In VCE Media, the production exercises that precede your major project are an opportunity to develop your skill in the use of media technology—exploring technical equipment, media processes and the aesthetic qualities of the media form or genre you’ve decided to work in. Keep in mind that your two production exercises are not mini-productions. They should be contained activities that develop specific skills.
As a Media student, you need to practice using the equipment and making films at every opportunity. The more time you spend using the equipment, the more mistakes you’re going to make, the more you’re going to learn about the process of filmmaking.
Every school will undertake the production exercises differently. The time and resources allocated for this assessment task will vary. It is important that you follow the instructions of your teacher and submit the task on time. Your Production Exercises must be clearly labelled Production Exercise 1 and Production Exercise 2. To achieve a satisfactory grade, they must include an intention and evaluation.
The production exercises you complete for Unit 3 contribute 10 marks to the School Assessed Task which is assessed in Unit 4. Further information about the assessment of the Production Exercises can be found on the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority’s VCE Media page.
Ideas for production exercises
The best production exercises will allow you to develop a deeper understanding of your selected media form, allowing you to explore the aesthetic qualities and technical equipment you will use to complete your production. You need to think carefully about the production you plan to undertake, including the skills, processes and technology that you will use. Keep in mind that you cannot use the production exercises in your final media product.
- Camera. The production exercise is a great opportunity to learn the features of the camera that you’re going to use for your production. If you’re using a digital SLR, this is your opportunity to learn how to use different lenses and aperture settings. If you’re shooting on something like a mobile phone, it might be worthwhile exploring options for stabilising the camera.
- Camera movement. Think carefully about the type of camera techniques you need to use in your film. Perhaps you’d like to have a dolly in or a crane shot. The production exercises are a terrific opportunity to practice these skills.
- Focus. Digital SLRs provide greater scope for using depth of field and focus than traditional video cameras. Complete a production exercise involving focus or shallow depth of field.
- Editing. If you’re making a film, you will need to learn how to use your editing software. Shoot a practice scene and edit together in the editing software that you’re going to use.
- Lighting. Plan to use a particular lighting effect in your film? The production exercise is an excellent opportunity to explore how you’re going to achieve these lighting effects. You don’t need expensive lighting rigs to light a scene. Use natural light and practical light sources, such as desk lamps and overhead lights, to illuminate your subject. If you’re planning to film scenes at night, you could practice achieving the day-for-night look favoured by Hollywood.
- Sound. Think about the technology you’ve got to record sound, which might include the camera’s onboard microphone, lapel mics or shotguns. What will you do to ensure that you record clear and usable dialogue? Use the production exercise as an opportunity to explore the equipment you are going to use to record sound.
- Music. Finding music for your film can sometimes be difficult. Use one of the production exercises to develop an understanding of how to use music software such as Garageband, Logic or FL Studio.
- Dialogue. Learn how to plan, block, compose and shoot dialogue by filming a conversation between two people. Make sure that you get enough coverage by shooting each line of dialogue at different shot sizes. Ensure you capture cut ins, cutaways and noddies to help you edit the sequence together.
- Colour correction. Colour correction and colour grading is an important part of post-production. Sometimes when you shoot a scene, the white balance on your camera may not be set correctly, resulting in a shot that is too blue or yellow. Most editing software – including Final Cut and Premiere – includes colour correction tools which allow you to adjust the colour and saturation of clips. Shoot a series of shots, deliberately changing the white balance then correct the resulting footage in your editing software.
- Colour grading. Colour grading involves creating a visual style for your film. Ever noticed how The Matrix has a slight green tint or the films of Tony Scott have a yellow hue? This is colour grading in action. Shoot a series of shots and investigate how you can use colour correction filters to achieve a particular look.
- Foley. The soundtrack is one of the most important aspects of your film. Filmmakers record foley sounds for a number of reasons. When shooting on location, there are often noises that interfere with the shoot which means that sounds such as footsteps have to be recorded later. Sometimes the sounds recorded on location don’t suit the tone of your film. If you’re making a horror film, for example, you might want a door to make an ominous screeching as it opens. Sounds like these will have to be recorded in post-production and synced with the footage. Use one of your production exercises to shoot a short sequence, replacing the sounds captured on location with your own foley sounds.
- Sound editing. Record a conversation and explore the possibility of using audio editors to improve the quality of your soundtrack. Audio editors like Audacity and Adobe Audition allow you to amplify sounds and reduce noise. Learn how to use this software to ensure that your audio is perfect!
- Special effects. Do you need to achieve a particular special effect in your film? Perhaps you need to learn how to create a matte painting or shoot against a green screen. Use one of your production exercises to practice achieving this technique.
