DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow at DVinfo.net

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Old October 4th, 2013, 08:35 PM   #1
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DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow


Like many of you with your own projects, I of course had originally written something that far surpassed the scope of this project. So I whittled it down. Then got onto set and had to whittle even more down on the fly. The film above is a result of that creative sculpting and compromises.

It was my hope that I could put together a film that wasn't your typical 'murder she wrote' mystery but instead focused on the idea of the unknown and the hunger inside of us that drives us to wanting answers. It was also my hope to then wrap that up and deliver it in a form where the audience is going through a similar experience themselves.

I do wish the film was a bit brighter on vimeo, as the final pre-upload looks stellar on my computer. It even sounds better. Oh the trials and tribulations of exporting video. If anyone has any great exporting advice for vimeo I'm all ears.

Last edited by Adam Snow; October 5th, 2013 at 03:01 AM.
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Old October 4th, 2013, 08:52 PM   #2
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

Yes!

Well conceived and shot.
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Old October 4th, 2013, 08:58 PM   #3
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

Extremely well executed piece, Adam! If I didn't know any better, I would think this is a professional advert for the WGA, haha. The lighting's great, and the lead gives a fantastic performance. Great job all around!
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Old October 5th, 2013, 02:40 AM   #4
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

Thanks for the high praises Tim & Derwin. Considering I don't fancy myself a writer at all I'm humbled by the 'advert for the WGA' comment. Perhaps I'll take this as a sign that I need to write more -- something I've been "meaning to do" for a long time.
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Old October 5th, 2013, 02:53 AM   #5
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

Nicely done. I particularly liked the misdirection in the opening.
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Old October 5th, 2013, 07:20 AM   #6
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

Wow, what can I say? What a piece of film we have here! This is truly a professional work, really took care of all the details. Ellegant and beautiful lighting, and the editing was soooo good. Very good acting as well. Love the pull in to the typewriter in the beginning. Amazing job, congratulations!

You ask about compression advices? what?? It looks absolutely great for vimeo/youtube compression! What did you shoot this on?
For a film this short, what I did was to compress a NDxHD codec version to upload to youtube. It makes a difference in the details. Takes much more to upload but you have avoided one h264 compression. I wouldn't do that for a video more than 5 minutes long because of the uploading time.
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Old October 5th, 2013, 02:11 PM   #7
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

Top-notch production values, spot-on actor, some nice effects there. We can see that your day job is working on features.

Nothing to say on the technical level, you've nailed it all the way along. If I had to nitpick anything, it was watching the protagonist get beaten every time: at first I thought that as it's a metaphor, there's no problem with him not hurting from the punches. But then he spat blood. So maybe you could have reddened up his left cheek between punches? Or maybe not -- it's fine the way it is, too.

Nice monologue, with good, evocative lines.

A punchy tribute to the art of writing.
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Old October 5th, 2013, 07:53 PM   #8
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

The mixed bullet/drum/ember metaphor strikes me as unbecoming of a writer, but the film was still very well put together! Love the closeups on the typewriter, wonderful matte work for the occasional word bursts behind the talent, and of course great lighting/editing, as has been mentioned.

As for compression advice, that "fine beforehand, bad after upload" sounds like a textbook levels mismatch, but before I go off on a tangent I'd better check something first. What exactly do you mean by "final pre-upload" and how are you viewing it? The timeline preview of an NLE? An H.264/AAC MP4 file exported from your editor, played back in some media player software? Something else entirely?

And does either of the attached images look right to you? The first shot, "convertTVtoPClevels", is the same result you'll get out of Vimeo or Youtube, while the second, "assumePClevels", is the file displayed without the range scaled. If the difference you're seeing is larger than that I'm afraid I don't know what's going on, but if that gets you where you want to be I can go into more detail about what I think has happened.
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DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow-storyteller-2716-converttvtopclevels.png   DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow-storyteller-2716-assumepclevels.png  

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Old October 5th, 2013, 09:20 PM   #9
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

Thanks for the feedback and exporting advice guys. As long as I was able to capture and keep you engaged throughout my film then I'm a happy camper.

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Originally Posted by Andres Mata View Post
and the editing was soooo good.
Although I don't aspire to be an editor when all is said and done it is my day job, so it's good to hear that I'm at very least excelling in that department. I did spend quite a long time trying to nail down the "right edit" and found myself constantly making minor tweaks. So they might not all be perfect but each cut does happen for a specific reason.

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Originally Posted by Andres Mata View Post
What did you shoot this on?
Shot on a RED ONE with some prime lenses. I also shot on a Canon XHA1 to capture the audio as the boom mic I had decided not to work once we got to set. Not the perfect solution but I figured the other solution was doing the whole thing in voice over... which would have sucked.

