Category Archives: Creating screen fiction

In preparation for my role as editor, I borrowed and read Roy Thompson and Christopher Bowen’s second edition of The Grammar of the Edit. I had some experience with the technical side of editing, I mean to say that I knew how the software worked physically; how to splice, trim and reposition clips into a sequence.

The Grammar of the Edit became my manual on everything I needed to know before tackling the daunting task of editing something substantial for the first time on Avid Media Composer which has a notorious reputation for being more complex and less user friendly than Adobe Premier Pro and Final Cut Pro.

It described to me the various cuts and encouraged me to try more adventurous ones which all facilitated in the creation of meaning via the edit for example, the concept edit which involves having two or or more shots which, “when joined together in the narrative at a certain point, will convey a mood, make some dramatic emphasis, or even create an abstract idea in the mind of the viewer.”

I used this technique in the kitchen scene to create a sense of foreboding before Megan starts to stir the soup. The combination of Sophia saying “stir it while I go get the pepper” over the shot of the gas flame on the hob before cutting to a close up of the father should work as a visual metaphor for something bubbling away under the surface about to go wrong.

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http://avsinclair.weebly.com/uploads/8/3/5/8/8358998/grammar_of_the_edit.pdf

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I built the tension by beginning with longer edits starting in the kitchen (to introduce the characters we empathise with the most first) and cutting to the father occasionally in the other room pruning the rose bush. Then I started cutting down the length of each shot while bringing in more shots of the father as he becomes increasingly more agitated, this should be alerting the viewer that somethings about to happen. When the scene progresses the cuts get rapid and repetitive until the father chops the rose clean off to which I juxtapose with the moment the soup spills; the catalyst for the event that follows.

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The match on action cut symbolises Jack’s mounting rage hit climax as he runs out of patience while the soup symbolises the damage he is causing his wife and daughter.

The contrast between the two images is intended to cause unease. You’re introduced to an aesthetically pleasing image: a perfectly bloomed rose in sharp focus with shallow depth of field. Just as it’s chopped, this shot is replaced by the sight of a disgustingly coloured splat going across the floor in slow motion.

Although I didn’t plan this in the shot list, it was something that sprung to mind during the two days shooting. We were always going to have both of the scenes, but intertwining them together in this way was something that happened naturally in the edit.

 

 

After uploading the first draft of (currently) “Untitled”, the feedback I received over the internet from Mat and Pa trick was generally positive with no major changes. However, the main point still needs to be addressed – how are we going to show that Sophia has poisoned Jack? We have footage of Jack realising that he has been poisoned as he finds a berry on the table. Is this clear enough? Too clear? And how do we use the fairly limited footage we have to avoid being too ambiguous? We may need to schedule a couple of pick up shots.

The reason I haven’t incorporated the shots of Jack’s realisation scene into the edit at this point is because I wanted the opinion of the others first and I think the ideas I get from them will be better if they watch it without it first, it should get a more instinctive response as they wont be having to think abstractly and out of context.

“I really like the pacing when Megan grabs the broom and knocks the plant over gives it a more tense feel but I think the Father enters a bit quickly and doesn’t allow time for the girls to react to what Megan did.” – Patrick Royall

I agree 100% with this point, the scene was quite a struggle to edit as it was the first one I did and I was still getting to grips with all the ins and out of AMC. By the time I finished the first cut, and put all the sequences together, the earlier mistakes and shaky edits became more apparent. Realistically, Jack would not have had time to respond to the sound of the bonsai tree and rush to the room as quickly as he manages in my edit. Instead of having Jack shout “Megan!” instantly, I will use Patrick’s aerial shot of the smashed tree and try to find some more reactions to create a tense moment before Jack rushes to the scene.

 

 

As we got all filming over and done with by the 23rd March, I want to get the editing process started as quickly as possible. Although there is a two week Easter holiday, I am going to spend it editing because I am using Avid Media Composer which is a software that I have limited experience with so I want to give myself plenty of time to get to grips with it.

I learnt the basic splicing process in UWE workshops but really started learning the ins and outs of the software by watching YouTube tutorials posted by Creative Cow while following step by step.

After completing the offline edit and writing notes on each take, I was able to start editing together a time line. I decided to edit each scene as a different sequence, meaning that I can work on each scene independently before putting them all together so that Avid runs smoother and there is not so much clutter in the workspace.

