Monday, December 19, 2005

Rain again...

Well, Sunday's shoot was rained out. Looks like it will be January before we can do it again what with all of the holidays and what-not in-between. The rain was actually very light and we probably could have done the shot with no issues. But, with Murphy on my side, I am sure that as soon as we got there and got set up it would have poured :)

As it turns out, it was probably best anyway as I spent a good part of Sunday writing up an offer for a house...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rebel without a crew

With apologies to RR...

We are set for our re-shoots on the 13th. My assistant camera cannot make it due to friends in from out of town. My second assistant cannot make it either so the crew will consist of myself, Nancy doing DP and Mike doing sound.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I just flu in from Denver...

Well, due to a bout with the flu that I am still dealing with, we had to postpone our re-shoot. I am hoping to do it the following Sunday the 13th.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Scene 1, Take 2

Well, looks like we are going to do our re-shoots of scene 1 on the 11th. In the mean time I have been focused on my next project - writing and re-writing. I hope to get The Aquarium done by the end of December in it's final form so we can have a premiere party with the crew.

Following that, I will start looking at festivals to submit the film to. Sunday's re-shoots should be easy - 2 shots. I will pare the crew down to just the essentials to keep things simple and fast.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Long, yet pleasantly gruelling Sunday re-shoots

Well, Sunday's re-shoots went well, I think. In the morning we re-did scene two's reactions shot on Notso Bryte followed by the opening shot on Notso. We then attempted to re-do the main shot for scene two but the sun was just not working in our favor and no matter how we setup the diffusers, it was just not going to work.

We broke for lunch and, since Melissa wanted to re-shoot the dolly shot at the end of scene two, we set about setting up the dolly and she spent about 90 minutes trying to get a decent 15' level dolly shot but it was clear we were not going to get that shot. I was happy with the original one anyway, so no loss there.

At this point, the sun was working in our favor so we broke the dolly setup down and setup to re-shoot the the main shot for scene two. We did 11 takes on this shot and the light was really prefect for us so I wanted a lot of takes on this so that I had a high level of confidence that I would get what I wanted out of this re-shoot. We did 2 more takes at the end where I had the actors just do an improv however they liked and that was fun. That had a pretty funny take on the scene.

Following that, we set up for the jump cut shots that I wanted on my tough guy Danny. So we got those down and Danny did a great 'ANGRY' face for those shots. following this we broke down and packed up. It was about 5:30 and we were all pretty beat. A number of us headed over to the E-bar in Simi to have a few drinks and unwind.

Today, I am very sore. When I got home last night about 8:30 I was beat and after bringing up about half of the gear from the cars, I was glad to lay down and get some sleep. Tonight I will capture off of the camera and sound recorder and see if we got anything better then what we had before.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Mudwompin fools

Well, Sunday is the first of the two re-shoots that we are doing. It's raining today so I suspect that the location will be mud-city on Sunday. Melinda had some reservations that we might not be able to improve on what we already have but my perspective is that it's a no loss situation. If we cannot improve on what we have then we go with what we have already. No blood, no foul :)

I have been working on trying to improve the credit crawl at the end of the film as well as reduce the 'jaggies' that I am seeing in the opening title sequence when I play back the film from DVD. So I am trying all kinds of hairbrained schemes to get all of that to look as good as I possibly can.

Melinda has been working on color correction as we see too much red in the film when we play it on TV. There was a bit of a struggle to get FCP and it's adjunct DVD burner software to output to a DVD-RW but she overcame that and was burning away last night and running her tests.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The light at the end of the wave

Ahhhhh, the challenge of Premiere. Well no one on any of the message boards that I frequent was able to explain why Premiere was not showing my starburst until I loaded up a TIFF file sequence...Not surprising since Lightwave is not a mainstream application.

So I played around with this some more last night and found that a .MOV uncompressed file worked well and showed the starburst nicely. So I eliminated the TIFF sequence (it took Premiere a hella long time to load the project with 165 1440x1080 TIFF frames) and replaced it with the .MOV file and that seems to work well.

I also replaced the the opening title for the film with .MOV just for consistancy. Additionally, I was having issues with the end titles when displayed on the TV. On the computer they looked just fine. To fix this, I changed the typeface to Arial Bold (sans serif) and made the text yellow. This corrected the issue nicely but I did not like the look of the text anymore.

So last night I removed the yellow color and changed it to 80% white (so that it falls within NTSC broadcast specifications) and removed the bold attribute. After that, the text looked great! And no more nasty yellow!

In the production Company logo sequence I had a serif typeface that had some issues on certain displays as well so I replaced that last night with a sans-serif typeface and while I don't think it looks as 'cool' as the old one, it looks much better on all of the displays that I tested it on.

