Monday, 17 December 2012

Slasher Genre Overview Vodcast

The idea behind this is simple: you individually summarise the knowledge you've gained from research into the slasher (aka slice'n'dice, aka stalk'n'slash etc) sub-genre of horror, then get together as a production group and compare notes, expressing your shared learning as an in-depth vodcast. It can be both useful and convenient to use one specific film to focus your analysis on (so long as you make a variety of links/examples to other films as you go). Strive to draw links between what you've found out and your current idea. Ideas will change, but as you continue with research take every opportunity to apply it: don't just dump down observations or quotes but clearly show you've reflected on how you might use (or even refuse!) such conventions as you discover. Endeavour to use semiotic terminology and precise media language generally (when discussing a sample scene/shot/edit or sound, provide clear denotation), and reflect on what you've learnt about film budgets and production contexts (Indie v studio) - basically, try to show off what you've learned to date! TRY HARD TO CITE/APPLY SPECIFIC THEORIES/THEORISTS AND BOOKS/ARTICLES - (BRIEF) DIRECT QUOTES WOULD BE GOOD!
Research needs to be ongoing: keep watching + making/posting notes on film openings (or specific aspects of slashers, such as stalking scenes, that you plan to use) and any reading you're doing. You should already have undertaken a wide range of research, as reflected in your...
  • Blogging on sample openings (everyone should have at least 10 slasher examples blogged on before we get to the 1st rough cut on 5th Feb)

Re-Pitches

More detail is provided at the original, main pitching post.
You will, as a group, re-pitch twice: Weds Jan 9th WkB P5 + Tues Feb 12th WkA P1. Note, however, that I will frequently ask random group members to go through similar points without notes during lessons in Jan/Feb: every group member needs to be in clear ownership of the idea and production.

Re-pitches must be accompanied by suitable, relevant (audio-)visual material to illustrate your concept, in the form of a video clip that will not be paused (as before: one click to play only so nobody is hunched over a computer).
Also as before: any group that fails to deliver a convincing, very thorough re-pitch and/or fails to satisfactorily answer reasonable questions put to them by classmates or myself will have to re-pitch each lesson until this is achieved.

Use my detailed post and the notes sheet for guidance: you each need to be absolutely clear on evry aspect of your production. The re-pitches provide an opportunity to get feedback from your peers as well as me, including suggestions on improvements, changes or simply useful texts to view.

Every time you get feedback, whether from me, a classmate or other source, always reflect and blog - what change/s (if any) will you make as a result? That may include scheduling some reading or viewing, or additional shoots/location scouting etc. We will again film these re-pitches to give you the chance to fully reflect on everything that is said.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Jan-Feb deadlines + details

The AS Media has 2 equally-weighted units: coursework and exam. Instead of separately working on each, we endeavour to fuse theory and practice throughout the year, using filming/editing exercises to enhance learning of theory, and using theory to enhance learning of filmmaking. Many of the case studies we explore can be used in exam essays.
Students need to build up notes and resources for the 7 Evaluation Qs as we go, otherwise they are likely to struggle. Unpublished draft posts are a useful means of doing this. When pod/vodcasting, don't forget this post which has examples (including chatshow style vodcasts)and further links.

In this half-term we:

  1. Examine one area of representation each week (exam section 1 + coursework Evaluation Q2): gender, age, sexuality, regional identity, dis/ability, class & status (ethnicity next half-term)
  2. Progress to step 9 of 10 on coursework, having already gone through steps 1-4. This means researching + defining target audience; investigating + evidencing mise-en-scene considerations (costume, locations, props etc) + casting (including addressing representations); teaser trailer and treatment; storyboards, animatic, production schedule, screenplay; sample scenes + rough cuts.
  3. Take substantive notes on all 7 Evaluation Qs throughout the half-term; you will complete Q3 (distributor) and draft Q2 (representations).
  4. In the final week you re-pitch your production idea and revise the production schedule with principle shooting to be completed for returning on 25th March.



WEEK-BY-WEEK SUMMARY
Blogging on learning from the previous week’s lessons should be complete (multimedia and well presented) and updated for the following Monday, though students have the option of blogging instead of writing notes in lessons.
As most students work in groups for coursework, there are opportunities to divide up many of these tasks within the group.

