ASSIGNMENT 3: Analysis / Reflection Blog Posts

Introduction to Documentary

No Direction Home

Forbidden Lies

Reflection on the Lighting Exercise

Colour Grade

The Abstract/Haiku Edit

Reflection on the Course

Reflection on the Course

I was really happy with the practical experience that I was able to get from the course. I feel that I have more confidence approaching the technical aspects of filming and a solid foundation with which to approach each of the production stages. 

I think that one of the biggest learnings I had was during the footage and audio capture for the abstract exercise. It completely changed the way that I looked at and listened to the world. I really hope that it is an awareness I can tune into during production and pre-production for future projects. In pre-production, I hope that I can take the awareness into location scouting, looking at the way the light is naturally interacting with spaces or how I could use lights to highlight an aspect of the space. During production, I hope that I am able to remain flexible so that I can adjust away from a storyboard and be aware enough to notice if there is a better way to capture a particular moment. For sound recording, I hope that I can take the awareness into my daily experience of the world, noticing unique sounds that I could capture and draw upon especially for use in post-production.

The attention that has been paid to examining the way films and documentaries are edited has also given me a new appreciation of the medium as a way to learn. The lighting exercise has had the biggest influence on this so far. While watching scenes that have a lot of characters or movement it is interesting to see where compromises have been made and which moments, characters or relationships have had been prioritised given the required or directed action.

Overall, the course has provided me with a fresh and more informed way to approach each aspect of a production. I feel more confident being able to talk to people about the result that is trying to be achieved and I have a better vocabulary to have these conversations.

The Abstract/Haiku Edit

The Abstract/Haiku Film

I learned a lot about seeing and hearing the world as a filmmaker through the recording process of this exercise. When we left to start capturing footage, I had initially had a preconceived idea of a location to capture and, as we walked there, looking for other images to capture I didn’t really see much. Paul had highlighted in class about the effect created by the classroom light, how it fell on the wall or roof and yes, it was a shape and there was some contrast but I still just saw a plain, everyday room light.

The lights at the first location gave us a lot to work with, and we did our best to capture something of them, but this was where I started to see how the lights were interacting specifically with architectural elements to create images that were really interesting to explore as a viewer. It started to hone my focus and I stopped looking for interesting lights and started to see how light made even simple architecture interesting, particularly if it created some kind of contrast. After leaving class I couldn’t help but continue to look at how the light around me was creating a mood and drawing my attention to details in the world.

We started capturing images indoors and then moved outside. As we moved outside capturing specific lights became really important and it was definitely better if the source of light was brighter. This motivated me to do some research on the lens that the X200 and with an exposure of f1.9 I think that if we got closer to what we wanted to capture as opposed to using the zoom we would get a better quality image and capture of the light. I think. We captured the shot of the street light by zooming into the frame from across the street and, from what I understand, the aperture is the focal length divided by the lens diameter, so the aperture is dropping and letting in less light as we zoom in (unless we have a constant aperture lens). I am guessing that if we got the camera as close to the street light as possible we would have a better quality image to work with but the background in the frame would be different, we would potentially lose the depth of field effect and it wouldn’t be simple to get the same angle because we would be on the tram tracks and in need of something taller than the tripod we had. So I guess these are the compromises that need to be considered when capturing shots on set. How much do want something and how possible is it to capture with the equipment, time, permission and insurance that you have? It is actually a decision that might involve a lot of people depending on the size of the crew and scale of production.

Similarly, with the audio capture, I was able to approach the exercise with my new found focus for detail from the visual recordings but as soon as I put on the headphones I realised that this was much more challenging. Having such a directional microphone meant hearing the world in a completely different way. I had heard a sound that was part of a rich atmosphere and when I tried to point a microphone at it, it had diminished or changed. I guess that this is the art of sound design, capturing and layering a series of unique sounds that collectively evoke the expression of the story world.

I don’t think that this is something that I was able to achieve in editing. I picked sounds that were individually interesting to me and put them together and each piece of new information acted as if they were different instruments groups. It wasn’t like I was creating harmonies within the instrument groups to add to the richness of one sound environment.

