Have I met my stated aims?
My initial stated aim is to make a horror short film and my film is about a girl who wakes up in the middle of the night and decides to go downstairs to gather a glass of milk from the kitchen. She then returns to the fridge to put the milk back, when the door another room begins to creak and jar open. Next the cupboard that she leaves open, slams shut. She runs off to her bed room where she is convinced that everything that she just experienced, what she saw and heard isn’t real. Then the lights go out and she starts hearing more noises and goes out to investigate. Finally she just goes back to her room realizing that she is alone and scared and is then taken by the ghost. This is the final plot that I have now stuck with but this has changed from what I originally pitched.
In terms of timing, I didn’t meet my stated aims from what I said in the pitch. This is because I stated that my short film in the end would have a total duration of between 5 to 6 minutes. The first rough edit turned out to 4:10 which was already a minute under my minimal time that I stated. I think this is because I didn’t shoot enough in places and had to cut in other places to make the action. I had planned in pre production everything that was needed for the film so the time I didn’t have an issue that the time was difference to what I said because as said before, when I gave that timing, I didn’t fully have each scene planned but I did know my entire plot and based on that, my time was pitched.
Now though I decided to cut the start sequence as I feel it didn’t work unless explained (she is forgotten and ends up being taken under the bed and then it cuts to the start again basically meaning that she has been taken to somewhere desolate). Due to this cutting, my short is significantly reduced in my original timing of 5 to 6 mins and is now 3 minute and 21 seconds but this is the part that I feel was going to be the outcome, this is the part that if like a horror, the start was distracting and boring in my opinion, I didn’t like the start and wanted to have it start straight from the titles as I thought it would be better. The deleted scene was necessary and I am happy with the result and the timing for what it is at now.
I think I did meet my stated aims in other ways because I did what my original idea was, to make a horror short film where the house is haunted by a ghost that the audience cannot see using practical and visual effects to make the ghost react with the environment. I have change my story slightly from shooting like the ghost was supposed to be her brother however this was never needed to be stated as I felt that giving my horror too much story would break the tension which is also the reason for the cutting of the intro because again, I was trying to push a narrative part that wasn’t needed in the film.
I also had the mum speaking in my original planning and script but didn’t feel it worked in the edit, it made the tone more comedic with the mum shouting from her bedroom at Lily to go back to sleep. Due to this, I decided to cut the role of Lily’s mother out entirely in terms of a role on screen or heard. I think that the way it is left now has worked out well anyways compared. The mother is now only implied in the final edit by Lily hearing a door slam down the corridor, this is showing that the mother was in danger and the silence after Lily asks for her mum is to imply that something happened to the mother and that Lily is now on her own.
I said that I wanted to use sound well and also lighting was a key part to my scene as I wanted to light at night and create a believable atmosphere. I feel as though I achieved these well because I like the way my sound design turned out with sounds being minimal when it was needed and being powerful at places where needed, I like this balance because it makes the start feel normal. I also liked my lighting and how it turned out because I shot very low key but still had places light nicely. Based on this, I really liked how my shots turned out other than it was slightly noisy and grainy.
For my audio I used drones for the atmosphere which I think worked really well, hits for the jump scares to add that impact and to scare the audience using sound. I used Foley in places to put sounds back in where I lost them for example and to enhance the sound. I also recorded room tones for background atmosphere which was my kitchen boiler and fridge for the kitchen scene. I did also use one sound effect but this was because I couldn’t record my clock ticking without recording other sounds in my house so I downloaded a clock ticking about 4 times and then looped the sound in the edit to last the duration I wanted.
Above is my full audio timeline to show how I composed my sound design.
This was the clock sound effect which I duplicated throughout the duration of the film and then I changed the levels of each audio clip in places to make the clock ticking feel more diegetic and real. Putting this sound effect in my mix, made the entire atmosphere seem more grounded because before the film was feeling empty or lacking in audio in some places where it simply was just too quite. Having the clocks in the background throughout filled in the silence and created more of a tone which I think made the entire edit far better than the original.
These above are the individual drone sounds and atmospheric tracks which are samples that I have layered and positioned together to create my score that is reactive with what is happening on screen, I think this worked really successfully and created the tension that I was going for in the music.
For impact in my mix, I used the “HITS” because these are perfect for jump scare moments and parts that I wanted to add another level of audio to. I feel like without these, the horror wouldn’t be a horror and my title for example would be missing that cinematic sound.
I key problem with my audio was the levels of each, this time I edited using speakers opposed headphones like all of my projects before in the year and thought this would help. The speakers are better for audio producing because I can hear how the mix is sounding however I still watched my levels to see where each track was in volume.
This time I used equalizers to fix my audio that sounded tinny.
Everyone from feedback has said that the part where the actor talks sounded “tinny” so to fix it I cut away the high frequency sound, this made the sound less tinny but become plain so then I pulled the mid frequencies up to add more bass. From tinkering with the EQ of the track I think I made the audio improve and also taking the high away reduced the remaining hiss in the background. Doing this has made my audio side of the edit far more successful so I am happy that I can use EQs to alter the audio as this has resolved most of my issues that I had with the audio after filming.
· How does your work compare with your chosen practitioner?
My final piece of work is similar to the work of my chosen practitioner Oren Peli because his work was my inspiration and my final does the house location and the fact that you do not see the ghost. I also feel as though my final resembles paranormal activity in inspiration because of my shots where the doors open and how my character is actually dragged under the bed by the ghost which is similar to the scene in paranormal activity where the character is pulled by her legs with the ghost.
Peli made a horror with very little sound to make an atmosphere and also creating believable characters that the audience watch to see what happens with them. I think that I have done similar with my final result however using more sound than in his “Paranormal Activity”.
I don’t think that my final piece is like Hitchcock’s work because my short doesn’t have a full composed theme unlike his work and how he creates tension is different to how I did. The only thing that I feel that I got inspired by is his last shot from “Psycho”, I really liked his eye shot where the actor stares into the camera, my first shot is similar to this I feel.
Oren Peli has his “paranormal activity” films set up in a very simply way with sound mainly Foley and background, he has it shot just through CCTV which is what I went through in my research and analysis on his film. I prefer what I have done with my work, making it more cinematic in comparison to his work. My sound is also more built up than his.
My work is still inspired by his work but I feel like in the end my film is different and that it is more comparable to a horror films with other horror tropes. I used more sound to create tension than how Peli uses more practical and slight movement and little changes in the shot to bring tension. I think that in my final I was heavily inspired by his way in hiding the ghost because I used shadows and doors slamming similar to how he has done.
How did your concept develop?
Originally, I wanted a short film where the girl is dreaming and in her dream, sees the her dead brother and wakes up from the dream, the ghost escapes from her dream. I have developed my concept because I changed the start so that it doesn’t start until she wakes from the dream, the audience doesn’t see the dream now and I also don’t make the ghost a character (her brother), this is due to my own personal opinion on my idea and also due to some feedback.
In my final edit, I have also improved from my final rough edit further by taking out the entire introduction and cutting straight to the titles. I feel like this is far better now because the intro didn’t really work for the horror feel and it didn’t make sense. I have also done some of the other feedback that I got from the third and final rough edit. I changed the part where the cupboard slams shut by taking a few seconds off the clip making it flow nicer. I also feel as though I have perfected the last jump scare by cutting down each clip of the bed sequence, making it happen quicker which I think made it work nicer and also gave it a bigger shock factor than before, I layered the hits because before it was one hit which didn’t give enough effect and now I feel it is better with more making it more powerful.
· Does the finished product appeal to the target audience?
I think that my final product would appeal to my target audience because I made it so that it wasn’t too violent and it didn’t have any strong language so I don’t think it would be rated an 18 by the BBFC which is good because my target was 15 and up. Also, something that I wanted to include is the horror trope, jump scares because these are so common and are what give the adrenaline to the audience. In my short, there are only a few jump scares but I feel that these are done successfully and in a nice balance with the tone and atmosphere.
I didn’t want to just rely on the jump scares as this would have made the whole film bad and almost not scary, that is why I put all my attention on the audio, creating tension, this was my main goal, to make tension. Paired with the visuals, I feel that I actually created the tension successfully and that the jump scares where added just for the adrenaline but the main scare factor was the feeling. I also have made it to appeal to the female side of my target audience because I have used the vulnerable female main role trope. I think that this appeals to my target because they can relate to the main character and also would feel for the character because she is venerable and helpless.
· How well does the product reflect your skills and the things you have learnt this year?
I feel as I have improved on my skills as a camera operator from doing this final major project as I wanted to shoot some different angles than normal and also did two continuous shots which I wanted to attempt, I think that these blended in well. I also made most of my shot have subtle tracking and panning so that most of my shots where moving not just locked off on a tripod. I also feel as though I have improved on my editing even more and would say this is my best/ favourite part because I like post production the most. I liked editing the sound to this and felt that it turned out really successful to what I wanted it to be like said earlier. From doing this, I feel that I have greatly improved on my lighting because this was the first time where I really depended on it to make my shots and I had to control it to make the shots all look the same while moving them around. I also used some blue sheets to make some moonlight tint look and used this mainly in the corridor shots to make them look light from natural light sources coming from the windows. I filmed around the same time each day to make sure that the lighting would be as similar as it could be to keep the continuity.
Are you proud of it?
I am proud of my final result because I feel it is better as the shorter version because it just flows smoother from start to finish and now makes sense and I think that I have done everything that I said that I would and am happy with the final result and the way it has turned out because I think I have followed my idea strongly not changing too much but the changes that I have done, being necessary and making it stronger than it was.
Again, my main goal from this film was to create a horror which creates tension using atmosphere as the biggest factor, I feel as though this was done well and that it did make my horror successful, it being shorter now is better because before when it was longer, the tension was lost before it had begun and I felt as though the audience was lost. Another reason why it is best in the shorter version is because with the beginning part it was almost like it was longer for no reason, just making it long and boring to start. I was also never really happy with how I composed my sound design in the beginning because it was a drone that I extended throughout the beginning, this made it feel “dragged” out because it was a long drone that just continued. The shorter version makes me far prouder of the film because I kept that drone in for the idents but because the entire timeline was reduced, the time that the drone was needed for was reduced to only needing to be on the idents and then the title and not how it was before where the drone started at the idents, continued over the beginning sequence and then stopped at the titles.
Something that I was really proud about and think is a strong part of my film, again done in the post production side, is my title sequence and idents, that I mentioned above. I think that they gave my production a more professional look, a look that I was intending.
How I made my title sequence was by using my compositing software, HITFILM, a software very similar to that of Adobe After Effects. I just composited together a scene with lens dirt which were layered around on the “Z” axis in 3D space giving the title some depth. I also was proud of the outcome because of the lighting that I used in the title, I key-framed a 3D light so that it would flicker by increasing and decreasing it’s intensity value, I liked this because I felt it made the title have that horror look and also because in my horror, the lamp is a big part of the film as the character feels that the light is her only safety.
I am proud of how the entire final outcome has turned out because another concern of mine when doing the pre production phase was if my sister would actually be a good actor and a suitable choice for the role that would work out.
I wanted to use her as my main actor because she was willing and also the best option for me because she lives in the location meaning that I didn’t have to bring anyone in and it was also good because we ended up shooting over more days than planned in the evenings as I originally thought it would take one night but we took around three in the end. My only worry was that she might be a bad actor and make my film a problem. However, she was actually alright and a believably role which I liked in the final.
Finally, upon reflection, I am really proud of how successful my last jump scare has become, the part where she is dragged under her bed by the ghost. This was a main concern of mine in pre production and production because I was trying to tackle how it would be done, because of this I re-watched “GOODNIGHT” a few times to see how they did it but of course they would have had more way of pulling of the effect. How it was done in the end was by using multiple camera angles to make up a sequence to look like she has fallen down and is pulled under. My main shot was the shot from above where she is seen on the floor going in. For this I used a skateboard that she layed on and I went under the bed of shot to pull it back, this resulted in her moving under to about her shoulders. Due to that issue of her not being taken fully underneath the bed as the bed frame under got in the way, is the reason why I re-shot it in different angles.
