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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old December 18th, 2008, 04:36 AM   #106
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Hi Cole,

Thanks for sharing - always a toughie among your peers but as they say, what doesn't kill you only makes you grow stronger. Actually, looking at the first 10 minutes I thought the actors generally did a good job. As you mentioned, scripts are critical and I'm sure you're making progress over this one (overly dialog intensive in Act I, without plot develpment) - ensure each scene advances character develpment, avoiding exposition.

If lighting gear is a problem, try adding some additional practicals to avoid shadows (table lamps, etc). Regarding camera work, the framing is acceptable yet you'll want keep the camera moving (establishment, CU, ECU, POV, OTS, etc). Try using a 300-3200hz bandpass filter to simulate the telephone call. Generally, the audio needs a lot of tweaking, hopefully something you can fix in post (missing ambient noise, etc); it's also noticeable on shots like the missing noise when the actor eats a cracker (ADR).

Thanks again for sharing your efforts!

Warm Regards, Michael
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Old December 19th, 2008, 09:47 PM   #107
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Hi Cole,

Thanks for sharing - always a toughie among your peers but as they say, what doesn't kill you only makes you grow stronger. Actually, looking at the first 10 minutes I thought the actors generally did a good job. As you mentioned, scripts are critical and I'm sure you're making progress over this one (overly dialog intensive in Act I, without plot develpment) - ensure each scene advances character develpment, avoiding exposition.

If lighting gear is a problem, try adding some additional practicals to avoid shadows (table lamps, etc). Regarding camera work, the framing is acceptable yet you'll want keep the camera moving (establishment, CU, ECU, POV, OTS, etc). Try using a 300-3200hz bandpass filter to simulate the telephone call. Generally, the audio needs a lot of tweaking, hopefully something you can fix in post (missing ambient noise, etc); it's also noticeable on shots like the missing noise when the actor eats a cracker (ADR).

Thanks again for sharing your efforts!

Warm Regards, Michael
Wow, thanks for watching. I'll be cutting out alot of the dialog as a bunch of it is fundamentally unneccesary.

We started this project with no clue what we were doing, using it as a day to day learning platform. We bought equipment we felt would benefit us as we went along (again, not on this movie's budget, but mine as I've used it all since then and purchased it with the intention of doing so). We actually acquired alot of lighting knowledge on that first day by reviewing dailies every day after the shoot to figure out what we needed to fix for the next day's shoot. You learn very quickly this way! The audio is due to the cheap microphone we used, but we did capture sound, and I can always ADR the whole thing if necessary (time=money ;) ).

The camera work, I was only able to get neat shots when I had more than just myself and the actor on set... not that often :(. As I'm still working on the edit, I hadn't gotten to my audio pass (still have to record my voice for the other end of one of the phone calls). This would take care of many of the issues you hear there, just is really just me learning to piece together a dialog (this is the second sound piece I'd ever shot, the first was just little vignettes with one-liners, no conversation necessary). I learned a mountain by having to piece together every single line of dialog from separate takes about the power of the editor ;)

Again, I can't believe you'd actually choose to subject yourself to that much of it (it gets away from the dialog later [the unedited bits ;) I really burnt out on editing the dialog, ready to dig back in again and start from scratch])...thank you so much for watching and critiquing.

As for the CPU controlled fire simulators... I've programmed stuff like that to solve simple problems..... so yes, I could see a laptop, applescript and an X10 system providing this functionality on a need basis, then becoming a fabricated unit later for much more money :)
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Old December 20th, 2008, 04:33 AM   #108
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Rehi Cole,

Okay, I peeked at the second 10 minute segment. Again, the quality of the acting was your strong point, well choreographed with the script. The pacing also seemed to work well. The outdoor camera work would profit by matching it to the script as: establishment, wide over the shoulder, reverse, close OTS, close reverse, POV, cutaways, etc. At minute 18, you did a fine job with your camera action.

Good try on the intercut, although it needs to have a context. Perhaps you're familiar with Pudovkin's techniques::
1. Contrast - intercutting two radically different circumstances to exaggerate the drama of each circumstance
2. Parallelism - Intercutting two events that are simply happening at the same time, without drawing attention to their circumstances
3. Simultaneity - Intercutting events where one's outcome depends on the other, to increase the suspense (often with increasingly faster cross-cut edits to increase suspense and tension

At minute 16, we learn that your intercut is based on simultaneity. If possible, build up with a stronger thread so the audience can follow the context (or perhaps I forgot it from my prior viewing of the first 10 minutes).

Oddly, the contrast is a bit high when the camera is on the male - the medium shots of the female actor seem okay. I get the feeling the camera settings were changed between the actor's individual shoots.

The audio begins fine during the dialog sequence until about 13:30, then gets rough and apparently the audio/video editing gets out of sequence.

At minute 15, you're missing video footage that didn't render - don't we all loathe files spread over drives! Oh where, oh where did that A_7a_10 video go?