Finally, in the editing process, I realised that just because I had a whole range of material and effects tools that I could use, doesn’t mean that I should. I end up playing with a lot of elements and then taking them out because I found them distracting or that they made the overall film undiscernable.

Colour Grade

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First, I only applied basic corrections to make the image more dynamic. This started with increasing the exposure and contrast followed by detailing, primarily with the whites and blacks sliders, to emphasise the lift lights in the reflection and deepen the shadows around Lenny. The highlight/shadow slider was used to balance the effect of adjusting these two extremes.

Lift 2 Grade v1

I followed this with adjusting the colour wheels, moving the shadow and highlight wheels towards cyan and blue to amplify the cold metal and mirrors of the lift and compliment the red of the blood on Lenny’s hands. I then used the midtones to create some contrast in Lenny’s costume and balance her skin tones.

Lift 3 Grade v2

Finally, I created a mask of Lenny on another video layer as explained in the YouTube clip recommended on the media factory site. Here I was able to increase the exposure on Lenny to make her stand out in the frame and adjust her skin tones so they were more natural. I also used the HSL Secondary to adjust the colour of the blood on Lenny’s hands. I wanted to draw more attention to the blood but I don’t think I achieved this very well – I would probably need to try this again using another mask. I also found that because of the reflections Premiere’s automatic path tracking wasn’t very effective once she started to move, this required correcting path points frame by frame. Lastly, I feathered the mask to make sure there were smooth the edges of any additional effects.

Lift 3 Grade v3

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I wanted to test the colour tones of the overall environment with this shot. For both colours I still felt the need to increase the contrast so that the edges of objects in the frame had a clear distinction. From here I pushed the highlights towards cyan as this seemed to be the colour originally captured that can be seen in the reflection of the lights on the elevator wall. From here I pushed the shadows towards green and the midtones towards magenta/blue to provide some colour contrast. I believe that the overall sickly green effect is acceptable because of how we are used to seeing fluorescent lights being graded. I created another mask for Lenny so that she drew the eye and was separated from the environment. I readjusted the colour wheels so that they were closer to the centre of the wheel to make the skin tones more natural while keeping some green in the shadows so that she was still connected to the world.

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In the second shot I attempted to flip the colour so that the environment had a magenta tone. I started by moving the colour wheels to the direct opposite point but needed the push the shadows further to the wheel edge and up into magenta actually produce a distinct colour. This colour seems much less motivated than the green, I don’t believe that it is a tint that is often used to colour a film. Magenta seems reserved as a special light produced practically in night scenes. It might be used as a dream sequence colour because it is so uncommon or unnatural. To lean into this effect I needed to decrease the contrast, take out all the shadows, reduce the blacks, add a white vignette and finally adjust the white balance tint to add more magenta.

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For the stairs, I wanted to get some more distinction from this low light environment so I increased the exposure, contrast, highlights and whites, while also crushing the blacks to keep the distinction in the shadows. I then wanted to bring out the colours in the tubes, so in the Hue Saturation Curves, I saturated the greens, yellow and red segments to make them more vibrant.

Stairs 2 Grade v1

The second version I played back towards the captured colours, again taking the shadows and highlights towards cyan and the midtones to orange.

Stairs 3 Grade v2

The final version I pushed the exposure to its full capacity and then followed suit with all the other basic correction tone sliders. This produced an almost painted effect, and when I desaturated the image it became almost like an old newspaper comic. To further this effect I used the Faded Film slider and added a highly feathered vignette to draw attention towards the white wall where Sharon would enter.

Stairs 4 Grade v3

Reflection on the lighting exercise

Jin Enters

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I really like the image created by the light outside the room in this shot, I think it creates a strong shape in the frame and noir style. My first question is how could this existing light be used or added to also light inside the room? Based on Jin’s entry this is how I imagine the lights outside of the room are already set:

Jin Lights 1

I would place a dido or hard light outside of the room, closing the barn doors to try to reduce the spill, and use it to define the path that she would take into the room here:

Jin Lights 2

I would also like to keep the white balance as it is currently set and use a blue gel on the dido to separate the spaces and use this colour difference to add to the tension in the scene. But maybe this tension would be better with a cool light for the key or fill so that her hair light is still warm, drawing her back outside. This would be an enhancement of the lighting effect in this shot:

Jin Enters 6

I also wonder if this would require smoke or dust to be introduced so that the shape of the light has something to interact with.

