Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"What About Life" Screen Shots

To follow up the epic prose of my last post, here are some stills from the music video. Please be aware that these are un-color corrected, un-post effected, un-anything. They are stills pulled from raw footage.
... in no particular.

"What About Life" Music Video

Editorial Production Focus

Several weeks ago, Blue in Black took over the swanky penthouse roof of a downtown Chicago apartment building. Several dozen crew including dancers, production assistants, extras, audio and visual personnel came together to shoot a music video for multi-talented artist and entertainer, Anthony Bryant.
About thirteen hours and several dozen gigabytes later the grueling shoot wrapped; the footage in the can (read: tiny SD cards and/or a hard drive). And then the hard work would begin.

In many ways, this is the hardest editing project we've ever undertaken. Certainly, the ratio of the length of footage shot vs finished length of the piece was very daunting. Most of the time, we had three cameras rolling simultaneously.
And the crux of the difficulty was, unlike a commercial or a film, the footage can be edited in an almost infinite number of ways. There is very little narrative skeleton or linear direction, like a script or storyboard. The advantage of this open style is the possibility of capturing wonderfully spontaneous moments or angles. But the amount of footage makes you want to run for the hills.

The purpose of this post is to record our workflow and editing process for handling a vast amount of footage. I knew that if I tried to edit in a linear fashion, I would be crushed. So each of these steps was taken with the mentality of "divide and conquer" and "survival of the fittest." I will explain presently.

The first step was to log the footage, which basically means watching it all, making notes on each shot, and trimming each shot of the unnecessary beginning or ending (heads or tails). I divided each according to which camera it was shot on. Then, inside each camera folder, I separated each setup/sequence and location. Divide and conquer.

Next, I created separate workspaces for each sequence, and synced up all the footage from each camera within each sequence. And then I learned something very useful. My editor has a very handy Multi-Camera editing feature. What it boils down to is, I can sync up my footage, then play all of it back simultaneously, seeing each camera's video track on a small preview screen-- essentially having several video monitors. By clicking on each monitor, I can easily cut between the shots I want. In this way I chose the best-looking angles for each sequence. Survival of the fittest.

It wasn't nearly as cut and dry as that, and as always there were unexpected roadblocks to go around, but I won't go into that here. Suffice it to say, I ended up cutting together a music video from each sequence, total: about 10 music videos. So I had a "What About Life" video for the party sequence, the mirror sequence, the Leroy (the silver man) sequence, etc.

Then came the painful part. One of the first things you learn when you edit is that you MUST learn to kill your babies. Shots that look great but get in the way or just don't flow must be cut, and the better the shot, the more it hurts. This is especially painful if you were on the set and helped shoot the thing yourself. You were there at the inception of the shot (at which point you might have thought, Wow, we just got a great angle), you gently transferred it to your hard drive from the overflowing SD card, you gave it a name and a label, and were glad when it survived the first round of revisions when so many of its siblings did not.

But now I had to start to fuse these sequences into one video, and inevitably there were casualties. Slowly, 10 sequences became 8 became 4 became 2, the weaker shots continually falling by the wayside or disappearing into the digital ether. Better and better shots had to be cut for the good of the whole.

At this point, I'm nearing that glowing landmark of editing: the rough cut. I'm not there yet, but already the chaos is starting to take form. I think every piece of art goes through this phase, the phase when a painting destined to be a masterpiece just looks like multicolored vomit, or a marble sculpture looks like a hard, jagged turd. It isn't pretty, but it's starting to look like something.

In short: Instead of a jumble of organic refuse, it now resembles a pair of deformed, mutated, conjoined twin monkeys that can still nonetheless walk about and perform the rudimentary functions necessary to classify them as alive. The rest of the process is just plastic surgery over and over, as much as is necessary to turn it into a healthy, beautiful monkey, or a sugar glider, or a Ferrari, or the Thinker.

Okay I'm done. I need sleep. Out.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Poppin' Ad, Part 2

The character design for our popcorn project has reached its final phases. After nailing the look of the face, I worked with the client on the modeling of the petals, which included displacement mapping in Mudbox. The two final frames are from the final spot.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ostrich Run

Another quarter, another Prehistoric Times dinosaur drawing... I won't go into my purposes, suffice it to say I'm unpaid to do these drawings but I love dinosaur artwork so to do it and be printed in a magazine is compensation enough. My last completed work can be seen here:

This quarter, Pre-Times was looking for Struthiomimus artwork (if unfamiliar, see here). This is an athletic, ostrich-like dinosaur with many graceful curved lines: the S-neck, a stiff, balancing tail, strong running legs, arms curved back against its body like proto-wings to minimize wind resistance whilst running... So I wanted to try to stay away from my standard style of very detailed work to focus on those strong lines within a simple, iconic setting.

To that end, I was reminded of the ancient Chinese tapestries that featured birds in very Zen settings, mountain ranges and feats of nature that dwarfed human beings (who are usually sketched tiny, with just a few brush strokes, toiling away in an insignificant corner of the composition), the muted desaturated color palette, the long (instead of wide) composition, and especially the occasionally-thick ink lines. You can Google this type of artwork and you'll see what I mean.

