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Old May 6th, 2009, 08:23 PM   #1
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Light Rider 2...

This movie was not in comformity with the rules and hence was posted as a non-competition film. Why waste the effort of making a film and not share your gaffes and minor victories with other filmmakers?

I am posting this thread a day early, before Lorinda and/or Dylan give out links, but I will likely be out of town and wanted to insure that something might exist for those unfortunate souls who might otherwise watch it with no explanation in case I in fact was called away.

First, before you watch it, please go watch Light Rider Episode 1 at:

Light Rider on Vimeo

Armed with that you are ready for episode 2.

I had an idea for Episode 2 (and possibly one or more sequels).... and with a new DV Challenge, was looking forward to a follow-up to Light Rider 1. I scripted (in a loose way as I like actors to feel free to improvise - in this case it was a liability) Episode 2...the food prop was French Bread.

With tax season and a busy work schedule the best I could do was arrange a location (scouted) and actors (confirmed or so I thought) in the first several weeks of April.

The day that worked for shoot day was a week from the deadline. The location was my sister's farmhouse, built in the 1930's and located about 40 minutes from me. Certain footage was to be shot on a country road, closeby to the farm house, and also previously scouted. The actors included a WWII re-enactment group, complete with weapons, walkie talkies and a Jeep. So far so good, if a little late to the starting line.

Day before shoot - WWII group backs out. Day of shoot, a formerly deserted road is now a tomato planting site, complete with equipment and porta potties along the formerly austere "perfect location" road. (Strike 1) Remember this next time you eat Campbell's tomato soup, it is one the sites growing tomatoes for Campbell's.

Shoot day is a Sunday and the formerly quiet rural "highway" in front of the 1930's house, scouted mid-week, is now a super-highway. The house itself, true to its origins,is NOT soundproof. (strike 2)

We improvise. Improvisation... takes time. Time is a natural enemy of daylight starting in late afternoon in April. We rush. (strike 3 - note to self - STOP RUSHING) Example: We set up 25 feet of dolly track for a walkalong on a country lane (more time) but in the end due to other problems involving time, cut it so it looks tripod shot. (ouch).

I'll post more after folks see the 10 minute film, but suffice it to say that I view the DV Challenge as free film school. I got a years worth on one shoot....for free. (ok some stomach lining and a case of beer for medication). Second batter's strikeout is forthcoming.

I'll post more after folks have had a chance to watch it. My goal was a romance story that could lead to an end of the series.

Enjoy and be kind. I'll talk about the length in the next post, and address the errors and imperfections and how they came about... I am approaching this as an opportunity to serve as an example for others to avoid and learn from. Hope the emphasis can be on the learning part. I hope others can learn from my mistakes right along with me.

Chris Swanberg

Last edited by Chris Swanberg; May 6th, 2009 at 08:54 PM.
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Old May 7th, 2009, 02:45 PM   #2
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Hi Chris,

You took me by surprise with the departure from the humor of the first Light Rider. Sci Fi meets classic war love story, eh? You romantic, you! :)

My favorite shot from a visual standpoint is the first morning light from behind the woman. That was stunning. All of the lighting was quite lovely, but that one...very nice.

Looks like the “where’s a good cutaway when I need it” lament may have been playing at your place. I try to keep that in mind when I'm shooting but it seems I never have enough. Those continuous scenes that end up needing cut are a bear without ‘em.

I have to say it, your leading man must have had quite a headache after acting in both yours and Chris B’s films. First he gets cold-cocked by a jar of jam then he gets shot in the head! Ha ha! All that falling down, too. Tell him I appreciate him taking one for both teams. Must be fun playing bad guy one minute and falling in love with a beautiful French woman the next. :)

Thanks for finishing this and posting it for us to enjoy even though you’re not competing. It was a pleasure to watch.
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Old May 7th, 2009, 06:44 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorinda Norton View Post
Looks like the “where’s a good cutaway when I need it” lament may have been playing at your place. I try to keep that in mind when I'm shooting but it seems I never have enough. Those continuous scenes that end up needing cut are a bear without ‘em.
The lack of cutaways was a MAJOR headache. And other shots of the other actor had been badly compromised in many cases by road noise, and I had no ADR opportuniities. You hit this nail on the head... that bedroom scene took many many hours to edit and it still suffers badly from that very lack you mention. Lesson 1 - shoot a ton of cutaway B roll scenes whenever you have the chance. That one is now burned in my brain. Good call Lorinda... and kindly done too - in your usual sweet style. (smile)
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Old May 7th, 2009, 07:05 PM   #4
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Oh, God, don't get me started on needing coverage. No place to go with a cut, you just have to stick where you are, like it or not. I'm terrible about that.