Assuming that the action and line are scripted I wonder what motivates the key and the fill light to turn on. If she is talking to other people in the room, is it a surprise party and all the room lights suddenly turn on? Has she walked into a garage that she either shouldn’t be in or is her escape route and using two low lights create the effect of someone turning car headlights? I’m not sure if this would be done with didos or LED panels. This shot with the didos doesn’t quite seem to have the right shape and I think it might be too hard but this might be different if there was a second dido introduced:

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The age of the car that is trying to be created would also be a factor in what type of light is used. From what I can see it seems like Fresnel lights would be the best to use for this effect for the shape of the beam of light that they create, and this design is also apparently used in the design of car headlights (Paar 2017).

The other consideration I would have is if there is a lamp or practical light in the frame that Jin could walk to and turn on. Perhaps there is coffee and pie underneath the light. But I imagine if this was the case, there would probably be a cut and the lighting would be changed to ensure that the coffee and pie is lit, and Jin has a three-point lighting set up with a key motivated by the lamp, a bounce board to add some soft fill and the exterior light adjusted for her hair light.


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I think that this is a really clever set up given the blocking of the scene. I think that only two lights have been used and they’ve been set up like this:

Janine Lights 1

What I really like about it is that Josh effectively has two key lights both set up with the camera on the fill side and his eye-line falling between the camera and key lights. The dido light that starts acting as a hair light for both Josh and Janine becomes his second key light when he turns to talk to Janine.

The LED light might actually be a bit too hot on Josh’s face and it looks like the brightness has been turned down in the next shot with Paul, however, the dimmer light falls off quicker and, as the key light for Janine, produces a flat light effect on her face. After watching this clip (Big League Film School n.d.), I wonder if moving LED the light closer to Paul and Janine, but reducing the brightness of the light further would produce more shadows across Janine’s face because of the ratio of object size to distance of light source has increased the percentage of light on Janine’s face.

Janine 3


Big League Film School n.d. ‘Lighting Technique – Distance of KeyLight for Cinematic Results’, Big League Film School, viewed on 2 June 2018, <;.

Paar, M 2017, ‘Fresnel Lights: How They Work and Why They Should Be In Your Arsenal’, Videomaker Magazine, 8 August, viewed on 2 June 2018, <;.

Forbidden Lies

Over the music of the first acted clip in this sequence there is a bird chirping. I don’t think that they have gone out and recorded the sound of this bird, I think that that have found a sound effect and repeated it twice. It could be possible that the bird is just singing in a very similar way but I think that they have layered it with the sound of the triangle hit as the man’s tooth glints, and the chimes and harp sounds to mask the repetition.

We hear the car drive past which was probably recorded live, I don’t see why they wouldn’t unless there was some disruptive sound in the environment. This is followed by the whoosh sound as the woman throws her headscarf, a sound that I believe is recorded in a studio. I’m not exactly sure how this sound would be captured, I would probably try waving a fan or decent size piece of cardboard close to a microphone. This sound has most likely been slowed down in post to match the speed of the action. We hear the sound of wind as it flies through the air and then the sound of something that sounds like it is landing in sand as the scarf drops.

We then hear the sound of footsteps in sand layered with wind and they have used a loud gush of this wind to motivate and justify the time jump in the shot. It is interrupted by the sound of pressing a stop button (or record button) on an old tape recorder. The audio from the interview plays along with the dropping off a book on the table top. After this, the actor in the frame crumbles and the sound that is used is a scratching something like a needle on a record before the song or fingernails on soft wood, but there is probably also just the sound of sand quickly falling into a pile layered over it that also creates the end dispersing puff sound.

