Friday, March 30, 2012

Dragons and Spaceships

So, you think I'm not a 9-year-old. I like to think so too. But I'm all about the dragons and spaceships today.

Dolf Veenvliet is building the Prometheus.
Nathan Vegdahl is building a dead dragon.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Girls and Dragons

Re-texturing to make a dragon dead. He's dark because he's all charred.
That's right, we're starting CG work on Dragon Girl. Nathan Vegdahl is having a dragon party at his house.
There are a lot of dragon shots in this picture. I'm going to have to find a way to reduce them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In the Machine

Questions to not ask when interviewing.
Look! Mr. Kangas showed me that wildcards work when you put in portions of file names in a directory. I was looking for "fall" and I found the sound effect I was looking for.
What are you people doing with my headphones? I mean, the edit station has very heavy-duty headphones -- Sennheiser 280's. And apparently you just take them out and drive trucks over them all day long when I'm not here.
Today is another punchlist day in the Pandora Machine. I'm re-mixing and re-fixing all sorts of things in Android Insurrection.
In my copious free time I'm updating our dialog page on the wiki.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I need a cryo chamber

I had to superglue a couple of our wall hooks which had fallen. And now there is superglue on my hands. On my pants. On the carpet. On my desk. It's really quite spectacular. I don't think I'd even done this big a mess with superglue when I was little. Good grief. I'm revoking my superglue privileges.

In the meantime we're doing some punchlist notes for Android Insurrection. You know, we're not going to be able to have a screening of that picture 'till after we finish shooting The Prometheus Trap.

So two tools from Waves are a big deal in our mixing dialog.
Vocal Rider
Waves DNS (Dialog Noise Suppression)

Both of these tools work shockingly well. The Vocal Rider is a very very slow compressor which rides your vocals to within a specified range. Although obviously not designed for dialog per se, it certainly works for dialog. Very very well. You can (and probably should) put some sort of limiting above it, but the Rider gets you ballparked the way you really ought to ride the levels.
The DNS is mission critical. Yeah, a Cedar (at ten times the price) might sound a little bit better -- especially as you really whollop a track with noise reduction. But it's basically the best single-ended noise reduction for dialog I've heard outside of the Cedar device.

Everything about the mix is better with the DNS. Even crappy camera-audio tracks of people walking around indoors can be cleaned up to the point of usability (to use instead of doing Foley).

Monday, March 26, 2012

Who is what?

So Backblaze is kinda cool but you have to keep your drives plugged in or it'll drop you after 30 days. And it would really suck to have a whole movie backed up, you remove the drive, and then you have a crash after 31 days.

Y'know.  I've been thinking about how we're going to shoot this movie. Since my first movie I've been shy about using other camera people because every cameraman I knew flaked out on me. But since then I've met and worked with great camera people.
There's a couple issues working with multiple cameras. For instance, they all pretty well have to be set to the same f-stop. So if you're using a very long lens on once camera and it's clamped all the way down to f5.6, then you probably need to shut your wide-angle-lens camera down to 5.6 too or you'll end up yelling at inanimate objects in post production. Sometimes animate ones.
The other issue is what if you use different cameras? With different lenses? Oh my. Oh dear oh my oh my.
Well, here's an interesting thing about this particular movie: the Groundhog Day-like plot will take us back to the same location a number of times. Wouldn't it be interesting if the look were slightly different each time? For instance it's the same scene, but we go to camera X rather than camera Y for all the shots. Different camera operator. But shot at the same time.
I think that might work really well.
Me? I'll be shooting on the Panasonic GH1 with Canon S.S.C. manual lenses. I bet we're going to have to set the cameras at different ISO's in order to deal with the above issue of different f-stops because you know I'm gonna want to be wide open at f1.8 or so. But if my camera is at 100 ISO and the 5.6 camera is at, er, math-in-head, 1600(?)ISO, they should about match. We'll fiddle with it.
Now, who is in this movie?

Michael Shattner does not exist on the Internet. Therefore he does not exist. As far as you know.
Rebecca Kush.

Sarah-Doe Osborne
Sarah Doe Osborne is Artemis.
Rebecca Kush is Haskins. She also does not have a web page. What is up with that?
Andrew Langton.

