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Old September 5th, 2006, 10:23 PM   #1
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Project Finished: "The Container Adventures: The Rescue"

Hi folks. I'm happy to announce that my first project with the HD100 is now "finished" and posted on-line for viewing/downloading. (I use "finished" lightly as there are still things I want to fix but ran out of time for this year's release.)

http://www.encorp.ca/cfm/index.cfm?It=908&Id=48

The movie is 18 minutes and will also be distributed on DVD to schools in British Columbia who register for Encorp's annual recycling programs. (Encorp Pacific (Canada) is the corporation in charge of beverage container recycling in B.C. and has a number of community and school programs.)

Some local folks may recognize the container puppets from Encorp's TV commercials. Those spots were done by Encorp's ad agency, whereas my company (Stargate Connections Inc., an ISP) was hired to do the educational video to tie in with their Web-based school programs that we also developed and maintain.

So, needless to say, movie making isn't our primary job, just a sideline several of our staff have dabbled with over the years. But I'm really glad Encorp gave us the opportunity to work on this project, which is our second video for them. It was a lot of fun and I hope people enjoy it.

All comments, criticisms and questions are welcome! (I'll be able to make changes when we press a new batch of discs for next year's programs.)
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Old September 5th, 2006, 10:59 PM   #2
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It is obvious your group put alot of effort into the video. Cudos on a job well done. Cheers!

The image quality is clear as a bell with one exception, the mother characters face. Did you use skin detect on her color to make it softer?
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Old September 6th, 2006, 12:03 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen L. Noe
It is obvious your group put alot of effort into the video. Cudos on a job well done.
Thanks Stephen!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen L. Noe
The image quality is clear as a bell with one exception, the mother characters face. Did you use skin detect on her color to make it softer?
No, I believe her closeup in the kitchen was slightly out of focus. (My fault.) Is that the only shot you noticed was soft or all her shots?
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Old September 6th, 2006, 11:41 AM   #4
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What settings did you shoot on? Nice job.

Thanks.

dave
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Old September 6th, 2006, 12:05 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Vahey
What settings did you shoot on? Nice job.
Thanks! I used a combined variation of Paolo Ciccone's True Color 2 and Tim Dashwood's Wide latitude settings:

TRUCLRET ("widelat" variation)
Master Black -1
Detail MIN
Black STRETCH3
White Clip 108%
Knee MANUAL
Level 80%
Cinelike OFF
Color Matrix STANDARD
Adjust
- R Gain 3
- R Rotation 4
- G Gain 2
- G Rotation NORMAL
- B Gain 3
- B Rotation -3
Gamma CINELIKE
Level NORMAL
Color Gain NORMAL

However, I found this was quite sensitive to over-saturation and white balance variances, especially when down-converted to DVD and viewed on normal TVs. The father's yellow hair was a problem, as were the walls in the home, and whites in the basement turned pink. I had to do a fair bit colour correction work, which is one of the items I wasn't entirely satisfied with. (Some scenes look washed out.)

Admittedly, one of my biggest problems in learning the camera was avoiding underexposure. One shot in particular was horribly underexposed. (It's the first shot of Kim riding her bike to her dad's office after the wipe.) I was looking at the camera's LCD at a weird angle in the back of my van and misinterpreted the iris adjustment based on what I was seeing. I didn't have my external monitor at the time, but wish I had. Lesson for next time.
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Old September 6th, 2006, 01:25 PM   #6
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Excellent job Earl! I was wondering if you'd share more of how you went from shooting to finished product, like:
- Did you use the provided mic at all? If not, what kind?
- How large was your lighting rig?
- What sort of dolly?
- What frame rate did you shoot at (24p? 30p?)
- What did you edit with?

And, lastly, is there anything you'd have done differently now?
Thanks for sharing - keep up the good work -

john
evilgeniusentertainment.com
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Old September 6th, 2006, 02:02 PM   #7
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Great Job Earl,

Love the 'leave it to Beaver' type soundtrack. I wasn't going to watch the whole thing but the storyline was compelling enough (what does happen to those containers).

As the parent of a 9 and 2 year old, I think it will keep kids entertained and most importantly, informed.
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Old September 6th, 2006, 03:01 PM   #8
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Stock lens or Wide-angle?
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Old September 6th, 2006, 04:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Vincent
Excellent job Earl!
Thanks John!

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Vincent
Did you use the provided mic at all? If not, what kind?
Only a handful of shots used the stock mic. In particular, the gag scenes when Flap is exaggerating. But we mostly used an Audio Technica AT897 mounted on a home-made boom (an extendable watering pole).

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Vincent
How large was your lighting rig?
Very small. I have four 1000W Ianebeam red heads I got for $35 each at an auction many years ago. Only three had working bulbs at the time, so that's the most that were used at once. (Usually only one or two.) We shot everything daylight balanced, so those were gelled with CTB. However, one gel in the basement slowly faded over time, which became apparent in the preset white balance and had to be corrected out.

