Supporting the story with sound
All audio was edited using Audacity
Julia Dawn You Are My Sunshine (Davis & Mitchell) (2007). MP3.
I decided my original choice, a vocal work by Lisa Gerrard, while beautiful was too cute. This final choice was chosen because it has an edge to it and is a mixture, in lyrics and sound, of both hope and a warning against loss which reflects Reign Man’s state of mind. Following feedback, I raised the audio level on the song.
Update to final backing music
The music backing the video has been changed. I have replaced the song with an industrial piece of music that reflects the sound of Reign Man’s inner world: an electrical hum, the sound of energy.
Rain & thunder
The sound and sight of rain is often used in film to reflect a gloomy state of mind of the protagonist and is therefore appropriate to feature in the opening sequence.
Accessed at https://freesound.org/people/crayz4peanuts/sounds/276926/
The lightning flash happens just before Reign Man begins to move inside his mind. The sound can represent part of the weather reflecting his mood (see above) and can also represent that flash of insight that he experiences just prior to going inwards.
Accessed at https://freesound.org/people/guitarguy1985/sounds/87963/
The voices represent persistent intrusive thoughts that bother Reign Man. They are not specific in what they are saying to ensure the subject matter may be decided by the viewer/listener based on their experience rather than imposed by the film maker.
Accessed at https://freesound.org/people/mefrancis13/sounds/210611/
The most common responses to survey questions as to what tinnitus sounds like are high-pitched crickets or bells. I have therefore placed a high pitched sound in the brain sequence where we see the swarming grasshoppers. Since the sound is intensely irritating, its level has been adjusted so as to only slightly impinge and therefore not discourage viewers from continuing to watch the film.
Accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HIfqyHbKgY
The emojis represent binary thinking and the giggling that accompanies the emoji rainfall represents the inane and un-nuanced thought patterns associated with this form of thinking.
Accessed at https://freesound.org/people/JohnsonBrandEditing/sounds/243378/
The sound associated with the material being sprayed out of his umbrella.
Accessed at https://freesound.org/people/esperri/sounds/119152/
The wheezing sound indicates to the listener that the spray is having the effect of suffocating its targets.
Accessed at https://freesound.org/people/husky70/sounds/157296/
The sound of the final large emoji trying to impose its thought pattern on Reign Man.
Accessed at https://freesound.org/people/AlucardsBride/sounds/179671/
The sound accompanying the firing umbrella/gun.
Accessed at https://freesound.org/people/Willlewis/sounds/244345/
The sound reflecting the explosion of the large emoji.
Accessed at https://freesound.org/people/dkmedic/sounds/104447/
The feedback suggesting I raise the audio level on the backing song was instructive. In putting a project together, the film maker can hear a backing song over and over and become very used to its presence and what the lyrics are saying. This familiarity can lead to the decision to lower the audio level on the grounds that the audience will hear what the film maker is hearing, which may not be the case.
The lesson here is to preview work with someone unfamiliar with the work to ensure that what is being communicated in the work is being successfully communicated.
This lesson can apply to all elements that go to make up a film or other work.
My final decision on the music background came about because I decided that I wanted an emphasis on the visual aspects of the story rather than layering over that with a song; the words interrupted the viewer’s reception of the visual story.
This is the rain for the opening scene. I wanted a fairly heavy fall to help emphasise the character’s mood. It is a visual trope in films that if the weather turns cold and wet and there’s rain on the window or the character is caught out in a shower, things are usually turning gloomy. It has become a cliche but viewers are attuned to its message and it is a simple shorthand way of communicating mood.
I followed the above tutorial and used CC Rain.
I increased the amount of rain by adjusting the number and size of the drops as well as their opacity. To slant the drops slightly across the screen, I increased the wind to ‘150’.
I have used this effect as part of the electricity shooting around in low opacity as part of the background inside the brain. The brain needs to be busy in terms of action to reflect the character’s state of mind but not so busy that the focus of the sequence is lost.
