Posts Tagged ‘sfl48h’

I wanted to write a note to the team and also blog about yesterday and today, so here’s my combination of the two.

The plan for Saturday was thus:

  1. Ceri ingests and organises footage, then puts together a rough cut; simultaneously, Drew syncs the audio and video from the interrogation
  2. Ceri locks off the edit with the synced audio, then delivers the cut to:
    1. Drew, to write the music
    2. Phil, to record a foley track
    3. Chloe, to colorise the footage
  3. Aforementioned members of the team return their work to Ceri, to assemble and export a final cut and submit the film

There were a number of problems with the plan straight off the bat. I only pitched the idea of Chloe colorising the footage at the last minute, and although she was up for it, she’d have to come to me to use the Mac, which she wasn’t used to using – and she has a Real Job on Monday, so I couldn’t keep her up. I was the one who could stay up all night, but no one else could start work until after I was done. On top of that, Drew and I ran into issues with syncing the audio and video, which were exacerbated by his software failing to work and my failing to understand my software. Long story short, we didn’t lock off a cut until gone midnight, and Drew didn’t finish the soundtrack until around 3am. (Shoutout to Drew who had work in the morning and another project with a tight deadline to be doing.)

  • Phil, sorry I left you in the dark and was terrible and keeping you up to date, but sorry more that I couldn’t get my shit together quick enough for you to do any foley.
  • Chloe, sorry I couldn’t sort myself out in time to do any colorising – it would have been fun to work together on it.
  • Drew, sorry I kept you up late, woke you up early, and was generally difficult to work with. I owe you some croissants.
  • Also, Tull, sorry you couldn’t be involved. For what it’s worth, I think our method from last year – where someone who couldn’t make the shoot began the edit on Saturday night – would have been a huge help this year. Let’s do another Sparkle next time.

All of this would have been fine – we locked off the edit, with music, added vocals and even a tiny bit of colorisation from me, at 11am, two hours before what I think the deadline was. But it turns out even two hours wasn’t enough to save us from the ever-loathsome trap of export times. Getting the right export type caused enough hassle in itself, but coupled with the length of each export trial, then the issues of re-uploading it for submission, turned it into a minor disaster. We finally submitted, by email, at just gone 3pm. I’m still not sure whether we made it in time for judging, but they have been lenient in the past.

As I’ve said before, for my part at least, I’ve only ever entered SFL48H for the experience, practice, and deadline pressures it offers. I am immensely proud of everything we’ve come out with for this contest, but I don’t believe we’re in league (budget-wise, for starters) with the shortlisted entries just yet. That’s not the point. The challenge is not to compete, but to complete the film. We’ve done that, so I call that a win.

Where I feel like I fell down this year was on collaboration. Since we left a lot of the preproduction to the last minute, I ended up dictating roughly what I wanted us to do, rather than crowdsourcing ideas. And thanks to the aforementioned mini-disaster yesterday, post-production fell to two people, rather than the five or six people who could have benefitted from the experience (and enjoyment). Having said that, it is worth noting that we had more space for collaboration last year – the post-production Sparkle party wasn’t something we could have repeated this time round.

HOWEVER – big however – I’ve come away from this on a massive high, now that everything is done and dusted. I want to sit down and learn my software properly and get to grips with exports and teach myself some colorising. We did the bulk of our writing within the 48 hour constraints, which is kind of new for us, so we’ve got that going for us. We had what I felt was the hardest specs we’ve ever had before, and I love what we did with them. Most of all I love the film (sound issues aside). I’m super-psyched for Crossroads next month.

I hope, despite my ramblings above, everyone enjoyed themselves, like the final film, and felt that they gained something from the shoot. Better yet if that ‘something’ is two bags of apples. That’s another thing I gained. Whole ton of apples.

apples

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I’ll write up the weekend properly later.

Here’s a list of things I’d like for this project next time:

1. Photographer. I say this for every shoot, but we’ve never yet been able to secure a production-stills-only member of crew, even when we have plenty of people on hand.

2. BTS cameraman. This one’s harder than it seems – we got some behind the scenes footage this year, but it immediately filled up my card and I don’t think it’s as easy as it seems to do this well. Again having a dedicated person would be good.

3. Credits. On Sparkle I had to lock off before finishing the art effects I wanted on the credits, and in ’13 and ’15 we’ve had to forego them completely, just because it’s always left to the end. We tend to have a list of participants well in advance; there’s no reason someone artistic with a vague knowledge of FCP, iMovie etc. couldn’t be doing this on Saturday, and make them super-fly.

