Chaplin Foley Re-Boot (or just boot?)


I saw the movie the Life of Pi not too long ago, and this Chaplin clip reminded me of the movie in that both characters are stuck in a confined space with a dangerous predator.  I only made it 1/3 of the way through the book when it came out several years ago.  The movie I did finish (Ang Lee is a real artiste, by the way- love the look of his films).  The story on the surface is about a young man from India whose family owns a zoo.  They are moving the zoo from India to Canada and the ship goes down in a storm; the protagonist is stuck on a lifeboat with a zebra, hyena, orangutan, and tiger, and the film chronicles his (and the animals–especially the tiger’s) fight to survive lost at sea.  The story is said to be heavily symbolic, with different characters representing different humans in the protagonist’s life.

That line of thinking somehow converged with thinking about the TV series “Lost” and the idea of living in purgatory or in some alternate reality.    So, I thought, maybe Chaplin could be in some kind of “purgatory” himself- fighting a demon or doing battle with something within him.  Maybe a self-destructive tendency or fear.   It isn’t until he faces his demon–or lion–and accepts help that he is able to be freed from himself.

The scene opens and we see Chaplin running (from success? from a healthy relationship?  from the Gamblers’ Anonymous meeting nearby? from whatever choice he SHOULD be making, but isn’t), right into the old, bad ways–the lion’s cage.  He didn’t mean to, but he’s done it again!   Realizing the error of his ways, he tries to let himself out (only to lock the door behind him), escape through the tiger’s cage, and wave a handkerchief to try to get someone’s attention, all to no avail.

It’s only when his real chance of help–the little dog–comes that he has some hope, even though he doesn’t see it. All he can think is how noisy the dog is and worries that the dog will wake the lion.  He is so adamant that he actually tries to kick the dog away from the cage.  He would rather be bound up in his “dark side” than accept help, especially if it’s in a form he doesn’t anticipate.   The dog, however, attracts the attention of the girl–his savior.  After a little back and forth–what’s some fainting among friends?–Chaplin allows her to free him.  He still has work to do however–his pride makes him act nonchalant when she offers him freedom, and then he has to run up the tent pole and act silly.  But hey- maybe this is a new start for our little tramp.  Maybe next time we see him careening around a corner, he will run past the lion cage (i.e., his bad old ways) rather than into it.

Now the technical stuff:

I downloaded the movie from YouTube using  I opened the file in Movie Maker and then removed the audio by simply turning the volume all the way down.  I added a title and a caption in the opening scene and then credits to the end all using the Movie Maker tools.

I looked for some free tunes, but wasn’t really finding anything that fit.  Fitting with the bad boy theme I have made for this story, I thought about the music to the movie “Crazy Heart”, which is full of some great country songs that include a lot of down-and-out type woe.  So I used Buck Owen’s “Hello Trouble” from the soundtrack as the main music for the new video.  Inserting the audio was easy enough; since the song is very short (less than 2 mins), I used it twice.

Now came the rabbit-hole part- where I ran into trouble and ended up wasting a huge amount of time (Part 1).  I ended up with only a brief clip (from Cars 2), an image I doctored using Pixlr (of superhero dog) and a new recording I made using Audacity (me doing my best cartoon dog voice).

The hardest part of this assignment was a) figuring out what I wanted to convey, b) and then finding media to convey it.  I am guessing the difficulty in part “b” may have arisen from my general lack of media search “expertise”.  I used terms like “I’m here to save you”, and “I don’t need your help” both on YouTube and as image searches and I was not impressed with the results–maybe my key words weren’t getting me what I wanted, or I didn’t really know what I wanted, so nothing seemed to fit in the results.  I tried to think of specific clips/songs/images/anything I could think of and THEN go find, but I drew a blank.  So, hence my subpar results (or at the very least, not what I wanted).

Running into trouble and wasting huge amounts of time (Part 2).  I created what felt like eight thousand tracks in Audacity using everyone’s 30 second sound clips along with the music.  Then I spent what felt like eighteen hours trying to insert periods of silence into the portions where I had inserted the new clips, so all you would hear would be the new clip and not the music or the foley sound effects.  What seems so simple–selecting something–utterly confounds me in Audacity.  I would type in the seconds/milliseconds-wouldn’t work.  I would use the little hand thing- wouldn’t’ work.  I wish I knew what I was doing wrong, and what I actually did when I did it right by chance.

And the end result was that the sound was off, but at this point my patience and Saturday are all about used up.  Here’s a screen capture of the Audacity file:


And the Movie Maker file:


You can see where the gaps in silence are on the audio and how they don’t match up.   If I had done it right, the silence in movie maker would have lined up with the new clips on the second row.  As you may have picked up on (ha!) this assignment was pretty frustrating for me.  I know that I’m learning a lot in the process–that’s what I’m trying to focus on and not so much as to what the end result will be.






