Took some time out from working this morning to play with some color correction/grading ideas and I think I've come up with a look that I really like for Layover. Here's a quick frame, exported directly from Final Cut Pro. I used the 3-Way Color Corrector to get the color balanced and then Magic Bullet Looks for the grading.
I'm using Magic Bullet Looks in almost all of my projects now and I'm thinking of upgrading to the new Magic Bullet Suite that has a new version of Looks as well as a lot of amazing software.
Woke up at around 9am on Tuesday morning after getting to bed around 5am. Those 4 hours were going to have to be enough as I plugged in the hard drives from the Layover shoot and started transcoding the footage. Shooting 2 cameras was a godsend and Paul Toohey (my 2nd camera guy) did an amazing job finding some great angles for the 2nd camera.
Because we had both cameras going for almost every take, I had a lot of footage to transcode...almost three hours worth for a 13 minute short. My MacPro tower got the job done quickly and without any fuss. In the meantime, I met with Chris Walker, my location sound recorder, to pick up the files. Once I got back, the footage was ready to view and synch. Using my usual synching method, I got the footage put together on timelines in a couple hours.
My regular day job kept me from really doing any additional work on Wednesday and Thursday, so on Friday, I started editing. Having all that footage was great, but it meant that I got a slow start. I like to go through all the takes first, marking anything that I like or think might be a nice moment in the film. With two versions of every take, that's a lot to go through. On a regular film shoot, it would be a nice problem to have, but because I'm on a tight timeline, it became a bit of a pain in the ass.
See, this is a shorter month for me. A week from tomorrow (October 2nd) is my 2nd wedding anniversary and the wife and I are going away for a long weekend. We leave early on the 29th, so I only have until the 28th to get the film done. It's like February all over again.
The audio for this one is going to need some work, mostly because of some buzzing lights on location. You'd probably never notice it during your travels, but the lights at the Austin airport buzz. With all the regular noise that goes on during the day, I doubt people notice it, but when you're in an empty airport, recording 5 different microphones at once (4 lavs and a boom), the buzzing is very noticable.
I've got my sound mixer, Cary Daniels, prepped and ready to take the audio files and scrub the buzz out of them while EQ'ing the levels and making everything match, but in order to do that, I have to get the edit done and finalized...which is why I spent most of Friday and Saturday working on the edit. It's now 10:45pm on Saturday and, after taking a break to go see Contagion with Paul, I'm finishing everything up.
The cut is finished and ready to be sent out to Cary. I've got more work to do this weekend, so I wont be able to start the color correction until Tuesday at the earliest, and I'm hoping Cary can get me the finished audio files by late-Tuesday/early-Wednesday so I can lay everything in and start the exporting/encoding process to get it up on the site before I get to leave on vacation.
Overall, I'm happy with the film. Being sick and incredibly busy with work, I should have picked something easier to do this month, but that's part of the challenge. On September 1st, I didn't know I was going to get sick (or so busy), so I chose a difficult film. I didn't wave it off once things got tough and I'm a little proud of that. However, looking at the film, I see a lot of things that I missed while on set, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that I was sick, taking medication and not as focused as I would have been otherwise. And, to be very clear, the actors and crew all did a great job. Any issues with the film lay squarely on me.
Having a lot of editing experience, I was able to hide a lot of the problems, but the film could have been better. But hey, not all of these are going to be amazing. If I get one amazing film out of the 12 that I make this year, I'll be happy. There's a lot that I love about this film and I'm hoping that once the audio is fixed and the color correction and grading are done, it'll come together and become a worthy entry.
I guess we'll see in a few days.
One of the biggest drawbacks in shooting with the Canon 7D is audio. Because the camera doesn't have pro audio inputs (XLR), you're left with two options. Use a 3rd-party audio box that converts XLR inputs to the mini-microphone input on the camera or record the audio separately and synch it later in post.
Reading reviews online and talking to people who've used the 3rd-party boxes, it seems like a decent option, but not ideal. The audio gets compressed quite a bit going through the box, the mini input and finally by the camera itself.
I've been recording all my audio separately for all of the 12 Films (except the first one, and the audio really sucked), and I've come up with a good (and fast) way to get it all synched. First off, I don't use PluralEyes. I know it's amazing, and I'm planning on buying it when I start the Charcuterie feature next year, but other needs (gear, computers, etc.) have held me back from buying it. But my method is pretty decent, fast and would work well for someone who doesn't have PluralEyes.
