Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Android Insurrection Australia

Coarse language!
Our Australian distributor sent along these pictures of the Australian version of Android Insurrection today.
Man's final stand 'gainst the automaton foe.
I dig the back cover. I think that's unique to the Australian version.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Indy Film Again

So Kevin Smith, who is an excellent public speaker, talks about how he wants to change indy distribution. This, to the Internet, is him "imploding" because he wants to distribute pictures himself.

The logic was that they made the picture Red State for $4,000,000 and whomever they would sell it to would probably put in another $20,000,000 in prints and advertising, so that ultimately the movie would have to make back about $50,000,000 just to go into "profit".
So he figured he'd tour around with the picture and sell out some movie theaters and do the distribution themselves.

Now we hear that we're going to finally break the mold, make a paradigm shift, and disrupt the dominant culture all the time. And in motion picture distribution it pretty much hasn't worked once.

Kevin Smith and his team are no spring chickens. They went in with eyes wide open. And they took a flippin bath on the movie.

Red State is actually Kevin Smith's worst-performing movie ever (at something like 1.3 million dollars worldwide.)

This does serve as a warning to all who are all "We got this whole indy VOD release thing figured out, we're gonna leverage our social networks into monetized actuarial pods with cash - based numberwang overflow."

You don't. Smith and company are rather sophisticated. And they've been through the process on pictures which made people money. If Smith (who can draw a fair sized crowd just by showing up) can't have numberwang, what makes you think you can?



Exactly.
UPDATE: As per Kevin Kangas below, Kevin Smith is saying that the picture is actually in the black due to $3M from non-theatrical North American rights plus $1M US theatrical and $1.5M overseas.
But those seem like gross numbers to me still -- surely the venues take a cut, no?
And note that this article speaks on being close to closing on that $3M deal. That was 2011.
So maybe they did actually see black on the books?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

144 Hours

Having just finished John Purcell's wonderful book on dialog editing I've come to a thinking. Suchwise:

I think the fundamental difference between the way dialog is edited on big features and the way we have to do it is that on big movies the M & E's come second, with the English-language mix coming first.
We really can't afford to work that way. Our M & E's have to really and truly sound just like the English language full mix -- just without any actual dialog in them. And they are a first deliverable, not something we can wait on if and when more money mysteriously arrives.
So for us doing a dialog edit is really doing the prepping for the Music and Effects mix.
What this basically means is that the dialog tracks themselves get stripped and noise-reduced down to their barest elements. Ruthlessly so.
See, normally a dialog editor works on making a smooth dialog track by fading in and out of each microphone, and leaving the tone up between pieces of dialog so the scene has no jarring cuts of background tone coming in and out.
Big crossfades between dialog tracks are fine, but how do you build an M & E out of this?

