Posts Tagged ‘sparkle’

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

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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…