You seem to have a pretty good handle on all the issues I would have raised. Maybe the French resistance fighter could have looked a little more 1940s, but you covered the rest. Thinking on your feet, you've got to do what you've got to do.

I certainly hope you guys are taking Dave Lawlor someplace nice for an expensive dinner after putting him through two productions back to back. And having his characters treated the way Lorinda noted they are.
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Old May 8th, 2009, 08:45 PM   #5
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Ok... more of the process and mistakes made along the way.

FACTS: When I had a vague script 8 pages long I shared it with Chris Barcellos. He politely said... you are going to do all THIS in 5 minutes? Including an intro and end? I did my own sort of a table read, and just the bedroom scene was 5 minutes. I just figured I'd do a little cutting and things would be fine.

TRUTH: The scene had to be culled from 45 minutes of noise plagued takes and it was getting late when we did this and so were rushing (stop RUSHING). Even as a rough cut it was almost 8 minutes long.

LESSON: Obviously it will vary depending, but figure one minute of screen time for a page of script.

FACTS: I had planned a scene where our hero Johnny would return with bread. Originally he was to get it from the Jeep (that didn't materialize) and so I had to alter the plan on the fly. It should have been shot as the next scene right after the one of him leaving, but I forgot it. I had to come back, after dark, and reshoot it and hope it was believeably daylight (it wasn't).

TRUTH: Even with some work in post, it isn't always easy to make exterior shots look like day, unless you have an arsenal of lighting I did not have available to me that night.

LESSON: Make a shot list. Put checkboxes next to the shots if you have to, but have some organization so that when you are rushing (STOP RUSHING) you won't either forget a scene or shoot it when the lighting has changed.

FACTS: Though I had scouted the location, I was more in the mode of a set designer and wasn't putting my sound engineer ears on... though the highway outside wasn't very noisy during the week. The day of the shoot, it was a weekend and this road was incredibly busy.

TRUTH: Attempts to work around the noise added a huge amount of time to the shoot, interrupted natural flow of the actors delivery, created hash in the clips I had to work with, and tell truth, probably should have been obvious to me when I scouted the location.

LESSON: Create a location scouting sheet, with all the possible problems noted fromm differing perspectives...reflective surfaces, noise, tough area to place cameras, etc.

FACT: In an attempt to work around the noise we changed from a boomed hypercardiod (MK-012) to lavaliers. For our hero in bed I merely clipped it to the bedsheets.

TRUTH: Though I think my old Sony ECM-44's don't sound too bad and mix generally well with the Oktava MK-012, in the same scene there was a distinct difference in sound when I changed over. It is not terrible, but it is not perfect either. I had do considerable sound editing around the rustling of the sheets.

LESSON: 1) Figure out your sound set up for a particular location and stick to it. When able, lavs DO sound best. 2) If you are placing lavs on a set, make sure you take precautions against fabric and clothing noise. Take the time to use proven methods to avoid noise (Like moleskin). Don't rush (Stop Rushing).

FACT: It is unavoidable to not have reflective surfaces in a shot soner or later. (Windows or mirrors come to mind). Be cognizant of them and watch for reflections.

TRUTH: In the first scene at the farmhouse door, we shot with 2 cameras. The film uses takes from both angles. Each camera managed to capture portions of the other in the window - reflecting. DOH !

LESSON: Treat windows as a disaster waiting to happen and carefully check reflections during set up...and remember that if you are going to pan, check relfections in a practice pan.

I'll post a few more thoughts later. I probably should say that once I had spent a number of hours on the bedroom scene( and I am particularly unhappy with it, except for the lighting - WHY didn't I put a camera in Johnny's spot and get some POV shots of Helen??? ARGHHH!!)) it became obvious to me that to cut it as much as was needed would defeat the story. At that point I decided to drop out. Dylan suggested I enter it as a non competition film... so I fiddled a brief annoying bit further, then said to hell with it and threw the front end on it, added some music and called it a day. It's probably in what would fairly be called 2nd rough cut mode, and interminably long <g>.

