Speech Packages: Unit 40 – Outcome 1

In the earlier decades of the 20th century media producers worked with the government of the country to raise morale and spread propaganda throughout times of war. This was done via pre-recorded radio broadcasts that followed a non-fiction format, known as speech packages. Since that period the medium has remained the same in the way that mass media companies still pre-record content in order to address an agenda, though the decreasing price of equipment makes it a more accessible platform for independent companies.

The purpose of a speech package depends on a variety of things. To list a few; the production company, the target audience and the style of the package. By style, I mean whether the show in question is informative, entertaining or explanatory etc. Essentially, the genre equivalent to non-fiction. A BBC Radio 1 news report is the perfect example of a speech package. They’re put together in a way that feels live, although (unless it is breaking news) they’re often recorded the afternoon before the broadcast. Such news reports are targeted at a young demographic – ages 15-29, according to the BBC official website – and therefore cannot be too heavy or meaty, it would stray far from the vibrant, uplifting energy that the rest of the show attempts to build whilst being hard to interpret for the younger audience. FOX News Radio is dedicated purely to ‘news’, however given the American approach to turning most things into entertainment (with England following suite closely; the introduction of television programmes such as ‘Benefit Street’ and ‘One Born Every Minute’) it’s harder to pull worthwhile information from such programs. I make this comparison in order to exemplify how speech packages are still used by mass media companies in order to subtly deliver an agenda to our ears, as was the case in the 1940’s. The hybrid between a magazine type programme and a current affairs programme is a dangerous tool when heard by an unobservant listener as it makes the spoon-feeding of information easier, the digestion of such information more so.

Speech packages are made up of a range of components – all just as important as each other – of which I will go into detail here. A music bed sets the entire feel of a speech package, heavily reflecting the demographic. Usually somebody that listens to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Archer’s’ would not be prepared to sit through a news broadcast with an underlying Rihanna song, thankfully this would be improbable due to copyright laws, but we’ll touch on that later. A generic mark of a speech-package is what’s called a ‘Vox Pop’, or Vox Populi, translating literally from latin to ‘voice of the people’, the irony being that these interviews will only be used if it fits the guidelines of the content producers – even more ironic is the fact that the original intention of a speech package was to make the voices of the people sing the same song. Vox Pops are interviews conducted with the general public in the street, you may even have been asked questions yourself as it is a common, practical way of accumulating data.

Picture a news reporter announcing, ‘We’re about to head over to my colleague in Central London, where we’ll get more on the subject’. Picture the subsequent dialogue being spoken with no sound of business, horns sounding or frantic crowds rushing past – need I say anymore on the importance of sound effects? They are the only clue that sets a scene on radio, apart from the effects applied directly to the sound file in post-production which I talk about in a previous essay.

The final thing I’m going to mention, as promised, is legal and ethical boundaries. Copyright Law is both a hindrance and a blessing for content creators as it safeguards your own material but makes using the creations of others a challenge. Acquiring the contact details when seeking permission to use something is difficult in itself and you would expect to pay a fee (dependant on the time of usage, placement of coprighted material within the show) to the publishing company. Ethical issues can be avoided by displaying sensitivity towards all cultures, races, sexes and sexualities as well as being aware of acts such as the ‘Under 18’s Act’, specifying that a child needs written consent from a parent or guardian before being used in a speech package, or indeed most forms of media.

Despite my observations appearing bleak and cynical at times throughout this essay, I am of the opinion that speech packages are an efficient way to present content in the information age, requiring initiative to pull off to a high standard that is considered serious.

Audio Evaluation: Unit 17 – Outcome 3/4

This document aims to evaluate various audio production projects with the aim of establishing how my performance within the group could have been improved and where my strengths were, along with critically evaluating equipment choice and suitability of environment.