Beyond those, we supplemented some shots with high-CRI fluorescents and used a 10x10' butterfly (also homemade) for some outdoor scenes.

The window in the basement, by the way, was faked. It was black-backed with one of the redheads mounted over it and two banks of 4x4-foot fluorescents behind it to each side (8 tubes total). The views out the window were then composited in later.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Vincent
What sort of dolly?
Homemade wooden dolly with rubber wheels and PVC/wooden tracks. It was made back in 1987 and its age showed -- one wheel cracked in half while we were shooting because the rubber had dried out! Still made it through the rest of the shoot though by standing alongside it rather than riding it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Vincent
What frame rate did you shoot at (24p? 30p?)
All our material was shot 24p. It was a blessing to work in that format with all the rotoscoping required for the puppets.

All of the stock footage (which is of obviously lower quality) was 60i SD. I used a combination of field blending and scaling to up-res it to HD 24p.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Vincent
What did you edit with?
Premiere Pro 1.5.1 with Aspect HD. My computer is a below-spec 2.66 GHz Pentium 4, non-hyperthreaded with 1GB RAM and 120GB system drive, 300GB project drive (dedicated to this production, i.e. to be stored away later). Compositing and effects were all done in After Effects.

Even though it wasn't a top-of-the-line setup, I could edit HD better than DV thanks to CineForm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Vincent
And, lastly, is there anything you'd have done differently now?
Definitely! I would hire more people to divide up the work. I tried to do too much myself. (I only took three screen credits but I actually did many more jobs, like casting, effects, editing, etc.) There wasn't enough time and I burned myself out. Plus, I know some jobs could've done better by people with more experience.

I also significantly underestmated how long the rotoscoping would take. Most of the puppets were operated with rods from above. Some elements only took about 15 minutes to rotoscope, but others took much longer because of shadows or small details (like Flap's straw or Al's pull tab). I originally figured the transparent containers would be the problematic ones, but they turned out to be the easiest.
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Old September 6th, 2006, 04:45 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ken Diewert
I wasn't going to watch the whole thing but the storyline was compelling enough (what does happen to those containers). As the parent of a 9 and 2 year old, I think it will keep kids entertained and most importantly, informed.
That's great to hear Ken. It's exactly what we've been hoping for.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Diewert
Love the 'leave it to Beaver' type soundtrack.
All of the music is from SmartSound, and most of the tracks were from one disc, Richard Band Vol 6 - Family. The track over the end credits is a separate piece that came bundled with SonicFire Pro.
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Old September 6th, 2006, 04:49 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Miklos Philips
Stock lens or Wide-angle?
Everything was done with the stock lens. You can see some of the limitations of this lens in an early shot where Kim is on her bike and stops to take a sip from her beverage. It was shot from across the street at full telephoto. The left and right extremes are very soft.

Would LOVE to get the wide angle but simply can't afford it.
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Old September 6th, 2006, 05:19 PM   #12
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Thanks for all the knowlege Earl - keep it going Brother!

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Old September 6th, 2006, 10:01 PM   #13
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Great job, Earl.

Very entertaining and informative. I love the puppet idea.

Having worked many times with Jim Henson's puppeteers, I am a firm believer in the value and creative impact of puppets.

What was your roto work flow like?

Again, great job.

aloha,

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Old September 6th, 2006, 11:09 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Keith Nealy
Having worked many times with Jim Henson's puppeteers, I am a firm believer in the value and creative impact of puppets.
Lucky fellow. That's a group I'd love to meet/work with myself. Jim Henson was one of my idols. (So was Kermit.) :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith Nealy
What was your roto work flow like?
It varied a bit from one shot to the next. A simple shot required just two elements -- the puppet doing his or her thing, and a clean background plate without the puppet. Both would be shot in sequence with a locked-down camera and our best attempts to make sure nothing else changed. Shots with multiple puppets moving were shot one puppet at a time.

In After Effects, I'd load the puppet clip into a layer and do as little rotoscoping as necessary to remove the rod with masks. In some instances, it was easiest to just loosely mask around the rod with minimal keyframing except where the rod "connects" with the puppet, wherein the mask would be keyframed more accurately.

In other instances, where shadows were a problem or puppets crossed over one another, the entire container outline would be masked to isolate it completely, and selected shadows would be put back in with a soft-edge mask.

A couple of problem shots required shadows to be created artificially because the natural shadow was clipped by the rod (e.g. when Al sits upright on the pavement, his rod was visible on his back where the shadow was). In those cases, another mask was used as the shadow, with its opacity and feathering keyframed as needed.

Despite all the work required for the rotoscoping, the toughest shots by far were the three inside the backpack (which didn't need any roto work). Those were done with all three puppeteers (myself, Barry Wong and Rick Evans) crowded around a cut-open backpack with a 1000W light over our heads and containers bopping around all over the place (and usually the wrong place). Took many takes to get those shots right. :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith Nealy
Again, great job.
Thanks very much!
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Old September 7th, 2006, 01:49 AM   #15
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Very well-executed video. Mad props!
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