Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Continuing my post-mortem on the shoot of The Prometheus Trap:
I'm very happy about having bought some six radios for this movie. Firstly, these kids nowadays with their cheap Family Band Radios have it good. These things are cheap. And they're rechargeable.

And they work. They probably have a practical range of a quarter a mile, which for us is all we need.
One thing I hate is having to yell all day long. And when you're in an echoic environment like a big warehouse it gives you a headache just to try to hear people.
But radios? With headsets?

That's paradise.
You don't have to yell. Everyone (who hasn't accidentally unplugged their headset) can hear. And talk.
Now, of course, this required the characters to be on radio. Which for most movies is absurd. But oh man it was nice.
Now, I'll admit that running multiple lines of audio into my brain is something I'm sort of trained to do.  I used to do audio for broadcast which involves listening to various competing conversations while mixing a show. I was not the best at it, I was at the bottom part of the top rung. Or, as I used to say, "Of the very best, I'm among the worst." Or, more accurately, "Of those who can do it, I'm the most expendable." None of the other (better) engineers ever contradicted me when I said that.
Anyway, where was I? Ah. Yes. Communication. So sweet.  O! That all the director's commands could be delivered like a whispered threat into each person's ear.
Now, we can certainly make it easier for me to hear everyone on set. Just throw a wireless lav on each actor and having someone mix to a Comtek that goes to me. As long as a big ol' limiter is on that feed to me I'd be fine.


Every few weeks now a company called Content Lizenz Agentur tells Google that they own the rights to one of my movies.
It Looks like they have a pretty good scam running. If I dispute they'll just tell Google they made an innocent little mistake. Clearly they don't bother doing any sort of check to see if they actually own any content they find on YouTube -- they just submit a claim to it and see if nobody will dispute it.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Things We Clearly Need

A crossbow "pistol" for sixteen bucks (including shipping)? Count me in.

 Twenty-sided dice in both red and green? You just know we'll need these.
And as you're well aware, the dragon holocaust is quite similar in size and scope to the coming zombie holocaust.
You may need to check the items on this list against your standard household zombie holocaust survival kit: Zombie Survival

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dragon Lass

This blog has 999 comments right now. You know what that means. In two more comments we'll be at 1001.

So, Cannes is over. We won't learn anything about the zeitgeist of Cannes for a couple weeks.

We absolutely must get to shooting on our next picture. It's a dragon picture. The original script was structurally based on The Road Warrior. Now note that when I say "structurally" based it means that nobody but nobody recognized the structure. The internal design was the same even if none of the characters matched and the scenes had dragons instead of cars and motorcycles.

But then Steve Niles did a page-one rewrite on the script. So the original structure went out the window and the lead character got a lot better.

Also good guys became bad guys and some characters just didn't end up going anywhere. So I did a rewrite on Steve's rewrite and... now the picture is short.

We suspect the issue is the beginning of the second act ain't long enough. So we'll fix that. And we'll start shooting... er... next month?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Apples and oranges

Comparing David Frey's Canon T2i to my Panasonic GH1. We didn't even try to color-match the two cameras. Here is an un-color-corrected frame from each camera. We are at the same aperture... I think... f2.0?
Andrew Langton with the GH1 and a 35mm S.S.C. lens (I think).
The picture is clearly bluer in the T2i. That's because we didn't bother to color-match the cameras.
Canon T2i with newer Canon 50(?) mm.
The bigger difference to me is how the two cameras handle flares. That's probably mostly a matter of the newer lenses (like Dave has) not losing contrast as much and not having those distinct "rings" you get off the older lenses.
The Panasonic GH1 also has flare "spikes". I think that is the camera itself and the way it handles highlights.
Overall, to my eye, this footage from each camera is color-correctable into the same world, making the GH1 and the Canon T2i compatible for multi-camera shooting.
And lastly note that the GH1 is a "four-thirds" camera while the T2i is APS-C — which makes the same length lens on the GH1 seem "longer" than what it would be on the T2i.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More Texture

Ben Dansie is finishing the texturing of the Venom model. He's going to move onto the Prometheus.
A wide shot of the Venom.


Closeup with added dirt.
I can't wait to start animating and compositing this.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Promethean Art

Tomorrow is the start of the Cannes Film Market. And our sales rep is there with The Prometheus Trap. And that means the embargo on the key art is lifted.

