Week 4 - Bringing Life to Still Images

For this week’s “Aberystwyth” exercise, I worked with Daniel to produce a poetic documentary short that showcased the setting and subject of Aberystwyth. Given that we had to solely rely on sound and still images, this was more challenging than we were expecting. Using my Nikon DSLR, I managed to obtain some nice photographs, particularly ones that were well lit and framed straight-on to the subject I was capturing. An example can be seen in Fig. 3, where I have positioned myself straight-on to the two houses. Focusing was a bit tricky in places, especially as it got darker, and the shutter speed and ISO needed to be increased. Most of my photos ended up much darker than the preview, so I had to edit the raw files inside Adobe Lightroom before exporting the final film.

The workflow for this week was different to what we’ve done before. As we were working with a lot of still images and layered audio, and because I had some issues with the remote access system, we decided to use Adobe Premiere Pro and collaborate over a Teams call. We were debating editing in 3:2 as that was the native aspect ratio of our photos, however we decided to use 16:9 as it felt more cinematic. We decided against using a more traditional cinema widescreen aspect ratio, such as 2.35:1, as we would have to remove a lot of detail from the images, as they would be out of frame. Because photo editing can take a lot of time, we decided to import the JPEG versions as placeholders, with the intention of replacing the JPEGs with the edited files afterwards.

A major problem with the footage we obtained was that all but one of Daniel’s audio clips had our tour guide audible, with no ambient clips that we could isolate and use. One clip he obtained was of a musician in the town playing, however this clip was very short due to Daniel rushing into position (with audible microphone rustling) and the performer ending the song early. Regardless, we were able to source unused Foley and ambient tracks from previous productions that helped with establishing the setting through sound. We decided to use footsteps in the forest as a pulsing track for the video, adding a rhythm to the piece. Although most of the walking was on concrete, we needed something to provide a tempo which I could cut the photos to. To combat this, we also included a heartbeat pulse towards the end, and a quiet clock ticking throughout. This was a very experimental process for us, deciding which audio tracks to use and when, which tracks worked well together, and when and where each photo should appear. Using Premiere Pro, I added digital zoom effects (like the Ken Burns effect) to add a bit of motion to the still images, adding one or two fades to make the sudden changes more subtle. With the audio, we used long crossfades to hide the cuts and to make the audio flow a lot smoother than it would have been without the fades.


Rain (1929) Directed by Joris Ivens [Online]. Available at: https://vimeo.com/120679815 (Accessed: 01 November 2021).

The Gleaners and I (2000) Directed by Agnès Varda [Online]. Available at: https://aberystwyth.cloud.panopto.eu/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=a76c25b2-2539-4e1b-8088-adb200e9efe0&instance=blackboard (Accessed: 31 October 2021).

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006) Directed by Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno [Online]. Available at: https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/prog/00DFB455?bcast=61107592 (Accessed: 30 October 2021).



Knowles, K. (2021) ‘Micro-lecture 4: Poetic documentary’. FM26520 Creative Documentary [Online]. Available at: https://aberystwyth.cloud.panopto.eu/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=6ad6f393-09ed-4dd2-96b1-ac4300fe2f03&start=0 (Accessed: 29 October 2021).

Nichols, B. (2001) Introduction to documentary. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press.

OED Online. (2021) poetic, adj., and n. [Online]. Available at: https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/146532 (Accessed: 01 November 2021).

Zeitgeist Films. (n.d.) The Gleaners and I: Press Kit. [Online] Available at: https://zeitgeistfilms.com/media/films/44/presskit.pdf (Accessed: 01 November 2021).

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