4. Social media. I like the idea of Twittering mid-shoot, but it always takes up more time than I think it will. I’d love to have someone on hand to tweet pictures and updates as we go along, just for the fun of it.

5. someone to interact with sfl so i dont have to

I’d normally say “Watch this space for the final product”, but why not watch this space instead…

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(writing at 11am)

I’m uploading the rushes from yesterday, behind schedule because I forgot to pick up a CF reader from Isherwood last night (or should say early this morning). It’s taking its time and preventing me doing anything else.

Yesterday’s plan:

09:00 – Meet in Guildford, buy costumes and snacks, get specs and make sure we had our prop.

10:00 – Drive to location.

11:00 – Begin filming.

18:00 – Run out of sunlight. Drive to studio, get fish and chips, dress set in record time.

19:00 – Begin filming.

22:00 (aka a reasonable time in the evening) – wrap, strike the set, disperse crew for a nice early night.

Yesterday in fact went thus:

08:00 – Chloe picked up an airsoft weapon from Nat (aka Nataraptor) after we remembered at the last minute that we needed one.

08:30 – Picked up by Chloe and brought to Guildford for tea with Phil, Zac and Olivia and wait for Chris to arrive.

09:00 – Went to Primark (aka costume department) to buy several white shirts and black trousers, while Chris and Zac went to Tesco for all of the snacks. Try to hang around long enough to receive specs in case we need to buy a prop.

11:00 – No specs as of yet. Set off to location.

12:00 – Arrive on location. Walk up and down non-pavemented road looking for a tiny pocket of 3G to check my email/texts.

12:15 – Realise by means of SFL Twitter feed that our specs are not coming by email/text this year, but are in the account.

12:30 – Finally get into account to access our specs. Have a mild panic. Rejoice that we have the prop already on us.

13:00 – Begin shooting on location. We had three cameras – Chloe’s as main, Phil’s as 2nd, and mine for BTS and pictures. We fill it up pretty quickly. Chloe and I share main camera handling as I need to practice operating and using a higher spec DSLR than mine. Phil and Olive shoot additionally on his camera. Highlight was Chloe being a dead body. Thought we got found by passers-by who turned out to be Matt and Drew bringing more snacks. Got fake blood all over white shirts. Nearly cut Chris in half.

16:30 – Ran out of things to shoot, despite it being light for a good three hours more and us having only been filming for about three and a half hours. Agreed that it was more sensible to head back and get a head start on the studio.

17:30 – Crash in various locations for tea. Pick up sound and lighting gear.

18:30 – Reconvene at the studio and start setting up. Send Matt and Chris out for fish and chips. Eat fish and chips.

19:00 – Sit down with Phil and Zac (while Chloe sets up lights and Drew sets up sound). Talk through world facts, the character, what we’ve shot so far and how that ties into a backstory, character motives, etc., in line with our title and line of dialogue.

20:00 – Begin shooting. Chloe on camera, Drew on sound, Phil 1st, Olivia clapper.

00:30 – Finish shooting, and realise we may have missed all the last trains. Drive around a few train stations. Verify that there are no trains. Redistribute actors for crashing overnight. Strike set.

01:00 – Bed.

Our first time entering this competition in 2013 was our third ever film shoot, and the first one I planned without supervision from people who knew what they were doing (i.e. Bill and Kiera). We were nervous and excited and planned for months in advance. I remember remarking in 2014 how less prepared we were than the first year, even though the final result turned out (in my opinion) better, and how we probably shouldn’t end up in that situation again.

I’m not saying that this year we are less prepared than we ever have been, or that we’ve left preparation later than ever before (production meeting last night), but Drew is worried that we don’t have a proper script written yet, and anyone who knows Drew will know that he is the non-worrier in our relationship.

I’m waiting for Chloe to pick me up so we can go into town and meet with the rest of Saturday’s team: Phil, Chris, Zachary Street (whom we stole from Bill’s feature Fallen Soldiers) and Phil’s cousin Olivia. From there we’ll have an hour or so to grab props, costume bits etc., and wait for our brief, then it’s off to location.

We’ll have until sunset to film on location, but are hoping to wrap earlier than that. Then it’s back to civilisation, where civilisation is the home of the highly accommodating Nigel and Louise Williams – my parents – who have agreed to let us turn their dining room into a studio for the evening.

