DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart at DVinfo.net

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Old September 7th, 2012, 10:46 AM   #1
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DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart


Hi everyone, and thanks for watching our film; our second-ever entry into a film competition! We hope you enjoyed it. As with all of our films so far, this has been a big learning experience for us. Catherine and I have both dabbled in filmmaking, but earlier this year we decided to "get serious," invest in a bit of kit, and try to learn something about things like lighting, composition, etc. For us, this film is another small step in that process.

We were working on a short documentary all of last month and we could only allot a weekend to shoot this film, so we had to come up with something that didn't require any actors, crew, or time to write a script. We came up with a couple of ideas -- which, unhelpfully, involved all three -- before thinking of drinking glasses. We thought about how so many conversations and dramatic moments happen over a drink of something or other and wondered whether we could tell a story by just focusing on the glasses and people's interactions with them. Also, this way we wouldn't have to act. (although that turned out to not be true)

In the end, I'm very happy with how it turned out, primarily in terms of the picture. This film was a big step up for us in that department, and is by far the best-looking piece we've managed to make. I feel I'm beginning to understand a little about lighting and starting to be able to put that into practice. I'm also pleased with some of the composition, and I hope that you found some of it interesting and appealing to look at.

The area where I think we fell down was in telling the story, which I guess comes down to direction. The story was purposefully meant to be vague and open to interpretation, but I feel like we didn't manage to create enough of a build-up and a progression. I think that was partly because we underestimated the hand acting we'd have to do, and partly because the concept itself was perhaps a bit weak. I was also slightly kicking myself during the edit, because we severely undershot the champagne toast at the end of the restaurant scene. If we'd had more of that, I think the ending could have been much better. Oh well, live and learn. Anyway, that's my self-assessment, but I'm eager to hear what you all thought.

Next time around, I really want to try and learn more about color grading so I can do that properly. I'd also next like to do a more "straightforward" short, i.e. one with dialogue and more of an actual plot, and concentrate on making the story really engaging and on telling it properly with different shots.

Gear-head info:
We spent one day shooting in my parents' basement, and one day editing. Lighting comprised:
* a set of work lights bounced off the ceiling as the key light in both scenes
* a photo light with a diffusion umbrella as the fill and back light in the restaurant scene
* a Neewer CN-160 LED light (a great bargain, btw, highly recommend this) as the fill and back light in the bar scene -- the only piece of lighting kit we own so far
* some Christmas lights for background interest in the restaurant scene
* and some under-cabinet LED lights behind the bottles as feature lighting in the bar scene.

Our camera is a Canon XF100, which we had to zoom all the way in and place halfway across the room in order to get any depth of field, but which we love. We also love our microphone, a Rode NTG-3, and tripod, a Vinten Vision Blue.

Hm, what else? Oh, well, just for trivia, you might interested to know that the "wine" was made of cranberry juice and coke, the "champagne" was ginger ale, the ring I wore at the bar was actually one of Catherine's worn backwards, and the restaurant table in the background was actually only half-size because it's all we had.

Post-production: we edited on Lightworks (which, even with the license fee for additional codecs, is a great deal), did minimal audio editing in-editor, and did a minimal color grade also in the editor (slight contrast bump in both scenes, and slight white balance/saturation increase in the restaurant scene).

I think that's all. Any questions, just ask.

Last edited by Michael Rodriguez-Torrent; September 7th, 2012 at 10:09 PM. Reason: Oops, forgot the video link.
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Old September 7th, 2012, 10:11 PM   #2
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

After reading some of the other feedback threads, I realized all the old pros had included their video link in theirs. I've added mine now. Sorry for the long-winded self-assessment, as well -- I notice everyone else's are much shorter!
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Old September 7th, 2012, 10:34 PM   #3
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

First of all, welcome to the wonderful world of filmmaking! Throwing yourself into the fire and trying new things is the best way to improve, and having someone to make the journey with you is awesome.

