The evaluation is made up of four parts. They are as follows as follows in video form. Additionally there are some external files which I refer to during my evaluation (in question 3), they are below the videos. If the sound is ineligible in places, the written script of the evaluation is also included.
The film industry is one of the highest grossing in the world and it seems nobody can get enough of it. Every year millions flock to their local cinema to get a hold of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Whether it’s on interactive television, at the cinema or online the industry continues to grow at incredible pace. It was my task to tap into this market, research the market and produce a promotional campaign to rival those of existing media products. This is how I did it.
In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?
Throughout the entire research, production and creative stages I was always keen to achieve one goal above all else; for my trailer to stand out in the crowd of repetitive, laboriously similar, horror genre trailers. It seems now that when you go to the cinema you are inundated with clone after clone of trailers using the same conventions, the same ideas and the same techniques which just results in horror movies lacking originality.
For my trailer, and indeed my entire promotional campaign, I isolated a gap in the market in that not many horror films are based around the color white. I did, as you can see originally plan to feature black as my dominant colour but admittedly some films have ventured into the idea of using a unique palette in their films and done it to good use; the Saw franchise has been known to as well as The Ring. On the whole, however, horror movies revolve around black. It’s understandable why; the black will pump the tension to mammoth highs as enigma runs intrinsically through trailers with black seeped through them. The ‘fear of the unknown’, xenophobia, is always a favorite amongst writers and is optimised by the colour black. Some of the highest profile horror films have used black like these.
I was aware I could not completely abolish this convention from my work but I could play with it. Throughout my trailer the scenes flick from one characters story to another. Darren, a 18 year old university student, see’s all his scenes filmed in dark while Timothy, a 13 year old school child, is shot in broad daylight. This represents the good vs. evil motif that runs throughout my film. I actually re-shot some footage days after the original shoot to coincide with the snow fall. I thought the white, wintery scenery would optimize this effect further and it seemed to work a treat. The editing was also invaluable to achieve this motif; frequently I would cut from dark to white and vines versa. The screen in the cinema would be flashing white and black, subconsciously delivering the message of good vs. Evil to the prospective customers.
The MPAA rating screen was a necessity while the production company’s logos were conventional. It is important for a company to get recognition and appraisal for the production of a film while also it could act as an incentive for viewers to attend; you’re much more likely to go and watch a film by a renowned production company.
One factor that was conventional, but not a necessity, is the critic’s opinion which allows your movies best reviews to be featured on your promotional campaign. If your product is subject to praise from respectable sources it could result in sales being improved. I wanted to tap into this convention but in the early days of my production failed to realise that my website was only at the teaser trailer stage. I included quotes that critics could only have used if they had watched the film and this wouldn’t have been possible. I rectified this situation by making the quote more abstract and being based around the directors reputation and is more of a prediction than an observation.
One thing I realized during my research is that many films focus heavily on camera techniques such as ‘hand hand’ or ‘1st person shots’. I wanted to use shot types that would seem more at home during big budget, blockbuster films or a sophisticated drama. I was inspired by the Kiefer Sutherland movie, Mirrors. The shots in that movie were effective in delivering the frights to the audience but also some looked beautiful and reeked of mise-en-scene. With these shots imprinted on my retina I started to shoot and was looking for strong, establishing shots to set the scene in the early stages of the trailer. I started will a low-angled, side view of Darren’s house; showing its size and making it clear that Darren was probably alone in this vast building. Additionally the time is dawn, 6.15am, to show that it is early morning; so much so that darkness still covers large proportions of the landscape. The film ‘Mirrors’ has numerous shots where the character is small in the frame and not centralized, indicating a loss or lack of power. I wanted to include a similar form of representation and was keen to replicate this convention, to do this I filmed Darren to the left hand side of each shot in the first sequence.
