Sunday, April 7, 2013

Exercise: Alcoholic from an objective POV

This exercise is to record the same scenario as in the project 3 Alcoholic sequence but this time from an objective rather than subjective POV.
  • An alcoholic alone in their home
  • They look around an empty room
  • Nothing interests them
  • They notice a bottle
  • They hold the bottle and unscrew the lid
  • Something attracts their attention, they look round
  • Nothing happens
  • They look back at the bottle and pour themselves a drink

What information do I wish to draw attention to? I want the information to be simple: the mans wakes up and almost immediately needs a drink.  He has a lack of interest in anything except for making it through the rest of the day.

How do I want each shot to feel? We need to be close to the man so we feel his fuzzy hangover, his desperation, his annoyance at the phone ringing. It needs to be a bit claustrophobic.

Choice of frame?  Quite close up to ensure we cannot escape from what the man is going through and not too much jumping around, as this is a short sequence.

The storyboards

Close-up of the alcoholic asleep
He is now awake, siting up and looking around the room

View from foot of bed as he looks around

He finds the bottle and unscrews the cap

The phone ringing disturbs him

He decides to ignore the phone and drinks from the bottle

The sequence....

Alcoholic - objective POV from Helen Rosemier on Vimeo.

My reflections

This is the first attempt with my 5D and I decided to try the 50mm f1.4 lens, to add a sense of intimacy and some interest with the shallow depth of field. I know this is not to everyone's taste but I think it worked quite well for this sequence.  This is also the first time I have used Final Cut Pro X so the editing is very basic!

The first frame is a close-up of the face with the camera at the same level. I chose this so we get to know him straight away - a deep gaze at the sleeping man. 

He sits up and looks around the room a bit. I went for an over the shoulder angle so we have some empathy with his POV but not so much that it becomes subjective.  This leads our eye into the room but without us seeing very much as there is nothing that interests him.

We then switch to seeing him from the foot of the bed as he tries to orientate himself and find some stability.

Next he finds a bottle with some booze and the view is over the shoulder again so we can focus on the hands opening the bottle.  We see his profile as he listens to the ringing phone and then he takes a glug.

I wanted to convey the sense of him feeling rough and everything being rather out of control but also the repetitive, mundanity of his life.  Being close in and the hand-held approach fits well with this, I think.  

Matt got frustrated as I wasn't very good at directing him and he said he found it to be a difficult experience without knowing exactly what he was supposed to be doing so I really need to work on that aspect. I used to have a similar problem on still portrait shoots and had to really push myself to tell people how I wanted them to arrange themselves.  Matt suggested that even if I had told him to ad lib that would have been better than nothing.

Possible improvements

  • The phone could have been ringing at the start and be the reason he wakes up. This would add some tension - the idea that someone (or lots of people) are trying to get hold of him 
  • He could have opened his eyes suddenly and looked straight at the camera
  • When he first sits up, I should perhaps have focussed in on the shelf on the other side of the bed with an empty wine bottle on it
  • For continuity it may have been better to add in another frame with him in profile when he has first sat up before us going behind with the over shoulder view
  • The switch from the POV behind him to in front from the foot of the bed isn't great and the light was a bit too bright for that segment
  • I considered a wide angle from high up (top of a ladder) looking down so we could see the whole mess of his bed and he would be quite small in the frame but I thought it might seem a bit gratuitous


  1. Does anyone know if I can isolate some sounds (i.e the noise from manually focussing the lens) and fade them out in Final Cut Pro X?
  2. What exactly does this mean (from the course notes): "Where are the borders of perception drawn in each shot?"


  1. I really like how this turned out. It was a pleasure to participate.

    I think the two clips with the phone ringing could have been spliced together a little more seamlessly, but that's more than compensated for by how well the clip from the front, where The Alcoholic picks up the empty bottle and the clip from behind tie together.

    I like the lighting in the scenes from behind much better than the scene from the front. Much more depth.

    I would have liked a very subtle soundtrack, but you would run into copyright issues, and it would be very hard to find something that added to the piece without being heavy-handed.

    Overall, I give it a 7/10. Very well done, especially for your first effort at directing an actor.

  2. Good framing and I can see the difference from the 'subjective' film. Looks a good collaboration there!

  3. I like the framing and composition. The depth of field used here, a little bit extremely in some shots, created alcoholic's blurriness world to me, especially when the focus is shifting from the bottle on his face, very well done.

    For me, the distraction point is too long, I mean as he looking and listening the sound of phone.

    Anyway I really like it.

  4. Hi Helen, I enjoyed watching this and Emil has put his finger on all of the good points. It was very well done. Are you sure you've not done this before?