Sunday, 8 May 2011

'Just', HD and the future

'Just' is my least favourite word of the moment. Everyone hates 'but' but I think 'just' is worse. 'But' precludes a negative statement (or sometimes positive depending on which way around it has been delivered!), 'just' is deceitful.

How many times have you heard 'just' and then were let down but it's promise? Or maybe that's only my 'justs'...

Anyway, scAIRcrows was just a thirty minute. It would just take two weekends to shoot. It would just take a month to edit. There's just a few more weeks to go.

Thing is, my 'justs' are living on borrowed time. This weekend has just left one more scene to be cleaned up. I finally got my own back on those 'justs'...

I'm feeling like I did when we got to the end of shooting, when the tasks remaining were dwindling and all the hardships were becoming distant memories. I've saved the biggest one until last though but I did that when editing too.

Funny story there actually. For those familiar with these blogs there was a shoot day where I flagged a little. It was the second consecutive day of shooting and it was one of the two big action scenes in the film. I HATE shooting action. It's such a complicated mess. When you're writing, you can write it how you see it but then when you shoot, you've actually gotta make this thing make sense. And on this morning, I just couldn't do it. Or so it seemed. I was running on about 4 hours sleep and it's a bit pressured when you have about eight people dependant on you and it did my head in a bit. We were running out of time and I had no idea how to pull all this together.

When it came to editing, I left this scene until last because I was convinced that all the good work won in the rest of the film was going to be pissed away in this pivotal scene. And, I have absolutely no idea how this happened but it cut together PERFECTLY. I think, in a creative world, everyone suffers from self doubt but what I think I learnt that day and by seeing the edit of that scene was that you can have a tendency to over think things. I was too preoccupied with whether what I was doing would or wouldn't work that I ignored instinct. I'm no master filmmaker, hopefully, each time around, I'll get a bit better but I can't claim to be a savant in the world of film making. But, I think being an out and out film lover means I've absorbed enough, good and bad, to know generally how to put something together. And that subconscious knowledge was driving that second day and I was doing my damnedest to ignore it!

But yeah, I feared I'd destroyed the entire film with that scene and then it comes out the way it did and I had renewed confidence.  Now, I'm back at it again because of the audio. I've left it until last because it's the most complicated - lots of fairly quick edits means changing things around is a much more precise job.

But, it's just that to go now!

I do want to say this in a public forum - thanks so much to each and everyone of the cast for the patience you have here! I owe you all a movie and the number one driving factor for me in finishing this is getting you all a copy. You absolutely deserve it, you've been stars throughout this entire process. It has dragged on but that's due to mistakes I know better not to make next time around and without you all giving your time for this film, I'd never have been able to make them! Whatever you get from this film, know that you've given me so much more - I've had an invaluable crash course in this and whatever happens next for me, you've all had a part in it. I'll never forget it and hopefully, we'll work together again someday!

Another thing that I've come to terms with in the last two days - HD. I've had a HD TV for about 6 years now, I have a Blu Ray player and get all my stuff on Blu Ray these days. HD is awesome but I've learnt new things about this weekend.

I'll preface this by saying that scAIRcrows is shot in HDV and I've hated some of the sharpness about it which I've treated slightly in the colour correcting.

This weekend, bought a new TV and as part of this, upgraded the Sky to HD (could've done this before but didn't). And suddenly, I'm thinking, HD ain't as great as it seems. I've not noticed this on the Blu Rays I have but the HD TV is pretty awful in the sense that it's made EVERYTHING look like video. I watched Congo (it's a good B Movie) in HD and it had the same aesthetic that Eastenders and Coronation Street have. It stopped looking like a film and looked more like a TV show. It became way more obvious (than it already was) that 70% of the film was shot on a set and it just looked, for lack of a better word, shit. So then I tried it on other things and got that same video look. It's too clean, too sharp. It's a bit of a worrying thing if everything's going to look like that. Maybe it's a more accurate representation of what was actually shot but I don't like it. I like the more ethereal look of film compared to the super realistic look of HD and I've made pains in scAIRcrows to get away from that HD look as much as possible. And now I'm finding that that's going to be the accepted?

I'm sure it's like everything - switching from vinyl to cassette to CD to mp3 etc... And it'll move on, with or without me. The only reason I'm mentioning it here is because it's pertinent to scAIRcrows. One or two blogs back I evidenced how I've tampered with the image to give it a more film like look and I'm wondering now if people do just want the super clean, video look? I hate it and you'll never see it from me and anything I do (as much as I can help it), sorry! I've mentioned this probably more than once but my heart is in the 80s to the extent that I got the poster specially commissioned by an artist who is well known for doing that style of artwork so this super clean digital stuff goes against my being. But, at the same time, I am limited by the tech I have - I can't afford film so will always shoot on video but with an eye to tampering with it as much as poss in post.