I burned a number of test DVDs and checked them on our HDTV. I was right up by the screen to kind of scrutinize it. Also because when I would come out of the office to the living room I still had my computer glasses on :) Nancy was at a normal viewing distance and said it looked great but I was seeing motion artifacts being up close to the TV. I will check it again tonight at a normal viewing distance and see if I am just being too anal.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Man with trailer in tow EXPOSED!

Did some work on the opening animation sequence for the film last night. I use Lightwave 3D for this ( http://www.lightwave3d.com ) and at one point in the animation I have a starburst. Now when I would bring the uncompressed AVI file into Premiere, it would look great except that the starburst would never show up. Everything else would be just fine, but the starburst was missing.

So I loaded the animation into Media Player 9 and let it chug on it (the file is 1GB uncompressed and MP9 was having a time trying to show it). Sure enough, there was my star burst in all of it's glory. Yet Premiere would not display it nor would it show up in my rendered output.

So I went back to Lightwave and told it to render the animation as a sequence of TIFF frame files. Once it was done with this, I looked at the files and noted that frame number 136 had the starburst at it's zenith.

I loaded the sequence into Premiere in a test project. However, Premiere decided that each frame that I brought into the timeline was going to be 150 frames in length. So after a bit of sniffing around I finally broke down and looked at the help, found the setting and corrected it.

Once all of that was done, the frame sequence worked perfect. My starburst was there in all of it's glory. Why Premiere would not recognize it from an uncompressed AVI file, I have NO idea. Following that I spent some time tweaking the timing of the starburst in the animation as I was not happy with how it's timing worked with the opening theme. It's closer to what I want now but not perfect. More tweaking tonight :)

I also re-rendered the title sequence out of Lightwave and re-set the pixel aspect ratio to 1.33:1 so that it would match the 16:9 aspect ratio of the high def footage that the film is comprised of. I had been using the default 1:1 pixel aspect ratio so when I would tell Premier to render the film out to a WM9 file or a DVD, there was some anamorphic stretch on the image. All fixed now :)

I recently attempted to write the rough cut back to HDV tape so that I could actually watch this thing in High-Def on my TV. After my first attempt at this failed and scouring the manual for the camera and Premiere and posting on a few message boards, the conclusion that people were giving me was that this was not supported in Premiere 1.5.1.

However, Bill Pryor over at DV Freelancer suggested putting the camera into deck mode instead of record mode and that worked like a champ! Thanks, Bill! After that I was able to watch the rough cut in High Def and it was outstanding!

Tonight, after I tweak the starburst some more, I am going to start work on a trailer for the film. I dont plan to use any of the footage from the film. I will use 2 stills - One of Mikos and another of Dave - But none of the tough guy. Going to play the film up like it's some kind of violent suspense thriller in a totally cliche Hollywood trailer way. It should be good fun.

I am also going to put together some notes for some behind the scenes footage that should be pretty funny - Going to have a couple of the crew talking about an on-set conspiracy and who the suspects are and that kind of thing. Should be fun :)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Once more, with feeling...

Well, we are scheduled to do a partial re-shoot on the 13th. All of the crew and the actors for scene 2 are in and we are hoping for a nice overcast day to work in our favor. Going to get to the location at 10 AM and we should be able to get it all done by noon.

Mikos Zavros ( http://www.mikoszavros.com ) is the actor for scene one and will not be available until December as he is headed to Hawaii and Japan for the month of November. We will do the scene 1 re-shoots in December with Mikos when he is back after his travels.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mum's the word

Well, looks like we have everyone in for the re-shoot except for one of the actors. Aparently, mums the word with my actor that played the intellectual. If I don't hear back from him soon, I will just re-shoot the other parts and go with what I have with him in it.

We are waiting for the weather to turn a bit here. A nice overcast day will be our goal as the light tends to be much easier to handle then when it's blazing hot and sunny (as it is most of the time here).

I have cut together all of the existing footage and added the titles. I am having an issue with the text quality on the credit crawl at the end when I play it back from DVD on the TV in 480p. But, I am hammering away on it and I will beat it!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Re-shoots

Looks like we are going to re-shoot a couple of the shots. So we are in the planning phase for that at the moment. A new shotlist is ready and we should be able to re-shoot in about 2 weeks or so. We are looking for overcast to match the existing footage.

I am going through the sound and setting up a base soundtrack with dialog and effects this weekend. While the rough cut was well received, there is a lot of fine tuning to do on this.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Full rough cut and some audience tests...

