Introduction to Documentary
If I had to pick one documentary mode that I particularly like, I would chose for sure the participatory mode.
This kind of documentaries is characterized by a direct involvement of the filmmaker in the narration.
In fact, the director does not only observe the scene with detachment but actively engage with others. I appreciate this mode because allowed the filmmaker to take part to the representation and express his voice.
This documentary mode could rely on a broad range of tools to help the narration, as interviews, archive footage and voice over.
The Filmmaker discuss and confronts his point of view with the social actors, for this reason interviews here works as a social encounter.
Experiencing in first person a determined situation opens a dialogue between the filmmaker and his subject and enables ( both the filmmaker and the social actors) to express their reactions and feelings.
Moreover, the use of archive footage allowed the director to show with images the testimony of the social actors and add realism to the narration . The inclusion of this feature typical of the observational mode in my opinion makes the framework of the genre really versatile and effective.
In some occasion the filmmaker is the main protagonist, as he investigate a fact or a issue that regard him personally.
This personal involvement of the filmmaker is not hidden as it happened in the observatory mode, in fact the goal is revealing the reality of what happens when people interact with each others in front of a camera.
Choosing this kind of documentary instead of the other ones would allow me to talk about a subject that really interest me and it will be more likely to have emotional involvement and passion for the project.
The last reason that make me think that the participatory mode is the one that most fits m, is that it allow the spectators to become a participants as well through the use of interactive website and installation. Many director presented their documentary in a digital interactive way where, through a computer, the viewer can have more control on the narration, usually making choice about how the footage is displayed.
I believe that this is a smart way to use technology to help to build knowledge, makes the participatory mode really interesting.
The only risk of this documentary mode is that in certain occasion the filmmaker could be too persistent to force the interviewee to have a specific (and over the line) reaction distorting like this the reality of the facts. However, If the director is able to respect the rights and dignity of the subject the documentary would not be damage by this issue.
No Direction Home
The opening sequence of the documentary “No direction Home” directed by Martin Scorsese starts showing us a piece of a live performance of a young Bob Dylan, singing and playing his guitar and harmonic. Then we have a cut to some old footage of trees surrounded by fog and we start to hear bob Dylan’s interview as a voice over. From now on , the editor combines contemporary interviews with archival B rolls. The archive material is both video and photographic and includes never-before-seen footage from Dylan’s childhood and time. The documentary could be categorize as expository, due to its use of interviews as the voiceover narration, but it also blend into the observational mode cause of all the archive material.
In the starting sequence of “No direction home” we see a lot of early picture of Dylan, his house and his family’s shop (including a newspaper article) and some footage of the Mine in his home town and its workers. This last scenes are probably taken from a documentary of that age.
Even after only 2 minutes from the start of the documentary we can tell that it would be rich of archive footage and photos. We will be probably expect too see also a lot of concert and backstage clips as well as archive interviews of Dylan and people that knew him.
The documentary main drive is obviously the music and the emotional content of the movie is evident from the beginning.
There is for sure a lot of research behind the documentary and Scorsese and Schoonmaker have made precise stylistic choices to reach the feelings of the audience.
indeed, Martin Scorsese explore the emotional and musical journey of Bob Dylan’s early career through the use of oral history, the editing is more emotional that rational as well.
We can see it right from the beginning where Scorsese decided to use the foggy footage of tree while Dylan is talking about the passage of time.
Also, the decision to starts alternating the touching story of the discovery of this guitar to images of the mines makes us immediately realize Dylan’s struggles for being born in a town that he never felt his home.
The first part of the Anna Broinowski’s documentary Forbidden Lies is a video reconstruction of a part of the book questioned.
Here the audio is not recorded on location but all the sound effect in the action are foley, that possibly have been recorded after (or before) the shooting.
We hear also a lot of funny and unnatural non diegetic sound effect (like the sound of the sparkle in the teeth of the man, and the sound that follow the twirl video transition effect) that might have been taken from a sound library.
We also have an equally fake looped bird twittering that is layered in all the first part of the reproduction.
All the sound here are exaggerated to emphasize the fiction of the story, a good example of this exaggeration could be the high reverb and distortion of the sound of the flying Hijab.
Even though the audio of the interviews is recorded in real time on location, we keep having funny sound effect and music spread around even in this part of the narration .
The interview of Rana Husseini could have been recorder with both a lapel mic hidden in the neck of her polo, or an over-the.-head directional microphone, like a shotgun mic on a boom pole.