WEEK-B 16 (7-11 Jan): 9th: Re-pitch. 11th: ‘Slasher Genre: An Overview’ vodcast (1 per production group, as is the case for all vodcasts unless stated). (Re-pitch; Genre Overview group vodcast)

WEEK-A 17 (14-18 Jan): 17th: Evaluation Q3 (distributor) completed. Also blog posts ‘Budget’, ‘Target Audience’ and ‘Distribution for our film’ which all overlap with Q3. (Q3; Posts on budget, tgt aud, distribution)

WEEK-B 18 (21-25 Jan): 22nd: ‘Casting, characters, & mise-en-scene’ vodcast. 25th: ‘Are we creating ‘British’ Cinema?’ (group) podcast or vodcast (your choice) for class discussion.

WEEK-A 19 (28-1 Feb): 31st: Teaser trailer + treatment.

WEEK-B 20 (4-8 Feb): 5th: Rough Cut1. 8th: Pre-production complete, including storyboards, schedule, call sheets, animatic + screenplay.

WEEK-A 21 (11-15 Feb): 12th: Rough Cut2 + re-pitch2 + final draft schedule, including blogging tasks. 14th: Final, revised schedule + essay ‘Representations within our production’.

I will explore the possibility of opening up K5 for one day during the break to enable uploading/editing footage if there is sufficient demand (requests via comments or email). Any outstanding filming should be completed before we return. Blog, final cut and all Evaluation Qs are to be completed for March 14th.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Pitches + genre: some pointers on slasher movies



Creature feature or unkillable killer: John Carpenter’s slasher 1978 archetype Halloween (the ending of the original where Myers has been shot but still disappears creates the template for the unkillable killer), and Sean S. Cunningham’s 1980 gorefest Friday the 13th (Jason Voorhees swiftly becomes an inhuman creature) are the foremost examples. A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984) adds a neat twist of a creature killing through teens’ dreams, the late paedophile Freddy Krueger having been burned to death by vengeful townsfolk wreaking his bloody revenge. There are many others, often rather daft, such as the Child’s Play and Leprechaun franchises. Like Jason Isaac’s 2001 Friday the 13th X (better known as Jason X – great tagline: “Evil gets an upgrade”), some slasher sequels have been set in space, such as Leprechaun 4: In Space (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1997 – not sure how it even managed to get a 3.1 rating on IMDB!). The fifth and sixth Leprechaun movies are set in ‘the hood’ (sorry, tha hood).
Right there we have one of the keys to the slasher’s enduring success: its capacity for hybridity,

Copyright and YouTube

Your final AS coursework production must not feature any copyrighted material, but some of your vodcasts might. Below I consider some of the issues and considerations involved.

Since YouTube introduced an automatic detection system (see the Wiki) and signed deals with most of the major TV, film and music companies (as you'll have seen from your Media work, these tend to be subsidiaries of massive horizontally and vertically integrated conglomerates such as News Corp and NBC-Universal), the issue of 'fair usage' of copyrighted materials has evolved a little.
Link at the end of the post: a very useful site for exploring the issue further
If any of your work contains any copyrighted material you might find its deleted by YouTube, or blocked in certain nations but not others (dependent on which countries its deals have been signed in). This will particularly the case where you've used lengthy clips from films. Where you've used a short clip, or any copyrighted music, you're more likely to find a notice on your channel uploads page telling you there is 'matched copyright material'.
My vodcasts used clips short enough to be considered 'fair usage'
Rather than delete or block the upload, the more common response is simply to assert that other copyright holders' material has been used, and force ads onto your upload, the revenues from which will be split between YouTube and the copyright holder.
I've tried to find a definitive acceptable length of film clips which won't generate a YouTube blocked upload, without success so far (if you find anything on this please pass it on). I'd suggest aiming for 30secs or less, using freeze frames with original audio removed for anything over this, but that's a guess. Check your uploads for anything being blocked. So far, we've not problems with any A2 music videos, just AS film vodcasts (and a compilation of scenes which used a Depeche Mode a couple of years ago), including one of mine (vodcast on scream queens + final girls, available to view on request) in which I simply used too much of Bride of Chucky.