Monday, May 14, 2012

In the Place

So we made a shot where I was all like "There will be a giant stone head." And the cast said "No, that's a terrible idea."
The first version with a head modeled by BrightonPiers.
And the image, while iconic (and a direct nod, as it were, to Prometheus), doesn't actually pay off. They're just walking through the cargo bay of the ship, we just need to see how vast it is. So then I thought "What about a Borg cube? Nobody will recognize it as a Borg cube and I can get one and..."
The Borg cube didn't work that great. And that square rectangle comes from not switching to "final" from "preview" in the AfterEffects "match grain" effect. The model is by QuantoMan.
So I had to come up with something else. And I think I have. This is the bottom of a spaceship.
Here's a version with the "Star Destroyer" by AnthonyP.
So of course there's a lighting instrument in the frame. And I like it. But we'll see how much people yell about the lighting instrument being in the frame.

Color Balance

So, I have an issue with how to write down the white balance settings on the GH1. Maduka came up with a system.

-1, +8

That is, on the x axis you click once to the left (for -1) and then on the y axis you click up 8 (for +8). And that will give you the color balance we used on The Prometheus Trap.
Photographing the screen on the GH1 with an iPod is not ideal.
Of course, we also used Canon S.S.C. manual lenses -- usually at about an f2.0 -- on the camera. And that's a big difference over the stock lens. And I like the stock lens. It's just that there's something about these old S.S.C. lenses... I don't know what it is. The stills we have use exactly the same color balance and settings as the motion picture we're shooting, so they're an accurate look at what we shot.

Day 7 - We wrap

Today we wrapped on principal photography on The Prometheus Trap.
We ran late. Call at Penn Station was 11am and we got everyone on the 8:37pm train back to New York. We had just missed the 7:37pm train so we kinda hung out for a while. But we did shoot a punchlist of things which Rebecca Kush had asked for. And that was in addition to everything else that had been normally scheduled for the day.
Andrew Langton and Rebecca Kush in the grim cryo-sleep of The Venom.

Andrew Langton in vertical cryo.
Rebecca Kush in our super-creepy cryo chamber. The Queen of Mars built, art-directed, and lit this.
 Do we still have things left to shoot? Probably some inserts but not a whole lot.
This shot was Rebecca's idea. Our haze machine is being repaired so this shot was with a fog machine. 

Michael Shattner getting his Facebook shot on.

Gratuitous silhouette. 

Still Life

 I shot a whole bunch of "textures" around the shop for use in this and other movies.

I'm especially proud of this. We put a spare radio in the camera case along with a Lectro transmitter to record dialog over the radio (mostly when the actors had their helmets on).  

Saturday, May 12, 2012


We have an interesting dramatological situation which is playing out very nicely in our prep for the last day of principal photography on The Prometheus Trap.
Basically we have a Groundhog-Day-like movie where time keeps rolling back on itself.
And there's a man and a woman in the story and we've had a number of discussions about whether they were lovers, or they were lovers in some timelines and not others, or what-have-you.
And interestingly, our editor Rebecca Kush, is also one of the leads, and a producer. So she's had a bit of time to go through footage in order to create the edit on the picture and come up with a punchlist of insert shots we need as well as a bit of dialog between the lovers/not-lovers/ex-lovers which informs a lot of the way we've been playing the movie and how it affects different timelines and the whole of the movie.
Funny thing about movies is that you can add a little bit of something to a movie and it changes all the performances. Which is, you know, kinda neat.
I really like it when things play out in an ensemble. Ensembles are fun. This movie certainly has a lead — a point-of-view character (the android played by Michael Shattner who essentially is Prometheus). But, you know, everybody has their own arc. And I'm being especially amused by how it's all working.
This is the fun part of making movies.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dig It

The German distributor of Android Insurrection is DTP Entertainment.
German cover.
That's Joe Chapman cutting down some of Ian Hubert's big, bad, 'bots.

What to do about the Queen of Mars

Here's a post-mortem realization* I've had about my producing partner, The Queen of Mars. Her high-end skills on set include:
  • Lighting
  • Actors notes
  • Gore blood effects (especially people who have been hit by crowbars.)
  • Art direction
Now normally I'd be all like "pick one". But abusing her for three or four (or five) different job categories has a lot of benefits. One less mouth to feed. Great work by someone paying attention. That sort of thing.
So, as it's in our best interest to exploit the heck out of anybody we work with, we're going with the "oppress your partner" route. You see, it's all about "efficiency". Work harder, not smarter. I mean, unless you're me.