I've begun asking my location sound recorder to roll through each set-up. When the camera (or cameras) move to a new set-up, the audio person hits record and lets it go, no matter how many times the camera(s) cut. This way, you can lay down one long audio track in an FCP sequence and then find the synch points (which is usually me saying "action") which the camera records with its on-board microphone and lay those video clips down over the audio. Audio files are pretty small, especially compared to video files, and so the extra "dead spots" won't really effect your overall storage needs for a project.
This technique enabled me to synch all of the audio from Monday's shoot (2 cameras and about 2.5 hours of footage) in just under an hour and a half. Most likely, it would probably take as much time to synch with PluralEyes, though it would probably be less labor-intensive. I've heard nothing but great things about PluralEyes and so I'm sure once I buy it, I'll abandon my current technique, but for now, it's really working well for me.
For the past two weeks, I've been pretty sick. As a transplant, I didn't grow up with all the cedar, ragweed, mold and everything else that's in the air down here in Austin. As such, when the weather changes (and HUGE fires are ravaging the local landscape) my sinuses can get a wee bit touchy. However, two weeks ago, they went on a full-scale revolt.
After my doctor pumped me full of steroids and pain-killers, my body finally got back to about 80% normalcy, which was just enough for me to feel comfortable shooting an overnight at the airport. For the most part, I've been doing these films by myself or with one or two people helping out when needed. For this one, considering how I felt and how much larger the scope was, I decided to bring in some reinforcements.
I had worked with John Moore and Melissa Porter the last time I shot out at the airport (a web spot I directed for a product that was discontinued before it could get finished) and I knew they'd be comfortable with all the little things that need to go into that location. John stepped into the Producer role and really knocked it out of the park. He managed to keep everyone happy and keep us on schedule, which was awesome.
I also brought in a very cool guy, Paul Toohey, to shoot 2nd camera and generally help out. He was totally invaluable throughout the night as my 2-weeks of being sick took their toll. Paul brought his own 7D with an amazing Zeiss 50mm which we used quite a bit during the evening. Paul has a great eye and a lot of solid filmmaking knowledge. I'll definately be working with him again.
My usual sound Cary Daniels moved out to Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, but recommended a friend, Chris Walker, to step in and fill his shoes. Chris arrived, ready to work and was a very welcome addition to the group.
We started the day at my apartment, shooting a quick insert shot of two of the leads driving. We got them in costume, sent them through hair and make-up and got going. We mounted the 7D on the dash and put Paul's lovely Tokina 11-16mm lens on it. I swear, this is going to be my next lens purchase. It's ultra-wide and fast at a constant 2.8 all the way through.
With the insert shot finished, we packed up all the gear and headed down to the airport. A quick note about the gear. I ended up renting 2 Kino's, a LightPanel and some other G&E stuff from Michael Morlan's new Tall Tale Pictures. Go check him out...if you're in Austin and need gear, he's your guy.
We got to the airport at 6pm, unloaded the gear and then spent an hour going through security. One of the perks of being a film crew going through security is that you get to use the first class line, bypassing all those people who just want to get to their flight. The down-side is that you get a lot of dirty looks from those people. Also, if there are people who are legitimately flying first-class, they have no time for the motley crue of filmmakers in front of them, taking forever as TSA agents go through the Kino-Flo boxes, camera cases, etc. We got some dirty looks...I'm okay with that.
Once we got through security, I made sure everyone got dinner. The shops and restaurants in the airport close between 7pm-7:30pm and we could only bring limited food in, so I wanted to make sure everyone was fed and ready for the night ahead. My wife, Julie, was there to help get stuff organized and put together (she's very, VERY good at that stuff) and to take the lovely photos that are scattered throughout this blog post. She made sure we bought bottled water and drinks from the airport stores since we weren't able to bring those in. We ate, got set up and had the first shot done by 8:45pm. Not bad.
The shoot itself was rough. I had done the casting about a week and a half earlier and we only had time for one rehearsal, so it was kind of slow going. Thankfully, we were shooting two cameras, or we'd still be there. I'll admit, especially near the end, I felt very detached from the shoot. Not because I wasn't interested, but simply because my body was trying to give up. By the end of the night, the 20-minute drive home was probably the hardest thing I did all day. Keeping my eyes open at 4am was not easy. I rolled down the windows and blasted some old Oingo Boingo just to keep me awake.
