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, portfolio, post production for film and video, sound, Uncategorized

Panasonic P2 cards to come down in price

StudioDaily reports today that Panasonic is releasing a new, cheaper line of P2 memory cards for their video cameras. The P2 is a card, kinda like an SD or CompactFlash, but bigger. It does away with tapes in the production workflow, and, more importantly, can completely eliminate the “capture” process (where you have to play the tape back off of a deck to ingest the footage into the computer) — instead, you just dump the video files over from the P2 card onto the computer!

P2 cards originally were as expensive or more expensive than the cameras, making them prohibitively expensive. But with this new announcement, it looks like Panasonic is truly trying to carve out a niche for this technology. One of the cameras I am interested in is an HVX200, and the price-cut in P2 cards makes this option even more lucrative.

I wonder what will happen with Panasonic and Sony and Canon when Red releases its incredible Red Scarlet camera? It completely bypasses tapes or cards, and works direct to hard drive (I believe), and has a higher resolution than most of the current offerings.

So maybe there is a silver lining to not being able to buy a new camera just yet: there will be several new offerings by the time we are ready to acquire some new equipment…

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, portfolio, post production for film and video, sound

Buddy Zapata live music video: "Boat Ride"

Buddy Zapata is a good friend, a great collaborator, and one helluva musician. We took a few cameras over to Beantown in Sierra Madre, set up, and let Buddy play for a few hours. It was a magical evening. Not only have we filmed him, but

  • Hearken Creative built the Buddy Zapata website,
  • Mr. Zapata collaborated with Loren A. Roberts on The Fair Trade soundtrack, and
  • we’re now working on some new material for the upcoming Buddy Zapata album.

Pretty cool? Yes, but even more so when your business colleagues become some great friends in the process.

See more Buddy Zapata music clips here!

Blog, business, graphic design, portfolio, post production for film and video, sound, Uncategorized

Auto-Tune & Photoshop: embrace the march of progress

So I’m doing a lot more music recording these days. And one of my favorite tools is a wonderful little program called Auto-Tune, which, if used correctly, does exactly what its name implies: automatically pull a note that is out-of-tune back to perfect pitch. Let’s say there’s one note out of a whole phrase that’s a bit off-pitch: why re-record the whole verse for that one note? I just punch-in the plug for that one note, and we’re back in business. [TIME did an article on Auto-Tune, and the company has its own podcast mp3 so you can hear how the program works.]

I do the same thing with Photoshop a lot right now because I am now selling stock on iStockphoto. They need every photo submitted to be as close to perfect as possible, so I go in and “airbrush” all the little imperfections out, creating (hopefully) a more marketable/usable photo.

But I’m also conflicted. Overuse of Auto-Tune turns out lifeless vocals. And I love to “grunge” up my graphic design work, when the project calls for it. Imperfections are what make things human, and removing all of the human element isn’t always a good thing.

That said, I will never throw the tool out [like these people want to, or here’s Neko Case complaining about Auto-Tune towards the end of the interview, or these studio engineers who are as conflicted about using it as I am). If I can use it when needed but make it practically invisible, and then not use it when we have the time to get it right, then I think everything will be okay.

But taking the time to get things right is another concept that is dying right now — budgets are way too tight to actually try to do something right. So I work overtime even when the client isn’t paying for it, just so that I can be happy with the final result. Unfortunately, that cuts into the time that I’m supposed to be recording…

Blog, business, post production for film and video

More fun stuff being produced for commercials

[youtube width=”560″ height=”340″][/youtube]

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!

Blog, business, post production for film and video

Sheep get over 7 million hits on YouTube

If you haven’t seen this viral video (that actually is an advertisement for Samsung), take a look at it above. Then, go here and see how director James Rouse swears up and down that there are no virtual sheep on that hill.

Really fun spot. It’s definitely not a “hard-sell,” but I think it is effective, because I remember that Samsung is the one with the cool LED-lit sheep now…

Blog, business, post production for film and video, sound

New Avid and AJA announcements at NAB

By virtue of being both a marketing expert and a technology expert, I watch everything that happens at the major tech trade shows. This week Las Vegas saw the NAB (Natl. Association of Broadcasters) show, which lets people in the broadcasting industry see what technology is coming up. Two things jumped out at me (from the news — I wasn’t there. My corporate travel account is at zero — LOL):

Avid is now publicly integrating all of their companies: Avid, Digidesign, Sibelius, M-Audio, etc. This means that there will be tighter integration between all of their products, making for faster “round-tripping” between apps. Does that mean that I will start using Avid instead of Final Cut Pro? Probably not immediately, but, as this blogger points out, cross-app integration has been very good for both Apple’s and Adobe’s post production suites (with Adobe doing a slightly better job at it than Apple). And it might also help intra-app round-tripping as well. But for us smaller, independent/freelance artists/producers, this announcement doesn’t bring as much punch as I would like: I don’t want Digi or Avid to relegate the freelancers to only using M-Audio products (although they are quite good); I would like a low-cost Digi system that can compete with HD systems, and a low-cost Avid system that can compete with FCP. I know they already make these (kindof), but I want to see them supported and upgraded. Just my two cents.

Also at NAB, AJA announced a new box called the Ki Pro, that takes any signal (even from an SD camera) and can upres it to full HD ProRes 422 video. List price is under $4k. This would be a boon to people (like me) who have lots of good, but old, SD cameras, that might be used as “B” or “C” cameras on an HD shoot if we could get fast and clean up-rezzed material. I’m going to watch this new product carefully to see if they come down in price and/or could be of use in my company.

Blog, business, post production for film and video

Wow: a really useful, extremely specialized, iPhone app

Do you know what a gobo is? If you do, and you use them often, then this iPhone app is for you: it gives you a complete catalog of the current GAM gobos, but it takes them one step further. You can spin them, defocus them, color them right on your phone, so that you can see exactly (or approximately) what they might look like for your theater or film shoot application.

I believe this is an example of a portable app that truly starts to make the iPhone/iPodTouch (I have a Touch, not an iPhone) useful for specific industries. My hope is that, as the iPhone continues to mature, more and more of this type of application will be released and supported. I’m tired of simple games and “where are you?” and Yelp-type apps (although some of those are quite good); the future of mobile computing lies with truly making these devices work, and save time and money for the user. Congrats to Wybron for bringing this useful app out.