Working off the above tutorial, I used Fractal Noise to create the base material and then placed ellipse masks on a layer over the base material; added Turbulent Displace (with an expression); placed an adjustment layer on top and used Fast Blur, Vector Blur and Color Balance to give the portal its final touches.
These are the mouths that represent the voices of his intrusive thoughts. I removed the iPhones for the final project as the mouths now represent inner voices rather than people talking loudly into their cellphones in public. Using Time Remap and an Expression, I looped the movement of the mouths to represent a demanding tone but not so fast that the action is blurred.
Working from the above tutorial, I duplicated each face onto a new layer and, using the pen tool, masked out the mouth/jaw area on the top layer. Then I placed a black solid layer below this layer and resized the solid to only be seen when the jaw dropped as I adjusted its position.
To create the visual metaphor of tinnitus to match the sound, I placed repeated images of the grasshopper and cricket in a composition and animated them using position key frames along a Pen Tool path.
This is the spray that he pumps out of the umbrella tip. Following feedback, I have spun him left and right as he sprays. This works well as the action now looks more natural and purposeful. The colour of the spray and the opacity has been chosen to give the impression of a rather poisonous light green/yellow.
Working from the above tutorial, I created a black solid which I then manipulated using Particle Playground and Gaussian Blur to create the initial spray that will issue from the umbrella tip. I then added a second black solid layer on top and used CC Particle World to create the beginnings of the widespread spray and a third layer using CC Particle World to create the spray that spreads across the screen. I changed the birth and death colours to variations of yellow/green
This is the emoji rain that falls inside his brain representing binary thinking (like/dislike). Following feedback, I set two emojis falling first as a teaser. I like the change, it gives a cheeky feeling to the opening as though they are two younger and disobedient emojis who couldn’t wait for the order to begin and are having a good time in doing so. After further feedback, I decreased the volume of falling emojis to start the main downpour.
Working from the above tutorial I used CC Particle World, altered the Particle Type to Textured Square and the Texture Layer to the emoji image. To have the images accumulate at the bottom of the screen I selected Floor Action to Bounce. I then adjusted Hue/Saturation to pull back on the brightness of the emojis so they looked less cartoonish and to match the colour style in his brain.
This effect is the result of him shooting the last and ever-expanding emoji that appears after the rain of emojis. I increased the dimensions of the shatter pieces to give the suggestion of an inner body and I think it adds to the shatter effect.
Working from the above tutorial, I placed the image on a layer and applied the Shatter Effect. I then used the following settings: Pattern-Glass; Repetitions 40 to increase the number of pieces; increased the Extrusion Depth to .40 to give the pieces added thickness; altered Gravity to 1.00 and Viscosity to 0.4 to give a better fall. I then placed a sourced file of an explosion on the bottom layer and used Brightness & Contrast and Gamma/Pedestal/Gain to lighten and heighten the explosion effect.
This is the explosion clip sourced from videezy.com. I chose this one as having a nice full-bodied and rounded shape emanating from the centre.
Assessment feedback suggested I consider using extra camera moves and I have taken up that suggestion.
I have used the technique of controlling the camera using a parented Null Object Layer as outlined in this video.
This video (below) suggested the idea to use a crane down shot at the start to indicate that we were dropping into Reign Man’s life.
The next video is the result:
I had originally thought to use two jump cuts in the sequence where we see Reign Man become aware of the emoji rain. This was meant to indicate the jumpiness of his mind but simply looked like bad editing. I therefore used a pan and zoom to move in on him and away again. I am pleased with the result (see next video) as there is still a feeling of rushing in on him to register his response.
I added Gaussian blur to the background as the camera moves in to give a bokeh effect and therefore ensure the focus of attention is on Reign Man’s face.
FRAMING OF FINAL SCENE
I had considered zooming in on him to conclude the video but decided against it. The intention in the last scene is to see him as part of his environment rather than dominating it.
