Thursday, 12 June 2014

Gravity - Film review

Gravity (2013) Poster

Released in 2013, Gravity promised to be a film like no other; a film that would keep viewers sitting on the edge of their seats from beginning to end, and prove to be a nail-biting experience. 

Packed with a nerve-shredding soundtrack, bone-chilling special effects and an emotionally demanding script, Gravity is a film that will take you to space and beyond.

The whole focus of the film is directed towards two astronauts: Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who face a terrifying catastrophe with devastating consequences. The vulnerability of these two people, and the peaceful and yet eerie silence of space is captured perfectly through the script and sound effects in particular.
You can listen to the main theme (Don't Let Go by Steven Price) here:
For 1 hour and 21 minutes, the world outside this film is forgotten about and the only emotions one can feel are tension, fear and hope. Although surrounded by a bleak situation with very little chance of survival, the audience can only pray and hope that, despite everything that has happened, these two people will make it to the end of the film.

Directed and written by Alfonso Cuaron, the film starts with a beautiful wide shot of Planet Earth from outer space; a simple and yet powerful shot that does not break for an entire 17 minutes. The simplistic beauty of this angle resonates throughout the entire beginning sequence. A deep breath before the plunge, some might say.

What is more, the single shot is then used again when the debris hits, the camera interweaving and meandering through the wreckage of the satellite storm creating a sense of reality and presence.
Like Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky, whose 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris are obvious touchstones, Cuaron understands the power of the shot. He doesn't just show us the impact and its aftermath, his camera explains it to us; tracking objects as they crash into and ricochet off one other with terrifying solidity, then holding on Stone and Kowalski as they plummet away from the wreckage and into nothingness.

And yet amidst all the chaos and spectacular effects is the story of two people fighting together for survival. Once the initial shock of the impact is over, the audience's focus is immediately directed towards the lonely astronauts who are clinging to one another for dear life. And it is that relationship between Stone and Kowalski that builds the bond between the audience and the characters. Bullock's performance as Ryan Stone is truly remarkable; harrowing and incredibly human, whilst Clooney's performance as Matt Kowlaski gives the reassurance and calm that the audience needs - as he comforts Stone, he also gives comfort to the viewers.

All in all, Gravity is a brilliant film that exceeds the standards of film today. Captivating and at times emotionally draining, it may not be for the faint-hearted, but it is nevertheless a clever and wonderful picture of humanity. That despite all that life throws at us, we never go down without a fight.


  • Is Gravity very deep or very shallow? Neither. It is a brilliant and inspired movie-cyclorama, requiring neither gravity nor gravitas. - The Guardian
  • The film of the year - Empire Magazine
  • A sleek, smooth, immersive, and rather overwhelming spectacle of economy, efficiency, and all-around proficiency. -
  • We've seen films set in outer space before, but nothing has ever felt this real. - The Verge

You can watch the official trailer here:

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Rock of Liberation.

'A short film about how, when the world seems a dark place, and the weight of your sorrows are on your shoulders, there is always hope'.

This idea came from looking into what people do when life gets rough. Some take it on the shoulder, others to heart, but when all else fails there seem to be only two options: You chose to live, or you die. But there are too many deaths in the world today, and far too many suicides.

 “Did you really want to die?"
"No one commits suicide because they want to die."
"Then why do they do it?"
"Because they want to stop the pain.”
― Tiffanie DeBartolo,
How to Kill a Rock Star

If one is willing to look for it, 'hope' is not far away from any of us. This film looks into this, but there is no narration or speech.

The film starts with a black screen and a cupboard door is opened. This is the introduction to the main character, (who happens to be the only character in the film). As the girl reaches into the cupboard the audience can see the word 'Sinner' written on a piece of paper. Throughout the beginning of the film, this word is a constant - reminding the character of who they are and what they have done. As the film goes on, the character becomes more and more stressed and depressed by this reminder and suddenly decides to take action.

There was no lighting used for the film, and any sounds were only the sounds picked up by the camera (a compact Canon IXUS). As the day for filming was generally bright, lighting was not a problem and the exposure was just right.

On this particular day, a vital scene was left out - partially because it had been forgotten about! In theory, this was a disaster because without it the film would not have made any sense. When the girl runs into the porch to get her coat, she stares at the paper on the door. When this was first filmed, the actress didn't pick up the note - she simply grabbed her coat and went out of the door. So, when I decided to re-edit the film two years later, I found this hole in the storyline. Two shots were needed to correct this. The first was a close up of the paper being snatched from the door; the second a mid shot of the girl looking at the paper and screwing it up in her hands.

