Monday, 19 November 2012

Narrative/Representations in 3 slasher openings Task

This task links to one of your Evaluation questions as well as generally boosting your prospects of a good mark for the R+P (and giving you a good grounding in the genre you're working in).
A useful book, available in classroom/Lib/to buy!
The best work here will include some further reading from some of the many books purchased and in the Lib/classroom on horror, tho you should all also be using the horror blog too, and all should be referencing the concepts of final girls and scream queens, plus the male gaze theory, associated with feminist critics Carole Clover and Laura Mulvey.
Here's a couple of useful links:

These can be slashers you've previously analysed.
Aim to accurately employ useful terminology from semiotics plus editing + other media language terms.
Aim to engage with the feminist writings of Laura Mulvey and Carole Clover, and provide your own take on their arguments through your discussion of the examples you're looking at.

Coursework PITCHES

Every post on genre (so therefore also the whole DBHorror blog too!) is useful for this; definitely read this post for one.

You will be filmed pitching. The footage is mainly for your benefit; one of the many multimedia features your blog will be able to boast. You can find footage from past pitches + the Q+A that followed on some past student blogs.

Following Qs from 2010 pitches, I wrote this post answering Qs about 'working titles' and use of copyright music. You can also find commercial filmmakers using YouTube to pitch.

If your pitch isn't of satisfactory quality you will be barred from working with anyone else, a serious disadvantage. You will be asked to re-pitch.
You won't be allowed more than one mouse click - any supporting visual/audio aids need to be put into one video or Ppt file (animated, self-timed if Ppt). You can if you wish pre-record your pitch and play this vid as your pitch!

TIME: 90secs
Its easy to caught out with this, and fail to deliver your full pitch with your timing you should practice your timings!!!
Think carefully about what to include, and what to exclude; you don't want to rush through everything and lose impact. Equally, it will look rather bad if you finish 45secs in.

FORMAT: verbal pitch

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Editing in a sample stalk/slash scene


The flushing toilet struck a bum note in 1960; it broke a taboo!
This task is a test of your ability to deconstruct a media text - just as you do in both your exam and coursework Evaluation (in that case, its actually reconstructing your own media language decisions). You should endeavour to employ not just editing terminology, but also terms linked to narrative, semiotics, the genre and general shot type denotation.
Its up to you whether you decide to present it as an extended blog post heavily illustrated with screenshots or as a captured video clip with your own voiceover replacing all or most of the original audio (you can also simply reduce the volume level of the original material). Aim to keep captured clips short so they stay within the spirit of the fair usage copyright doctrine.
If you're working on this when other classes are in K5, be mindful of the need not to expose younger students to unsuitable material.
The task then:

Friday, 16 November 2012

Slasher franchise research/presentation task

This task is designed to get you to explore aspects of MIGRAINe... 
GENRE is one of the key concept areas for Media, whether thats the coursework or exam. Learning on this, and the codes + conventions (which I tend to write up as 'Cs+Cs') of each genre, also usefully leads us into aspects of the other main key concept areas:
Media Language (the shot types/editing/sound/mise-en-scene often used in slasher films)
Audience (typical audiences targeted by horror producers, and how they do this [marketing + distribution], plus to what success [budgets compared to box office])
Narrative (recurrent plotlines, moral codes, locations, character types etc; the book Blood Money is very useful on this)
Representations (eg how gender is represented, plus age, region, nationality, sexuality etc - all factors you have to discuss for your Evaluation, as well as in your R+P)
Taken together these form MANGeR, 5 concept areas you'll work on for part of your A2 exam, but we can also add one or more I's to create a MIGRAINe:
Institutions (what sort of film companies produce and distribute slasher films: Indie/subsidiary/'big 6'? How do slasher budgets compare to other genres, and what factors go into this? One of your Evaluation Qs is 'what sort of company would distribute your film, and why?')
Ideology/Values (most usefully considered with representations; we look more at this in A2)

So, while the schedule you have highlights one of these key concepts for each week, they actually overlap: look to apply learning from one key concept to each subsequent one as we work through each, and reflect your learning on your blogs.