According to Vladimir Propp a media presentation should have seven key characters if it is to be effective. For a trailer however only the major characters deserve air time. For this reason I used only three of the character roles he suggested. They were the ‘hero’ Darren, the ‘villain’ the masked man and the ‘dispatcher’ the radio presenter. You could argue that Timothy acts as the ‘donor’, foreshadowing Darren’s potential fate. Propp only analysed 100 stories to come up with this theory but it rings true today withhold the writers, in this case me, realising it.
Another way I established this cinematic feel was to film in conventionally intimidating locations. The church, a becan of hope for many, is also held in fear; especially the grave yard. Many horror films and dramas have used a grave yard to show either the awakening of the deceased or religious mishappenings. Following ‘Mirror’s’ use of mise-en-scene to show the building overwhelming the characters, I decided to add my own take. Angel of Death features heavily on the enigma of ‘is this being really death or, as the media suggest, an escaped patient on a rampage. By having this shot, suggesting he is the real deal, along with the audio of the skeptic media, saying it is a normal person in a costume, it continues this enigma to the extend the audience will be left asking; who do I believe, the shot types of the audio?
During the eighties movie trailers had creepy soundtracks which accompanied the movie’s chiller themes. Nowadays, in the case of Saw or Scream, the music has become more epic, so much so that you could mistake them for thrillers or action movies. I wanted to hawk back to these original conventions of old where understated music ruled over gimmicky ones. That’s why my music is very slow-burning, letting the visuals do the talking, acting as an accompaniment to the screen. This is how it was done before big bands and orchestra’s were introduced to horror but in latest years in fashion, music and movie making the trend has been to go back to basics, back to trends of the past and back to how it used to be done.
I additionally featured some ‘dead space’ in the trailers visuals which resulting in black spaces appearing on screen on occasion. This isn’t uncommon for horror movies to do this because it gives the viewer a chance to think about what they have just seen or heard while also adding to the suspense and enigma. The viewers will be left looking at a blank screen wondering what is coming next. In Angel of Death’s case the black space is preceded by radio audio of a news reporter reporting that a child has vanished in the village. The clip that follows the blackout is of his running from an assailant, not showing him however to pump up the enigma.
The three text colors I use throughout the trailer are predominantly white, followed by black and then red. All of these colors are conventional but not in that particular order. For most horror films the base color will be black, the text color white and the effect color red. As I have said, I wanted to develop this convention to make white the new black. White is also relevant to my movie as it connotes the religious storyline. It was also designed to be a sublininal message that good (light) would overcome bad (darkness). The font I used was Pepetua Titling, a serif font, making it seem dated and conventional, like religion. I was keen for the typography to mildly resemble that used on the Holy Bible to further following the other motif, religion. Films have used this technique to good use in the past such as the Exorcist or The Oman and I was more than willing to follow in their footprints.
I also wanted my trailers chronology to be consistent with the conventions set before. Tzvetan Todorov, a Bulgarian linguist, suggesting that movies should follow the equilibrium, threat to equilibrium, new equilibrium pattern. In trailers however I deemed that it would be wrong to show the ‘new equilibrium as too much enigma would be lost. For this reason my trailer shows the two characters living life as normal, eating breakfast and walking to school until the news report, and murder of Timothy, acts as the threat to the story’s equilibrium.
One thing I noticed during my research is that most movie websites and posters are predominantly minimalistic as the trailer takes centre stage. This was one convention I was wholeheartedly keen to adhere to. Looking at some of the websites I analysed its clear that the majority of real media products also follow suit. The Crazies, revolving around a similar colour scheme to me, proved the ultimate inspiration to the layout of my site. You can see by the flat plans I drew up that it had a large bearing over my designing process. Putting them next to each other, my website and the Crazies website you can see the similarities in structure. Also the ‘Frozen’ site follows a similar pattern. One factor I noticed however with both is that the film trailer is slightly orientated to the left. I believed this disjointed the page and made it seem messy. For this reason I ramified this fear when designing my own piece so for Angel of Death’s website, the video is centrally aligned.