The sound is really clear and clean, and we can also hear a back ground ambience sound, that could have been recorded separately and layered under the interview of directly recorded by the shotgun microphone during the action.
The Dr Amal A. Sabbagh’s Interviews might have been recorded at the same way, with the only difference that in this occasion the microphone used is probably a lapel because we have too much head room to record a sound that clear.
In the background we hear a strong bird chirping recorded on location.
The sound of the two interview is almost always synchronized to the action, with the exception of the piece where it is layered as a voice over during B rolls or during the book reading of the third women.
In all the documentary every time the scene change the audio is faded in and out.
All the scenes of the research of clue that disprove what is written in the book, for me have been recorded with a shotgun mic. The sound have been later layered with the music, the sound effect and maybe a post recorded ambience sound.
The Edit and Reflection on your ‘Documentary in a Day’
The Edit and Reflection on your ‘Documentary in a Day’
The goal of our documentary was to underline the differences and the similarity in the vision that the international students have of Melbourne compared to their hometown.
The question that we decided to ask to each other during the interviews where “What is home for you?” “What do you miss the most about your home?” “What are the main differences between Melbourne and your home town? “ Do you think that you will be able to call Melbourne ‘home’ some day?” .
Our performances were not excellent because of we are not native english speaker and also because someone was really shy too.
Next time we can find a way to make the interviewees more comfortable, maybe asking them more war up question, in order to have enough material from where to chose.
I’m instead quite satisfied about the interviews set up and lightning. We decide to use colored backgrounds and to change the set up for each of the interviewees to have more variety.
For the lightning we used a key light, a back light and a fill light. in addition, we put on the lights a diffusion gel to soften the shadows when needed. The result was a really natural and bright look.
For me the most challenging part of the shooting was finding B rolls suitables for our narration. Unfortunately Melbourne CBD does not offer a lot of diversity of actions so we mainly focused our shooting on urban scenes (street views, people walking , shops), footage of family and friends at the protest in front of the library, food and busy students working inside the RMIT building 8.
The thing that in my opinion is missing in our documentary is having more different B rolls to alternate. During the afternoon of the intensive we could have think about shooting also some pan and tracking shot of us walking in the city. It would have been useful to edit the last part of our documentary where we struggles to find suitable scenes.
Our biggest mistake have probably been not shooting more footage after the intensive (except for the rain clip), especially because one of the two cameras that we used was not set with the right exposition. The consequence was that almost all the footage was blown up and unusable.
This error had occurred because the day of the shooting was really bright, and the sun light reflected on the preview screen avoiding a correct vision of it. To fix the problem, the person that used that camera should have activate the zebra pattern to have more perception of the over exposed areas.
Another thing that in my opinion would have add value to our documentary is trying to do more camera movement. To shoot more easily in the middle of the crowded street we decided not to use a tripod. The movement that we tried to do with the handheld camera were not precise and shaky so we limited ourself mostly to still shots, that we stabilized during the postproduction.
We also might have indulge more with the change of focus.
I’ve edited the documentary with Kc and we decided to built it according to the expository mode. We wrote a short story line and recorded a voice over that we use in between the answer of the interview in order to give a logic to the narration.
The things that required the most effort was selecting the usable clips. We shoot a lot o material (around 200 clips) and it took us a whole afternoon to cut the good scenes.
The editing in general was not hard for us, the only things that we have to reflect on was which B roll could match the interview’s answers better.
The video is short and goes straight forward to the point, I think that if we had added more pause it won’t have work well as it works now.
The music that we chose for me fit perfectly the time of the narration It starts and end slowly and turns more upbeat in the middle) and add emotional value to the video.
I think also that our idea for the opening title was good and different from the usual white text on a black background. To make it works I realized a PNG file on photoshop to have the alpha channel in the transparent area corresponding to the word “home”.
This exercise also encouraged us to work as a team, and I really enjoyed it.
After all, I can consider myself satisfy of the final result of the documentary.
Unfortunately I was not able to complete this prompt following the instruction because for some strange reason as soon as I applied the color corrector three way on a clip, the computer started to show errors in the screening on the video. Every time I moved something in the color corrector the screen started to show lines. Also, instead of applying the change in the value of the input levels to the whole clip, it applied it only on the frame where I was in the timeline giving to the clip this flashing effect.
Here there are some example of it.
I tried to change various computer in the editing suit, but the error occurred in all premiere softwares.