The most recent project that we’ve been working on – our final major project about UFOs and extra terrestrial life – has given us a chance to put what we learnt into practice. For the most part we have been using a lav mic, as the locations that we’ve been using have been quite noisy. Due to the studio’s lack of soundproofing we couldn’t use a boom mic as it picks up sound from behind, as was the case when we were filming in the citadel with a constant stream of buses going by. We had certain issues with lav mic placement due to disagreements between crew members but it didn’t prove to be a huge issue, the audio sounds fine. Originally I wanted to focus on sound for this project, I find the freedom and creativity involved in building a soundtrack for a film unique. This didn’t end up happening because there weren’t any volunteer directors of photography which is a role that I’m familiar with, for the benefit of the project I opted to do it.

Last summer I started a YouTube channel for my own enjoyment called Rustybeat Music. I covered songs using all instruments, recording them in sections and layering them up in Studio One. Getting the final tracks to sound how I wanted them to proved an extreme challenge, as I don’t record with a click track; timing the percussion properly for four minutes and remembering every break was something that I’d never had to do before. When playing in bands communication keeps the song together along with an unspoken understanding, recording alone in a sterile environment proved stressful, however I learned a lot from it. I recorded everything through one condenser microphone, which was perfect for vocals and guitar in a room with few reflections – I hung up a suit in-between the wall and the microphone to minimise reverb, which worked well. Recording a drum kit with one condenser mic required some research as I had always been used to seeing kits armed to the teeth with microphones. I discovered a technique that gave a rich even sound by placing the microphone behind the snare pointing to the floor tom, tilting slightly down away from the ride cymbal. I haven’t touched this channel in a long time, but if I were to go back I would use different software. The free version of Studio One has it’s limits and there was a peculiar issue, if the software was open for longer than approximately seven minutes, a distortion would take over the speakers, quietly at first and then overwhelming the entire project, this stopped when the software was restarted. I still have no idea why I tolerated that for so long, but all of these things are lessons regardless of how easy they are to learn.

https://skypewebexperience.live.com/content/3-14-1805/telemetry-iframe-outlook.html?sts=1433530649980&sessionid=c061e309-c15c-461f-7b41-ea0c8abc39c9&hostproperty=outlook&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fdub115.mail.live.com&dynamicConfig=%7B%22Data%22%3A%7B%22visitorSampling%22%3A0.001%7D%7Dhttps://skypewebexperience.live.com/content/3-14-1805/swe-iframe.html?sts=1433530649989&sessionid=c061e309-c15c-461f-7b41-ea0c8abc39c9&hostproperty=outlook&origin=dub115.mail.live.com

Critical Approaches: Unit 6 – Outcome 4

Alien/Aliens Genre Conventions and Feminist Theory Ridley Scott’s film Alien is a horror; it contains conventions that are followed by other films of its genre, it also has elements of sci-fi in it. The sequel Aliens is also a horror and along with sci-fi has a lot of traditional action elements as well.

A key convention of horror is isolation. When the characters in a movie are isolated the audience feel like the victim. The isolation in Alien and Aliens is the fact that they’re in space; they can’t escape from the ship. When the audience watch a horror they get a feeling of claustrophobia and anxiety. In the scene where Kane is being impregnated by the facehugger, we feel the suffocation that the character must feel. We also feel the tension, knowing that something’s wrong. Science Fiction films have a main concept of birth and life. This is shown in alien (especially in this scene) by having lots of symbolisation of the human sex organs throughout the film. On the facehugger’s underside there is a cavity that resembles a vagina. This was potentially done to reverse the rolls of a male and a female so that the female is actually impregnating Kane, whilst also having phallic like tentacle’s caressing and strangulating Kane’s neck. There is a strong connection between pleasure/reproduction and pain in this film. The tentacles are choking Kane but at the same time look warm and lubricated. The lung on the side of the creature is slowly respiring beside the character; but when it feels pain (when Ash makes an incision on the leg) the blood squirts out in an ejaculatory manner.