The running sequence, however, was more difficult to film. Having no mount, or steady cam available, it was a simple task of simply running whilst trying to keep the camera as steady as possible. In total, the entire film process took approximately 10 hours, 3 of which were spent outside.

The music for the film, (which does not belong to me) was particularly hard to find and mix. In the end, the pieces 'Cold Summer Landscape' by Blear Moon, and 'July' and 'December' by Marcel Pequel were used. 

You can watch the finished film here:

Psalm 62 v 1 and 2
My soul finds rest in God alone; my Salvation
comes from Him. He alone is my Rock and
my Salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Rain - short video

'Here today. Gone tomorrow. Rain doesn't last forever'.

This is a short video I made by experimenting with a Canon EOS 7D. It was shot within the space of 2 hours, and mainly concentrated on focusing techniques.

Due to lack of experience, many of the shots that were taken were not smooth. Difficulties arose in focusing from one object to another. However, over a short period of time, the focusing became easier and relatively smooth transitions could be made.


The footage was not colour graded or changed in any way because - even though some of the shots are a little on the dark side - the video was then able to retain a natural look. I also like the soft edges that the camera was able to achieve, and found that turning the contrast up would  sharpen that effect.

Rain and raindrops are perhaps difficult to capture because they are so small and fragile, but what was most interesting was the abilities of not only the camera, but the lens too. 

I found that it was good to test the various ranges and focal length of the camera to find the maximum opportunities available.

DISCLAIMER: The music does not belong to me.

You can watch the finished video here:

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Nordicana 2014

Nordicana - a live celebration of Scandinavian crime thriller fiction and film.

Whether you are a fan of crime fiction, danish pastries, Scandi dramas or even Swedish meatballs, there is something for everyone at this extraordinary event.

Nordicana is held in the UK up to two or three times a year, and is hosted by NordicNoir (which is a sub-label of Arrow Films). It was held at the Truman Brewery, which was a spacious warehouse and not at all cramped - even though the event received around 3000 visitors over the two days. Nordicana 2014 lived up to all of it's expectations.
As much as we love British and American crime drama, there’s just something special about a Scandinavian series. An extra something. Perhaps it’s the culture, perhaps it’s the moody landscapes, perhaps it’s the unrelenting darkness. Perhaps it’s even the language.

Nordicana had much to offer: premieres for new TV series and films, discussion panels with writers, actors and composers, and The Great British Bake-off style 'A Great Cinnamon Bun-Off'.

Swedish Meatballs!
The itinery was spilt evenly over the two days, however when only being there for the one day, it was ashame to miss out on the other's events. Being there only on the Saturday, (which saw a lot of late visitors due to travelling down to London on the morning) there was a great atmosphere of excitement, ease and friendliness.

The first event was The Bridge 2 - Episode 9, which was introduced by the Ambassador of Denmark. Having discovered Scandinavian Drama through the political drama 'Borgen', it was interesting to see other dramas that had been made by the same companies. 'The Bridge' is a crime drama focusing around the crimes that happen around the bridge that connects Denmark and Sweden. 
There was also an interview with lead actress Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia by broadcaster Suzi Perry. After seeing this preview of the episode, I was immediatly taken with the series.

Next was a premiere of the film Pioneer by Erik Skjoldbjaerg. It's a thriller, and is based around the oil harvesting occurences that happened in the North Sea in Norway during the 1970's. The cinematography and grading of this film was quite beautiful, and the sound was truly remarkable. Parts of the film took place under water in compression tanks, and the sound effects at these times were nerve-shreddingly real. The script was also extremely believable when it came to the relationships between the characters, and the film is definetly an-edge-of-the-chair experience.

After the film was an interview with Aksel Hennie (the lead actor) by Mark Sanger (BAFTA nominated editor of Gravity). It was interesting to hear how the lead actor in the film felt about his part, and his experience of the filming process.

The last event was 'The Legacy - Episode 1' which was a new series from DR, and the producers of The Killing and Borgen.

Overall, this event was a brilliant day out, and I would highly recommend it to all Scandi lovers, and those who have yet to discover it.










Friday, 4 April 2014

Midnight Music Video

Music Videos are perhaps the most experimental ways of testing a variety of filming techniques, from small short narratives to psychodelic patterns, allowing the maker to find new ways of portraying and relaying images to the audience.

This music video, by the popular band Coldplay, is from their most recent single called 'Midnight' - which is directed by Mary Wigman.

It is an unusual and unique piece of work, as well as interesting, both in the way the video is complitated but also in the approach. The music accompanying the video is truly haunting, but at the same time undoubtedly beautiful.

