Evaluation -the stairs


this project was one of the most interesting so far as even though the brief was specific about the number of instruments we could use the location and choice of poem was very open. despite this my group had no problem quickly coming up with and agreeing on an idea.

The Poem: we looked at quite a few poems the first of which was “i met a man upon the stair.” after we went through a few websites full of poems we decided to go with it as we believed that we could have fun experimenting with it as there are so many possible angles to take on it.

The Location: once we had our poem it was quite clear that we would want a stair case so we talked about stair cases that we had seen locally we asked others and looked at google images of staircases for inspiration. eventually we found an image of a large spiral stair case at Kendall climbing center. after college i went down there and asked at the desk for permission to film. after asking them and investigating the location i got permission to film on the Monday provided we didn’t have anyone in shot who hadn’t given a permission slip in, we didn’t climb and we signed in for by an adult of 18+.

Risk Assessment: once we knew we could film at the climbing center my group was given a quick talk about health and safety. Due to the health and safety we weren’t aloud to put the camera over the edge of the stairs in case it fell and hit someone, we couldn’t lean over the edge for risk of falling.

Shot List Planning: for our shot list we decided on what shots we wanted to tell the story for instance i wanted an aerial wide of the stair case looking down the middle as a artistic shot to establish whose there and the location that we could edit so that it looked like they were in multiple places at once there was also the possibility to do something interesting with the words like putting the on each level in post like the “Kate tempest” video only slower. one of the main things we thought about was how we would want to portray the man who isn’t there. to do this we decided to do three takes for each time the man is there; 1 in focus, 2 out of focus, 3 not there at all. we also wanted to establish the man as a presence and so for that we used over the shoulder shots so that you would know some ones there. we also decided to get a focus pull in case we decided to make a transition in focus type. we planned to get shots tracking the characters moving on the stairs. overall our shot list was aimed to get as many shots as possible that would suggest a dark but cheeky tone and an unknown presence in the same way that the “tank trap” film poem uses a monochrome beach to show location and set a mood.

if i redid the shot list i would give them an order that reflects the story and make a story board. If i were to go back and plan another shot i would have an over the shoulder looking at the man out of focus before breaking the 180 degree rule and passing behind the characters head to the other shoulder and as the camera is behind the characters head the man moves out of shot so that he seems to have diapered.Untitled.png


The shoot:

Transport: to get to the location with the equipment Jenny went ahead on her bike taking the tripod and sound equipment while me and Wilson walked with the camera and shot list.

Set Up: when we arrived they had just fixed the stairs lights and were finishing cleaning the stairs we were signed in and set up on the stairs we started at the top to get the wide of Jenny in multiple positions on the stair way as we couldn’t put the camera over the edge we put the tripod as close as possible to the edge and tilted the camera to the highest angle it could go to then locked it off. Throughout i had the camera held and strapped to my neck so that if if slid it wouldn’t have far to fall (3 point rig) We shot this on a tripod so that it was still enough for the cropping effect to work later on also the poem is quite slow so we didn’t want to use free hand for a wide as it would have created energy where the isn’t any in the same way the “monster fighting grandfather” film poem uses a tripod so there isn’t any energy that there shouldn’t be. the issue we had with this shot now was getting Jenny to be in what looks like the center as we found that each side had a different center spot none of which were the true center the far side center point was two steps down the right was 1.5 steps closer to the camera and the left was half a step back from the camera.Untitled2.png

the other shots were all done in free hand as they were moving shots or required energy for instance the over the shoulder was done in free hand as the energy from the camera here reflects the characters frustration which isn’t seen in the wide. Each shot of the man took time as we did it in three ways as we planned and we would have to pause if anyone came past which set us back for time. during the shoot we tried a point of view shot from the mans perspective by supporting the hat over the camera so that only the brim could be seen. unfortunately everything we tried resulted in the hat falling over the lens mid shot so we resorted to doing the shot without fairly quickly.

when we recorded sound we decided to use strings. we had found lots of double bass on the internet that we could use but also in the corridor we hijacked a music student who agreed to try and play some notes for us. So we took our ‘hostage’ to an empty recording studio and read him the poem. from this we were able to record two different styles that they believed would work with it. from past sound experience i knew to try and keep the sound levels between -24 and -12 and the head phones at 100 so i shared that with the group so we pointed the microphone at the body of the guitar and recorded. when it came to recording the sound of the door slamming at the climbing center we had to wait for a while as the was a noisy patch but eventually we got the sound. When recording the poem at first we played the music that we had decided to use through a phone into headphones so that it could be read in time then we did it without music. to record the voice we directed the head of microphone towards the readers sternum at a distance of about a meter as this is meant to be the ideal place to position the microphone head to record clear sound and that was the closest we could get without getting the microphone in shot. if i were to redo the sound i would have asked for more pauses as this would have allowed for more freedom in post.i would also have done the free recording first as i believe recording the poem with the music timing first could have influenced the free read which though it didn’t seem to just feels like bad practice.

in a similar way to the “look up” film poem when we recorded the reading it was against a blank background as not to detract from the words being spoken.