(And thanks for the compression advice)

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Originally Posted by Marc Burleigh View Post
We can see that your day job is working on features.
One day it'll be down that road. I've been lucky enough to work on a couple the past few years but my "day job" is actually lots of internal brand videos which are a completely different beast. Not editing a scene as much as doing a lot of text based graphics. Though they usually are a bit more bouncy and animate compared to what I did to this piece.

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Originally Posted by Marc Burleigh View Post
at first I thought that as it's a metaphor, there's no problem with him not hurting from the punches. But then he spat blood.
Two reason for this actually. The small reason, I didn't have a make-up person. And it would have looked pretty bad if I had tied to do it. The bigger reason, although I was perfectly fine having it not play as a metaphor it was. The "person" hitting him was a personification of himself (writer's block to an extent). Each time he's hit his head goes to the left (the beginning of the page); aka restarting. I was also trying to turn the blood into ink - it hits the page and then transforms from red to black. Which I knew wouldn't read for everyone. I toyed around with having it soak into the page but my attempts were in vain and it looked cheesy so I decided to scrap it.

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The mixed bullet/drum/ember metaphor strikes me as unbecoming of a writer
Oh man, I was faking it so well, lol. Really I simply trying to create imagery and intensity which I think a good storyteller does. And although it focuses on a writer I was hoping it'd transcend, to some degree, to simply those of us who want to tell stories


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Originally Posted by Robert Martens View Post
What exactly do you mean by "final pre-upload" and how are you viewing it?
I mean the H.264 quicktime I exported out of FCP7. Though I suppose it could just be the FCP7 timeline vs Vimeo. Viewing in Quicktime. Granted I'm going from 1080 to 720 and it certainly looks better on vimeo when viewed full screen compared to on the forum surrounded by white (though everyone's film looks better full screen). I want to say the second still is "right" but that's probably because it's a little brighter and I said I thought it was dark. In all honesty, it could be that it's all in my head and there really isn't much I can do other than tweak the levels and lose a bit of my blacks. I'll just blame my editor... which was me... man, I'm going to have a few choice words for myself soon.
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Old October 5th, 2013, 10:17 PM   #10
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Snow View Post
I want to say the second still is "right" but that's probably because it's a little brighter and I said I thought it was dark. In all honesty, it could be that it's all in my head and there really isn't much I can do other than tweak the levels and lose a bit of my blacks. I'll just blame my editor... which was me... man, I'm going to have a few choice words for myself soon.
You would not believe the words I have for myself when something doesn't work the way I expected it to. I know how you feel.

I don't mean to insult your intelligence if you already know this next bit, but to clarify something for everyone in case I was obtuse earlier: when I said "levels" I didn't just mean general color correction, I meant the danger-fraught difference between full range (so-called "PC" levels, 0-255) and limited range ("TV" levels, 16-235) footage. It's a very, very, very common wrinkle in the video processing...process that leads to the old refrain "this codec is terrible, the video's all washed out" after someone mistakenly converts PC levels to TV. Applied in the opposite direction, as may or may not be the case here, it will lead mostly-dark footage like yours to look all the darker (though it's really a contrast increase, the brights get brighter too).

There are a dozen places in any given toolchain for the range to go wrong (which range a certain camera uses, how an NLE loads clips, how those clips are previewed on your display, how things are rendered for export, how motion graphics/compositing/grading software handles input and output, and so on), and many programs don't offer an option to select what behavior you'd like, or even document what assumptions they make about the input you're providing and output you're expecting. As a matter of fact some histogram examination makes me think your original photographic footage was TV range, your title cards and effects were generated/rendered at PC range, and then a PC->TV conversion was applied to the entire project at some point. Luckily I don't think that's the big issue here.

A quick test earlier today confirmed what I'd suspected: Vimeo, like Youtube, expects your videos to be TV levels. Neither site's pipeline does any actual conversion, but the range is still expanded on playback in their web interfaces.

That's probably not the cause of your concern here, however, in light of your mention of Quicktime. I've got a Mountain Lion Mac handy, and checking a specially prepared test file in Quicktime Player 10.2 shows the same results as Vimeo does: files are treated as being TV range and expanded to PC range on playback. That there's no control over the conversion has been a complaint against QT Player for years, but since it matches the behavior of Vimeo's web player it should still give you an accurate view of what your final delivery will look like to viewers. As you say, it's entirely possible the light background could throw off one's perception of brightness, so after all of that I'd suspect you're ultimately right that it's just an impression.

"Content is King" around here, of course, so don't go too hard on your editor.
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Old October 6th, 2013, 01:51 PM   #11
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

Well done! I really like the lighting and the neat and simple look of the set for this monologue, very cool. Great writing of course, this piece could definitely be an ad for a writing school or something like that.