The hyperlink bar is in common place at the top of the page, looking down at the content and acting as an subsidiary section to the site. Its clear that producing a website in this way it is designed to revert the viewers eyes to the centre piece; the media player.
The lack of symmetricity in websites of this genre generally surprised me; maybe they were like this for I reason I thought, wondering if a disjointed layout hinted towards jangled plot line. My promotional campaign is based around being modern, classy and similar to a Hollywood blockbuster. For this reason I believed that a more mainstream approach to the layout of my website was needed. You will see that my website is very centrally aligned in an attempt to achieve this clean look.
Instead of letting the plot seep through the alignment of the site, I would allow it to shine through the images, the font choices and the spectrum. Firstly the base image is taken of the woods, in Fleckney, where the movie is based and Darren is seen being chased towards the end of the trailer. It allows this snippet of information to make its way into the consciousness of the viewer without them realising it. I also edited the picture slightly so the fuller, broader trees were towards Darren’s character while the weaker, flimsier ones were rightly orientated towards the antagonist’s. I edited this with the magic wand to put a subtle hint of good vs. evil. 9/10 won’t notice it but it is designed to alter their conception on subconscious level. I made the base image on both the poster and website black and white because the colours that shone out were damaging to my colour scheme, the greens, the browns, the oranges ruined the effect of the very rigidly implemented white/black/red scheme I had established. According to Ervin Goffman’s theory there should be four types of characters in a film or television show. In this website just two are shown, keeping the audience guessing the identities of the others. The protagonist features as does the deuterogamist. However the bit player and fool remain out of the picture because they hold little interest with mainstream viewers.
The font, remaining consistent throughout is aimed at both looking old and connoting religion. The colours, especially in the poster stand out greatly on a more aesthetic basis against the white background meaning they are effective in advertising the products. Red, as I have said is a highly hostile colour, a colour which horror movies have come to love and use proficiently over the years. While I was able to change the conventions of using black as the predominant colour, it would have been ineffective and highly risky, too much so, to use a more obscure colour instead of red. I felt that changing this colour would have been altered convention too far.
On the site I used bilateral symmetry between the good and evil characters to establish clearly who’s who in the plot. They are looking at each other, clearly showing they are in conflict, the expression on Darren’s face being fear, while the killers face is being obscured. This keeps a huge amount of intrigue as the antagonist is yet to be revealed. The costume itself is incredibly threatening also. People are afraid of the unknown; it’s a common theme in horror movies and I was keen to tap into this convention.
The reasoning behind the luminosity effect being used on the focal images of both is to keep it inkeeping with the movies theme. Also I wanted it to become clear that the events of the film have already happened; there’s nothing the viewer can do to save Darren. I was keen for Darren, like I have stated, to look normal but also indearing to the audience. I did this using very simple mise-en-scene; his is dressed to match his age, his haircut youthful but his stance scared.
Both products are incredibly direct, and intentionally so, to attract everybody possible. The biggest, brightest part of the products is the movies title to inform the viewer straight away the brandname of my product while the most centralised object, both in height and width, is the trailer, my major selling point and something that will determine my movie sells well at the box office.
For the poster it was conventional to add the billing block at the base of the page. To make it seem that little bit more authentic I used the font Steel Tongs to make it match that used in posters of real media products. Ofcourse I could have refuted this convention, and many have, but I believed It would have been on a whim while I generally believed it was a factor that I seen as an essential component on a posters structural setup.
How effective is the combination of your main product and ancillary texts?
If you put all three products next to each other it becomes obvious that they are for the same product. It was essential for me to establish this brand that should run through each one of the tasks. The colour scheme was vital towards doing this as some of the most iconic logos, companies and films are based around their use of colour. By contradicting the conventions, which I have already spoken about, this made my movie unique and I was keen to maximise this. By keeping your promotional campaign consistent in this way, you raise the chances of it becoming iconic.