Andrew Langton is Rhodes.
Kate Britton.
Kate Britton is Trent.
James Becton.
Nobody yet knows who is Cornell. That will be worked out in the next couple days. James Edward Becton will be Cornell.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Work is Never Done

And by that I mean that there's always something to do even on a movie you thought you'd delivered and seen the last of.
I rendered out Android Insurrection and put it out the door today. $114 to FedEx to get the drive to Beverly Hills by tomorrow.
And the thing is that we just know there will be some changes. But it's out the door. I should be having a cigar. Or at least some bubble tea.
But in the meantime I've done a new mix on Earthkiller. We have a lead on possibly releasing that picture in North America. Maybe along with Android Insurrection. Heck, they should take Solar Vengeance too ya know.
I need to figure out how to make Dragon Girl with absolutely as few visual effects shots as possible. By my reckoning the final edit is about three times the number of visual effects shots you plan on. So we have to get the movie down to 1/3 of what we think we can do. Ha! Yes. That's what we'll do.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


John Bruno discusses the importance of the script supervisor.
Here in the Pandora Machine we gave up on script supervision awhile ago.
This is one of those movie making rules like "never mix drunk" -- we don't pay attention to it although it's not that it's a bad idea in and of itself.*.
For me the difficulty with script supervision is that most of the work they do goes unused. The picture editors don't really trust the script supervisors to give them everything they need to know so they tend to not even look in the script supervisor's book during post. The other thing is that I really don't care what anybody has to say on set if they're not an editor. Whether a DP or a fight director, if you haven't edited a feature then you really don't know what you're doing. You might know a whole bunch of rules, and it may tend to be that if you follow all the rules you know you'll tend to not get into trouble.
But we don't really have time for all that.**
We just have time to shoot all the action, all the dialog in closeup, details of anything anybody does in the scene (like light a cigarette), a clean of anything anyone refers to in the scene (like the dead body on the floor), and whatever amusing thing anybody in the room tells you to shoot (if there's time).
This is one reason we like having Maduka Steady with us on shoot days. And the end of a scene I can turn to him and say "Anything else we need to get?" And sure, there's a whole shtick made up about how he invariably says "Get feet, closeup, walking in and out." But I'll tell ya -- we use those shots more often than you'd think in the final picture edit.
Picture edit. It's where the movie is actually made. I mean, sure, you can argue it's the dialog edit where the picture is really made but... picture edit. It's where the movie is actually made.

*Why on earth would I use that analogy? Oh. I see.
**The one think I do wish we'd do is write down the location of wild audio takes in the master script. Because knowing that is useful in post.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Scheduling a Prometheus

Whew, here is the calendar for The Prometheus Trap. The schedule itself is here. How do you know which scenes are scheduled for which day? Look at the tabs on the bottom of the page, each tab is for a day of shooting as referenced below:

Sunday April 15
Day 1 (A)
Venom Bridge
1 Finn

Saturday April 21
Day 2 (B)
Venom Cryo/locker
(MS must be back in NY by 3pm)
1 Finn
3 Haskin
4 Rhodes

Sunday April 22
Day 3 (E)
1 Finn
3 Haskin
4 Rhodes
5 Trent

Saturday April 28
Day 4 (D)
Cargo Bay
1 Finn
2 Artemis
3 Haskin
4 Rhodes
5 Trent
6 Cornell

Sunday April 29
Day 5 (H)
Prometheus Bridge
1 Finn
2 Artemis
3 Haskin
5 Trent
6 Cornell

Saturday May 5
Day 6 (F)
Observation Deck
1 Finn
2 Artemis
3 Haskin
4 Rhodes

Sunday May 6
Day 7 (G)
Prometheus Engineering and Cryo
1 Finn
2 Artemis (?)
3 Haskin
4 Rhodes
5 Trent
6 Cornell

Sunday May 13
Please hold for pickups! ;-)

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Colossus

I'm making notes on different characters in The Prometheus Trap. Hmm... I wonder what Steven Niles, the writer, would think? ;-)
Looking at Rhodes. He's a great guy. You know that if you were in his platoon, Sgt. Rhodes would look after you. I think that's kind of his problem with Finn. He can't get that guy to feel at ease. And guys in Rhodes' unit always feel comfortable. There's always someone they can come to with their problems. There's always one guy who makes 'em feel like things are good no matter how deep in the hole they might be. And there's something clearly eating at Finn (he may be an android but that doesn't mean he doesn't have feelings.) It's your job to make sure your guys are all fit 'n pretty.

You have a lot of respect for your guys -- the enlisted. Not so much for officers, who are overpaid and mostly useless. Especially that idiot lieutenant you punched out in a bar off of Callisto. Which is why you're here, instead of being thrown in the brig they stuck you on the Venom with this rich girl -- Captain Haskin. She really ain't one of the guys -- she comes from some upper-class family where they send the middle kid into the Mobile Infantry. She has her own armor, not some Army hand-me-downs like everyone else. Worst of all is that she's actually competent. She's got a stick up her ass about a mile long but she can actually do the job of soldiering. So although it's amusing to razz on her because she did get her command on a silver spoon, she can actually do the job. There's no reason to tell her that though.

