Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Don't Boq At That

It's Christmas, and Christmas is a time for giving. Unless you're a child in a cartoon who hasn't yet completed your character arc or also Tom Cruise. In which case Christmas is probably a time for cleaning your E-meter or something. Anyway, to honor the spirit of the holiday for our few faithful readers, I'm giving a behind the scenes quickie. One of the things we're currently working on that I CAN admit to is visual effects for the film, because we ARE working on finishing the damned thing. That's no secret. So here's something of a breakdown on a shot the incomparable Drew More is working on with some minor assistance from myself.

First, we have the raw shot of Wesley Edge looking grim on the green-screen stage. As far as raw stills go this is messy, even for us.

Then we have the Boqmeister standing in front of some simple temp geometry Drew has created in order to test the fidelity of his camera tracking. That tripod uglying the raw still is the result of Drew slowly helping me to understand how to keep VFX guys like him relatively happy later on down the line.

And finally, we have another frame from the shot, which now looks like something a movie might have in it! Hooray for progress.

Boy, those Munchkins barely build doors big enough to accommodate their hats, ay?

Monday, December 17, 2012

These Shoes, They Fit Perfectly

I did something today that I can talk about without spoiling any of the upcoming whatevers that may or may not be coming up.

That's right, I shot my audition video for Mummenschanz.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It Smells Like Death In Here

Which is weird, because I haven't actually died. I know there'd been all this talk of weekly updates, and they were there for a while, and then they... just stopped. You may be wondering why. Whether you are or not, I'm about to TELL you why.

Perhaps because I was trapped within the vast, hungry abyss where Mega Chester's face should be.
I've been back in Maine for about three weeks now. We finished shooting what we were shooting, which was almost everything we wanted to. We did not, however, get to shoot our Kansas stuff. We just couldn't cast our Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in time, and I had to return to my state of origin before the process could continue. To date, we've only had one actor audition for each part. The Uncle Henry guy we couldn't make work out due to SAG regulations (oh my God, I actually had to call SAG!), and our one Aunt Em person only sent in her video audition yesterday. They're hard parts to get interest in, for some reason.

But as I said, we filmed the majority of what we wanted to film this fall, and we'll come back and tackle Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in the spring. We still have permission to film in the schoolhouse, we've purchased all the props and we have money left for the costuming, all we need are the people to fill those world-weary shoes. In the mean-time, myself and the rest of our small post-production team are having fun with all this new footage.

And by "having fun with" I of course mean "contemplating suicide because of." Potato, Russian Roulette...
Unfortunately for blog fans (Hi Sam!), this means the iron curtain of secrecy is back up. Or down? Whichever way is the view-blocker. We're working on some cool stuff for you guys, and I'm really excited with how it's all coming together, but I don't want to spoil any surprises. You won't have too long to wait now, and there will be updates when there can be, but I'm trying to keep it as fresh as I can. And not in a street sense.

Oh, and in other news, we're splitting this into three films, so we can include all the backstory from the other books. No wait, that would be a shameless money-grab, resulting in three bloated films composed primarily of filler...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Nice Diggs

So today was super-productive. Heavy on the great, light on the terrible. Despite the subject matter. You may remember that in my second weekly update I mentioned auditioning Curt Rose. I didn't tell you what part he'd be getting, though some of you probably guessed. But if it wasn't clear then, his reappearance with a shaved head should be a dead giveaway now.

"Is it Lex Luthor? I think you guys might not be doing this right..."
That's right, today we finally knocked out our biggest missing chunk; Oscar Diggs, the great and terrible Oz himself. We got an early start at 7:30 this morning, which was actually a half hour later than it was supposed to be. We had more packing to do than we had time-budgeted for. But it didn't phase Curt, who met us at the storage facility and was very enthusiastic about getting started as quickly as possible.

And also vaguely threatening.
We spent the first half of our five hour block working on a single scene. This was the moment when our heroes discover Oz for what he is. It's a massive dialogue sequence with five characters, and between Dorothy, Scarecrow, and Oz it's now been my least favorite scene to shoot three times in a row. Curt was a trooper during its filming, though, having to spend the entire time huddled on the floor.

In contrast, my favorite stuff was by far the three scenes in which he gives the Oz trio the things that they think they want. Curt logged a lot of prop mileage in that one. My favorite prop didn't even completely exist until last night. That being a creation of Sean's, which he dubbed "Mega-Chester." What is it, you ask? Our frequent readers may well guess. It's an unholy monstrosity, a plus-sized version of the original Scarecrow puppet.