The font, purpetia titling, remains the same throughout while the shade of red doesn’t waver either. Looking at the marketing campaigns of some other films it becomes evident that little factors like this remain constant throughout. The use of the black and white images in both the website and poster make them seem linked in some way and I believe if you went on the website one night, then spotted the poster out and about the next day you would instantly link the two.
This text also appears in the trailer, along with the colour scheme, while the black and white imagery is lost. This is because the movie needs to be filmed in colour, you very rarely come across movies these days filmed entirely with a luminosity effect. The statement ‘it will define them forever’ and the strapline ‘awakening 14 November 2010’ also feature in all three products with the intention of becoming intrinsically linked with the movie in the same way (clip) “bond, james bond” or (clip) or “offer cant refuse” or even “hast la vista baby” did for each of those movies.
Each product establishes the main characters immediately as Darren is centralised in the poster, he is left orientated in the website (people read from left to right) and is the first face we see in the trailer. It was important to do this because the audience needs to know who they should be relating to immediately to ensure they feel part of the storyline.
They say less is more and throughout each product I was keen to adhere to that belief. I deliberately avoided ostentatious effects to this very reason and I believe it pays dividends. With all the text being centralised, with no filters or effects, the films identity is very clean, almost religious so.
I used the statement ‘a Samuel Stevens film’ throughout also to make it clear who the director was. Films often do this in an attempt to influence people to flock to their local cinema. A higher profile director or production company normally is influence enough.
What have you learned from your audience feedback?
After the production of my trailer, poster and website I needed to find out whether it was successful or not. I went about doing this using three mediums of information. Firstly I conducted an audience questionnaire, secondly advertising my product on the internet and finally interviewing members of my target audience.
In the questionnaire the first question I asked was ‘Does being ‘white orientated’ improve or ruin the effectiveness of the promotional campaign?’The answer, as you can see was reasonably resounding. I asked 20 people this question and 16 replied that it improved the campaign. Just one argued that it was ruined while three said they were unsure. I released at the time this drastic shift was a risky menover but I feel justified by these results, suggesting that it was a roaring success.
Next I wanted to know whether the aesthetics of my designs were up to scratch. I asked whether the aesthetics were effective and again the results were flattering to a degree. Over three quarters thought the work looked attractive while four suggested it could have been better. Again, with an 80% success rate I deemed it a success.
Thirdly I wanted to establish whether my characterisation, through the mise-en-scene I used in all the images in my ancillary tasks and my shot types in the trailer, was effective in making the characters relatable to the audience. This time, while still being the majority, the success rate was relatively lower this time with 11 saying they felt they could relate with both characters while Timothy gained a quarter of the vote and Daren gained an 8th. Its understandable that Timothy proved soley so popular because of his age and being considered ‘cute’. Additionally children hold more affection among audiences in horror movies because they have their own life ahead of them. Timothy was installed as a warning shot across the bow for Darren who discovers his death over the radio. I think this can still be deemed a victory for my representation because only an 8th of the people suggested they struggled to relate to either character.
Next I asked whether or not they felt each task was relatable to one another. This was the most commendable result to date as 18 out of 20 said that the tasks were consistent with each over. This delighted me because I made a considerable effort to establish a brand for Angel of Death which I believed could be spotted by a snippet of anyone of the products I produced.
Additionally I also asked whether or not the products looked authentic enough to rival real media products. This time the result was slightly more resounding. 65% answered ‘yes’ they did believe the campaign was authentic with just an 8th arguing otherwise. This, again was subject of an laborious effort from myself and I was pleased with the results. It seems the hard work, adding correct fonts such as Steel Tongs, incorporating the correct logos and creating my own and my hardened work towards ‘hollywood’ style shots paid off.