FairUseTube.org provide a very considered analysis of the issues involved, YouTube's policies and also highlight some of the common abuses - where fraudulent companies simply claim you've used their copyright material when that's not the case. I think I may have found one such dubious claim on my channel, for past AS coursework where the soundtrack was composed in school using GarageBand! In such cases, the fraudulent company pockets the money from ads which YouTube force on to the upload.
See http://fairusetube.org/dvd-ripping-guide; http://fairusetube.org/youtube-copyfraud; http://fairusetube.org/guide-to-youtube-removals and other such links on the site.

YouTube itself offers a guide, including lengthy videos, though they shy away from being specific over such matters as how much of a single TV show, film or other text goes beyond the fair usage doctrine - see also the Wiki on Fair Usage.

The Uni of Houston's DigitalStoryTelling site also features a considered discussion of the issues and legal policies.

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:
http://www.horschamp.qc.ca/new_offscreen/final_girl.html
http://www.contamination.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/books/books_theory.htm

THE TASK:
ANALYSE THE NARRATIVE STRUCTURE (CITING/APPLYING RELEVANT THEORIES) + REPRESENTATIONS (OF AGE, GENDER, SEXUALITY etc) IN 3 SLASHER OPENINGS
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

FOR THIS TASK YOU NEED TO REFER CLOSELY TO THE LIST OF TECHNICAL TERMS ISSUED AT THE START OF THE YEAR, AND ENDEAVOUR TO EMPLOY THE RELEVANT EDITING TERMS

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.

THE FRANCHISE RESEARCH/PRESENTATION TASK
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.

NOV-DEC POSTS

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.

THE MAJOR TASKS/DEADLINES:
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.

SEMIOTICS: THE CONCEPT + KEY TERMS
SEMIOTIC RAP
KEY NARRATIVE THEORIES
MICRODRAMA PITCH
MICRODRAMA: PLANNING
[blog on these 4 for the start of next half-term]
MICRODRAMA: THE SHOOT
MICRODRAMA: EDITING
MICRODRAMA: FINISHED FILM + REFLECTION
FILM OPENINGS: SUMMARY OF CONVENTIONS


MICRODRAMA: PITCH
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.
 MICRODRAMA: PLANNING
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.

MICRODRAMA: THE SHOOT
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.

MICRODRAMA: EDITING
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?

MICRODRAMA: FINISHED FILM + REFLECTION
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!

FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A CAMCORDER
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.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

eBooks on film language

There are plenty of cheap eBooks around which offer film-making tips and guides to media language/film grammar, etc. Here's one example, which features a guide to the shot/angle types plus on camera movement (American-style terms used can be a little confusing though): Ruth Torjussen's How to Film/Direct (£1.11 at the time of writing).

Friday, 19 October 2012

Blogger template: keep it Simple

See pics below for illustrations/detail of why you must select a white-background Simple template, NOT a Dynamic Views or other template. You're still left with the ability to customise blog background image, default fonts, gadgets etc.
You can find further guidance/examples in this post.
You'll find the Blog Archive gadget at the top of the right-column on most of my blogs, enabling you to quickly find posts you're looking for. Your blogs should be the same, for the benefit of examiners, myself, each other and general readers of your blogs!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Vodcast on conventions seen in 8 film openings

You can find info on what a vodcast is, and generally how to tackle these, in this post.

I strongly suggest you try to summarise what you see as conventions by using a table which you can easily share within the group of four for this task. The group will produce one vodcast, not 4. The table below (typed or written into) would help clarify your findings and make it easier to compare notes with others:
Film Opening Conventions

Your vodcast is a short video setting out what you consider to be common codes and conventions of film openings. It needs to be well illustrated (with captions ensuring the audience knows which film we're seeing a screenshot from). The visuals can/should include shots of yourselves talking about this - you could have a mix of single shots and group shots. If someone who had knew nothing about these conventions watched your vodcast they should be able to explain, with many examples, what common conventions occur in film openings.
Rather than constantly cut between different voices, own your combined material on 8 film openings. One person could address editing aspects for example, another titles, and you could then work on building up a unified vodcast.

