Watching a Movie in a New Perspective

For the Look. Listen. Analyze assignment, I watched the clip above. I have seen this movie though it was a long time ago so I do not remember all of the scene very well.

Analyze the camera work

I watched the entire clip with the audio muted and just focused on the visuals. Some things I noticed were when Chris Gardner (the main character in this movie) was running, the camera had this shaking effect to add to the intensity of the scene. Also when he is in the elevator, the camera shows the other men in suits around him and Chris is in the back looking clearly distressed and out of place amongst the others. Then Chris walks into the office and the camera follows behind him in a 3rd person style pov view. It cuts to a shot of his face as he walks through the office. The camera is focused on the face of Chris but you can still see the people running back and forth in the background around him showing the commotion going on in the office. It was interesting looking at the clip this way since I was purely focusing on visual cues and little camera tricks that I would not have noticed with sound were suddenly evident to me.

Analyze the audio track

I then watched the clip just listening to the audio. The audio did a good job of conveying the story. The early scenes of him running and entering the office were told just through the audio just as they were visually. You could tell someone was running and the music gave this suspenseful feeling of “what is going to happen next?”. The sounds of the office with the people talking and phones ringing continuously made the office sound very busy just as it was visually. The interview scene had more to offer through audio than the visuals. You could hear the slight nervousness in Chris’s voice as he spoke telling the listener that this was a very important meeting to him. Again, it was interesting to listen to this through audio. It would of been interesting if I had never seen this movie before and just had to imagine the visuals in my head, and then watching the clip with video to see how well I was able to imagine the scene.

Pull it all together

After watching the clip regularly, there were not any significant differences. The main thing was with certain sounds that I heard when listening to only the audio I was able to now associate with the source. For instance, when I was listening to just the audio of him running I heard this click which I thought was maybe him running but I was not sure. Though with the sound and video it is clear that it was. Also just little sounds like when he sighs in frustration when he can not zip up his jacket were now clear that they were made by him. With movies, they are meant to be watched with sound and video. Each element separately can still create it’s own story but both of them together are what make the actual movie experience that the creators want you to have.

Reading a Movie? What the Hell Does That Mean?

I read Roger Ebert’s Article on “How to Read a Movie”, which informed the reader about techniques on how to read in between the lines when watching a scene in a movie. It definitely opened my eyes to subtle video techniques that some directors use. The concept of visual space and how the use of positive and negative space in a cinematic composition can stir emotional and aesthetic reactions was something I found to be very true. A good director and cinematographer can create a very powerful scene by properly using visual space. This involves things such as knowing what pieces of the environment to include, where to place actors, the angle of the camera, etc. All of these techniques are used to compliment the actual story being told in the scene.

breaking-bad-say-my-name1

The television show Breaking Bad was in my opinion one of the best shot television shows. This is just one of the many great camera angles that were used in the show. This still from one of the scenes tells a great deal to someone who has never seen or heard of the show about what is going on. The director of this scene uses visual weighting excellently, everything is placed with a purpose. A person can easily pick out who is the main focus of this scene and could probably even conclude that there could be some criminal activity taking place judging by the colors used. Ebert also mentions that “low angles can make them into gods”. That is very evident in this shot and a person looking at this can deduce that these characters are being portrayed as being above or held in a high light.

I watched the “Examples of Editing Techniques” video which gave quick examples of editing styles with short clips, some of which were a little strange. Although after watching this, it made me consciously realize all these techniques that are used in post-editing of a video which I have seen allover but have never really “noticed” it. It made me think more closely about these subtle post-editing techniques, and it will probably make me notice these things whenever I watch a movie or tv show now.

I also watched the “From Below” video which was a compilation of from below shots from the films of Quentin Tarantino. Some of my favorite movie have been directed by him so I really enjoyed watching this clip. It also made me realize how effective and powerful this camera angle is in film which is why we still see it used today. I noticed that the lower the camera angle was, it gave the actors in the shot sense of being more above. It also creates some intimacy for the viewers with the actors, especially when the people in the shot are dominating the visual space. It is difficult for me to explain exactly why these shots are and have been so popular in cinema, but there is something about it that makes a simple scene of a person or multiple people more interesting and engaging.

 

 

This American Life: I Was Just Trying To Help

I listened to the I Was Just Trying To Help segment from This American Life. The segment starts with Ira Glass interviewing a circuit court judge, Sharon, who was fired from her job after what the court presumed to be giving legal advice to someone for a case. The person was convicted of rape many years earlier, before DNA tests were used in investigations. After DNA tests became a basis for prosecution, the man decided to file a motion for a DNA test to finally prove his innocence which was denied twice. Sharon provided her with some the paper work of another person who had successfully gotten a motion for a DNA test to the man which helped him get his motion approved. Though the court saw this as giving legal advice and fired Sharon.

The next part was about a charity called GiveDirectly who literally just give poor people money with no strings attached. Two reporters went to a village in Kenya to see this in action and see if simply giving people money will actually help them or make no change. They wanted to see if given money, would the people spend it responsibly to actually better themselves and their lives. They got some mixed responses. People they interviewed who received the money said they actually used the money to better themselves though when they asked what your neighbor did with the money, they got different responses. The people from the village claimed some of their neighbors who received the money spent it irresponsibly on alcohol and just buying food for themselves. The money even cause tensions between people who did and did not receive it.

