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Hulu Summer Film School Week 7: Post-Production

August 28th, 2014 by Kelly Lin

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In an interview with NPR, the acclaimed editor Walter Murch (Godfather Trilogy, Apocalypse Now) described his job as “a cross between a short-order cook and a brain surgeon.”

The work of an editor is highly complex. As the last shepherds of the film, they reorder, splice, trim, and shape the raw footage to breathe mood, tension, and structure into the film. Under the guardianship of a great editor, no frame goes unexamined and no contributionwhether it be in acting or cinematographygoes under-appreciatedIn this final week of Hulu Summer Film School, we’re celebrating these unsung heroes by exploring how they carry the film through its final legs of production. 

Required Viewing:

1) Sans Soleil

A fluid travelogue of cinema, Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil explores the mutable nature of memory, time, and its effect on our perception of history. Using elliptical editing techniques to marry documentary and found-footage, Marker’s film sends us from the bustling cityscape of Tokyo to the wilds of Guinea-Bissau in Africa to the extraterrestrial landscape of Iceland, and back again to Japan where we bear witness to a religious ceremony honoring cats. Through all of this dazzlement, Sans Soleil is devoid of synchronous sound and uses an unseen narrator (reading aloud the journal of a fictional traveling cameraman who captured the images we’re seeing) as the binding force for the material. The editorial synthesis of sight and sound becomes simultaneously lasting and ephemeral, not unlike someone trying to recall — and re-experience — a distant memory.

Later in the film, Marker reveals his affection for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, referring to it as a quest to discover an “impossible memory, insane memory.” Memory and time contort into an endless spiral as Marker showcases still images from Vertigo intercut with footage of his own sojourn to San Francisco to recreate scenes from Hitchcock’s film. The editing is crisp and precise, snapping from a still of Vertigo to its corresponding live action shot in Sans Soleil while the narrator draws a comparative deconstruction of Hitchcock’s film, musing about the impossibility “to live with memory without falsifying it.” Memory becomes a kind of personal armor, protecting us from the harsh iniquities of objective truth and allowing us – both filmmaker and viewer alike – to remake history as desired by the needs of the present.

-Naveen Singh 

2) Breathless

Jean-Luc Godard’s first feature film Breathless revolutionized the way films were edited. It made the jump cut a viable way to compress narrative time. The plot is heavily informed by popular film culture from before 1960: a young thug goes on the run from the police with his American girlfriend. But the energy of the film has little to do with the plot and everything to do with the loose way in which the film was shot and the endless invention of the film’s editing.

Consider Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) as he takes off in a stolen car in this clip from early in the film. The jump cuts do not preserve continuity of time or space, but there’s an emotional logic to Michel’s tear through France. The film forces the audience to see Michel the way he sees himself (as cool, but playful, full of vibrancy and passion), and Godard’s style is like crazed stream-of-consciousness filmmaking – he captures life the way it is, or at least the way we would like it to be in our mind’s eye.

- Christopher Rowe 

3) Manufactured Landscapes

Much more than any other genre, the documentary’s structure is shaped in the editing room. On a typical documentary production, hundreds of hours of footage will be shot and then brought to the editor who will cut the content down to a 90-minute feature.

A testament to documentary editing can be seen in Jennifer Baichwal’s Manufactured Landscapes, in which Baichwal follows photographer Edward Burtynsky as he captures various landscapes around the world that have been shaped by industrial production. One of the film’s many visually-stunning shots is a long take of Chinese manufacturing workers lining up to take orders from their managers. The wide angle highlights the sheer magnitude of identically-dressed workers and also serves to emphasize the lack of individualism in the space. This shot is followed by a match cut to Burtynsky’s photograph of the event and then another match cut to Burtynsky’s photo in a gallery space with visitors passing by it. Through this sequence, Baichwal depicts editing’s ability to transcend not only time but also space. As a result, viewers gain a better understanding of the power of Burtynsky’s images to communicate social and economic situations to the rest of the world.

- Kelly Lin 

4) Primer

In “Primer,” two scientists accidentally discover time travel and it slowly affects their lives, over and over again.  It’s fast-paced, yet slow and brooding, and completely immersive.

In this clip, Abe and Aaron discover that time travel may be happening right in front of their noses.  As they are both trying to make sense of what’s happening, the editing is jumpy, frenetic, and a little disjointed, matching the activity of their brains.  But as they reach a conclusion they both agree on, the editing slows down, allowing us to spend a bit more time on each shot.  This subconsciously gives our minds a little space again – a way to say “we’ve settled here,” just like the characters have in the story.

-Jonathan Katz 

Supplemental Viewing:

5) Rashomon 

6) The Pianist 

Extracurricular Links: 

1) The Top 10 Most Effective Editing Moments of All Time – Some of the best editing in film is the editing that draws us so deeply into the story that we aren’t even cognizant that the post-production process is taking place. This video from CineFix takes some of the most highly regarded films of our time and explores how different editorial techniques help them achieve greatness. After watching this clip, check out some of CineFix’s other short form content, all designed to both instruct and entertain filmmakers and movie buffs alike.