Here's a taste. That is entirely too much head.
Why do we need this behemoth when we already have the existing puppet? Well, Dorothy is being scaled up in the movie, to give the appearance of an Oz populated by little people. Since Dorothy interacts with the puppet, that means she's the only human he's to scale with. But not the only human he needs to interact with. In order to ensure that the grown-ass men who need to deal with Scarecrow look to scale, we were gonna need a bigger puppet.

We didn't just use it with Curt, either. Once we finished with him at 12:30, we went over to Lloyd Adams' property. He's the man who's allowing us to use his one-room schoolhouse for Kansas photography. But he also has a barn that was perfect for our needs today. We used it to knock out part one of the Scarecrow flashback, featuring our dashing day-players; writer Sean Gates and poster artist Jeremy Bertz.

"That sure is a purty mouth... That you painted..."
This shooting flowed smoothly, especially considering that it's one take that lasts about a minute, and has a lot to choreograph. Once that was wrapped, we did one of the silliest things we've ever done. We pulled off the highway and guerrilla-filmed Sean and Jeremy in their ridiculous costumes in the middle of an empty field. We don't actually need it for the movie, I just wanted to publicly shame them.

Friday, November 9, 2012

All-American Chopper

Today the time came for me to pay for my sins. For so long I have teased Sean and Steve about looking ridiculous, and now my own time has come. Today we filmed my little cameo, a non-speaking role as one Nick Chopper, the original human form of the Tin Woodman. And it was a pretty awesome day. Maybe one of my favorites.

For reasons that may become apparent later.
Yes, that is location imagery you're seeing. I knew I wanted to do something stylistically different with Scarecrow and Woodman's flashbacks, but I was never really sure what. Grading them a heavy sepia wasn't going to cut the mustard. After discovering the Yaglas and their multi-home property, an idea began to form. Like the Kansas scenes, the flashbacks would all be location. That way the fantastical, stylized Oz we have is only present when we're experiencing scenes through Dorothy's eyes. To the people who live there, it's just as mundane as Kansas is to Dorothy.

But with more whimsicality and less soul-crushing depression.
The Yaglas kindly agreed to let us use their property again, and we were allowed access to another lovely period house they have. That takes care of one crucial element of the shoot, but Woodman's tragic backstory is nothing without a Nimmie Amee to woo. Which meant we got to spend part of the afternoon with a newcomer to our production; the effervescent Tina Cody. She graciously drove down from DC to spend a couple of hours performing the small role of Nimmie.

And at least half that time working around my screw-ups.
After we filmed her two short scenes, we bade Tina farewell, and Sean and I took to the woods for an equally important, but far less satisfying, round of footage. That being the montage in which Nick Chopper dismembers himself, limb by limb. There was an initial awkwardness inherent to the fact that I was framing shots with and directing myself, which I learned today isn't a super-terrific process, even with the help of a friend. There was also the whole limb-loss thing...

When in doubt, go method.
I had to don the chromakey green suit under my Nick Chopper wardrobe, and reveal it bit by bit as we slowly worked our way through my body parts. Each time a new limb presented itself, we had to break so Sean could cut tape markers for me to apply to the suit for tracking purposes. To facilitate the placement of CGI Woodman limbs. It's also difficult to figure out physically workable ways with which to dismember yourself with an axe.

It was slow work, and these short bits ended up taking more time to shoot than the earlier scenes featuring minor dialogue and three characters, (Nick, Nimmie, and her mean old boss). But both shoots went quite well and we got a lot of footage I'm pretty excited by. Most of which is more or less done right off the bat. Which is just oh-so nice.

Tomorrow's going to be another busy day, so I'll be giving you another in-depth report, skipping the weekly update.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Gart's Filthy Lesson

As I mentioned on Saturday, we were filming Gart today, back when today was still Sunday. Today's technically Monday now, but it's still Sunday to me. We left for Fredericksburg at 2:30 and didn't make it back until nearly 11:30. Hence the lateness of this posting. That's a fairly lengthy shoot period for us, but it wasn't too bad considering we knocked out all six of Gart's scenes.

And also a quick music video for 90's MTV.
I keep saying Gart like everybody should know who that is, but you don't. I should explain. A lot of the Witch's motivations are conveyed through her thoughts in the book, and that doesn't really work for a movie. So Sean gave her a Winkie Captain sidekick to bounce dialogue off of, allowing us to actually know what's up with her. As the film progresses, we learn that he's quite a reluctant sidekick, and he ultimately ends up serving as an ally to Dorothy.

