Thursday, October 26, 2017


It's here!
Let us not spoil this moment with words.

Ok, now let's spoil it with words, lots of words.

First of all -- I wanna say a huge THANK YOU to all involved.

This short has been a real gut-punch. So many things to do that I had never done before and so little time to do them in.
For example, just getting everything together in order to shoot this thing was a huge challenge.
The timeline on it went something like this -- 

March:  Start looking around for schools. Do storyboard and concepts.

April:  Found a school. Great! Wait for location release to be approved.

May:  Still not approved. But hey, don't let that stop you, start looking for a cast.

June 1st:  Ok, still not approved, but at least I've got a few kids in mind. This should be easy.

June 7th:  No word yet -- all potential actors want a shoot date so they know if they can do it. Only problem, I still don't know if I have a location.

June 9th:  Ok, just tell 'em a date and hope for the best... July 12th is still a month away, you'll be fine.

June 20th:  Finally got approval! This is great! Cool, this is finally gonna happen -- OH CRAP! I don't have a monster yet! (well I wasn't going to spend $300 making a monster until I knew I had a film, that would just be stupid. )


July 4th:  Just threw together a mold and an armature and tried to cast the foam -- but something's wrong with the foam! Must recast. Not enough foam! Must overnight foam latex from Georgia, $70!

July 6th: Finally got a decent cast, must patch-up seams, fix huge air bubbles, paint and test before shoot. Finally rehearsed with my lead actress. All kids' schedules are locked.

July 10th:  Last minute props.  Rental gear arrived. Test EVERYTHING. Just had a kid drop out. Gonna shoot myself in the face.

July 11th:  Get up early. Set-up location. Do light tests and see if all the shots I drew in the storyboard are even possible in this space which I'm just now able to fully survey, adjust accordingly.

And finally, on the day of the shoot, we had another kid drop out an hour before filming.

So that was a really long example, but necessary, I think, to better convey the chaos of the entire production.
Part two carried on like this -- 30 days to get a whole new cast and location together, one day to rehearse and one (8hr) day to shoot.

And now for a pie chart.

As you can see, the budget on this one was considerably larger than the last -- 'Bait' having only cost me $660.
As before, a pretty huge chunk of that went to rental supplies. 
I shot the whole film on a Sony A7s. And used two different lenses for the two parts of the story. For part one, I used a Sony/Zeiss 16-35 f/4 Zoom and part two used a Canon 18-55 kit
Using zooms allowed me to move extremely fast; not having to worry about changing lenses between shots.
And boy did I have to move fast.
I've already posted about the shoot schedules for each day, so I won't bore you with that info again. But the speed at which I needed to work was continually being undermined by the high shoot ratios that I kept incurring.
When you're acting as director, cinematographer, cam-op, lighting, and VFX supervisor, all at the same time -- and all without the aid of a field monitor -- it makes getting a decent take kinda tough. 

For the CPR manikin, we made 3 different heads:
The "Good Anne Head" which was made of Sculpey and styrofoam. And the "Evil Anne Head" cast in foam latex.

One "Evil Head" had an articulated mouth and the other was a lightweight 'stunt' version with a mouthpiece that enabled our actress to hold the prop in her mouth without a harness.

For most of the film, I tried to shoot on a tripod. But some shots required handheld and subsequent motion stabilizing.
One shot that broke this pattern was the lateral tracking shot toward the beginning. We didn't have the time or money to build a dolly like this, so we borrowed a hand truck from my uncle and mounted the tripod on that -- it worked beautifully! No post stabilization required.
So, to any of you no-budget filmmakers out there, keep that in mind; hand trucks are good for more than just toting Hannibal Lecter around.

Anyway, I'll be releasing a BTS video next week on all the sweet VFX that I did.

Till then, here are a few fun facts that I'll cover in more detail later: 

1) When working with kids, the phrase "don't look at the camera" is like telling a kitten
"don't jump on the counter."
So for some shots, I ended up cutting out their eyes and rotoscoping them
back into a new position away from the lens.

2) 9 out of every 10 shots has some type of visual effects in it.
Most of these are (hopefully) invisible effects. Like the 'eye thing.'
Sometimes it was as simple as adding dust or a vignette.
Other times it was as complicated as split-comping 2 different
takes together to get one performance.

3) The clock was fake. The real one on location didn't work, so I had to track 
and replace every shot where it was visible.

Ok everybody, that's all for now. See ya' next week with some cool stuff.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Post Production -- Finish Line In Reach

Good news to any who are hopefully keeping up with this project: I'm 95% done with the new short!
For the last couple months, I've been up to my eyeballs in editing, sound, VFX, and other random bits and pieces -- and now, it looks like it may just be nearing a close.
Now, let the record show that I'm definitely not the most organized person in the world.
In times past, I've been guilty of hastily labeling miscellaneous audio with such unintelligible monikers as:
"HorrorWSH For the Wldrness"

And my hands-down, no contest, all-time favorite:

Yes, I've actually named an important bit of foley, "Randomsound 1."

But lately, I've been trying very hard to be more organized.
I've watched tutorials on all the different things I didn't know about working in Premiere Pro (and took notes, except the notes were chicken scratch and stupid... but hey, wudda'yagonnado?).

I took the proper steps toward streamlining my workflow -- which up till this past year just looked like this:

Now, I know what you're thinking: He did all that and now he's cranking out films like a pro.
Well, let's just see what you think of what my timeline looks like right now.

WOW! Check that out. Look at all that organizational insanity!  Good thing I watched all those tutorials.

But really, despite how it looks, that's actually a rather decently laid out timeline. I've got all my adjustment layers in pink, sound fx are green, ambiance red, and music blue.  I've also color coded my video clips to tell me what is raw, what's been finished in AE, and what needs to be reworked for timing issues.
Oh my GAWD, it's soooooo organized!

(This gif cracks me up every time.)

Anyway, I've been very busy recording foley and trying to get a good mix.
As usual, I could only afford to rent professional equipment for a few days, so I tried to get as much good location audio as I could.  Unfortunately, as is the case with most wild takes, there were very few that I could actually use, so I've resorted to doing foley in my bedroom with my Tascam's built-in stereo mic.
And of course, trying to get clean sound using non-directional mics while living in the city -- that's a bad combo.
So my process for literally every clip (and unlike most "millennials" I do use literally when it's called for) has been to record, then drop into Audacity to boost gain, remove noise, and EQ. Then export uncompressed and mix in Premiere.

Of course, there's probably an easier way to deal with such big loads of audio -- probably a method involving Adobe Audition -- but I don't know how to use that program as of yet. Hopefully, when I'm finished with this production, I'll use some of my downtime to learn more programs.

So keep your eyes peeled for the new short. As it looks right now, I'll probably have it up in the next couple weeks (barring any issues or festival problems).