Animation takes control

Well I’ll be the first to admit that over the past two weeks my blogging effort has been sub-par.  Over the past month, I and eight other brave souls have been undertaking a project for Hope Tucker’s animation class which is possibly the most tedious and time-consuming work I’ve ever had to do.  Now I’m not naive enough to say that I didn’t know that animation required constructing every single still frame in order to achieve the effect of motion, but it’s a whole different thing having to do it…alone.   In the past two weeks I’ve drawn roughly 1200 individual frames in Photoshop®.  Although my photoshop savvy has increased exponentially and my workflow has increased as well, I still sit down and create 20-40 frames per hour of work.  I’ve benefitted greatly from using a Wacom pad, which allows me draw on a separate tablet which mirrors the computer’s display.  By using a digital pen and not a mouse I’ve sped up my production a lot, but it’s still not fast.  

Since my project is based on telling an extremely condensed history of the world, I also have a voice-over narration which accompanies the animated visuals.  As I began assembling this voice over today I had to start thinking of how narration for an animated short is the same or different as if it were live footage.  My piece is a comedy which plays with a juxtaposition between narrator and image.  The narrator, for the most part, stays serious and fairly true to a neutral historian.  The images however, are very simple but are over the top as far as exaggerating events, stereotypes, catastrophes and accomplishments.  While assembling this, I was surprised to discover that the power of the comedy lay much more in the narration than in the image.  The sound and tone of the narrators voice made all the difference (which unfortunately means I have to re-record it tomorrow for more effect).  I also am dealing with the timing of the whole thing.  Since the voice over was recorded before all of the frames had been drawn and assembled, I’m having to alter the frame rate at which it plays at times in order to assure the audio and video are synced.  I may have to resort to recording the voice over again while watching the video to get it to play how I need it to.  Sound is a whole separate issue.  Since there’s obviously no live sound recorded, foley sound recording is a must…and a challenge.  Finding objects or devices to create the necessary sounds to match is something which may be easily done with a database of effects, but is not easy in a booth with a mic.

Although I’m glad this class was created and offered this semester, I think all of will be ready to be done with this project.  My skills with photoshop, my patience, and my like for animation have all been severely tested in the past couple of weeks but they’ve all grown and improved.  I’ve come to like graphic design more than I had thought and would be willing to explore that more.   

Mulholland Drive Me Crazy

Not wanting to spoil my viewing, I waited until after the screening until I read J.J. Murphy’s chapter on the film and its unique narration.  Now I wish I hadn’t waited.  I spent the first two thirds of the film (probably until the club silencio sequence) waiting for the different threads of the film.  The diner scene really got me…I’m sure that got some kind of sub-conscious Pulp fiction thought process going in my mind so I struggled for the majority of the film waiting for the pay-off of interconnected narration which never came (at least not in the Tarantino sense).    That being said, I can still say that I enjoyed the experience of watching the film.  There were sections of the film where my lack of understanding allowed me to simply enjoy what I was watching in the most basic way.  I became fascinated by scenes like the lip-syncing audition, the cowboy’s appearance, the pool-man affair, and the club silencio scene simply in an emotional, visceral way not immediately connected to my investment in the narration.  Lynch, like Tarantino, succeeds with these scenes of quirky humor and musical interludes despite the narrative complexity.   In my mind, Lynch did exactly what he wanted to do; he got me.  He used established conventions and ideas and turned them inside-out, playing with the viewer’s comprehension of his film.  This not only allows ambiguity of interpretations (as most films do) but of simple comprehension as well.  I, like many other people, couldn’t resist hitting ‘the tubes’ and doing some online research of the film when I got home and despite my desire for an answer, I wasn’t surprised to find a large number of different explanations.  The film breeds it.