Details follow on this. You will each sign up to one slasher film franchise to research (listed in order of the original film's release); this can be paired or trio work, but if so your are jointly responsible (ie, no matter what excuse/explanation either one comes up with, failure to complete satisfactorily will trigger an automatic detention for each in a group), so consider this before saying you'll work in a group.
IDEALLY, PRESENT YOUR WORK AS A VODCAST, but you can if you wish present it as a Ppt, with any relevant video clips embedded into a blog post ready to play. You could do a combination, gathering together key images + video clips into a vodcast, rather than looking to play short clips from a number of embedded videos. Any time spent producing a vodcast will benefit you not just for the R+P mark but also in reducing your workload later on, when we come to the Evaluation. The key, as always, is plentiful specific screenshots and/or short clips/trailers etc, though this is a research-led task requiring you to use various websites (and which would benefit from a brief browse of the indexes of some of the many horror books in the classroom or Library).
Here's a couple of examples from a similar exercise in 2011(you can find more in the 2012 AS playlist) - note the use of frequent screenshots, tho' actual video clips + further onscreen titles would make these significantly better.

Microdramas feedback + analysis

Its vital you take good notes from lessons where we're screening + discussing work; the whole point is that you learn from the experience and apply the lessons/insights gained to improving your next production...
Here's a range of s'shots from the 2012 microdramas with points attched, reflecting some of what we discussed in the lesson. I haven't attempted to order them - but having renamed every one as I saved it, s'shots for linked points are in any case ordered together. You'll also see I've kept the YouTube timer in the shot; its useful to have the time reference so you can find sequences if you need to later for reference, use in Eval vids etc.
There are 18 shots below.

TITLES: white font on black signifying serious drama; the titles fade in and fade out of focus, adding visual interest. The graphic also connotes violence/horror

FALSE SCARE:  a common slasher opening convention, this lulls the aud into a false sense of security ... then you hit them with a real scare! These need careful framing + shot variation; if you reveal the impending false scare it won't work

FRAMING/VIOLENT SCENES: The pic below shows that there were better options for framing/positioning killer Jake. We also discussed how long takes are particularly ruinous for violent scenes: the longer a single take of violence is on screen (generally) the less convincing it becomes (it loses verisimilitude). The preferred reading here was lost, and an oppositional reading of comedy generally prevailed.


This post is along the same lines as the post for Sept-Oct Learning, meaning you've got an easy point of reference for all tasks + don't need to search for info on any task.
The list starts with posts which overlap from the end of Oct on microdrama pitching + planning.
As repeatedly mentioned, you're advised to work ahead where you can and manage your workload effectively. By the end of this half-term you will each have pitched a proposal for a slasher film opening; a lot of the work before then centres on researching the genre and analysing examples from the genre, so you should start on that NOW. There are plenty of books on this in the Lib + in K5, plus a range of DVDs you can borrow, including feature length documentaries (you could get together in small groups to watch some of these + discuss/share notes)
There are opportunities to use slasher films you've already analysed for multiple tasks, so it will pay dividends to look ahead and browse through the various task posts, and strive to organise your own workload.

In most cases there will be a blog post with further information on any homework set. Blogging on learning from the previous week’s lessons should be complete and updated for the following Monday. Dates below reflect the days we have a Media lesson. This half-term’s deadlines have been set to facilitate working ahead on substantive tasks for weeks 11-15.

IGSMediaStudies YT Top 10 Vids Oct 2012: 2011 vodcast #3!
WEEK 9 (6-9 Nov): Tuesday 6th: have completed microdrama shoot (if not already done before half-term break) + blogging on planning process + the shoot (organisation, roles etc). Note that the Codes + Conventions vodcast that should have been completed in week7 will now be screened and discussed in week10. [Microdrama guide; vodcast guide]

WEEK 10 (12-16 Nov): Monday 12th: have blogged on learning from film festival masterclasses (+ update as necessary for Tues 13th following Monday’s discussion). Microdrama to be completed + on blogs for Thurs 15th lesson. Cs+Cs group vodcast [from week7] will be screened on Tues 13th. [guides as noted for Week 9, also in Sept-Oct guide]