After going to the interview, we cut to the book cover with a cash register sound effect most likely declaring that if it is ‘the truth’ it is mostly like a cash grab. As Rana Husseini introduces herself a call to prayer is played that has been recorded elsewhere, perhaps this is to establish the world of Jordan. We don’t hear any ADR the shots where Husseini picks up papers or waves to her colleagues but we do hear the sound of typing on a keyboard while she is working at her desk. The next sound is a chime that calls back to the fictional sequence from the start of the clip, which plays when we see Norma Khouri’s headshot and biography on the dust cover of her book. During Dr. Amal A. Sabbagh’s interview, we hear this chime sound again. This interview is probably recorded with a directional microphone, there doesn’t appear to be a lapel mic, and we can clearly hear the birds that are in this outdoor setting. This chime sound is repeated when we see the close up of the book being held by the reader in the studio. This image freezes with a stock sound of a camera shutter and the interview with Sabbagh continues.

We revisit the film studio and the reader but we are transitioned into this with Husseini reading an excerpt from the book which becomes layered with the voice of the reader that fades in under Husseini’s voice. Husseini’s voice fades out once the reader’s voice can be clearly heard. We see a map with several layers of sounds as the reader continues: a version of the chimes that sound digital, an echoing sound that sounds like it is inside a tunnel with a train sliding on the tracks in the distance, and there is a pulsing sound similar to an underwater sonar radar in time with the heartbeat. When Husseini corrects the reader and the map, there is a sound effect of pages turning or paper moving, and a whipped ‘whoosh’ sound that is like a transition effect in Powerpoint.

When we cut to the salon shop, we hear the street sound of the people conducting their business that is replaced by a rattle sound when we punch in on the unisex sign. While Husseini is on the phone we hear the sound of the papers moving that she picks up, this could be layering the sounds from the shots used to capture this footage. While looking inside the salon, as it transitions from the set to reality we hear the whoosh sound similar to that of the headscarf but at its intended speed.

The interviews with business operators that follow were most likely recorded with a directional microphone that I believe is attached to the camera, the people don’t sound as clear and the other sounds around them are more audible. I believe that the line ‘do you recognise these two people’ was recorded in post because it is so clear and distinct compared with the other sounds. These interviews have a long fade out into the fictional world’s music. In this world, we hear the sound of paper money and coins that we probably recorded on set in the close-ups themselves or in ADR. This is followed by the sound of coins falling on the bench top and a repeat of the camera shutter taking us back to the real world. We hear the folly sounds again when we return to the fictional world, which this time seem like they were recorded in post-production. When the action replays we hear some music that is also played in reverse and another whoosh and quick chime when the playback is finished. As the Hyatt is deconstructed, we hear snippets of construction sounds that are cut together to match the rhythm of the visual deconstruction. During this sequence moving from the book to the enactments of the scenes we switch between Husseini reading the page numbers and the reader narrating the text.

At the interview with the gym we see that these interviews are being recorded with a directional microphone on a boom at a low angle. When we cut in for a close up on the Music Box truck there is a ding or bell like a game show or entering a store. The recording of the phone call to Music Box might have been done twice or the phone call reenacted because the sound is very clear. But maybe they were able to get the microphone closer enough and the phone speaker loud enough to capture it at the time of filming.

No Direction Home

Starting with the loud and colourful concert footage of Bob Dylan singing Like a Rolling Stone, capturing the artist as he is popularly known and recognised by the world, the film suddenly cuts as the song is crescendoing to the almost silent, black and white images of leafless trees in winter. Each of these black and white shots has a lower contrast than the last, washing the screen with more grey as they slowly fade from one into the other appearing to move further away from the trees each time. This sudden change in image, sound and pace appears to be commented on by Dylan’s voice over about making time seem to stand still and finishes with the fading up of Drifting Too Far From the Shore.

This song transitions the audience through a cut to a shot of a black and white home, presumably Dylan’s childhood home, and as we slowly track in the title ‘Many Years Earlier’ fades in quickly and eventually fades away again as Dylan’s voice refers to the house we are presumably looking at. As he talks about finding a turntable as a child we see a photo of the younger Dylan, tracking in on his face. This is followed by some footage that I think is found or shot to appear as if it is from the same era as Dylan’s childhood. It is a sweeping black and white close up of a record spinning on turntable with a very shallow depth of field, a very romantic image. After this we track in on another image of Dylan slightly older, talking about Drifting Too Far From the Shore. The song stops Dylan’s voice over and fades up again, perhaps we are hearing Dylan’s first engagement with music.