Because who wouldn't trust THIS face?
As mentioned previously, Gart is played by the performer behind Scarecrow (literally), Steven Lowry. It was fun to get the chance to work with him in a scenario where he could actually make eye contact with me and operate at regular human speeds. And it was good to have him for our first storage unit victim, as it allowed us to work out all the first-time kinks with somebody more understanding than a relative stranger.

"So Clayton, just a little note for the next time... Maybe keep the pants on, yeah?"
Filming was mostly quite simple and uneventful, primarily a lot of dialogue. There were some fun bits, though. For one, we shot his last three scenes first, and his first three last. The eagle-eyed among you may be able to pick out the picture in which Steve is not sporting the stubble he grew for the part. After we shot the last three scenes, he went and shaved his face for the first three. This allowed us to show the passage of time after the Witch's death, without actually having to wait for... time.

We also shot a few specific actions, such as the Cap of Quelala presentation. You saw half of it in this raw frame, with Sean standing in for Gart and handing the cap off to Mare. This time Sean got to step into Dorothy's silver shoes and receive the cap from our actual Gart. A little bit of morphing or whatever trickery Drew prescribes will grant us a hopefully seamless hand-off.

I don't have a joke for this one, I just want to point out how HARD they appear to be concentrating...
And that's really about it. Gart's now in the can, which is nice. He represented one of the more sizable parts we had left to film. But not the MOST sizable. That one's in the late planning stages, so look for some juicy deets on that bad boy sometime in the near future.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Weekly Round-Up 03

Saturday strikes again. Without warning. WITH vengeance. Let's run another round-up, shall we?

At the beginning of the week, Sean and I had some more auditions to conduct. We found ourselves driving to various locations in the beautiful, sunny state of Virginia to meet with some interested parties. Perhaps the most exciting place we wound up was the parking lot of the Udvar-Hazy Center. S'all about the halfway point, baby.

Were this graded cyan and orange, you might recognize it as the building from Michael Bay's seminal film, Transformers 2: Transform Harder.
We also received a number of very good online auditions. And we'll be using some of those people to fill some currently (well, ex-currently) empty roles! More on that... as I feel like it. Stuff is still arriving by mail, and we're finally starting to have complete things. I convinced Sean to cameo as the Munchkin in the past who built the Scarecrow, since... he's the Munchkin who built the Scarecrow... in the past. All we need now for him, and Jeremy Bertz, who will portray his compatriot, are the hats.

And maybe a little dignity, if we can scrounge some up.
But the first costume completed is a new face but an old friend. Our kooky pal Steven Lowry, known to some for the striking form he cuts in a chromakey suit, long ago expressed an interest in playing a normal human person. Since we thought this might be a little outside of his wheelhouse, we offered him the role of Gart, the Wicked Witch of the West's right hand man. We met up with Monsieur Lowry earlier today to set-up the green-screen in our storage unit, and to let him try on the costume.

You all may want to check out my new art installation; "Photos of Desperate Men Making Questionable Life Decisions in Corridors."
Kind of exciting to see our first Winkie in the flesh. And tomorrow we'll see him in the flesh-er, as we film the Gart elements for scenes in the Wicked Witch's castle. That'll probably warrant a full entry of its own, what do you think?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Weekly Round-Up 02

It's been a whole week already. Doesn't really feel like it's been the right number of days for that, but I'll take the calendar's word for it. Which means it's time for a weekly round-up. Guess I'll go ahead and round-up the week, then.

Costume and prop pieces continue to arrive by mail. Most exciting of this week's arrivals are a pair of cowhide chairs Sean ordered online. They're actually genuine chairs from the era, which we picked up for a very reasonable price. These will of course be finding themselves at home in the Gale farmhouse set.

In the meantime, we'll see if Clint Eastwood wants to yell at them.
Also arriving by mail was a fake beard. So many of the characters we're looking to cast have to sport lovely beards, but beards aren't exactly "in" anymore. We knew of the existence of fake beards, but we'd never done anything with them, and we thought it might behoove us to buy one and test it out. If it worked out, that would allow us to widen our options for casting these beardy parts. Since Sean is already sporting an all-natural face-hugger, I had to be the guinea pig for the application.