So, what are you looking out for? This is not an exhaustive list but you can consider:
  • IDENTS: How long are they typically, how high-tech/complex; how many do we see; where do they appear
  • TITLES: This is a key part of your overall coursework task, so detailed notes are important. Which roles/companies are noted; what specific language is used; do any names/companies appear more than once; what font (serif/sans-serif; colour; case) is used; note the positioning (does this differ between titles) and any animation; any graphic element to the titles; is there a gap between titles or do they continuously appear (eg company names - A Warp Films Production - a gap then individual credits?)
  • OPENING SHOT: always worth noting. Any audio bridge linking it with idents?
  • RUNNING TIME OF OPENING: How long is the self-contained opening sequence? Is it clear where this ends?
  • CLOSING SHOT OF OPENING + TRANSITION TO MAIN BODY OF FILM: Always note the final shot too. Do you get a fade-out or other transition or a straight cut? Are titles used to reinforce a change of location/time immediately after the opening ends?
  • EDITING: any transitions to signify ellipsis; any SFX; continuity editing style or any hallmarks of discontinuity?
  • LENGTH OF TAKES + EDITING PACE: looooong takes or fast-paced editing with short takes? much variation in this? Simply by following one character/keeping referring back to them also suggests to the audience that they are a central character.
  • SHOT VARIETY: ask yourself as you watch these whether you think further shots should be inserted - is there sufficient shot variety? This and the above point are linked. Look for simple things too like two-shots used to signify personal relationships.
  • MISE-EN-SCENE: This links to the above point: what does the mise-en-scene communicate to the audience (providing exposition on location, time period, genre etc)? Is verisimilitude achieved (can you see evidence of costuming, set-dressing, props etc)?
  • SETUPS/SCENES: Each time you leave a room or other part of a location you have to work to setup the next scene: how many setups or scenes are involved?
  • FLASHBACKS/MAJOR ELLIPSIS: Halloween is one of many that opens with events and then gives a title stating x years later so we know we're now in the present.
  • NARRATIVE ENIGMA V EXPOSITION: What do we learn about setting, time period, narrative, characters, genre - and what is intentionally withheld? Do we appear to meet antagonist or protagonist/s? You could also comment here on plot, cliffhangers etc
  • SOUND + MUSIC: Note use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound. Specifically, how is music used, if at all - is it continuous; are multiple music tracks used; does the volume level rise? Does the music genre seem to hint at the target audience and/or genre?
  • GENRE SIGNIFIERS: Do you see anything which seems to point towards a particular genre?
  • INTERTEXTUALITY: Are there references to existing texts?
  • REPRESENTATIONS: Use of stereotypes, countertypes, a mix of both? When looking at horror openings, be alert for stock characters like scream queens, masked killer, jock, nerd, final girl, ineffective adult/authority figure etc
  • GENRE/BUDGET/ERA SPECIFIC? You'll find that conventions have changed over time and also vary with budget and genre.
  • MEMORABLE ASPECTS: Quite simply, anything you thought was particularly interesting or noteworthy. Especially as you begin to work on horror openings, you should note where you see useful examples of costume, dialogue, editing etc which you may well take direct inspiration from.

Complete by Friday 19th

Complete/improve all posts and generally proofread/tidy-up blog (see this post)
Blog on a fresh film opening (see also this guide)
In pairs discuss/compare the past AS coursework film opening you each looked at + blog your notes (here's the markscheme)
In 4s vodcast on conventions seen in your two detailed film opening analyses so far (see also this guide). This is a guide to vodcasting; you can find past examples on past blogs; I've embedded some below.

1: Vodcast on a slasher film franchise by a 2012 AS Media student


2: Vodcast (as part of Evaluation) on the use of technologies throughout the A2 production


3: DB vodcast on layering in music videos

Sept-Oct learning + blogging guide

I'll list below the main tasks we've undertaken so far, then break down the major learning points. Most of this should be reflected on your blog - use this as a checklist and add/improve where necessary.
If unsure about any of this, ask. If you email in advance of a lesson i can clear up any uncertainty with the whole class.