Dylan continues talking about this moment but we cut to the first of the recorded interview footage, now in colour but it might only be lit by a single soft key light with some light on the background to create some definition of Dylan’s head. He talks about this record making him feel like he was “somebody else” and not part of his family. This first minute and a half of the introduction has already set up that we are going back to Dylan’s musical origins. We might be travelling the path from the cold, black and white, country music world that he grew up into the richly dynamic musician we know.

We then jump from the family home to the town that he grew up in. Big band music plays as we see black and white footage of a busy main street with a banner stretched across it announcing ‘See the Iron Mines: 1 Mile North’. And we are taken presumably to the mines and shown a panning shot of a desolate land while slow jazz music plays. From here we see the environment of working life around Dylan. Black and white found footage of the mine and miners plays intersperse with Dylan’s interview talking about the inability to be a rebel because of the cold weather, the weather that “equalises everything very quickly”. Here Dylan talks about not having an ideology or idea to rebel against, but this is the moment that we transition to his father’s electrical store. Dylan talks about his first job, working at the store, sweeping the floors, and we cut to his interview to watch him say that here he was “supposed to learn the discipline of hard work or something, and the merits of employment”. The interviews literally put a spotlight on Dylan, a soft one, but he is shadowy and we can’t see anything that is in the background.

I believe that this is setting up what the key conflict will be in the documentary, Dylan’s dreams, mentality and artistry against the physical working-class world of family home. This is set up by the comments that Dylan says, the soundtrack to these shots and the contrast between black and white (or grey and grey) of Dylan’s childhood and colour of his adult self.

Introduction to Documentary

Reflexive Mode of Documentary (Nichols 2004)

The key feature of Nichols’ reflexive mode of documentary appears to be its ability to draw the viewer’s attention to the documentary itself and how it is being constructed. Constantly aware of the fact that it can elicit a response from its audience, the reflexive documentary is able to get the audience to question what it is being shown, who is showing it to them, how and why. I believe that this mode’s ability to question the representation of the world it is showing, allows the audience to be more active and look closer at the subject matter.

I like the effect this mode is trying to achieve, particularly in the context of the documentaries I am currently being exposed to by popular platforms such as Netflix. While watching serial documentaries such as Making a Murderer (2015) and Wild Wild Country (2018), I start to become aware of the scope of the world they are attempting to captured and have the thought that I am probably only being shown the curated parts deemed most interesting and most relevant to the story that is attempting to be told by the producer, director, editor or distributor. I would love to know how much footage is actually captured and how much is used in the final edits. I think that it would be great to watch some of these interviews unedited, to see when interviewees correct themselves, what they are told to repeat, and hear the questions are asked to elicit particular responses. Because I am already questioning documentaries and their production in this way I believe that I would be naturally inclined to question my own process and let that influence the final product.

I believe that, depending on what is being explored, a reflexive documentary could employ tools and techniques from the other modes as it tries to question its own construction of events or subjects. I think this allows for a lot of creative freedom within the mode to make choices that would otherwise break the suspension of (dis)belief that is being requested. I could imagine that these documentaries could be edited to appear like something produced by Monty Python – a world that is deeply complex, that dances around the truth of the matter, because to try and see a subject or ask a question from one perspective is so absolute and reductive that I personally stop trusting the teller. And I lose this trust because I begin to feel like something is probably being withheld from me at the risk of bursting the story bubble.