The last part was about a program in Mendocino county California. The program was called 9.31 and was proposed by a sheriff in the country who stated in his plan to allow small farmers to grow up to 99¬†marijuana plants as long as they registered with the sheriff’s office and payed a fee to buy zip ties to put around their marijuana plants so cops would know not to mess with them. There would also be a lot of oversight from the local department which would give farmers a sense of protection. The plan worked very well and caused interest from other areas in California who considered trying the same plan. One of the first farmers to enroll in the plan became the poster boy for it. He ran a legit operation and was not breaking any laws as stated for California. Although since in Federal law, Marijuana is illegal his farm was raided. After the raid, the country was pressured by the Federal government into disbanding the 9.31 ordinance only allowing farmers to grow 25 plants with a letter from a doctor. Although, the transparencies between the farmers and the local sheriffs were gone. The marijuana farmers could not be sure anymore if they could be protected from the DEA.

This show seems to take a documentary style approach in reporting the stories. I felt like I was basically just watching a documentary minus the video. There was also audio stacking with the sounds of the environment and adding some light music. It makes the audio more interesting than just listening to some people just talk about a story for an hour. Also since this was essentially a documentary, this technique was the best way to help the story be interesting. Though I have listened to other podcast where it is literally just a few people having a conversation for an hour which I find enjoyable as well since it feels more loose and personal. I enjoyed listening to the stories since I generally enjoy documentaries. Though being that this was just audio, I felt as if I needed to pay attention to the dialogue more and other sounds since I had no visual cues to help me as well.

Gaining Insight From Ira Glass and Jad Abumrad

Ira Glass’s talk was actually very interesting to me. I watched part 1 and 2 and it made me realize certain things about audio storytelling that I did not really give much thought about. He talks about in part 1 about anecdotes and gave a great example of a random story about a man waking up to un-earthly quietness and he goes on with that fact as he describes him walking down stairs and it quietness continues. He is essentially just repeating the same fact over and over again but you still are interested for some reason. Building off of that, I felt as if when he just tells a story like that there is much less information since he doesn’t describe anything else other than the action taking place. There are no visual cues like in a film. For me at least, I would put myself in the story and create a scenery in my head trying to relate it to my own life and perceptions which makes me more engaged in the story.

Glass continues in part 2 talking about the work ethic that goes behind finding stories and radio. His advice was mostly about being persistent in your search for that one piece, that one story that will make everything worth it. He also puts a lot of emphasis on that fact that most of the work is mostly looking for stories and trying stuff out. Glass claims that if your are not constantly failing, then you are doing something wrong because you are not putting yourself into situations where you can fail. He is basically urging people to always try to get out of your comfort zone and try to go above and beyond, regardless of whether you succeed or not. This advice by him I believe is very true and applies to pretty much any kind of discipline that requires you to create something.

I also watched Jad Abumrad’s video on Big Think where he talks about how radio can create empathy between the speaker and listener. He said something that intrigued me and I had not thought about before. He talked about how describing a story or an image through radio forces the listener to paint the picture that the speaker is describing to essentially complete the story. To me this is what makes storytelling through audio very interesting since everyone will have a slighly different variation of this image or story and it all depends on their life perceptions. As I was stating before with the interview of Ira Glass, when you listen to a story you paint the picture of the story in your head which are images that you relate to. If someone were to say “imagine a extremely scary creature appearing into your bedroom”, you will most likely conjure up an image of some very scary thing that would especially scare you. Someone else might think of a different creature that would especially scare them. We create these images in our head to fit our perceptions which is what engages people into storytelling through audio.

Vignelli Canon Reflection

After reading Vignelli Canon, it put the process of design into a different perspective for me. One of the first things that caught my attention was when he spoke about syntactical design and showing the example of the NYC Subway map. It made me realize that there is actually a careful process that goes behind making these diagrams so they look easy on the eyes. He also mentions a few times about vulgar and irresponsible design. He relates these things to essentially criminal actions. Not being a designer, this was surprising to me since I had no idea how passionate people could be over a design. Though then I realized how bad design can definitely frustrate me, though I would think of it in terms of a software or website user interface. Boring designs or just a complicated one can be very annoying since it just makes it difficult to understand what is going on or it simply turns you off to the concept. Another way I relate to hating bad design was in programming. I have had many run ins with trying my best to help a fellow classmate to fix a bug in their program but their code is written so horribly and it visually looks like a cluster f*ck to the point where I start to get frustrated.

Vignelli also has a section on logos which I found particularly interesting because I believe company logos are pretty significant. He seems to be very keen on companies not changing their logos because he thinks they should respect the history of their logo which has been deeply rooted in their customers minds with respectable connotations. I think this is true for the most part since people do tend to freak out when a company make a pretty dramatic change to their company logo. Recently Instagram made a compete re-design of their logo which got a lot of hate since honestly it looked very amateur. Even though people who made those claims were not professional designers, they still have an inherit sense of how design should be.

His section on Typography was also interesting to me since I do 95% of my work on a computer. He talks about how every aspect of the typeface is thought about such as the spacing, weight, and typographical alignment. A font can change a lot about how your design looks, which I have found to be very true. I have found that a simple change of your font can immediately change the look and feel of your design.

The color section was something that I understood from his perspective since he talks about knowing what colors to choose for certain scenarios. I think this is something we see al around us, certain colors invoke specific feelings or thoughts in our mind. This is usually why restaurants will use the colors red, green, and blue since those colors are more associated with food brands.

Overall Vignelli Canon made me appreciate design which I now realize is all around me. Even as I am sitting here in my basement I am surrounded by design. From the carpets, this table, and even this water bottle sitting next to me. Also with our electronics such as laptops, phones, and TVs. Design plays a part in creating those devices and making them look sleek and pleasing to the eye. I think nowadays digital design has become extremely important since we live in a digital world and pretty much everyone around us owns a smartphone now. Companies now spend a lot of time designing good and minimalistic user interfaces for the apps we use to make them as intuitive as possible. I think this is a very different aspect of design compared to what Vignelli talks about since now you are incorporating user interactions with the digital user interface that you are designing.