- Introduction to Documentary
The Participatory mode is beneficial for me as a person who wants to produce the investigative or social issue documentary. My strong preference in making the documentary is to reveal hidden information or explore social problems affecting people life rather than filming informative or entertaining documentary about sport, wildlife, culture, or art. This is the reason encouraging me to select the participatory mode for the discussion.
According to Bill Nichol’s seminal book, the participatory mode allows the filmmaker to directly interact with the subject, to involve in the conversation and to point out his/her views. There are two key components in the participatory documentary – interview and compilation – portraying a broader perspective of the topic. The interview is the most important form of encounter between the filmmaker and the subjects, it is not an ordinary conversation, yet it is the in-depth and following up interview. The compilation is the combination of archive footage explaining the historical events or background information. In this mode, the filmmaker is also the subject of the film and involves in the situation to question the sources and engage in the dialogue.
Below is an example of the participatory documentary, which is about the life of Michael Jackson. In some cases, one documentary may require a merging of different modes to explore the problem or the premise of the film.
This type of documentary predominantly fits with the investigative process, any controversial/political/historical topics and the topic requires more in-depth information. This mode is considered to be intrusive, which is completely different from the observational mode. The documentary named Fahrenheit 9/11 “, directed by Michael Moore is the example of the participatory mode where the director appeared in the film and interviewed sources with regard to the attack on the world trade center in 2002.
To provide the accurate and objective analysis of the former president George W. Bush government, Michael appeared on the screen to explore and dig out the critical information from the sources. This indicates that the filmmaker acts on behalf of the audience to reveal the real thought of the subjects. However, the filmmaker may have changed the situation of the discussion or the result of the interview when he/she engages in the conversation. To a certain degree, the filmmaker ideas perhaps influence the interviewee’s answers or opinions. This leads to an argument in the film produced by Michael whether or not the film is objective or filmmakers’ opinion oriented.
The filmmaker’s involvement can impact the film because his/her perspectives and tendency affect the interviewees and have the power to control and to manipulate the film. For this reason, the filmmaker has to be ethical and respectful to his/her subject while using this documentary mode. This kind of documentary truly matches with my innate ability and passion. This is the mode that I can directly interact and engage with my subjects/sources in order to divulge the hidden information, and I will ensure that my point of view will not have an impact on the subjects.
2. No Direction Home
The opening of the film introduces the artist Bob Dylan, known as the American singer, songwriter, performer and the star, playing guitar and harmonica and singing a song called “Like a rolling stone”, which was the most popular in 1965. After using the live performance of him as the precursor for 30 seconds, the filmmaker introduced the foggy weather covering the forest and extracted the direct quote from Bob saying that “Time you can do a lot of things that seem to make time stand still. Of course, no one can do that.”
This appears to be a very catchy introduction of the film. The audience keeps questioning what the conflict of the story and what really happened to the famous artist, Bob. To walk the audience through the film, the filmmaker played another song called “Blowing in the wind” following by the voice of Bob telling about his past how he found the guitar and how it inspires him to continue his passion. The use of archive footage as B-roll was included while Bob was narrating his personal story when he was young and what he found from the recording rap. “The sound of the recorded make me feel that I was somebody else, and then… I was maybe not even born with the right parents or something”. Then the protagonist started telling about the problem he was working with the mining company destroying the local farm land. He then began talking about his father occupation as the electrical staff. This means his background has nothing related to the art or music, but his innate ability and talent bring him in the art industry.
From my perspective, the filmmakers intended to tell us about the life of Bob Dylan and his struggling to achieve his goal becoming the artist. The film perhaps taps into the popular music and culture during Bob Dylan’s period and how he brings his effort to move forward. As an audience, I could guess by just seeing the 2-minute video clip and I believe that the filmmakers wanted to draw my attention to the main topic of the film which was about the revolution of Bob life from being a folk singer and songwriter to the rock style. The film is more likely to cover the controversial issue between Bob and his family since his background is not an artist and the difficulties in trying to be a well-known artist especially being a songwriter and also a singer. It is fortunate enough to learn that the protagonist, Bob Dylan, has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature and he is considered as the first musician who has won this type of award so far. This connects to the film portraying his life and movement to become the well-known musician.
3. Forbidden Lies
It is such a wonderful film clip with a unique sound mixture. It is true that sound is much more important than the visual effects. Let’s me start assuming how the sound was recorded. By excluding the music, I have categorised the sound into three types in this film, which includes sound effect, ambient sound, and the interview. The sound effect was composed and produced in accordance with the atmosphere and realism of the film. Many sound effects were included to change the mood in the film and to add the tone of the action. The stunning sound effect could be produced by mixing with the sound of the items around us and it can indicate the existent of things appearing on the screen.