Lighting: we don't even have a proper lighting kit. We have a couple borrowed 300-watt units with no stands, some clip-lights (seriously), "chicklets" (Home Depot-bought square fluorescent lights which are totally uncontrollable but very soft), and a dozen or so 2-foot fluorescent fixtures. Oh and I think we have some tiny 100-watt "L-Lights" which actually work. Although maybe only one actually works.

We really need her on lighting.

Actors' notes: now the thing is here that for better actor's notes is best that she be on sound. This is because performance is all in the voice. And when she's on sound she does a better job of notes (certainly better than anybody who's just looking at picture.)
So I feel we want her on sound. But that's a real pain in the tuchus. I'm beginning to rethink my "boom only" policy and consider throwing wireless lavs on all the actors and recording them to separate tracks.
Art and gore: Die Koenigin des Mars enjoys making a mess, and she's quite good at it. I think that as long as she's not responsible for dragging a boom pole all around she'd be much happier. And the set would run a bit smoother.

The answer:
So maybe we get everything we want dialog-wise by recording multi-channel wireless lavs? It'll make blocking and boom shadows easier. Of course, costumes will have to be rigged for mics because we just don't want to have to deal with cloth rubbing (the bane of my existence as a production sound guy). But it's not like we don't have those skills (or even that gear) available to us. Let's just do it that way going forward.

OK. I'm glad we've got that settled.

The picture is here to disturb you.

*Yes, I realize that we're not done shooting so the post-mortem should be next week, but I'm still realizin' stuff so this is a thing.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Edit, Shoot, and Render

Today in the Pandora Machine we're doing

  • some editing, 
  • preparing for Sunday's shoot (Sunday is the final day of principal photography on The Prometheus Trap), and 
  • rendering some visual effects for the trailer.

The Hercules, an Earthkilling weapon, is flung from the cargo bay of the Prometheus.

We got the drive off to the distributor with all the footage (up 'till now). They'll use the footage to make the trailer. And we're uploading visual effects directly to his server.

The prep for Sunday's shoot involves making a list of shots the editor (Rebecca Kush) feels we need.

The fast, new, PC really is pretty fast when it comes to rendering. What would easily have been an overnight job is now just an hour.

Android Insurrection has an IMDB page. We had nothing to do with it. So not everyone's name is on it. If you're supposed to have your name on that picture you should add it to IMDB. You can do that, you know.

Monday, May 7, 2012


I got a one-day respite from delivering all the trailer materials so that I could transcode the last two days' shooting and sync the audio. The transcodes take like 7 hours/day. It's kind of surprising how long they take.
Entering the Prometheus.
We have one more day of principal photography. The performances in this movie are really wonderful. We're quite happy.

I have to go and build a bunch of small effects like this one.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Day 6 part trois

Kate Britton gets out some aggression with her crowbar.

Kate opens up a can of whoop on Captain Haskins.
 Today we shot almost entirely with the 28mm Canon S.S.C. lens. We shot mostly at a 2.8 at a rating of 800 ISO on the GH1.
Kate Britton is a violent, violent, person.
 The lens is softer than the 50mm we've used on most of the movie. But with the hazer having broken down maybe that's better? I sorta dug the big soft feeling of the 28mm today. Plus, it'll focus really freakin' close.
Andrew Langton gets killed a whole bunch of times in this movie. I am amused by the under-lit floor he lands on here. The Queen of Mars made that horrible gash in his face. 

Ramsey Scott, our costume designer, amuses me greatly. Plus, how fantastic looking is our crew? I mean, could they be any better looking?
Rebecca Kush brought sweet-tea infused vodka to set. She said "I brought vodka flavored with Drew's favorite thing!"
Kate Britton said: "You brought bunny-flavored vodka?"

Day 6 (Part II)

Beautiful dreamer: Kate Britton as Trent goes into hypersleep.

A gratuitous shot of James Becton through the plastic.
 The set had originally been built by Joe Chapman but it was modified by the Martian Queen to be the cryo chamber aboard the Prometheus.
OK, so everybody's in this gratuitous shot. You'll have to guess who is who.