Well, I did a rough cut of the film and put temporary music and FX into it. Even with the shots that I want to re-do, it seemed to flow very nicely. Yesterday, I had about 10 different people watch the rough cut and the reaction was very very positive. Interesting that all of the flaws that I see in it none of the viewers see.

Nancy is starting to cut together a rough cut on Final Cut Pro so we will see how that comes out. I always seem to have problems getting nice output quality and a small file. The rough cut that I have been using is about 51MB in quicktime format.

I will probably try to make a WM9 version of it tonight just to see how that fares.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Thanks to Everyone!!

MANY thanks to everyone who helped with our first short!! - David Evans for stepping in at the last minute to be Sparky; Mikos Zavros for playing Brent; Danny Mourning for playing Paul. And the crew - Mike Mahoney (boom operator and sound); Leika Nakamura (1st Asst. Camera); Thu-Ha Nguyen (2nd Asst. Camera); Randy Green (Script supervisor); and the grips: Jim Heffington; Mark Urun; K.C. Phillips and Joe McGee. Joe also took behind-the-scenes photos (and so did Leika and Mark). And a special thanks to Mika Nakamura for watching her baby brother (Cooper) so her parents (Jim and Leika) could help us out.

Nance (Melinda Keyes)

Post: Take 1

I made a rough cut of the film last night using temp music. After discussing the results with Nancy and viewing it on the TV, it's clear we need to re-do 4 of the shots. Additionally, the missing footage for the jump cuts will make a huge difference.

I am going to have a few folks watch the rough cut to gauge reaction and timing for this thing. I have to say though, when I added the reaction music to the end of the film it actually made me laugh which is saying something since I know this silly thing inside and out.

On a related note, the Z1U's shot transition feature is a godsend. The ability to have it manage focus and zoom while doing the pull out shots on the book and the tracking shot on the tough guy precludes the need for a focus puller as well as for managing the zoom.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Older and wiser. OK, mebbe just older.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Being prepared and having the day planned out in great gory detail paid off in spades. Since there was no ambiguity about what needed to be done we were able to just move from setup to setup very quickly. I think this had a positive effect on morale as everyone seemed to have a good time and god knows, I was laughing with the crew throughout the day.
  2. Use deeper focus on 2 shots. Because the depth of field is so narrow when the lens is wide open, the actors in a 2-shot were able to go in and out of focus as they moved with regular body language.
  3. Have a stand-in for each actor if possible. Our lead actor's absence seriously slowed the day down while we waited in vain after shooting around him.

I am sure I will have a lot more lessons to be learned as I move through post production.

Last night I did a rough cut of the first scene. It needs color correction and some other tweaking as well. The initial shot has some focus issues as the depth of field with the lens pretty much wide open was far too narrow to keep the two actors in proper focus. I will know better tonight after I render it out and look at it on the regular TV set. Lighting wise, the opening shot re-framed to eliminate a lot of the background looks much better then the previous tests.

In putting together the rough cut, I assembled the edits and then dropped in the 3 sound clips from the digital recorder and synched them up using the on-camera's sound. When I ran the first test and got to hear the sound, I was aghast. It was filled with hiss and wind noise and all kinds of garbage and as soon as I heard it I knew it was not usable.

Then I noticed that I had reversed the mute settings for the audio tracks so I was hearing only the on-camera sound instead of what I had recorded. Once that was corrected, the sound was beautiful. Excellent quality on-set dialog was recorded that has VERY low hiss. In one shot that was the best of 5 takes that I want to use, I could hear an airplane flying over clear as day in the on-camera sound. In the digital dialog recording you can barely hear it in the background so I suspect that I will leave it in since it does not detract from the dialog and lends an added touch of realism.

There is a deliberate continuity error in the film. We will see how many catch it :)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sunday, bloody Sunday

Well, we made it through our production day. It was an interesting ride. What did I learn?

Well, we were 100 percent prepared. Could not have been more prepared. All of the rehearsals clearly paid off.

However, our lead actor could not make it. He had a call back to do some matching shot on another film that he was working. He was supposed to be about an hour late. But, filmmaking being what it is, he was never able to show up.

We got to the location at about 9:15 and we had set a 10:00 call for this so we were able to get everything setup before the crew arrived. We shot what we could without the lead actor and then waited hoping the lead would show up.

One of the crew (who was, clearly, as bored as I was) suggested one of the other crewmembers play the lead. So, with nothing left to lose, we went for it and it turned out great! He did a great job and fit the role well.

So, other then our lead actor not showing up, we did well I think. The crew did a stellar job as did the actors. Overall, I think we were prepared and ready for this shoot.

More later...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

But wait! There's less!