Foley Day in the Pandora Machine

So we recorded Foley for Android Insurrection. DeLisa M. White came by and we made some footsteps and robots sounds (which will all be up under a Creative Commons 0 license on just as soon as they are moderated.)
I was surprised to find that our little voiceover booth was good for Foley work. And compared to hard-cut sound effects, Foley goes fast.
DeLisa M. White recording Foley with my shoe and a brick.
Now, is there any compelling reason not to deliver sound files for mixes in 24-bits?

Saturday, March 17, 2012


The awesome Ramsey Scott is designing our costumes for The Prometheus Trap. Here's a set of sketches for the six characters.

C'est Complete

Here they are. Three different kinds. Completed. Anthony Jones is a giant among men.
I feel like John McClane "Now I have space helmets."

Friday, March 16, 2012

And Yet Helmets

This is, apparently, a blog about space helmets. Which is good, because there aren't enough space helmet blogs in the world.
Anthony Jones totally rocked these out. Thanks to Brian Schiavo with hooking us up.
The color palette. Most people think of the one on the right as the "old" one. That's interesting. Like it's an older design? In the foreground is the original model Anthony built.
 All that needs to happen now is for the last of the vacu-formed plexi to be put in. The helmets fit rather well.
The very blue light is from the triple-LED inside the helmet. All the other light is from the outside.
 Anthony designed the helmets to be light-weight as well as good-fitting. They just sit nicely on the shoulder.
It's kind of awesome that you can rim-light the face because of the two large side ports. 
At one point we'd had a different color scheme where one of the helmets would be white. That idea disappeared with the much better notion of all the helmets being in the same palette but each one being unique.
The visors do scratch easily. So we'll have to take care of them. But the helmets themselves are pretty sturdy.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Today's Doings On

Today is a big re-mix day on Android Insurrection. We've promised to get the movie out the door on Wednesday so we're doing all our cleanup work now.
Our distributor had some notes on the picture which I've mostly done at this point. The rest of the work is a matter of doing a whole bunch of Foley and cut-sound-effects work. DeLisa White will be in the studio here on Sunday to do some Foley for us. That means I have to figure out picture monitoring in the VO booth. Or something...
From Steve Burg.
I hadn't originally planned on having a front-title sequence in the picture. But we tacked on a prologue and then our rep suggested putting the front-title credits on there so it doesn't seem as tacked-on as we know it is. So there was the issue of what credits to put in the front-title. The writers insisted on using silly names for their credits, so we stuck them back in the rear-title crawl where it wouldn't make the whole movie seem like a joke. And what that did was meant that we had to figure out, well who does go front title and who is "above" the title on the picture?
I think that's all worked out now.
I'm going to go visit some space helmets...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What the What?

At a deeply fundamental level I have no idea what Ian Hubert is doing. But I'm utterly fascinated by it. It's pretty brilliant.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Space Helmets

Anthony Jones painted the helmet.
 The color is even more interesting than I thought it would be.
 The visors retain a stunning amount of visibility. So much so that I've thought that maybe we won't have to put a light inside to light the faces.
 But we will light from the inside because most of the light we'll see will be coming off of the actors anyway.
Plus, lighting from within will reduce our problems with reflections.
These are the most awesome space helmets ever.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Avid or Premiere

Our sales rep uses Los Angeles Duplication and Broadcasting over there in Burbank California.
George Lucas remembers Ralph McQuarrie. (Via Chance.)

Not long from now comes the time when we have to move off of Final Cut Pro. We've got somewhere between 1 and 3 movies that we'll stay with FCP. But eventually we'll have to move to a new editor.
Now maybe, just maybe, Apple will decide to continue the Final Cut non-X series.
But I ain't banking on it.
I'll tell ya -- I'm very prejudiced toward Premiere. I've cut two features on Premiere. And the learning curve between Premiere and Final Cut Pro is virtually nothing.
Last time I used Premiere the biggest issue was that the editor brought hundreds of music files into the bin and Premiere wants to render out all the waveform displays for all those files. Normally (with Final Cut) bringing in hundreds of files into a bin wouldn't matter. FCP would just ignore those files until told otherwise. But in Premiere it made the whole project very data heavy which was a major pain for us.
There are a whole bunch of people who have moved over to Avid. I don't know if that's really the right direction for us. Especially because you can rent Premiere for a few months if you need to.
We won't make a decision for at least 6 months though.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lighting yourself