The lyrics are as follows: 
In the darkness before the dawn
In the swirling of this storm
When I'm rolling with the punches
And hope is gone
Leave a light, a light on.

Millions of miles from home
In the swirling, swimming on,
When I'm rolling with the thunder
But bleed from thorns
Leave a light, a light on.

In the darkness before the dawn,
In the darkness before the dawn,
Leave a light, a light on.

The meaning of the lyrics is unclear, (or it simply hasn't been disclosed), but several individuals have interpreted the song as a message of hope. The tone of the music is generally positive, but the distorted vocals carry a darker shade of mentality - which is perhaps heavily portrayed in the accompanying video.

The video itself is clever, and contains many technical effects. What is most noticeable is the fact that it is filmed in what seems like night-vision or x-ray vision, which in turn allows the editor to experiment with a broader variety of effects such as ghosting.

Ghosting is an effect which means that the image is replicated several times, and then positioned slightly off the original and super-imposed over the top. You can see this in the above image as the man closest to the camera has several arms, but his body remains in the same position.

The colouration of the video is black and white, however, as it goes on, colour is slowly introduced. Another possibility of how the video was filmed, apart from night-vision and x-ray vision, is infra-red. This conclusion is apparent in one particular shot where the singer's hand is placed against a tree, and when it is removed the mark of the hand can be seen on the surface. This mark is undoubtedly a heat source, which reinforces the idea.

Other techniques include jump cutting - which is used particularly to make people reappear and disappear in a single shot- and video merging - which is when one shot is placed on top of another. The merging process is limitless, and several videos can be layered on top of each other.
You can watch the video here:

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Adobe Photoshop - Painting

Photoshop is a brilliant piece of software. Anything from editing images, creating posters and drawing deisgns - it will do the job. 

Some say that one cannot truly learn something without putting the skill into practise and experimenting individually. It takes up to 10,000 hours to master just one thing, and when it comes to technology it is definetly true! Softwares are forever being upgraded and technology is always advancing.

In essence, Adobe Photoshop is relatively simple to use, but when one has a desired look in mind it is often due to experimentation and practise that the job is done.

In my spare time I have practised with the software and tried out different ideas, and , of course, not all of them have worked. However, one particular work I enjoyed was sketching and painting something from scratch. It is not easy with a mouse, and even less so with a touchpad.

It starts with a basic outline using a pen/pencil with the opacity set to 50 or less. When this is done the skin layer is added, and the different shades are blended together using the blur tool. After this the detail can be added such as the facial features and clothes/accessories. More than often I found myself having to reposition certain aspects such as the eyes.

This was the first attempt:


(Lady Mary  Crawley - Downton Abbey)

And this was the second attempt, which, having had a little more practise, is much more detailed compared to the first:
 (Black Widow - The Avengers Assemble)

Emmanuel School Promotional Video

Promotional videos are an art in themselves; too fancy, or too cheesy or too expensive! When promoting something, it is important to keep to the basics and eliminate anything that is negative or unnecessary. Moreover, it is important to portray the truth - without giving the audience a biased viewpoint.
Over the early part of summer 2013, I took on the task of creating a short promotional video for my old secondary school. On agreeing to this task, (as I hadn't made anything of the sort beforehand, and therefore had to do a rather large amount of research) I looked up how to make a promotional video. 

Prior to filming, I talked with several of the directors and staff to write down the basic structure for the video and this then enabled me to create a basic storyboard.

As my resources were limited at the time to a compact Ixus Canon Camera and Adobe Premier Elements (which the school kindly bought me in return for creating the video), it was difficult to achieve the desired look. The camera used has no manual lens and I was therefore limited to either normal shots or macro shots (close ups), and was not able to transfer from one to the other (tracking/pulling). I did however use a tripod for the some of the interview footage, although mostly it was handheld. The internal microphone on the camera was used as I did not possess one at the time.

I had aproximatly 2 weeks to film, which mainly consisted of interviewing the students and filming around the school. Specific lessons were noted such as art, science and P.E. (physical education) to ensure that a broad and varied amount of footage was shown. As always, it is important to make sure that enough footage is taken. In total, I took about 45 minutes worth of footage.

When it came to editing, I created a simple structure for the video and kept to it once a rough edit was done, and then the fine tuning and shortening of the length. Although the video lasts a total of approximatly 4 minutes, it was difficult to fit all of the information in. 

When most of the editing had been completed, a piece of music was recorded by Ashley Hall on the guitar - a cover of 'When I survey the Wondrous Cross' - which was then added to the edit and the project was adjusted as necessary.
Here is the link to the finished video: