Hey everyone, here is my final project for Visual Literacy class. The idea of this film is that it is supposed to be a “mood piece”. Watch the film and then describe your mood/emotion in one word. Enjoy.
“Our Freedom Isn’t Free” Production Journal:
Because my final assignment gave me a lot of freedom to choose my medium, my topic, and my subject matter for my project, it took a lot of time to figure out what I wanted to do for the project and how I wanted to do it. I knew right away that I wanted to use video as my final project medium, since that tends to be the medium that where I create my best work, but coming up with the topic for the video took a bit more time. Out of my numerous options for directions in which to take the film, one options was to create an experimental type of film called a “mood piece”—designed simply to evoke a particular mood in the viewer. I thought back to movies I’d seen where I’d felt the strongest moods while watching them. Every film I could think of that evoked an emotional response from me—from Inception to Requiem for a Dream—had a strong soundtrack to accompany the images on the film and to push home the emotional appeal of a scene. I wanted to see if I could create the same type of emotional push using a powerful soundtrack paired with a series of powerful images, so I decided to try my hand at making a mood piece.
The question then became which images I would shoot, which soundtrack I would use to accompany those images, and which mood I would try to evoke in my viewers. Since I go to school in D.C. and I have the opportunity to regularly see the majesty of the monuments and memorials of the National Mall, I decided I would use those as the subjects of my film. I was going to create a mood piece to allow others to feel the kind of patriotism that I feel when I visit the monuments and memorials on the mall. In deciding on a soundtrack, I immediately thought of which song I wanted to use. “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland is an American classic, and it’s a song that I associate with a majestic scene.
But I also wanted the soundtrack to communicate more than just the majesty of the monuments. In trying to figure out what to do, I thought back to a YouTube video I had seen which gave a montage of American military men and women in action. The most powerful part of the video wasn’t the images, and it wasn’t the Transformers soundtrack playing in the background (which is a great soundtrack, by the way), it was the voice over of Ronald Reagan delivering his “A Time for Choosing” speech. Hearing that speech delivered in the 60s and relating it to the American military men and women of today made watching the video so much more than seeing some cool action shots of the American military. It drew a parallel between the Cold War and the conflicts our military is currently engaged in, and it tied American history to the present day. Without a doubt, it evoked strong patriotic emotions in me. I decided I would put voice-overs of important American speeches to accompany the relevant American monuments on the camera.
I thought of the monuments where I would want to film, I thought of some speeches that could accompany those images, and I drew up a storyboard to pitch to Professor Williams. In talking with Prof. Williams, I realized that my theme was inconsistent. On the one hand, I was going for a America-is-awesome-so-you-should-feel-patriotic sort of thing, and on the other hand, I was going for a our-servicemen-and-women-have-died-defending-us-and-our-freedom-so-you-should-feel-patriotic sort of thing. Prof. Williams and I decided I could try to reconcile the two, by making my video about how American freedom is amazing, but our freedom isn’t free. I decided I’d see what I could do with that theme.
Friday, May 4, 2012: I went to the library to rent a Kodak zoom-enabled video camera and a tripod.
Saturday, May 5, 2012: I woke up at 4:30a.m. to get down to the mall to record the sunrise. Let me tell you, there are some pretty interesting people on the public bus at 5:00a.m. on a Saturday morning. Anyway, I got to the mall and started taking some pre-dawn footage. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t liking the performance of the Kodak camera, so I switched back to Old Reliable, my Canon Powershot A3100—she isn’t much, but she gets the job done. My camera was compatible with the tripod, so I used the tripod to stabilize all my shots. I took A BUNCH of footage of the sunrise from the Lincoln Memorial (I had never seen the sunrise from there before, and it definitely lives up to the hype). I then wandered around to different monuments and memorials and shot simple steady pan shots from several angles. I shot footage of the Lincoln Memorial, the MLK Jr. Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial, the White House, the Constitutional Gardens, and the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials. Then I walked across the bridge to Arlington, and shot footage at Arlington National Cemetery, notably at the Tomb of JFK and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. My shooting wrapped up around 11a.m., and overall I was wandering around taking footage for about six hours. I was very satisfied with the amount of footage I had shot, and I was going to have plenty to choose from to put into my roughly three-minute video. When I got home, I uploaded my footage onto my laptop and imported it all into iMovie.
Sunday, May 6 – Tuesday, May 8: I edited my film using iMovie software. I quickly realized I should have been a little more discretionary in how much I shot, because it was difficult to sift through all my footage to find the short clips I wanted to use. I began to download mp3 files of speeches off http://www.americanrhetoric.com, and I browsed transcripts of the speeches to find which clips I wanted to use. I quickly discovered how difficult it was to time the clips I wanted to use with the transitions in the score playing in the background. I also found that some of the speeches I wanted to use simply did not work because they did not balance with the other speeches in the film. For instance, I wanted to use speeches by Barack Obama and Harry Truman, but while they are both great speakers, their speeches paled in comparison to the legendary orations of FDR, MLK Jr., and JFK. When I listened to the Ronald Reagan speech, I knew I wanted to end with that one. I had happened to film the bugle playing “Taps” next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and I decided to use that as the soundtrack for the end of the video. The whole thing was a big trial-and-error process, but after a lot of painstaking timing changes and clip adjustments, I ended up with a product that I was pretty happy with.
To improve on the project, I would have liked to have had better film equipment. When trying to capture the grandeur of such huge monuments and memorials, it helps to have a camera that can take in all the details. Additionally, I would have liked to have clarified the theme a little better—either sticking to the military side or the American freedom side. I think it would have been cool if I could have shot some candid footage of kids playing near the monuments, construction workers building downtown, and people leading happy, American lives. That probably would have added to the patriotism feeling and added a human element that is difficult to get when looking at monuments and memorials. But overall, I’m very satisfied with how the project turned out. It took a lot of work, but I think the final product does a nice job at invoking a patriotic mood in its viewers.
I love video production, and I’ll probably be working more with iMovie over the summer. For my next project, I’m going to try to incorporate the same background soundtrack + voice-over concept as I used in the mood piece to make an emotionally appealing promotional video for the AU Mock Trial team. Should be fun.