Not running two units simultaneously is new for us for this project – it was the original plan, but now we’ll be doing location first and studio later, rather than at the same time. It means a longer day but it also means more people on hand, more cameras, and best of all (for me) I get to be on both shoots.

Expecting the brief in the next two and a half hours…

#sfl48h

The Sunday Post-Production Party started at 10am at our house with me, Drew, Cédric, Phil and Tull piling into our flat and filling it with laptops and Oreos. We gave Tull’s rough cut to Cédric and Drew, so that they could start preparing for grading and composing respectively, and Phil and I sat with Tull to review the rough itself. I’ve never collaborated on an edit before and spent most of my energy trying not to make too many demands and force my opinions on everyone.

Between us we worked through the edit and finished with a cut of around 4:30 (which was a welcome change from last year, when we’d struggled to make it down to a final length 10 seconds over the limit). Throughout this process, having everyone in the same room was both a good laugh and also useful for keeping everyone in sync. Phil, Tull and I were on Macs, Cédric and Drew on PCs; I was editing in FCP7 and Tull was using X; and Cédric was using an Adobe package for grading. Constant communication helped prevent some of the issues we’d had in the past when mixing setups (like the Announcement soundtrack being a good ten seconds shorter than the video, or Wargames being shot in two different framerates).

dead_ceri

At around 6pm, we handed over the locked-off edit for actual grading and composition. Cédric and Drew already had a head-start on this from working on the rough, but Cédric would need to apply the grade shot by shot, and composing everything obviously takes time. Fortunately, Dan, Phil and I had decided we wanted the night-time cityscape which the film opens on, and we were a tempting fifteen minutes away from the gorgeous views offered by the hills of Guildford.

Phil took us up to the Mount, overlooking Guildford Cathedral and boasting a view all the way across to the Wembley Arches. After setting up some shots and waiting for nightfall, I did my first ever camera operating – granted, it was a motionless shot of a town, but it was exciting nonetheless. After about two hours of charging batteries, lightsabre battles and lying on my back in the grass, we came back with the 15 seconds which would be our film’s introduction. We then took to finding some kind of visual effect to throw over the footage using only FCP7, and ended up cobbling together the “sparkle” effect using a filter and various layers of fade. For a team with no special effects experience or software, it didn’t come out too bad.

We were hitting stumbling blocks, of course. Cédric’s grade refused to look the same in the export as it did in the editor. Drew’s music, as stubborn and self-assured as its composer, would not balance neatly with the narration. A full thirty minutes were dedicated to trying to find the perfect sound for our detonator, which we later decided sounded better in silence. But the agreement to lock off something–anything–before dawn meant that concessions were made and compromises met, and finally we piled everything together into FCP7: the locked-off, graded edit, the music and narration, and the “special effect”-ified cityscape. At around 3am, everyone confirmed their preferred name spellings for the credits, and Cédric, Phil and Tull were finally allowed to go home.

gun_phil

I love this short. I love the way the title juxtaposes the theme, and the backstory for the explosives which you hardly get to hear about in the narrative. I love the memories it brings up when I watch it of an enjoyable, fast-paced shoot without drama or stress. What I think I love most about it is how different it is to some of the other things we’ve made. Strings, as I’ve talked about before, was so tightly tied to my personal vision that it was hard to give anyone else creative input or accept when things weren’t perfect. Wargames was huge and I was wholly unprepared for the challenge. But I approached this with a level of indifference which I actually think helped it a lot, because I wasn’t working towards an idea in my head, and I wasn’t desperate for everything to be perfect, and I wasn’t afraid of the people I was with judging my ideas. We came to the idea and we tackled it as best we could and we settled for what worked, not what we felt like we needed.

Watch Sparkle on YouTube here!

Back to Part 1

At 11:00 on Saturday the 12th April, I pulled up outside Cédric’s house with a car boot full of improvised explosives.

Drew and I spent a few hours the night before dismantling old electronics, sticking wires and circuit boards all over them and smothering them in gaffer tape. We’d already decided to use makeshift bombs as props in our submission for the Sci-Fi-London 48-Hour Film Challenge 2014. We weren’t entirely sure how, but it would probably involve taping them all over Michael Vincent.

We received our brief at about 11:15 by email.

Title:
Sparkle

Dialogue:
There’s nothing quite like meeting people in person, and I look very forward to meeting you.