Other lessons others may see lurking in this film see are accepted with a thick skin, and for the good of the order.

Chris

Last edited by Chris Swanberg; May 8th, 2009 at 10:26 PM.
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Old May 8th, 2009, 10:13 PM   #6
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Yes, Chris, these all look like great lessons. Wish I'd learn them. I've made shot lists and then not referred to them because there was no time. Uh huh...that rushing thing is a bad habit and one that I have yet to kick.

Thanks for the great reminders of what to do/what not to do. Now if I can just remember even a couple of them next time...
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Old May 9th, 2009, 10:19 PM   #7
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Chris,

First off, even with the problems and all I still enjoyed this film as a sequel to Lightrider 1. I wish I had access to an actor with the calibre of David.

We all learned or are reminded of all the lessons you pointed out, so you've done us all a big favor...Thanks.

Now I'm going to stick my neck out and say...I think you could have cut it to 5 minutes. It would have taken some ruthless and tight editing. What got in the way and prevented you from doing so was that you were too close to and invested in all of the footage. With all the people who promised something to crap out on you at the last moment left you with an idea and a project that overwhelmed you.

The bedroom sequence is way too long and the pace way too slow. You could tighten up starting with him waking, Helen soothes and quiets him down in just a couple of seconds, then unwraps the bandage around the eyes. She has the bread and oil handy and begins feeding him (make it short). They exchange names, he realizes when and where he is.

You get the idea, move quickly from one thing to the next, it could be done.

I still liked it and commend you for trying. I wish others had not dropped the ball on you.
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Old May 9th, 2009, 10:58 PM   #8
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Holy cow, what a departure from the first Light Rider, haha. And such a massive undertaking! You should be commended for that alone, Chris. I would've needed an entire team to do what you have done -- the script, the sets, the location, the video, the audio, wow.

I do agree with Bruce that you could've cut this down to a five minute piece. This is not necessarily a comment on your pacing -- which I thought was fine -- but rather, a comment on your skill. From the huge project you took on, I have no doubt that you possess the technical ability to edit the piece down.

In any case, you should be commended for producing this piece, especially after all the others bailed you. Ooooh, and love the twist at the end!

Looking forward to Light Rider 3... or any other project you'll produce, for that matter.
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Old May 9th, 2009, 11:40 PM   #9
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Bruce Foreman wrote:

"Chris,

I think you could have cut it to 5 minutes. It would have taken some ruthless and tight editing. What got in the way and prevented you from doing so was that you were too close to and invested in all of the footage."

Perhaps you are right. NO, omit the perhaps from that sentence. That "investment" in the footage is a dangerous thing when you are wearing so many hats. Maybe for the sake of my own education I will pull this of the shelf at some point and see if I can do what you suggest. Thanks for taking the time to look at it and offer your insights Bruce. As a film maker I think you have to look not just in the mirror, but inwards at some point. Thanks for helping me grow. I DO appreciate your observations.

Joseph Tran wrote:

"I do agree with Bruce that you could've cut this down to a five minute piece. This is not necessarily a comment on your pacing -- which I thought was fine -- but rather, a comment on your skill. From the huge project you took on, I have no doubt that you possess the technical ability to edit the piece down.

In any case, you should be commended for producing this piece, especially after all the others bailed you. Ooooh, and love the twist at the end!"



Thank you for taking the time to view this opus Joseph. I take your comments as encouragement and appreciate them. And in the end you and Bruce have a very good point. At some point you have to just be ruthless and willing to "kill babies" (e.g. the shots you created and love) as an editor. I think in an ideal world the editor should never even be on the set. So maybe in the end, that is the biggest lesson of all - check your ego at the door when you are the writer, camerman, AND editor.

And glad you appreciated the story...

This has been an excellent part of my continuing education for me, as have been the films of others ..watched critically, and I will bring what I have learned to the next film challenge... who knows... maybe another sequel! <g>

Thanks for your comments,the feedback here is in some ways the best part of the contest! Not only is the DV Challenge free film school - getting feedback from folks whose work you admire is priceless.


Chris
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