Line work was done with an Ink brush in Corel Painter using an Intuos2 Wacom tablet, coloring was a mixture of Corel Painter's Colored Pencils, Crayons, and some custom Photoshop brushes. And some real watercolors were scanned in and applied for backdrops and textures, which would have been impossible in Painter because I'm too much of a n00b. Each piece was created individually; they were combined in Photoshop with final adjustments and aging and a very small, tiled canvas texture layered on top to tie them all together and give it all the old-school personality I love so much. Final Photoshop file weighed in at 1.7 GB and was 24 x 36 inches at 300 pixels per inch. Thanks for looking, and I heart comments!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Popcorn Ad is Poppin'

We're deep in the process of creating two ads for a popcorn seasoning company. One of the ads involves a crying popcorn character that suddenly turns happy as the seasoning starts to fall, then jumps into the bowl of popcorn.

This is an interesting challenge because obviously the client wants the popcorn to look edible and realistic, but then the face has to be appealing and cute. How many times do you see that? Nemo was cute but did he look edible? Mr Peanut is edible but he's hardly cute.

Additionally complicating matters is the fact that the curled "pop
ped" extrusions make it look like this cute face has some severe deformities, a'la the Elephant Man. Would you want to munch on a tumored-up child's head straight from the microwave? I know I would.

So far, he's my progress. First pass, then the second pass.

Client is reviewing this version. Fingers and tumorous extrusions are crossed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sexy New Websites...

... courtesy of our designer, Mark Nadolski.

First up is his new film, shooting this week: Point of Crossing

Starring Paul Kratka (IMDB), it's the story of a grieving train operator who's given one chance to save a life. Updates coming shortly!

Then we have Fatal Abortion, a short, dark tale of tension within a new relationship and the monsters it spawns.

And, finally finding a home on the world wide web is Alone No More, our award-winning short about a young woman driven crazy by her suppressed grief.

Shoot back and tell us what you think, and as always, see you back here soon!


Monday, August 2, 2010

A few shots of our new film, starring Deneen Melody Matthew Allis. Should be finalized soon...

Thursday, June 10, 2010


So those who've known me for any length of time know me to be a bit of a dino nut. One way I try to feed this addiction is doing artwork for Prehistoric Times, a quarterly magazine that deals with all things prehistoric. (their late-90's timewarp website)

For the purpose of vanity, I decided to post my process for my current piece, the subject of which is a plant-eater called Therazinosaurus:

My line art:

And the image that was my original inspiration:

The last one to be printed was my Stegosaur piece, which you can see in the blue in black drawings section.

The Futurist...

Just finished reading The Futurist, a biographical book about "The Life and Films of James Cameron," which features a noticeably slimmer and less hairy looking James Cameron (probably a photo circa 2000). See for yourself:

Real classy of me, right? Whatever, nobody reads this blog anyway, cut me some slack.

But to be honest, the book is great. Cameron is a man I greatly admire. I devour anything of substance written about him (a particularly good article from the New Yorker)

I won't go into an in-depth review, as the subject of this book is fairly self-explanatory. Instead, I will recount a few of my favorite parts.

- Cameron almost died on the set of The Abyss. He was at the bottom of the immense tank they were filming in and he ran out of air when his AD forgot to remind him that he had been under for an hour. (he had about and hour and 15 minutes of air). He dropped his helmet and swam to the surface and almost drowned, having to punch a scuba PA to get out of his way.

- After struggling with the English crew on Aliens, enduring short 8 hour work days, abrupt breaks for tea, and near mutiny, Cameron leaves them this little nugget before leaving for the States:

"This has been a long and difficult shoot, fraught by many problems. But the one thing that has kept me going, through it all, was the certain knowledge that one day I would drive out the gate of Pinewood and never come back, and that you sorry bastards would still be here."

- On his first Hollywood gig, he was promoted from model builder to art director. He was making $200 per week, they offered him $300. So he asked what the previous art director made. $750, but he was very experienced. Cameron:

"Yeah, but he fucked up. The show is in dire crisis. You fired him. You want me to do the same job. I want the same money."

- On his first directing gig, Piranha II, Cameron lost control of the film to the Producer. As the film was nearing completion, he broke into the editing suite night after night and re-edited the film.

And one more quote, not from the book but from the New Yorker article, which I find inspiring:

“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.”

Book is highly recommended, though it was published just months before Avatar destroyed all box office records, so in that regard it is already a bit out of date.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Student of Fortune stills

Knee-deep in editing our promo for the website As you might surmise from the images below, it's done in the style of an action movie trailer. All footage, except the green-screen stuff, is shot with the Letus Extreme 35mm lens adapter and Canon FD lenses on the Sony EX1 camera.


Anybody recognize the movie trailer this is blatantly ripping off?

NOOO!! #2

Time lapse of a clock. Always cool, especially with lens flare.

Some comps. I think maybe they need some more work.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Footage from Test shoot

These images are straight out of the camera, with no post processing. Things I learned:

- just run the damn thing through the whole shoot, otherwise you'll forget to turn it on before you roll your shot.
- open the prime lens up all the way, and control the brightness of the image through the camera's own iris. This reduces the grain from the Letus' ground glass plane (you can see this grain in the image of the sunset, where I intentionally stopped down the lens' iris). Unfortunately, I don't have any images to upload from my fastest lens, a 24mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.8, as they arrived a day too late.
- soft focus turns me into a very beautiful man.

I should also note that while the Letus makes a much more pleasing and organic image, the color fidelity and richness are mainly a result of a Picture Profile setting developed by Philip Bloom. You can find it here:

Field report from Student of Fortune shoot coming soon, as is an Alone No More update.