Saturday, December 23, 2006

“Heart of the City” – audio edit day 5

“What did you think of that scene?”
“There needs to be a door sound.”
“There already is one.”
“Yeah, but there needs to be another one.”
“There’s two doors.”
“There is?”
“Yeah, one outer door, a small staircase, then an interior door. It happens off camera so you don’t see it all, but it’s there and it’s necessary for the geography of the space, the timing of the scenes and the transition from the exterior to the interior.”
“Oh, okay. So we’ll need footsteps on the stairs as well?”
“Cool, alright, do we have a good door sound?”
“Yeah, there’s that one from scene 17 at the beginning.”
“That was a wooden door. We need a metal sounding door here.”
“Oh, okay. Do we have any foley metal doors?”
“I don’t think so. Check the Juice disk.”
“Alright, there’s fifty door sounds, let me know which ones you like.”
---scrolling through sounds—-
“Wow, none of them are good metal door sounds.”
“That’s okay, get a good solid door and we can adjust the pitch and tone and make it sound more metallic.”
---many knob tweaks and some magic pixie dust—-
“Sweet, that sounds great. Drop it into the scene and see how it plays.”
“Yeah, cool. Drop the volume about 10db and I think it’ll work.”
“Great, now how about the stairs?”
“Yeah, we had stairs in scene two.”
---scrolling to scene two to isolate and listen to the stair sounds—-
“Perfect, but he’s running up the stairs and for this scene he’s supposed to be walking down the stairs.”
“No problem,”
--more knob tweaks, time adjustment, sound spacing and a little more pixie dust—
“How’s that?”

So that, 8 hours a day, over the last five days. Not really since this is an example of the foley and EFX work that we did today and a bit yesterday, but this type of interaction ran all week. Very cool process. Very cool couple of guys to work with. Excellent results.

So Jeff is leaving tomorrow, first thing, and we’re close to being done. Not completely done, but close. So Matt and I are charged with bringing this one across the finish line, or the goal line, or home plate. Whatever. We’ve got about 17 minutes of mixing, an additional pass through the movie to find any missing EFX and the great opportunity to wrangle two of our actors to come in studio and do some much needed ADR. Sixty seconds total screen time on the ADR stuff. Shouldn’t be a problem. Maybe another 4 hours total studio time, but whatever time it will take Matt to make all of his stem bounces to fly back into Jeff’s Premiere.

We’re almost there.

Mad props to Jeff for writing and directing and producing a great movie. Mad props to Matt for being a freak on the ProTools rig and for having the huge bag of pixie dust for creating, changing and removing bits of sound when they need to be created, changed or removed. Yes, I believe in magic.

Friday, December 22, 2006

“Heart of the City” - audio edit day 4

Having worked on a number of films of varying size and magnitude over the last several years, I’m still amazed and awed by the process and I enjoy every bit of the various processes involved. Yes, having a finished film and a DVD sitting on a shelf is rewarding and feels great, but often for me, the ride is the fun part. And even at my level of knowledge on each of the steps that it takes to get a film from concept to completion, I still completely dig each of those steps. The only analogy that I can think of right off the top of my head is a magician doing a trick and being impressed by his own trick, even though he knows how he does it. Okay, that sounds a little weird as I type that, but hopefully it makes sense.

So with the film “Heart of the City” (as with all of the films I shoot) we took great pains and many steps toward getting the field recorded audio as clear and pristine as possible given whatever time/financial/skill level/gear/etc. constraints you have on any given project. We use a boom pole and a shotgun mic or lavalieres to get the dialog delivered by the actors, and hopefully ONLY the dialog and not all of the ambient sounds that every location offers you. This audio is recorded directly into the camera as a scratch track on the tape and also recorded through a field mixing board onto DAT tapes which are what end up being the actual audio used for the finished film. The sound guy’s world exists in the cans (headphones for you non-film types) and at the end of the microphones. If we pick up too much ambient sound, if too many cars drive by, if a plane flies overhead, if kids are lighting firecrackers (remind me to never shoot a film in late June, early July), if someone is mowing their lawn, you end up redoing takes until the audio is as good as you can get it (given the constraints listed above). When you’re editing, you fly all of your audio into your software and then go through it and make every attempt to clean it up as much as possible. Worst case (and often times) you have to ADR (automated dialogue replacement) a scene (also called “looping”) where you go into a sound studio with your actors and they watch the completed scene on a monitor and try to match their on-screen mouths with their dialog. Sounds tough, right? Yeah, it ain’t easy. Ask any actor that’s done it. Ask any director that’s had actors in to try to do it. But the net result is audio that’s as clean as possible.