Overall, I'm happy with the footage that I've looked at. Once I get into the edit, I'll be able to really see what I've got.
Casting is done and I'm really excited about the actors that I was able to get. Three of the four people in the film are people I haven't worked with before which is always fun. The guy playing Richard (the husband) is Hugo Zesati, the wild-man who played the "deranged Soccer Man-Coach" in my June film, "Heist-Off!". This time around, he'll be playing something a little less over-the-top.
Today I got my final approval from the FAA and the Austin-Bergstrom Airport and now have my permit to shoot at the airport. This was a huge hurdle to jump over and I'm glad it's all worked out. It's going to be amazing to shoot a narrative in a big, mostly empty airport at night.
We're rehearsing on Saturday and I'm psyched to get everyone in a room together to hear it read and work it with them. We're going to go through some wardrobe choices and spend some time getting to know each other.
I'm working on the shot list tonight and should have a solid plan of attack by Saturday. I'm meeting with John Moore, my new producer and Paul Toohey, a wicked cool guy who wants to come out and help on the film, on Saturday as well. We'll go through the schedule and shot list and get everything ready.
I'm feeling pretty prepared for this one. I'll be going out to do some shopping this weekend to pick up snacks and stuff for on-set. One of the biggest hurdles for this shoot is that, once we get everyone through security at the airport, they can't leave and then come back again. If anyone goes back through security, they won't be allowed back in. So we really need to make sure everything we need is on-set. If we forget something, we're kind of screwed, so there's gonna be a lot of double and triple-checking everything.
Most likely, the next post will be a post-mortem for the shoot on Tuesday. Unless something crazy happens this weekend...I kind of hope it doesn't.
The casting for Layover went well. I saw some really great actors and got 3/4 of my cast pretty much worked out on the day. I'm still missing an actor to play the husband, but I may be calling on someone I've worked with before for the role.
I've finally got all the airport stuff worked out and it turns out that, because we're shooting overnight, we have to pay a TSA escort to stay with us all night to make sure we don't get into any hijinks or shenanigans. With it being so close to the 9/11 anniversary, the airports are being pretty touchy and rightfully so. It's gotta be a tough time for them and I'm surprised they're being as accommodating as they've been.
I'm going to try and get the husband role cast before Wednesday or Thursday so we can try and have a rehearsal sometime next weekend. I figure, if we can get one solid rehearsal on Saturday or Sunday, then everyone can show up ready to go on Monday.
I'm going to try and update this blog a bit more than I have been. I started feeling like the posts were getting a little repetitive and so I stopped posting so often, but a few people have asked about it and so I'm thinking of doing smaller, more concise updates.
Casting is going well for Layover. I'm holding auditions on Thursday from 10am to 1pm and we've got a good group of people lined up to come in and read. I'm hoping to have this cast by the weekend and get at least one rehearsal in sometime next week before the shoot on the 19th.
I've got my production insurance set up (the airport makes you have a $1M production insurance policy before they let you through the door) and I'm working on the crew and gear.
I'm renting some lights (2 Kino-Flo's and a Light Panel) plus stands, flags and some basic grip equipment. I'm also renting the Tokina 11mm-16mm 2.8 lens for some sweet wide-angle shots. The last time I directed something at an airport (a commercial for a product that didn't make it to market) we shot some amazing footage with this lens and so I'd like to try and get some similar shots, especially since that commercial will never be seen.
The September film is called, Layover, and is set in an airport late at night. It's got a larger cast than my other narrative films and we'll be shooting it at the Austin-Bergstrom Airport overnight which is going to be a lot of fun. There's also a quick cut-away shot that takes place in a car that we'll hopefully shoot on the same day as the airport shoot. Pretty sure we can make it all happen.
Jumping back into narrative filmmaking has been fun, but it's also got a much lengthier pre-production timeline than a documentary or one of the mood pieces that I've been doing. I wrote the script a couple weeks ago and have been revising it ever since. I put up a casting notice on a couple sites here in Austin and have been getting a lot of good responses. I'm hoping to hold auditions next week and get at least one or two rehearsals before we shoot.
I'm hoping that we can shoot on (or around) the 19th of Semptember. That will give me 2 weeks to edit, mix the sound and do the color correction which I'm hoping will be enough.