Posts Tagged ‘post production’

Please use tape on the set for actors marks!

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009


We have a lot of people out there who are shooting a short format project (commercial, short film, wrap-arounds, interstitials, etc.) and decide to go to the set without a firm storyboard because they supposedly have it all mapped out in their head. Cool. But even if you think  you have it all mapped out, PLEASE use tape on the floor for the actors’ marks. I just came off of a short film project where everything on the set was perfect: amazing locations, superlative actors, very strong script, good production value all around. But the crew forgot one little thing… to mark the actors’ places on the floor with tape. Of course, that seems like a trivial issue, but it is kind of like saying the O-rings on the solid rocket booster of the space shuttle are just little rubber things that don’t need to be thoroughly tested or inspected. Does the Challenger ring any bells?

If it weren’t for the magic of post production and lots and lots of coffee, this short film would have been the film version of the Challenger accident.

Now, why is it so important to mark the actors’ spots with tape?

Let’s say you’re at the end of the shooting day and the script supervisor points out that some critical lines weren’t covered and  you have to go back to an earlier set up to pick up the lines again.

As smart and self-assured as everyone is on the set, there is always a discussion about where the actor was actually standing and exactly what was in the background. Also, and most importantly, which way was the actor looking in relation to the camera? In the case of the short film I was working on, they argued on the set for a while about where the actress was looking and then committed to shooting it… the wrong way!!  On all the crucial pick up shots, the actress was looking the wrong way in relation to the camera. In other words, it looked like she had “crossed the line” of screen direction and appeared to be speaking to the back of the other character’s head. Crap.  So after hours and hours of elaborate compositing and flopping backgrounds, i was able to make it look somewhat passable. This was a totally unnecessary problem.

So in the future here are a couple steps to take to avoid driving your post team absolutely insane:

1) Mark each actor’s spot with tape.

2) Write an identifiying number on the tape that has a corresponding number in a log book. Then write all the scene numbers and takes that were shot at that mark.

2) Mark the camera locations and do the same logging system.


3) Avoid the first two steps and shoot everything the camera sees with a still camera.

In short, save an editor. Use actor marks.

How to ruin your career and embarrass yourself in half a second flat!

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

Here’s something we encounter all the time, a major client with an insane deadline sends us a precious file of their motion picture to be laid off to BetaSP or Digibeta for use in a critical film festival screening where the audience includes top studio scouts and distributors.

At the screening, the lights dim, the projector fires up, and the film hits the silver screen with all its glory and charm. The distribution execs are cracking up at every joke and displaying the perfect body posture for the dramatic parts. The screening is going to be a hit… until… OH MY GOD! THERE’S SCRATCH DIALOGUE COMING FROM THE CHARACTERS’ MOUTHS! AND, WHERE DID THE MUSIC GO IN THAT SCENE? AAAAAK! A TEMP TITLE CARD THAT SAYS “SCENE MISSING”!

Poooof. There goes the distribution deal. There goes my life!! Anyone need a bartender out there?

But how could this have happened? The file was proofed and re-proofed and watched by several people. The film was perfect back in the online bay. And the file that was transferred for the screening was called “LOST IN PARADISE NEW FINAL VERSION REVISED”.

And therein lies the problem: The file name. The wrong file was used to make the transfer.

This is a dramatic illustration of the consequences of naming files without the use of a clear emnaming convention.

I don’t understand why so many actual professionals name there files things like:

Now when there are a bunch of discs floating around the office with various versions of these “FINAL” masters, it is really easy to see how things could go terribly wrong at the dub house when the incorrect file shows up for transfer.

For that matter, with everyone working from servers and hard drives all over the world, it’s super easy to see that a mis-named file in a folder could be mistaken for the correct one. In fact, people accidentally delete critical files all the time on their very own computer for this exact same reason.

So the trick is, ALWAYS NAME EVERY SINGLE FILE WITH A VALID NAME. Here are some excellent ideas to include in your name:

1) The date the file was made. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL! If there is no other info in the file name, you must use a DATE. With the real date in the file name, it is almost impossible to grab the wrong one since an actual date is so easily cross-referenced by invoices, production schedules, and other records of processes. Also, make the date read in reverse European-style syntax: YEAR/MONTH/DAY/TIME (military). That way, the date will always sort in perfect order and it will be crystal clear which file is the latest one.

Example: 2008_12_31_1325

2) The project name or abbreviation. “Lost in Paradise” becomes ”LIP”.

3) The status of the project, such as “RuffCut_No_Music” or “ColorCorrected_Master”

So your wonderful new, final, final, really truly master corrected revised file will end up looking like this:

Ain’t it a a beautiful thing? And if that file name is too long for a given purpose, you can still get by with:

God, that’s clean. MMMMMmmm. It’s delicious to behold and to archive. Oh, and by the way, you will be able to actually keep your job if you name files like this.