All this and now you’ve got nice clean dialog for your film. But wait, life isn’t perfectly clear all of the time. In the real world, there ARE cars driving by, planes flying overhead, kids lighting firecrackers and people mowing lawns as well as rain, wind, thunder, etc. So to make your movie sound realistic, you have to artificially CREATE all of the stuff that you’ve painstakingly tried to get rid of! That’s the fun of the last several days. Create and add in “room tone” which is the sound of a particular room. This creates the “beds” that I mentioned previously. Get all of your beds created for a small office, a large living room with high ceilings, an auditorium that’s full of people, a restaurant full of customers clanking knives and forks, a busy skateboard park (for crying out loud), a city street, a city park, a country park, and the list goes on, then you can lay each bed under each scene and it sounds like your actors are in that environment, but YOU control the environment, it doesn’t control you.

On top of each bed lies all of your other sounds including all of your foley and EFX tracks, the soundtrack and the score. This has been the fun part for me this week, creating a false environment for our characters to exist in that we create. Adding in traffic sounds, birds chirping, crickets, etc. and in particular all of the sound effects that are required to match the action on screen like fists hitting faces and skateboards hitting heads (wow, this sounds like a violent film) as well as various footsteps, opening and closing doors, phone rings, car engines, and if we get enough time, possibly and entire dinner scene with nothing but bodily function noises. I will probably fight to see that this doesn’t happen, but I fear I will be outnumbered and there will be nothing I can do about it.

We’ve got one more official day with Jeff in town and we’ve striped the film with six passes of audio processing steps (organizing, aligning, beds, score, soundtrack, mix) and we have one final pass that should complete all of the EFX. One more day. We can make it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

“Heart of the City” – audio edit day 3

With the video file now installed and all of the audio organized, it was time to start really tweaking. All of the beds are now fully functioning and run the length of the movie. Several “problematic” scenes were fine-tooth-combed to fix whatever needed fixing and improve upon as much as possible.

A short (about a half hour) break in the middle of the day included going through more of the Digital Juice sounds, specifically the bodily functions on the “human” disc. Yikes. Way more realistic than you’d hope.

After the quick hiatus, it was back to editing. We’ve got a couple of more days left before Jeff heads back north so tomorrow will be a big day.

“Heart of the City” – audio edit day 2

Day two and more audio. Most of the day was spent creating, tweaking and laying in “beds,” or ambient background noise, to ride under all of the rest of the audio in each scene. A video file was also created of the entire movie to be installed into ProTools to aid in aligning all of the audio (sounds simple right, well, 4 hours later…)

For those of you editors out there that are looking for some nice foley and EFX or some decent ambient sounds, etc. I highly recommend Digital Juice’s Sound FX. Totally worth the thousand or so bucks you’ll drop on it. We spent quite a bit of time pouring through that today looking for various bits and pieces to be used at some point in the upcoming days.

By the time late afternoon rolled around, we were finally able to start at 0:00:00 and start laying sound EFX. Let the magic begin.

Monday, December 18, 2006

"Heart of the City" – audio edit day 1

Jeff Saxton, writer and director of our upcoming feature film “Heart of the City,” is back in town for the week spending time at empty house studio working on what should be the final audio edit for the film. He’s rented the studio for the week so that we can tweak all of the sound on the entire film. Today was spent working on transferring and organizing all of the audio files from Adobe Premiere Pro to Pro Tools. That includes all of the field recorded dialog and ambience, foley, ADR, EFX, etc. We have 16 tracks of various bits of audio and the project is in good hands with Matt cleaning everything up and levelizing the whole project. Hopefully in a week the project will take a big step forward toward completion. Should be a fun week.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Omaha Film Festival - features and documentaries

Good people of Omaha and the surrounding areas, you are in for a great film festival. Jeremy, Jason and I met with our Documentary judges today from noon until 4:00 and our feature film judges from 5:00 until 9:00 and after some wrap-up we’ve narrowed a fantastic group of films down to an incredible film festival’s worth of short films, narrative feature films and documentaries.

