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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Many Baskets

The computer I'm using to record the Elan Vital score is decent when it comes to editing a music video, recording a rock band, and producing a half-hour podcast, but the size of this film - length and layers - pushes the system to its limits. Even if your computer has a fast CPU and lots of RAM, it's still wise to never, ever, ever, ever, put all your eggs in one basket. In our case, eggs mean songs. By baskets, I mean Pro Tools files.

Consider this checklist for the film scoring process:

1. Make sure either your reference video has BITC or your digital audio workstation can read accurate SMPTE timecode. Check.

2. Beatmap the entire film in broad strokes, with more accurate mapping for pre-existing songs. Check.

3. Using the above file as your template, copy this file to use for each song individually. You'll inevitably modify the tempo and timing for the new songs in the score. If you're working on the entire score on the same Pro Tools file, then things will move around, causing lots and lots of frustration. Even if you have a good amount of RAM, it'll still not be enough, and frustration will ensue. Now that we have these caveats established, create separate files for all your songs, and have an extra template file to bring all the songs together. Check, check, and check.

4. Work on each distinct song as separately or as together as is wise to do so. To save myself the trouble of all the pitfalls mentioned above, I have identified 10-14 individual songs for the Elan Vital soundtrack - some have been already recorded, some have been demoed, and the rest needs to be written. There will be layers and layers of tracks for the score, so to keep myself on my creative toes, I've resolved to work on a different song every day. (The holidays will inevitably stand in my way, but I'm currently optimistic about being productive.) By the end of this (presumably) two-week period, I'll have a skeleton of a score.

5. With the songs recorded in separate Pro Tools files, output each song as an lossless audio file, and put them all together onto the extra template file mentioned in Step 3. Since you've worked on these songs within days of each other, there's a good chance that the songs will flow together well. There's also a good chance they won't. Regardless, congratulate yourself with the completion of the score's skeleton. Get some feedback from the director, and move forward with more layers, organs, and skin, and clothes!

I realize I've been erratically shifting from the second person (you in the how-to sense) to the first person (I/me in the personal experience sense), and vice versa, but roll with it...please?

6. Wash (write), rinse (record), and repeat Steps 4, 5, and 6 as necessary. I anticipate this cycle to be as thorough as the film deserves...and Elan Vital truly deserves a transcendent form of thorough...or is that a Transcendental form of Thoreau (which is redundant)?

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Beatmapping the Movie


Replacing the temp track on a previous Mutiny Universe production, Outcasts, involved accurate beatmapping of the temp track, which was used in the editing of the film and therefore essential to the film's timing. Using this click track of multiple tempos, the original song "Time (Lose Your Hold)" by The Society of Gloves (featuring moxy phinx) was recorded at the locked pace of that particular scene of the film, preventing any major restructuring on the video end of things.

The soundtrack of Elan Vital is essentially ten (possibly fourteen) times the amount of beatmapping, click tracking, and obsessing during the recording process of "Time (Lose Your Hold)." When you have an entire film right in front of you - with demo songs, songs by third-party artists, and blank space where music should be - it would be a good idea to beatmap the entire film in broad strokes (the more accurate, the better). Elan Vital currently has its share of demos I recorded earlier this year and three songs by artists that aren't me, and that music is part of the locked picture. The music itself isn't locked, as there are parts of the demos that need to be rearranged or rerecorded to perfectly fit with the video. This is why it would be a good idea to accurately identify the beats per minute, the time signature, and where each song/theme/cue/leitmotif should begin in the movie. If you're using virtual instruments in addition to flesh, blood, metal, and wood instruments, then creating an accurate click track is essential for effective film scoring.

Once you have the structure and accuracy of a beatmap / click track and BITC / timecode, then all that remains is the artistry...in theory, anyway.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Burnt-in Timecode is a BITC!!!

With SMPTE timecode pretty much standard in A/V editing programs, burning a timecode stamp (burnt-in timecode or BITC - pronounced bit-see) onto a digital video should be unnecessary for this day and age. Unfortunately, this is not the case if you are using Pro Tools M-Powered 7.3 to record a film score.