2) Vashi Visuals - Run by editor Vashi Nedomansky, this blog gives an in-depth look into the editorial workflow and the reasonings behind editorial choices made both by him and other editors in the business.

3) Movie Editing Techniques from LA Video Filmmaker - This blog post explores the most commonly used editorial cuts in cinema, with gifs to back them up.

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Visit the Hulu Summer Film School page to see full-length versions of our selections and explore past lessons.

Hulu Summer Film School Week 4: Soundtrack, Score, and Sound Design

August 8th, 2014 by Kelly Lin

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Dear Students,
It’s hard to believe but we’re already halfway through the Hulu Summer Film School semester. This week, we’re exploring the role of the Soundtrack, Score, and Sound Design in the development of the film.
The job of the composer, music supervisor, or foley artist is to use sound to breathe life into the story. Through tinkering with the sounds of the film, they can make the hairs on our neck stand up at the surprise arrival of a villain or our hearts swell over a first kiss. When these auditory artists are able to pair the right song with the right scene, it’s a moment of pure movie magic.
Enjoy the following selections and if you have any suggestions on specific content you’d love to see us feature, shoot us a comment below. Happy Learning!
– The Hulu Summer Film School team

Required Viewing:

1) A Hard Day’s Night

Setting the Score with Source by Jonathan Katz (an analysis of the use of sound in A Hard Day’s Night)

2) Black Orpheus

Composers: Antônio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá
Recently featured in the music video for Arcade Fire’s “Afterlife,” Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus celebrates the carnaval atmosphere of Brazil and radiates energy and visual spectacle through every frame. Composers Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa score this Grecian tragedy with the music of their homeland, inspiring a generation of music lovers across the world to fall in love with the infectious beats and rhythmic guitar stylings of the bossa nova genre. Of special note is the movie’s closing scene in which a young boy serenades the rising sun with Orpheus’ signature tune “Samba de Orfeu” while a little girl dances beside him. By revisiting this song in the final scene, the composers encourage a nostalgia towards the start of the movie and create one of the purest exclamations on the cycle of life in cinematic history.
Extra Credit: Watch Black Orpheus and That Bossa Nova Soundan 18 minute feature from the Criterion Collection exploring the history of bossa nova and the film’s influence on the genre.

3) M

Sound Designer/Director: Fritz Lang
Released at the dawn of film’s conversion from silent to sound, Fritz Lang’s M is a master class on using sound to reflect a character’s internal state. In this case the character whose mind we’re entering is Hans Beckert, a child killer who whistles “In the Hall of the Mountain King” whenever he’s hunting for his next victim. In one memorable scene, the sounds of a bustling city street encompass the soundscape as Beckert prowls the neighborhood. Suddenly all goes silent as our villain notices a child from the reflection of the shop window and is overcome with desire. It’s as if the sight of prey has caused his whole world to come to a standstill. When the child begins to wander off, the sound is abruptly un-muted and we are sonically tossed back into the honking horns and footsteps of the city. Although M is a sound film, it’s these pockets of silence in which it draws its strength.

4) Eraserhead 

Location Sound and Re-Recording: Alan R. Splet
Sound Editing: Alan R. Splet
Sound Effects: David Lynch and Alan R. Splet
Lady in the Radiator Song Composed and Sung by: Peter Ivers
David Lynch’s obsessive attentiveness to sound is apparent in all of his work, and that’s especially true of his debut feature film, Eraserhead. To Lynch, a film’s sounds are as important as its images. Sounds include everything from music to diegetic noises to surreal embellishments and canvases of abstract soundscapes. Eraserhead’s sounds paint a portrait of its vaguely dystopic world. Henry’s jaunts across a barren exterior landscape are supplemented by wind and groans that suggest an alien industrial wasteland. As Henry unravels psychologically, Lynch’s sound design builds to an unsettling crescendo, a technique often used in subsequent films (see: Laura Palmer’s descent in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me or the final sequence of Mulholland Drive). Eraserhead also introduces the seamless integration of song with narrative as a psychologically-illuminating device. When the Lady in the Radiator sings “In Heaven,” it’s a great, cathartic musical number whose strange beauty seems to bridge the surreal visuals of the film with its very real emotional states.

Supplemental Viewing:

5) Waste Land 

Composer: Moby

6) Gimme Shelter 

Composers: The Rolling Stones

7) The Pianist 

Composer: Wojciech Kilar

8) The Coal Miner’s Daughter 

Composer: Loretta Lynn

Extracurricular Links:

1) The Soundworks Collection – This video series profiles the composers and foley artists behind some of Hollywood’s most popular hits. Be sure to watch the episodes about The Sound of Wall-E and the spotlight on Gary Hecker, foley artist behind iconic films such as the Star Wars and Spiderman trilogy.

2) How to Compose a Killer Film Score by Michael Giacchino – The composer behind beloved features such as Up, Star Trek, and Lost walks us through his filmmography and explains his creative choices and where he finds inspiration for his scores.

3) How Wes Anderson Soundtracks his Movies – Wes Anderson’s music supervisor Randall Poster talks about working with Wes and his process selecting and licensing songs.

Visit the Hulu Summer Film School page to view A Hard Day’s Night and learn more about Lighting and Color Theory.