Look for acceptance announcements and a schedule in upcoming weeks. Check the website out for the final film list as well as some other fun features and surprises.

A special thanks to all of our judges in each of the categories. The time and effort put in over the last six months is very much appreciated and the festival is all the better for having each of you. Thank you.

Omaha Film Festival

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

“Once in a Lew Moon”

Had a great night tonight hanging out with Mr. Lew Hunter and his lovely wife Pamela this evening at the Ross Theatre in Lincoln. The producers and director of the upcoming documentary entitled ”Once in a Lew Moon,” about the life and accomplishments of Lew Hunter, were in town talking about their experiences with the production so far. It was a great opportunity to hear Lew and Pamela talk and nice to meet Lonnie Senstock, the documentary’s director.

After Lew and Lonnie talked, we were able to hear from producers Andrew Vamosi and Chance Williams, then we were treated with a three minute look at some of the footage with some pretty big Hollywood names (and one of the biggest Nebraska names) talking about the influence of Lew Hunter on the film industry. It was a great evening sponsored by NIFP and I’m really looking forward to the finished product. Look for it in sometime in 2007 and check for updates on their websites.

Once in a Lew Moon
Lew Hunter

Monday, December 11, 2006

“Off Broadway” preproduction meeting

Tonight was the last official preproduction meeting for the upcoming short film “Off Broadway.” There were sixteen crew members at the meeting and it was my first chance to meet a lot of the people that will be (and have been) working on this project.

It looks like most of the locations are pretty well set, the film has been cast for a while and there have been several rehearsals, wardrobe and props are well underway and the main location set pieces will start construction soon.

The producers and directors are doing a tremendous job so far and this is going to be a great short film.

Principal photography is set for January 3rd through the 7th so hopefully it won’t snow until mid-January.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

“Ulterior Motives” – that’s a wrap

Principal photography for the feature length film entitled “Ulterior Motives” is now wrapped. There were some emotional moments after the last shots when some of the cast members realized that the film they had been working on over the last six months was finally over.

My perspective coming in for one day after the cast and crew had spent so much time together working on this film was that they had a real sense of camaraderie and it was a real family atmosphere. The crew worked great together and the cast came in prepared and ready to work.

Now the film is off to the editing suite so an initial cut should be available sometime in the next couple of months. Having only read a dozen or so pages of the script and seeing four of the scenes shot, I’m really looking forward to checking this film out.

I met a lot of wonderful folks and look forward to seeing them all on future projects. Fun day. Look for “Ulterior Motives” in 2007.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Christmas Carol at the Omaha Community Playhouse

I had another great night at the theatre tonight checking out this year’s version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Omaha Community Playhouse. This is the 31st consecutive year that OCP has run this play and it continues to be an Omaha holiday tradition. There were some significant modifications to the production this year over years past, not the least of which was a new Scrooge. Dick Boyd had played the role of Ebenezer “Eby” Scrooge for the first 30 years of the run and after his retirement from the role last year, accomplished local actor Jerry Longe stepped in.

The production was fantastic with great music, wonderful performances, and some very interesting special effects that really pulled the audience into the piece. The use of video footage displayed on shredded gauze screens for one of the effects was terrific and the special snow effects at different points during the production was definitely a crowd pleaser. One of my favorite parts of any type of production like this is the performances of the children. There were some extremely small children putting on some extremely big performances and it was obvious that the crowd enjoyed those as well.

The play runs Wednesdays through Sundays until December 22nd so if you get a chance to check it out, I highly recommend it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Omaha Film Festival – shorts programs

Today was the day when the OFF shorts judges met to decide who was in and who was out. After reviewing literally hundreds of short films over the last six months, it all culminated into today’s 8 hour meeting. Just like last year, the top ten films and the bottom ten films were pretty easy to determine and pretty easily agreed upon by all judges. The films between were what took most of the eight hours.

It’s a fun and arduous task with the ultimate goal of giving festival attendees the highest quality films to watch, and based on the entries that we’ve chosen, we definitely have a group of films that we’ll be proud to show.

The features and documentary meetings are coming up soon. Be sure to keep checking out our website in the upcoming weeks and months for acceptance announcements. This is going to be a good year.

Omaha Film Festival
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