When reviewing the footage after the shoot, it was clear that we had undershot. We were extremely tight for time on both of the days and were always behind schedule as the schedule was disregarded and production stalled frequently. Several key shots had not been framed proficiently so I spent a lot of time adding nesting effects which enabled me to rescale and adjust some shots which saved a few. Other takes could be cut away from just before (for example) a light came into shot.

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The Godfather (1972) Dir. Francis Ford Coppola

This iconic clip from The Godfather is one of the most famous examples of parallel editing and was a big influence on my on editing technique in Storge. It is a very powerful sequence and is a perfect example of how the editing can realise a scene.

In this sequence, we go between the baby’s baptism and shootings taking place creating a paradox; Michael is renouncing the devil while slaughter is carried out by his assassins simultaneously. I will borrow this parallel editing style for the scene in which Megan spills the soup, but instead of using the technique to draw an ironic comparison, I want to use it to build tension throughout the scene coming to a climax when it’s dropped.

What makes this scene even more dynamic is the way that the sound overlaps the visuals and ties everything together creating a seamless and thrilling effect. The sound of the priest’s blessings are juxtaposed with the visuals of the assassins preparing to kill. Slightly later in the scene, gunshots are heard while, visually, we are still in the church. While both of these things are going on, the crescendo of the organ is building throughout.

As Director of Photography, I worked closely with art director, Alex McGarry on the shoot. I have worked with him in the past and we work well together, both being very organised in getting on with the jobs we need to do. We talked together a lot about how to portray as much about the characters through the mise-en-scene as possible as we had worked hard on ironing out a lot of the expositional  dialogue that was in there before.

We both had the same ideas about putting Jack under a harsher, starker light while keeping Sophia and Megan under a tungsten light to give them a warmer glow promoting innocence and vulnerability. The exception to this pattern will be in the scene where Sophia’s sitting on her own, shaken up by the events of the previous day. We want to cast a blue glow on her face to give the appearance of evening as well as creating a bleak atmosphere.

The framing had a vital part to play in how I wanted to portray the characters emotional and physical positions. (Apologies for the pre-graded images). Both of the screenshots below capture the position of the characters. Jack is always shot separately from Sophia and Megan always on the side of the room where his plants reside.

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In the two images above, Sophia (the mother) and Megan (the daughter) are framed opposite each other but with something blocking the view of their hands toughing. Sophia and Megan are the only two characters to be in the frame together at the same time and I set this up to capture Jack’s removal from the family. The two girls need each other and Jack stands between them and their happiness (which is also why in both of the frames above they are separated from each other. This is juxtaposed with the final shots of them leaving as we see Sophia leading Megan out of the house and to their freedom.

From the two days shooting, I feel pleased with the appearance of the shots from the D810 which I filmed on. The majority of the footage is well exposed and composed (shooting on such a high end DSLR was a blessing as it was so effortless to use with such high performance.) Some shots are slightly shaky but were done in haste so unfortunately I expected as much, although I came across the Image Stabilisation effect built in to Avid which does a good job in slowing down the camera movements which reduces the shake.

I received the footage from the Canon 6D expecting there to be more than I had shot but sadly was mistaken. Although the other camera operator disregarded the shot list for the most part, I was expecting to find more establishing and mid shots because we previously agreed which camera was to be used for which shots. Hopefully I will be able to edit something together!

The combination of being DOP, camera operator and editor meant that throughout the shoot I was constantly thinking 1. What do I need? 2. What would I like? The shot lists I formed were a sort of mid-way between the two and after assessing the spaces, and logistical elements on the day i.e. the large amount of people in the very small space, I colour-coded the shot lists: green for need, pink for want. The green shots were the vital shots needed to set up relationships, characters and narrative and the pink tended to be more stylistic ones which we decided upon as the days went on. The pink shots were (typically) more handheld which was what I used most of the time compared to Patrick and Craig who tended to shoot the static ones on Patrick’s camera.

Something I will take with me next time I’m in a shoot (if I were to direct) is to allow the scene to flow and give the actors the time they need to convey what they want to after they have finished talking. In some feedback, people mentioned that some edits should be held longer to get the full reaction of the actor but unfortunately in many cases, “cut” has been called too early, disrupting the flow of the scene and the actors come to an awkward halt mid-reaction, this then impacted the ease of editing. The fact that we were working with an 11 year old and a non-actor made this harder and I think it impacted on their performance – it would have made a lot more sense to film the scene from start to finish multiple times, but with the time constraints we had that may be too idealistic.