Friday, January 8, 2010

CG Animation at it's most real.

Forget Avatar, check out this Fully CG Animated video from this dude named Alex Roman. Not only is EVERYTHING in this video created by a computer, it's an amazing visual journey. It's power lies, I think, in the imagination of it's creator. This is a great world and well worth watching.

I've embedded the clip below but if you want to see it in HD, you can go here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How much of TV is fake?

You would assume that the massive, wide shot of the destruction following the black out in Flash Forward is fake. It even looks it. A lot of times it's obvious when things aren't real on television. The lack of budget and time to execute often result in poor special effects (Lost is a clear example of this, some of the worst sfx of any show out there) but you would probably be surprised to discover that a lot of seemingly small scenes, ones that seem really easy to shoot, are also done on green screen.

Stargate Studios has released a youtube montage of SFX shots for television shows, revealing when green screen is used. It's pretty cool. Check it out below:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Writing to Music

I write to music. Before I start writing I actually go through my iTunes and put together my own soundtrack, factoring into the tone and type of script I'm writing at the moment. I can't remember if I've always done it, when I was writing the shorts, but I know I remember doing it a lot on the thriller.

In that particular case, I pretty much had the score for The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum on repeat. I've always been a huge fan of movie scores, starting with The Rock back in 1996. I remember having putt-ing competitions with my brother and I would bet him that if I made this putt, he would buy me The Rock soundtrack. (Hey, 16 bucks was a lot of money for me at that age). I never did make those putts but I did get the soundtrack. Hans Zimmer's pounding music was awesome and fueled my own nocturnal, let's-pretend-we're-Navy-Seals adventures.

From there, I've just always had an interest in them. I've loved listening to them and see the movie playing in my head...but I digress. Point is, I have a lot of scores in my iTunes and scores are great to write to...unless you're writing a comedy. Then you need to bust out some rock...classic rock...preferably from the 80s. Which is what we did for Glory Days.

Actually, what happened was that Travis and I would talk to my best friend and former roommate Chris about football. He played in high school and so he knew quite a bit about it. Obviously, he knew the idea and the story, and being a music fan himself, actually put together a soundtrack for us.

A modified it quite a bit over the last couple years as we've rewritten. Since our last two scripts have been comedies as well the soundtrack essentially carried over. It's features a lot of Journey, AC/DC, Survivor, Van Halen...those great bands from the 80s. (Nothing quite like Thunderstruck to put you in the comedy mood.)

I prefer writing to music though it only works when both sides of a partnership are writing, writing and not writing together. Since we're now into rewriting the sound track will have to be put away for a bit.

I'm getting a little sick of the songs anyway...maybe someday I'll get back to the scores.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Writing Process: Part 3

As you know, Travis and I turned in the first draft of our new script to the producer just before break. Because it's looking like he wants to take it out sometime in January we had set that deadline for ourselves in order to come back from break ready to be rewriting. It would give us time to recoup from the ridiculous writing schedule we had and a chance to get away from the script for two weeks. We also wanted to show that we could write fast and write well, even if it was a first draft. We wanted it to be funny and a solid blueprint -- we did not set out to write a perfect first draft.

While I was in New York, I had lunch at P.J. Clark's with my friend Voltaire (who is actually from LA, we both just happened to be in New York) and I was talking about the writing process. I felt that one of the reasons Travis and I have been able to consistently write very fast first drafts was that we don't really censor or think much about what we're putting down. Obviously we're not writing drivel or stuff that doesn't make sense, we just don't think to hard about what we're putting on the page.

We've done a lot of the story and character work with all the prep. For us, it's a matter of getting as much as we can down on the page. Whether what we write ends up in the final draft or simply acts as a placeholder, the point is to get something down that we can later go back and rewrite.

I thrive during the rewriting process. It's very easy for me to take a line and using that as a base, come up with a better one. Reading a bad scene gives me ideas for a good scene. It's a little hard for me to look at a script and decide what to cut (I think Travis is a little better at that) but when I know what we're changing, I'm usually pretty good at coming up with what to change it to.

I feel a lot of writers will take the time to make sure each scene/line/word is perfect on their first draft, and that may work for them, but I would rather get something down, the framework for the script, dialogue, etc and see where it goes, then go back and fine tune it. It certainly helps when you're under a deadline and when you're working with a producer, who's going to have notes regardless of whether you think the script it perfect.

So, speaking of notes, we had a notes call with our producer on December 23rd. In the email setting up the call, we were told we had "done a great job, that there was a lot of funny stuff in there, and it was the fastest first draft they had ever received." Travis and I felt pretty good about that.

Look, we had no illusions about this draft not needing a major rewrite. We had our own list of notes and changes and things we missed in this draft. The point was to get something that hit all the beats, developed the characters and story through the visuals and dialogue. Our story is stolid, we knew that going into the writing, so while it's not a page 1 rewrite there are significant changes that need to be made.

So, on Wednesday, we got on the call with our producer and went through it. Knowing that there was a lot of big stuff to adjust and change we didn't really go through line by line. For this particular rewrite it's best to focus on the bigger things. Whether a line of dialogue worked or not wasn't a big concern, that can be changed later. We focused on the story, characters, etc.

And it was a great call. It pretty much went as well as you can expect a notes call on a first draft can go. We all understand what this draft was (a "first assembly" as the producer called it) and knew where it needed to go. Travis and I both felt that all the notes were right on point. There was nothing we really objected to.