Well, Tomorrow is the day for the shoot. Yesterday we went over to the location to rehearse with our "Tough guy" since he was unable to make the previous rehearsal. Since he is involved in the 2 most complicated shots in the film, we wanted to get some time with him and work through the shots.

The ending shot of the film is what we spent the most time rehearsing and the setup time to get the dolly setup just right took about 2 hours. So, in the interest of expediting tomorrow's shoot, we decided to do that shot yesterday and use the best of about 8 takes. And we did indeed get a take that I think will do the trick. Since there is only music on that shot, sound was not an issue for us.

So, that's one LESS shot we have to do tomorrow :)

We had to deal with a lot of mud yesterday as the location has been rained on and no real hot sun to speak of to dry it out so I will be wearing my hip-waders on Sunday I think. We have 2 or 3 other dolly shots for tomorrow but they are simple ones - The one we did yesterday used 15' of dolly track and was a bit of a pain to deal with.

The new mic cable that I had custom built for this was supposed to be here yesterday by noon. But alas, it arrived too late so I will pick them up today and test today. Pretty much today is burned by prep stuff for tomorrow.

UPDATE:

Well I got the new cables and they both work perfectly. So that is all taken care of. Everything is loaded up, charged up and we are ready to go. I hope :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Throw your hands up and SHOUT

OK, while this is not directly related to what we are doing, it is a pretty incredible thing. I think this product alone spells the death of DAT for field recording:

Tascam HD-P2

The main points here are:

  • 44.1kHz to 192kHz recording resolution at 16- or 24-bit
  • Time-stamped Broadcast WAVE file format
  • Retake button - re-do the last recording with a single button press
  • Audio files continually re-saved to CF on the fly
  • XLR mic inputs feature phantom power
  • Unbalanced stereo RCA I/O
  • S/PDIF digital I/O
  • Built-in mono microphone and speaker
  • Analog level controls
  • FireWire interface so you can instantly pull the files from CF to a computer
  • SMPTE/LTC timecode via XLR jack
  • Timestamps Broadcast WAVE recordings from SMPTE input
  • Chase locks to incoming SMPTE timecode
  • Video clock input resolves to house clock
  • Pull-up and Pull-down sample rates (for the odd video format situation)
  • Runs on (8) readily available AA batteries or DC power adapter
  • Approximately 5.5 hours of operating time on battery power
All this for < $1000.

WOW.

Anyone interested in a slightly used Edirol R-1?

:)

Monday, October 17, 2005

It never rains in California

But boy, don't they warn ya, it pours. Man, it pours...

Thunder. Lightning. A roar of rain as it hits the roof here and visability about 100 yards right now. It's supposed to do this in Jan/Feb, not October...Ahh well, good thing I dont have any running around to do tonight as Nancy and I did our last minute film related shopping last night. We picked up the last bit of PVC that we need to make the scrim frame with and cut it to size in the parking lot of Home Depot. last night.

We still have C-stands to pick up for this but we can get them Wed night when the rain stops. Or is predicted to stop. The prediction for Sunday is sunny and a Balmy 72 degrees. But I have seen that go from a prediction of 85 on Monday to 68 and raining by Wed. so we are thinking positive thoughts and hope that this Sunday we have good weather.

A little cloudy would be good as it would help knock down the blown out BGs and we could minimize our use of the scrims. Nancy bought a case for her new Linux server that she has put together by cobbling various and sundry parts that we have around the house. She has had it set up on a board in the office with the bare MB and power supply sitting there so the case is a good thing that will give us back some badly needed room in the office.

We also picked up drive-drawers for our machines at home so in the event of an earthquake / fire / whatever, we can quickly grab the hard drives out of our machines as we make our hasty exit.

We are hoping for good weather on Friday as well as we are headed back to the location to rehearse with our "tough guy" actor. We will test out the new scrim, setup 15ft of dolly track to extend the effect of the "Hitchcock" shot that we are doing and test out the new mic cables that I had made which should be here by Wed.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The fabric of film

Well, initial tests with the fabric appear to indicate that this will be much more effective then the screen was that we initially tested with. Nancy is going to hem the edges of it so that the PVC can just slide into the edges of the fabric diffuser. This should be a much more robust mounting method for light wind situations such as we occasionally see at the park. The previous elastic on the corners was not quite as secure.

Yesterday it was about 105 in Woodland Hills. Saturday's high is supposed to be 68. Just amazing heh heh. So far we are on track with getting everyone (except for our tough guy) on location for the 23rd and the weather prediction is a balmy 74 for that day so we are keeping our fingers crossed that it will hold.

