Monday, February 23, 2015

Oblivion Bible

Obviously from an Aliens video game. The details on the far right wall are interesting to me.

You know, just to remind you

A nice ship interior but I don't think it's for us.

Kinda cool. Way too big though.

For a medical room this looks pretty sweet. We just need all that tacked on stuff.

For a white and circular corridor design this is actually pretty nice, no?

This image is the most inspiring. How do we do those panels on either side? This is what I want. Those panels could go over flats and it would look like total rock and roll. How do we build those?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Quote of the Day

This conversation happens at least once a year:

We: We're going to need a robot for our next movie.
They: What kind of robot?
We: It's a killer robot.
They: Does it kill people with swords, or guns?
We: Guns.
They: Laser guns, or like, bullet guns? 
We: Yes.

Although based on live action I believe that no part of this shot is, actually, live action. The whole thing is CG by Ian Hubert.

Friday, February 20, 2015


Peggy Archer on how over/under makes electricians cry. (Although personally I will tend to wrap electrics cables they way they want to go, rather than doing a barrel roll with them. That said, you do anything other than over/under with any of my expensive mic cable and I will become visibly upset, so I can understand.)
I want a lighting source that does not obey the inverse-square law. I'm tired of this so-called "physics" which oppresses me. I want a big instrument I can put in a shot which casts its light evenly along its throw.
A Fresnel can sorta do that. Not really but the "source" of the light is essentially thrown back by the lens to a virtual point somewhere behind the lamp's physical location. So even though the light itself obeys the inverse-square law of falloff, it "begins" further away to the change is less dramatic.
So then I started thinking I wanted a Fresnel LED instrument but those things are freaky-deaky expensive. Sheesh.
The Coast Guard publishes a list of "PROWORDS" to be used in radio communications.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Production Notes on Robot Revolution

Production notes on Robot Revolution
by Andrew Bellware (Director)

The script, a screenplay by Steven J. Niles, is written as a POV tale of woe and hardship as a police officer and her Robot partner try to track down a terrorist who unleashes a nanobot virus in an apartment building.
The initial idea is that the movie is told in flashbacks, primarily from the robot's onboard camera. Which is a stunning idea that Steven came up with. But we didn’t do the entire movie in POV shots, we shot between POV and a more traditional “angle” of handheld camera. The intent is to keep the energy of the action and being “you are there” but with a somewhat heightened reality of a mobile camera.
Virginia Logan as Constable Hawkins.
I tend to think of movies as either being “ensemble” pictures or “Alice In Wonderland” pictures. That meaning either we follow a single character or an ensemble throughout the movie. This particular movie has a strong point-of-view character in Constable Hawkins, played by Virginia Logan, but she ends up with a large gang of undesirables and miscreants whom she must save from the nanobot plague. So photographically we go (gently) between the literal point-of-view of her robot partner, and her subjective point-of-view. The idea of shooting the movie from the robot’s POV was one that was supposed to have made shooting it easier. But that was not always the case.
One tricky thing which the script called for was a rear-view mirror which our robot, ARGUS, looks into. And as the camera is supposed to be Argus’ eye, he’s supposed to see himself. I couldn’t think of a good practical way to do this shot until I saw a monitor for a vehicle backup camera. Of course, there aren’t rear-view mirrors in their vehicle, there’s a rear-facing camera and he sees himself in that. The irony is that the shot where that happens doesn’t make it into the final cut of the picture.
Another shot I wasn’t sure we could get did come through. At one point a huge and menacing robot walks down the hallway, stops, and deploys a cleaning brush. I was prepared to cut the cleaning brush from the shot but our visual effects supervisor, the extremely talented Ian Hubert came up with a cleaning brush! (As well as a 30mm cannon from the top of that robot in a later shot.)
Jeff Wills as ARGUS
One issue with a full face-covering helmet is that typically means the actor inside cannot hear. Usually they cannot see either. So whenever Argus was on set, the actor needed a “babysitter” to chase after him and lead him “back to one” at the end of each take.
1202 hawkins shoots2.png
We tried, as much as possible, to use practical effects. Although most guns cycle faster than a film frame, we’re so used to seeing them rock back-and-forth that we did what we could to make our guns “flashy” yet safe. A liberal amount of baby powder on the inside of the barrel helped.

Sarah Schoofs recording ADR.