The ambient sound was recorded from the different locations and environment. At the beginning of the film, while the music was playing , there was the birds sound mixing as the background. The bird sound may have been recorded in the forest and another dropping sound was recorded to use in the scene where the actress’s scarf dropped off the car.
The interview was recorded by either wireless microphone or the boom microphone while conducting the interview with the sources. With the specific technique, tools and comprehensive knowledge in recording the high-quality audios, the interview sound was recorded clearly and sharply.
The whole sound clip was edited thoroughly with assiduous attention based on my observation. The process of editing the audio might take a long time to adjust the audio and add transitions and effects.
In the video clip, the audio may have been edited by using crossfade transition between the audio clips, fade in and out, adjust and customize the audio transition. The combination of sound effect, ambient sounds, and the interview enables the audio in the film become dynamic to grab and hold the audience’s attention. From one scene to another scene, the audio was mixed with the clear purpose according to the film treatment and script.
Overall, the audio in this video clip was recorded carefully and edited greatly with many transitions and effects in order to make the sound of each scene become more attractive and energetic. The sound effect was created to fit in the film context and the ambient sound and the interview were recorded to describe the real actions. The most startling point is the way each audio was put together. The impression of the sound mixture has credited the film and allowed the audience to enjoy the visual image as well as the incredible sound mixing.
4. Mini Documentary
After 12 weeks taking up the Sound and Image course, I have produced the three-minute documentary under the theme “Home”. Before reaching this achievement, I have encountered countless problems mainly during shooting and editing, yet it has equipped me with practical skills and invaluable experience to remember and use for my future video project. Let’s me reflect on the three stages of my mini-documentary.
During this stage, the success is that my team has consulted with each other clearly about the production design and storyboard before shooting. There were 5 members in my team and each member helps facilitate and coordinate the shooting operation. After the brief discussion, my team has decided to produce a documentary showing the different perceptions of international students coming from Indonesia, China, Philippines, and Cambodia under the them “Home”. My team and I have created the storyboard and questions for the interview. The location was selected near RMIT and B-roll were planned to shoot around the school.
Each member has to involve in operating camera and also in being an interviewee, so there was a clear task allocation in the group. However, there was a major problem that my team and I were careless. The memory card was full. It is important to check all the shooting equipment including the battery, headset, camera, tripod, microphone and memory card before starting the production, but my team forgot to do it. Although there is an issue with the memory card, my team still managed to clear the memory and used to film since there was a spare memory card left in the camera bag.
At this important stage, I would say the most successful is operating the camera correctly without having any over-exposed images and background noise. Each member including me was responsible for a specific task before rotating the role to shooting some scenes based on the storyboard. This time, my team and I have properly set the white balance and checked with each other to ensure that it was the correct one. As a result, all footage is usable with natural color and beautiful frame. Of course, having gone through many shooting exercises, I am more accustomed to shooting video and the foundation of video shooting has entrenched in my brain, which automatically ordered me to shoot different shots and to frame from different angles. “The more I practice, the more skillful I am”.
The sound quality was recorded correctly. I found the quiet place with less background noise to conduct the interview, no more construction sound. However, there are some mistakes that I have to be careful in the future. The eyes level of the interviewees did not match with the camera level. It is clearly seen that camera was not set properly with the height of the interviewees.
Another problem associated with the composition of the interviewees. I did not change the position of the interviewees due to the carelessness. Below are the example of framing the interviewee on the left-hand side without switching to the right side. It is boring to have only the same frame of the image.
One more important issue to be addressed is the wrong position of the interviewer. The interviewee was framed by leaving the room on the right-hand side, but the interviewer stranded on the left-hand side. Therefore, the interviewee turned to the left, not the right-hand side as the basic rule.
One more noticeable lesson is that the wireless microphone should be hidden below the interviewee’s shirt. By doing this, the image shot is nicer than revealing the black microphone cable.
Despite minor mistakes, my team could finish the shooting successfully as written on the storyboard. I am satisfied with what my team and I have achieved and I will avoid the same problems for another project and improve my shooting skills to the next level based on the knowledge and experience I have gained from this project.
It is time to assemble the actual footage, adjust the color correction, sound, and music. I started reviewing all the footage and selected the usable footage based on the structure and storyboard of my documentary. I created the sequence for each of the scene for my documentary. Due to the fact that my mini-documentary is a compilation of many interviews answering a few questions related to transportation, language, food of different nationalities, so I have to organise the file neatly and orderly to faster the editing process.
