Friday, December 21, 2007

Foley Tip - Reduce Ground Noise

To help eliminate any type of ground noise while trying to record a clean audio signal during foley, be sure to record from your camera/digital audio recorder using the battery mode and not with electricity (the AC current from your wall's outlet).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Foley Tip - Fuller, Richer Audio

While recording DIY foley sound effects, use two mics and two separate channels to capture a more realistic and fuller sound from both ends of the action.

For example, when recording footsteps, point one mic towards your toes and the other towards your heel.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Definitely a film school pre-requisite, this highly acclaimed film (that's an understatement...see them here) has been the talk of movie buffs and non-movie buffs for its unique approach to rewriting the rules of modern cinema leaving audiences either in a state of wonderment or in a state of wonderment.

While waiting for the movie for a month or so after first seeing the trailer on apple's site, I knew just from the talent involved (Coen Bros., Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem) that it would be one to watch, I just wasn't aware of what exactly was in store for me until I saw it.


The Direction
The movie was crafted with great suspense, timing and pacing. But that's just on the surface. What the Coen Bros. opted for on another level was to play with the audience's ideas and expectations of how modern cinema has trained us all. What I mean is, just when you expect the crescendo and climax to hit...they give you something else instead - something that takes you in the direction of the story that they want to give you.

On the Ending
The ending of the movie left audience members moaning and groaning in disbelief. "What the?!", was my initial response. At the moment, I thought the movie ended without resolve, and also too abruptly. I felt cheated and even a little upset. Understand that when it comes to all films that I watch (indie to mainstream), I view them all with patient eyes and an open mind. And even with all my past viewing experiences, I was still thrown for a loop. I just couldn't "get it".

Then I Got It
From the theatre to the parking lot across the street, we kept trying to make sense of it all and why they left us with such a confusing ending. I just felt confused. Well...therein lies the answer - in the perspective of Tommy Lee Jones' character and the perplexing new world that has now taken over, he just couldn't understand "why" and "how". Why and how. So, little did I know, the real story was revealed - at the beginning and at the end of the movie. Everything in between is just a catalyst.

Multiple Viewings
I'm just giving you all the short version of my version. I could go on for days talking about what the movie stands for, what the character of "Chigurh" symbolizes and why the Coens did what they did. Instead, I'll leave that up to you. You might need to watch the movie more than once to fit the pieces together more clearly, but it'll be worth it.

For more insight to the movie, here are some really good blog posts: - More 'No Country' Matters: Motel Shots, or, Gimme Some Chigurh - A Ghost And A Dream: Notes on the final quarter of 'No Country For Old Men'
The New Yorker - No, But We Saw the Movie
Newsweek - Josh Brolin talks about his Moustache, and "No Country's" Ending - Debate: “No Country for Old Men” Ending
Ain't It Cool News Discussion Board - No country for Old Men
Rotten Tomatoes Discussion Board - No Country for Old Men

Understanding the movie after seeing it and not while watching it is pretty powerful stuff. Especially for the Coens' to have the gumption to do something like this - to go out on a limb at the risk of falling flat on their bottom in front of everyone. Kudos to the Coens.

Now, of course, this is just my take on it. I think it's the intention of the Coens to do just that. For everyone to open it up to interpretation of what they think it is and about, trying hard to peel away layers that just moments ago didn't even know existed. I think Don said it best immediately following the end of the movie after it cuts to black - "Ha ha! Your zipper's down!"

Friday, December 14, 2007

A DIY Treasure Found!

Create your very own DIY live broadcast and TV-style production on the fly all from within your web browser with the emergence of Mogulus! As brought to my attention from the folks at The Workbook Project, this DIY gem gives you the flexibility to produce your content and broadcast live with numerous collaborators and producers online. You can also incorporate as well as edit Youtube videos in your productions.

For more, visit the Mogulus Site.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sundance Short Films Online for Free

The Sundance Film Festival in conjunction with NetFlix, Xbox and Apple iTunes, announce that they will continue their tradition of bringing selected short film submissions to the masses. The exclusive shorts can be viewed on their site and on the NetFlix member website, free of charge. According to Sundance, "everyday of the Festival one new short film will premiere online every 24 hours."