- Matching on action. If you haven’t made a narrative film before, you will need to practice using a technique called matching on action. Matching the action between two shots allows you create a seamless bridge between two pieces of footage.
- Interview. Find someone to interview for your documentary. Write a series of open-ended interview questions and practice asking questions that elicit a detailed response. Consider using rule of thirds to compose these shots. When lighting the subject, think about how you can use available lighting, including desk laps and natural light to illuminate the subject of your interview.
- B-roll. In a documentary, nothing is more tedious than lingering on a talking head for too long. During your interview, you will need to engage the audience by cutting to b-roll footage. Once you have interviewed a subject, practice filming appropriate b-roll footage that suits this purpose. Think about how you can use composition, colour, focus, depth of field and camera movement to make these shots more interesting.
- Vox pops. If you plan to use vox pops in your documentary, get some practice by completing vox pops for your production exercise. Head out and record people’s responses to a particular question. Practice framing and lighting your shots correctly. Work out how you are going to record pristine audio on location.
- Lower thirds. In documentaries, the title that appears beneath an interview subject is called a ‘lower third’. One of your production exercises might involve designing a lower third title and incorporating it with footage of an interview subject.
- Editing. If you have filmed an interview for one of your production exercises, edit this together with b-roll footage to mask edits and awkward camera movements.
Documenting your production exercises
The documentation for your production exercises will include an intention, which outlines what you hope to achieve during the exercise and a realisation, which explains what you have learned. A detailed overview of the Production Exercise can be found on the VCAA website. Your production exercise cannot be used in the final production in any way.
Writing your intention
The intention for each of your production exercises will include a discussion of style, aesthetic qualities, technical equipment, media processes. It will also include, as appropriate, planning documentation such as scripts or storyboards.
When you are writing your intention, consider:
- Style and aesthetic qualities. What are the aesthetic qualities I will be exploring in this exercise? These aesthetic qualities might relate to an aspect of your production exercise such as framing or lighting. If you are filming an interview, for example, you might explain how you are going to conventionally frame up each of the shots using rule of thirds. If you are filming a conversation, you might explain how you are going to use conventions like look room and headroom. Exploring the lighting typically used in film noir? You would comment on how you are going to achieve this style of lighting.
- Technical equipment. What technical equipment are you going to use? Include a relevant description of the technical equipment you intend to use. It is not necessary to include long descriptions of the camera’s features unless they are relevant to your production. If you are using a digital SLR, for example, you might comment on how you are going to use lenses and aperture to achieve a particular look. If you are using a microphone to capture dialogue or sound effects, you might comment on how you will configure it correctly when recording these sounds.
- Media processes. Explain how you intended to use and develop your understanding of media processes, such as editing or colour correction, in the completion of this exercise.
- Planning documentation. Your production exercise must include any planning documentation, such as scripts, shotlists and storyboards.
- References. If you are exploring new techniques and processes in the completion of your exercise, it might b necessary to find out further information from manuals, books or online tutorials. in your intention, provide a commentary on how you intend to use these resources when completing your production exercise. Include an alphabetised list of resources at the end of your intention.
Undertaking your production exercise
Keep a record of what you are doing while you complete your production exercise. This might include diagrams, photographs, screenshots or notes.
If you are completing an exercise in colour grading, for example, you might take screenshots of the settings that you use to achieve particular effects. Likewise, if you are taking a series of photographs, you might keep a record of the shutter speed, aperture and white balance. If you are experimenting with a homemade jib, you might take build pictures and photographs of the device in action.
Remember, you are completing this exercise to become more familiar with the aesthetic qualities, media processes and technology you plan to use in your production. Keeping a record of how you achieved this during your production exercise will help you out later on. It will also make writing your evaluation much easier.
Writing your evaluation
The evaluation of your production exercise is a summary of what you have learned by undertaking the exercise. It is not sufficient to simply say you achieved your intention. A good evaluation will provide a detailed commentary on the aesthetic qualities, technical equipment and media processes that you explored.
When you are writing your evaluation, consider:
- Style and aesthetic qualities. How well did you achieve the style or aesthetic qualities that you hoped to achieve? How will you use or modify this approach in your production?
- Technical equipment. What did you learn about the operation of technical equipment? Technically, what do you need to be more aware of for the production? Are there issues you need to address before undertaking the production?
- Media processes. Do you need to modify or change your approach to media production processes? Is there a better way to go about your production? What do you need to learn more about?
- Further research. If you faced difficulties in the completion of your production exercise, explain how you will address this when you complete your production.