But, I suppose this all depends on the original purpose of the documentary. Is it there to entertain or educate and inform? This is obviously a key question in documentary filmmaking, one that Michael Moore (2014) appears especially passionate about, his point of view being, ’The first rule of documentaries is: Don’t make a documentary — make a MOVIE. […] they [audiences] don’t want to be lectured, they don’t want to see our invisible wagging finger popping out of the screen. They want to be entertained.’ But he also articulates a very clear intention for his films beyond entertainment and information, ‘I don’t want people leaving the theater depressed after my movies. I want them angry. Depressed is a passive emotion. Anger is active. Anger will mean that maybe 5 percent, 10 percent of that audience will get up and say, “I gotta do something. I’m going to tell others about this. I’m going to go look up more about this on the Internet. I’m gonna join a group and fight this!”’ His films seem deeply personal and he is aware of how he is making them to reach an audience, which kind of sounds like Nichols’ reflexive mode as a mindset, ‘the processes of negotiation between filmmaker and viewer become the focus of attention.’

I think that each of the modes contribute to the construction of a documentary. The film that ends up being distributed would lend itself to one of Nichols’ particular modes, however, I imagine that thinking about the documentary in the mindset of each individual mode (rather than making a ridged decision from the outset) would serve to add value to the overall depiction of the subject.


Moore M 2014, ’13 Rules for Making Documentary Films’, Huffington Post, article, 17 August, viewed on 31 May 2018, <;.

Making a Murderer 2015, streaming, Netflix, USA, directed by Laura Ricciardi & Moira Demos.

Wild Wild Country 2018, streaming, Netflix, USA, directed by Maclain Way & Chapman Way.

Nichols B 2004, Introduction to Documentary, 2nd edn, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN.

ASSIGNMENT 2: Analysis / Reflection Blog Posts

The Shot Construction / Next Stage Exercise

The Initiative Post

Readings #1 – Sight & Hearing

Readings #2 – Actor and the Director

Lenny – Reflection on

TK2 Taxi Driver Deconstruction

You Find a Scene

The Initiative Post

Creative Obstructions

I started this post by looking into the rules of Dogma 95. I knew some of the restrictions like only using light that was actually available, no sets could be built and sound had to be captured as it was shot. I liked the simple restrictions that could help celebrate a production that wasn’t going to have a Hollywood finish to it. As I looked into Dogma 95 and its directors I was interested to learn that the movement was often seen as a publicity stunt but even if it was one of the goals was to help film-makers without the budget see that quality work could still be produced (Chaudhuri 2005).

I thought that I could use the Dogma 95 restrictions and re-shoot a version of our Lenny. However, after doing a handheld version and the fact that there is fake violence in the scene I didn’t really think that it adhered to the rules. Through my research, though I found The Five Obstructions, a documentary where Lars Von Trier challenges his friend and peer Jørgen Leth to remake his short film, The Perfect Human, with five different sets of rules.

The different versions that Leth was able to produce are really quite unique and interesting films and so I tried my hand at one of the limitations. The one the First Obstructions required Leth to use no shot lasting more than 12 frames and it is with this restriction that I attempted to edit some of our Lenny.

While this definitely is definitely an incomplete edit (and possibly just pretentious), I definitely felt like I had a renewed creative freedom while editing with this significant restriction. I felt like I was able to take on the point of view of Lenny’s broken and fractured state of mind. I could justify for myself the use of moments of black that would be as if Lenny had blacked out. As Lenny tries to find her feet she gets stuck going backwards and forwards never certain of her direction or where she is.

I was also able to incorporate moments that were I’m not in the rehearsed action, which helped to support the rapid jumping of the cuts. I’m 100% sure how I would incorporate longer dialogue in a comprehensible way using only 12 frames at a time but I think I would be able to find a way to get the important information in supported by the justification of being in Lenny’s slowly fading consciousness.

Consideration how I might apply this to any future films, I probably wouldn’t use such an extreme form but it does make me think about how straightforward my view of cinematic space and time has been. Are there moments where I can play with this form to make an ordinary moment more engaging. This type of editing makes me think of the car scene from Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, where the conversation and soundtrack have continuity but the location changes frequently and unexpectedly.


Chaudhuri, S 2005, ‘Dogma Brothers: Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg’, in N Romes (ed.), New Punk Cinema, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 153 – 167.

The Five Obstructions 2003, DVD, Zentropa Real ApS, Denmark, directed by Lars Von Trier.