The fact that Mulholland Dr. was half-produced as a television series and half as a feature film is something so unique it becomes hard to make sense of.  We brought up some of this in class, such as use of well-known actors in very minor roles.  But this production split is such a huge influence I was surprised it is not mentioned more often in many of the theories about the film.  It’s such a unique story that I suppose there are really very few other works to compare it to.  I keep thinking about the Singing Detective and how that six hour series could have been condensed into a two hour film.  Would that be possible in order to still have the film make sense?  I’d like to think that maybe this is why Mulholland Drive is so uniquely confusing and narratively complex, but is it really that atypical of Lynch’s other work and style?  I know Lynch doesn’t want to explain the film outright and I appreciate that because I think it would take a lot away from what he did.  But I would love to hear an in-depth interview that at least addressed some of the problems or changes that occurred due to the bizarre production history.  Either way, I’m sure the second time I see this film will be an entirely different ‘experience’ which is something that certainly can not be said about every film.


Final Paper Proposal

“Examination of the Final Cut: A director’s narrative prerogative”


The idea of releasing two (or more) editions of a film or other text examines new ideas of narration through post-production practices.  In this essay, I will attempt to examine both why and how a second edition, most commonly in the form of a directors cut, can influence the narrative structure of any given text.  Although multiple texts will be examines, this essay will focus primarily around Ridley Scott’s 1982 neo-noir film BladeRunner and Terry Gilliam’s 1985 science-fiction film Brazil.  Both of these texts have had multiple versions released following the initial theatrical edition of each.  Although I will primarily examine these two films, I will look at additional works by these two directors, especially Scott, who has released many director’s cuts for his films. 

–Topics to be discussed in depth within this essay include but are not limited to:

-Classical Hollywood vs. Art cinema.  I think this idea will be central not only on it’s own but to the overarching idea of the essay and thesis.  The decisions and conflicts that have created the need for multiple edits of these films have arisen primarily because of studio/director conflicts which are commonly representative of the industry vs. artist. 

-The narrative ideas of Fabula/Syuzhet and how post-production changes typically affect both.  Although editing’s primary goal is to advance the story or a film, it can undoubtedly be used as a stylistic element as well.  I would like to include some of Walter Murch’s ideas/theories in respect to this idea.

-The rise of home video and the inception of the term ‘directors cut’.  With the success of home video distribution, multiple releases of films became not only available but economically advantageous as well.  Despite some critical acclaim, clearly not all director’s cuts or extended editions add a great deal to a film’s narrative or artistic success.  It is because of this that I am examining the cases of Blade Runner and Brazil as they are distinct, documented case in which studio executives tampered with the work of the director.

-New media and the place for director’s cuts, extended or ‘complete’ editions of music videos, video games and other types of narrative media.  Whether these additions to the texts, specifically to video games, add more to the narrative or simply play to a different audience (culturally or demographically) examples from Metal Gear Solid, Rogue Galaxy and Final Fantasy VII can add to this discussion.



-The thesis statement I believe will work well for this essay is such:  A director’s or final cut affords a director the ability to not only assemble a film to his/her narrative and stylistic standards but more importantly provides an opportunity to use auteuristic ideals to confront artistic opposition from executive powers with alternative motives.


This thesis is not at all final and I expect to change it as I begin to examine the multiple versions of these texts (I have only seen one version of each film) as well as finding out the specifics of the studio conflicts involved in both.  



Active/Possible Sources

Blade Runner. Dir. Ridley Scott. Warner Bros, 1982.  (Theatrical Release)

(I will also use the Director’s Cut (1992), The Final Cut (2007) and the Original Workprint Version (1982 (released in 2007))

Brazil. Dir. Terry Gilliam. Universal, 1985. (Theatrical Release)

(I will also use the European Cut (1996), and the Sid Sheinberg ‘Love Conquers All’ Edit (1985 (realeased in 1996))


Brooker, Will. The Blade Runner Experience: The Legacy of a Science Fiction Classic. London, UK: Wallflower Press, 2005.


Gilliam, Terry, Charles E. Alverson, and Bob McCabe. Brazil: The Evolution of the 54th Best British Film Ever Made. London, UK: Orion Media, 2001.