ORDER OF BLOG POSTS:
Your blog should start with these posts, in this order - I will tell you all how to change the order of posts as soon as someone asks in lesson time (although I've used all caps you shouldn't):
THE BRIEF [word for word as the exam board put it; look for main task on your coursework guide, or use this post]
MY FAVOURITE FILM [including image, hyperlinks + video + brief comment on WHY]
TisEng: BUDGET, BOX OFFICE + M.LANG [EG1]
M.LANG IN [meadows film title] OPENING [EG2]
M.LANG IN OTHER MEADOWS OPENINGS [notes from others' work + class discussion]
M.LANG IN [film of your choice] OPENING [EG3]
PRELIM
FINAL CUT EXPRESS: 1ST IMPRESSIONS
SWEDING EXPLAINED
SWEDE PITCH + PLANNING
COMPLETED SWEDE + REFLECTION
FINAL CUT PRO X: 1ST IMPRESSIONS
THE ASSESSMENT CRITERIA [you can use this post]
ASSESSING A PAST AS FILM OPENING
COMPARING 2 PAST AS FILM OPENINGS
OPENING EG4: [title]
OPENING EG5: [title]
VODCAST: M.LANG IN 8 FILM OPENINGS

the above to be completed/improved by the end of Friday 19th; the topics below we will cover/you will blog after this date. That makes 17 posts, some very brief some quite in-depth and requiring multiple relevant, captioned screenshots (blogging on openings, prelim, FCE, FCPro and to a lesser degree swede pitch/completed edit + prelim)
SEMIOTICS: THE CONCEPT + KEY TERMS
SEMIOTIC RAP
KEY NARRATIVE THEORIES
MICRODRAMA PITCH
MICRODRAMA: PLANNING
[blog on these 4 for the start of next half-term]
MICRODRAMA: THE SHOOT
MICRODRAMA: EDITING
MICRODRAMA: FINISHED FILM + REFLECTION
FILM OPENINGS: SUMMARY OF CONVENTIONS
HORROR EG1: [title]
HORROR EG2: [title]
VODCAST: M.LANG IN 8 HORROR OPENINGS
HORROR EG3: [title]
HORROR EG4: [title]
SOUNDTRACK MUSIC
SOUND: BRIDE OF CHUCKY v BJDiary
SOUND: REDUBBING PAST COURSEWORK
HORROR EG5: [title]
HORROR EG6: [title]
MISE-EN-SCENE: BofC v BJD v TisEngEG1: [title]
MISE-EN-SCENE IN [3 titles of your choice: 1 Warp, 1 WT, 1 slasher]

COURSE OUTLINE
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: Course outline; AS exam/coursework links summary; OCR [exam board] summary (details of coursework and exam topics + terminology); Why Media questionnaire.
Its vital you recognise the interconnected (or synoptic) nature of the course: learning from coursework benefits exam learning and vice versa, as British Cinema and media language/semiotics/representation are vital for coursework success.
You should also recognise the markscheme/assessment criteria: 50% coursework, 50% exam. Coursework is 60% production but 20% Research + Planning, 20% Evaluation - you are marked on the blog and its presentation.
Each exam question /50 is marked as 20/50 Explanation, Analysis, Argument; 20/50 Use of Examples; 10/50 Use of Terminology.
A great example of a dutch angle (reinforced with sound); make use of the ability to look at past examples of Media work, including blogs/Evaluations and productions/exercises
BLOGGING: None required, but you will find the prelim task details.

MEDIA LANGUAGE: ANGLES + SHOT TYPES
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: Fundamental shot types [graphic 1pg summary]; AS Course Content: Media Lang [4pgs; terminology explained]. We worked through an extensive PowerPoint to familiarise ourselves with key shot types and angles.
BLOGGING: None required, but the precise terminology must be used in lessons and all written work from this point.