Then they fill the spots in-between with room tone.
This doesn't work for me. Why? Because what happens when you mute those dialog tracks?
The scene's audio disappears. All you have left is your Foley and any sound effects you've cut in.
Now, there's a thing called the P-FX track. That's where you put all your production sound effects which the mixer may or may not use.
But the fact is we can't deal with waiting around to try to figure out how to make the mix work without the dialog after the fact.
So what I say is:
1. Strip that dialog clean with dead-on noise reduction and then add room tone to the entire scene.
2. Those "PFX" tracks? turn them into actual effects tracks. Make a decision then and there (during the dialog edit) what production sounds are going to be sound effects in the movie. Drag those production effects down to one of your sound effects tracks.
3. If you're going to use room tone from the actual scene and loop it, that's fine. Just deal with it right then.
4. Now, during the dialog edit, you need to decide on sound effects during the scene in order to make the scene work. Why? Because some of those sound effects will have to sit on top of the dialog. In order to know if your M & E's will actually work you have to deal with that immediately.
5. The PFX track gets a new function -- it (or they) is/are muted while running off the full English mix. This is because the only thing on the PFX track are sound effects which take place right on top of dialog where the dialog track already has the effect on it.
For instance, if you're happy with a line of dialog where the actor says his line but also scuffs his shoe at the same time, you'll need to put another "clean" shoe scuff at the same place on the PFX track. This way when you mute the dialog tracks and unmute the PFX track, the scuff will appear in the same place, just without any dialog over it.
Obviously this isn't the ideal way to handle dialog tracks so I try not to use any of these kinds of PFX tracks if I can help it.
As unbelievable as it may sound to someone who has no idea what I'm talking about, the above system actually does make sense. But what it means is that the person doing the dialog edit on a reel is also making sound effects decisions on that same reel. Because every edit in the dialog requires a careful consideration of the Music and Effects tracks (well, really just the Effects tracks).
This means that a "dialog editor" has to have a bank of sound effects available. They have to have a sampler and a keyboard available. They probably need to have a recording booth available. All to do the "dialog" edit.
Are there effects that can be done as a "second pass" or by another person at another time? Yes. Yes there are.
For instance, any noises created by a CG element like a dinosaur or robot can be presumed to not exist on the dialog tracks so one need not worry about them while preparing the dialog tracks.
Footsteps which don't exist in the production tracks (especially in scenes which were shot MOS.)
So, how many hours should this take? I'm glad you asked. The answer is 144 hours.
That's three days for all the dialog editing (including ADR), all the sound effects (including Foley), on each 10-minute reel for a 90-minute movie. Some reels will take a bit longer, some a bit shorter. And of course you'll schedule your ADR to happen in chunks so you will be spreading the ADR recording over a few weeks. But basically? 144 hours.
Me? I'm gonna write all of this up and put it in our Wiki.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Robots Will Invade

I could listen to William Martell all day long.
Kangas on his computer system, which has the cheapest Mercury - compatible playback engine (albiet with a hack.)
Kate Britton in the Philadephia Desert. This is a test rendering by Ian Hubert for an opening shot of the movie Carbon Copy (nee: Android Masquerade) by Steven J. Niles. The background city itself is temp and will be replaced.
Soon, robots will invade.

Naomi McDougall's new movie "Imagine I'm Beautiful" available on Google play.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20

So, because every-single-thing has to be harder than previously imagined, we had to get a new audio interface for the new audio computer. We got this Focusrite unit. It is, I must say, really nice.
"Ice Nymph" is the name of the hard drive which sits atop. 

I don't know why so many people are into the RME units. They're quite pricey. May as well get Apogees*. But here's the thing: I've A/B'ed Focusrite vs. Apogee and they sound so close that when you invert the polarity the signal will oftentimes actually null-out.
Maybe I just like the red color that surrounds the unit (which you can see in the reflection of the wood support just above the converter in the picture above if you so care.)
But even the preamps are usable.

I haven't actually hooked up a 5.1 system to it. I'll tell you if there's any problems. But so far it's been very stable, which is critical (and maddening when things aren't stable).

*Traditionally considered the best converters for everyone but some classical music guys.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

After the Embargo

Now that the AFM has happened, we're after the embargo!
That's Maduka Steady with robots by Ian Hubert on all sides.

Note that if you look around this isn't the actual final art on this title. They changed the head. This is because by coincidence another filmmaker with the same sales rep used the same armor.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

See Why I Like This?

The book Dialog Editing for Motion Pictures by John Purcell.


Dialog editing
Actually begins a chapter this way:
"Picture plays a huge role in cinematic storytelling--almost rivaling sound in importance."

I am tremendously amused by that sentiment.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Lanie Zipoy's New Film Festival

Lanie Zipoy has started a new film festival called the DAMN Film Series.
Short films. No submission fee.
Do it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Adventures with the new Mac Pro

So the latest version of the OSX (Yosemite) does not allow you to install Windows 7 on it via Boot Camp. Why? Oh who knows? Just because. (B/C FU that's why.)
So maybe I can get Parallels to work.
Of course, SugarSync hates the "Documents" folder in Parallels because it thinks the folder is on a network.
The other issue, and yes I feel dumb for not realizing it, is that there are no FireWire ports on the new Mac Pros. Why? B/C FU that's why.
So I guess we're at the end of Firewire for audio interfaces. Which I feel like is a lot of money down the drain. But we get one more chance with Thunderbolt to Firewire interfaces. Which are, of course, stupid expensive for a little adapter.
Parallels is $80. The upgrade to Windows 8.1 is somewhere around there. I really don't want to "upgrade" to Windows 8.1. I would really just like my computers to work.

