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Design Studio Final Assignment

Soundscape and accompanying video

 

Nostalgia, mind-numbing confusion and reflection were some of the main themes that I wanted to portray through my soundscape, and as a result, my accompanying, one minute video will develop and reflect these initial ideas. The main concept behind this piece was not necessarily to tell a story with a start middle and end. Instead, it was to complement the soundscape with a video that gives the original audio piece a name and face to relate to. The purpose of the video is also to show a related moment in time in which the audio piece would have been evident in a life event.

 

My original vision for this piece hasn’t changed from the first considerations I made.  I wanted the visual piece to be filmed in a bar, because this was the inspiration for my original audio arrangement. I also wanted the majority of the video to be comprised of a bird’s eye view of a hand holding a glass, and the transitions that are made from this viewpoint over a long period of time. My ABC Pool component is an extract from a written piece by “Troika” who allows for her work to be used, as long as it is attributed and not for commercial use, via the Creative Commons licenses.

 

When sound film was introduced in the late 20th century, composers became fascinated by the prospect of being able to express in music, whatever was presented in a visual image and 3. “to do so with maximum synchrony”. During this period, these producers regarded it as their duty to 3. “ensure that the music constantly imitated, described or illustrated the action unfolding in the film”.  This is the same approach that I have taken in the visual component to this assignment – visually illustrating the environment described acoustically in my soundscape.  Just as 2 “sound effects and music together with [a] film’s dialogue, sound effects and music together form the film’s soundscape”, I intend that the aesthetic qualities and film techniques adopted in my visual piece will successfully work with the soundscape to create a cohesive, pleasing and meaningful media piece.

 

I agree with Frith’s statement 1. “Television has little, aesthetically, to music.” However, when visual and audio masterpieces are paired together uniquely and artistically, a truly amazing experience can be enjoyed. When audio is being matched with a visual piece, there are many considerations that need to be made. The pace and rhythm of the audio piece has to complement the overall pace and rhythm of the visual piece in order for synchrony and overall pleasure to be experienced by the viewer. The colours and shades relevant to the time and place that the visual piece was set can help a viewer to be transported through visual media to that place. The audio that then accompanies this piece may be from the same period or exhibit some similar characteristics as the visual piece in order for the overall media piece to be pleasing to an audience.

 

5 “The word “nostalgia” is derived from two Greek roots: “nostos” meaning to “return to one’s native land” and “algos”” referring to 6“pain, suffering, or grief.” Therefore, using techniques to portray nostalgia in the arena of film, it is expected that either the audience members will have a nostalgic experience, or the subjects within the film will be portrayed as having a nostlgic experience. For my video I will be applying the latter situation. Svetlana Boym, a cinematic theorist, also describes nostalgia in two forms: 4 “Restorative” (which involves attempts to restore how things were) and 4 “Reflective” (which reflects on what has been). My video will be focusing on Reflective nostalgia and this will be achieved by specific film and editing techniques.

 

Creating a sense of nostalgia through specific editing practices has been a technique used since the beginning of film. Engaging in techniques to evoke nostalgic experiences in film can 4 “provide critical insight into the operations of visual pastness”, and 4 “reshape the past to address concerns and desires” specific to the present situation.   In my own video, I chose to use some of the more classic film techniques to illustrate nostalgia.

 

One of the techniques used in this piece to invoke a sense of nostalgia was the sepia tones I applied to the short film. Sepia began as a photographic process in order to give the subject warmer tones and to enhance photographs’ archival qualities. Photographers used sepia tones before colour photography was invented. However, in the modern era, photographers tend to apply sepia tones to their photography due to stylistic choices, or to 8 “make their work appear older”. In my piece, I am also trying to make my video appear as if it was from an earlier period of time and therefore I believe using the sepia tone is effective in achieving this outcome. Therefore sepia tones can also be prescribed as a way that nostalgia is depicted in film because it is associated with past times in history.

 

Pacing is a useful film technique in order to show the passing of time.  Pacing is the speed at which a film progresses throughout it’s playing period. Many directors and editors manipulate the speed of films in order to create the impression of time going fast, or time going slowly or skewing the viewer’s sense of time altogether. For example 10 Baz Luhrmann’s take on “Moulin Rouge” adopts fast pacing for some scenes in order to portray a frantic but also surreal situation. 11 “Trainspotting” also does this in order to imitate the 9 “hallucinogenic effects” of certain drugs. 12 “Lost in Translation” is an example of a film that illustrates slow pacing in order to accentuate the large amount of time passing. Slow pacing can also be used in order to accentuate a moment of thoughtfulness and reflection. I used slow pacing in order to accentuate the emotional state that the central character is experiencing.

 

I also paired slow pacing with slow editing techniques, including slow fades as transitions between scenes, and the layering of “scrolling text” on top of other visuals to accommodate for the ABC Pool component for this piece. Slow editing results in time appearing to be drawn out more so than real time. Slow transitions between scenes gives the impression that multiple perspectives of a situation are occurring and having slow moving layered images allows for the deeper thoughts of characters to be explored.

