Tick Tock – a unique take on a simple concept

What will you do when you know you only have a few minutes left to live? This question is explored in Tick Tock, a short film made by Ien Chi.

First, I will start off with an overview of how the story is presented. Right from the start of the video, it should occur to everyone that something is off about it. The most obvious first cue would be that the clock is ticking backwards. In the next few seconds, you will notice all the sound has a strange echoing, dreamlike quality, as if everything is happening with altered perception. Subtitles are used for all dialogues, even though it would seem that they are speaking English in the first place. Some people may realize it immediately, while others may need time before the situation becomes clear – the entire video is being played backwards. We are taken through the story in reverse time, starting from the final scene and going back through the main character’s desperate attempts to do everything he needs to before he collapses. The viewers are left to piece together the story by themselves, as going through events backwards will definitely lead to some confusion. This technique is really effective in keeping viewers’ attention on the video, as watching the story unravel backwards is really intriguing. In the end, the message of the video is presented through a quote, and did leave an impact on me.

The video is shot from eye level, most probably with the cameraman always running alongside the actor with a handheld camera. This gives the feeling that the viewer is right in the scene with the main character, giving a feeling of closeness with the story. The way the camera is handled makes the illusion that the viewer is next to the character stronger, moving and behaving like a real person would, except that it does not directly interact with the scene.

Another point that gives this video a strong sense of reality and strengthens the closeness of the viewer with the scene is that the entire video appears to be shot with a single take. There are no cuts in the video, but the emphasized sound effects, constant movement of the camera, soundtrack and probably the reversed audio give a sense of urgency that continually draws viewers in. This also gives an idea of how much preparation was needed before shooting the video. Because of the scale and number of actors required, very precise coordination between all actors was likely needed to successfully present the story in one shoot.

Although the concept behind the video is simple – what someone would do if they knew they only had a few minutes left to live, it is presented in a very creative yet simple way, resulting in a video that is interesting and gives a strong impact at the same time.


Love Corner! Get in love with excellent filming.

Life as an American College student brings certain life changes. A high school fondness for pop tarts evolves into pop tarts constituting lunch, a former knack for procrastination is now a full-blown shitstorm of last minute activity, and the occasional YouTube video binge becomes your regular source of entertainment (because you don’t have cable TV, sucker!).

Charlie bit my finger picture

This nibbling SOB is better than anything on TLC anyway!

Like a junkie and their first hit, I remember the first YouTube video I ever watched like it was yesterday. It was the summer of 2007 and young Melissa was just learning how to be apathetic. The video was called “The Love Corner,” and it was intended to be a rough piece of a TV pilot for a comedy sketch show that either never aired or is lost in the netherworlds of media. I frequently re-visit “The Love Corner” any time I start to forget my time-wasting roots.

Open Scene Love Corner

Every time I see this opening scene, a snarky voice whispers "It all began with me, child. You're welcome."

Each time I pay homage to my YouTube gateway drug, I notice more and more how generally well done it is.  This 5 minute video tells the story of two friends who stand on an urban roof on a beautiful day and watch as people on the street corner fall in love (or not fall in love). Conflict arises when one manages to meet someone and the other is jealous. The whole tone is dry, tongue-in-cheek about the notion of love at first sight, and uses simple but effective filming technique.

There are two main techniques I noticed and should be imitated. First, the concept and design are very minimalistic. Less is more, and this one scene sketch definitely embodies that tried and true expression. There are no elaborate effects or sounds or layers, and this keeps the viewer in the mindset that this really could (almost) happen. However, multiple camera angles that change every few seconds keep me interested in the action and makes the video more professional looking. The camera does not swing to follow the actors, something else that prevents an amateur look.

Blair Witch Pic

Hear that, Blair Witch Project? No one likes a swingy camera. Or a crying man.

I also really appreciate the music. The same cheerful little tune is used in various places throughout, generally to show two people meeting and hopefully falling in love. I like the continuity that adds to the minimalist theme. However, although the music itself doesn’t really change, it always adds to the mood of the video. For example, when two people meet and the main characters think they’re about to fall in love, the music intensifies. But when something bad happens, the music stops suddenly, paralleling the crashing disappointment that comes with an unfortunate incident on a beautiful day.