Finally I quizzed the viewers on whether the trailer would persuade them to attend the cinema showings of Angel of Death. This was most pleasing as all but one said they would flock to watch my movie. After all the following of conventions, working with new technologies and venturing towards the audiences needs, this is proof I believe that the hard work was worth it.
For the next form of market research I posted a link for my trailer on the social network Facebook, which is littered with people in my target audience age range of 16-40, to ask for some opinions on the video.
For the final piece of audience feedback I asked some people in my target audience to give their opinions on both the trailer and the ancillary tasks. Here is what they said.
Again the people were very complimentary of my work, suggesting that the white colour scheme I designed was effective. The conventions I followed were obvious but rightly so and that the products had a certain authenticity to them. This is pleasing, as is the entire audience research section, as the feedback has been fantastic, suggesting that the promotional campaign went down well among the very people I hoped it would do.
How did you use new media technologies in the construction and research, planning and evaluation stages?’
For each task, the technology required to fulfil it varied significantly. During the filming process of the trailer I used a Canon Mini DV 36x optical zoom camera meaning the quality of the shots could suffer. My shots needed to be stable and still in places to match the ‘hollywood’ theme I had set. For this reason a sturdy tripod was essential, something I didn’t always get. For the shots outdoors the lighting wasn’t perfect, especially during the late hours for Darren’s chase scenes. For this reason I changed the lighting settings on the ‘display fuctions’ page to ‘night’ mode meaning the brightness was increased, showing more of the locations shot. I was keen to not show too much however because these scenes needed to be completely dark. We see it all too often in films that have unrealistic lighting that makes the scenes look like they were obviously assisted by a lighting producer. By using sheer darkness like this, with only the cars headlights to show the scene, means that the scene seems real, authentic and raw; something big movies rarely do anymore.
To film this scene, along with the Timothy chase scene, I held the camera in my hand and followed the action myself. This meant the camera shaked and blurred just like the viewer would if they were in my position. This means that the chased character becomes more relatable with the audience as they can imagine themselves in their own shoes.
For the scene of the masked figure walking across the street, fading in and out of vision, I was required to literally hang out of my window, trying to hold the camera steady as the actor acted the scene out. This is where a lack of technology almost hindered me. If I was privy to a bigger budget, I could have used a crane to perform this action like the big production companies do. However I believe the point of view shot worked well in showing the masked figures malevolent nature while also looking authentic enough to make the final cut. I had several efforts before I reached a satisfactory one. As you can see keeping the camera still was a major hurdle but one I feel I overcame by the end.
The ease at which I was able to look at my filmed shots, using the digital screen, saved time and battery but one stumbling block I did come across during the shoot was that the camera I initially started with was incompatible with Final Cut Pro, the editing software I used. The camera I used was a Hitachi DVDCAM but instead of processing onto a tape, it put the files onto a mini DVD meaning Final Cut could not capture the data. After days of laborious conversion attempts I finally managed to convert the file but at a cost. The quality of the video was significantly poorer than I had hoped and a large proportion of the scenes had to be re-shot. It was a demoralising set back but one which I had been warned to expect.
When I did make the edit in one piece I was able to start putting the raw files together and produce my final movie trailer. After capturing the files and importing the necessary legal requirements, the MPAA screen and production companies logos, I was able to start work. I found the process of ‘marking’ the beginning and end of the clips and dragging them onto the sequence bar relatively simple and was able to adjust the volume by lifting or lowering the purple line that over lined the video files. Another problem I faced was that some of the clips were too small to fill the entire canvas. By editing the size of the clips in the video ‘tab’ in the second preview screen I was able to then drag the edited file into the sequence in a menover that rectified the situation.
Furthermore in the initial drafts of my trailer it’s clear that the text looks out of place and obviously added via photoshop. One of the key factors I was keen to establish in my work was a sense of authenticity, something the text did not in this early draft stages. To rectify this situation I added an effect in the form of a filter to the text called Bad Film which created the ‘old’ effect you see now. One problem persisted however as the effect only worked for the image I had imported and it only worked in a box surrounding the text. I sorted this out by adding the Bad Film effect to the white layer I had placed behind it and it worked efficiently.
