What's All This Then?
What's All This Then?
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For no very good reason we made a short feature film in our spare time around the studio. Steve wrote a funny script and after a pre-production and storyboard meeting while drinking Harps on the roofdeck, we decided to make a go of it, starting filming the last week of June.
Our friends at Veer helped underwrite the production of the film and also are giving us a hand distributing it. Also, many thanks to all of our Executive Producers who are listed in the right-hand column, for chipping in.
If the trailer and the film work at all it's in a large part because of the music. The Coctails on Carrot Top Records have always been a house fave at CP and we love that they let us use their tracks in the final piece. Buy their records, you won't be sorry. That goes double for Dianogah and Southern Records who contributed the track featured on the trailer.
Long time friend Jeff Lupetin killed the narration. Thanks for that. As always, our studiomates at 37signals have been supportive and Jason and Ryan really went beyond the call with their cameo as 'the sandwich company.' Jake Walker from The Show helped in a bunch of ways, not the least of which was buying a six-thousand dollar camera after drinking beer one night. That really helped. George and Jamebus and the crew at Tilted, the nation's most gracious hosting company, kicked in as Executive Producers and more importantly, put together a custom server setup for the video.
Finally, respectamatta to Eric Helin and Drew Neujahr of Slowtron and Scott Smith for throwing in with us and adding their own awesome films to the DVD. We all worked hard on this but our own Steve Delahoyde deserves most of the credit and blame for starting this project and then seeing it through to completion.
First, thanks to everyone who took the time to watch the film, and extra thanks to those wrote in, or posted on their sites, all the terrific words about our little project. We're really glad the reception was 99.9% positive, especially me, who in those past two weeks of using every available free second to try to finish all the little bits, had completely lost any idea of what the whole thing looked like.
Along those lines: after living with the film for near on five months, now that it's all over and done with, it's strange not to be working on it. Not that it was something we were working on every day, given the need to do actual work from time to time, but it's odd not to have that constant project lingering over you anymore. A relief, certainly, but that desire to start something lengthy will probably need to return one of these days.
Finally, as an update with actual information, we've been putting together a batch of DVDs for all the people who ordered a copy. And the t-shirts came in and they look terrific. We'll be sending those out shortly, and wearing them around the office in no-time.
Wow. We hadn't gotten a chance to play with the new Quicktime codec, that H.264 deal, but now that we've been doing test renders with it on the final edit of the film, we've seen the light. Takes its sweet time, but the end results are amazing. Drop dead gorgeous video, perfect audio, and all in tiny, easily manageable file sizes. Amazing. And that said, if you haven't updated Quicktime yet, do it now!
Whew. Kept meaning to update these production notes, but it's quite literally been nonstop work for the past two weeks in trying to finish up the film. When we weren't doing actual work, we'd be tweaking this thing, or doing a little more ADR, and everything in between. And then I've been going home and working with it well past when I should have gone to bed. But it's nearly there, we're happy to report. Already today, I've rendered out the whole film three times because I've caught bits and pieces here that need fixing.
But enough of that. Let's catch up on what we've been doing. On Monday afternoon, we went over to Hubbard Street Studios to do some mixing. In our brief three hour session, we were able to get through all of the dialogue tracks, and the film greatly benefited from it. We'd used so many different mics, in so many different settings, that the thing desperately needed to be balanced.
On Tuesday, we heard from the voice over artist we'd gotten signed on to help us with all of this, the fantastically talented Jeff Lupetin, who said he'd be downtown and could swing by to the narration. Unfortunately, the Hubbard Street was all booked up. So, to avoid running into any more delays, we ran over and rented a Schoeps MK41 mic, set up in the back room again, and Jeff was in, recorded, and out the door in less than an hour. And it couldn't have sounded better.
The rest of the week has been largely mixing. We hadn't gotten to play around much with getting the audio to match the depth of some of the shots (i.e. far away stuff sounds quieter and more room-y), so there was a lot of that. Also, carefully working the music levels to help punctuate or pull back from dialogue or jokes. And last, a few edits here and there, which, particularly in one scene, really helped move the whole thing along.
All in all, it's nearly there. Next week it all gets revealed.
ADR, or Automated Dialogue Replacement, is our new best friend. There were certain scenes, especially early on, for which we had rented some really great wireless mics, so those were fine. But there were others where we'd had trouble with the mics we had, or the levels just hadn't been high enough. It was really the only portion of the film that I was gravely concerned about. But Jim kept with the mantra, "We'll ADR it. It'll work out just fine." Lo and behold, he was exactly right.