Just from the still frame that is shown before you hit play on your video I would have guessed that you guys had more experience with shooting. Well done!

Great work with backing up and zooming in to get some shallow depth of field. This of course also compresses everything in the frame making background elements appear closer to the characters. Food for thought.

One thing that you can do to add some fill light is get a reflector or bounce board. This could mean getting a 5in1 reflector of as simple as getting a big piece of white foamcore. On the foamcore if you then spray mount on tinfoil it will create an even more reflective bounce and a harsher/brighter light. It's actually pretty amazing what something this simple can add to your whole lighting scheme.

As far as the story, I would agree with you that it was hard to decipher. I couldn't tell if the scene at the table and scene at the bar were related or not. At first I thought they were going to be, with a man at the bar and a woman alone at the table but once the second guy sat down with the woman at the table that fell though a bit. You can certainly tell a story in the manner that you were trying to but you almost have to beat the viewer over the head with what you're trying to sell them. You have to hold their hand a bit and show them A & B & C leading them to D. The trick is doing this without them feeling like you are... which isn't exactly easy. But with practice becomes easier.

My best advice: keep trying to improve and work hard. You do that and you'll find success.

Also, there is a great series that I recommend checking out about composition, camera movement, blocking, etc which you can find here: Hollywood Camera Work - The Master Course - Film Directing, Camera Blocking, Film School, Cinematography
You should be able to play a couple of the chapters online and I for one found them very informative and helping.
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Old September 8th, 2012, 04:10 AM   #4
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

Hello,

Well being new here too I'll try and give the best feedback I can! Let me start by saying I thought the film was pretty and now after reading your statement let me say wow! Your lighting looked good and seemed to give depth to the scenes which I believe is what is supposed to do so good job.


As for the story you lost me maybe I just missed it ? The hands really seemed to say a lot I was amazed that after watching your film how much conversation just hands seemed to give even lost to the story I had the feeling that they were talking to each other in both scenes although I am not sure about what?

Maybe I am one that has to be lead by the hand from A to D lol

Nice work overall
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Old September 8th, 2012, 08:23 AM   #5
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

This was very beautiful. I actually watched it last night from a bar location, but my laptop died before I could leave feedback. I watched it again this morning as I could not hear anything in the noisy bar. I loved the story telling style, just on the hands. The woman has very pretty hands BTW. I was expecting the guy at the bar to pick up the girl after she dumped the guy who was pouring blush wine. We all know about blush wine drinkers, nice guy at best, lol. I liked it, but wanted to see her holding a different hand at the end.
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Old September 8th, 2012, 08:42 AM   #6
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

I loved the concept you had and framing of the image, along with the color within the images. I think the story could have been enhanced with selective editing of sound effects, picking which ones the viewer should hear or not. Nice job on the camera.
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Old September 8th, 2012, 09:01 AM   #7
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

Hi Michael and Catherine!

I enjoyed watching the film and can really tell you spent a good amount of time with lighting. It shows!

From what I follow from the story, the woman is telling the gentleman that she is pregnant. I believe it is the same guy at the bar reflecting on his upcoming fatherhood. Would love to find out the real story.

Toni
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Old September 8th, 2012, 09:17 AM   #8
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

I thought the film was really well shot. Reading your feedback thread, it is remarkable how you did this with the experience and materials you had. My only comment, as with others and yourself, is the story isn't clear. Maybe if you had included a bit of dialogue, it could have helped without detracting from your goal of having the hands tell the story.
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Old September 8th, 2012, 09:55 AM   #9
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

I liked this. Interesting compositions, especially that we don't see who the people are.

I was kind of thinking that at one point we would see the various different people meet, or it would turn out that the guy in the bar was in some way connected to the couple; but so far I have not been able to figure it out?

