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D3v1c3 by Justin Litton

on Monday, 23 September 2013.


D3V1C3 is shot as a video in a video, what inspired you to make it in this way?

In my first semester at the Northern Film School, we were given the challenge to make short films that followed a few basic rules. This was my first film of the lot, and the idea was that it had to portray a narrative without using any sync sound. As always, these limitations forced me to stretch myself a bit and to come up with the concept of video in a video in a video. I have to admit, though, that in the end I did use about two seconds of sync sound when my characters were talking to each other while looking into the computer screen. It was only two very short lines, but the school noticed it and docked a few points from my marks because of it.

How did you go about making the video-in-a-video effect?

Well the first one (the guy watching television) was easy. I simply shot the content that was to be on the television beforehand and edited it together and then I played it back via a DVD player onto the television and shot it “second-generation.” And when the television signal starts to go out, the effect was easily created by just pulling the cable halfway out of the DVD player and jiggling it around a little.

The YouTube section was a little more involved. I had to take a high resolution screen capture of my screen as I was watching a YouTube video, and then I imported that video into After Effects and mapped my other footage into the rectangle where the original YouTube video had been. Next, I scaled up the image so that the video filled the screen, and then keyframed a camera move so that it slowly pulled out to reveal the YouTube page. It could have been done in a simpler manner, but this method allowed for maximum resolution to be retained while the video was being scaled.

What is the idea behind D3V1C3?

I had so many film ideas at first, but it got narrowed down to this one. I think that was mainly because my other big idea involved shooting off the edge of a three storey building with a tilt-shift lens and bunging a jib in the middle of Cookridge Street. The school makes us go through all the proper health and safety procedures before we can secure equipment to film and their answer was a resounding “no.”

So, after that idea went pear-shaped, I thought why not make a film about things falling apart and not working as they should. A few minutes passed and I had the idea to incorporate “data moshing” into the film and then I got really excited about the idea because I had personally never done it before. And data moshing is just a slang term for purposefully introducing errors and glitches into a video’s codec that cause visual degradation and compression artifacts. It sometimes results from data packet loss, that is to say, small dropouts in your internet connection that can cause videos to look smeary for a few seconds until it corrects itself. In my case, I’m just doing it on purpose as a storytelling device.

What is the message you wanted D3V1C3 to convey?

I wanted basically to celebrate, in a way, the idea of technology breaking down. The film shows a mobile losing reception, a television signal fading away, a YouTube video playing back improperly, a Final Cut Pro sequence with missing footage, and a glitchy logo. And a little bit of fun when the man who is the subject of the glitchy YouTube video instantly realises that something is wrong and freaks out about it. It’s like he can see what we are seeing, and it’s a lot of fun. Apart from that, though, there is no message. Technology breaks, shit happens, learn to live with it and love the process.

How did you go about casting for D3V1C3?

I didn’t have to go far. They were all my coursemates! The girl on the television who is talking on her mobile is Mariana, a director on our course. The couple looking through the computer screen near the end are Angelia (director) and Aaron (editor). My main subject who did the reacting for the YouTube sequence is Leo Bryan, actor. We were all tasked with creating films at a very fast rate, so we ultimately ended up working on everyone else’s films in varying roles.

Were there any challenges whilst filming?

There was a really fast turnaround, so all my problems were relating to time. I almost didn’t have the equipment I needed due to working on a film set for days while my equipment request was denied due to health and safety concerns and I nearly didn’t have time to dispute it, but it worked out in the end. I also had to edit it together very quickly. Ideally, I would have liked to have had one or two more scenes in the film and to explore the idea even further, but I was knackered at the time. Also, the movement of the opening dolly shot is horrible. Ideally, I’d have shot a few more takes and tried to get it right, but I ran out of time. And I still think the credits are too long for the length of the film. If I had more time, I would have noticed that and fixed it. Maybe one day I’ll revisit it. I still really love the concept.

What's next for you?

Well, I graduated in July with my Master’s degree in filmmaking. At the moment I’m back home in West Virginia about to enjoy the “fall” in one of the most beautiful places one could do so. I do have hopes to return to the UK and start a production company, but that is very dependent on my ability to secure a work visa. Failing that, I’ll be looking for work in the States. I’m most interested in cinematography and post production, but I’m happy to be doing any kind of production work. Hopefully, though, I’ll be seeing you at a Hush Hush Film Night again in the near future!

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