The direction we're going in here with Dolf Veenvliet and the Blender model of the Venom is to have the model lit entirely with its own lights. Which grooves me to no end.
I have found out things about paint pens. They're nice and they do totally work on plastic. BUT. It's difficult to get a nice coat of pain on something because the acrylic paint dries sort of tacky (even overnight) and the paint pen lifts up the paint as you try to do a second coat, resulting in no more paint being on the surface.
So it's all about brushes from here on out.
Which is too bad because I just love the lack of cleanup with pens and how much easier they are to use than brushes. That's just how things are.
We're going to put our models up as Creative Commons models. I'm a fan of the idea of sharing these great models with the Blender community.
With all of my years of filmmaking I'm missing four things. Here is the comprehensive list:

  • A pair of black wingtip shoes. I wore them on Apostasy. I have zero idea where they are now.
  • A pair of black "jungle" Army boots. Again, no clue.
  • A VDB boom pole. I musta lent that to somebody. Or something. I can't find it anywhere.
  • An 8mm Beretta blank-only semiautomatic. I... can't fathom where that thing is. 

I suspect that the last two things were either lent to someone or got misplaced during the move of our offices. So maybe they'll just turn up? Who knows?
I do know this. My hamantashen level is very very low right now. Like dangerously low. And it's after sundown on a Friday so there's no way for me to get any until Sunday. Sigh.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Yeah yeah yeah

It's a trio of white dudes from Invisible Children rockin some guns like they're gonna to in and get Charlie Kony out of the jungle.
But that's not what's important about this picture. What's important is the red color of the magazines on the AK to our left. Is that two mags strapped together? Red. Nice.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Clearance Clarence

Here are more questions I don't know the answers to.

Clearing company names. If another sci-fi franchise has used a particular made-up company name, you can guess that they've "cleared" the name for use. Like the Weyland-Yutani Corporation in the Alien franchise. They're evil. They make androids and bioweapons. There's no way anybody can be suing Fox for defamation because of the Wayland-Yutani corporation.
Anthony Jones' helmet for The Prometheus Trap. We're actually calling the white version of this helmet the "Ripley" which amuses me to no end.
The question is: does that mean that essentially "Weyland-Yutani" is already cleared for your use? I imagine that nobody (Fox or whomever) can really prevail in a lawsuit against you for using that company name. It's not a copyright infringement because there just isn't enough substantive about it to be copyrightable. Right?

But it's also been cleared so not only is it not infringing, there can't be a real Weyland-Yutani that can make a liable claim if you have an evil company with that name. I'm guessing.

Anyway, another certainly cleared company is Taim & Bak, which is a company from the Star Wars universe (although I believe never actually used in any films.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Things We Have Learned

We've learned some interesting things of late. And we learned them the hard way. But we did learn them.

Although the bulk of our sales are overseas, the English mix is the most important thing to the overseas buyers. For the last 10 years my biggest concern has been making good music and effects tracks for overseas distributors to dub their actors over. And that's still important. But that English mix is what they, and most of their customers, listen to. They've become very discerning about their English mix.

This is kinda a big freakin' deal. Because I feel like this is a bit of a sea change in the industry. A number of markets have traditionally been English-language (The Netherlands, for instance, tends to not dub movies -- they just subtitle them). I think much of this comes from the cultural importance of the language and how people relate to movies in other languages, etc.

But my question here is: can I start delivering 24-bit files? Does anybody care if the audio files are 16-bit or 24-bit? What is love? Why is there so much hate, and yet so much beauty, in the world?

Working 'till 3am again

Our sometimes trailer editor Jeff Alley edits more than just trailers. Oh yeah. He's doing a whole lotta TV. Check out his reel:

Jeff Alley Editor Reality TV Compilation Reel 2012 from Jeff Alley on Vimeo.
Why is is that when you're in an absolute panic to get stuff done does nothing freaking work? There are probably some reasons for that.
One is that you're working on the whole project -- using up the most data.
Well now I have a whole act which simply refused to render out. Audio. Can't render out 6 channels of audio. It just creates "empty" files. No idea why. Pththth. OK, put all audio in a new project. There. That seems to work.
The picture editing machine just crashes when it runs into a plugin it doesn't like. Beauty Box is usually the biggest culprit there. Even with all that RAM and the new fancy video card we still have to render in 8-bit in Final Cut Pro. OK, I'll just put edits on top of the fully-rendered version. Perlah.
How much longer 'till we abandon FCP? Probably this year.
Speaking of getting computers to work better, here are tweaks for Windows 7 64-bit to try to get it to work better for you. I turned off paging file on my C: drive. Does that work better? I have no idea.