In the journey of Reign Man from his brain/mind to sitting and reading at the conclusion, I had first attempted to make the transition as smooth as though the medium was film. It never looked right. I realised I was denying the medium I was working in: stop motion. Once I accepted that and worked the final sequence as stop motion, the transition had an interesting character of its own: it represented his return as not facile and smooth but as a bumpy re-entry which looks more realistic. A space capsule returning to earth is usually shown as having a very bumpy journey before splashdown and this is what I now see in Reign Man’s return as shown in the excerpt below.
Starting VFX work with the rain effect was encouraging as it is a relatively simple operation which gave me confidence to get into the more complicated effects.
In acknowledging that I was working in stop motion in the final scene is a lesson: in accepting the medium of stop motion rather than trying to pretend it was film, the ending to the video gained a lot more energy.
Each effect I have created is accompanied by the main tutorial I accessed for each test. Other tutorials used to help me in creating these tests included work on garbage mattes, replacing footage on a layer, green screening (especially linda.com), looping pre-comps, explosions, brain cell animation, shadow effect, raster to vector conversion, and audio manipulation. The internet is an excellent source of extra training and as a source of information to solve the large and small challenges that arise in doing this work.
Isolating the character
I used Photoshop on all of Gavan’s photos to remove the background and exported them as .PNGs with transparent backgrounds.
To differentiate between Reign Man’s existence in the external world and his presence inside his mind, I processed all the latter images of Gavan in Moku Hanga, software that gives a woodblock look. The purpose of de-saturating Reign Man’s colour and downgrading his facial outlines when he is in his internal world is based on the possibility that, to successfully enter the world of the brain/mind, a human being must lose some of his self-consciousness (in Freudian terms a partial loss of the sense of possession of an ego). The partial loss of facial definition is a visual metaphor for the partial loss of the concept of self. However, when we are nearer to Reign Man inside his mind/brain, both literally and metaphorically, in close-up there is greater definition than when we see him in wide shot in his internal world.
Opening street scene I replaced the original sky for a more dramatic one I had photographed, and used Curves and HDR in Photoshop to darken and delineate the street scene and to create his shadow on the footpath. I considered blurring the distant background to give a slight bokeh effect but, as a fan of the films of Sergio Leone, I kept the deep focus*. This ensures the character does not stand out from his surroundings, instead the environment looms over him and adds a slightly threatening edge to the scene.
To create an imaginary environment of neural webbing for his transition between the outside world and his mind, I took a photo of the sun shining through a bush in my front garden (left image) and I then processed the image through Photoshop and Moku Hanga software to get the woodblock-print look (right image).
Inside the brain/mind
To create the sensation of revolving energy, I used the sky part of this photo I took (above), and continually rotated it as the background behind the semi-transparent blue layer.
I accessed this image of a neuron* and removed the background and the bright green flashes in Photoshop. I then created a second image of the same object to place on top as a second layer of neurons and exported the layers as PNGs on transparent backgrounds.
(*BU Photonics Center. (n.d.). Neuron iStock Photo. http://www.bu.edu/photonics/?attachment_id=1433)
To create a visual metaphor for the sound of tinnitus, the original grasshopper/cricket drawings were accessed*, the backgrounds removed and the bodies coloured a blue to match the Moku Hanga blue in Photoshop.
(*Right image: DrawingTutorials. (n.d.). Cricket. http://www.drawingtutorials101.com/how-to-draw-a-cricket
Left image: ClipArtHut. (n.d.). Grasshopper. http://www.cliparthut.com/grasshopper-drawing-10-coloring-pagegif-clipart-z7SoMg.html)
I created the smiley-face emoji in Photoshop and warped it to give it the shape of a raindrop to match its main purpose.
The choice to woodblock-process the talking mouths, the insects, and Reign Man (when inside his mind) was taken so that there was a consistency with these figures in that environment which made them part of that environment. I did not process the colour of the emojis as their yellow colour is a major signifier of their identity.