After looking for a new cable for the mic, I finally gave up and ordered a custom one to be made (2 actually). Aparently, I am the only person on this planet that has had a need for an 18' cable that has a female mono 1/4" jack on one end and a 1/8" stereo plug on the other... They are scheduled to be delivered in the middle of next week. I have a contingency jury rigged cable in the wings just in case though :)

We are going to see if we can get a new tough guy since the existing one has a schedule conflict with the shoot. We have a potential one lined up and my hopes are high for it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Weather or not we shoot on Sunday

Well, I have been dilligently watching the weather forcasts for Sunday. Yesterday it said a high of 84. Today it says rain. Now, watch, by Friday it will say 115 in the shade.

Remind me to never shoot an outdoor location again!

UPDATE: Well, it's official. We cannot shoot on Sunday because of rain. So we are attempting to re-schedule for the 23rd. So, providing that it does not rain on that day AND everyone can make the date, we will be back on track. So cross your fingers and your eyes for us!

Week of the frenzy!

Well, with Sunday being our production shoot, we are pretty busy in final prep mode. Last night we completely re-vamped the shot list correcting the errors that we found on it last Sunday and re-arranging the shot order to better facilitate the lighting that nature has so graciously provided us on our outdoor location.

The stupid AC is out in our apartment so my desire to work on a rough cut from the rehearsal last night was minimized at best, but I did get a chance to tweak it a little bit :) I think it's going to be a real hoot.

We went to a fabric store last night and bought some sheer black fabric that we are going to try to use to knock down some of the blown out background. You can see an example of what we are dealing with here:




That is one of our crew, KC, sitting on one of the 2 benches that we are using for the shoot. Tonight we are going to head over to a local park and test the fabric. Nancy is going to set it up so that it slides onto PVC pipes so we can set up a little frame/holder for it.

In other news, some of you may know that I am an HD advocate (what a shock!). There is a great interview with the owner of HD net over at HD beat. You can read it here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Like a virgi...errr moron...

Well, we did the full crew rehersal yesterday and it went REALLY well. We were able to test out the new shots and it's all working a LOT better I think. We had some of the crew folks double for the actors and did our blocking and shot every setup. It took about 3 hours total to do them all so we are figuring on about 5 hours total with lunch and re-takes.

Now, what does that title mean? It means I am a moron since I replaced the mic cable and did not test it out before we went and sure enough, it failed. So we had no double sound for the rehersal so I am going to find out what is wrong with it today and correct the issue.

I did a rough cut of all of the setups today in Premiere and it looks like it will run right around 3 minutes total. We actually got the Hitchcock shot done and while I need to dolly for 15 feet instead of 10, I think it works very well!

UPDATE:

Well, it turns out that the cable for the recorder is not bad per-se, but is just the wrong type. It appears to have an impedance matching issue with the recorder. So it looks like I will resort to my old jury rigged cable since I figured out what the issue was with that cable. We also re-did the carry mount for the recorder so that our sound guy will have a much easier time of working with the recorder.

We still have issues with blown-out backgrounds and Nancy and I are going to work on that this week. Yesterday, after I did a rough cut of the film, I did another re-cut of it and it was looking much better then the first shot. We are going to add 2 jump cuts to the reaction shot at the end of the film to punch it up a little.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bad picture quality EXPOSED!

Well, I took tomorrow off so that we can head over to the location and seriously document the exposure settings for the different times of day, mark the areas that we will need to use the reflectors and the silks. Run some tests between the two different spots in the location that we will be shooting and explore the possability of narrowing it all down to one spot.

Previous tests have had seriously blown out backgrounds. Last Sunday we did a test by putting some netting behind the set to cut down the light but it was not enough so we are bringing 2 more layers of netting to try out and get that background under control!

Going to pick up some rope and stakes today so we can better secure the PVC frame that holds up the netting. I finalized the poster for the film and you can see it on our home page. The photo in the background is a Garabaldi swimming in the California kelp beds that Nancy took when she was Scuba Diving a few years ago. I thought it was perfect for the poster :)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Countdown to extasy

Soooooo, I am on a conference call at work yesterday and they decide that they want me to work on the day of the shoot for the Aquarium. Needless to say, I was not agreeable to this :) - So I am going to train one of my peers to run the tests that I would have run on that Sunday so that my schedule is not impacted.

Sunday is the full crew rehearsal. I feel pretty good that it will be a good time. I have re-written the shots that used the crane to simplify them and, in the end, I think that they will be better shots that will be more aligned to the story. We have some more shopping to do for some small Sundry items.

I picked up the Gitzo G557C mic boom yesterday from EVS in Glendale. I was going to get it from B&H but since they are a Jewish company and Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New year) is all this week, I had to go to EVS. I will say that the folks at EVS are very nice and helpful. The prices are the same as B&H but I have to pay local sales tax.

