Education

PROBLEM SOLVING IN WATERCOLOUR by Glenn Dixon

This artwork compliments a fascinating filmmaking assignment I am currently working on with La Trobe University. The series explores La Trobe Universities' partnership with ReMSTEP, a national initiative to drive major improvement in the quality of science and mathematics pre-service teacher education.

My principal challenge is to create visuals to compliment a one-minute voice over that will introduce each film. The voice-over references online curriculum resources, providing context to the story. As these resources are static text documents, they do not lend themselves to becoming powerful visual overlays let alone the opening shots of a film.

My solution was to commission Ray Eckermann (Small Mountains) to re-imagine my films as large watercolour artworks. I sent Ray the rough cuts and he represented the key narrative points in his beautiful illustration style. I was able to film close up shots of the physical posters and integrate them throughout the film. This offered tremendous creative flexibility in the edit and the films are more powerful as a result.

Ray's ability to encapsulate the key messages in my films provided me with a deeper awareness of what my films are communicating. There was an instance when Ray’s draft came in and it did not match my vision. It soon became clear that my rough cut was not communicating our intent clearly enough and we revised the film accordingly.

This creative solution has offered additional surprising benefits; As these films will be used in classroom contexts in addition to their training purposes, educators can print the posters off and display in the classroom while they run these activities with students. It's a lovely tangible experience that connects the film to the classroom.

We are completing post-production tasks with the first five films in the series with another to film to shoot in May. I look forward to sharing and discussing the finished films when we are ready to publish them.


Gallery above:  Original watercolour prints by Ray Eckermann.
Photograph below: Early sketches with my notes in red.

Exploring cinematic rhythm by Glenn Dixon

Surfcoast Secondary

While capturing footage for a short film commissioned by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD), I was on location at Surf Coast Secondary College. The opportunity arose for me to help facilitate a two day filmmaking workshop for a small group of enthusiastic students. The media teacher and I provided the participants with raw footage from my previous visit, which included interview footage (A-roll) and general vision of the school (B-roll). Students were invited to craft their own interpretations of the school’s story in the form of a two minute film. One of the major points of discussion I initiated as I floated between the groups revolved around creating rhythm and energy in the edit.

For me, filmmaking rhythm is more challenging to isolate and define than the concept of rhythm in music. Musical rhythm is precise, consistent and repetitious. Motion picture rhythm is dynamic and less confined to consistent intervals of time. If a musician wanders off beat, this has an immediate and jarring effect on an audience who are disconnected from the continuity of the piece and whose attention is diverted to the execution of the music. Films attribute their sense of rhythm to the cumulative effects of the cinematic elements. The amount of time it takes the audience to process the information within the frame and from the soundscape greatly influences the impression of rhythm. It could be concluded that the complexity and richness of the information in each shot alludes to the amount of screen time it requires. It is up to the film editor to evaluate each frame critically, considering its fluid relationship with the preceding visual and how it will influence the shots to come.

Cinematic rhythm is also created through the juxtaposition of visually diverse images. Running spacious wide shots into extreme close ups generates significantly more momentum than cutting between a series of similarly framed mid shots. In my experience, the greater the contrast in perspective, frame size, subject, lighting etc, the more energy will be created in the cut.

Many students chose to create a narrative bed using the A-roll interview material and overlay B-roll that supported the dialogue. Some early cuts included B-roll that ran for twenty seconds; we discussed the impact this has on an audience and I questioned them as to whether this was their intended effect. In most cases this lead to re-edits and more conscious decision making around the timing, pairing and order of visuals.

After the students had an opportunity to screen their work, we participated in a short exercise while watching my original DEECD cut. The students were encourage to clap each time they anticipated a cut in the film. It was very interesting from my point of view to get such feedback on my work. After all, my edit is not the way to make the film, it is simply a way. I may need to revisit a few of my own cuts as a direct result of the students’ feedback.

Special thanks to Andy Forssman and the workshop participants, Surf Coast Secondary College and DEECD for the opportunity. I hope we get to hang out again sometime soon!