Saturday, September 29, 2012


Yes, of course, just write the wattage on the lamp itself. Peggy Archer shows you how.
WANT! Lust. Desire.
It's the Aaton digital camera. The Delta Penelope.
Will it make our movies better? Well, possibly a small amount. Will it make us more money? Uh. Arguably maybe a few thousand dollars more?
It's a CCD camera instead of CMOS. I believe that means no rolling shutter distortion so handheld shots which we want to motion track composites into should be easier.
I'm sure the Delta Penelope will be worth every penny. When I say "every penny" I do mean about $150,000 after you get all the accessories and lens kit for it.

Let me run the numbers here... if we gross an average of even $30,000 a movie and the Penelope cost $150K then we have to make five extra movies which otherwise have no expenses to pay for the camera. All right!
If we were making 12 movies a year though... Or a TV series. Yeah. A TV series. Supernatural police procedural...
I do wish that the camera would do an ISO of 1600. I know it's got 14 stops and all but a 1600 ISO just makes my day.
Oh dear. The price might actually be more like $250K with accessories and lenses.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Meetings, Energy, Hacks

I find this ScriptShadow post to be almost the direct opposite of what I do as a producer.
"First off, producing is a lot of MEETINGS."
I never go to meetings. I do a lot of things. I create tons of paperwork for distributors saying that there are no restrictions on advertising or use or likenesses for trailers. But we don't have meetings. We don't even have production meetings for crying out loud. I guess I'll meet with actors -- those are 10-minute meetings to, well, meet them. Other than that, no meetings.

The other day a producer on one of our pictures asked if we should have a production meeting. Ha! There's nothing that a face-to-face meeting will give you that a simple email exchange can't.
So all that being said I do send a lot of emails.
I've been on the receiving end of (at the low end) snark to (at the high end) outright hostility toward the idea of me playing the role of the bad guy in our next movie. The idea of me acting is, apparently, at best a joke and at worst an affront to Mankind.
This, of course, makes casting the rest of the movie somewhat difficult.
I'm half-tempted to re-hack the GH1 in order to make it shoot 24p again. I don't know yet.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tears of Steel

The Mango Open Movie project by Blender has been released! Directed by Ian Hubert! It's an excellent demonstration of what Blender is capable of. Plus it's also all about Ian's unmistakable aesthetic.

Why Do We Do What We Do?

Maybe this totally unsourced image I got off of Reddit will help.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What's Next on the Hit Parade

I know from past experience* that composites are a lot easier if your whole color palette is limited. Our next picture is a dragon movie. This means there Will Be Dragons.
The dragons will probably be a lot more photo-real if our notion of what is "real" in the world has fewer colors than real life. And the colors the world does have will be over-saturated. And the blacks will sink into lush and inky darkness. The short way of saying that is that the movie will look like a movie.

In any case, our big question is what will the movie look like? We'll be shooting with a Panasonic GH1 using Canon S.S.C. lenses (probably mostly a 35mm and a 50mm at 1.8 or 2.0 or so, the 50mm will be like an 85 on an APS-C).
We'll be shooting a few days outside during the day. The slowest you can make the GH1 is 100 ISO. We could put some ND filters on the lenses. But we won't. So up there where I said we'd be shooting at an f2.0? I lied. We'll be stopping down much further than that for exteriors.
The other option we have is that we could turn up the shutter so that instead of a shutter of 50 we could go to a shutter of 100 or so. That would cut out some of our light and reduce rolling shutter distortion (which would make our composites easier.) But it would look more like a kung-fu movie fight scene. You tell me if that's good or bad.
I think we might want to go for some nice candy spot colors. Maybe. Each dragon could really be a color. Or, you know, we just sink the blacks down toward green, make the highlights go toward blue, and have the midtones go toward the Y line. I just don't know.
Here's the place where on a regular-budget movie you'd say "shoot some test footage". Yeah right. That is not going to happen. Our test will be on the first day of principal photography.
Has this little discussion of the look of our next movie actually resulted in either me or you having any idea of what our next movie will look like?
Unfortunately, no.
I'm just glad we had this little talk.
Maybe I'll shoot all the exteriors at f5.6 or down with the kit zoom lens. Maybe not.

