Exercise: Listening

One of the most memorable sound effects I can still hear even now, is the twang of the swinging door of the dining room in the hotel in Jacques Tati’s M. Hulot’s Holiday (1953). A very distinct sound, caused by people walking through as it swings back and forth, closing with a whoomp. Sound effects like this help bring a film to life by building a sound picture of the story space.

Space 1: Attic office


  • ticking clock
  • passing cars
  • room ‘tone’ (?)

This space gives the impression of being a quiet room. The ticking clock adds to the atmosphere of the room, giving a strong sense of place. I had not expected to hear the sound of cars passing on the main road outside the estate. This shows clearly how no room is totally silent. I was also aware of some kind of room ‘tone’. This shows it that there is always some kind of background sound in a room, however quiet it might seem.

Space 2: Woods and stream, beside Edmondstown Road


  • water flowing
  • traffic – cars and lorries
  • a dog barking
  • breaks squeaking
  • birds
  • aeroplane

Surprisingly loud background sounds. Although varied, they were predominantly cars and lorries. Standing in the woods beside the stream, I had expected to be surrounded by woodland sounds (water, trees, birds). But, with the headphones on, I was surprised to hear how loud the road sounds were. Our brain filters out certain sounds, depending on our perception of the place in which we are standing.

This has been a very useful exercise, for several reasons.

It has shown me that every location comes with its own range of background sounds. Some expected, others not. That it is important to listen carefully to the sound space of a location in order to get a full picture of the place I would like to portray on film.

It has also shown me that relying solely on an ‘atmos’ track may not be the best thing to do, as it may contain sound elements that are irrelevant to the picture or are simply just distracting. A sound space is designed. This requires the recording of separate sound effects, that will then be manipulated in post-production to create the desired effect on the viewer’s experience of the film.


Exercise: Reflected ‘bounced’ light

I set up a couple of shots with a light source at one side of the subject, in this case daylight coming through a window. Using reflected light, I held a reflector directly opposite the light source to reflect light back into the shadows.

I used a Kenro 32″ 5-in-1 reflector kit, which comprises of white, gold, silver and black reflector covers on a 32″ translucent frame. I began by using the white reflector, to bounce light back at the subject to help level up the shadows and highlights within the shot. I then experimented with the gold, silver and black covers as reflectors to see what textures and colours can be achieved using these different materials.

Reflected light – Set-up 1

Camera: Sony PXW-FS7
Lens: Samyang 85mm T1.5


No reflector                                                                  White reflector

Silver reflector                                                             Black reflector


In the first set-up, I placed the reflector on a stand directly opposite the window.

Using a white reflector, I was able to reflect light back onto the face quite effectively. Which helped to level up the shadows and highlights a little. The closer the reflector was placed to the subject, the more light was bounced back onto the face.

The silver and black reflectors created a different effect. The silver reflector bounced light back onto the face, but gave the shot a much harsher feel. The black reflector increased the contrast in the shot by absorbing light in the shadow areas of the face, producing a much more low-key shot.


Reflected light – Set-up 2

Camera: Sony PXW-FS7
Lens: Samyang 50mm T1.5


No reflector                                                                  White reflector

Gold reflector                                                               Silver reflector


In the second set-up, I held the reflector slight slightly lower than the subject and angled it upwards to reflect the light back onto the face. Hand holding the reflector meant I could direct the light more accurately, sculpting the image by looking at the way in which the light fell on the subject.

Again, using a white reflector, I was able to reflect light back onto the face very effectively. Which helped to level up the shadows and highlights a little, particularly around the nose, cheek and hair. The closer the reflector was placed to the subject, the more light was bounced back onto the face.

Using the gold and silver reflectors I was able to achieve two quite different effects. The gold reflector bounced light back onto the face and hair, giving it a warmer feel. The silver reflector bounced light back onto the face and hair, but gave the shot a much harsher, colder feel, and was the least flattering of the reflectors used.

Of the three types of reflecting material I used in this exercise, it is the white reflector that I will start with when looking to bounce reflected light into a shot on my next assignment film, as it produces a more natural, softer light than the silver or gold reflectors.

Exercise: Creating depth with lighting

Camera: Sony PXW-FS7
Lens: Sony 28-135mm f4
Lights: Arri 300, Arri 150

The aim of this exercise was to create three distinctly different impressions of depth within the same space.

I took as my starting point for this exercise Blain Brown’s advice that ‘in our quest to make an image as three-dimensional as possible, we usually try to create a foreground, mid ground and background in a shot’ by using backlighting and making the area behind the main subject ‘significantly darker’ than the subject (Brown, 2012:105).

In each of my shots, I created an area of relative darkness in the background and added some back or side-lighting on the main subject. This helped to separate the main subject from the background and create a sense of depth within the shot.

I also made use of the natural light coming in through the roof lights. Particularly in shot 1, in which the window light acted as the key light, illuminating the subject’s face.

Of the three shots, I think shot 2 is the least successful in creating a sense of depth within the space. Although the sidelight helps separate the subject from the background by illuminating her hair, this image still feels flat. This is probably more of a compositional issue that could have been solved by placing something in the foreground to help give a greater sense of depth within the shot.



Brown, B (2012) Cinematography: Theory and Practice. Focal Press.

Exercise: Experiment with lighting

The aim of this design was to create a low key shot, in which the background was in shadow and the face was ‘lit’.

I took three photographs of the same subject:

  • one exposed correctly
  • one under-exposed by 3 stops
  • one over-exposed by 2 stops

I put the three photographs together in Photoshop in Layers:

  • darkest image on the top
  • correctly exposed image in the middle
  • brightest image at the bottom

Using a Layer Mask on the top (dark) layer, I applied the Brush tool (at 50% opacity) to ‘rub out’ the dark layer in the subject’s face. I finished by reducing the opacity of the top (dark) layer to 80%, to bring back more ‘ambient’ light from the middle layer.


Exercise: Depth

Camera: Sony PXW-FS7
Lens: Sony 28-135mm f4


  1. Frame a shot containing a close and distant object.
  2. Zoom in close on the close object.
  3. Slowly zoom out, keeping both objects in frame.

This task demonstrates the perception of depth within a frame.

The shot begins with a long focal length of 135mm. This produces a shallow depth of field, in which the squeaky toy in the foreground is in focus, while the dog in the background is out of focus. Resulting in a shallow focus shot.

The camera zooms out to a short focal length of 28mm. This produces a deep depth of field, in which both the squeaky toy and the dog are now in focus. Resulting in a deep focus shot.

The perception of depth is created by composition. The viewer of a moving image looks at a 2D canvas and perceives a 3D space. This perception of depth is achieved through the creation of perspective. Placing an object close up to the lens, such as the toy in this exercise film, and other objects further way, such as the dog, gives a perception of increased depth.

Perspective within a composition can also be emphasised by:

  • placing a character in the foreground, which helps to increase their size in relation to the background
  • or using a wide-angle lens to exaggerate the sense of depth within the frame.

The perception of depth can also be achieved through the manipulation of the depth of field within the image. Altering the amount of detail in the background by reducing the depth of field.