Pro Tools LE (the one bundled with the Mbox or Mbox2) can be upgraded to show SMPTE timecode, in addition to measuring time in bars-and-beats, samples, and minutes-seconds-and-decimals. Unfortunately, you have to spend extra dollars on something called the DV Toolkit.

If you've spent the retail value of a new car on Pro Tools HD, then any applicable DV options had better be there!

The bottom line is this: For the robustness of my music program of choice and necessity, it is missing SMPTE timecode, which is a universal language when it comes to film postproduction. The only way to remedy this is to go old school by using BITC.

And that, my friends, can be an odyssey in an of itself. It was for me!

With Final Cut Pro, you'll need to nest the entire movie's timeline and add BITC as a video filter on top of the video nest. This also means you'll have to render a new video, and if you're using prosumer or consumer hardware - you'll have time to catch up on a good book or two.

If you're using Adobe products, you'll probably need to call in the entire cavalry to do this simple act. Earlier versions of Premiere Pro lack this simple filter, so you'll need to turn to After Effects to add a timecode filter. Instead of creating glowing lightsabers for seconds at a time, you'll need to render an entire movie with BITC. Read a book; rendering will take a while.

You'll be able to add BITC with any frame rate - in our case, roughly 24 frames per second - however, the rendered movie from After Effects might end up as a 30 fps movie. This will cause all sorts of confusion if you're going to import the BITC movie in Pro Tools, so you'll need to import the video into Premiere Pro. With this program, you can output the entire movie in 24 fps, and you'll be able to either take a nap or read another book.

When you're done, open Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat, and Flash for good measure. You probably won't need these specific programs for BITC, but they need love, too.

Any way you slice it - OS, Windows, or Linux - you'll need to render a movie, and rendering sucks. Few exceptions include: Fast, professional hardware and/or exporting to tape with a deck/camcorder that creates BITC.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Locking

Since last I wrote here, we've changed our hardware set up. We are now working on a 24" iMac Core2 Duo Extreme. Believe me - it makes a difference over the Powerbook. We are working on locking the picture now for sound. Much of the effects work is done but we decided to stop working on that for now so we can lock a final edit for Ryan. He is doing the score and the dialog and I now understand cannot really dive into this until he has the final final edit. This process is not terribly difficult but does require meticulous attention to detail and two sets of eyes for quality control.

Once we are satisfied on the picture end with the way the thing is cut together, we'll pass it on to Ryan so that he can start digging in. At that point, I will go back to the picture, finish the special effects, and color correct scene by scene. I will then insert sound effects. Once all of this is finished, Ryan should have something for me to listen to. I'll probably put it in the edit temporarily and we will talk about any changes that need to be made. He'll keep honing and we will by that time know what ADR will be necessary so we can arrange for certain actors to re-record certain dialog. At the end of all of this - and a lot of credits - will be the marriage of sound to picture and the film will be complete...Complete - but still locked in the hard drive. Getting it out of there at the highest possible quality is a whole other blog entry.

So as you can see, there is a lot more work ahead of us - but - we are actually able to see the light at the end of the tunnel now. It is a good feeling. It's all about small victories adding up when you're making a film independently. And so we trudge on...

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Post Production: Getting There

We are getting there with the movie. A film tends to take on a life of its own. It reminds me more and more every time I work on it of a painting. There just is not a formula. It is so much like life. Unexpected twists and turns and wonderful surprises wait around every corner. Besides crafting the "cut" of the scenes, I've been working with visual effects which is an ongoing learning experience, an experiment, and an exhilarating process all at once. It's also very technical. Final Cut 6 is a fantastic program that has evolved considerably from previous versions in a seeming effort to steal some thunder from Adobe After Effects. The Color program as part of the FCP suite is also fantastic and robust program, proving useful as I get into the color and effects process.