Use my Horror blog!
WEEK 11 (19-23 Nov): If not completed in lesson time last week, complete your ‘General film openings Cs + Cs summary’ post for Monday 19th. Franchise vodcast for Friday 23rd (playable on blog as YouTube embed). Blog notes from others’ vodcasts for Monday 26th. [Franchise vodcast guide]

WEEK 12 (26-29 Nov): Monday 26th:Idents Idea/s’ post (+blog notes from others’ vodcasts from Friday 23rd). Ident to be completed + handed in by the end of Thursday 29th lesson. Thurs 29th: complete ‘Titles + idents in 4 slasher openings’ task [which you can work on Mon/Tues/Thurs when not working on idents]. [Idents guide; Titles in 4 egs guide]

WEEK 13 (4-7 Dec): Tuesday 4th: Blog on learning from last week’s lessons (incl. ident work). Friday 7th: vodcast/blog on editing/shot selection of 1 chase/stalking scene + 1 killing scene. [Titles in ... guide; Editing in ... guide]

WEEK 14 (10-14 Dec): Monday 10th: blogging from last week’s lessons. Thurs 13th: Pitch (90 seconds, with any supporting materials on your blog as a video file, even if there is no audio). Any unsatisfactory pitches will be redone on Monday 17th, and those students barred from joining any group until they have presented a thoroughly researched and prepared pitch. Friday 14th: ‘Narrative/Representations in 3 slasher openings’ task (for which you can refer back to examples you have already examined). [Pitching guide; Narr/Reps in... guide]

WEEK 15 (17-20 Dec): Mon 16th/Tues 17th: as a group negotiate + agree your blog/R+P tasks for these 2 lessons and for returning on January 7th. (post on blog as 'Initial SCHEDULE Dec-Jan')

Microdrama blogging

The microdrama is a significant task which merits thorough planning and subsequent reflection; it acts as an extended preliminary production, taking you well beyond the simple continuity prelim task the exam board set. Its vital therefore that your blogging on this is thorough. You had the list of required post titles from the point the task was introduced; these are further broken down below. First, here's the list - the non-microdrama posts are linked to this work, through which it is intended you reflect your learning to date, including grasp of semiotics and narrative theory.

[blog on these 4 for the start of next half-term]

Thorough detail of your proposal, what it involved, what it required, why it would make an attractive proposition, how it reflected narrative theory, with use throughout of relevant media language (semiotic, industry, narrative, shot type, editing etc terms). Brief reflection on how your pitch was received - feedback from me as well as your classmates.
As this is your 1st major production you need to grasp that from now on planning must go beyond verbal discussion and making it up as you go along! Look at the assessment criteria for the R+P and you'll see that things such as storyboards, organisation of actors and time management are all cited, while for the product itself aspects such as mise-en-scene are also marked - meaning you've got to give careful consideration to costume, location, props etc as well.
So, I expect to see:
  • storyboards
  • narrative synopsis [a brief summary of the narrative, which should employ relevant terms from Propp, Todorov, Barthes, Levi-Strauss: use the handout on narrative theory to help]. For the coursework proper a screenplay will be required.
  • production schedule (with any updates on additional (re)shoots)
  • there should be a call sheet (provided to both groups in Oct)
  • mise-en-scene: details of any location scouting or other aspects researched + choices/decisions made. Detail location/s, costume, props, make-up etc and explain your choices. Useful to refer to verisimilitude here.

For the main production you need to thoroughly document every shoot, and you should do so here too:
  • what difficulties did you face in organising the shoot?
  • what problems arose during the shoot?
  • were there any instances of having to think creatively to get around such problems?
  • did the group assign roles? was there a specific cinematographer, producer, director (even asst. director or asst. producer)?
  • what documents did you use to structure the shoot? did you keep a note of shots taken if you didn't have a call sheet can you see why its considered fundamental to filming at all levels?
  • what lessons have you learned from this experience?
After we've looked at your final films and feedback you may want to return to this post and reflect on the concept of coverage, and also the usefulness of taking cutaway shots.