Aside from just viewing the streaming versions, short films can also be available for purchase and download at the Xbox LIVE marketplace Video Store (for $1.99) and the iTunes movie store ($1.99 for your iPhone, iPod or Apple TV). All three platforms will be launched beginning January 18, 2008 all the way 'til 2011. The short films that will be showcased will be announced by Sundance before the start of the Festival.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Free Flash Design/Developer Resource

This week while Don was taking care of ADR engineering, I switched hats and turned back into a DIY web designer. Since everything on Shiro's Head is comprised of everything DIY, I had to figure out a quick and dirty way to encode the trailers for the web in both flash and quicktime. Along the way I found a great flash developer resource for all of you other web DIYers:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

10 Great Christmas Movies for the Holiday Season

Of course open for debate, but here it is - my all time favorite Christmas movies (and TV shows) for the holiday season.

11. "Jingle All the Way" Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger - 1996
10. "Polar Express" Featuring Tom Hanks - 2004
9. "Just Friends" Starring Ryan Reynolds & Amy Smart - 2005
8. "A Christmas Story" Starring Peter Billingsly - 1983
7. "Trading Places" Starring Eddie Murphy & Dan Aykroyd
6. "Home Alone" Starring Macaulay Culkin - 1990
5. "Beautiful Girls" Starring Matt Dillon & Uma Thurman - 1996
4. "Die Hard 2" Starring Bruce Willis - 1990
3. "Love Actually" Starring Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney - 2003
2. All the animated TV specials : "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" - 1964, "Frosty the Snowman" - 1969, "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" - 1970, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" - 1965, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" - 1966
1. "It's a Wonderful Life" Starring Jimmy Stewart & Donna Reed - 1946

Monday, December 10, 2007

Short Films and Documentaries Take the Lead at Festivals

Although you still get the occasional million dollar plus-budget shorts and docs taking up undeserved space at indie fests, the rise in submission numbers say a lot about emerging independent movie makers. Movies such as 10mph are seeing tons of love from the indie community trail which was blazed by others before it like Murderball, Super Size Me, Iraq in Fragments and Born Into Brothels.

With last week's release of their 2008 Short Film selection, Sundance Film Festival announces they've received "a record number of submissions" according to Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer Trevor Goth.

Its counterpart, The Slamdance Film Festival will be screening "more documentaries than ever before" says Sarah Diamond, Director of Programming/Chair of Documentary Competition. The Slamdance fest programming includes documentaries, special screenings, shorts (which will be announced tomorrow) and narrative features (out of 1,200 submissions, they'll only be screening 29 of them - whoa). And still, with as many categories and submissions between the two of them, these top tier film fests are seeing more and more filmmakers delve into shorts and docs. Why?

Says Goth, "We are really proud to present the entire shorts program, which represents a higher level of filmmaking craft than ever before. The work is extremely broad and ranges from outrageous animation to fascinating short documentaries, to original and wild comedies to outstanding dramas."

Slamdance's Diamond goes on to say, "“Slamdance is emerging as a major festival for documentaries. The 2008 doc slate is themed around people who have chosen the path not often taken, from a schizophrenic pop star, to a family of wild animal trainers, to competitors in the Miss Gay America pageant. Our documentary programming team was moved by these films celebrating the diversity of human experience.”

Both festivals will run from Jan 17-25, with Sundance continuing on 'til the 27th .

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Event Videographer Production Checklist

I found the old production checklist that Don and I would religiously run through during the days of being event videographers. We would use this as a pre-production checklist before every event production. I thought it could be of some help, so here it is (not in any particular order):

Event Videographer’s Production Checklist

1. duplicate and synchronize multi-camera settings
2. charge batteries
3. clean filters and lenses
4. tapes (aprox. 6 per person)
5. clean heads (if necessary)
6. lights w/extra bulb
7. lav mic receivers/transmitters/mics
8. fresh batteries for mics
9. tripods
10. shotgun mics w/windscreens
11. handheld mic
12. mic stand
13. patch cords (XLR/quarter inch/RCA, etc.)
14. hard disk audio recorder/mixer
15. lens cleaner
16. head cleaner
17. LCD monitor hood
18. headphones
19. white balance card (paper/index card/napkin)
20. back-up camera w/light
21. digital camera
22. fully charged two-way communication radios with headsets

23. business cards
24. ID’s
25. fully charged cell phones
26. headsets for cells
27. synchronize watches
28. ca$h for parking garage/misc.
29. change for parking meters
30. fill up gas tank
31. label everything for inventory
32. camera manuals
33. extension cord/multiplug
34. sharpie/pen
35. snacks/water
36. jacket/pullover
37. sunglasses
38. hand sanitizer/wet naps/lip balm/eye drops
39. clothespins (c-47's)
40. gaffer's tape
41. duct tape
42. focus cards
43. itinerary of the day's events

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ugly Betty's "Henry Grubstick" Loves SPAM

Christopher Gorham, the actor who plays the role of spiffy, by-the-book "Henry Grubstick" on ABC's emmmy-winning "Ugly Betty" has paid his indie dues. A couple of years ago while researching a few DIY films in preparation for Shiro's Head, I noticed a remarkably witty short on entitled "Spam-Ku" by writer/director Steven K. Tsuchida.