Kerman, Judith. Retrofitting Blade Runner: Issues in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Publishing, 1991.


Knapp, Laurence, and Andrea Kulas. Ridley Scott: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers). Kansas City, MO: Performance Arts Publishing, 2005.


Ondaatje, Michael. The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film. New York City: Random House Inc., 2002.

Sammon, Paul M.. Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner. New York City: HarperCollins, 1996.


Sammon, Paul M. Ridley Scott:The Making of his Movies (Close Up Edition). New York City: Da Capo Press, 1999.


Shay, Don. Blade Runner: The Inside Story (Transmetropolitan). London, UK: Titan Books, 2000.




I may need help acquiring the Criterion Collectors edition of each of these films.  Not sure the best way to go about doing that.  Ideas?


In my mind, the assignment we completed for yesterdays class was a success.  I think the purpose of the assignment, to allow our creativity to be challenged and exposed, was achieved.  I will admit, as I have in other classes, that I really hate editing with a partner or group.  I think it’s much more challenging and often limits decisions.  However, I will say that I think that David and I worked very cohesively and effectively with our edit.  The whole process went smoothly (probably because we didn’t involve SnapZ) and I think we were on the same page as far as our purpose and goal for the assignment.  In editing the material from The Prestige I found it easy to get off track and fall into the trap of simply editing a trailer for the film.  There were multiple times during our sessions in the edit room where we had to stop and take a step back from the material and what we were doing, either to re-read the assignment itself or simply talk to each other and re-asses our final goal for our re-mix.  This was the most useful part of having a partner in the assignment.  

I also enjoyed this editing assignment not only because I have a passion for editing, but it kept me thinking about my final paper topic and the upcoming proposal.  Obviously re-editing a 5 minute piece is significantly different from a full director’s cut, but the idea is similar: to re-edit the existing footage to offer a new and different presentation of the narrative.  This is the focus statement of my paper which will explore films like Blade Runner, Apocolypse Now, and Brazil, as well as other works from Ridley Scott, Steven Speilberg and Oliver Stone.  I am also interested in exploring the idea of a director’s cut in other media such as video games or music videos.  

Overall the editing assignment was an enjoyable change of pace from the rest of the class.  Each group approached the assignment with different goals and ideas and it came through in the re-arranging of the material.  This is something that I became fascinated by during my summer at USC.  An entire editing class was given the exact same material, whether from a film or television show or whatever, and somehow the edits always turned out drastically different from each other.  Even on assignments where we had the script in front of us and were told to follow it, there are so many choices to be made that no two edits were ever even really that similar.  Murch mentions this at one point in The Conversations about calculating the number of different cuts that can be made on each frame of each shot throughout a film and how in the end there are so many billions of different cuts that can be made.  I think the idea is easy to see, especially in an assignment like this, where four or five groups chose to edit material from The Prestige but obviously in very different ways.  That’s what I enjoyed most out of viewing the final results.   

The Singing Let Down

It’s understandable that we all have our own biases and opinions, however it would be nearly impossible for Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective to measure up to its critical acclaim.  I generally dislike the idea of under-appreciating a renowned, academically discussed piece of work but this six hour series was downright unenjoyable for me.  

I felt cheated.  The unreliability of the narrative was annoyingly deceptive and felt like a cheap trick.  Simply because Marlow was ill, both physically and mentally, the implied author took the assumption that it could show us whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted without repercussions.  I’ve considered the fact that a second or third viewing of the piece might help me to piece together the narration in a more sophisticated manner.  Most likely the critics who proclaim Potter’s brilliance have viewed the show multiple times.  However, my issue with this is that it was released as a television program originally airing in one-hour installments.  So the purpose, or goal, of Potter’s should naturally have been to draw an audience which would be entertained and attracted to the show throughout it’s six-week debut.  This idea stems from what I brought up in class about how when I lost my interest in the show I began to imagine the British audience it was intended for.  Were they losing interest also?  Would they continue to turn on the television each week to watch and why?  It could be assumed that some might watch to “find out who dunnit” but the slow pace of the show negates the typical fast-paced exposition of a detective’s investigation.  I pictured the ‘implied author’ and what his goal was (perhaps I would have pictured Potter, the personified version, if I had done a lot of background research beforehand about him personally, but I didn’t until afterward).  Jason mentioned that the original British audience of the 1980’s would have known enough about Dennis Potter’s work and reputation to have been attracted to the show, but does that mean that they would continue to watch all six hours?  Is British television really that different? These questions are to myself more than anything in an attempt to figure out and possibly justify my distaste for the show despite the praise from the critical world.  