Using Garage Band to produce the movies soundtrack was complicated at the best of times because I would have to sync it with the happenings of my visuals. I did this by lowering the size of the Garage Band window, placing it next to that of the video and pressing play at simultaneous times. Admittedly this was a lengthy process but in the end it beared fruit as the music flowed in time with the visuals eventually. MY trailer is composed of a number of instruments largely focussed around Hollywood Strings and Church Bells. These two instruments were essential for two different reasons. The Hollywood strings helped me maintain a level of anticipation throughout but depending on what key you used could become incredibly emotional also. The Church Bells tied in beautifully with my religion motif and worked well, believe when optimised in the graveyard scene; every time an image cuts, a church bell chimes. It created a real sense of enigma after the radio reporter had just stated it is a hoax, the music and the shot types suggest otherwise.
For the production of the trailer and the website I used adobe Photoshop to construct the layout of the pages and import images ready for manipulation. I was keen for my ancillary tasks to follow a similar imagery structure with them both having a base image which allows some snippets of plot related information to sneak through, behind the main image of the stories major characters. This is how most movie promotional campaigns are designed. For these character-led images I was aware that people are afraid of the unknown; it’s a common theme in horror movies and I was keen to tap into this convention. I used a Cannon Ixus 9 mega pixel camera to get some high-res images meaning they could take up a large proportion of my website.
The reasoning behind the luminosity effect is to keep it in keeping with the websites theme. Also I wanted it to become clear that the events of the film have already happened; there’s nothing the viewer can do to save Darren. I was keen for Darren to look normal but also endearing to the audience. I did this using very simple mise-en-scene; his is dressed to match his age, his haircut youthful but his stance scared.
I cut the figures out using the ‘magic wand’ tool before smoothing the edges down with a low-hardness, high sized eraser so the images blended into the background well. For the hyperlink bar I used a slight bevel and emboss effect to create a 3D effect. I was more than aware that using bevel and emboss too much could result in your product looking distinctly average so used it only on this one occasion. I didn’t want the legally required information to drown out the main focal point of my site so I made it seem almost separate from the content by isolating it in a drop shadow at the base of the page.
For the base image on the poster, I had to spend many an hour meticulously using magic wands, magnetic lasoo’s and the eraser to separate it from the black background on the original image. I used this image because of the sharp claws of the barbed wire and it was located in the fields I planned to shoot in. I’m reasonably happy with how the edited process ended as it creates a real sense that Darren is imprisoned. Additionally I also reverted the colours on the image so the barbed wire was white and the outline was black. I think this worked in the fact that the image blends into the white base it lies upon.
In my attempt for authenticity I was keen for my film to have its own, unique, production company founded by myself. As a result I founded STVENS.CO, designed a logo and used it throughout my campaign. During the production of the logo I scoured my brain for ideas about a color scheme. I did not have to be relatable to this individual film was the only one my fictional company would have produced. Like “Twisted Pictures”, I was keen for my production company to be genre-specific and so this needed to be made clear in the design of my logo.
“Angel of Death” is a horror movie so my logo will have to follow horror conventions. Red is a colour which has become intrinsically linked with the genre become of its connotations of blood and danger. For this reason the decision to use it as the base colour was one of the first I made. Because of the blood connotations I was keen for my logo to have a ‘blood splattered’ effect to suggest that blood is spilt regularly in STVENS.CO movies. I went about doing this by adding splatters onto the text, meaning the logo looks like it is blood stained.
The font also needed to be imposing. My typography was a sans serif font meaning it was simple, blocked writing. It fills the logo’s canvas, making it seem more dominant, while also making the production company’s name easier to isolate. The grey/white shade means that it stands out well from the red base it falls upon, also meaning that it will be more visible from far distances.