Post: for my first shot i used a free hand shot i had taken on the way out looking up the stairway. i time remapped it into a freeze frame to stop the movement then i key framed the scale to create a zoom out effect. over this i made a title in the center. at first i did a few things to this so that it faded in and scaled up  until it looked as if it had fallen past the camera. in the end i stuck to a simple fade in and fade out as the original highlighted the less is more philosophy as there was to much going on and so the energy started to high.

The second shot was the medium shot of Wilson in a focus pull. in editing i cut out the part of this where he was in focus so that he was constantly out of focus as i believed this would be the best way to suggest that he’s there and not there. to reach this shot i did a cross fade by layering this clip over the end of the 1st shot and then i used adobes pen tool to key the opacity of the two clips. to make this as successful as i could i timed it so that the man appears when the words i met a man who wasn’t there occur.

The third shot i used was the aerial wide which i made in a sub-sequence in which i layered the clip 4 times and offset there times to correspond the searching and cut them to the same length. Then i cropped the top 3 so that you could see the same person 4 times. for two of those the crop was a simple side top bottom crop however as you may notice two of the people slightly overlap meaning that i had to create a masked crop with the “roto-bezier” pen around the right person. once i had done that i had to key frame the mask as when the person moves back you can see there head shape out of focus as the focus levels were different.to do this i key framed the two extremes and then the center of the clip as this meant that i didn’t have to change it frame by frame. however there are still some slips that i would have removed with more time (i was very glad we weren’t using film at this point). this  then was put in time to the line he wasn’t there again today as it showed that she couldn’t see him. this was time remapped to 50% as this made it last longer.

the next 4 clips were of her in individual positions timed to appear at each “W” spike in the audio waveform. After this the scene fades to black as the stanza ends.

the next shot to fade in is of the character walking along some stairs with the bars along the third lines this was to show her arriving home as the line suggested. Following this i used the hatted point of view shot to suggest the man waiting however this hot didn’t achieve the purpose as it doesn’t have the feel of a point of view shot; i believe this is partly to do with  the consistency of free handed shots and so it may have been achieved on a Steadicam or Rolland mount also the action seen from this point doesn’t follow the last scene and so the cut looked funny.

for the next shot in the end i duplicated the sub-sequence i had made earlier in the media browser (not on the time line) this made a second sub-sequence which i then changed the offsets of so that she was in a different position. i also removed the mask and was able to use a normal crop this time. unfortunately this wasn’t the first thing i did as i had at first duplicated it in the time line so when i had edited it it edited both so i had to undo as much as i could and readjust what wouldn’t undo until i had the original back.

The next shots were timed to the reading so she disappears to “i couldn’t see him there at all” and so when she shouts go away at same time the poem says it. Then i used the over the shoulder where the man isn’t there showing that he isn’t real from an outsiders perspective however the effect wasn’t as strong as i would have liked it to be.

the next shots are of the man walking away  and exiting through a door for the walking shot i had to alter the gamma to make it of a similar brightness to the other shots. for the door slamming sound effect i had to lower the volume and line the wave form up with  the door closing. this worked really well as it goes dark again and the music matches up to it. this pause could have done with extending as extending the pause in post don’t work because there isn’t any room noise that fitted the gap so i should have asked.

the final shot is an over the shoulder which fades out with the character looking for the man but not seeing him. then for the end credits i put the names descending like stairs in a still.

when editing i used the free read of the poem as this gave me the most freedom and one of the double bass solos that i had found online as this portrayed the cheeky side of the poem.

Over all if there is something i would want to change it would be the speed of the shot changes in the  middle as i believe there energy was to much and so it started to feel jumpy and closer to “how to be a poet” in style which i didn’t want for this poem to be honest. Then i would like to have made the shots more stylish. Unfortunately the lighting couldn’t have been used to achieve this and color correction didn’t work  as i tried changing some of the settings such as the gamma and saturation to give it a pink or turquoise tint to give it the cheekier feel.i would also have used a rig that would let us have the camera in the center of the stairs providing a more stylish shot.


What I Have Learnt:

cameras don’t wear hats.

Ask for pauses in reading as they can be reduced but not extended and also get room noise in case.

I know how to ask for permission to film in a location.

I can now create a mask and crop in premier.

Doing the same shot with different settings works really well if you have the time to get them as they provide much more freedom when editing.

health and safety is something to think about for each shot when making a shot list.

About kitjaytaylor

Film student
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One Response to Evaluation -the stairs

  1. kendalcollegefilm says:

    This is really strong, constructive work, Kit—well done. Your skill with editing is remarkable, and it’s really exciting to see you exploring the technical tools available to you in Premiere. Don’t let your stories get lost along the way, though! This filmpoem has worked nicely. My biggest gripe, as you’ve identified yourself, is the footage quality, which is a little underexposed in places, and feels gritty. But shot for shot, I think you’ve some great footage, and I’m really pleased to see the detail in which your group has developed these ideas. Well done!


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