Intriguing.
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Old September 8th, 2012, 03:52 PM   #10
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

The visual impact of the filming from the point of view of the shooters is really great. From the point of view of story telling, it left me hanging as to what was really going on. The almost undiscernable picture in the wallet makes me believe the intent was to portrait they guy at the bar as having lost his chance with the girl (or guy ???) at the table because of something that had gone before... but just to much left to try to interpret.
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Old September 8th, 2012, 07:02 PM   #11
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

Hi Michael

An interesting treatment in your piece. I think the 'hand acting' was a really nice idea and set us up in the world of glass really well. I was certainly watching and thinking, hhhmmm, hands can be really expressive can't they! I think you were really onto something strong here and I was waiting for an interplay between the couple and the man at the bar.....but it didn't come! I think this is a shame and it might really be worth improving this story element because I think this was really original in its treatment and hand lots of promise.

That's for sharing your vision, you've made me think with this one!
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Old September 9th, 2012, 02:09 PM   #12
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

Michael and Catherine, I too am blown away that this is the beginning of your filmmaking! I wish I had such a head start. I thought for sure you were in real locations and was surprised to learn it was just in your parents' basement!

I think you've received a lot of good feedback and more impressively you seem to be able to honestly critique and analyze your work and that will serve you really well in the long run. I too wished there was more story or interplay or clues to go on. I think that the hands were perhaps a little too over-dramatic and came across as slightly mime-y, but again, acting is hard and I can only imagine hand acting is even harder? I think your concept is strong that drinking is culturally such an important thing and ties so many interactions together, and as a result I think it would have been nicer to see more than two locations, but again that's very difficult if your only location is a basement!

Overall very very impressive work and I can't wait to see what you two make next! Great work!
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Old September 9th, 2012, 05:04 PM   #13
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

Hi Michael and Catherine!

I echo what everyone else has said -- great work with your cinematography and lighting! The sound is also superb -- it really puts us in the locations of the two scenes.

Which brings me to something that hasn't been mentioned: You said that this was all shot in your parents' basement?? If so, excellent set design! Seriously, the first thing I thought then I saw the first few seconds was, "Geez, how do I get to shoot in a bar??" I'm not kidding! Then when I watched it again, I also noticed that you chose your shots really well in hiding the fact that you were not really in a bar or restaurant.

So as others have mentioned, I, too, would've liked to see some more connection between the different locations. Perhaps this story is just missing, like, an "Act III" or a bookend? That's certainly subjective. The way you have it does leave it nicely open to interpretation.

In any case, I look forward to seeing more of your work here at dvinfo. This is a great place to learn and experiment and shoot stuff -- I've learned so much from the members here! So until your next one, congrats on a job well done!
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Old September 11th, 2012, 08:18 AM   #14
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

Really great set design, I too didn't notice that it wasn't shot on location!
Completely missed the story though... but I have troubles in understanding peoples' gestures.
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Old September 11th, 2012, 11:12 AM   #15
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Re: DVC22 - "Here's to You" by Michael Rodríguez Torrent & Catherine Stewart

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Rodriguez-Torrent View Post
* a Neewer CN-160 LED light (a great bargain, btw, highly recommend this) as the fill and back light in the bar scene -- the only piece of lighting kit we own so far
Yes! I think I have a very similar light I bought direct from China which is very useful and super cheap! Nice choice! The battery indicator lights are awesome.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toni Dolce View Post
Hi Michael and Catherine!
I enjoyed watching the film and can really tell you spent a good amount of time with lighting. It shows!
From what I follow from the story, the woman is telling the gentleman that she is pregnant. I believe it is the same guy at the bar reflecting on his upcoming fatherhood. Would love to find out the real story.
Toni
So, what happened? It seems like the man at the bar had a wedding ring, and the one at the table didn't. So I'm assuming they were different people? But the OJ toast did sound (look) like a pregnancy celebration.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andris Krastins View Post
Really great set design, I too didn't notice that it wasn't shot on location!
Completely missed the story though... but I have troubles in understanding peoples' gestures.
The lighting and sound really sold the location, nice job!
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