Archive for May, 2009

Goofs In The Credits? Don’t Wreck Your Film!

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

I know, I know, this is a blog about post production problems, not necessarily about a film’s content. But content is king and I have seen more than a few times when bad judgment on content bleeds into the post sessions to wreck a film and unnecessarily break the budget.

Many times, I see indie filmmakers(of both shorts) and features fall into the trap of being so in love with their footage in the cutting room, that they just HAVE to put all the outtakes in the end credits. Ok, this is a bad, bad, bad, idea… unless your film is of the Will Farrell variety.

Here’s an example. I recently worked on this extremely powerful project about a woman’s struggle to tell authorities about being raped. It was a well-written and smart drama that had all the elements of a successful film festival hit. Cool.

But the director just could not bear the idea of leaving out the “hilarious” out-takes during the credit sequence.  Yeah, hilarious. This huge drama unfolds on screen and we are thinking the film is brilliant and moving… until the credits roll and we see all the gaffs and f-words that were supposed to be left on the proverbial cutting room floor (actually, these days there is no “cutting room floor”, just a delete button.)

Why would this director ruin my experience by making me sit through the absolute cliché of cliché bloopers. Everybody knows these bloopers and even if it’s Tom Cruise falling on a banana peel or Gweneth Paltrow having trouble yielding her whip in the dominatrix scene from Iron Man 2, it really isn’t funny or cute.

But after a filmmaker works so hard to achieve a certain tone, why torpedo it with a lame bit of outtakes that ruin the whole mood that was masterfully created by the film?

Whenever I see those bullshit outtakes, I see amateurs at work. People, outtakes are not funny. But what is funny is how the director’s credit card was declined for the EXACT amount of hours that were billed for making these hilarious outtakes. No joke. We spent about 4.5 hours making the most “knee-slappingly funny” credit sequence, using all kinds of software like After Effects and Photoshop. And when the bill was totaled, her card was past its limit for that exact amount. We held the master until she called in for reinforcements to help fund the genius credit sequence.

I’m only this bitter because I was really enjoying the movie. But I felt like an idiot for liking it once the underbelly of outtakes ripped the film out from under me.

And looking back, it is always the first time filmmakers and amateurs who love these bloopers. Like I said, if you are going for a Will Farrell tone for the whole movie, then knock yourself out in the credits with some crazy fart outtakes. Otherwise, rape just isn’t that funny.

DEAR GOD, MAN! Auto-Exposure From Hell !!

Friday, May 1st, 2009

So I’m eagerly awaiting the delivery of these “ultra important” HDV tapes that are supposed to becoming for transfer. And right on time, the FedEx guy shows up with a box. I open the tapes, pop one in the deck and… it’s an interview with a high profile celebrity. The sound is perfect. The color is rich… but wait… what the…. OH NO! They shot the celebrity with the auto-exposure turned on. Say it ain’t so!

The tape looks wonderful, but every time the guy leans toward the camera or leans back (which seems to be about every five seconds because the guy is pretty animated) the exposure changes. He’s wearing a light shirt and the background is pretty dark. So when he leans forward, the entire image darkens by about 1/4 stop. Now, that may not seem like much, but 1/4 stop in HDV is like someone fired up an extra 2K softlight in the room. Then the guy leans back and everything goes back to “normal.”

The thing is, there is no way they are ever going to re-shoot this footage, so the only thing to do is fix it. Enter Kirk. A lot of you may have all kinds of ideas about how to solve this problem, but here’s the way I did it:

First I marked each transition where the picture density changed. It turned out to be 83 times across 4 tapes. (Most of the footage was of the brighter variety.) Then I measured the length of each transition. They ranged from about 2-14 frames.

Then I duplicated the sequence.

In sequence number one, I dissolved to black (actually it was emptiness) at each “bright” transition, then dissolved back up at the next transition. So I was left with a whole sequence of nothing but the “normal” footage in the timeline that kept dipping to nothingness (alpha channel).

In sequence two, I did the exact opposite, ending up with all the bright footage, dipping down to nothing at the transitions

Then, I took the “normal only” sequence and played with the density until it matched the look of the bright one.

Next, in After Effects, I composited the two sequences on top of each other, making it look like one long sequence of “bright” footage. I flattened it by nesting it in a new composition. Then I played with the density and contrast until the “bright” footage looked as normal as I could get it.

Then I laid it all back to HDV tapes to have a clean archive master of the adjusted dailies.

How did it look? By my eye, I could see the changes at each transistion. But that could have been because I was looking for and anticipating each change. The client was more than pleased with the adjusted footage. And in the end, when it was all cut together in an EPK, it was downconverted to digibeta and looked amazing. Nobody would ever be able to tell. The biggest shock about the adjusted footage was the producer’s face when I handed him the bill. But it was certainly cheaper than the alternative of not having the footage.

Today’s lesson: NEVER EVER shoot with auto-exposure on unless you are doing run and gun paparazzi work … or home videos.