The horror convention of isolation is portrayed in the same way in Aliens. It’s not as simple as the whole crew safely climbing into the getaway ship and leaving everything behind, there’s always something in their way however there’s a stronger convention that comes through in Aliens. It’s a common reoccurrence in horror films to have a cocky character that isn’t afraid of the unknown; in Aliens the whole team of marines is unafraid and thinks that with their superior fire power they can annihilate the opposition “Check it out, I’m the ultimate badass!” ~Pvt. Hudson. We see the marines crumble as they try to take on the Xenomorph using guns and this relates back to the battle being fought in such a small space that they didn’t have time to operate, and the fact that they were deployed there means there was no easy escape. Thankfully the strong female protagonist, Ripley independently drove the armoured vehicle when the leader of the group, Lt. Gorman has a panic attack/breakdown at the control desk and loses the ability to keep the situation together. This scene is of key importance to the film because it represents the switch in power between male and female. The vehicle is angular and would be considered as masculine, but she dominates it and takes control, whilst keeping a cool head. Ripley driving through walls is symbolisation for ‘penetrating’ the barrier between masculinity and femininity, and showing the capability/equality of women. It also breaks the tension and horrific atmosphere because we can now see a way out, which changes the feel of the scene to a more action orientated one.

Alien and Aliens have broken certain horror conventions. Usually the survivor is a female, but also a virgin. This represents purity and the audience have it on their conscience that an innocent and weak female has had her naivety crushed by the occurrence in the film. However Ripley plays a strong woman who we know isn’t a virgin. This is interesting because she still isn’t objectified in the film apart from in a couple of scenes (In the beginning where she is scantily clad). She’s portrayed as a woman with experience, to take care of the men. This actually makes the male audience feel nervous and uncomfortable because they’re used to having power.

“It could well be maintained that it is woman’s sexuality, that renders them desirable – but also threatening – to men, which constitutes the real problem that horror cinema exists to explore, and which constitutes also and ultimately that which is really monstrous.” ~ Barbara Creed

This quote is from a book entitled ‘The Monstrous Feminine’ and supports the idea that men feel threatened by sexual women. Many would argue that she isn’t acting sexual throughout the film; however the role that she plays is extremely pro-active and striving for the final solution, the climax of the movie. The anatomy of the penis means that it is designed to penetrate barriers, which is what Ripley is doing throughout the movie. So whilst she is playing a masculine role and showing minimum flesh, she’s certainly playing a subconsciously sexual role.

Furthermore one of her outer motivations becomes to rescue Newt. This is a reflection of her inner motivation to play a motherly role again, as she discovered that her daughter had passed away. This plot point enables the audience to relate to a raw trait of femininity, to raise a child.

The difference in Alien and Aliens in terms of genre conventions is varied. The way horror is portrayed in both film is similar, this isn’t a bad thing as it enables Ridley’s character to grow ever stronger in tackling the situations. The introduction of an action element in Aliens means that they can justify the teams survival when there is more than one Xenomorph to fight, and also allows for more plot points. It was a brave decision to cast the protagonist as a woman in 1979 and it paid off hugely. Ripley’s character is one of the strongest female characters in film to date, and Alien blew up because of it. It’s debatable whether it was right of the director to show Ripley’s body off at the beginning and end of the film. It degrades her as a character and brings it all back to the male gaze using a woman’s body simply for objectification, but at the same time why do we see it as any different to seeing all of the males topless? I believe the director intended it mostly as a plot point, as all of the characters have just been in hyper-sleep or in the case of Alien then she’s just about to go into hyper-sleep, so she would have taken her clothes of for that.

Horror’s, sci-fi’s or action movies, it doesn’t matter how you read these films. The main relevance was the impact that they had on equality in media.