My favorite shot/edit was the one with the camera behind the guy while his head was turned, that was great!

Nice rotoscoping too! Wow! It must have took forever to do all that text!

The only constructive help I can offer has to do with the vocal audio track. I hear some variance in tonality in the guys voice throughout the different sections, almost as if the microphone was in different positions for different takes? For example, the first section is very bassy (perhaps the mic was off axis for those takes?) And at 1:20 there is a switch from the super clear voiceover back to the room sound. In order to make the audio just as tight as the very polished editing and graphics, it would be good to go through it with a little bit of selective EQ in the different sections to smooth out the transitions and make them as even as possible. The editing and graphics were so tight, I wanted to hear the voice track just as polished!

In any case, bravo, great job!
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Old October 6th, 2013, 04:54 PM   #12
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

Great acting, fun concept, good looking short! Loved the look of this one!
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Old October 6th, 2013, 09:43 PM   #13
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

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Originally Posted by Robert Martens View Post
the danger-fraught difference between full range (so-called "PC" levels, 0-255) and limited range ("TV" levels, 16-235) footage. It's a very, very, very common wrinkle in the video processing
Certainly no insult taken Robert. (I feel the same way when making some comments).
And as a matter of fact I didn't know anything about any of the PC vs TV levels. That's a very interesting & helpful tidbit of information and I appreciate you taking the time and effort it took to share that with me (and the anyone else who took the time to read it). Everything I know I've learned on my own and I certainly hadn't picked that one up yet. So thanks again for such a thoughtful response!

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I hear some variance in tonality in the guys voice throughout the different sections, almost as if the microphone was in different positions for different takes?
You have a good ear sir, and I do appreciate constructive feedback -- I think we all strive to be even better "next time".
As I touched on in an earlier post, after getting on set I found that for some unknown reason the shotgun/boom mic I had wasn't working. (We'd later try it afterwards and it of course worked just fine). So we're on set without a mic. Luckily I had brought with me my HDV camera which we ended up using to record the sound. Far, far from an ideal situation -- to have semi-decent sound OR no sound and doing the whole piece in voice over... I went with semi-decent sound and used the HDV camera, which was moved all over the place making mixing the audio a pain.
Sound mixing is certainly not my greatest strength and when you're working against a tight deadline you make due with what you have and sometimes have to be satisfied with less than perfection.

Perhaps if I had spent less time rotoscoping and more time tweaking the audio...
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Old October 7th, 2013, 10:55 AM   #14
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Snow View Post
after getting on set I found that for some unknown reason the shotgun/boom mic I had wasn't working. (We'd later try it afterwards and it of course worked just fine). So we're on set without a mic. Luckily I had brought with me my HDV camera which we ended up using to record the sound. Far, far from an ideal situation -- to have semi-decent sound OR no sound and doing the whole piece in voice over... I went with semi-decent sound and used the HDV camera, which was moved all over the place making mixing the audio a pain.
Sound mixing is certainly not my greatest strength and when you're working against a tight deadline you make due with what you have and sometimes have to be satisfied with less than perfection.

Perhaps if I had spent less time rotoscoping and more time tweaking the audio...
Oh no! I had no idea, what a nightmare! What did you do, gaff tape the whole camera to a boom or something? You probably made the correct call on moving forward, it would have took forever to ADR this whole piece.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Martens View Post
I don't mean to insult your intelligence if you already know this next bit, but to clarify something for everyone in case I was obtuse earlier: when I said "levels" I didn't just mean general color correction, I meant the danger-fraught difference between full range (so-called "PC" levels, 0-255) and limited range ("TV" levels, 16-235) footage. It's a very, very, very common wrinkle in the video processing...process that leads to the old refrain "this codec is terrible, the video's all washed out" after someone mistakenly converts PC levels to TV. Applied in the opposite direction, as may or may not be the case here, it will lead mostly-dark footage like yours to look all the darker (though it's really a contrast increase, the brights get brighter too).
Thanks for the info Robert, this is interesting stuff! There are so many variables to keep in mind when trying to get images over the web to our final consumers, it can really be a challenge to get it perfect! The more I manage to figure out about video, the more I realize there is even so much more to learn! I appreciate you sharing your knowledge.

And, Adam, don't sweat the color/contrast thing for this one, the images you made look great either way.
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Old October 7th, 2013, 04:03 PM   #15
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Re: DVC23 - The Storyteller - Adam Snow

Hi Adam,

Everything that is superlative has been said and I agree! Well shot, well edited, great sound effects with the punches and typewriter.

Admittedly, I was a little confused as to the mystery theme tie-in. I think it would be awesome to see the written out text in its entirety for me to digest the whole thought pattern.

Also, what was your original idea that you had to scrap?

Overall, you know you made a great film!

Toni
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