Indie, social realist aesthetic: making a virtue of low budget?
TisEng RESEARCH TASK
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: Worksheet. Through this you were introduced to IMDB.com (the Internet Movie DataBase) and how it works. You were also introduced to boxofficemojo.com.
You learned how to use and interpret box office data. Budgets can suggest whether a film was an Indie or a studio production. We noted other terms: social realism, the most common type of UK film production and favoured by Indie producers working on low budgets; the auteur theory (crediting directors with authorship of a film despite the contributions of editor, producer etc; directors with an identifiable style who tackle distinct issues in their body of work)
BLOGGING: What have you learned about budgets/box office and how we interpret the sometimes long lists of dates and figures we get in IMDB? You could screenshot the box office list to illustrate this post. What terms and concepts were you introduced to by this work? In what ways is TisEng a typically British film? [hints: Indie, social realism, part-funded by Lottery/gov. agencies + TV exhibitors (Film4, BBC also common; Meadows as auteur); seen as 'arthouse' abroad, eg USA] you In both your exam and coursework marks are available for use of appropriate media terminology: challenge yourself to apply the terms we learn in subsequent posts/lessons to help yourself embed this learning.

WARP/MEADOWS OPENING PRESENTATION
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: This blog post set out the task. This was to build on and consolidate learning so far, giving you a chance to apply this to an example of a film opening, including the production context (budget, box office etc). We returned to the concept of auteur and outlined the 3-part film industry model: production - distribution - exhibition.
BLOGGING: Your work should be presented in a blog post, including relevant hyperlinks, embedded video clip/s and above all screenshots with captions.
as an example of how coursework and exam learning is integrated, we noted at this stage that the exam framework (analysing cinematography [camera work], sound, editing and mise-en-scene, plus representations) is useful to apply when looking at such sequences

NOTES ON OTHER MEADOWS' FILM OPENINGS
TisEng's opening montage blends 80s pop cul + politics
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: Notes from lesson time where we viewed each of the openings (for 24/7; A Room for Romeo Brass and Dead Man's Shoes, all directed by the contemporary auteur Shane Meadows. We also analysed some aspects of the media language in TisEng.
BLOGGING: Simply enough a summary of your learning - you could grab screenshots from your colleagues' blogs to help with this! Use appropriate terminology. If you detail these you will be able to look back on these to bolster your grasp of codes and conventions; marks are at stake for both R+P (research into similar products) + Eval (Q2: how does your work reflect/challenge conventions of existing texts).

BLOGGING + YOUTUBE
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: Lesson time looking at how to present blog posts and the settings for a user-friendly blog. Posts such as this (on layout/gadgets), this (on posting on film opening examples) and this (general pointers) all have detail, as does the coursework guide. At any time you can always look at past examples (the standard will of course vary widely).
We also looked at YouTube uploading and the settings to consider (eg setting comments to be moderated, and the use of tags to drive viewers to your channel).
BLOGGING: This doesn't require a blog post but your blogs should fully reflect this. You could post on this, using screenshots of past students' blogs/channels if you wish: Eval Q6 tasks you with analysing your use of technology.

MEDIA LANGUAGE IN [your film choice] OPENING
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: This blog post set out the instructions. You should include basic institutional/production background, using the TisEng research task worksheet handout as a template for this.
BLOGGING: Remember, I've set out in detail what should go in posts on exemplar film openings in this post. You may have made notes on others' chosen film openings from lessons, and could blog on this too - ultimately you need to be able to set out with authority what the key codes and conventions of film openings are, with multiple examples for every point you raise. You are assessed on this in both the R+P (20% of coursework) and Eval (also 20%).

PRELIM
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: The task is detailed on your course summary.
BLOGGING: You can find further info on what to blog here. You will find your final mark will be boosted (and your workload significantly reduced) if you bear in mind the Evaluation questions from an early stage - here I've posted on the Evaluation question which links to the prelim. Your post MUST include defs of the terms, your completed edit, AND analysis/reflection of what continuity editing is/means. Screenshots would be useful for this.

FINAL CUT EXPRESS: 1ST IMPRESSIONS
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: There are some posts on this (and plenty on past student blogs), but your own notes + screenshots are the key resource.
BLOGGING: Reflect on your initial experience with this software. If you've used iMovie or other editing software before, no matter how basic or sophisticated, compare and contrast. Provide screenshots to illustrate some of the tools you used. How do you import footage? How do you export your edited movie?