Now, a little update on the general world of scAIRcrows right now. We have a venue in mind for the screening and I will approach them as soon as I know the film's in a presentable state. I have a wider plan for this screening now which I'll need to discuss with the venue but I feel like I should do something with this that is true to my passions. It'll be cool. Again, for anyone getting fed up with the wait - do know that there is no-one in the world who wants to get this thing out there more than I do! And it'll be worth it!

A few people have seen the current cut of the film - with the understanding that glaring issues in it are still being worked on and I have to say, the reaction's been pretty good. Common themes are appearing as far as favourite scenes go. I think and hope that when people see this, they realise they're watching a film called scAIRcrows featuring flying scarecrows. And if you embrace that in the knowledge that its a small film (though with some quite ambitious things going on), you should come away with at least something you enjoyed! It's a fun little piece and I say fun because I don't want this to really be labelled horror, comedy or comedy-horror. I don't think it's outside a genre but I don't like the polarising effects the word comedy and horror have. I compare it to something like Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight. When it wants to be, it's quite hardcore horror but then at other times, its excessively silly and it's a very hard contrast unlike something like Shaun Of The Dead which is blatantly comedy-horror. I don't know what I'd called Demon Knight either - I think I'll just let the people decide!

One thing I've had very consistent comments on, even to this day, are these blogs. People do enjoy reading them and I realise that they're a mix of everything - my interests, diary of events, somewhat of a instructional thing but still fairly consistent around the theme of the film. What I've decided to do then, is to collect all these blogs together to form the framework of an ebook. I can put something together and self publish and I have all the material here so once the film's finished - I will be compiling a 'making of scAIRcrows' book. It won't be these blogs copied and pasted - I will just use those as a springboard. I'm going to attack it like a book on film making so will go through every little thing I did right and wrong, why it was write and wrong etc as well as providing a diary of all the events. Think I'll spilt it in the three sections of pre-production, production and post-production. But hopefully, people will see it as an informative little piece and it'll probably sell on Amazon for something like 70p! There's a lot of material here and properly edited and proofed, I'm sure I can put something out that's informative and entertaining. Again, something I'm doing more for the love of it than any financial reward but I do genuinely believe there's a certain amount of value in organising all of this into a proper volume.

It's exciting to think that in the next couple of blogs, one of these is going to say 'all done!'. Have your glasses ready to raise when that one comes in!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Things I Learned On scAIRcrows - Part Two


I'm doing the final clean up on the picture cut of scAIRcrows now. Seven of eleven scenes now are locked and won't change anymore. This might contradict things I said in the past re. number of scenes being locked but reason for that is, I thought scenes were locked when they weren't because the audio was so crap that I had no choice but to recut.

And as I'm doing these fixes, I realise how important coverage is. This kinda goes back to a previous blog where I mentioned that I was a much more confident writer than a director. You watch films and you notice (or don't) all the edits that happen in a scene - I've paying a lot more attention to this since deciding to start making films. But one thing I have trouble understanding is the need to have so many edits.

Most of the scenes on scAIRcrows were fairly well covered considering the time restraints we had- in most cases we shot between 5 and 7 angles per line of dialogue. Not as much as I think features shoot, looking at the variations in shots they have, but enough to give myself options. Despite doing that, I'd say about 40% of the film uses the wide, everyone in shot, angles. Because when I did jump around for close ups, a lot of it felt forced, it really did feel like I'd just been given this editing software and just wanted to make cuts for the pure hell of it. So I scaled back on that and there's three shots in the film that I can recall that last a good 35-40 seconds which doesn't sound too long but watch a random film and see how often shots hold for more than say, 10 seconds... But I thought it was much more interesting and natural to just leave the shot running. I don't know whether people are so used to seeing cuts all over the place that these moments might seem jarring - I hope not. But they felt right.

But, coverage has presented another use for me and that is to fix errors! If someone trips over a line, cut to a different angle, cut back when they've gotten over it. If there's an unwelcome noise (kids, sirens, rugby players) - cut away from the noise, come back when it's gone. Continuity error? Cut away from it, cut back when it's less prominent.

I realise that coverage is there for dramatic effect and I guess, in some respects, visual variation but I think it also holds a valuable technical gift that shouldn't be underestimated. It's saved me from a few seemingly dead ends and I actually surprise myself that I got so many angles - I certainly weren't thinking of how badly I might need them later on! And it's the one thing I hate about shooting. Doing things again and again and again, over and over. It's mentally draining and at the time, you just wanna be shot of these angles and just DO SOMETHING ELSE!

But, persevering pays off and I'm thanking my past self now!