Least attractive beard ever? Your move, Phyllis Gates...
It worked out pretty nicely, which is good, because most of the men we've had express  interest in auditioning haven't been the beardiest bunch. Neither have the women, thankfully. We've had some video auditions coming in, and yesterday we drove to Spotsylvania (by way of the Devil's glen) to do our first in-person audition, with a fella named Curt Rose. He'll definitely be getting cast in A role, and we'll let you know WHICH one exactly as soon as we tell him. Only fair, right?

Here's a hint; It's not Aunt Em or Nimmie Amee.
Rounding out the last of the tales worth telling, Thursday Sean and I secured a location in which to film our additional greenscreen material. We knew we didn't want to borrow somebody's garage again this time, and since we have a little money to play with, we figured we could rent something. The best option seemed to be renting a large, climate controlled storage unit, so Thursday we drove around to all the storage places Sean knew, checking on pricing and asking if we could film our emphatically not-porn movie in a unit if we rented one.

After stopping at six places, three of which wouldn't allow us to film in a unit or didn't have electrical access, we made the mature, considered decision to go with the place where the cute girl drove us around on a golf-cart. Fortunately they turned out to also have the best prices and the largest available unit.

And that's it for this week, friends. Next week we've got plenty more auditioning coming up, and potentially some casting announcements too.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weekly Round-Up 01

So this is a new idea I had. Well, I say new, it's actually old. Pretty much every website and blog does some kind of a weekly round-up. But it's new to this blog, anyway. As I've bemoaned in the past, even on days that we do make progress, it's not always necessarily interesting enough for its own entry. I decided that in the interest of keeping updates flowing, I could post a weekly collection of however much there is or isn't to report on. The longer, in-depth entries will still be around for days when something demands it, like any time we're shooting, but for the other times, we've got these now.

We're currently gearing up for shooting with new and exciting characters. Well, I say new and exciting, but they're actually from the book. We just haven't done anything with them for our movie yet. Costume pieces and props and bits of set-dressing keep coming for us in the mail, so pretty much every day has been like a miniature Christmas. Except better, because we don't have to visit with any distant relatives or help clear the table. The other day we got a nice, $160 cabinet that... isn't for being a cabinet, and Sean promptly assembled and set to ruining it.

Ruin is a strong word. Stability is overrated in the furniture industry anyway.
Personally, I've been enjoying editing a sequence featuring footage that looks like footage, and not a small bit of footage that requires immense imagination to wrap your mind around. I refer of course to the breakfast scene we shot last Saturday. I've also derived no small amount of joy from compositing Dorothy into that footage where necessary. The work isn't finalized yet, but I'm still pretty satisfied with how it's been working out.

More satisfied than Dorothy is with the way her day's been going.
With an edit in place that I feel pretty confident about, Sean and I popped over to Wesley and Crystal Edge's place on Wednesday to record some ADR on this breakfast scene. The fans in the studio lights and, at intervals, their baby Emily were too noisy for us to be able to keep the on set audio. By now I've gone into the ADR process at some length, so you know what the deal is there. Same situation, different actors.

If you drop a fresh enough beat, you can always count on Wesley Edge to spin some sick rhymes.
And that's about all we've got for this week. We're in the process of tracking down and auditioning some promising new actors for some of the roles we haven't cast yet, and we'll keep you posted on all that progress.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Location, Location, Location?

Wait... THAT doesn't sound like us. Yes, today we got to return to filming (thanks so much to our cool Kickstarter pals), and we did it on an actual set this time. Well, I say set, but it was really a location. The beautiful 1828 log house belonging to Jon and Maxine Yagla on the grounds of Eagle's Nest, established 1647. As I mentioned in a previous entry, Sean and I went to scout it out, and we liked it for Munchkin governor Boq's house. Today we finally got to film there with Wesley and Crystal Edge, their adorable daughter Emily, and our old friends Glenda and Wiley.

Before I get into that, though, I have another one of our last minute improv stories to tell. We found out on Thursday night that there was a hiccup in our costuming situation. Some of the fabric for Crystal's dress didn't work out right, and because of this the dress was not finished. This being a family film, the naked wife wasn't an option. Sean and I were scrambling for a solution, and Sean had an idea that saved us. We dug out the shift from the Good Witch of the North's costume, bought a box of Rit dye, and Sean managed the dying process while I examined the inside of my eyelids.

That hurdle surmounted, we were good to go for a 10:00 start this morning. I woke up early and cooked a couple of fried eggs. I ate those, and then I cooked a couple more for the movie, to go with the sausage (ye olde Jimmy Dean) and tomato we'd purchased yesterday. Sean and I left for the Yagla's an hour early to rearrange the furniture, set up the studio lights, and lay out a convincing spread.