*All experience is from the past.


If I'm reading this correctly then IMDB is backed up about 32 days for the creation of new titles. I went and submitted Prometheus Trap using this British link. I'm a tad confused -- is that a import into the UK? I don't know. Anyway, look again next month and see if the movie is listed. If your name isn't on it and you worked on the picture -- list yourself by "updating".
Yes, this is the official blog of Pandora Machine and there's a baby elephant on it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


The sheer amount of the business of filmmaking that isn't shooting a movie is pretty spectacular. The paperwork one has to go through in order to deal with distributors is mind-boggling.
And I spend a lot of time being yelled at by my distributors in order to get them the right paperwork, stills, audio, and visual effects.
So I'm finishing out the hardest two weeks this year of dealing with work at the Pandora Machine. Dealing with contracts and deliverables is seriously the least interesting part of my job.
And in the middle of it I got a call from an old friend looking to do some video for some commercial work which would pay in a month more than I make all year long with Pandora Machine.
Basically, I turned it down.
Because the worst day of work making movies is better than the best day of doing regular work.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Clearer, Cheaper, Artistic, Selling

Kevin Kangas has a much clearer post on deliverables than mine (below).
One big difference we've found in the last year or so is that we're starting to be able to deliver on hard drives which, quite frankly, are cheaper than DigiBeta tapes.

Are you utterly fascinated by multichannel mixes like 5.1 and the like? You are. I'm re-delivering a movie so that the LFE channel has some material on it to make the meters dance a bit. This isn't an artistic decision, mind you. It's just to make QC.
You know what sells? Hard abs, hard drugs, and mentally ill people solving crimes.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New T-shirts

I made a new T-shirt for Pandora Machine with Spreadshirt. Order yours today.

Must Needs Be Done

It's funny, completing a feature film is a monumental effort -- thousands of man hours of work and the willingness to see the movie through the end of its process no matter how you're feeling about the movie on a given day. 
But the actual delivery requirements can be... daunting. You think you're all done with color-correcting, with eliminating matte lines and cleaning up dialog tracks and then --
-- And then you have to deal with a LOT of paperwork.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. In fact there's a Federal injunction against me complaining about anything because, after all, I'm allowed to direct feature films for (a poor) living.
But I thought it would be amusing to post the sorts of delivery items one must produce in order to get North American distribution.
Note that all deals are unique and different. And this one particular distributor is more picky. Ironically the requirements for North America have become more legally detailed for low-budget indy pictures in the last few years due to the heady deep-pockets liability inherent in the big VOD services -- they're sticklers for every "i" being crossed and "t" being dotted.

  1. Screenplay
  2. Composers Agreement
  3. Sync & Master Use License agreement
  4. Paid Ads statement  ( On your letter head, detailing which actors/above the line crew get what credit, in what order, etc )
  5. Dubbing Restriction ( On your letterhead, detailing if there are any dubbing restrictions.)
  6. Director & Producer agreements  ( - similar to the writer's agreement)
  7. Title Search report .  ( You can use someone like  who is half price of Thomson Compumark )
  8. Copyright report (it's possible this may not be required)
  9. Stock Footage statement ( On you letter head, detailing if there is any stock footage in the movie and if so, where it comes from and legal rights to use it. )
  10. Chain of title document
  11. Trailer Usage.  ( A statement on your letter head that says there are no restrictions with actor usage in the trailer )
  12. Copyright FORM PA  Script and Movie

Notes Encore

Today the fabulous Steven J. Niles came to the studio and we recorded our commentary track. This was the first time I'd met Steven. We had a delightful time.
(You need to visit his pages for Sex Lies & Fish as well as It Came From Uranus.)
I've done about 20 pages of notes on Prometheus Trap in the last two weeks. You know, if we could actually finish a picture with three weeks before the deadline, we could do all kinds of cleaning up and "make betters" before we deliver it. That would keep us from having to deliver the movie, er, four times.