Blenchmark is a Blender benchmarking thingy. I like it because it tests the thing that I actually do.

It turns out that Parallels has a terrible time dealing with GPU rendering. It turns out that Blender Cycles only works in GPU with NVidea cards. And the Pro of course only has AMD cards. That was a stupid mistake on my part to make. I should have realized that.
I am not a Windows 8 fan. I seriously don't know how you're supposed to surf web sites with it. I never did find Internet Explorer. I put in "www.chrome.com" in the address bar of Window Explorer just because I knew that by legacy that would work. It launched Internet Explorer. I downloaded Chrome so I don't have to deal with IE (wherever it might be) anymore.
And of course the highest-end Mac isn't compatible with the Adobe Mercury playback engine. Ugh. It's all rather upsetting.
On the plus side of things the computer is very quiet. And it understands 4K monitors via HDMI without complaining. It boots in OSX very quickly.
I have no idea what complaints it will issue about audio hardware.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pro

In my effort to prove the Mac Mini is the device with which I can replace a power machine I have discovered a flaw.
GPU performance.
If you read the Internet, and I don't know why you would, you'd find that most articles poo pooh the very high end of computers because "What are you doing? 3D rendering? Ha! Nobody does that."
These helmets are all but impossible to make.

Oh. But we do. We do.
When all is said and done the Mac Pro makes a good deal of sense. Especially a refurbished one. Quiet. Low energy use. Very interesting. Still have all the issues with certain, ahem, hardware.
The Mac Pro is essentially unphotographable.

I think I basically have to move over to USB for audio hardware. Right now the best solution seems to be the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20. It has an adequate number of outputs.
Or I could just cheat. Somehow. Cheating is good.



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Helix

Every product I've owned from Letus has been really cool. By that I mean the 35mm adapters I've had from them have made things look nice. In an indescribable yet cinematic way. There's just a little bit of magic and art in everything they make it seems.
And now they've made their own stabilizer system called the Helix.
I can't even.

This stabilizer looks awesome. It's around $5000.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nonsense

Just look at this nonsense. Look at it.
The back of a MOTU Ultralite (the original "Mark I" version) over-patched from here until eternity.
This is because Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) makes the "digital mixer" inside their Ultralite box only mix inputs. You can't also mix the so-called "software returns" inside the box. So what have I done here? Routed six analog outputs right back to the analog inputs.
The whole purpose of this mess here is to make it so I can monitor a 5.1 surround mix in stereo on headphones. That's the whole thing I'm going through all this rigmarole to do. And I have to make this huge inelegant cable mess just to do it.
So right, the only multi-core I have is this nice Canare 8-channel snake with TRS connectors on each end. It's sixteen freaking feet long. For a six-inch jump. Oh but wait. There's more!
Look carefully at those bottom two connectors. See how they're slightly canted away from one another? Yes! That's because the Neutrik connectors are fatter than the distance between the jacks on the back of the Ultralite. So I used a couple smaller cables with Switchcraft ends (the silver-ish connectors) to try to keep the entire PCB on the MOTU from being split apart simply by having things plugged into it.
And I would be using the M-Audio Profire 2626, which has a rather elegant mixer with which to do this thing, except that it simply does not work in Bootcamp on a Mac (it does, however, work in the latest version of the Mac OS.)
Am I irked? Yes. Yes I am irked. Do you have any idea what I'm talking about? No. No you do not.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Grand Experiment