The boom is 9' and 1.1lbs. Pretty decent and was not too expensive. I was able to mount the old mic shockmount from the old boom onto the new one once I figured out that I had to remove a threading adapter that the mount had on it. This setup should allow Mike, the sound guy, a lot more flexability in terms of where he can stand to boom each shot.

We decided that we will only use the dolly for one shot. This is the reaction shot at the end of the film where we will do a backwards dolly while zooming in to maintain the framing of the reaction shot which will make the background compress. In post I plan to ramp the timing of the shot slow to fast. Should make a decent effect.

Updated the shot list last night and then had Nancy go over it and add her notes to it (setup/lighting/camera settings etc) so unless I have another major change, the shot list should be finalized.

In unrealted news, Nancy got an e-mail from Roy's Hawaiian Fusion resturant yesterday saying that they are donating 100 percent of their profits for today's business to the Katrina recovery.

I like Roy's but I prefer the steaks at Ruth's Chris. Nancy looked at Ruth's Chris's site and what are they doing? They will sell you a "discounted" $75 bottle of wine and donate the profits to Katrina. This, I do NOT get. Ruth's Chris is FROM N'awlins! What the hell are they thinking?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Kah-CHING!

Well, the rehersal went very well today. The audio results were outstanding. Mike really did a great job with it and looking at the audio in Audition, the nominal level was -12db - Perfect :)

The dolly/crane stuff I am thinking about nuking because they will take a LOT of practice to master - Much more then we have time for on this shoot, so I am going to re-design the shots that use them. I will probably still try the Virtigo zoom/dolly shot at the end though.

Looks like I need a new cable for the mic as well as the connector at the recorder end of things was having issues. Additionally, I am thinking it might be good to get a longer boom for Mike to use as he was running up against the limits of the 6.5' boom that we have now.

Lots of revisions to the "Need to bring this to the set" list today and we will have a bit of shopping to do this week for a few various and sundry items.

Next Sunday - Full crew rehearsal!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Saturday, in the park, I think it was the 4th of July

OK, actually it’s Sunday in the park and I am seriously giving away my age with that old song quote heh heh.

Well, tomorrow is the last sound rehearsal before the full crew rehearsal on the 9th. I will be working with Mike, the sound dewd, on testing and setting levels with the R1 as well as testing the ME66 out on location. Following that we are going to do a complete run through of all of the shots in the shot list to make sure we have the most efficient order of setups.

Additionally, we can check out the new part of the script that eliminates the dog. I will need some time between when the tough guy sits down and when I can mic the sound at the bench because of the way that shot tracks into the scene.

In other news, the fires seem to be under control for the most part. And it’s hotter then hell here today. 94 on the balcony and my Konfabulator Weather Widget says it’s supposed to be a high of 89. Tomorrow is supposed to be a high of 82 so at the location we will probably have temps in the upper 70s which should be good.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Mike's McMic

Well I got the ME66 tonight. I was surprised the UPS guy even bothered to come here as the Topanga fire is about 3 miles from here. The sky is black with smoke and it looks like it's snowing outside from all of the ash falling. Here is a picture:


That is all smoke - The pic is from the Z1 taken from the roof just a while ago. It smells like a bonfire outside and smoke is hanging in the air like a fog.

Well, I ran a bunch of tests with the ME66 and A/B'd it with the ATR55. Ummm...wow - What a difference. MUCH hotter mic. On the test I linked here, the first part is the ME66 with the input level of the R1 about 1/5th of the way on. In the second part, the R1's input level is at max. For both tests, the mic is held at the same location relative to me in the room.

Test MP3

MUCH better!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dog days

Well, it looks like my friend with the "kick" dog that we were going to use is not going to be able to accomodate us (I think it will be busy flying through some goalposts somewhere that day *cackle*). So, it looks like a small re-write is in order to handle the dog situation. I will be writing the dog OUT of the film since we are at the 11th hour here on this and I don't have time to secure a new mutt.

We will block out a new idea to overcome the lack of the flea-bitten mongrel on the set this Sunday. I think I have a decent idea to make it work without the mutt. Additionally, the lack of mutt here will actually make the logistics of the shoot much simpler so this is probably a blessing in disguise. As they say, a Director's job is problem solving :)

UPDATE: Well, the original dolly FINALLY showed up at the house today. I guess for FedEx, next day air = 1 week. Nice... Well, it's now on it's way back to the vendor. He should see it in, oh say - about a month based on past performance here :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Mike, Mic and more rehersal

We are headed back to the location again this weekend to practice some of the camera moves again. Nancy and I have been discussing how to handle the second shot of scene 2 since it's a complex shot and needs a lot of rehersal. My buddy Mike will be there to continue his sound training along with Randy to lend a hand.

