Friday, October 28, 2005


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.


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.


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!


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


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.