Sample Production Exercise #1
In Production Exercise #1, I intend to focus on developing my skills in camera movement and the composition of shots. I will be filming at the Heidi Museum of Modern Art, as it is of similar layout to that of the Hellenic Museum where my actual short film will take place.
I will be using a Nikon DSLR HD camera to compose various creative and artistic shots, experimenting with depth of field and the action of a pull focus. In the editing process I will experiment with various methods of transitioning, using software Sony Vegas, to achieve an aesthetically pleasing series of shots that maintains continuity and engages the audience. The following video contains various shot styles and camera angles/movement of which I would like use as inspiration: http://vwvw.youtube.com/watch?v=HaPfl
Upon completing my production exercise, I was overall pleased with the shots I had filmed, and feel as though I have achieved the style in which I would like to film my short film. I was unable to film the artwork inside the museum due to not having the artists consent, however I was permitted to film the outside sculptures in the park grounds given I would sign a form explain my intentions. As I was a student, there was no charge. In the beginning shot of the Cows (1987) Painted Corrugated Iron by Jeff Thomson, I was able to complete a pull focus through a pan shot of the artwork and the actor. A more conventional pull shot was produced in the following shot of the statue and the actor. I found that when using the 50mm lens, l had to be wary of capturing the subject in the frame completely, i.e. not cutting off the top of the head. As the day progressed, l figured out how far I had to be from the subject in order to capture a clear and pleasant shot. l thought that it would be interesting to attempt and capture the beginning scene of my initial draft script, which I have now changed to fit a more conventional style. The reason I decided to do this was because there were various shots where I had to focus specifically on certain items, and that is similar to how I will be capturing the artefacts at the Hellenic Museum. This draft scene in my production exercise, which I will not be filming during principle photography, begins as the actor is walking down the “Stein Path” (1999-2000) Terracotta Bricks by Janet Burchill. I found that it was quiet difficult to try and keep the moving subject in focus. After the actor spots a book lying on a park bench, he picks it up. I was really pleased with the clear image I was able to capture of the book. When the actor begins to read the book, I used an extreme close up to deeply focus on the boy turning the pages of the book. As the boy looks at an image in the book, I was able to complete a subtle pull focus between his hand and the image on the page. These two shots I was particularly pleased with, and would definitely like to mirror in my final product. From completing this production exercise I mainly discovered that when using the 50mm lens I have to keep in mind that the subject in appropriately captured in the frame.
Sample Production Exercise #2
In Production Exercise #2, I intend to focus on developing my skills in the editing process, including colour correcting and achieving a high quality sound. I will be using previous footage that I filmed at the Heidi Museum of Modern Art and will be recording a short voice over using the Zoom H1.
Using editing software Sony Vegas, I will experiment with various colour correcting tones and filters to achieve the best suited style for my short film.
The following videos are tutorials on editing and colour correcting using Sony Vegas:
Concluding this production exercise, I hope to have improved in my understanding and knowledge, ability and skill in the editing process specifically applying colour correction to the footage.
In my second production exercise, I felt as though I accomplished familiarity with the Sony Vegas editing software, in particular colour correcting. After watching various YouTube tutorials on different techniques of colour correcting, l was able to experiment myself what means of colour correction would best suit my edited footage. l realised that even the slightest increase in midtones or highlights would change the colour density drastically, so I learnt to be cautious with the amount of effect I placed on the footage.
As I continued to experiment with various effects, including colour balance and colour correction, I finally created a custom effect most appropriate for my footage. Considering this, however, I still found that each footage required its own personal colour correcting effects, as each piece of footage was slightly different. This was due to sunlight, and different times throughout the day etc.
In my production exercise, the colour correction resulted in a cinematic style, yet still realistic. I wanted to retain a crisp, cool image, not over saturated or contrasted and neither too dull and washed out. I feel as though having experiement with the editing software in colour correction, I will be confident enough to apply this knowledge and techniques when editing my short film.
Regarding the sound recording using the Zoom Hl, I found that after I had rendered the file, that the sound could have been a little louder. When I recorded my subject using the Zoom H1, the sound levels were hiring just above -12 dB. Although I did edit this through Adobe Audition, to increase the volume. When I record the narration for my short film, I will have to keep in mind to make sure that the sound levels are hitting between -12 dB and -3 dB. In saying this, I was pleased with the quality of sound that was produced.
SAMPLE PRODUCTION EXERCISE #3
As my main focus for this exercise is in colour correction and the special effects within transitions. I will need to test and co-ordinate sequences that achieves these experiments effectively.