Years later, it wasn't until the prime-time TV novella featured the familiar face as a recurring character on the show. It was Gorham - getting the network love that only dues could afford. I later discovered that I've been familiar with his work, I just didn't know who he was ("Jake 2.0" and "The Other Side of Heaven" co-starring with Anne Hathaway) - once again proving my theory that you could be paying your dues in the business for years on end and all it takes is that one big break to boost you out of obscurity and viola - your years of paying dues are over.

Or you can speed up the process and create your own opportunities.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Viewer's Experience

When it comes to selling your product or service (in our case movies) it's important to remember that it's not just a product that you're selling, you're also selling the experience that comes with that product (think Tiffany's blue box, iPod, Mercedes-Benz, etc.). It may seem basic or even a given, however this fundamental rule of marketing usually seems to skip over the heads of a few businesses - even large corporations in fact.

From Los Angeles to Honolulu - Aloha!
I'll give you an example. Whenever I head out on an international trip overseas en route to Guam from Los Angeles (with a stopover in Honolulu), the experience is entirely different then when I head back to LA from the islands. While leaving the mainland, the airline flight crew fills the passenger cabin with tropical island music, slack-key and all - providing a sense of an island getaway encouraging everyone to leave their troubles behind. On all headrest television monitors, they play video footage of the Big Island, sun, sand, surf, Hawaiian fire dancers and the whole nine - and we haven't even left the tarmac yet. They just let the vibe brew.

The passengers are smiling and are in a very calm and relaxed state while finding their seat assignments, looking through overhead compartments and they just feel good. Some of them are already wearing their Hawaiian print shirts and leis. I'm telling you - it's a great feeling. From the captain to the flight crew, you hear them invite you with a welcoming "Aloha" with every greeting. They're selling calm and they're selling relaxation. The experience has me sold. Rarely do I notice any grumpy folk during this leg of my trip. After we touch down, I'm so at ease that I forgot it was a five and a half hour trip.

From Honolulu to Los Angeles - Darn, Back to the Grind.
Coming back to the mainland is an altogether different experience. Same airline, same size plane, but different ambience. No smiling faces, passengers are in a rush, some even get irate when they find they have to sit next to a child. Grumpy folk are almost a given on this leg of my trip. No images of Disneyland, Hollywood or Yosemite National Park on the television monitors, no Frank Sinatra or Clay Aiken playing throughout the cabin - just your usual stock elevator music. The flight crew is not half as friendly as the Honolulu crew. It's just plain old business. Show me your boarding pass and I'll show you to your seat. That's it. No experience is being sold here.

But wait a minute - you might just say that it's the passengers that may be heading back home - back to work and a nine to five life in a cubicle that sets off the infectious grumpiness. Well, to that I say...all the more reason for the airline to take it upon themselves to remind the weary travelers that as long as they're giving them business that they'll have a safe, entertaining experience. Remind them that they're on their way back home - back to California - a place that influences the world around it. What I mean is...this is another perfect opportunity for their services to capitalize on the experience of coming to Los Angeles - Disney, Hollywood, Malibu. They know where they're going, so why not give them what they want? Make them feel good about a California experience. Without even the smallest effort of doing so, the experience of flying that particular airline isn't exceptional at all.

Let Them Escape
My point is - treat your audience well. Give them what they automatically (and subconsciously) expect in a movie - seamlessly clean audio, great production value and good pacing. Have them remember you and your movie. Selling your product means selling the experience. How will your viewers feel about the movie that they just watched? What are they going to walk away with? Will they feel like they've just been on trip of a lifetime or just another commute?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Production Archive - "Great Chicken Giveaway"

From the media archive sessions that took place after the southland fires, I came across some produced spots that I promised to share. This is a radio spot that I produced and did vocals for - Pojo's "Great Chicken Giveaway" promotion. Ahhhh, good times.

Voiceover Tip: Smile while reading your script. It helps the vocals sound more inviting during an up-tempo spot. This also comes in handy when recording professional voicemail greetings.