On another note, this is a phase that has me a bit on edge. In the past, I've had complete control of all aspects of the post process for my projects. I had the footage, sound effects, music, and any extraneous material right in front of me. This case is a little different. I have the footage and access to thousands of sound effects and visual effects but what I do not have readily available is the score and finished dialog. Mr. Ryan DeRamos has been working hard on these aspects of the film in a different studio with his own pro equipment. This causes two disparate things to happen at the same time: First, I get all anxious because I'm at a point in the process where I'd really like to see this picture a step closer to completion. Second, I get kind of a charge inside as I keep honing the picture and all its thousands of details into the one that I am looking for. This charge occurs because I realize that soon, when Ryan's work is added to mine, a HUGE jump will be made in the quality and impact of the work that I have been doing on Elan Vital. I look forward to this point and I am sure the film will evolve even more from that point on as sound and picture should be a marriage with a long engagement and not a blind date.

So - we're getting there. It is taking longer than I expected but the film may actually be longer than expected and (better) than expected - but you can be the judge of that when we are all through. In the mean time, I continue shaping away the story and fine tuning the details. Anyone interested in an inspiring story of a director's first film against all odds, take a look at these facts about the film, Eraserhead from 1977 (the year I was born) - and don't worry - Elan Vital will not take nearly as long to complete. Thank God for digital!

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My...Robot?

In an ideal world, we would track the drum parts for the soundtrack this way: We would hire a professional drummer, just like the actor who played the role of the drummer (Nathan Gallaher, pictured to the left, is also a real-life drummer extraordinaire). We would somehow acquire a great sounding drumkit, made out of the finest wood and with the product name "Yamaha ____ Custom." We would record all drum performances in a good sounding drum room with about 15 microphones. A competent engineer would record and mix all that goodness. And it would be good...so very, very good.

In our low-budget real world, I've been using the next best thing to the ideal: A robot (well, a Pro Tools plug-in called Digidesign Striketo be exact) that could emulate all of the above factors. It's like how the sugar substitute Splenda is sweet because it's a sugar by-product. Strike will pretty much do as you tell it (well, let's anthropomorphize it as "him"), but I'm pretty sure that if you piss off Strike, he'll shoot lasers at you.

And so I've been telling Strike to not only mimic, but to improve upon the demo drums that were created from samples and loops. While Strike is theoretically akin to a sequencer that uses samples and loops, there's this added dimension of human-like randomness and feeling for grooves and jamming. It's incredible.

So far, my biggest hurdle with my robotic musical collaborator was to figure out the best sounding drumkit for him to use consistently. The on-screen drummer performs two songs in the movie, and I'd like the drumkit to remain constant throughout the movie. There's a jazz kit that sounds good for one song ("the drone") but sounds muffled for the second song ("Do the Code" - the boogie woogie). I think we've found a happy medium that will leave the drone (ironically) jazzy and give the boogie woogie the punch it needs...all the while being a consistent drum kit. It's a bit of needed realism in a film that borders (and sometimes crosses into) the realm of the surreal.

I wish I could provide some samples here for our readers to compare, but I guess you'll have to wait for Elan Vital. Besides, it's back to work with my robot.



Strike will only work in a Pro Tools digital audio workstation, or else he'll turn into a kill-bot (or was that a porn-bot?).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What a Difference a Day Makes!

Would that it were only a day! In fact, I'm back in the lounge scene in Elan Vital and I haven't been there in a while. It has probably been over a month. I made a decision early on in this process to go through the entire story in order, laying down each shot in each sequence and moving on before the über-perfectionist in me took over. In other words, I just wanted to get the stuff organized before I worried about all the details. I stuck to this plan rigidly - and I am very happy that I did. Because I had scarcely looked back at anything I had just finished, my mind was allowed a break from the busy, obsessive machine that gets started in the midst of creation. Now that I am back in the lounge, smoothing it out - cutting and trimming and tightening, I can look at it with a fresh perspective. I am not bogged down by ideas and notions left over from the writing process or from production. Ironically, this being the case, the film is smoother and actually closer to what I had initially conceived than it would have been if I had not taken this approach. Problems from the rough cut are far more easily solved because, free of the vortex, I am able to see new solutions that simplify and improve the flow and begin to complete the picture.