Bought a Sennheiser SEME66 ME66 - Short Shotgun mic today. This mic is renowned for it's sensitivity and is a much hotter mic then the AT-55 mic that I was trying to use with the R1. Additionally, the Sennheiser supports balanced operation and can be used directly with the camera. An added bonus is that the camera will supply the 48v phantom power to the mic.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Eh? Can ya speak up sonny? And get that damn camera out of my face!

Well, we spent a good 3 hours on location yesterday running through the tougher setups. I was apprehensive about the last shot in the film since it requires a combination of dollying / booming / zooming / panning to pull it off, but Nancy figured out how to get it down and nailed it. Considering she has only had the dolly/crane setup for about 3 days, she did a killer job with the rig.

My sound guy is now trained and understands what to do and we rehearsed about 20 times, got him to set his frame line and hit his marks and repeat the frame line consistently.

It's clear to me though, that the mic is not sensitive enough. The audio that I get out of it is very quiet. I have to take it into the computer and boost the amplitude to make it usable, so I am going to research what I can do to get a hotter signal out of the mic.

In addition to that, I have to have the sensitivity on the recorder maxxed out and the monitor volume at max as well, so clearly a new microphone is in order here... (oy, says Nance. Another expense!)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Shopping!!! Oooooo! My favorite! or, prepping for the location tests.

Well, we finished all of the shopping last night. Got the weights for the crane, shims for the dolly track, netting mesh for the background diffuser, keepers for the cables on the crane and some very nice velcro strapping for the lead acid battery that the remote monitor uses.

The monitor turned out very nice mounting on the center of the crane and we mounted the lead acid battery back at the rear of the crane so it acts as part of the counterweight system. Picked up a cooler on wheels so we can have drinks on the set as well.

Most of the gear is packed up and ready for loading for today's tests and sound training. My buddy Mike will handle the sound for the shoot so I will train him on the use of the boom, setting a frame line, and aiming the mic for the dialog.

Just finished loading the crane into the car along with the dolly tracks. It's a tight fit in the ole Camry but I got it all in there.

Going to load up the rest of the gear and get ready to head out now. I'll post an update tomorrow on our results for todays setups and testing.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Cranes, planes and automobiles - And a couch.

Well, we setup the crane last night and determined that we can use it for The Aquarium without the extension. We will prove that out on Sunday when we test on location. It was quite a bit of work setting up the crane but once it was done, it was very very smooth and easy to use.

To set the counterweight, we first used the diving weights that Nancy had lying around and determined that 17 lbs was far too much. Since she had some 5 lb barbells, we put those into a zippered pillowcase and draped that over the back area of the crane. This turned out to be just slightly not enough.

So we tossed in a lead acid battery that the remote LCD monitor for the camera uses to add 1.5 lbs and a Makita battery charger to add another 1 lb for a total of 12.5 lbs. This was just slightly too much weight so we removed the Makita and I tossed in a book that I guessed was about 1/2 lb in weight and it balanced perfectly.

So tonight we will pick up 2 5lb weights and a few 1lb weights and we will be set with a balance of 12lbs to offset the Z1U camera. After that we ran some tests and adjusted the crane so that all of the pulleys and camera tilt adjustment were working smoothly. Once that was done we did some test shots around the apartment and the results were stunning.

Just as I had finished capturing the test footage into Premiere, the apartment building fire alarm went off. I looked out the window in the office and could see smoke billowing up from the parking lot. Turns out some idiot had put an old couch by the dumpsters in the misguided hope that by some magic, someone would take it away.

Well, the couch is gone now since some equally brilliant person decided to set fire to the couch. The end result was no one was hurt, no damage to anything except the couch and Nancy has a bunch of footage of the firefighters ripping the couch apart and extinguishing it that she took from the balcony.

Meanwhile, Nancy and I made the determination that for future shoots, we will need a vehicle that is better suited to hauling all of this crap. The crane weighs a ton and it's 6' in length without the extension so we will probably sell the Camry after this film and get some kind of mini-van or truck to hail the gear to sets/locations.

On the dolly front, Fed-Ex had NO clue where the dolly shipment was (which also included the mounting bracket for the LCD monitor on the crane) so she contacted the vendor and they were very helpful. They arranged to have a new dolly sent airfreight overnight to us (along with the bracket) so we should have it today so that we can do our tests at the location on Sunday with the full rig.