We set up a makeshift audio suite in the storeroom, by far the quietest place at the studio (and not with the weird echo of 37 Signals' Jason's office, which was our initial pick). One by one, I'd call everyone in, loop a piece of film, and have them repeat bits of dialogue until it fit (here's Michele saying one line over and over again). Then yesterday was picking favorite takes and getting it all to fit perfectly. Of course, this included messing around a bit to see how fun ADR can be. Now all that's left to do is get into a studio, record the voice over, the foley work, and mix it all together.
And on Sunday. Same work, different setting.
Here's how I spent my Saturday. But with good purpose, as the colors are now all even and beautiful.
Wrapped. That's it. We shot the last shot at 4:32pm. It's been something like a four month process, with delays, vacations, occasionally too much work that likes to get in the way of fun, and everything in between. But it's finally all in the can (and by "can" we mean "a hard drive on Steve's desk"). So at around 5pm tonight, we all gathered some chairs around the monitor, plugged it into the computer, opened a couple of semi-cold beers (left un-refrigerated due to a couple of shots on Tuesday) and watched the whole thing in all its rough-cut glory. Rough is certainly the operative word there, but it certainly showed where the whole thing was going. So now it's a weekend full of massive color-correction, a trip to the studio for some much needed ADR work and to record the narration, and then it's all over. Then maybe we'll start work on our next film, "Citizen Kane 2."
It looks like we're in the home stretch. After working around several more vacations and lots of client work, we're getting very nearly there. We put together yet another rough cut last week with everything where it should be and we were pretty happy with it, but there were a few little bits here and there that needed to be fixed up. Was the opening too confusing? Not revealing enough? Was there enough funny? While we were at an 89.7% "yes" for most everything, it was nice to be able to say, "Hey, this isn't working. Want to shoot something else?" and then be able to do it. So that's early next week, getting all these additional shots and scene in line and making sure they add up. Then a big burst of energy on color correction and a trip to an audio studio down the street for a day of sound effects. Here's to wrapping it all up and laughing in the face of an overly busy summer!
First, we'd like to welcome our two newest Executive Producers to the fray, Andrew Figgins and Wishingline Design. Like with any hotshot producer, we're looking forward to having them undermine the production, complain about our lack of creative vision, and overlook us during their speeches at the Oscars. And along those lines, all of our Executive Producers will be receiving a handful of items this week via FedEx, including some of the items shown in the photo above. It's still not too late to sign up, so if you're the kind who desires power above all else, here's your chance.
Well, that about does it for the shooting. We did a few pickup shots before a few of us left for vacation last week, including two pivitol scenes that we really needed to get nailed and are now in the proverbial "can." We stuck together a really quick rough edit this afternoon, to see how the whole thing looks as a whole, and it's definitely getting there. It'll be a lot of work in post cleaning it up and tightening the screws, but it certainly looks like something more complete now. There's a montage in there around the middle that will most likely need a few extra shots to help fill it out, but we'll come to that when we come to it. We're figuring out when to do our marathon edit session, and take a trip to a studio to do the foley and ADR work. We'll keep you up to date.
It was a fantastic weekend for "Copy Goes Here." First, we got the okay from the amazing band, The Coctails, to use their music for the film's score. Like any good designer or music lover should be, we're huge fans of theirs, and we've been cutting rough edits together with tracks from their brilliant catalog, reveling in the veritable kismet their music and our pictures seemed to share. So now we can breathe a sigh of relief that we'll be able to keep with what we fell in love with. And in the other big news, we signed on our first three Executive Producers this weekend: Claire Zulkey, Howard Mann of Dig Business, and Damien Newman. We're thrilled to have them on board and we're currently getting their riders approved (example: "Mr. Newman would like a bowl full of Mike and Ikes available at all times -- grape flavored only"). There's still some time to join their illustrious ranks, so if you're interested in the high-stakes, thrill-a-minute world of producing, sign up pronto!
Whew. After getting through vacations and a huge batch of client projects, we were finally able to get back to business and shoot the three remaining "big" scenes late afternoon yesterday. Per usual, it was a blast and we were happy to get back into it. And not only did we shoot what we needed, we also helped develop Jim's character, battled with the difficulties of a clean rack focus, and finally figured out all the bells and whistles of the new camera. We still have a handful of pickup shots to get done, largely just half-second inserts for montage sequences, but most of those we'll get done today or early next week. Then, finally, we can all breathe a sigh of relief and start into the edit and the sound design. Some quick photos from yesterday: 1 2 3 4.