To answer the question of what it would have taken, as far as a viewing experience, in order to change my perception of The Singing Detective it took me a while to think of any type of alternate situation in which I may have had a more positive opinion.  The only situation I imagined (and I’m serious) is if I had been in a room with about ten other British adults and after each episode we took a ten minute break to get a snack, possibly some tea, and during this break I could listen to these British adults, possibly some of the critics, discussing why they thought the show was so brilliant, as in what specific narrative devices or authorial choices Potter was making to create such a ‘masterpiece’.  I think that would have helped me.  Otherwise, I suppose I’ll stand by my opinion until further notice.  My distaste for the show will unfortunately most likely prevent me from returning to it for a second viewing.  As I also stated in class, Chatman’s idea that a poet cannot “make the poem mean what he wants it to mean” by writing or preaching his intentions, will also keep me away from the influence of interviews with or writing by Potter.  I feel that my experience is what it is and shouldn’t be changed.  I will take my viewing of The Singing Detective and move on.  I suppose I’ll take a small amount of enjoyment in the fact that the majority of the class seems to share at least a small amount of my dislike for the show as well. 

A ‘Prestigious’ Film

I agree with Kyle.  This was my third time watching The Prestige and I’ve gained a higher appreciation for the Nolan brothers’ work each time.  The twist ending is what amazed me the first time, the way in which the film selectively hides and shows the secret to the twist is what got me the second time, and the narrative complexity is what captured me this time.  Perhaps this is because of the focus of our class, but I also believe that it may take a minimum of three viewings simply to understand how much is going on.  Between the diaries (one of which has two separate authors), the voice-overs, and the non-linear rearranging of events, I think this film successfully accomplishes the surprise ending much more than The Sixth Sense does.  It may be cliché or maybe it’s highly intentional, but the distractions created by the complex narrative  structure of the film distract the viewer from the secret of the Borden/Fallon twins.  Watching The Prestige a second and third time is not only tolerable, but it’s really enjoyable, something that The Sixth Sense lacks. 

I should also quickly say that although I understand Ioana’s dissatisfaction with the cloning device I had and still have no qualms with it’s use in the narrative.  Although I don’t think that this film can be entirely categorized as one of magical realism as conclusively as something like Pan’s Labyrinth, I don’t think the idea of cloning and it’s use in the film is out of place.  As Leslie pointed out in her blog, ‘cinema is magic’.  It’s an escapist idea to watch somebody else’s life, conflicts and successes for two hours.  We go to the cinema to escape many of the realities which life (and physics) hold true without fail.  If you can’t get past the idea that a film uses ‘fringe science’ to play with the idea of cloning in a film, than how can you accept that Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Andy Serkis (Gollum) and David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust, ha) are sitting at the same table in the first place?  The same mentality that allows us enter the world of film in the first place must be maintained throughout.  I understand Ioana would rebut this, arguing that the idea of cloning is too fantastical to fit into a film in which all else follows the laws of physics and reality, but this film is too good to be caught up with something so insignificant.