Prop:
A mobile phone being powered off

Armed with our gaffer tape creations, our team of six met up several miles down south in the Green Belt to get started on the photography.

This year’s 1st Unit consisted of:

Cédric Hauteville, Director of Photography for the first time with Flashcards

Michael Vincent, the face of Drew’s voice

Phillip Grigg, scriptwriter and assistant director

Alex Twinn, AD, “the extra with piercing eyes”

Gemma Druce, demonstrating her wonderful ability to look angry

And me, starring in a Flashcards film for the first time ever. Simultaneously, Drew Cunningham was on his bike and heading to London to record the narration with sound extraordinaire Toby Warren.

Before we began, we decided that everything would be shot handheld: this was partially to speed things up, but also to avoid the issue we’d had last year of cutting sharply between handheld and sticks. We also decided (tentatively, on my part) to grade the footage in post, which Cédric had volunteered to have a go at. Both of these decisions gave him several considerations while setting up the camera, for which he ran a few test shoots in the weeks running up to get used to various techniques. (My favourite of these is the focus pulling, which you can see in the final film.)

mike_guards

We were on a very tight time limit, not because of the challenge deadline, or even because of limited daylight, but because we only had one battery for the camera. This led to an enforced wrap after about five hours, and having this deadline encroaching on us all day led to a strict two-take maximum for most of the shots. It was nerve-wracking. Not only could we not watch any takes back, but due to our tiny crew, half of the time I was in front of the camera and couldn’t see the framing at all. Whenever I was on camera, Phil would step in to direct the shot, and Alex directed the final scene with both me and Phil on screen. Many of the artistic decisions for shots were left to Cédric. Whoever wasn’t doing something was immediately doing something else. Although we were far below the number of people we’d hoped for, the result of our tiny crew, made of up people who had all worked on Flashcards shoots before, did at least mean that we all knew roughly how everyone worked and how best to collaborate.

By all accounts, the shoot was a success, where ‘success’ is measured in levels of stress (or, in this case, lack of) throughout the day. I think this was largely due to the preproduction stage of this being vastly overshadowed by the excitement of Wargames (more info on that to follow), meaning that we rushed into this without much preparation. Rather than this resulting in disaster, it led to a pleasant combination of freedom to experiment and a lack of caring much for how it came out. We weren’t there to be shortlisted, or even to improve on our previous films: we were there to add clutter to the Flaschards YouTube channel in the shortest possible time.

That evening we headed back to Cédric’s house to review the footage. The result of our limited battery power was a total of 30 mins of footage (giving us a shooting ratio of 6:1). I could already see that Cédric’s test shoots were paying off: while we’d sacrificed the time to find the perfect angles for each shot, the handheld style gave the footage the edgy, dynamic feel that looks effortless but I always find harder to achieve. We could already see the shots we’d forgotten or things that hadn’t worked out quite the way we envisioned, but for this project it didn’t matter too much.

trigger_mike

I dropped the footage off with Dan Tull, first-time Flashcards editor, to put us together a rough cut that evening while we recovered. Drew showed me the narration he and Toby had recorded, half of it based on Phil’s script ideas and half written by them using the title and dialogue we’d been given. The narration took the story we’d shot (one man and his bombs) and tied it in with the new concepts (of the horrific compound and the explosives it created), giving the final product a nice sense of depth. We could see that there would be work to do in meshing the narration with the visuals, but that would be a challenge for another day. More specifically, the following day.

 

Part two to follow…

With the initial madness of releasing the first installment of Project Flashcards a little way behind, I thought about writing a blog detailing how the challenge went, amusing anecdotes from the shoot, what I learned from the editing process and so on. Then I discovered that Chloe “I think I might have found my true calling” Isherwood had gone ahead and done it already. So in the spirit of collaboration I am handing over to the director of photography for A Special Announcement for her account of the shoot. As a preface, please find my account in statistics-form:

Hours in challenge: 48

Hours spent shooting: 8 (6 for main shoot, 2 for pickups)

Hours spent editing: 24

Hours spent sleeping: 9 (read: far too many)

Capri-Sun cartons consumed: 7

Times lead actor nearly died: 1

Hop over to Chloe’s blog to read her full account of shooting A Special Announcement!

Watch this space for 2nd Unit Director Andrew Cunningham’s account of the shoot from the other side.

A Special Announcement - click here to watch!