I changed the final background from the everyday image of a room to a more abstract image to indicate that the outside world is, for the present time, not strongly impinging on him and to indicate, through a visual metaphor, his present state of mind.
I created the background for the final scene in Photoshop using a ‘tree’ brush of blood-red on a black background to give the impression of a series of very healthy and free-flowing blood vessels in his brain indicating a mind at rest.
The created image, with its strong play of contrasting light and shadow, produces the effect of chiaroscuro and means the film starts and ends with two visually strong images that communicate his opening and closing states of mind.
Looking back at the above workflow, it is clear I was continually looking for strongly dramatic visual contexts in which to place my character.
The change of the narrative journey, placing Reign Man inside his brain/mind to face his challenges rather than on the suburban street, was a positive step. I was able to play a lot more with a fantasy film set of vivid imagery and imaginative metaphors to create the battlefield in which the character deals with his disturbances.
STORY DEVELOPMENT 1
The consistent theme that is contained throughout the progress of developing the story was of ‘change for the better brought about by the character’s actions’.
Gondolier: Very gloomy man is transformed into an aria-singing gondolier with active help of spaghetti and red wine.
Alfred cannot stand the world of niceness. His life experiences have taught him never to trust people who are nice; the smiley face hides the cold ambitious heart of an assassin.
He is surrounded by saccharine niceness in a candy-coloured world that is full of people determined and insistent on telling the world they are happy; they rain their unctuousness—the sugar-coating covering their nasty nature—down on him. He finds a way to dissolve that world and creates around him a world that satisfies his every dream, a world in which he reigns supreme.
Reign Man lives in a noisy traffic-filled world of those who phone-chat loudly on public transport and in cafes and who communicate by emojis. He brings about change to arrive in a world where he has some control, where he reigns, even if only for a little while.
There are 3 acts: the first contains the exposition, we see what is troubling Reign Man; the second is his response to those annoyances and contains the action and audio climax; the third is the resolution when the conflict is resolved and peace reigns.
Moving into the inner world.
The initial approach was to present the character facing external challenges with the suggestion that the result could be interpreted on a deeper level. Using much of the same material, I have now shifted the project’s focus to that deeper level. This is a subject of interest to me and also allows for a more interesting setting for what is the final synopsis.
Reign Man lives with a noisy traffic-filled mind, bothered by intrusive thoughts, binary thinking and internal noise such as tinnitus. He travels inside his mind to deal with these challenges to give himself some peace for a while.
The synopsis sits in the genre of stories of a magic wand that can change things or a genie in a bottle that gives three wishes. The umbrella (which, in reality, grants us a wish by protecting us from inclement weather) can be seen as Reign man’s wand granting his wishes.
I called my character Reign Man with reference to his ability to control and reign, at least for a while, over his inner world. It could also be seen as a play on Rain Man*, the film title, and with reference to his original mood reflected by the rain we see in the first scene.
I have just now (18 Nov.) come across two public figures called Reign Man: a Seattle Supersonics basketballer and a ‘kickass rapper’ **.
So much for thinking how original I was on my play-with-words title!
The call to come up with at least ten ideas for the project was a good one. It meant the mind was exercised to consider many possibilities before settling on the final list and helped ensure that I was not half way into the semester before discovering I had a better idea.
In looking back at my ten choices, I see that I was seeking a narrative arc that meant a change occurred in the events or the character in the allocated thirty seconds.
The time allocated to developing the final storyline meant that that storyline could be further refined and developed as seen in the above story progression of Reign Man. The character initially responded to outside influences and annoyances before moving to a deeper level of response. This change was an acknowledgement that much that annoys us is not what is outside us but how we respond to what is outside us.
It reminds me of this story:
‘Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: “The flag is moving.”
The other said: “The wind is moving.”
The sixth patriarch happened to be passing by. He told them: “Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving.”’
(Accessed at http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/glg/glg29.htm)
I am pleased that I did not stick with my initial final selection but allowed the story to continue growing as it moved closer to a subject of great interest to me: the mind and its workings.