Spot Title: "Great Chicken Giveaway"
Client: Pojo's
Talent: Kel Muna
Producer: Kel Muna
Length: :30

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sundance Announces 2008 Film Lineup

The annual Sundance Film Festival has announced their 2008 lineup for competition (Jan.17-27 Park City, Utah) as well as their Premieres, Spectrum, New Frontier and Park City at Midnight sections. According to reports, this year has brought submissions in record-breaking numbers.

From Sundance:
"121 feature-length films were selected including 87 world premieres, 14 North American premieres, and 12 U.S. premieres representing 25 countries with 55 first-time filmmakers, including 32 in competition. These films were selected from 3,624 feature film submissions composed of 2,021 U.S. and 1,603 international feature-length films. These numbers represent an increase from last year when 1,852 U.S. and 1,435 international feature-length films were considered."

  • Documentary Competition - selecting 16 films out of 953 entries - each one of them a world premiere.
  • Dramatic Competition - 16 films were selected from 1,068 submissions. Each film is a world premiere.
  • World Cinema Documentary Competition - 16 films selected from 620 submissions that represent 8 countries
  • World Cinema Dramatic Compeition - 16 selections from 983 submissions represent 17 countries

Festival films screen in nine sections: Documentary Competition, Dramatic Competition, World Cinema Documentary Competition, World Cinema Dramatic Competition, Spectrum, New Frontier, Park City at Midnight, and from the Sundance Collection.

Shorts will be announced later this week.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Now This is Wicked

I couldn't continue on about "Wicked" without adding another wicked production of a different take. My favorite part in this particular installment comes in towards the end at around 1:40 into the clip. The dramatic use of dissolves - brave, bold and brash. Kidding, of course. I just wanted to demonstrate the wide array of musical productions that aren't always geared towards the broadway fanatic. It doesn't always have to be about "Hairspray" and "Mama Mia". Musicals can be made for and enjoyed by everybody. However, this one truly is - a wicked musical.
note of caution: clip contains adult language
View Clip

A Fantastic Portrayal of Media at its Best - Wicked in Hollywood

The Pantages Theater in Hollywood played to a full house last night an outstanding production of "Wicked" the musical and I just can't say enough about it. Hands down it is the best show I've seen. The portrayal of Elphaba the wicked Witch of the West by Eden Espinosa was the best that it gets. Her vocals were unbelievably powerful as she transitioned each scene seemlessly by gradually morphing into the witch that we all loved to hate. Glinda the Good Witch played by Emily Rozek was top notch and by the end of the show, the crowd was brought to its feet in a much-deserved standing ovation.

The Elements
The players, wardrobe, makeup, set design, orchestral score and original compositions (among the favorites are "The Wizard and I", "Popular", "I'm Not That Girl", and Defying Gravity") were definitely what you expect from a big-ticket production and more. In addition to the perfect aesthetics (seamless set and wardrobe changes) and infectious harmonies, the one true element of "Wicked" that embeds itself into your brain forever - is its story.

Things Aren't Always What They Seem
Without giving away spoilers, the story revolves around a strong bond of friendship that outlasts time, love and even sorcery. It's the backstory to the the classic and what happened before Dorothy touched down in the land of Oz. The subplot however, seems to almost steal the spotlight as it strikes a serious chord with the audience. Dropping hints and reflecting today's life and times in addition to laying the groundwork for a glass ceiling, this airtight story builds on the notion of the true wizards of our time - the media, popular beliefs, the powers that be and spin doctors.

Think of it as "V for Vendetta" meets "Thelma and Louise". Okay, maybe not that extreme, but you get the idea. Their portrayal of the power of media and "giving people what they want" showcases a need for responsibility from those that have the power to influence others; to be held accountable for the material, ideas and beliefs that are given a megaphone and distributed to the masses.

"Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain"
On the other side to the coin, its also a wake-up call for us in the flock to be careful of the wolf in sheep's clothing. As Mel Gibson said in the documentary "Boffo - Tinsletown's Bomb and Blockbusters", "He with the biggest club wins." (in the sense of getting beat with the biggest club and he who belongs to the biggest club wins). Who can you believe? What can you believe? Isn't history, after all, written from whomever brought the material to the masses first? Oh, and by the way, thanks for reading this post. ;)

Overall, I highly recommend the experience of "Wicked" and its show-stopping, laugh-out-loud, tear-jerking numbers to anyone that has the chance to see it. I sincerely say that it's the best show I've seen. The entire backstory of the two Witches of Oz also is extremely smart, witty, thought provoking and most of all - great fun! You won't be disappointed. I know because the Wizard told me so.