I am happy with it now because in my first edits, it felt like it had something missing, my biggest concern was that she didn’t make any sounds of struggle but at first this wasn’t the intention because it was supposed to be so fast that she almost doesn’t feel as though she has time to react. I think that the main issue was with how I edited it. It was too slow and held too long in certain shots which made the impact lacking. Also the sound wasn’t enough in my opinion which is why I have now layered it with multiple hits at once like said earlier. I have also re edited it to make each shot shorter and cutting away others, the final result is a louder, more intense, quick sequence of her being pulled under the bed. I think that this has worked far better and is something I am now really proud of now because of it.
· What would you do differently next time?
Next time I think what I would do differently is film some more shots so that I could have used them in places where the shot that I wanted may not have worked as well as I thought, just to allow me to have more to work with and not have to do any re filming. I would have also done more Foley filming because I had to go back and re record after the feedback given whereas it would have been better just having these in the film in the first place meaning that I didn’t need the feedback, most of which I knew where issues.
I feel as though I should have done more audio recording anyway with a lot more Foley, I would have recorded footsteps for example. It would have worked nicely so that I could have each sound separated meaning I had more freedom with my audio and could have emphasised some of the sounds because I only recorded the sounds as Foley of what I knew I wanted to be separate to the camera. But if I were to do this again, I defiantly would have recorded all audio and not rely heavily on the camera mounted microphone.
Also if I where to do anything differently, the last part where my character is dragged under the stairs, I feel like it would have been better with my actor reacting with sounds to the dragged part. However originally the idea was because it was happening so fast, that she didn’t actually have time to process and make a sound, she just tries to grab the carpet. Just sound could have been worked on a little more to add more to it.
Next time, if I where to do it again, I would also have added more light to my scene because when in post, I realized that some of my shots where grainer than I originally thought and this is one of my problems with it but this was because of low key lighting. I would have also brought an add on pack for my Hitfilm software, so that I had a denoiser which would have also helped this problem. Finally from knowing now, I would have recorded using the colleges green screen in the studio, the shadows of the hands or just hands and made them a silhouette because it would have made it easier than having to use masking to get that one shadow from the shot to then add more. I could have also had different variants of hand movement instead of just moving each clip in time to have them doing different movements. I would have liked to add one of the shadows at the title sequence to add to that but that is a minor detail.
What did you learn?
I have learned that although I thought I had done all the planning and development on my idea in the pre production part, that actually maybe I should have spent more time on it because most of my changes happened in post due to something not being planned or executed to what I wanted it to be in production. Or just simply having the idea later when in post, for example the multiple hands in the shadow shot was done in post but not originally planned and only thought while doing my third rough edit.
I have also learnt that it was a lot more difficult to film on my own with the lighting than I thought and because I was operating the camera and directing, I just used the mountable microphone on the camera so that I wouldn’t have to worry about audio. However my issue when receiving feedback was to improve the audio and with a group or a team I could have had a dedicated microphone instead of the camera one which would have picked up far more and in better quality.
· What would you do differently if you had a larger/unlimited budget?
If I had a larger budget, I think that I would have made a longer piece of work with more story and more practical effects happening. I would have actually hired a team of people due to what I said above as working alone had it’s difficulties. It would have made the production far easier and faster because there are more people dedicated to certain roles. It would also make the film higher in production value because with people in each field it means each is done professionally like the audio and lighting. Also another thing is more people means that nothing is missed from what was planned and you are able to have live feedback from the crew. It would have been easier for me to direct my actor without having to worry about all the other things going on.
Also with the larger budget I would want to make this a full feature film, although it works at the length now, with the money this could have become a full feature with the time for more character development and backstory. It could also have a plot after she is taken where people try to go find her for example.
It would just have a much higher production value with RED cameras filming RAW and 4K which meaning a better colour grade and image quality. The whole film would look more cinematic and also I could hire professional actors.
If a larger budget was given, I would also want to work with a professional composer so that my horror sound design is to the professional standard of a horror film. Also having a professionals judgement on what I should include to create the tension that I was going for.
Overall, in conclusion, I am happy with my final piece and how it has developed over the time from the original idea. I think that I have followed my main idea and target to create a horror short film successfully. Making a horror was something that I haven’t done before and wanted to do as a challenge to myself and also because horror is a difficult genre to make because of its nature. I also feel as thought my main inspirations from doing my research have been transferred across into the final product.