Zombie Attack – Silent Movie Editing Reflection

I have decided to edit this piece in the style of silent movies. I also considered Hitchcock and Indie Horror because I have seen examples of these before therefore I was more familiar with some of the conventions. I can not recall watching a silent film before this assignment which is why I chose it; to challenge myself and learn something new.

The Passion of Joan of Arc

Silent movies were the very beginning of modern cinema which is why I though it would be worthwhile to research it even if I decide not to use it. I started by watching a modern piece of silent film, The Artist. The Artist showed me some basic ideas about silent films but not necessarily the editing or shot types. I noticed how the actors interact with the camera and the film world. It appeared as if the film world was also silent and everyone was over gesticulating which allowed the audience to see what the actors were feeling it also allowed for easier reading of lips/writing.

After watching a second silent film; The Passion of Joan of Arc I realised that the shot types and camera movement in The Artists weren’t necessarily conventional. The Passion of Joan of Arc had very little camera movement(if any) and the shots were all at eye level, filling the screen with the characters. It gave the film more emotion and allowed the audience to really connect with the character and her struggles. The shots were also prolonged, at times making me uncomfortable. I think it worked well and is one of many reasons that make this movie such an important piece of (silent)film history. I have used this idea in some parts of my edit; the main character often fills the entire screen and therefore the emotion on her face can be easily read, connecting with the audience.

As a group we decided to try and record in a few editing styles so that we have more freedom later on. We wanted to try and capture the essence of Indie Horror, French New Wave, Silent Film and Hitchcock. We chose these styles because they all how some aspects in common. Not all of them share the same aspects but there are similarities between them for example the importance of sound and sound effects in Indie Horror, Hitchcock and Silent Film or the use of variety of shot angles and types in French New Wave and Hitchcock movies.

We followed our shot list closely however we did not have enough time so we did not manage to capture all of the planned shots. I have used much more shots where the camera moved more than originally planned. After reviewing the footage I decided to work with the footage available so I took the inspiration from 1923 silent movie Safety First! It mainly used still video, recorded on a tripod, except infrequent pans, tilts and other slight movement. I took it a step further, since the reason for lack of movement was the old fashioned(not at that time) equipment, there was no other choice but keep the camera on the tripod. I have an option of using a high quality camera with a tripod that smoothly pans and tilts. The use of digital memory frees my hands allowing me to do lengthy, handheld recordings. Taking that to account I have also used LA shots which are rare in silent movies however I though it would create an extra suspense to the scene.

Sound is a massive part of silent films. The lack of speech and diegetic sounds means that the movies lose a lot of potential messages which could be interpreted by the audience in certain ways to add depth to the piece. Title cards could never portray sounds which is why I kept mine to a minimum. I tried to keep very close to the script written by my colleague, which is why I have only used one title card; showing the only spoken word in the whole script. Traditionally silent movies had a piano player in the theatres playing tunes that represented the mood and pace of the video. I wanted to use this idea of a piano because it’s easily associated with silent movies however I didn’t want to use the obvious, easily recognisable tunes. I researched a few classical music compositions involving one piano player. I had a list of five varying between Chopin, Bach, Lisz and Beethoven. I decided to use Sonata No. 23 in F minor Op. 57 “Appassionata” by Beethoven. I have used Adobe Audition to edit the song to match the pace and mood of the scene. It was my first time using Adobe Audition which is why the edit is not perfect but I’m satisfied with the outcome and I think that it really adds some character to my piece, allowing it to stand out from the rest.


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