Convincing, sure. Appetizing..? Ask again later.
Our two parties arrived on time, and we got as early a start as we could. Once the Edge family was in costume, I spent about an hour chasing Emily and Wiley around the building, trying to get a couple of cute shots of them together. And despite rolling for about twenty minutes, a couple of cute shots was about all I managed to get.

To be fair, there probably wouldn't be any cute LEFT for other shots...
We also did one quick bit with Wesley giving Wiley a treat, and multiple takes earned Wesley a friend for life. Toto wrapped, Glenda and Wiley took off, leaving the rest of us there to hammer out the heavy dialogue of the sequence. It took a little time for Wesley and Crystal to get comfortable in front of the camera. In this situation though, who could blame them? They were two inexperienced actors working on a very dialogue heavy sequence, featuring a ghost participant voiced alternatively by a creepy dude with braces and a bearded man struggling with an energetic baby.

At least they had each other.
Once we all found the rhythm though, the shoot flowed pretty smoothly. While both of them did a good job, I've got to give props to Wes. This three page sequence was very nearly a wall of text, and the vast majority of it belonged to Mr. Boq. Wes handled a difficult situation with patience and humor, and for his trouble we got some very cool footage.

As far as furrows go, this man is operating on Andy Rooney levels.
We wrapped on the scene, the Edges departed, and Sean and I removed any trace of our presence. Satisfied that we had left the building exactly as we found it, we made our way back to the computers. I was eager to back-up the footage, and we were both anxious to give it all a once-over, having never shot anything for this movie that would be automatically complete. And of course, I couldn't resist the opportunity to composite Mare into one of the plates I shot today.

"When he looks the other way I am SO stealing that basket."
Sometimes I like to pretend that we know what we're doing, but it still never fails to surprise me when something actually works.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

KickSTARTED... Past Tense

Holy Houdini, we did it. As of 8:21 yesterday evening, our Kickstarter was officially a success, earning in excess of its $5,000 goal. I'd like to extend a huge thanks to everybody who contributed or shared our links amongst their web friends (and possibly web frenemies). It's going to mean some huge progress in the upcoming months, shooting some stuff I'll be quite excited to blog about. To celebrate our good fortune, how about a behind the scenes video featuring a conversation with the ever-engaging Drew More. In certain circles referred to as the Orson Welles of visual effects.

And just in case any of you missed it, last week we also uploaded a detailed documentary about shooting our promo clips.

A fair warning, both videos are quite lengthy, and may only appeal to those with an intense interest in the indie-filmmaking process. Or... AN indie filmmaking process, anyway. Not sure anybody else does it like this...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

We've All Gotta Break Down

Yes, we ARE still begging for money on Kickstarter. And if you checked the update Sean posted today, then you've already seen how I spent my past couple of days. But since it's been kinda dead here and I've got nothing much else to write about, I'll go ahead and give you a breakdown. We'll forego the image-based journal entry for this one, in favor of a video instead. Give this bad boy a watch, if you like, and I'll explain what you're seeing a little bit.

Basically, Sean and I both wanted to have something new and at least somewhat interesting as a thank you to the donors we already had, and maybe an enticement to some new ones. I decided on this little moment because it's sort of a nice emotional beat, which is a side we haven't really shown of our project yet. I also needed to make sure that it was something I could accomplish in a couple days with the resources I have available to me. The end product obviously isn't final quality, but it conveys the spirit of the scene fairly effectively.

So anyway, what've we got here? First you'll see the original raw footage. As is apparent, that is not at all a forest they're in, despite the fact that there's plenty of green. So obviously, as with all our Dorothy footage, compositing is required to bring it anywhere near a serviceable state. You'll also notice that as with much of the Dorothy footage, it was shot handheld on a shoulder rig. So the first step was to run a 2D track on those markers and key out the green.

Next up is the entirety of the ADR session for this particular shot. The number I call out at the beginning is the file number on the raw shot we're matching to, so I know where this audio is meant to go when we're editing. You've seen snippets of this process in the previous entries, but I thought it was interesting to show how we played with the performance after the fact. We did multiple takes, and in addition to being different from each other, they're also quite different from what she did on set.

