Filming Process of: Eliza’s Ephemera

FILMING PROCESS OF: ELIZA’S EPHEMERA

This is a behind the scenes look at the process of filming and editing my video of Eliza’s ephemera. This was the final stage of my 4th self-written brief from my last semester of university that was earlier this year. The graphic props I made were based around the character of Eliza Doolittle from the play Pygmalion / film My Fair Lady. Set in 1917, 5 years after the play and film, the chocolate box and its contents are a collection of sentimental, ephemeral objects that Eliza might have kept from the previous few years of her life. The item’s I made were: a chocolate box, flower shop receipt and calling card, love letters from Freddy, an embassy ball invite and a Henry Higgins newspaper clipping. This project really understanding Eliza as a person to make the props and film the video. I think that by 1917, Eliza would own her dream flower shop and be married to Freddy.

 

To document my graphics, I explored a few options as I wanted to show just how tangible and real these graphics were by having the box opened and the ephemera handled, not just statically edited onto a fake background. Eventually I chose to use my Grandpa’s bureau which fitted the period really well and was a small personal space that Eliza might have had and enjoyed gently look through her precious items on.

This is a behind the scenes look at the process of filming and editing my video of Eliza’s ephemera. This was the final stage of my 4th self-written brief from my last semester of university that was earlier this year. The graphic props I made were based around the character of Eliza Doolittle from the play Pygmalion / film My Fair Lady. Set in 1917, 5 years after the play and film, the chocolate box and its contents are a collection of sentimental, ephemeral objects that Eliza might have kept from the previous few years of her life. The item’s I made were: a chocolate box, flower shop receipt and calling card, love letters from Freddy, an embassy ball invite and a Henry Higgins newspaper clipping. This project really understanding Eliza as a person to make the props and film the video. I think that by 1917, Eliza would own her dream flower shop and be married to Freddy.

 

To document my graphics, I explored a few options as I wanted to show just how tangible and real these graphics were by having the box opened and the ephemera handled, not just statically edited onto a fake background. Eventually I chose to use my Grandpa’s bureau which fitted the period really well and was a small personal space that Eliza might have had and enjoyed gently look through her precious items on.

As set dressing for the bureau, I placed a few stacks of envelopes in the bureau’s slots to make the table look used. I found an old china cup from the early 1900s and made tea in it to give a homey feel and lastly, found an old vase which I filled with a bouquet of hand-picked garden flowers, perfect to represent Eliza’s passion for floristry. I chose lighter tones such as blues and purples but not reds as these would have been too loud and have stood out too much next to the creamy tones of the ephemera. This was all the set dressing I used as I didn’t want to distract from the graphics in question.

 

I asked my mum to play Eliza as she has small and careful hands like I image Eliza’s to be. I set the camera to the left of the table and zoomed to create a tight shot on the table and ephemera so only the hands would be visible in frame and not the rest of her. I wanted the focus to just be on the ephemera being handled. I asked Mum to wear her woollen blue jumper which was perfect for the era and matched the tone of the flowers too. I told her to naturally unwrap the chocolate box in whatever way she saw fit and take a close look at the items inside. I chose not to script this or plan it too much as I wanted the video to feel natural.

For lighting, I’d chosen a sunny day to begin with but also set up one lamp to the right of the table, one lamp behind the table and one lamp to the left next to me with the camera. This shone loads of light on the ephemera and table. I shot the full sequence just once, it took about 6 minuets but it felt perfectly natural. I was very happy with almost all of it. She took the items out, had a good look and put them all back in again. The only problem was at the end she just left the table and I asked if she could place the ribbon on top of the box, push it to the back of the table and then leave. We shot this final segment again and it worked smoothly and in my mind made the film feel complete.

 

I took the footage and edited it using Final Cut Pro X. I cut a few second out where my mother’s head was visible and I re-cut the end sequence as planned. I experimented with several different pieces of music for a soundtrack. Then I found “Gilbert and Sullivan: The Mikado, Act Two, The Sun Whose Rays”. It was from 1917, the exact year my video was set. I found an old version recorded from a gramophone recording which gives a crackly nostalgic tone to the piece and I thought this worked beautifully.

I felt the footage was too slow at normal speed and chose to speed it up 4x because the soundtrack was so upbeat lively. The footage was now 01:24 long and felt much better paced and I didn’t loose any detail as I got my mum to handle each piece of ephemera slowly and carefully. The video also ended right at the end of the 2nd verse of my soundtrack, allowing for a clean and definite ending. I faded to black for a few seconds as the footage ended to make the ending less sharp and the result was perfect.

 

The last edits were to the colour grading as I considered going full black and white to match the cinematography of the era but quickly saw it deviated from the point of the video which was to show my design work, including the colour. I therefore kept my video colour but I felt the raw footage was a bit dull compared to real life, so I upped the saturation to accurately represent the real colours of the ephemera. This also gave more life and vibrancy to the table and flowers too which made the video glow with a wonderful nostalgic effect.

 

You can view the finished video here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sSM_wQsnPk

 

And my webpage on Eliza’s Ephemera here:

https://samuel-thomas.com/elizas-ephemera/

 


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