Sources

Websites

http://www.btchflcks.com/2011/10/ellen-ripley-a-feminist-film-icon-battles-horrifying-aliens-and-patriarchy.html#.UlXCd1Ae1Qc

http://projectnarrative.osu.edu/resources

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090605/ – Aliens

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078748/ – Alien

Books

The Monstrous Feminine – Barbara Creed

Critical Approaches: Unit 6 – Outcome 3

The mass media is a huge part of Western culture that is generally unavoidable. Even those who choose not to watch television or listen to the radio are subjected to endless advertising and marketing, changing the outcome of people’s decisions. The question of how media affects our psychology will not cease to be asked; this essay aims to define and break down the audience theories that address the subject.

An audience can be manipulated into receiving a message, for better or for worse. The ‘hypodermic-syringe model’ supports the theory that content creators have an agenda, suggesting that audience members absorb a message that they put out wholly. I can personally identify with having my identity changed by a film, when I watched the film Whiplash – about a jazz drummer trying to earn a part in one of his class – I ended up setting up my drum kit for the first time in over a year and learning jazz rudiments. This example might support the idea that media can influence your lifestyle, but I doubt that Whiplash was created to encourage has-been drummers. In most cases where the syringe model is consciously used, it will be for the benefit of the party employing it – not for the consumer. This leads to media being used as a chassis for an underlying message, which can be dangerous or ingenious depending on who takes advantage. Fox News is the perfect example of where the syringe model is abused to convey a message, though they only reach a particularly narrow minded audience. Fox News is always sure to concentrate on making terrorism seem like more of a threat than it is in America, which becomes obvious when E.D. Hill calls a fist bump between Barrack and Michelle Obama a ‘terrorist fist jab’. No country that respects it’s journalism would allow such absurd things to air.

Whilst the hypodermic syringe model focuses more on the motives of the media creator, Uses and Gratifications Theory (UGT) concentrates on the consumer, and why they would actively seek out certain media to satisfy specific needs. Whether human minds are as complex as we’d like to think or not, there is no denying that we work off a trigger system. If a film looks or sounds nice to an individual it’s because the creator behind it is tapping into your subconscious and flicking switches. A piece of media can be gratifying because of nationality, nostalgia, aesthetics, informative value and many more reasons; we seek them out for these same reasons, but we aren’t always aware of them in the first place. This method of studying an audience is beneficial as there are very few theories that support the idea of the consumer having a choice when it comes to media; however there are grey areas to be considered. The belief that an individual consciousness is comprised of every interaction with other ‘individuals’ would mean that nobody is truly individual – therefore when seeking entertainment, it is to satisfy a subconscious part of the brain that can recall say, David, telling you about how he likes dark red. At any rate, the reason behind having this preference to the colour red is trivial which makes the information about your preference to the colour red meaningless. UGT should not be used as a tool to shape art into what an audience will enjoy because audiences enjoy what their friend or brother enjoyed; it should be used to observe popularity and trends from a curious standpoint.

Consider reception theory, letting the reaction to media depend upon your whereabouts on the globe, cultural and linguistic background. This is a very logical train of thought; your personality is dependent on the language you speak and the culture that you reflect which makes this a prime area to study. As a middle class English bred human being I can look at Shaun Meadows’ ‘This Is England’ and instantly relate to the gritty feel of the film, the dialect being spoken and the generally British aura. If you were to show the same film to an upper class Spanish bred business student then it would carry a different message. Meadows captured an essence in that film, the key required to unlock that essence is being British. The danger of categorising people by their culture and nationality is remaining ignorant of other trends, making presumptions based on the wrong information.

Pornography is having an incredibly damaging effect on society as it’s becoming more vastly consumed by younger audiences. Porn is the perfect example for passive consumption of media because our instincts and sexual energies override the rational brain that can detect the misogyny and abusive behaviour whilst content is being consumed.