Lastly, there was one sequence in the film that i noticed this time around that I had missed before.  In a scene near the end of the film when Borden is sitting in the audience of Angier’s show and he is trying to figure out how he does the final version of the transported man.  The short sequence of shots when Angier is performing the actual trick, which is very quickly edited together, contains a shot which is only a couple of frames long, of a close-up of a trap door closing.  In the midst of all the other craziness and deception that is going on with the noise and the lightning bolts, I overlooked this until now, but I realized it this time that in the following scene when Borden is talking about the trick and how “he travels 50 yards in a second and all we know is he uses a trap door” you as the viewer know about the trap door whether you consciously made note of those few frames or not.  This got me thinking, not only about editing, but about the ‘fair use’ of very quick (1-3 frame) shots.  I loved the choice to include this small shot when i noticed it but I also remembered reading about how it was illegal to use subliminal frames, which may not be consciously noticed, but are at some level.  The obvious example would be the use of this in Fight Club.  I know it’s off topic from how this post began, but if anybody has any knowledge of this I’d love to hear  it.  Hope you all enjoyed The Prestige as much as I did.

What’s the deal with Barton Fink?

Well I’ll admit, I’m thoroughly confused.  I don’t know what to think about this film.  I’ve enjoyed enough Coen brothers films that I went into this screening optimistically, prepared to enjoy the film.  I’ve given it a good amount of time to sink in, but after our discussion in class yesterday I figured I needed to write about it.  I realized some of my unhappiness from the film came from the pre-textual knowledge of what a ‘Coen Brothers Film’ is.  When I hear that phrase, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and O Brother Where Art Thou are the three works that come to mind (my first three Coen Brothers films).  I realized this puts me at a disadvantage going into a screening of Barton Fink because my perception of this type of film is so obviously skewed in the darkly comedic and bizarre which those three films exemplify.  Having not seen Blood Simple or No Country for Old Men, I had no other basis for comparison.  So in my mind, despite having swept the major awards at Cannes, this film failed as a Coen Brothers film for me because it didn’t live up to my expectations of the genre.  

Having assessed that aspect of my experience, I must also say that I don’t think this film is a very entertaining film.  This isn’t to say that I wanted blockbuster-esque explosions and the like, but while I was watching the film I can distinctly remember splitting my attention between following the narrative and trying to figure out when something big would happen to take the film in some kind of finite direction.  Someone mentioned in class how after the twist of Audrey’s death occurs that there was an anticipation of a second twist, like the waking from a dream; I felt the same way.  Audrey’s death was so absurd and apparently so unexpected that I didn’t sense it as a logical piece of the narrative.  When the narrative did not revert back and continued on the path of the murder and its investigation, I was really disappointed.  I realized that the film was not going to become a comedy, like I had been waiting for and I had to accept that.  I think my second viewing of Barton Fink would be considerably different than my first because I would be able to dismiss my comedic expectations and begin to analyze the film on a more scholarly and appreciative level. 

However, although I understand that a second viewing would be a whole other experience, I’m still not convinced that I would like the film.  It’s really difficult for me to expel the pre-texts entirely.  Having seen how successful the Coen Brothers are in the more comedic genre, is it impossible to enjoy a film in a different genre equally?  Can you ever truly erase pre-conscious ideas?  Would Barton Fink have been so renowned if it had come after Fargo?  This is what my problem with the film is, or rather my problem with myself; No Country for Old Men (from what I’ve heard and read) is not in the same category of film as Fargo and the other comedies, and yet it is the Coen Brothers most successful film (as far as Academy Awards at least) to date.  I either need to do more reading on how a pre-textual or pre-conscious idea can effect the viewing experience or I need to simply see more of the Coen Brothers films in order to compare across their different styles/genres.  

Blade Runner Essay Topic

After the first round of brainstorming, I got some feedback from Jason and from a few other FMMC people and have decided to center my paper topic around the idea of editing and re-editing a film in order to convey different narrative ideas.  In wanting to explore a topic related to post-production Jason suggested I think about Blade Runner or Brasil, two films which explore this topic.  I knew a bit about the story of what went on with Blade Runner so I was intrigued by that (there are officially 7 versions of the film).  Since it has been released with a variety of cuts and pioneered the Director’s Cut idea on DVD, I think Blade Runner will provide the groundwork for my essay.  I still haven’t seen Brasil, but providing it has relevance I will most likely use it as well as Apocalypse Now (and Redux), Memento and many others.  Ridley Scott has Director’s cuts on a lot of his films so he might be someone I focus on, but a lot of directors have done or have begun to do this, especially now that so many films are being re-released digitally.  I still have a lot of work to do before I formulate a thesis and draft the full proposal but that’s the update on where I am as far as my topic and I’m excited for it. 

