Blog, post production for film and video

Transformers flick does sound right

Honestly, unlike millions of you others I won’t be seeing Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen this weekend. But I enjoyed the technical achievements of the first movie, even if I didn’t care for the editing or storytelling. Pro Sound News has spent the whole last week detailing different aspects of the sound work on the new movie, with interviews from major players:

  • Part One: Mixing and Sound Editing: “This new movie features twice the action, and many, many more robots than the series opener, he continued. “In normal movies, there are two, three, even four set pieces. Eight years ago, one or two of those set pieces would have made this a big sound movie. We have several in each reel. It’s challenging.”
  • Part Two: Dialog Editing and Effects Processing: There was relatively little ADR in ROTF. “Michael doesn’t like using ADR; the majority of ADR will be for extra lines and line changes,” said Hopkins, adding, “I’ve got probably 30 or 40 ADR cues because of bad background noise.”
  • Part Three: Music/Effects/Dialog Mixing: “The music is really driving and the effects track is very detailed. Because you have this animation and special effects that you need to sell, sound is so powerful for doing that. It brings a sense of reality to it all and engages the audience into the whole story. Michael sees that; he sees how powerful it can be and how it can bring these animated things to life, and give them a sense of weight and power and character.”
  • Part Four: Connecting Sound to Picture: With so much mayhem onscreen, it was important for Van der Ryn and Aadahl to constantly strive for clarity and make some critical choices early on in the process regarding what remained in the mix. “If we were to not make choices until [the mix stage], it would be a wall of noise…Everything you hear connects to something on the screen, and if there’s anything that is muddying things up or washing things out, we do that in the editorial process.”
  • Part Five: Getting Effects to Sound Good: “When you have multiple sounds happening in a sequence, we really broaden the scope of frequencies so that things aren’t living in the same range. That separation is necessary for clarity, as well as panning things and rhythmically having things syncopate so that they aren’t stepping on each other. Even if you offset ever so slightly, it creates separation.”

That’s it for today; I’m crazy-busy finishing off a few projects right now.

Blog, business, post production for film and video

Star Trek rocks, brings in new FX workflow

I just got back from watching the new “reboot” of Star Trek. I really think J.J. Abrams hit it out of the park on this one. But that doesn’t surprise me: I have enjoyed parts of Lost, Alias, and his take on the Mission Impossible franchise.

What interested me was the seamless integration of really complex FX work. And when I read that JJ changed many FX shots after they were completed, I understood why the film flowed so well: he broke the cardinal rule of FX — plan so that you don’t have to re-do shots — so that he could tell a better story. But this created havoc in their production schedule, such that ILM had to create a new workflow. As Paul Kavanaugh describes it:

“I thought that we had to work as efficiently as possible or we would be spinning our wheels for a long time,” he says. “We needed to get multiple takes to J. J. quickly and get him to agree. So I combined layout and animation into one department for the show. I picked animators who had done cameras and layout artists keen to animate.”

Woohoo — a new workflow! What does this signify to me? As awesome as the “old” Hollywood studio system is, there is bloat and inefficiencies in the extreme specialization that occurs at every level of Hollywood movie-making. So ILM dumped it, in favor of speed — using animators who had operated a camera, or camera operators who wanted to work on animatics — and came up with a wonderfully fast, new way of doing FX work on a major motion picture.

And the proof is in the pudding: the film, story, acting, FX all flow together seamlessly. The reason people are liking this movie so much ($75 million at the box office on opening weekend!) is that, even though it is a sci-fi movie, story is at the heart. JJ gets it: tell a good story, and people will flock to the theater.

Good job. I like it when telling a great story compels people to think out of the box.

Blog, business, post production for film and video

More fun stuff being produced for commercials

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This Honda Insight commercial takes both in-camera and post/FX effects, and creates a very organic, dynamic spot that mirrors the ethos of the car.

Eric Treml, a cinematographer from Austria, accomplished this wonderful mini-film. In Studio Daily, Treml talks about film, lenses, and 20+ takes to accomplish what he wanted:

“The big challenge was how detailed each shot needed to be,” he continues. “Lining everything up was painstaking and time-consuming. We were chasing the light and there was only so much we could do considering that we often needed 30 takes. But the finished spot unfolds in a witty and delightful way.”

In a 30-second spot, every shot counts. And this little piece did a nice job of communicating the dynamic, communal, and fun aspects of this car. Nicely done!