Monday, February 27, 2012

Mulieris Futura: Behind-the-Scenes Part III

Mulieris Futura began as nothing more than a little free time, a desire to test out some new filmmaking gear and the good fortune of being at a fantastic location. In terms of testing it was a huge success and I learned a lot about shooting video on the Canon 60D.

I had relatively low expectations as to whether the resulting footage would actually cut together and tell some semblance of a story considering we were making it up as we went along. Adding to the doubt factor was not being able to accurately judge whether much of the footage was even properly exposed or in focus (thanks to the sun blasting into the LCD viewfinder)!

So it was a pleasant surprise when I finally got the footage into the computer and saw that not only did a number of shots turn out pretty good but there was even something of a story lurking around in the background.

I edited the piece in Final Cut Pro 7. Editing DSLR video straight out of the camera can be problematic thanks to the crazy world of video compression technology (way too nutty to go into here!) so all the footage needed to be transcoded from the native recording codec of H.264 to Apple Pro Res. In addition to this, a significant portion of the footage was shot at 60fps so this needed its own post process. I use the awesome freeware MpegStreamclip for transcoding and Apple Cinema Tools for the 60fps conforming. 

I'm pretty new at this side of things (especially the 60fps conforming) but found some great, easy to understand tutorials here.

Since the whole "what's the story here?" thing was still up in the air I found the royalty free music from Kevin MacLeod's site that I thought might work tonally for the piece and used that as a springboard for the edit. Overall, things came together quite quickly but it was clear that I was going to have to do some colour correction work to distinguish between the two timelines of the story.

I am a total newbie at colour correction. I've had Magic Bullet Mojo and Quick Looks plug-ins installed in Final Cut for almost a year but simply haven't had the time to test them out so this was a great opportunity. You may be asking, "Why colour correct? Why not just shoot it properly to begin with?" Well... First of all I'm new at this side of things and secondly, there are many things you just can't do in-camera. Even the big budget films go through a lengthy colour correction process to balance the look and feel of shots and to nail down the overall tone of the piece.

Here's a shot right out of the camera...

And here's the same shot after being put through the Magic Bullet process...

The widescreen matte was added on as a separate element and is not part of Mojo but it makes a difference in giving it that more cinematic, less video kind of feel.

Both Mojo and Looks are very, very basic plug-ins and a lot of the colour pre-sets to me seem a little extreme but they are adjustable and allow the user to dial in the degree of "Mojo" required (gotta love some of these product names huh?).

For the dreamy/fantasy sequences of Mulieris Futura Magic Bullet just didn't provide the look I was wanting so for those shots I used another plug-in, Filmstyles, this time from the awesome guys at DVcreators

Image out of the camera...

With Filmstyles and widescreen matte applied...

You'll notice a blue fringing on the edge of the matte in the above shot - I have no idea what this is or why its there but this was the only place it happened... Weird.

Filmstyles has three feature sets including film grain (which I didn't use), tint and white and black diffusion. The white diffusion was great for the softer, dreamier look that I wanted.

Out of the camera...

Dreamy Filmstyled!

Some shots needed a little extra work such as those where there was heavy sunlight present and I couldn't see the LCD viewfinder. This one in particular came out over-exposed and washed-out...

Lower the exposure, add contrast, add a pinch of Filmstylification and... Voila!

All of the tools used to make this short film are freely (or at least, somewhat freely) available to anyone who has the time, the interest and the inspiration to go out and do it. When I began my career as a filmmaker back before the internet, Lady Gaga or even Twi-Hards existed, quality filmmaking endeavors were expensive and mostly accessible to only a privileged few.

As technology continues to advance and more and more affordable tools become available, more and more people will have the opportunity to creatively express themselves and tell their stories in ways never before imagined. Yes, there are a lot of "idiots with cameras" out there (seen Youtube lately?) but somewhere, a young kid is picking up a camera for the first time and in a few short years could be blowing our minds as the next Spielberg or Scorsese.

I'm from the generation of filmmakers who bridge the old way of doing things with the new way of doing things. I often find myself feeling like the game of catch-up is a game I can never win. It's intimidating but it's also exciting to be able to practice my craft, make mistakes, learn from them and grow creatively without having to have millions of dollars on the line or hundreds of people commit their time and effort to making it happen. Technology has given me the opportunity to experiment and take risks without there being too much on the line. That's what these small-scale exercises are all about for me.

When I am ready to take that next big step into directing my first feature length project, the tools I've been lucky enough to play with here will go a long way to ensuring I am on my game.

Until next time folks, grab your DSLR or even your iphone and get out there and play!