To solve the problem, I decided to use the color wheels and the basic correction instead.
The original colors of this first clip tended too much to the orange/red. To balance it I decide to move the pin of the three wheels to the opposite color, blue.
Than I used the basic color correction to lessen a little bit more the red moving fixing the tint amount and I make the image colder changing the temperature.
I also lower the blacks and ad a little bit of highlights.
I just wanted to give to this clip a more realistic and natural look, so I only did a light corrective color correction.
In the second version of this color correction I wanted to recreate a sepia effect.
Starting from the same wheel color correction that I’ve done in the first example, I modify the temperature of the clip bringing it to the hot tint direction.
I also rise a little the amount of reds.
I additionally decrease the black and the shadows, bringing up the highlights to obtain more contrast.
In the third version I wanted to recreate a colder atmosphere to underline the tension of the scene.
I used my wheels to bring highlights, shadows and mid tones more to the blue tint (I forgot to take the screen shot of this passage).
Than I desaturate only the tone of the skin to make the look of the judges more intimidating and last, I lessen the blacks and the highlights and rise the contrast.
I fix even in this occasion the tint and the temperature
The colors of the second clip that I piked were really yellow and red.
As in the first example, I just decided to do only some small correction to bring the colors closer to reality.
I used the three wheels to add more blue to the scene to compensate the huge amount of red. Than I adjust the tint and the temperature.
In addition, I pumped up the saturation of the portion of reds that matched the red of the blood.
For the second version of this clip I decided to create a old horror movie atmosphere.
I rise a little bit the whites and the black and I rise the contrast. Plus, I lessen the highlights and after it I add a dark vignette.
For the last version of this color correction I try to create on my clip an effect similar to the one in the noir movie Sin City.
I wanted a really contrasted black and white with red as the only color of the scene.
I desaturate all the colors of the clip except red using the hue saturation curves.
Than I adjusted the temperature and the tint to eliminate the last traces of red. Than I lessen the blacks and the highlights as well. At the end I added a dark vignette.
For the first color of my last clip, as in the previous ones, I did a really soft corrective color correction just to eliminate a little bit of red, because the normal colors where already quite similar to reality.
I used the three wheels to remove the red in excess and I also fix the temperature.
I lessen the blacks and rise the shadows to have a nice plain black but not lose luminosity.
I decide to give to the second version of this color a vintage look.
I added the faded film effect to makes the clip more opaque, than I rise the vibrance and lessen the saturation.
I also moved the highlights to yellow and the shadows to purple.
I also adjust the tint and my temperature.
Last of all, I rise the blacks, the whites and the highlights to makes the image even flatter.
I wanted to give to my last color correction a dreamy mood.
I used the three color wheels to move the shadows a bit towards blue, than I drastically move the mid tones to light blue and the highlight to the orange. The result is a surreal atmosphere.
After it, I rise the blacks and lessen the highlights. To give an even more dream like atmosphere, I added at the end a white vignette.
Reflection on the course
After reading the answer that I gave to this same question at the beginning of the semester, I can for sure confirm that I’ve archive all my goal.
The only thing that maybe did not totally met my expectation was the level of the editing and filming prerequisites of the course. Since I am already mastering the basis of filmmaking, I would have love to lear more advanced skills of premiere editing. However, I realize that about half of the student in the class had to star from scratch, so it is normal that we had not deal with more complicated technique. I thought that we would have start working on more challenging project, considering that is a master but I enjoyed the course anyways.
I had already studied during my bachelor almost all the concept that we covered in the course but doing it in another language have been an enriching experience to me anyways. Now I can consider myself ready to work not only in Italy but in the international market.
Moreover, during this semester I had the occasion to practice my english a lot, I did not only learned all the correct film production and editing terminology in english but I had improved as well my vocabulary for the every day life. I feel more fluent and confident now and comparing my English in the first assignment to my english today shows my progress.
Regarding my will to get to know better my class mates, I think that I have pretty much accomplished that goal as well. During this course I had the occasion to bond with like-minded person and I will for sure work with them on future projects . This thing could have been only happened in the Sound and Image class because, almost in every tutorial we changed group and we had to collaborate with different people, not only with our friends. Moreover, exchanging the production crew roles during the shooting of the Lenny allowed us to spot the strength and the weakness of the others so that we could understand which of us would have been more suitable for a certain role the next time.
For all this reason I could say that taking this course have been a fulfilling experience.