Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lecture with John Canemaker

The screenings of John Canemaker's animated pieces really opened my eyes to a fresh new world of animation that I would not have seen in my daily consumption of standard media. Canemaker uses a dreamy, interpersonal and even childlike approach within his animation that ultimately makes the characters of his stories very relatable. In class we screened Canemaker’s Confessions of a Stardreamer and later, The Moon and the Son.
            Confessions of a Stardreamer was a short (about 10 minute) piece about a sort of sassy actress. The actress tells her story about her life and her hopes and dreams for her future. While the audience hears her story, we see animations of her morphing into different forms and shapes. The animation kind of illustrates the mental changes her minds go through as an actor. The animations in this piece also reflected her inner fears as an actress. For example in one bit, when she is talking about the auditioning process, the audience watching her perform is animated to look like shadowy monsters.
            The Moon and the Son similarly use animation to reflect inner feelings of a character. The story is about a fictional conversation between John Canemaker and his deceased father John Cannizano Sr. Throughout the piece Canemaker highlights issues of his father’s anger throughout his life as well as Canemaker’s own personal guilt for not protecting his mother. Through out the piece Mr. Cannizano Sr. can be seen morphing from a man into a red monster looking man with sharp zigzags for a face, the way that Canemaker probably often imagine his father.  Yet Canemaker’s mother is often depicted as this beautiful bird who gracefully flies away.
            The Moon and the Sun is not only interesting for this reason, but also because of the mixture of family footage and archival footage incorporated in the piece. It was very great to watch because as an audience member, I felt like I was drifting in and out of reality, which is how I assume Canemaker felt while making a film about an imaginary conversation with his very real father. Overall, I really enjoyed screening some on John Canemaker’s works. I haven’t been exposed to much animation in my life, so it was eye opening to see the types of stories can be told with different techniques of animation. 

Production Notes

Working on my video portion of my portrait of Janet allowed me to learn about how I've grown as a media maker. It also helped me better understand the pre-production, production and post production stages of media development. 
My Preproduction Story Board
            I am very proud of the work I did on this piece. Compared to my video piece in media 150, my portrait of Janet was much more successful.  In this piece my edits were tighter, my sound was cleaner, my video was steadier and my shots showed more variation.  However, there were some things I could improve upon. In this piece I relied on a good amount of archival footage to tell the story of Janet.  However some of my archival footage was at a lower resolution quality than the footage I shot. I realize now that this could be jarring to my audience thus taking them out of the story I am trying to tell as a filmmaker.
A portion of the archival footage I collected over the course of this project
            Looking back, I think I could have made my video better by working on the visual shock caused by the drastically lower quality archival footage. I could have done this by cuing the audience visually, that what they were seeing was an archival shot. I could have done this in many ways. Some examples of how to deal with this problem include: Shrinking the video and putting a border around it, setting the video to black and white, putting up a date/location of where and when the footage was shot.
            In the making of this project I learned a lot about the process of non-fiction filmmaking. I now know that a large portion of the process of such a production is not only shooting and editing material but also finding and gathering material. During this process, I tried to push myself to use open source material to prepare myself for what I would have to do as a professional filmmaker in order to avoid copyrighting issues. I learned that finding such archival material is actually a very long and complicated process. 

Sound Image and Image-Image Relationships

For this assignment, I chose to look at a scene in Martin Scorsese's 1980 film Raging Bull. I chose the scene in which main character, boxer Jake LaMotta is knocked out by his opponent Sugar Ray Robinson. I chose this scene because I feel that the editing allowed the scene to be the really emotionally intense situation that it was and captured LaMotta's feelings as a character.
            The scene begins with the slow sound of classical music and nothing else. We see LaMotta getting up in slow motion and then there is a fast cut to Robinson. This signifies the two different states they are in. LaMotta's career is slowing down as Robinson's is rising. This also signifies the fact that LaMotta is probably going to loose the fight. It then cuts to Robinson and LaMotta fighting in regular motion.
            Eventually, Robinson gets LaMotta on the ropes. We see Robinson’s standing and breathing, getting ready to hit LaMotta. Robinson’s action goes from regular pace to slow motion. It then cuts to LaMotta breathing alone on the ropes also in slow motion. It cuts a back to Robinson still in slow motion lurching forward towards LaMotta. This whole bit of slow-mo between LaMotta and Robinson builds tension for the knockout that is in LaMotta’s near future.

            Just before we see Robinson hit LaMotta in slow-mo it cuts to regular speed. Then there are a variety of fast cuts of shots of Robinson hitting LaMotta (low angles, close-ups of the gloves, Robinson’s face, LaMotta’s face, the audience, etc). The cuts vary between regular motion and slow-mo. They are usually slow-mo when we see Robinsons glove come in contact with LaMotta’s face. Throughout this bit we hear different sounds elevated at different times. Sometimes we hear the audience gasp, sometimes the incessant clicks of the cameras, sometimes the sound of Robinson’s fist on LaMotta’s face and sometimes LaMotta grunting.
            This continues until one last punch. We see LaMotta once again in slow-mo on the ropes, signifying the desperate situation he is in. It cuts to Robinson one again in slow-mo with his fist raised building tension towards his final punch. The audio drops and we hear nothing but a low rumbling, which also sounds kind of like classical music. This builds even more tension. Until finally Robinson delivers the final blow, which is seen from two different angles before, it cuts to the audience.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Sound Walk

            I spent an hour in the early evening (around 5pm) doing a sound walk in my hometown of Cambria Heights, Queens. It was interesting performing this activity because Cambria Heights, a suburban area, is generally quiet. During the night, the neighborhood develops a peaceful steady rhythm. A silent melody of low hums created by the intermixing of the wind, planes in the sky and cars passing by set the backdrop sound. They (at least at this hour) are always constant. The low hum of Cambria Heights is however distinctly different from the constant rumble of Times Square. Yet, is also far off from the deafening silence of Islip, Long Island.
            As I listened, the Cambria Height’s "hum" varied with time and location. The later it got, the quieter it got as cars and the occasional by would come less frequently. The heightened laughter and conversation of the occasional group walking by lessened as the sun went down. I felt as if the atmosphere of the neighborhood had changed. The by passers coupled with the background hum made the neighborhood feel like a quiet yet inhabited residential area. When the hum rose to prominence and the bystanders went silent, the neighborhood felt desolate and mechanical. Similar to the by passing pedestrians, certain birds could also be heard during the early part of the evening also contributing to the lively atmosphere of they neighborhood. The birds too, also became quiet as night came.
            Cambria Heights not only offers sound clues for what time of day it is, it also offers sound clues as to where you are in the neighborhood. If you hear something like a car only more powerful, accompanied by a sort of high pitched spinning sound chances are you are near a bus stop. The closer you are to the bus the louder it becomes. The buses create sound marks allowing someone in the neighborhood to know that they are located near a bus route. If you hear cars at a much quicker pace than the normal hum, you are likely to be on Francis Lewis Boulevard, a roadway in which cars are move faster and are more frequent.  More bypassers are likely to be heard on Linden Boulevard, yet by nightfall, they are also driven to silence and the Cambria Height’s Hum takes over once again.