It really is a beautiful thing that happens when you create something that wasn't there before. You know there is a certain potential there - from the very beginning but you can't get too excited by it just yet. You have to get organized. This is what I have been doing. I knew during production that I got the stuff because everyone worked very very hard to help me achieve my vision. I think that everyone felt at one time or another that something great was happening. I certainly did and it was one of the smoothest film shoots that I've ever been on. Now the difference between that feeling and the actual great thing happening is what I've been writing about in this blog. My approach is not a favorite in this fast paced digital world because I need to get all the stuff out in front of me before I start to organize it - and I have to organize all of it before I start to finesse it. You can think of it like a tri-athalon participant. You would not ask the athlete to bike and swim or run and bike at the same time, right? That would be fantastically absurd but it wouldn't help the person win - and would put him or her at risk of drowning or a brutal bicycle chain injury.

So if you consider logging to be stage 1 (which it should be considering the amount of footage), I am currently on stage 3 of the editing process. So far, it is my favorite stage - until the next one I suppose when we marry the sound to the picture. As of today, the process this time around has been smooth as silk and very satisfying. I could go on, comparing this process to painting but I'm sure I passed the average attention span a while ago. So now - let's have some comments!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rough Cut Complete

The rough cut of the film (not including the end credit sequence) is finished. Hooray. Now it's back to the beginning and we'll start all over. Anyone want to start placing bets on how many rounds this will go? Or how about who will be more reclusive until this thing is done - Ryan, Katy, or I? That may end in a draw. Either way, it's good news on this end - we're making progress on a great film and everyone involved should be proud.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Elan Vital Picture Update

So during production, people kept asking me when I projected the film would be complete. I would project anything from late July to August. Of course, this was because at the time, I was preoccupied with directing the film and actually had no idea how long it would take as it all depended on how the footage looked. On this point, I'll say that I have been an artist for much longer than I've been a filmmaker. I admittedly have some strange quirks that some people may not agree with but for which I cannot apologize since they are part of my process and seem to work for me at the moment.

For one, I do not like watching dailies. I actually know when I see it on set if I got what I want. I did watch the Elan Vital tapes but it sent me into a neurotic frenzy because I just wanted to get in there and start working. I could see only errors and potential and it seemed to distract me from the pictures in my head. The experience only enhanced my decision to stop torturing myself with raw footage until it is time to start composing. This means I decided to trust my crew and my own judgment on the set.

The other quirk that immediately follows this is that I do not like the idea of cutting together the film during production and certainly not by someone other than myself. Once everything is shot, I feel fine with working side by side with a competent editor but - you know - when you're in production, you're in production. Things are actually happening right there in front of you and beautiful things are being created - beautiful worlds. To break out of that world right in the middle of the experience just for the sake of efficiency is totally uncalled for. It's an abomination. I would sooner watch dailies than begin editing during production - and much like I would not ask another artist to do an under-painting for me before I paint, I cannot ask an editor to do a rough cut for me in order to save time and effort.

In any case, it goes without saying that my initial estimate for when this film will be complete was pretty far off. I am not interested in throwing something together for the sake of immediate gratification. I worked with some amazing people on this film who worked very hard and gave so much with very little immediately in return. The completed film is the reward. I am putting the kind of energy and time into Elan Vital that I would into one of my top notch paintings. Every frame matters. If there is something that we missed during production or a shot that does not match the mood that I am going for, I find a fix. That's the beautiful thing about non-linear editing. There ALMOST always seems to be a fix. The tools are there - add some creativity and ingenuity and you find some unbelievable gems hidden in the cut that you just didn't know were there at first. Katy has been fantastic in the process. Sometimes I work alone and sometimes she's at the helm which allows me to step back and see things differently and find unique solutions to problems or more effective ways of conveying the sentiment of the scene.