At minute 17, you had some nice lighting (especially the hairlighting/backlight and warmth) - great for that scene. Again, the audio was checkered with some tonal problems - hopefully you can mix in some ambient room tone.

So up to minute 20 I'm impressed by the acting - cudos. My sense is you've got a fair amount of effort ahead of you either with ADR or doing some reshoots. I'm beginning to see strengths in the story - with editing (flash jumps, etc), I'm sure you could put some necessary pizazz in the critical opening scene to fix the problem with the lengthy exposition sequence - we gotta keep developing our characters and the initial 5 minutes are critical.

Feel free to PM me if you'd like some specific feedback. I'm rooting for y'all! Perhaps we can link-up sometime (I'm in Petaluma).

Happy Trails, Michael
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Old December 21st, 2008, 05:38 PM   #109
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Wow, again, thanks for sitting through it (even in small doses ;) - perhaps I've just seen it way too much or been doing to much work on shorts to see it working. I've got better ways to start the piece to invest us in the main character more quickly (I don't think we currently care about him enough when the film starts). I'm going to pull the history reveals fforward and lead with them, they are much more tragic than just being introduced to the main character after those events in his morose, mourning funk.

Audio issues throughout, we had no clue what we were doing... we knew that the furry thing needed to be over the actor's head with access to the air being moved by the vocal chords. Some of the stuff we ended up reshooting to get better audio for the worst of it (reshoots now are out of the questions due to hair/schedule/age changes of the whole cast).

Missing clips will go away soon, I'm going to recapture the whole thing from tape again as I had captured in iMovie and moved into FCP later (never do this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - had to re-render every time I made a change in the edit due to the audio sample rate being different than what FCP would play in RT - PITA).

I'm going to be D/Ling the edit myself (it's downstairs on my edit station, not on my laptop) to compare your notes at the commented times. I'm really impressed that you're actually finding good stuff in there where I thought there were just learning moments for us all involved. Thanks for bringing a fresh set of eyes to the project.
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Old December 22nd, 2008, 04:14 PM   #110
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About the audio - a few months ago, I made a comment to a beginning filmmaker to think about getting an XL2 to do some of the interviews for his documentary and using the microphone on the camera rather than a boom. This suggestion was met with a fair amount of hostility. But having worked professionally in post for several years, one of the things I see repeatedly is that new filmmakers, shooting with a camera with a decent microphone, frequently fare far better than new fimmakers using a boom. A first time director, running a set for the first time (yes, I know 1st ADs run the set, but this director didn't have one), working with an inexperienced boom operator is asking for trouble. One of the most interesting films that we have ever cut - visually brilliant, great script, good performances - is having to spend almost of the cost of the film to repair the soundtrack because of terrible audio. Everyone has to be ADR'd and the wonderful live performances are lost. A camera with a good microphone would have allowed him to use probably half of what he shot. he still would have needed a boom and sound mixer for some of it.

Part of being a successful first time filmmaker is making choices to simplify some aspects of shooting. You don't need to run the set, in a sense, in the same way a big budget film is run. You have to maximize your opportunities for success and minimize your opportunities for flat out failure.

My computer is on it's last legs, and i can't watch videos on it anymore. Hopefully, my IT-employed son with be able to restore some of it's former vitality over Christmas vaction and I can take a peep at what you're doing. So far, it sounds like you've made good decisions, and have learned the right lessons. I look forward to seeing where this goes. I'm enjoying your posts a great deal.
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Old December 22nd, 2008, 06:25 PM   #111
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I said it before, and I'll say it until I'm green in the face: good audio makes a movie, bad audio kills it. I watch a lot of high school film/TV/video students, and even college students before they learn the right way, putting their great-quality mic on the camera! What happens when the actor is far away? What happens when the actor turns his or her head?

Ugh! Put the mic on a boom pole and get someone who's boomed more than once.

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Old December 22nd, 2008, 07:21 PM   #112
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We were using this project as a learning exercise (like most do with their first 8-9 shorts). The audio was recorded well with crappy equipment (mostly due to the fact that we hadn't tested it together). We learned, even the inexperienced boom hanger when we had him on set (often, just a mic stand - scheduling people w/ day jobs & families for 8 full weekends w/o pay is difficult)
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Old December 22nd, 2008, 07:35 PM   #113
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You're learning, and you're having fun doing it! My first student film stunk, but the last one or two were great (out of 5, I think), but we all had fun making the movies, no matter what.

I wanted my second film to look, visually, like Se7en, but I soon learned a student film shot with two lights and a professional and consumer HI-8 cameras don't look like a $40 million film!

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Old December 22nd, 2008, 10:15 PM   #114
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I work with the philosophy that I'm unwilling to work as if I'm working within my means ;)
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 03:01 PM   #115
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I work with the philosophy that I'm unwilling to work as if I'm working within my means ;)
Don't let investors hear you. Or the studio execs. Or the banks. ;-)


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