Now I have hundreds of pages of work to do getting the deliverables ready for Prometheus Trap, Android Insurrection, and Earthkiller (which has been renamed in North America to Total Retribution -- man, I thought "Earthkiller" was going to stick).

Friday, September 14, 2012


Still doing some tests between the drone's onboard camera and the GoPro 2. If you're looking at this in your email you'll have to click through in order to see the exciting tests.
Let's start with looking at a picture from the Parrot AR.Drone 2. This is taken directly from the drone's onboard camera. Now let's look at the GoPro in the same lighting conditions. (Of course, the video is shakier because I'm just handholding it.) Now let's look at the GoPro in an exterior. YouTube does seem to clean up some of the noise issues in these videos. Note when I say "noise" I'm talking about video noise.
Still, the GoPro is very noisy in these videos. Plus, they seem to all feature Tom Rowen.
Now is the time I'll share with you some spam:
Are you noble and serious man? Are you looking a loving girlfriend?
I'm very gorgeous lady.
I 'm waiting for you to on-line chat.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Every Day in Every Way

I put a program called Finch on our editing computer in order to try to figure out how long it takes to edit a feature. That... didn't really work.
According to the DVD commentary on the 2nd season of Community it takes a week to a week and-a-half to get an "assembly" edit of the show. So if that's 7 working days then you're looking at about 35 working days for a feature, right?
We don't do assembly edits. Nobody in my shop works that way. The final edit is very close to the first thing anybody's ever cut. Sure, I go through the movie and maybe add a moment here or tighten something up there. But I really don't radically alter anything. (No matter how much my editors may complain that I do).

This blog has been getting way too safe for work lately. This is my partial effort to correct that.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Drone for Production

I'm experimenting with the Parrot AR.Drone in order to use it for the "dragon's eye view" in our next movie.
Here you can watch me bash it repeatedly into walls outside my office. Here's my conclusions regarding the onboard camera:
Using the onboard USB stick doesn't really buy you a lot of image quality over what gets recorded via Wi-FI.

  • The image has too much noise to be usable for a dramatic feature.
  • The image distortion on the on-board camera is too much for a dramatic feature. We'll have to mount a GoPro to it.
  • The drone is surprisingly stable in "hover" mode. At least in no-wind interiors.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What to do

Canon's new C100 will list for eight thousand bucks. That's a lot of camera for $8G's.
I'm on my... er... 5th? feature with the Panasonic GH1 and I'm getting tired of the rolling shutter "jello-cam" and I'm getting tired of the artifacts which show up in low-light/low-contrast footage.
Via Jeremy Crowson. Our goal is to pick three. 

What's wrong with this sentence in a screenplay?

She leaps up and starts running at full speed down the corridor.
"Starts running..." No no no. Maybe she runs. Maybe she pushes herself into a full gallop. I don't care, but she doesn't starts running
You absolutely must write what we see and make it as active as possible. 
And under no circumstances will you ever write "They are locked in a life-or-death struggle" or I will put your name in the slug line of the scene with a note saying that you wrote that terrible "action".

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012


So, we have this dragon script where in a post-apocalypse world this girl runs around fighting dragons or whatever.
The idea that the world would suddenly not have high technology is actually from Elegy Beach. At least, that's where I stole it from.
Revolution has the same notion in it. Electricity doesn't, you know, work anymore. And yeah, you can ask "well wait, then how does physics work?" But it's kind of a waste of time. It's just a conceit. You know, like doors slamming in a romantic comedy. Don't fret none about it.
I don't know about the screenwriting in Revolution though. The dialog is a bit en pointe. Firearms work, it's just that they're illegal somehow and that seems to be enough to keep the local militias in charge.
And crossbows have a lot of stopping power.
Any why not many horses? I know why we don't have any horses -- it's 'cause they're expensive.
One thing they do get right are the gratuitous shots of overgrown world. The sunken church was particularly nice.

