always to go together and even when it did, the shot was too short or not focused in a way that was usable.

Lastly, I was heavily pressed for time when I went to edit.  There was nine hours of footage and even parts I couldn’t account for.  I power-edited using the blade tool and just going through, looking for a shot, and if it was good I cut it out and deleted the rest.  Then I went back, put the footage together, and mercilessly deleted excess until I was down to twenty minutes.

– How do I feel about the final product?

More could have been done.  I wanted to mess around with the audio more and add a subtle soundtrack throughout the entirety of the movie and have it ebb and flow with the mood of the footage.  Yet, I ran out of time and this isn’t the worst thing.  There is something powerful about hearing what I was hearing and getting the second layer of immersion.  This was well done in Baraka, of incorporating sounds to give life to the footage.  Particularly compelling for me is hearing the squealing of a pig in the scene with the floating village.

Also, there were some I issues with the footage I couldn’t reconcile especially when I sped up some parts.  It works alright with the footage of the homes on the river where I do a tiered speedup of footage, but with the tuk-tuk ride in the second half it really messes up and drops the sound.  I believe the computer was struggling to hold all this footage in a project and to manipulate the footage.  Video processing can be intensive stuff.

One bit I was happy about was tricks to manipulate the footage.  Such as changing scenes when an object passes in front of the camera or of speeding up footage and then stopping it when the tuk-tuk stops.  I also used a hazy lens in two parts to serve as a transition between spaces.  This is the next step in editing, of not just organizing and trimming footage but to do it in such a way at the right places to makes the transitions smoother.  Obviously, the challenge is having the footage in the first place.

Yet, amidst these troubles, I go back to a crucial point.  The aim of this film wasn’t to be featured on the UMW website or to get a whole ton of views.  If I had a high tech camera and one good angle, such as filming a homeless kid searching for food, I could’ve gotten far more views and for a lot less work.  But this wasn’t the project.   The aim was to experiment with media and better understand the processes and challenges of filming, from the ethics of filming people without their consent to editing and building a narrative with the footage.  What I’ve learned is how complex, time-consuming, and essential every part of the process is.  One missing component, such as good audio, can break a film even if the rest is perfectly executed.

Nonetheless, anyone can do this, and with better technology these sorts of films are more accessible.  And that’s pretty cool.

That’s all I have to say here.  This blog will eventually move to a sub-blog of my new website to be unveiled this Summer as soon as I can decide on a domain name better then  Ideas on names would be much appreciated.  So long.


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