Today's the day to finish shooting. We've been so incredibly busy lately with real work that we haven't had time to shoot a single thing. Figured we could finish it last week, but then came Friday and we hadn't shot a second. But we've all blocked it off on our calendars for this afternoon, and, god willing, we will wrap. In other news, we've locked down the post house that will be helping out on all our foley work, and we're talking to a fantastic group of musicians who, hopefully, will be scoring the film. We'll keep you informed.
Every production requires a bit of sacrifice. For me, lately, it's been hair-related. I am in desperate need of a haircut. So much so that this has been noted by not just friends and family, but by even Bryan and Jake here in the studio. But should I get said desperately needed haircut, it would throw the continuity of this whole thing out of whack. So there's added incentive to wrap the shoot this week. For me anyway.
We're still in the process of shooting, whenever time permits. It's been an interesting production in that sense, unlike any other we've been a part of. We've been dedicated to the planning and the structure of the film itself, but in the actual putting together of the pieces, there haven't been those usual constraints of having only a day to shoot, or so much film to use, or a hassle with securing a location. If we have a couple of hours, during or after work, we can put them to use on the film. However it turns out, the shooting has been a blast. Now just eight more shots to get and we're in post.
After an extended weekend, with many of us out early on Friday, production resumes tomorrow. We're now about 3/4 of the way through the script and seeing an end in sight. "An end" meaning the shooting at least. Post-production, or, to us anyway, the really, really fun part, will start eating up all kinds of time next week.
Just because we're doing a short film in our free time, using available talent, and don't have any gigantic, outerspace alien battle scenes (yet), doesn't mean we're not allowed to use some effects tricks here and there. For instance, last night, we were shooting one shot that we would have loved to have had a train go by. We shot and we shot, but one never seemed to be coming. And in a flash, just as we were getting back into position, completely unready, a train comes rushing by. We could've just done without, but luckly, we'd been locked down and compositing was an option. So check out the video blog over there to see what came of it.
8:30pm now, but all of the outdoor shots and quick cutaways are now complete, giving us nearly the whole opening and a healthy batch of the middle. Still a lot to shoot, but hopefully we'll get a lot done tomorrow. Some clips, possibly, will also come.
Jake, our man capturing all those wacky, unpredictable behind-the-scenes moments, has been bitten by the filmmaking bug from being a part of this shoot and decided to buy himself a camera, which arrived today. So now, while we'd been shooting on a DVX100, we'll now be running a two camera operation, with Jake's flashy new XL2. We're shooting on and off today, whenever we've got a second, and tests will be performed with the two, to see if we can match them up well enough to make it all work. We'll post what we got, when we got it.
We worked out a deal with the rental company to have our flashy lens all week, so we begin anew tomorrow, shooting the remainder of the scenes. We're going to try and focus on the quicker stuff on Wednesday, things that can be done in one or two shots with minimal dialogue. Thursday is for the rest of it, with the lengthier, more complicated scenes. Here's a snap of the script (red is shot, black is to be).
In our pre-production meetings, often held at one of our favorite watering holes, we brought up the question if we should shoot the film in standard 4:3 or in 16:9 wide screen? It was easier to just setup the camera and shoot as it was, with no additional expense, but it was unanimously decided that, to really make this thing look great, we should shoot it wide. It makes the compositions much more interesting and just feels more cinematic. So we rented the Panasonic Anamorphic lens from the good people at SMS Productions, and we've since been filling the screen with all kinds thrilling cinematic gold.
Today was to be the second day of shooting, to get the other half of the film all wrapped up. But if you've ever worked in production, you're all too familiar with things never quite working out so easily. The studio suddenly got handed huge piles of work and some of us were going to be out of the office, so it was decided to hold off until next week, after the holiday. However, we'll keep updating things here on this brief hiatus, so keep checking in.
Updates to the Production Notes appear in the CP Fresh Signals feed.
Fun with ADR.
A short crack-up with Jim and a sharply dressed Bryan.
What do you do when you want the train you'd like to use isn't being very cooperative? Compositing!
Why 16x9 over 4x3? See the difference?
Shooting and editing are only half the battle. Color correcting is a hugely important task. And probably one of the most difficult things to do. Here we ran a series of quick tests on a shot of Michele.
About a month ago, Bryan and Steve took out a camera and ran around shooting some quick setups to try out the look of the film. It was determined that they were pretty ugly (the scenes), but made us want to start shooting the real thing.
Loads of hostility and vulgarity on-set.
Dawson cracking up.
Essential to the plot but inexplicable when viewed apart from it.
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