 

I wanted to adopt a bird’s eye view of the subject matter for this short film because I wanted the viewer to feel like an observer of the actions taking place. Using a bird’s eye view on one specific action also maintains the subject’s anonymity throughout the film because their faces, and possibly more recognizable body features, aren’t seen. Hitchcock used the bird’s eye view camera angle to great effect in his own films because of the way this camera angle could distort viewer’s perceptions of the subject matter. For example, a bird’s eye view of umbrellas may look almost unrecognisable in comparison to a frontal shot of a person holding the umbrella. This is because in reality, we rarely view the world from this point of view and therefore our perceptions of what we see from this view may be unexplored and not previously experienced. It can challenge the viewer to re-assess their interpretation of what is being viewed.

 

I didn’t want to focus on a central character per se, but more on his thoughts and deeper emotions that he was experiencing at a certain point in time. I also wanted to create the illusion of the main character being in the one space for a long period of time and having many drinks in that time frame. With only a minute worth of audio to work with, I used the techniques of cutting, editing and repetition to give this impression. The intention is for the audience to see the part of the action occurring multiple times and suggest that it is happening in real time and not hypothetically.

 

I wanted to explore the effect of repeating the first scene with the last scene in order to have a definitive introduction and conclusion in the film. I did this in an attempt to make the film conclusive and satisfying as a whole because there is a start, middle and end. Maintaining the anonymity of the central character in the beginning and end sequences also leaves the viewer with an open-ended question as to why he is acting in the way he is and what will happen now that he has left the bar.

 

I decided to incorporate a break in between the introduction of the character walking into the bar and the first sequence of bird’s eye view shots. The purpose of this break in the film was to create suspense and pose questions about the continuation of the story. It was also to place emphasis onto the introduction of the soundscape because when another sense isn’t required (sight in this case), other senses become heightened (such as hearing) and it also stimulates the viewer to become engaged with the work.  The introduction of the clinging of glasses also sets the scene quite clearly for the viewer as to the location and setting of the film is described acoustically before being introduced visually. This could also be used if the film was longer for credits and other related information regarding the film.

 

Although I did struggle to find the right functions within Final Cut Pro sometimes to achieve the effects I aimed to apply, I feel as if the final result is quite interesting, although slightly abstract. I also think the video complements the soundscape well, both in the sense of partnering with the storyline as well as with the setting described in the original soundscape. I feel this is particularly true at the beginning of the piece when there is a transition from the sound recorded with the first frame into the soundscape. The bustling background noise of bar patrons sets the scene very clearly. I would have liked to have worked with a longer piece of audio to work with and focus more closely on audio matching the events happening in the soundscape. For example after the beginning of the soundscape is heard and the second frame (the glass on the bench) appears at the same time as a significant part in the audio. With more emphasis on these smaller aspects of the film, it may have been slightly more cohesive as a whole piece.

 

I’m generally pleased with the final result for this assessment. However I would have liked to have included some more of my ideas into the video as it was difficult to pack the video with effects and ideas in only a minutes worth of material. I also would have liked to film the visual component of this assessment with a better camera, although due to time constraints in borrowing and difficulties in obtaining the camera, this couldn’t realistically be achieved. A tripod would also be useful next time so that the frame itself is centred and still instead of the “camera shake” being distracting to the viewer. As a whole I think the piece is quite entertaining and poses many questions to the viewer instead of the whole story being described in detail.

 

 

Words 1,900

 

 

REFERENCES

1. S. Frith. Ashgate Contemporary Thinkers on Critical Musicology Series, Selected Essays, 12, Look! Hear! The Uneasy Relationship of Music and Television. Ashgate Publishing Limited, Gower House, Hampshire, England.

2. K.J Donnelley, Film Music Critical Approaches, 9, Sound Empathy: Subjectivity, gender and the cinematic soundscape, Robynn J Stilwell (2001), 168, The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc, 370 Lexington Avenue, NY.

3. J. Lexmann (2006). Theory of Film Music, Volume 2, Veda Publishing House of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, 39.

4. C. Sprengler, “Screening nostalgia: populuxe props and technicolor aesthetics in contemporary American film”, 67, The Nostalgia Film in Practice and Theory, Berghahn Series, 2009.

5. Daniels, Eugene B. (1985), “Nostalgia and Hidden Meaning,” American Image, 42, 371-383.

6. Hofer, Johannes [trans. Carolyn Kiser Anspach] (1934), “Medical Dissertation on Nostalgia by Johannes Hofer, 1688,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 2, 376-391

7. Troika, 2008, 13th September 2009, ABC POOL: Now and Then. Viewed October 2nd, 2010 http://www.pool.org.au/text/troika/now_and_then

 

8 Smith S.E, 22nd August 2010, WiseGeek: What is Sepia Tone? Viewed October 4th, 2010 http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-sepia-tone.htm

 

9. Byrne. P, 1996, Psychiatry and the Media: Trainspotting and the depiction of Addiction, Viewed 8th October, 2010 http://pb.rcpsych.org/cgi/reprint/21/3/173.pdf

 

10. Moulin Rouge, 2001, motion picture, B.Luhrrman & C.Pierce, Fox Studios, Moore Park, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

 

11. Trainspotting, 1996, motion picture, D.Boyle & J.Hodge, Calton Road, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

 

12. Lost in Translation, 2003, motion picture, S.Coppola, Heian Shrine, Kyoto, Japan.

 

 

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