Oh, and FedEx did FINALLY figure out where the dolly is at. It's in Georgia. So it went from San Diego, to "somewhere in the twilight zone" and finally popped out of it's alternate reality into the wilds of Georgia. Sigh.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Challenge Du Jour: Shipping company retardation and other ramblings

We received the CobraCrane yesterday and we will set it up today to set the balance on it. We have some variable weight bags that use shot so we can adjust the counterweight on the camera using that and then weigh the counterweight bag and determine how much permanant weight to use on the crane.

We will have to re-balance the crane after we put the Micro35 onto the camera since it adds about 5 lbs. I might add a mattebox/follow focus at that time which will probably add another 5 lbs. The crane will support up to 25lbs so we will still be well below the limit. We will do that on the next short (Dr. Wu). We don't really need it for this shoot.

We received the dolly track on Tuesday but FedEx managed to lose the dolly itself. Supposedly it will arrive today. If that happens, we can shoot some tests with the combined crane/dolly setup that we need for 2 of the shots in The Aquarium.

Friday we will audition for the last role in the film and after that run over and buy the counterweight for the crane.

Sunday we will go to the location with the final camera / crane / dolly setup to rehearse the shots. At that time, I will be training my sound guy on the digital recorder, setting a frame line and managing the boom for dialog recording. Going to use one of Nancy's purses to hold the recorder itself since it provides no method for a shoulderstrap or anything of that nature. I hope it matches his shoes :) Should be fun!

UPDATE:

Looks like FedEx has actually lost the dolly - So the vendor is dealing with them and I have encouraged them to overnight me a new one and make FedEx eat the shipping on it.

Fed-Ex: When it absolutely, positively never needs to get there.

I think in the future, any junk that I need to get rid of I will just use Fed-Ex to ship it. Gauranteed to never see it again! OK, I'll stop now :)

Friday, September 16, 2005

The 3rd man: No, Harry Lime does not live here.

Well the auditions yielded 2 out of the 3 roles to be cast. The last role, the tough guy, was never cast so now I have to scramble to get this part cast. I have 2 guys lined up to audition for the role this weekend though and if looks are any indication, I think I have the perfect fit.

The shot list is finalized now and we will go through it on the pre-production meeting to validate what we are doing. Next weekend I will be training my sound guy on how to use the Edirol R-1 and how to boom a scene for dialog. We will do it at the location and simulate the scenes so that he can get a feel for doing this.

October 9th is our pre-production / crew rehersal and the 16th will be the principal photography day YAY!

I have been researching how to build a low cost 35mm lens adapter for the Z1U but so far no solution seems reasonable. I have not given up though.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Auditions done

Well, we held the auditions yesterday and had a blast doing it. Everyone loved the script which I had some apprehension that folks might not like it. Nancy and I will be reviewing the video of these today. We did a once over last night and saw some very promising stuff but we are going to review it in detail today and make our decisions for 2 of the roles.

We still do not have an actor for the tough guy role. We had a couple of auditions for that but nothing was even close to what we are looking for. So it looks like I will be putting up another advertisment for that role.

I really hope to be able to start principal photography by the end of the month. My 2 stumbling blocks will be the dog and Paul. But we keep plugging forward!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Auditions: make sure you get my good side.

Well, I have about 12 RSVPs to my invitations for the auditions. Going to hold them at a small theater that had the cheapest rates for a location for about 4 hours. The actors that applied look very promising. Only 3 roles to fill on this gig so I hope it's not too hard to isolate the right folks.

The auditions will be on the 11th. I will give an update on that. Nancy will be video taping the auditions and I will set up the double system for sound. Should be a fun day all in all.

Tomorrow or monday we are going over to the park to shoot some test footage and record test sound. I will post some stills of the park on here after we get back.

Location, location, location

Well we found the perfect location. After calling the city permit office they assured us that the permits are free for students. But the criteria is that it has to be a school sanctioned project so that is out.

They want about $500 for the location permit so I am going to have to go over there and schmooze them and plead poverty so that they can cut us a break I hope. If not, we will just have to find a new location.

Mike

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Who are we? Sorry, no existentialist explanations here.

B-Scene Films is the production company started by my wife Nancy and myself. She is a Director of Photography and I am a writer director.

We are currently in pre-production on our first short film "The Aquarium" which will begin principal photography at the end of September.

In the pipeline we have 3 more short films: Dr. Wu, The Rash and Private Paradise. All of the films average about 4 minutes in length except for Private Paradise which looks to be about 45 minutes.

Some of the tools we use are:

Apple Final Cut Pro Studio 5 HD
Premiere Pro 1.5.1 HD
After Effects
Various Discreet products

Sony Z1U HDV camcorder
EDIROL R1 digital recorder (double system)

Stay tuned for developments as they happen!