“The psychological, behavioural, and emotional habits that form our sexual character will be based on the decisions we make, whenever the sequence of arousal and response is activated, it forms a neurological memory that will influence future processing and response to sexual cues. As this pathway becomes activated and travelled, it becomes a preferred route—a mental journey—that is regularly trod. The consequences of this are far-reaching.” – William Struthers

Passive consumption is when the viewer is not engaging with the media on the same level as the creator, thus allowing the information presented to sink into the subconscious. Pornography is particularly unhealthy because it’s relatively unlimited, free and damaging to day to day relationships; passive consumption of video games has a less obvious and long term affect on the brain. Active consumption consists of absorbing media whilst bearing in mind who made it, what their motive was and whether there’s any prejudice, so that the content (which is usually make-believe) and it’s values don’t impact your consciousness negatively. British tabloids – sometimes more dangerous, the ‘trusted’ newspapers – are so full of false information that it would be almost impossible to abstract any solid values from the content making it important to consume this information actively.

Audio Production: Unit 17 – Outcome 1

David Lynch once said, ”Films are 50 percent visual and 50 percent sound. Sometimes sound even overplays the visual.” It is commonly believed that sound is 70% of a film. This being said, it’s important to have an understanding of how sound works that can be put into practice. Acoustics is defined as ‘the branch of physics that deals with sound and sound waves’. When people use the plural form they are referring to how sound behaves in a certain space. The two spaces that have the most obvious differences are inside and outside, both requiring a different approach and a different set of equipment.

When recording sound inside, the room that you choose to use is important, as it will affect the quality of the final recording. If a room is larger than the sound will bounce back off the walls causing echo and reverb unless the room is treated, meaning the process of installing certain materials on the walls of a room to manipulate a sound. Because the walls are further away in a large room, an original sound wave will carry further and take more time to bounce off the wall. The optimum reflection time for a symphony hall is 2.2 seconds, which obviously allows for an echo. Reverb differs from echo because it refers to many reflections as opposed to just one. Reverb is responsible for the tone of a room, e.g. bright or dark. A room is ‘bright’ if it reflects the sound a lot, where a room is darker if the reflections are absorbed, giving a flatter sound. Reverb and echo have been adopted as a creative tool, being used in films like Schindler’s List where the sound of a gunshot is reverberated to add to the drama in the film.

Three adjustments can be made to a surface in order to control the sound once it hits it. These three things are absorption, reflection and diffusion. Absorption is used to stop the sound reflecting from a surface and causing reverb or echo.  The best material to use for absorption is fibreglass panelling, it is cheap and works more efficiently than carpet and synthetic foam because whilst carpet absorbs some frequencies, it reflects others. Reflection is used to direct the sound within a room, in a concert hall to channel it towards the audience, for example. Reflective material is cheaper than absorbent material because it only takes a flat, rigid surface. The bigger the surface is the lower frequencies it can reflect. Materials that diffuse a sound are usually designed mathematically to diffuse acoustic energy. Diffusion is done in order to control or reduce echo without deadening the room, it keeps the energy present; wood or layers of plastic can be used to achieve the desired effect. An obvious place that uses a treated space would be a recording studio. Abbey Road Studios in London have a huge treated room for recording orchestras and choirs; this is because it’s important to consider the acoustics of a space to get a clean recording

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Different types of microphones suit their own situations. Common microphones that we use are boom mics, which are directional, meaning they mainly pick up sound from a forward facing cone, but they do pick some up from behind as well. Lavalieres are small microphones that are designed to fit stealthily on clothing. They are omni-directional but only pick up sound from a small area, generally in front of the chest of the subject. Condenser microphones are powerful mics that often require ‘phantom power’ to use; this is the process of sending DC power to active microphones through cables, often used to power AD boxes too. Condensers are usually used in studios to record foley sound and other things that require a controlled environment. If you were shooting in a busy location that was fairly noisy then it would be advisable to use a boom microphone, as it has a narrow focus on what it picks up, if your subject is moving then a lav mic could be preferable as they are wireless and directional.