Then we have the most critical element of the shot, our CGI Nick Chopper. Knowing I only had a few days, this was always going to be the hard part. The existing Woodman rig is purpose-built for the last shot of the Concept scene, he hasn't been fully rigged yet. So I had to do a quick five-bone rig and some morph targets on the eyebrows for my purposes here. The animation was where I labored most. I didn't have the kind of time I'd like to have perfected it, but it nevertheless went through multiple tweaks and iterations.

The lip sync is of special note, I think. This is the first time we've seen Nick doing any. Well, not entirely. I'd done a bit of goofing off a while back to experiment with his facial capabilities. And it wasn't very successful. I made the mistake of animating his jaw flaps to match the human lip movement of the performance, and it didn't work right, given the fact that he has no articulation. This time I filmed some reference of my hand doing Muppet-flaps to the dialogue, and matched his jaw flaps to that. This worked much better than my previous test.
You're telling me something about this was ill-advised? I don't believe it...
The final render of Woodman was where the time crunch was most felt. I did some experimentation with a different light set-up, trying to cast some leaf shadows on him, and it looked quite cool. The downside was that on my computer it was going to take 27 days to render. I pared everything way down to the bare minimum and got it to render in 27 hours instead.

So with our live-action characters keyed, Nick animated, rendered, and tracked in, all that remained was the background. Again, time wouldn't allow for an actual CG background to be assembled or rendered, so I popped out into the woods and found a suitable location that would work for my staging and lighting. I had to Photoshop out the evidence of snowmobilers, and Photoshop in the evidence of yellow-brick-layers, and after that it was very easy to drop it into the composite.

The final thing you see there was my first pass of the shot. I was originally considering a split diopter sort of effect. However once I saw it rendered I realized I wasn't fully in love with it, and in the context of a single-shot clip it would probably end up being little more than a distracting element. I quickly ditched it in favor of just a deeper focus.

So there you have it, in lengthy, gratuitous detail. Everything it takes to make a semi-presentable version of a single shot in three days. An actual 3D track and CG environment would do a lot to liven up the background and Woodman's eyes didn't come out quite right for various reasons, but I think it does alright for what it is. And at least for Sean and I it served as a somewhat relieving proof-of-concept for our thoughts about Woodman's performance.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

ADR Again: The ADRening

Yeah, we did more of this today. ALL the REST of this today, in fact. So we have nice, clean audio for Dorothy for the entire movie. Which doesn't seem like a big deal, but it means a lot to us. It's kind of a fun process to be involved in, because we got to play with Mare's performance a lot, but it's not so fascinating to write about. So I won't even try. Instead, here's another little video breakdown for you guys. It's shorter than the last one, but it's got footage from a day that DESPERATELY needed the ADR. Much more so than yesterday's example.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go put this computer in my car so I can drive back to Maine tomorrow morning. Yay...

Automated It Ain't

Yes, that IS a picture of Mare without a green screen behind her. When has that ever happened? After our smashing success recording our Witch ADR with Marie, we knew it was time to bite the bullet and let Mare have her turn. We'd already done ADR with her once (actually twice) for the Concept Scene (which oh yeah, is so totally online, you guys). And it went pretty quickly. But the difference here is that the Witch is only in the film for eight or so minutes of run-time, and Dorothy is in the film for... all the other ones.

Which means that there's obviously a lot more to record with Mare. She and Amy drove down today and showed up at around one-thirty. They didn't leave until after seven. Like I said, a lot more to record. And that was only the first half of the script, we still have to hit the back-half tomorrow.

To protect against echo, Sean and I set up the coolest blanket fort ever, which you can only see a little sliver of in the photos. But to the delight of the kids inside us, it actually worked pretty effectively. Because I love you guys so much, I edited together a short comparison video. Click below for a little taste of our new audio.

Are those the takes I'm going to use? I don't know. I just dropped in the first cycle that worked. I don't love you THAT much...  But hopefully it's enough to get you to love me a Kickstarter's worth? Check out the page and maybe share it with your friends. Or if you really love me, maybe donate? I'll love you back WAY harder.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Raw Frame of the Day Revisit

Let's do another one of these bad boys. Remember that Seinfeld episode with the man-hands lady? Mare got to be straw-man-hands in this raw frame. Now there's an actual point to the shot.

This is my favorite shot, hands down. Get it, because... I was lying anyway, it's not my favorite shot. I just wanted to do hand puns...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Raw Frame of the Day Revisit

Heh. Remember we used to do raw frames all the time? I totally forgot that I'd had a grand plan there, to revisit some of those frames every once in a while to show our progress. We even did one a little while back with the Witch scene. Well anyway... Here's one now. This is a work-in-progress version of this raw frame from way back. We'll hit it again sometime in the near future to show the final before the scene goes online.

