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Sunday, June 24, 2012

••◊ Rolling Shutter from The Foundry

During my encampment with the 48 hour project we had a shot of a woman on a couch.  I wanted the overhead crane look, but we didn't have 30 minutes to setup a jib and get it dialed in.  This meant I was forced to go handheld, but I had done this before.  Essentially, I rigged my camera to my tripod and levered the tripod over the top of a ladder.  The bad thing about this setup is that after a few minutes the camera gets very, very heavy and sometimes my body will shake while trying to hold the weight.  I seriously thought about just telling Naran (actor) to hold that emotion for 15 seconds while I rest my arms.  For those less experience...yes, that's a bad idea.

Of course, using a CMOS sensor based DLSR camera means dealing with rolling shutter.  I could easily stabilize this shot in After Effects, but I was still left with the jello-cam artifacts from rolling shutter.  Stabilization alone doesn't work a lot of the time on DSLR footage.

Enter the "RollingShutter" plug-in for After Effect from The Foundry.  Using the plug-in I was able to decrease the jello shake to a relatively benign amount and keep the shot.  Notice that I didn't say "eliminate."  The parameters they provide are non-obvious, so I would probably have to own the plug-in and use it more often to become an expert. 

The really good thing is that this $300 (British pounds) is available as a 15 day trial, which worked for me.  The trial licensing is a pain in the arse (British spelling), but it worked after some futzing with their instructions.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

••◊ The 48 hour, again...

I really, really, really didn't want to do the 48 hour film project contest this year after last year's fiasco.  Last year I had to deal with lack of food, no first AD, a rewrite at 10pm on Saturday, and 13 company moves with an 8 page script!  I'll put it bluntly and just say it sucked.  The end result was something I'll never put on my demo reel.  We only had time for master wide, company move, master wide, company move...and so forth.

So here it comes around again and I tell everyone I don't want to do it.  Clarence and Joel (director on "Back to Life") form a team.  So I call up Clarence on Friday to wish him good luck and hopes he has fun.  Then he sends me a subtle "Clarence-message" of, "We can use you if you want to come."  I've been friends with Clarence for a few years so I knew this really translated to something along the lines of, "hey butt hole, I just flew myself up to Seattle to help you film YOUR documentary.  Get you ass down here and help us if you're my real friend."  ...roughly speaking.

So, yes, I was roped into another 48 hour disaster.  At least they drew the drama genre.  I would have been digging my finger nails into the sidewalk outside our location with people pulling on my feet, full human wheel barrow style, if it was comedy.  The story was written and mostly directed by Clarence.  It's about a women who overcomes domestic violence.

Below are some of the screen grabs from the video.  Some are color corrected, some aren't.

So...what was the result?  I ended up mostly doing the production audio, but that was left out due to the edit coming in too late.  No color grading either.  The music was shifted to the wrong spot because of last minute edits.  Also, the inexperienced camera op we had that day failed to mention things like gunk on the lens and the mic being in the shot (Duh!)

So now I'm helping Clarence edit this project into something watch-able.  It takes me further away from my bodybuilding documentary, but yes, I still owe him a favor or two.  The footage looks excellent so far.  The production audio is nice.  Hopefully we get to bump up the soundtrack to something kick-ass.

That's all for now.  We're back to the edit tonight.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

••◊ Planning a Documentary, part 2 (of 2)

Yes, I know...this is just a bunch of boring text, but it's what's on my mind lately.  I've already tried the cheap and easy way.  It didn't work and that approach just wasted a bunch of my time.  My blog is a collection of what's spinning in my mind at the moment, not necessarily a picture book.

So...on to part 2.  Part 1 took me up to the point of doing the filming, which I consider the first 10% of the work.  Honestly, the remaining 90% is the hardest because it's just pure, unglamourous, frustrating, time consuming work.  This process is what tests if you really want to make a film or just talk about making a film.  Once I have the footage, these are the cliff notes of my working process.

  1. Transcribe all the interviews into an Excel spreadsheet.  The rows are classified by the video file name and the question being answered.  If more than one person is being interviewed I'll write the transcription like a script, identifying the speaker.  I might even highlight a phrase I find particularly interesting so it's easy to find later.
  2. Take a week off to think about what I just witnessed.  This is my time to really think about what the interviewee was trying to tell me.  With camera lights blinking, audio meters flashing, and clock arms spinning you don't get to do this during an interview session that lasts hours.  I rarely do 10 o'clock news type interviews.
  3. Write an outline.  This comes from thinking about the interview and what was *most* important.  To me, it's important not to waste a viewers time on filler conversion.  Skip to the compelling parts and bigger picture...and fast.  It's what keeps the piece moving.
  4. Start the edit.  This is a different process every time, dependent on what I'm editing.