When sounds are recorded outside they can sound dead and flat because there are no walls to create natural reverb. It is possible to find echoing locations outside, such as mountainsides and canyons. If it is windy outside there are wind guards available for boom microphones that improve the sound quality by slowing the wind down before it reaches the microphone. To make a studio recording sound as if it was taken on set it’s important to capture the sonic print of the location. The sonic print means the room tone and by having this sound you can lay it under everything when editing the audio so that it acts as a foundation and makes the work sound coherent. An example of why recording outside is less favourable is Hollywood film making. Every performance in the 1979 Mad Max film was dubbed for the US release, except one.

Working to a Brief: Unit 5 – Outcome 4

Evaluation

In all of the discussed projects there were positive elements and negative elements. It’s important to review both of these once a project is finished so that you don’t make the same mistakes again; to give yourself credit for skills that aided in the success of a project. This document serves the purpose of evaluating key skills when it comes to interpreting a brief.

The ‘5 Years On’ project was an over all success, however there were certain issues with ownership once the film was finished. Our client failed to credit the crew that made the film possible and took the director’s title, despite the fact that she had little input to the workings of the film. Due to the leadership skills that our producer has we shot and edited the film professionally and within the time bracket. It was important to keep to our schedule, which revolved around two days of shooting and a week to edit the footage afterwards. In hindsight we should have created more paperwork to safeguard the credits and ownership, I aim to keep this sort of thing in mind for future productions. We hit the brief regarding the content, as the film was centred on the progress that Cockermouth has made since the flood. The feedback that we received from the screenings was extremely positive, coming from the audience, which was the local community.

The most challenging film that I’ve worked on would be ‘The Lake’, as it is very close to home when considering the ethic difficulty of the subject. When making a film about euthanasia you have to be incredibly sensitive with the content to avoid offending people. As the cinematographer it was my job to make the film look the part, it was important that it didn’t look like a student film because it wouldn’t do the subject justice. I think we captured the emotion well, it had a great response at it’s screenings and from peers. Something that hindered the film was the fact that it took so long to produce a final edit. Timescales were a major fault in this project, which let down the over all production but didn’t affect the result too much.

Last year we had a chance to work with a painter that’s based in Arnside called Tracy Levine. We had a reasonably informal brief to produce a short documentary piece for her exhibition which took place at Rheged, a local gallery.  Because the project had to be completed by a certain date, it was important that we kept our communication up. The group were keeping in touch with Tracy daily through email, because it’s important that a client knows exactly what stage the project is at. This re-enforces trust between you and your client and eliminates doubts and suspicions. Something that’s strongly linked to communication skills is revisions – where a client may want a different version of the film cut that will better suit their needs. When we took the initial cut to Tracy she was very happy with it, but there were certain parts that she wanted to change. If a client is suggesting something impossible or extremely unbeneficial then it’s important to put your foot in the door and politely explain why they shouldn’t pursue that idea. As a professional you have the right to trust your experience when judging situations. Tracy made perfectly sensible suggestions and we reviewed the edit, and the final edit made her cry, in a good way.

There are a lot of briefs that will come with some legal and regulatory issues. I experienced this when we were told to make an advert for a chocolate bar, as the chocolate bar that we used already existed, as we wanted to use something that people would recognise. I did some research on the subject and found out that as long as we didn’t profit from it, or used it for educational purposes then copyright laws didn’t apply; our project fitted both criteria. Another example running into a legal issue is in a recent project that we shot. It’s for a client that’s promoting anti-drug-driving. He has a complicated history with the law including selling drugs, stealing motorbikes and other incidents. It’s our responsibility to decide what’s appropriate to go in the final edit without jeopardising the client. This sort of decision is down to us to make, it’s important that the producer researches the legal situation as the client wont usually know about the subject.

Last summer I made a music video for a band called The Alleys. The brief was relatively informal, leaving me with creative control. The only restriction was time. We had one evening and one night to shoot the video, which left me thinking on my feet, as it can be challenging to shoot a narrative that makes sense without using a storyboard. One thing that I would do differently is take half an hour at the beginning to write down a shot list in a timeline format so that we weren’t moving from one location to another. Overall my timekeeping was good, and the film was cut within two days of filming.