We will be upgrading soon to Final Cut 6 which has some features including a camera stabilization filter that will be wonderful to play with and we're armed to the teeth with post-production programs including Shake 4.1 and After Effects 6.5. For you techies out there, I am working on an Apple "Fall 2005" Powerbook G4 with 1.5G RAM, a Western Digital 500GB external hard drive, and until I get my package in the mail, Final Cut Pro 5.0.4. This level of preparedness will without a doubt add even more quality to the final movie. It also means adding a bit more time to the process. As Katy and I work the picture, Ryan is working hard on audio.

As you all (who worked on Elan Vital) know, it is not exactly a conventional, point and shoot kind of film and I am no less than a Perfectionist who demands a lot from my work. Right now it is early September. I would really really really like to have the whole thing finished by November but even that may be ambitious. There is post-production where we edit the picture and sound which in and of itself is complex and takes several runs through. Ryan's posts below on sound and music will go in depth on that end. But even after the final cut of image is married to sound and music and credits are in place, there is post-post during which color correction takes place, a high quality output is processed, and the final tweaks are made to everything.

I am eager to get the film out to festivals - especially in Europe and some deadlines will be missed this year due to time. We will surely try for those next year and in the mean time attempt to show off everyone's hard work everywhere possible. So in case you are wondering when it will be finished or if we have just dropped off the Earth, we are making wonderful progress daily and - yes - we have fallen off the Earth and into Elan Vital. I hope this post lends a little insight into my process and that of the entire post-production process of this very independent film.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Jason J. Loya: Writer / Director / Lumberjack

Our art director Robyn Gorgos and gaffer Phillip Smith built the interior of a motel room from scratch. Check out our production stills - linked near the top of the page and near the bottom of the page - to see the motel room for yourself. Incredible, simply incredible.

Producer Katy and production manager John also contributed to the construction effort. It goes without saying that in independent cinema, virtually everyone who has a stake in a movie takes on extra jobs above and beyond their credited position. Director Jason and yours truly (composer Ryan) drove around the seediest parts of the San Gabriel Valley to furnish the seedy motel room set with equally seedy set dressings.

The budget of the movie - while it ultimately was just right to make the movie possible - didn't allow for truck rental to haul the furniture for the motel, and we couldn't come up with anyone within a 50 mile radius to loan us such a vehicle. So we had to transport a scuzzy bed comforter, a lampstand drawer, a couple of lamps, and a headboard (and probably more stuff) in Jason's four-door sedan, all at once. The intuition strengthened while playing Tetris was definitely helpful for this occasion.

But when the headboard didn't fit quite right for the trunk, that's when Jason became a lumberjack (of sorts):

video
video
video

We'd like to give Salvation Army guy some thanks for his assistance, i.e., the rusty saw (which was better than nothing).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Quick One


Check out the two waveform blocks just below the character Steve (played magnanimously by Mike Onofri). The one to the left is SoundSoaped, while the one on the right is simply a normalized version of the raw sound footage. Visually, the waveform on the left looks good - the two bits of foreground sound are prominent and the dead spaces are, if you'll pardon the pun, flatlined. The one on the right looks like it contains a lot of background noise.

But you'll actually have to hear the modified section to make sure it sounds right for the film. If not, here's a possible hint for the next step: EQ.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dialogue Editing

Today's magic words are elbow grease.


As you can see, I've ironically unmade what the editor has made, so I can isolate the audio from various takes to use BIAS Soundsoap Pro for noise reduction, as well as to apply varying degrees of panning and volume for the individual characters in the movie.

I'm pretty sure there are some easier ways to go about the digital video editing bay/digital audio workstation (DAW) divide, such as:

1. Presumably - but don't quote me on this - using Apple Final Cut Pro for video and Apple Logic Pro for audio.
2. Avid Media Composer for video and Digidesign Pro Tools for audio - Digidesign being a subsidiary of Avid.
3. Adobe Premiere for video and Adobe Audition for audio.

I might just be blowing smoke, but chances are if you're using the same company's products for postproduction, your workflow process will be simpler and more efficient.

We are doing no such thing for Elan Vital. Jason's cutting picture with Final Cut, and I'm cutting and adding sound with Pro Tools. But again, think elbow grease.