Let's all say hi to the fantastic Drew More, ay?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Looping the Loop

Hey, suddenly it's like a series of Doctor Who in this thing! But instead of "Bad Wolf," or "Torchwood," it's vague references to editing. And instead of a stupefyingly exciting finale it's... a pretty boring piece of writing.

But let's press on anyway. As I've alluded to in previous entries, I've been editing up all the Witch scenes so that we could hit some ADR with Marie. With the exception of one scene we'd already taken care of a couple weeks ago, we wanted to do all of them in one block. Which meant all of them had to have at least a rough edit in place. That's "all" up from the current "none."

So I'd been knocking out bits and pieces as there was time, and then this past week that was my primary focus, since we'd officially scheduled with Marie for tonight at six. It's mostly a relatively simple process, if time consuming. Just running through the footage to pick out my takes, running a conversion on the shots I select, and then editing a green-screen cut of the scene.

Occasionally there will be a little more work involved. Some sequences will require the odd rough composite or stand-in CGI shot, something that doesn't exist yet but really has to be there for the edit. This is always quick and dirty work, doing the absolute minimum necessary for the ADR process.
For a lazy guy like me, sometimes the absolute minimum is still too much...
I wrapped up my last scene this afternoon, just in time for us to head over to Marie's to record. At this point we've run through this multiple times with Marie. All for various iterations of the scene where Dorothy meets the witch, actually. So this was our first time for all of these other scenes, but not our first time. It's always kind of a weird activity, and while necessary, never particularly enjoyable.

Just in case anybody is totally unfamiliar, I'll run through the general process. A bigger budget movie will have a fancier set-up, but the basic idea is always the same. You have a take with unusable on-set audio, for whatever the reason may be. In our case it came down to the noisy fans in the studio lights, and the air conditioning we had to have running for the make-up. You play that take for the actor, who watches it with headphones on, and while it plays they re-perform the dialogue along with it, so you can record this new clean audio and the sync will be right for the character's lips.
Or, um... lip...
This can afford you all kinds of interesting opportunities, because as long as the timing is the same, you can try many varieties of different deliveries and inflections. It gives you more time than you might have on set to hone in on the character's vocals. But it's also pretty difficult. In the end there's really nothing for it but to watch each scene multiple times until you have it pretty much memorized.

One of the fun things about doing ADR with Marie specifically is that she gets really into character, even though we're just recording the audio. Way back in the audition she developed this hunch that helped her find the voice, so she takes a page from the Mark Hamill playbook and always stands (semi-erect) when we record. She'll also screw up her face, curling her lips and getting all squinty.
Well, I assume it's to help her get into a character. Maybe she just has a hard time reading without glasses.
In between takes I'd give Marie direction, often getting obnoxiously specific in my requests. We'd also discuss the Witch's thought process in the scene, what the point of the scene is, what it represents for the bigger picture, what sort of trajectory they all follow, etc. Once in a while we'd find an instance where a line had been altered while we'd been filming, for any number of reasons, and we'd have to listen to that delivery and write down the new wording for Marie to read along with.
And that was the moment they all agreed to give up on Chat Roulette.
While we've done ADR with Marie before, as I'd mentioned, and some smaller pieces with some other characters as well, this was our biggest chunk to date, and there's still much more to come. I'm hopeful that how smoothly things went tonight is a good indicator of what we can expect in the future. It took us a couple hours, but we managed to burn through all the Witch scenes and I feel pretty satisfied with the performance we were able to get out of Marie. And with any luck she'll still be able to speak tomorrow... 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Kitty Pride

This past week I've been busy with more of that editing I'd mentioned, which is still not interesting to write about. Today I got to do something I've never done before on the movie, even though it's had to happen several times. And I hope I never have to do it again on the movie. Come, share in my pain, won't you? According to Sybok I might even grow stronger in the sharing.

Costumes are made of fabric. Simple, right? Well apparently you have to go out and pick out all those fabrics before they can be costumes. I've been perfectly content to stand back and let Sean handle all the costuming stuff. He'll share a drawing with me and I'll either be like, "Cool, that's fine," or occasionally find one little thing I dislike about it and be a prick until he makes the alteration.
"Don't get me wrong, I think this works OKAY... But maybe we make it a dude? Sleep on it..."
In addition to the design work, he's been the one to coordinate with our various costume ladies. Which means he's been the one to accompany them to all the various hobby stores to pick out and purchase fabrics. Usually it's been done when I'm out of town, so I couldn't go even if I wanted to. But I didn't manage to escape this trip unscathed, and ended up heading out with him and Kitty this afternoon. We left at 3:30 and didn't get back until about 10:00. It was... a day of things, I tell you what.