So. The notion on the table is blowing off buying a huge and powerful PC and instead getting a Mac Mini and running Windows off of it. And if I get really complainy we go ahead and get two Minis so one can be rendering while the other does other work or whatever.
That's the notion.
§
Thing number one: M-Audio is apparently not a big fan of updating their drivers. This is too bad as the M-Audio 2626 is a fine A/D converter with really very serviceable microphone preamps.
This becomes a doorstop then.
So that's too bad. Very sad really. Boo.
That said, I'm getting irritated in general with FireWire. I just wish I didn't have to deal with FireWire anymore. I can't understand why it's no longer available on laptops and it's really difficult to... wait a minute, I'm just whining.
§
What else is wrong with the Mac? Well, like with any modern Apple it doesn't come with a DVD drive. Now in reality there is a curse put on my studio wherein I cannot make DVD's anyway. All our drives are broken all the time. Okay, that's not really true but actually right this minute it is.
A portable optical drive is about thirty bucks. And honestly we just don't need one on each computer at all times. That is overkill. But right now I do not have a working DVD drive in my studio with which to load software. That is a bit of a pain in the tuchus.
§
Resolution. Apple disables the high-resolution output from the DisplayPort on their Minis. Why? Because they hate you. Now, I need 4K because my eyes get all blurry otherwise. Apparently the problems with outputting 4k using the appropriate DisplayPort to HDMI 1.4-compliant adapter works perfectly fine when running Windows on the Mac. This is because Microsoft is greedy for your money, not arbitrarily hostile to you as a person.
Thing is, I don't have one of those adapters (the "HDMI 1.4-compliant" part is what is somewhat rare). Apple doesn't even have an overpriced one in their stores and B&H doesn't have them. So I'm waiting for Amazon to deliver. Is it worthwhile to go ahead and order an optical drive? All for this grande experimentia in running a Mac Mini as a powerhouse audio-editing and 3D computer?
Heck. I dunno.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Computers Like Candy

So. Whumpus.
That's two computers in as many months. Big, bad machines too.
The PC we just lost had a Quadro 4000 card in it. 32GB of RAM. It is/was a fairly badass i7 machine from Titanus Computers (and of course even though it had a very generous 2-year warranty, we're at about 30 months with that machine so no such luck).
I'm pretty good at troubleshooting and I don't know what's wrong with the machine. Either a problem with the motherboard or the video card itself. Almost certainly a hardware problem.
So. We need to be back up and running.
My first thought was to just replace the machine with another big, bad-ass workstation. And I was all ready to do that when I'd finished being disgusted by my attempt at re-installing the OS on that machine when...
When I turned Artemis off.
And my studio got real quiet.
The Mac Mini I'd just got was still on. Running at 150 Watts. Quiet.

Apple disables the Mini. Because if they didn't nobody would ever buy another computer for high-end work. Apple makes sure the RAM maxes out at 16GB. And they make sure you can't output 4K even from the Thunderbolt port.
Ironically, the Mini will do 4K when running Windows.
I need 4K. But I only need it on a Windows machine. (This is because my audio editing software of choice, Samplitude, is a Windows application.)
I need Firewire for my audio interface, which the Mini has (it is shockingly difficult these days to get a Windows PC with a built-in Firewire port, but nominally one can install a port relatively cheaply.)

There is, for all practical purposes, no PC which is as quiet as the Mini. Certainly not for that amount of power. Looking at the benchmarks the Mini is at worst 1/3 the machine the top-of-the-line Mac Pro is. But even at about $1350, the Mini vastly outperforms the Pro which is somewhere at the $7000 range for that 3:1 performance advantage.

That said, man we do actually do all the things to computers people complain about on the Internets. 3D rendering, shockingly, is not the worst of it. After Effects and audio editing/mixing beat up our computers tremendously.

So the question is: do I get a cheap Mini? Or do I get an expensive Pro? Or do I get a PC? Right now I'm leaning toward getting a cheap-ish Mini and using it like a power machine. Of course that will only work if BootCamp works for me. Plus, there's the age-old issue of these new Macs not having any optical drives built in. I think Maduka has a portable optical drive. We'll see if that works for us.

Making the computer dual-boot is not for the faint-of-heart. (Or is that "feint" of heart? Because, you know, feinting. I dunno. I still have trouble with "barre.")