What I thought was really interesting about this round of notes was the fact that, this being our first development process with a producer (i.e. starting from scratch on a script and working with the producer from said scratch), neither Travis nor I really had any problems with the notes, even big ones.

Normally, we might find reservations about it, but nothing really with this. Now, I don't know if it's because of what we did on Glory Days or we just knew all the notes were right on, but I actually think that it has more to do with this having not started with us. We didn't come up with the idea. It's not totally ours. Our producer has a stake in it as well. While we'll be putting on stamp on it we haven't lived with this script for two years (like we have with our others), we haven't been through countless changes, etc. It's really about the fact that a producer pitched us and idea, wants to make it, make us successful in response, and that we want that to happen, so if we need to make changes we will. The changes we're making have come so quick that neither Travis nor I have even read it yet, so, oddly, I don't even know yet what I wouldn't want to change. Ha ha.

Now that we've received the notes and have had some time off from the script, Travis and I begin the task of rewriting and delivering a 2nd draft. I suspect that we'll just start going through it. Thankfully, our first act is pretty solid, we just need to switch around a few scenes, so we'll probably take the time to focus on that tonight and then get into the meet of it yesterday.

There's a part of me that is really excited to get back into it and there's another part of me that kind of wants to go home and watch The Wire on DVD (one of my Christmas gifts). Maybe there wasn't an advantage to having two weeks off...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Color Correcting 'Superhero' Music Video

Welcome back from break, everyone! I'm really looking forward to getting back into Hollywood Bound and Down and taking it to the next level this year. I have a good feeling, all around, about 2010, so I'm quite excited to see what it brings.

While I was in New York during the Christmas break, I had a coloring session for Tim Kubart's music video "Superhero." While there, I blogged about it, but didn't post it until today.



I’m sitting in an edit bay in New York City watching Color render out the corrected images from the music video for “Superhero” from Tim and the Space Cadets. (Remember that one, from October?) My colorist, James, is somewhere wrapping a Christmas present for his mother.

Anyway, since our due date wasn’t until January and James was slammed enough that the massive amount of money I’m paying him to color this video seemed like chump change (it actually is chump change, since I’m not, in fact, paying him a massive amount of money) I thought that, since I would be in New York for the Christmas break anyway, it’d be cool if I could just come in a supervise the coloring. That way I could 1) actually see what James is seeing and not try to judge the color on a computer monitor and 2) it’d go faster, as James could make color corrections on the spot. Plus, I enjoy going to the city but only if there’s a reason.

And it’s going well. James started work on it yesterday and we’re trying to finish it today. I have to say that, color, for me, if often a very integral part of telling the story. The power of color was something I discovered on 12:01 and then put it to really great use, in my opinion, on The Beautiful Lie. Color can really do a lot of things and is important part of the filmmaker’s toolbox (as is, focus, something I discovered, again, on 12:01 and put to better use on The Beautiful Lie, when I started using the Mini-25 adapters with cine-lenses).

However, I’ll admit that when I started working on “Superhero” I had no idea how I was going to use color and still didn’t when I shot it. The video for W&CK was somewhat subconscious as we utilized color for the little vignettes in the video and didn’t really put it all together until I was looking at the images in post, at which point, I went “Ah ha!” But with Superhero, I had no clue. It somewhat vexed me that we shot everything, performance included, at the same location with no lighting (except God’s, who granted us a diffused 20k for the day, free of charge) and we were shooting so fast that I wasn’t really concerned with it.

Then I got to editing and felt, while the video worked, it’d be nice to find someway to separate the two setups so that it didn’t feel like one location, even though it is. I was a little worried that it all mushed together.

And, through more discussions with James and Paul (the DP, remember?) we’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t want to do too much to separate the two, especially something unnatural, like having the performance we tinged blue and the kid be tinged orange.

So, really, James goal has now become to accentuate what’s already there and make it clean and pretty. And boy does it look pretty. Sadly, few will every see the video that I’m watching right now (unless, somewhere down the line Tim releases a Blu-ray version of it…hint, hint).

James just explained to me how he can change the color of Tim’s eyes, and only his eyes, and I didn’t understand a word of it. (Don’t worry, Tim, your eyes will look normal in the video.)

As a director, there’s no real trick to working with a colorist. A lot of it is just looking at the image and saying what you like or don’t like. As you sit there for long hours watching the images change little by little you begin to see what, I assume, James sees. You see how things look red or blue or green, how things are more contrasty or less contrasty, and then you begin to learn the language of how to collaborate and make it what you, as the director, need it to be. (I assume that this is the same as working with a composer, if you have no musical training.) The language of film is something that comes and goes, that is learned and must be re-learned every time you work on a new project. This is, perhaps, why certain directors like to shoot film after film after film. Like a foreign language, unless the skill is put to work, it atrophies. It never goes away completely, but it lays dormant until you use it again, when slowly but surely it comes back to you, like a dream upon waking.

And then it’s easy. Look at this, look at that, makes some tweaks and we’re out. Now, I’ve never color timed an entire film and can see how that would be a daunting task. Some movies these days can have upwards of 2000 shots! Going through those one by one requires patience and strength to get you through, what is arguably, somewhat boring days. As exciting as it is that you’re putting the movie together to truth of that matter is, most of your time is watching someone else do work (hence, my ability to write this blog and supervise coloring at the same time).

Nonetheless, it’s part of the job and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else right now.