We had a couple noisy locations on this picture --  like the fact that the furnace had blown out and a temporary one was installed that was amazingly loud -- right next to where we needed to shoot. There was no option to turn off the furnace so we just ploughed ahead.
Today we get to solve some of those sound issues! We’re replacing dialog  using an Oktava 012 microphone -- the same mic we used for boom on set (although this movie was almost completely recorded with wireless lavalier microphones). And there's a bit of distance on the mic, it’s not right up on the actor’s face when re-recording the dialog. This tends to make the dialog “fit in” better with the rest of the movie.
One thing I’ve discovered about doing dialog replacement is that it seems that for most actors, seeing the picture while they record isn't terribly helpful. So we've abandoned having a picture monitor in the booth. I'll play the line three times and then go into record. No bloops or leader or anything. It’s much easier to get back into the space you were in as an actor if you just listen.
The visual effects were a fairly straightforward part of post-production. And except for a couple last-minute location changes the structure of the picture pretty followed what Steven J. Niles wrote.
For music, the Australian-based Hurry brothers created a rhythmic and driving score to maintain the tension through the picture. We experimented with a couple different “moods” for the ending of the picture before we decided on the arch-dark version we have now. At the last minute we flopped the open and end-title credits, which also changed the mood and worked well with the new ending. Now that the picture is completed I have to find a place to put all the robots parts!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Real Numbers

Do you like real numbers? If you like real numbers, our man Kevin Kangas will hook you up. VOD numbers. Yeah, VOD numbers. There ya go.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What's in my head today

First of all the Predestination soundtrack was my favorite part of that movie which I also thought was great. Music composed by directors is a scary category. But sometimes it works. Here's an example. Also, a compendium of robot and robot-esque costumes.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

This is awesome

Crumbs is an Ethiopian post-apocalypse surrealist movie that looks freakin' awesome.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Today's 4 Things

Do you need to know about stage blood? Weller discusses the history of stage blood. You know what I like about folks like Steven J. Weller? He actually teaches you about stuff. There are people in the world who feel that the knowledge they have is somehow proprietary and they are afraid of other people learning from them because somehow that decreases their own power. That's a load of hooey, the more you teach the more you know. But some people believe it.
Anyway, Weller's blog is great.
Pond 5 has a public domain project which looks interesting.
The DAMN Film Series is next February 4. I won't be there because I'll be at the dentist that day instead. But you should totally go.
Would you like a from-the-horse's mouth prediction about the state of low-budget filmmaking? 4K is definitely coming (unlike 3D). So we're going to all have to be delivering 4K. Soon.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Earth Dies Screaming

The Earth Dies Screaming is surprisingly well-crafted. It's a bit creaky in the way one might expect a Hammer-esque picture made in the mid-60's to be, but at one hour and three minutes they've definitely cut out the long and excruciating boring part in the middle.
It opens with an amazing lack of expository dialog. The whole thing is really quite tight and "modern" in both the writing and the overall tone. I mean, it's still a bit on the creaky side, but very cool. This movie is in desperate need of a remake (although, to be fair, it has essentially been remade a gazillion times).

Fun fact: Elisabeth Lutyens composed the music for it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bill Martell

Bill Martell is a brilliant teacher.
Tell me his book on Hitchcock isn't going to be amazing. Seriously, this is one of the most informative and information-packed movie-making hours on the Internet.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Your Three Things for Today

The Digital Bolex. Highest ISO is 400. But shoots RAW and global-shutter.

The order of opening credits.

(The more we make movies the more we're told that our movies have to look like "regular" movies.)
DVDepot rents drones with operators and the DJI Ronin with operators.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Grading, Order

An interesting look at color grading (H/T Stu Maschwitz).

Color Reel - The House On Pine Street from GradeKC on Vimeo.

I am too dumb to make movies. For instance, what's the order of the logos that goes in the front of a movie?
Turns out it's the (1) distributor, (2) producer, and then (3) movie. If my distributor hadn't told me that I seriously wouldn't know.
Also, what is the order of the front-title credits? If it weren't for Wikipedia I'd have no idea.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Today's Two Tings

Trelby is a screenwriting program.

Michigan has sand dunes.
Update: Oklahoma also has sand dunes! (H/T Matt below.)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Stakeland in July

Man, Jim Mickle just blows me away. His latest movie is Cold in July. Jim's directorial style is what I would ignorantly call mannerist. All these very precise images assembled together for effect. Of course, his being able to do that makes him such an amazing horror director. Cold in July is not a horror picture as much as a thriller. A crime thriller I suppose. It's very Cohen Brothers in its deliberate and macabre humor. And sometimes very Kubrick-y in the framing.
This "looking at the bottoms of feet" motif is something that's in at least a few of Jim's pictures. This image really pays off when you see their POV. And not to get too precious about it but notice that the "bars" in this shot are on the far side of the subjects, unlike how (in this movie) they're frequently between us and some very bad people.
See, the lead character owns a frame shop. He's a "framer". And the movie has you looking through frames, frames that change, frames that hold different things. Frames.
The movie has this very specific aesthetic vocabulary what with repeated patterns and bars and obstructions between the audience and the subject. I mean it's just really well thought out. The frame shop and the locksmith shop are pretty awesome.
Nick Damici wrote the screenplay with Jim and again they get the tone of the movie just right.
I want, nay, need this owl lamp.

It is beyond my ability to understand how the economics of these kinds of movies works. I just wish he'd make more of them. In fact, I think they should have expanded Cold in July to be an HBO series. Because that's just how cool it is.