And you can tell from the screenshot, I'm running Pro Tools M-Powered 7.3.1 on an otherwise outdated system running Windows XP. Again, elbow grease. Well, okay - elbow grease - as well as decent computer brain power (RAM and processor), and a decent USB/Firewire/PCI Card audio interface, namely something cool made by M-Audio or Digidesign. But the rest is all will and determination.

So I've chopped the entire dialogue track into manageable pieces to SoundSoap and pan and change levels. It's also a good idea to fill in the gaps caused by the jigsaw puzzle that I've created with some relatively clean-sounding room tone, that is, room tone that'll match the SoundSoaped files. That probably means somewhat SoundSoaping the room tone too.

When that's all done - and we're not even close to tell you the truth - we'll finally know which parts of dialogue can be saved, and which parts we'll need to get in ADR. Yes, ADR...automated dialogue replacement or additional dialogue recording...same thing. I can tell you right off the bat, distorted audio - where the boom was too close to a louder-than-usual actor - will have to be replaced. Unfortunately, we have a handful of spots where that was the case...the boom and actor(s), wrong place, wrong time. ADR, which we'll save for another exciting blog entry, here we come!

(Of course, the proper way around the distortion problem is to record the audio separate from video - not on the same DV tape - with a production sound mixer always on guard and in perfect synchronization with the boom operator. And speaking of sync, you'd also need an extra machine to burn timecode on both the audio recorder and the video/film recorder. We had no such luxury for Elan Vital. And if you are reading this blog for information to help your project, chances are that you won't have a large enough budget either. Again, elbow grease.)

The big lesson I'm trying to stress here is if you aren't granted the luxury of expensive equipment, in grand quantities thereof, or the luxury of extra crew positions, also in grand quantities thereof, you'll need to put in (1) some harder-than-hard, hard work and (2) some creativity that goes beyond the creativity of the creative process. Just remember the old adage: Necessity is the mother of invention. Also remember the Mothers of Invention's album Freak Out!, which is what not to do when faced against seemingly insurmountable odds.

Anyhow, this is BIAS SoundSoap Pro:


But if you want something simpler and less expensive for noise reduction, I suggest BIAS SoundSoap 2:


SoundSoap Pro is only a plug-in, and a pricey one at that, so you'll need a host program, like Pro Tools or another DAW that accepts RTAS or VST plugins. SoundSoap 2, on the other hand, is both a plug-in and a stand-alone program. For best results with SoundSoap 2, you'll have to find a happy medium between noisy and that flanged, audio in the bathroom sound if you go overboard.

And here are the pairs that might help with workflow issues:

Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro. Actually Final Cut Studio contains Final Cut Pro and Soundtrack, which might be a sufficient audio program, depending on your needs:


In lieu of Media Composer, here are Avid Liquid and Pro Tools M:


If you want something more robust from Avid, here are Xpress Pro and Pro Tools HD, you big spender:


Premiere Pro and Audition:


Until next time...elbow grease.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sound Effects

There's only so much I can do with sound-wise with the rough cut of Elan Vital. Do I begin dialogue editing? Do I layer in the sound design? Do I continue the music work that I've begun in preproduction?

The answer should be yes to all three. However, since I'm my own personal sound triumvirate (or audio trinity, if you like) - and if you, the reader, find yourself in the same predicament - it would be best to do the entire process, as well as you can, one step at a time.

Anyway, the director (Jason) and I agreed that compiling sounds for the effects track would benefit the postproduction process most at the rough cut stage. And so here I am working on the effects track (which deceptively will contain a plethora of tracks).

For a movie like Elan Vital, sound effects will take the following forms:

1. Foley work. I'm essentially going to be the unquiet mime of the movie. It's going to equally be the obvious sounds (the bartender cleaning glasses, footsteps, etc.) and the subtle (clothing that rubs together while the bartender cleans glasses, for instance).