Firstly I will begin by shooting a variety of shots on both the GoPro and the Canon Hv40. The use of two cameras here will allow me to see which camera is more suitable for each given scene in my film. Then by experimenting with a variety of colour correction tools I will enhance the visual aspect of each shot. I intend to colour correct this in Adobe After Effects with a variety of tools (levels, RGB curves, brightness and contrast and blurs). After this process I will cut the footage on an angle allowing a small corner of the raw footage to be viewed, creating a contrast from the before and after. By experimenting with a variety of colour correction techniques , I will establish the best approach to colour correct my footage.
Special Effect Transitions
Through the use of a point of view shot I will attempt to establish the best methods of linking two shots together. These transitions are crucial for my production of “Transition”, as they are the backbone for the narrative. Through the use of roto-scoping, cross fading and motion blur I will develop a variety of different alternatives methods to achieve the transition. This will be done in adobe after effects, which will provide me with a variety of choices in regards to these options.
I intend to shoot footage on a canon Hv40 and a Go Pro basically focusing on a point of view shot. In each sequence there will be two shots, with one in another completely different location that would allow me to create the transition. What I aim to achieve is a smooth flowing transition that seems both faultless and believable. I would like the effect to seem simple and not to basic as it is essential for the films development as a narrative.
During the colour correction process, it became quite obvious that it was going to become a key component in my films post production. As I had shot a variety of shots, both indoors, outdoors and underwater, I had to established particular hues and colour correction templates for a given scene. This worked extremely well, as I had to compensate for given natural light and artificial light. The only thing that may need to be improved on is how I colour correct each given camera (Canon Hv40.. GOPRO). This I found to be an issue as each camera, had different levels of background noise, therefore requiring more contrast. But overall I am extremely happy with the outputted results in relation to the colour correction aspect of Production Exercise 1.
Special Effect Transitions
The transitions themselves was quite a lengthy process to create as the both required Roto scoping in after effects. The first one I tried out was rather complex as I focused on opening a door to an aerial view of suburbia. This required a large amount of roto-scoping as I had shot this in handheld. I paced a picture bellow this layer in after effects, motion tracked it to the scene. Although the final product did not look particularly convincing, I established that I will have to use a green screen rather than the roto-scoping method. This I believe will create the effect I required without the jittery drawback from roto-scoping.
The second transition, involved an underwater transition to a bathtub which will be shot on the GoPro. This involved me filming an underwater shot as the camera rose to the surface, then cutting suddenly to a point of view shot from the bathtub. This effect was done through rotoscoping , motion blur and cross fading inside Adobe After Effects. The only thing that I would like to improve from this process, is how quickly I cut to the bathtub. Ideally I would have liked to linger on the water surface slower, which can be achieved through a slower camera movement to the surface. But overall I was extremely happy with the final result in this Production Exercise 1.
I am particularly happy with the outputted result for Production Exercise 1 .The only thing I would change if I had the chance would be to take my time a lot more when it came to shooting the underwater sequences as I felt that I rushed them , which showed in the final output.
SAMPLE PRODUCTION EXERCISE #4
The intention of Production Exercise #1 is to test my knowledge of camera equipment and editing software (Vegas Pro 9.0) while working around potential problems that may arise during the filming of my short film, for example, lighting issues, camera/hardware issues or software issues. I want to experiment with editing some of my footage in Vegas Pro 9.0 and investigate whether or not a short montage will be appropriate in the section(s) of the film I intend to use it/them. The sort of effect I wish to achieve is similar to that used in “Spin” by Double Edge Films. Lighting will be experimented with and manipulated in dark environments in order to achieve visually appealing and clear camera shots. Different camera modes and positioning of both placed and natural lighting will be involved in achieving a satisfactory shot. If necessary, additional layering and colour correction may be used in post-production.
The first and most exciting thing that I discovered upon arriving at my film location is that the use of external or placed lighting would not be necessary as the basement is well lit by the lights already present. This means that a lighting rig will not be necessary and I will have more time to focus on other aspects of the production.
All of the colour corrected shots that I ended up using were best generated from the cine mode samples. I think this is because the camera is able to detect the best settings for a room with low-medium light (which the basement has) and that manual settings are put to no better use than just minor adjustments. This has contradicted my past experiences with this camera but it isn’t really relevant as the basement is the only dark location I will be filming in and – considering it was the location I was most anxious about – the samples came out very well. I had no major problems with the editing of the montage and it was good to brush up on basic editing and colour correction. Hopefully the sound tests will prove just as effective as the camera and editing in my next exercise