SWEDING EXPLAINED
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: This post set out the task, with examples + links to more sweding resources.
BLOGGING: I've broken this down into more detail below, but in summary you'll be blogging on: what is a swede; your idea/pitch; the chosen idea; the planning; the finished vid; reflection on what you've learnt (especially on your media language decisions - how could they be improved if starting this again? this is a good opportunity to re-read and apply the assessment criteria for the production).

SWEDING PITCH + PLANNING
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: See above.
BLOGGING: This is the last practical task for which storyboards + call sheets will not be compulsory. If you did use any planning documents its useful to scan in + embed these. Break down the steps required to make your swede happen - what organisational tasks, creative decisions etc were involved? Did anyone take overall leadership of this/was your contribution distinct? As well as your own detailed pitch, make sure you've set out what the group idea was. Refer to the post on sweding.

COMPLETED SWEDE + REFLECTION
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: As above.
BLOGGING: As the sweding post suggests:
Absolutely everything we do from now until your work is submitted should be reflected on your blog, with the sweding task no exception. You should blog on what a swede is/where the term comes from' your idea + pitch; the idea selected for group production (you could take some of this from the post of whomever pitched it - you do need some vid clip/s to illustrate the film selected; the planning + challenges (organisation) involved in achieving this; any learning on hardware or software; the completed swede uploaded to your own channel and embedded in your blog; reflection on the process - what might you do differently/better if doing this again (eg more shot variety, better planning/organisation, better use of costume/props + consideration/manipulation of location/s and mise-en-scene).

FINAL CUT PRO X: 1ST IMPRESSIONS
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: Your own notes + screenshots.
BLOGGING: As before with FCExpress.
Your understanding of and application of technology is assessed through two of the Eval assessment criteria, most of the Production criteria and on the presentation of your R+P.

THE ASSESSMENT CRITERIA
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: This post.
BLOGGING: Have the markscheme embedded or typed in here so you can refer back to it at any time. As Scibd seems to have changed and may now be charging to access the documents I've kindly made freely available over the past 4 years, you could take a screenshot (as Hannah helpfully suggested).You've also been supplied with a printed copy of this, which you should have every lesson, and you have been emailed the file (you can upload it yourself for an embed code).

ASSESSING A PAST COURSEWORK PRODUCTION
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: This post had the simple instructions.
Behind-the-scenes on the Full Moon shoot, a past IGS production
BLOGGING: Make sure you've embedded the opening under discussion!!! Screenshots (generally with timings) should be provided. You could take the chance to look at the blogs by the student/s who produced this.

COMPARING 2 PAST COURSEWORK PRODUCTIONS
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: This post had the simple instructions.
BLOGGING:The outcome of your discussion with a 2nd person in the class who looked at a different opening. The key thing here is what have you actually learned from this exercise - about the markscheme, things to include, things to avoid etc.

OPENING eg4: [title]
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: This post had the instructions. You each randomly picked a DVD to work on, and then a second.
BLOGGING: The guide post contains the details. You'll need plentiful screenshots for the vocast. You should use the simple table provided to make it easier to share/discuss your findings as a group on a range of conventions you each think you've spotted.

OPENING eg5: [title]
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: This post had the instructions. You each randomly picked a DVD to work on, and then a second.
BLOGGING: The guide post contains the details. You'll need plentiful screenshots for the vocast. You should use the simple table provided to make it easier to share/discuss your findings as a group on a range of conventions you each think you've spotted.

VODCAST1: CONVENTIONS IN 8 FILM OPENINGS
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: This post has detail on pod/vodcasting plus links to additional relevant posts. To understand why you're doing this task, and how good detailed posts + screenshots will pay off not just for R+P marks but also for Evaluation marks, see this post.
BLOGGING: The key to this is being detailed, specific and comprehensive. You need to methodically build up a detailed picture of what your initial research into film openings tells you are common codes or conventions (note I haven't said rules - any good list of such conventions will include some contradictory points). I'll cover this task in detail in this post.

Details on later posts will be added later.

TBC
CONTENT/HANDOUTS: .

BLOGGING: k
 
TBC
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BLOGGING: k

TBC
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BLOGGING: k
tbc