Look, Listen, Analyze- Casino


All this talk of film editing made me think of Martin Scorcese and his long-time partnership with film editor Thelma Schoonmaker.  I would venture to say that Scorcese is a master director and storyteller, so chances are Schoonmaker isn’t a bad film editor either.   One of my favorite Scorcese films is Casino, so off I went to look for a Casino clip after not finding anything that really stood out to me in the suggested YouTube playlists.

Here’s the clip I chose: “In Vegas, Everybody Watches Everybody Else”

Video only: Knowing that what the clip was titled, but not having seen this clip for several years, I dug in.  The shot opens with three men entering the frame, man 1 (stays left), man 2 (goes to the far right), and DeNiro (who fills center, which is just right of center in the frame).

The camera then zooms in closer to DeNiro’s face and then moves back left across until he is just left of center, framed in the foreground.

The camera then gets moving- from one person in the casino to the other.  In general it follows a rhythm: camera moves, settles on object, object moves.  Camera moves, object moves, repeat.  Often, but not always, the person’s eyes or body language will point the viewer to where the camera goes next.

Audio only:  Scene opens with blues-y, jazz-y, soul-y uptempo music.   The sound mimics the camera/object/camera/object rhythm:  music/narration/music/narration.  The music also has background noise as well- casino noises.  The sentences of dialogue are short and staccato so every bit of dialogue fits into the time the camera is on the object.

One Last time: It corresponds with the three men arriving on screen, pauses for a moment of narration, and then proceeds into the body of the song, just as the scene proceeds as well.   The camera and music rhythms match up; the result is a dynamic piece of film that conveys movement and the many parties involved in “watching” the casino.
I didn’t notice any overt Ebert principles here.  Yes DeNiro is just right of center in the opening frames, but then the clip moves on and the actors are in varying spots in the shots- left right, moving left, moving right.  There isn’t too much up/down angles- the majority of shots are from shoulder height, so a neutral stance.  What is striking about this clip is not the placement of actors–no shot actually features one actor actively interacting (not just standing next to) with the other–but the movement between them across the wide casino space.

Does a Tyrannosaurus Rex ever feel insecure? Reading movies


On the surface, I agree with Roger Ebert’s idea of a film’s composition.  It is my sense that we as humans have a natural tendency for symmetry and balance.  We may not notice when something “works” but we probably do when it doesn’t.  It was difficult for me to think of this in the abstract so off to the internet I went and searched “famous movie stills”.  This was one of the top hits:

still 1

Shot from Jurassic Park

Eeek!  Let’s see how it matches up with what Ebert says:



“…in general terms, in a two-shot, the person on the right will “seem” dominant over the person on the left” If we count T-Rex as a person, I would say Ebert’s principle may not apply here.   It all centers on what “dominant” means. Do we mean brute strength? In that case, clearly T-Rex wins. Do we mean dominates our attention, or with whom we most strongly identify? In that case, it would be (for me at least) the human.
“Right is more positive, left more negative” Yup. Bad dinosaur on left, scared human on right.
“Top is dominant over bottom” You could say that!
“Foreground stronger than background” Depends on what you mean by stronger.   Certainly the dinosaur is the “stronger” one but I as a viewer identify most with the human, so I feel more strongly drawn to the human in the shot and what he must be feeling.
“Brighter areas tend to be more dominant over darker areas, but far from always. Within the context, you can seek the “dominant contrast”, which is the area we are drawn toward. Sometimes it will be darker, further back, lower and so on.” The dinosaur is certainly brighter in this shot and he dominates the frame. Yet I am drawn to the human so perhaps it is a matter of the contrast that makes me feel drawn to him.

Verdict-in this one instance, Ebert’s principles loosely worked.  It all hinges on what we decide “dominant” or “stronger” mean- visually, emotionally or some mashup of the two.  Movies are intended to arouse emotion (at least I think good ones do)–to divorce the experience of WATCHING from the film itself doesn’t really work.

I watched the video “Hitchcock loves bikinis” for the filmmakers exposition on why cuts are so important in films- in this case, they either make the man in the film a nice guy or a lech.  This to me was a little bit simplistic-after all, a person could start at a neutral state, see something, and have a reaction to it for an almost infinite number of situations.  You don’t need film for that to happen.  It’s not the cut that changes things (the pieces of bread in a sandwich), it’s what comes between (the “meat” as it were).

I also watched the video “Zooms” on the  use of zoom-in and zoom-out in the Shining.  [If you are ever near Estes Park, CO, head to the Stanley hotel, which inspired King’s story, btw.]  God that movie is creepy.  The examples of zoom techniques used and being able to see them in such short succession really emphasized how they provide a sense of tension in the story.  If a zoom could talk it would say “AND THEN….get ready for this….” It’s almost a way of honing our focus on the shot- in the case of a zoom in, a magnifying glass, and in the case of a zoom out, a widening of our consciousness to include the larger world.