STORY DEVELOPMENT 2
Storyboard for Reign Man – a rough draft
Please click on first thumbnail to view gallery
Storyboard for Reign Man facing external challenges.
Please click on first thumbnail to view gallery.
used to check timing of above storyboard.
The narrative was now altered to Reign Man facing internal challenges.
Visualising the story in storyboard form was an enormous help in refining that story and in ensuring mistakes and regrets that could arise further down the production line are avoided at this early stage in development.
Putting together the frames of the storyboard meant that the mind was focused on the story and, in that concentration of effort, further ideas and considerations arose and the narrative developed in terms of its arc, a shift of the character’s central environment (internal rather than external), and style of presentation.
The concentrated work in this section of the process also meant that, when the mind was at rest and not at all focused on the unit tasks (on my daily walk, on first awakening, watching a movie etc.), ideas that could contribute to the project would arise unbidden (I would use an iPhone app to record a short reminder of each idea for later consideration when back at the desk).
The rough-draft storyboard was enough to ensure that I only needed to ask Gavan, the actor playing the role, to take part in one green screen photo shoot; I knew what I wanted to achieve in the session. Since I have asked various friends a number of times to help out on unit assignments of this nature, I like to ensure an efficient workflow when filming or photographing them; it makes the sessions an enjoyment rather than a burden.
Using a rough animatic to test the timing of the narrative was vital to the success of the project. It was a comprehensive story to squeeze into thirty seconds and, if my timing was out, I would have had to abandon sections of the story which would have meant an inconclusive narrative arc and, therefore, throwing out the entire story and starting over.
The timing animatic also allowed me to work out a rough allocation of time for each sequence of the story based on how much information the audience would need before the story moves on.
Creating the final animatic was also vital in further ironing out possible future problems as well as refining the story, the timing, and the visual style. This process also made me realise my original selection of the underlying music was not working and I was able to find a new piece before completing this animatic.
This website* addressing Joseph Campbell’s seminal work** on the journey of the hero has a very comprehensive analysis of that work. I have copy/pasted its summary of the stages of that journey. I have emphasised the stages appropriate to my character’s journey and appended (in square brackets) the reasons I see that alignment.
“The Hero’s Journey Outline
The Hero’s Journey is a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development. It describes the typical adventure of the archetype known as The Hero, the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilization.
Its stages are:
- THE ORDINARY WORLD. The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma. The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.
[Reign Man lives in a world where his inner life is plagued with intrusive thoughts, binary thinking (un-nuanced desire/aversion) and attacks of tinnitus.]
- THE CALL TO ADVENTURE. Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.
[From within comes the desire for change. It is not the outer world he must change or move away from but his inner existence]
- REFUSAL OF THE CALL. The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly. Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.
- MEETING WITH THE MENTOR. The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey. Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.
[We do not see these meetings but it is implied that he has sought far and wide for ‘training, equipment, or advice’ through extensive reading, travel, and meetings with sages.]
- CROSSING THE THRESHOLD. At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.
[Armed with the knowledge gained through this extensive study, he regularly crosses from the outer to his inner world.]
- TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES. The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.
- APPROACH. The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.
- THE ORDEAL. Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life.
[While within himself, he applies the many techniques he has learned, both subtle and aggressive, in his bid to gain the reward he seeks. A necessary part of many of those techniques is that there must be a partial surrender of his understanding of the concept of self; in other words, he often experiences partial deaths of the self.]
- THE REWARD. The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.
[The reward he takes possession of is a respite from those challenges.]
- THE ROAD BACK. About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home. Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.
[Reign Man returns to his outer world.]
- THE RESURRECTION. At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level. By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.
- RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR. The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.”
[Reign Man continues the journey and, each time he successfully completes an inner journey of transformation, he returns with a more strengthened mental elixir.]
*Hero’s Journey accessed at http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero’s_journey.htm
**Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 1972. USA: Princeton University Press