It’s All Deliberate.


Filmmaking; the filmic medium; celluloid dreams—whatever you want to call it, its purpose and power lies in its mechanism. Everything one sees, hears, and feels is reflective of deliberate choices vis-à-vis the director, the cinematographer, the writer; the creators.


Emma Charles’ Fragments on Machines emphasizes the environment’s foley. The audience is being asked to confront noises we often tune out, and consider them as key players in shaping the affect of the environment. Immediately, as the film begins, it is the sound of the metallic rush of the subway stirring along tracks that we are confronted with. Sounds of conversations are muted, and the mechanical hum is placed at the forefront. This deliberate choice highlights the materiality of the machine, which is the focus of her film.

Foley is often introduced before its visual counterpart is present in the shot. As an example, the sound of dripping water of the FLOOD segment is introduced in the last seconds of the previous segment, before the title card “FLOOD” appeared. In this way, sound serves its purpose as an auditory edit, seamlessly advancing the narrative from one fragment to another.

Fragments on Machines is attempting to highlight the materiality and physicality of the Internet; humans are rarely even in shots, and when they are, no more than three are ever present together. It then makes sense for the audio to be mostly foley and diegetic sounds, as it highlights the machine, before the man. Charles’ choice of using a removed, pseudo-omniscient narrator similarly removes human agency in the development of her narrative, and this choice directly opposes Fox’s Gasland presentation, where he—and his voice—is very much involved in the process of developing the narrative. Again, these are deliberate choices.


To complement the audio, Charles’ visuals are mostly a combination of incredibly long, static shots (where action seem to play out naturally), as well as moving, Steadicam shots (where action seem to be more premeditated). In her outtakes, it is revealed that while her long, static shot imply natural action…crafted-neutralityPeople were not removed from the shot; the final cut chosen was simply a section where people did not populate the frame. In class, we discussed about this notion of “crafted-ness”, and how it is not synonymous with untruths. As with the example of Charles static shots where perhaps one person would walk into frame against a backdrop of an enveloping metropolis, or when she chose to a close-up shot of the empty chair, this affect effects. There is truth in these crafted image, and it returns to her thesis of exploring the materiality of the machine, in a world where humans are present, yet absent at the same time.

Fox uses an entirely different approach to manifesting his project. His shots are more spontaneous, as though he’s always in the motion of just picking up a camera to film whatever is in front of him. His technique is not stringent, and it is not meant to be. There is no Steadicam work, but a very palpable handheld-ness to his style. His film is about himself and his story, as much as it is about the perils of hydraulic fracking. This allows for a sense of personalization through technique, and this technique also lends well to curating dynamic edits.

Just as Charles’ Fragments on Machines seem to seamlessly move from the subway to the Internet wires, many edits in Gasland similarly blends two places and two affects together. This kind of juxtaposition adds layers of meaning to single, disparate shots. As an exemplar, when Fox zoomed in on the plastic bottles of fresh water at the conference (which inherently ties into the larger discussion further along in the film about the quality of drinking water as affected by the fracking), the edit dynamically moves the narrative to a wide shot of the wells. This juxtaposition doesn’t seem forced, it is dynamic, seamless, and acts as though it’s supposed to happen. Power lies in representation, and this kind of juxtaposition introduces new, valued representations.


As I begin to think about the sound of my ecology, I am inspired by Charles’ blending of foley to transport, to create a shift in ambience. From collecting soundscapes, I am minutely aware of the diverse array of sounds found at the Oculus. From sounds of motion (i.e., footsteps, conversations in motion, escalator warnings) to sounds of stillness (i.e., cameras clicking), harmonizing all by blending foley would highlight the Oculus’ various functions (shopping mall, transportation hub, spectacle), as well as how and in what ways people function within the ecology.

In consideration of the visuals of my ecology, I am thinking of filming portions of it on my phone, as to highlight the tactility of the camera-phone medium that is so ingrained in this Instagram / Snapchat era, and one that pervades the majority of people who do take photographs of the Oculus. (To confirm, this will only be an aspect, a featured technique intending to create affect, and the rest will be filmed on a proper DSLR camera).

With everything in mind, I am constantly reminding myself of this “crafted neutrality” — with what medium and with what techniques can I most accurately craft a truthful portrait of my ecology, from my perspective? It is all in deliberation.

~ by Joey on October 24, 2016.

3 Responses to “It’s All Deliberate.”

  1. Best Creative Use of Media – You use gifs to the fullest in this blog post, but you do it appropriately. The gifs don’t distract the reader from the text but instead serve to fully support the message you are trying to convey. Nice.

    – Kai

  2. I would like to give your blogpost the most “helping-me-think” award! Through your conversational tone, you integrate many different concepts from various authors and your real-world examples help a reader ponder over your take-aways from the video productions. You also do a great job with moving from idea to another- it is also a very well-written post!

  3. I award you ‘most integrated!’—You took time with your gif’s, you customized them yourself and integrated them seamlessly into your post. They illustrated your points well, and drove your points home. Refreshing to see custom-made gif’s incorporated so seamlessly.

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