Its vital you track your own learning progress with Final Cut - and the only practical way you're going to be able to evidence that is through appropriate screenshots. So, reflect on the range of tools you employed during the edit of your microdrama. In some cases, especially as you edited in groups, its worth including notes on how you achieved certain effects - as you may well forget before you next use the software.
Either in this post or the next highlight the successes of your editing work through screenshots from the film.
Reflect on your application of continuity editing techniques; how you varied the shot on screen and avoided excessive long takes through crosscutting/intercutting.
Also reflect on the pros + cons of editing in a group (as you will be for your main coursework production) - what have you learned which will help you to make this more productive next time?

I always aim to give detailed feedback on major pieces of work, and your work will be screened with comments from myself, your classmates and within your group too; note these and reflect on the points made, building on the insights you had already gained yourselves prior to class feedback.
Without a fulsome process of reflection you will largely squander the opportunity to learn from this time-consuming exercise.
Pepper your analysis with relevant terms - applying the terms is how we learn them. That includes semiotic, industry, editing, shot type and especially narrative terms. 20% of your exam mark comes from Use of Terminology, while your coursework is also part-marked on Communication Skills which includes such terminology.
There should also be plentiful screenshots, suitably captioned. The Word doc below will help identify the sort of aspects you should consider. Reconstructing Your Creative Decisions- Deconstruction of Your Debut Film                                                             See this post for a range of points/screenshots from the 2012 microdramas.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

CASTING: Using vid+social networks

For both AS and A2 part of your R+P marks are for casting, as part of your overall organisation of the production. The markscheme quite accurately reflects the range of challenges facing commercial film-makers and video producers.
I stumbled across the following vid looking for something else, but it is a useful example of how you can use video and social networks not just to get 'audience feedback' but also to help with pre-production tasks too.
The typical student production gets cast informally through approcahing friends; thats fair enough, but doesn't help with respect to evidencing 'organisation of actors'. Being able to evidence effort made to reach out for cast, and film some brief clips of a casting session would be highly beneficial. It would also help you clarify precisely what your notion of each character is! Plus - you may well encounter unexpected volunteer actors that you don't currently know too well socially.
If any of you do get such vids made, I can email round tutor groups, ask to get them screened in assemblies, or screened in the P-16 centre during lunchtime (while you guys can of course take to Twitter, FB etc and push them yourselves):

(I was searching in YouTube; try 'slasher openings' and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at some of the most prominent results in this global site!)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Final Cut Pro X video tutorials

IzzyVideo's free tutorials will help with using FCProX!
There are many online sources, including Apple itself (any YOU can recommend, please pass on a URL as a comment below), but I've found this (FREE!) one very useful. The vids are a bit longer than they need to be, but they are very clear. Some aspects of the layout are a little different (FCPX has been updated since it was launched), but that shouldn't pose a major problem.
IzzyVideo FCPX video tutorials
(or you can spend £30+ on books!)

I've copied in the full list below:

Final Cut Pro X Tutorial Contents

  1. Getting Started
  2. Overview of the Interface

Friday, 2 November 2012

Camcorders: tips if buying one

A parent emailed to ask for help in selecting a camcorder to buy. As researching the answer took quite a long time I'll share it on both AS + A2 coursework blogs.
Note that my suggestions merely reflect my opinion, which you are quite free to follow or ignore!

You can skip this long list and go straight to the recommended models.
  1. Do you need it? Will your still camera or smartphone suffice? (Probably not yet for coursework, but we're not far off that point. You also need to consider tripods etc) This review suggests that an iPhone 4S can compete with a £370 V700 camcorder on image quality, tho' not on image stability or wide angle or zoom.
  2. Budget: you can get a good cam for £200, but £300-400 buys you extra future-proofing and should delay the need to buy a new one as technology changes
  3. 3D? This is a feature of some new cams; currently irrelevant for coursework, and possibly gimmicky at the budget end. It mostly requires adding a £150-200 3D lens.
  4. HD - this seems obvious but there are 3 variants of HD: 720p, 1080i, 1080p. I'll detail this below. Ideally, you want 1080p.