This clip also uses a lot of implication. For example, at the end of the clip the character in the stripped hoodie is stabbed by a young lady on the Love Corner. However, we never see him get stabbed. One scene ends with them hugging and the next features him in a hospital room and his friend remarking “I can’t believe she stabbed you.”

Stab girl pic

Face of a killer

I hope to employ all of the methods used in “The Love Corner” in my video. I would like to have multiple camera angles to keep the scene fresh, simple music to quietly enhance the tone, and cuts that are obvious enough to fill in the gaps of what I do not explicitly film. So while “The Love Corner” may have been a gateway into a horrible downward spiral of staying up late and getting nothing done, at least the cinematography set a good example for my future endeavors.

Narrative Short Film

The title of the short film I will be analyzing is “You Are Loved.

This five minute video tells the story of a young man with a big heart who wants to make everyone feel loved on Valentine’s Day. The film starts off with the man on the floor, counting money, and then taking a trip to the florist to buy 100 roses.  When he gets to the store, he realizes he doesn’t have enough money and sadly walks away.  In the next scene, he is on the floor again creating origami flowers out of paper.  The camera cuts to a calendar displaying February 14th and follows the smiling young man as he gets dressed up and brings the paper flowers to orphans and elderly women on Valentine’s Day.  He is smiling the whole time and so is everyone else around him.  The film ends with the camera panning out on one of the paper flowers, attached to it is a note that says “You are loved.”

Even though this video is short, it is incredibly moving.  The actor playing the young man brings such emotion to his facial expressions that no dialogue is needed to interpret his mood.  The only song that plays throughout the film is “How He Loves Me,” by The Glorious Unseen, which features simple percussion, guitar, and vocals.  Like the film, the song is simple but full of emotion.


Most of the scenes in the film are less than ten seconds long, which keeps the action moving. But the way they fade in and out, and occasionally blur together gives the narrative a slow, gentle rhythm.

An Analysis of SUTORAIKUanime

SUTORAIKUanime is more of a blog that reviews anime (Japanese animation) episodes as well as introducing Japanese culture, but it uses a design that I think is both simple and effective.

The navigation bar.

At the top is the standard banner that any website uses to identify itself to the world. The navigation bar is located below the banner and is of the horizontal drop-down design. The major sections of the site are on the main navigation bar, and when you hover on some buttons, they will drop down to reveal the sub-sections of that area of the site. This design helps remove the clutter that will result if all possible links are simply placed on a single navigation menu. Additionally the buttons are nicely spaced and have clear highlights, letting the user know where the cursor currently points at.

One frame of the highlights slide show.

The top of the content section of the site contains a slide show that displays all the latest news in each category. This allows users to see at a glance all the newest posts without having to scroll through the page or clicking through each category. The only problem I see is that there is no navigation within the slide show itself, the way some other sites have that allows users to quickly look through the slides. In this case, you would have to wait for the slide you just missed to come back after a full cycle.

The contents aren’t anything special, and are arranged the same way most blogs are, from the latest to the oldest. However, the choice of font style and color makes it easy to tell at a glance the boundary between individual posts. Titles are large and blue, a high contrast color against the grayish-white background. Each post is followed by a lighter-colored box that displays details such as the name of  the poster, post labels, and links to share the post on a number of social networks and services.

The special box.

The more unique part of the website is in the highlight box on the right of the main posts. This part is divided into three tabs. The first is where a brief introduction and major updates regarding the site’s activities are posted. The second tab is a compact list of the latest posts on the site without the clutter of content, only showing a short excerpt from the beginning of the post. This makes it easier to see what the latest posts are without having to scroll through the main posts. Finally, if you already know what you are looking for you can simply type it in the search box that is in the last tab.

This site clearly shows that you don’t have to be flashy in order to look nice or be effective. There is no over-utilization of Javascript or Flash effects, and embodies the general trend now that many websites are once again moving towards minimalism and elegance.