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Old March 25th, 2005, 04:39 PM   #1
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"Napkin." A short film.

A friend and I just finished shooting our first short film for submission to festivals around the Austin area. Let us know what you think. It was shot on an XL2/mini35 with Zeiss Superspeeds in one day, and edited in FCP HD.

The file should play in Quicktime.

http://www.the-hegemony.com/Napkin.mp4 (60MB)

Thanks for watching.
Xiaoli Wang is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 29th, 2005, 01:17 AM   #2
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I watched your short a couple of days ago, and I wasn't sure what to say at first. Maybe other people thought the same thing and that's why you have lots of views and few replies. Anyway, my first thought was that the Mini35 shows - it looks crisp even in MPEG-4, and the depth of field certainly doesn't look like typical MiniDV. You made good use of that in those CUs at the table. I also liked your major editing choice - starting with the discovery and then seeing the meeting outside. The reaction shot of the white kid (I was never straight on which was Vincent and which was Aaron) as his friend (well, sort of friend) walks away is priceless. But the rest of your editing seemed rough. The audio has harsh cuts in and out between scenes, and that combined with the black space you left between interior and exterior scenes has a rough cut feel for me. It's also painfully obvious at some points during the main conversation (e.g. at "and all you've got is napkins") that you're cutting between mics at either different distances or on different axes. Finally, I didn't understand why you paused for the white kid to think ("I hope my car doesn't get towed."). I thought the B&W still with VO was a great effect, and it worked for discovering the drugs, but I didn't understand why the car-towing thought was significant enough to merit that. But it looked great, and I loved your setting. I hope you post on here to tell everyone where to catch it at festivals.
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Old March 29th, 2005, 11:03 AM   #3
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Zach, thanks for the comments. I was wondering if anyone was going to respond! Anyway, many people I've showed the film to don't understand what's going on. To clear things up, the white guy is Vincent. In terms of the cutting, the audio was definitely a problem and actually much worse before I spent a lot of time fixing it up in FCP. We made the poor decision of not remaining consistent with the audio during different angles; for the wide shots we had a boom in between, for the CUs we had a boom on Vincent and lav on Aaron. The restaurant was also not closed down for shooting and that caused problems in background noise, and we tried to shoot whenever it was quiet and add ambience in post. In terms of the black filling INT/EXT scenes, that was an intentional choice and I thought the sound would let the audience know of the location change.

In terms of the VO on Vincent, we agree it doesn't really fit, and we're axing it for future submissions.

In terms of the mini35, we were shooting on T1.3 almost all of the time and pulling focus was REALLY hard. You can tell that in the CU of Vincent as he's leaning back and forth I was pulling. We mostly shot wide open to avoid the GG spinning thing that everyone seems to be plagued by, but on second thought, we probably could've done T2 or 2.8 without any problems.

Again, thanks for the reply.
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Old March 29th, 2005, 12:47 PM   #4
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It was a nice short but a long download (maybe the reason for so few responses).

I liked the black and white freeze effect but I thought it was used at cross purposes with each character. I also liked the story although the dialogue was a little awkward and I thought perhaps Vincent should have taken more napkins the first time to justify Aaron's reaction.

The film could have moved a little quicker in places but overal was good and kept my interest throughout.

The photography was also good but I didn't think the mini35 added much. You could have used the shallow depth of field to shift focus between characters in the restaurant but as I recall from watching it you switched camera position to achieve this.

I'm nitpicking a little. I liked the film and wish you all the best with regards to the festivals.
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Old March 29th, 2005, 02:25 PM   #5
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The depth of field was distracting, there are reasons to vary the depth of field in a shot but I couldn't see them implemented here. The photo on the wall was in perfect focus while the actors were out of focus. The wide shot of the waitress had a shallow DOF while the wide shot of the other two characters had a deep DOF. Even the DOF in the over the shoulder shots could have been widened to include the shoulder a little more. Just because you "can" shoot at T1.3 doesn't mean you always should. Close down that lens a little. (FYI for those who don't know- did you know that most lenses are actually clearest in the middle of their range and the resolution actually gets worse towards both ends?)
The underexposed actor entering the restaurant with the blown out background was harsh because neither was exposed correctly, shoot for one or the other if you can't get both.
The framing was unsettling at times. In the beginning scenes (wide shots) the heads were cut off while plenty of leg and body was shown. When the car pulls up we're staring at the rocker panel for too long without any justification.
It wasn't clear to me what the 1/8 a kilo was referring to? Was it "coke"? It just looked like crumpled up napkins, I don't know what it was.
I loved when he put the "Sweet-n-Low" packet in his pocket!
At the end of the story he left his jacket in the restaurant again, why?
The dialog could have moved a lot faster as well as the pacing of the edits and would make it easier to watch.
In the black around 8:36 minutes there is a single frame of your credits before they begin to scroll.

oooohhhh, I just got it! The beginning was the end. It wasn't too clear. Sorry.

cute story, nice attempt but needs a little work though. -best of luck
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Old March 29th, 2005, 02:42 PM   #6
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In response:

Yes, I realized the wide shots were a little soft because I had gotten the focus wrong. The XL2 EVF didn't help. The reason for either shallow or deep DOF was we only had two lenses, an 18mm and a 50mm, both were used at T1.3. Of course, we were paranoid about the spinning GG so that was why we did wide open.

The underexposed Aaron in the beginning was an artistic choice. We chose to have him silhouetted and the outside blown out to parallel Vincent's entrance, and also just to vary the kinds of exposures in the film. On second thought, I probably should've blown the outside even more, as now it looks somewhat amateurish.

In terms of the head being cut off, I cropped the top a bit because in some of the shots there were Kinos at the top and a few boom-dips. The end result, in my opinion, isn't too distracting.

Yes, it's cocaine.

He forgot his jacket.

The single frame of credits: I still don't know how to fix that. It looks fine in the render and fine during MPEG-2 export to DVD, but an MPEG4 somehow creates it, and I can't find a way to get rid of it. Anyone have any ideas?

By the way, maybe you noticed the film was shot in Plano. :) Have you been to First Chinese BBQ? It's on Coit and Parker next to the post office.

Thanks for the comments.
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Old March 29th, 2005, 04:39 PM   #7
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I thought it looked like Plano but I haven't been to that restaurant. I've been in the North East for a while.
Sometimes with video you just can't win with exposure, it's tough. About the only thing you could have done is hang a big ND screen outside the building to block off some light while you exposed for the interior face shot or at least held it from blowing completely away. Otherwise it's just a tough job, I know and I don't mind it. The DOF thing, another hard situation. I've never used the mini35 so I don't know it's limitations. Cutting off heads... Now that was a hard one, I've been there, where you have to letterbox because you have a shot with a mic in it! It' sucks! It still pisses me off when it happens. Luckily it only happens a few times in you're film and it's in the first minute and a half but I noticed it right off because the characters talking and his heads half gone but you can see his knees. Weird.
I was just trying to give an objective critique. I think you did a nice job, really, and I hope you keep it up. Good Luck
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Old March 29th, 2005, 06:09 PM   #8
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I thought it was a pretty cohesive piece! Could've used more shots and cuts though. And I wonder if this would've kept my interest if it was done with just a regular DV cam...

Good work!
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Old March 29th, 2005, 08:16 PM   #9
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UPDATE: The video link has been updated with some minor changes (axed the voiceovers, dialogue less choppy with picture, etc.) Not enough changes to warrant a re-download but just a heads up.

Thanks for all the tips guys.
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