We started by swinging over to Kitty's to pick her up. She invited us in for a moment, to show us the progress on the costume for Boq. She also handed over the dress for the Wicked Witch of the East. Which I had not seen in person until that moment. I found the end result VERY satisfying.
And the whole, "bag off the left shoulder" style very tasteful.
Then we headed into Fredericksburg to paint the town red with the blood of our slain excitement. We started with  a big chain store, [A STORE]. [A STORE] often has pretty great deals, according to Sean and Kitty. If you're looking for fabrics, you should hit [A STORE] sometime.
They have many great fabrics available from [A BRAND].
The hours passed slowly, Sean and Kitty wandering around the store and discussing different fabric options, going back to Sean's sketches every so often to see how they might fit together. Sean found this blue fabric with a gold pattern that he really liked for Boq's wife, and that was the first thing we settled on. A trip to a second store yielded another blue material that went well with it.
"So we don't want any of this to be see-through, right?"
But then nothing went well with the two of them. We ended up having to hit a third store to find a the third fabric, and even then we had to alter our intentions for the dress so we could combine the third material with another and get it all to work really nicely. Some patterned ribbon for the cuffs and hem and we had our dress. We actually were after fabrics for two different dresses. One of them proved to be no sweat, but Boq's wife nearly killed us.

Which gives me a neat idea for the sequel...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Klip Art

So this is... really kind of a weird one. Our book fans will know the origin story of the Tin Woodman, wherein he began as a human man and then cut himself into little pieces with an enchanted axe. Fans who have read a little further in the series will know that the tinsmith who put him back together is a fellow called Ku Klip. Well our most recent bit of shooting was getting Ku Klip into the movie, and there's kind of a bizarre story behind it.
Could any OTHER kind of story have yielded these results?
Last summer, when I was down here in Virginia for our previous photography, I'd joked with Sean that it'd be cool to have a cut-away to Ku Klip in the Woodman's flashback. It would just be Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters standing there, with his arms crossed. We both laughed it off, but I kind of really wanted to do it, and Sean actually did too. But of course we would never be able to rope Jamie Hyneman into this.

Strangely enough, an internet friend of Sean's named Jay Greenfield, who Sean's known for years, went as Jamie Hyneman for Halloween last October. Sean saw the pictures on Facebook, and shared one with me, and we both laughed over the striking resemblance. But then as we were planning to shoot this summer, Sean figured, "why not ask Jay if he'd be willing to do it?". So he did.

We were expecting him to politely decline. Best case scenario, he'd be willing to come do it but we'd have to fly him out. Both assumptions proved totally incorrect. Apparently Jay likes to travel and thought this might be a bit of fun, so he flew out for the weekend, from California, mind you, to be a small part in our movie and see all the spectacular sights one can find in the King George, VA area.
Spoiler alert: There are none.
He flew in Thursday with a full head of hair and a rather nice beard. When we saw him on Friday both were gone. We actually shot his part yesterday morning, but I didn't update because after that we were out until midnight trying to show him a good time. We failed, but he was a good sport about it. This morning we went down to Richmond to deposit him at the airport, and he thanked us for the ride, like it was totally not a big deal to fly thousands of miles from home, shave his head, and stand around under hot lights while we filmed what amounts to a cameo.
Just another typical vacation destination...
Even the filming was a little unconventional for us. I knew from the start that they were pretty simple shots that I wanted a black background for, so rather than get him up on the green-screen we cut out the middle man and hung some black behind him. These shots were all about the lighting, so we carefully set up two of our studios lights to get him looking the way we wanted. Then I had Sean off screen with a third that I would have him flicker on and off so we could create sort of the general ambience of a tin smith's workshop.
Two amateurs can luck their way into some pretty awesome shots? Totally Plausible.
I'm pretty satisfied with how the whole thing worked out, and I can't believe how nice Jay was about it all. I mean, Sean may have known him for years, but he and I had never so much as exchanged an e-mail. Hopefully he enjoyed the experience, and maybe having an IMDb page is enough to make up for the next few months he'll be spending without hair...