After ordering files in the folder, I started combining the footage. Based on the previous experience in editing Abstract video, I adjusted the speed and duration of the opening images to faster the speed and I reduced the speed of the image at the end of the documentary. I increased the speed of each image from 100 to 200. The title of each question to introduce each scene was created in addition to the still image of the world map showing the mixed nationalities. The use of video/audio effects and transitions reduced the jump cut from one shot to another and the immediate cut of the sound from the interview. As an example , I applied film dissolve video transition to each image to avoid the jump cut. Another interesting editing expertise is applying color grade into my mini-documentary. At the end of the documentary, I lowered the Temperature and Exposer of the image in order to avoid over-exposed image.
The music was also included and faded in and out according to the interview sound. The creation of rolling credit was also incorporated into this documentary at the end of the documentary. Although there are many successes during editing, there a two main problems I would like to address. One of which is the sound of the interviewer interrupting the sound of the interviewee. The voice of the interviewer saying “Yes” while the interviewee answering the question annoys the full answer of the interviewee so it is difficult to get rid of the sound during editing. If it is a participatory mode of the interview, it is fine, but it is not. For the future improvement, I will be careful in recording the sound and train the interviewer to understand the problem. The second major concern is the lack of B-roll footage. It is difficult to edit the interview without B-roll image and this resulted in the less interesting of the documentary. In fact, it would be beautiful to have extra cutaway footage illustrating the transportation or food while the interviewees were talking. From this experience, I will try to collect more B-roll footage or use archive footage to avoid distracting and add value to the film.
5. Color Grade
Why do we have to do color grading? The main reason is to manage the color of the footage aiming to make the image looks as what it should be and add the mood into the film. There are four color corrections in Adobe Premiere Pro including Creative, Curves, Color Wheels and Vignette and there are other functions to explore. You may find more information about color correction from this website. Let’s take a look at the first image below that I applied color correction.
By watching the tutorial and self-practicing, I came up with an idea of adjusting the above image by decreasing the Temperature and Exposure in the basic correction. The original image was a bit over-exposed and blur. I also turned the Contrast to 12.7 and Exposer to -1.0. The aim of this color grading is to ensure that the main component (RMIT logo) appears to be outstanding and the audience can recognize and it also corrected the white balance and the exposer of the image.
The above image, I slightly adjusted the Sharpen to 20.5 and Saturation in the creative part in addition to the adjustment of the brightness, contrast, and temperature in the basic correction part. The Sharpen adjustment could improve the definition of the image’s edges. In this image, I aimed to correct the color of the scene to match with other scenes especially sharpen the interviewee’s face to make it look more focus.
In this shot, my purpose is to create the stunning background color of RMIT students playing basketball and it could orient the audience to the real location. Fundamentally, I started changing the contrast and temperature to make the image look warm, have ideal light, and beautiful color. The use of Vignette also made the subject, known as the basketball players, in the image stand out in the scene with the great creative effect. I adjusted the Amount in the Vignette to -0.5, and this also faded the periphery away gradually making the subject become more focus and avoid the unimportant elements in the background.
In conclusion, color grading requires time to practice and understand what the purpose to change the images and how they look like. Sometimes, the correction of the color in the image becomes complex and messy if the producer has not thought of the goal to achieve after editing the image. More often, the producer intends to create an aesthetic appreciation of the image or enhance the image quality. Commonly, the poor quality images are graded color in specific software, but it is not always possible to perfectly correct the images as what the producer wants. Therefore, it is important to be cautious and careful while shooting to ensure the best quality of the footages.
6. Reflection on the Course
What I like the most of this course is “more practical”. Let’s recap my expectation at the beginning of the course, my main goal is to manage the video production successfully. With a strong commitment and enthusiastic support from the tutor in this semester, I have enormously enhanced my video shooting, editing and management skills. The ability to handle all the tasks in the three stages including preproduction, production, and postproduction has been improved due to many practical exercises.
Regarding the preproduction preparation, I am accustomed to the use of video treatment before shooting now because it helps me sharpen my video topic and shooting plan. Understanding the basic fundamental techniques to shoot video with different frames and shots enable me to film each scene creatively and more aesthetic although there are a few minor problems. I could operate the camera well especially ensuring the white balance setting up and recording the sound properly. The most importantly, my editing skills by using Adobe Premier Pro has immensely developed because I edited lots of footage. I could understand how to do color grading and apply different effects and transitions in the video especially learn how to edit accordingly.
The best additional knowledge I have gained from this course is to work in the team collaboratively. Forming a production team is slightly different from forming a group to do the assignment. The video production team requires a strong commitment and specific skills possessed in each member in order to finish the shooting and editing successfully. The willingness to help each other in the team has proved to bring over the triumph in producing the video.
Personally, the course has provided me with many video production knowledge and skills which completely fulfill my expectations and this has boosted my confidence in managing the video production. The experience sharing between the tutor and other students have even enlightened and explained precisely during this course. It is such a joyful moment taking this course in this semester and I hope I will utilise all the experience and knowledge for the future project.