Hoo boy. As Kevin Kangas pointed out. I bought the wrong GoPro camera. So now I've ordered the right one. Luckily GoPro has a money-back guarantee.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


The GoPro is available "naked" (just how I like my cameras.) Welcome to the world of today, where I work on the 12 pages of QC notes we just got hit with.
I just ordered the GoPro. We're going to use it on this dragon movie once we get started shooting.
 But ordering it directly from the GoPro site is about twenty bucks cheaper even with shipping.
In the meantime, has anybody edited a feature with the new Lightworks?
Because, you know, it's only sixty bucks and if it could replace Final Cut Pro I would be there in a New York minute.
The King's Speech was edited with it. So too Hugo.
I'm scared. Hold me.
The FedEx with the 9pm deadline is at 70 Spring Street.
Did I mention that today is re-delivery day for Prometheus Trap? I'm hoping we're solving our fun QC rejections.
Ha! There's someone standing there. Am I allowed to blame the editor? I think I will. It's the editor's fault.

It's a Sartre reference for crying out loud.
Normally by this point in the movie we'd have been able to upload mixed acts to the Internet and let our inner circle see them. But we've been so crammed for time that just hasn't been able to happen.
You have no idea how much this shot has plagued me.
 Hunting down matte lines can be nigh on impossible because oftentimes they don't show in the Final Cut Pro prerender. But boy do they show up in the final render.
This was properly identified as an Andrew Kramer energy orb. I stand guilty.
Sometimes there's no time to make a new effect. Sometimes I just steal title treatments from
Because I'm a sleazy producer, that's why.
Too noisy in the background.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

French Androids

Everyone knows that France has the best androids in the world. Which is why they need the best robot hunters in the world.
Groove to how awesome everyone looks. This was exactly what I was thinking. This may be my favorite poster.
Yes, "Un Film De Andrew Bellware". The most pretentious thing to put on a poster because it's even in French. I so win.

Sarah-Doe Osborne

She's awesome. Even the President of SAG thinks so! Here in the Pandora Machine we know so!

Monday, September 3, 2012

QC the QC

Today's excitement is making the "C" version of Prometheus Trap. That is, making all the QC changes that the distributor wants.
Again, this still is just a bit dark because of the gamma difference between your monitor and video.
The distributor hated the original version of this shot because I'd boosted the exposure four stops (in the live-action part of the shot on the bottom left.)
So instead I replaced the back wall altogether and let the live action part of the shot go into the inky blacks. You'll still see some movement there in the lower left (and we go immediately into a closeup). But the video noise from bringing up the exposure so much won't be there. Making the shot look better.
I really thought I couldn't do this with the shot. But the composite actually sits pretty well. I did a poopity job with the exposure when we shot this wide but I did a decent job with the composition.
It's funny -- we never get "you have to change the ending, you can't have everybody die." Indeed, we have almost complete creative license to do whatever we want. We do get hit on the fact that our movies only cost a couple million dollars and not several million dollars quality control issues in picture and sound.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Kevin Kangas Sees the Future*

As it turns out, there are undermounts specifically designed for the AR Drone to carry a Go Pro camera.
The thing I'd prefer not to have is the GoPro's absurdly fisheye lens. Pthu.
But maybe there's some other lightweight options out there with lenses which aren't so wide-angled? Something that'll do at least a 4/3rds sensor at 23.98? If we have to shoot 60 then we'll just pretend all the footage is "overcranked" and we slow it down in post maybe? I really don't want to get wider than the equivalent of about a 28mm in APS-C.

*See comment in post below.