Gaming to Graduate

This is my second class at this school which has required video game play as a class requirement.  It would be easy to make the common immature comment that I so often hear from roommates or friends about how it’s a joke or how ‘awesome’ that is.  And although I won’t hide the fact that I enjoy playing video games as part of a Middlebury College class, I think that there’s more to it than simply having fun.  I see lots of other students having fun in other classes with a variety of new and clever assignments and I think it’s more important to just be doing something new.  It’s too easy to find a class with two exams and a final paper with a variety of problem sets or response papers along the way but finding a class/professor that can use new ways to push academics or force students to think in new ways is important.

So far this year all three of my FMMC classes have been doing that and I consider myself lucky to have found a major which I truly enjoy because of that.  I’m proud to go home and tell my housemates about the assignments I’m working on and perhaps a lot of it has to do with the act of creating something more tangible and shareable than a paper or exam.  This is something that film, studio art, dance, and music majors share in common for the most part because of the creative aspect of each but I think this is a direct result of the faculty in these departments.  The creativity and progression which the film department has shown over the past year in particular is something to be recognized as well.  The establishment of programs abroad, the dedication to production, interest in technology and the obvious addition of the Axinn center are all things that have coincided with my time at Middlebury.  How cool is that?

So to get back to the idea of playing video games in a class that I need to graduate, I think it speaks volumes about the evolution of the department.  If video games are a prominent part of our society and are a growing industry creating thousands of jobs for young adults, than why is it so absurd that we have to study them.  After all it is film and MEDIA CULTURE, right?  

So for my narrational video game research I’ve begun to play Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.  During my years in high school I played through GTA III and Vice City in their entireties, but for some reason when I got San Andreas as a Christmas present I never got as into it as the previous two games in the series.  I played a few of the entry level missions but barely enough to advance any kind of narrative or become attached to the storyworld of the game.  Now that I can justify playing the game as homework, I’ve been forcing myself to ‘get into it’ and become more active and excited about completing the missions and advancing my “street cred”.  As I continue the game’s narrative I look forward to blogging about what is and what is not working for me this time around as compared to last time.  When i gave up on playing the game the first time I never thought about why it was less appealing than its predecessors so that’s also something I’ve been giving some thought to as I play.  I’m about to pass the point in the game where I gave up before so we’ll see where it goes from here. 

Paper Topic Brainstorming

After writing a few blog posts which have mentioned various aspects of post-production, specifically editing and how it effects the entire narrative process, I would like to explore the idea of a paper topic which focuses on the role of editing in respect to narrative through the use of particular texts, trends or perhaps a broader issue.  Clearly this is just the beginning of my topic brainstorming and I don’t have any tangible ideas but I’ve enjoyed writing on the blog about similar topics and think it would be valuable for me to try to develop it further.  

A few of the topics/ideas/questions I have come up with are as such:

-The idea of examing the effect of various chronological devices.  Such as comparing films which are chronolgical, films that use non-linear devices, and films that use non-linear construction throughout.  How does this effect the viewer’s first viewing and subsequent viewings.

-The examination of re-edits or directors cuts.  What is the idea behind re-editing a specific film? How can it help/hurt the exposition of narrative with it’s changes?

-How does editing border the line of syuzhet and style? (Will most likely be discussed no matter what topic)


I would really appreciate any suggestions from either you Jason, or other class members who might read this.  Any books or articles that could help me focus my ideas would be great or any idea of how to fit the theme of post-production/editing into a final paper topic would be great.  In the meantime I’ll be trying to focus some of these thoughts into a thesis and/or come up with a second paper option.