I only have the ability to use two microphones simultaneously, but that still gives us some good opportunities. Two microphones can either create true stereo on the spot (the difference between panning a mono track in a digital audio workstation [DAW] versus having the sound actually travel in stereo), or variety of mic placement (one mic close to the sound and one far away to incorporate the sound of the room). Alternatively, one mic can be placed close to the main sound (a towel cleaning a glass, for instance) and another can be placed on the secondary sound (clothes rubbing due to bodily movement), and the appropriate proportion of the two can be mixed within the DAW.

Of course, I'm not recording at the most ideal of Foley stages, and it is a hot summer during the daytime. Needless to say, most of the microphone recording currently takes place during cooler, vampiric hours. If it didn't occur to you already, innovation is a definite requirement in the creation of independent cinema.

2. Heavily-processed effects library samples. Of course, this will be a last resort for the un-Foley-able sounds. If and when I have to incorporate previously made sounds, as a rule of thumb, the sounds will never be left as-is. You need to tweak them with whatever DAW you're using. In my case, I'm thankfully using Pro Tools. If all goes well, it'll be like photoshopping for the ears (since Pro Tools does share a similar infamy as Photoshop).

3. Harmonic (and dissonant) ambience (or ambiance, as both spellings seem to be correct). Generally it's not the most ideal situation when the sound designer is also the music composer, for obvious reasons. However, one advantage to have the two-in-one is that the music and the the music-like effects will seemlessly come together without much argument. (That is, if said sound designer/musician doesn't suffer from a mental disorder.) Anyway, I'm creating some of the ambience using both organic and virtual instruments (just like the soundtrack).

As far as virtual instruments go, there are several free VSTi plugins on the web, which will require a lot of work searching and researching. If you're using Pro Tools, you'll need a VST to RTAS wrapper to use those plugins. FXpansion is the only company that I know of that creates such a product. There are also several commercial VST and RTAS plugins (and other types), but they can be extremely expensive and cost prohibitive, especially when you are your own film investor. Digidesign (the company behind Pro Tools) offers a free RTAS instrument plugin called Xpand!, which I'm excited to use for Elan Vital. Not only does Xpand! have simulated traditional instruments (which sound really great, I might add), there's a library of ethereal-ness that may work for this movie.

Here's the VST-RTAS wrapper I'm talking about:


And here are several levels of Pro Tools you can choose from (depending on your budget):


Also be aware that you'll need a qualified M-Audio interface to run Pro Tools M-Powered. Pro Tools LE comes with the Mbox and Digi interfaces, and if you're going to use Pro Tools HD, I salute you.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Some New Pics

We've released some new stills from the production - straight from the Canon XL2. They lose some quality in the conversion and upload but for stills, they look great. Click here to see them in the "More Elan Vital Stills" album: http://picasaweb.google.com/mutinyuniverse. Otherwise, editing is going well. All looks great. It is a slow process but it's better that way. I did not set out to efficiently make a product. When the film lives up to the one in my head, it will be complete. Jason

Thursday, July 19, 2007

And then there was Elan Vital

I love those photos below! What a random assortment... If you're not familiar with the script, you must be having several disturbing visions right now imagining what it must be about :-P

Speaking of which, all the drastic pains we took on set and in rehearsal to really follow the script have been paying off in post. The footage looks beautiful, and the actors look great, but the story is really taking shape. We're well into the rough cut, and although it's a little frustrating to watch without the sound being superb, we're going to be coming out of our dungeon with a beautiful film, thanks to everyone who worked so hard on it. And Matt. :-P

The biggest challenge right now is sifting through the ton of footage to find those precious gems of moving pictures. I left the camera running between takes, hoping to augment our "behind the scenes" doc that Bianca is making (you all saw her gliding around with her camera, catching private conversations and those embarassing "alone moments"), but as a consequence I've made our editing process that much more challenging. Now Jason and I have to weed through all the footage of Matt making faces at the camera in order to get to the good stuff. It makes finding the money shots like a little celebration! Jason and I actually high five each other once we drop the clips into the timeline and see the magic!

Well, I'm off to work. Time to edit. :-)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Two words:

Shiny electroencephalograph.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Previously on "Élan Vital"...





As you can see, we shot a film. Now we're in postproduction.

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