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Movie making / shooting techniques

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During the Q&A on May 17th, Thomas spoke about looping a scene and saving parts of the sound. I thought I'd start a thread about techniques in movie making and start with looping. I found this article interesting because it shows the perspective from the actor's viewpoint and the impact on work quality. 

 

ADR stand for "Automated" or "Automatic" Dialog Replacement. 

Dialog that cannot be salvaged from production tracks must be re-recorded in a process called looping or ADR 

Looping originally involved recording an actor who spoke lines in sync to "loops" of the image which were played over and over along  with matching lengths of recording tape. ADR, though faster, is still painstaking work.  

An actor watches the image repeatedly while listening to the original production track on headphones as a guide. The actor then re-performs each line to match the wording and lip movements. Actors vary in their ability to achieve sync and to recapture the emotional tone of their performance.

ADR is usually considered a necessary evil but there are moments when looping can be used not just for technical reasons but to add new character or interpretation to a shot. Just by altering a few key words or phrases an actor can change the emotional bent on a scene. 


Randy Thom: 

  • The way ADR is treated and approached is symptomatic of how little respect sound gets in the movies. You march the actor into a cold sterile room and usually give them no time to get into the character or rehearse. They are  expected to just start performing a few minutes after they walk into the room. The emphasis is almost always on getting the dialogue in sync instead of getting the  right performance. Of course the majority of the actor's brain is then occupied with whether his lips are flapping at exactly the same rate as they were on the day that the camera was rolling. It is no wonder that most ADR is not very good. In the final mix, directors almost always prefer the production sound, even if it is noisy and distorted.

    One of the things you do with ADR to make it sound more like production sound is to pitch it up. ADR is almost always delivered at a lower pitch because the actor doesn't have the energy he/she had on the set.  In the excitement of the shooting set the actor tends to talk louder and higher. In an ADR session, the director typically has to push the actor to get them anywhere near the level of vocal performance that came from the set. 

    If the recording of ADR were treated more like shooting the movie it would almost certainly be better.  Recording it in more authentic environments (instead of studios) tends to help the actors' performance enormously.  Environmental noise is a problem whenever you record outside of a studio, but well worth the trade-off in my opinion.

Edited excerpts from Cinema & the Sound of Musi

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Also during the Q&A, Thomas mentioned the soundstage in Rosarito during the shooting of DBS. I had to look it up, so maybe this will be interesting to others as well.

 

220px-Videowisconsinsoundstage.jpg
An empty sound stage.

In common usage, a sound stage (also written soundstage) is a soundproof, hangar-like structure, building, or room, used for the production of theatrical film-making and television productions, usually located on a secured movie or television studio property.

A sound stage should not be confused with a silent stage. A sound stage is sound-proofed so that sound can be recorded along with the images. The recordings are known as "production sound." A silent stage is not soundproofed, and is susceptible to outside noise interference, and so sound is not generally recorded. Because most sound in movies, other than dialogue, is added in post-production, this generally means that the main difference between the two is that sound stages are used for dialogue scenes, but silent stages are not. An alternative to production sound is to record additional dialogue during post-production using a technique known as dubbing.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_stage

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Nice thread this. Good reading. 😎

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What I learned tonight (no rocket science once it's been clarified):

The Difference between SFX and VFX

 

Don’t worry, you are not the only one wondering what the difference between SFX and VFX is. Trust us, film production companies use a wide variety of unique terminology that film students still struggle to understand. It’ll take you two minutes to learn the difference between these two abbreviations.

VFX – stands for video effects. That may not seem too challenging and that is because it isn’t. Video effects are additions to the actual graphic/video/shot. Scenes that include green scenes rely on VFX in the post-production stage of the film. This can be a shot of background scenery, the hammer Thor or even a character that is embodied by CGI (computer-generated imagery).

Not to difficult, right?

SFX – is the abbreviated way to say special effects. Now, there is further confusion for some because SFX is sometimes termed as sound effects—an aspect that film production companies work on in post-production as well. However, typically, SFX refers to special effects (an acronym that might be used to better represent sound effects is SE, but that is not the most common either). This means that when film production companies use SFX in a sentence, they are talking about the added effects on the set rather than in post-production. Things like animal suits, prosthetic makeup, animatronics and other effects that are on a character or used on a scene are categorized as special effects.

While some SFX (special effects) are now being done by VFX (video effects) like explosions, there are still some examples of VFX and SFX that you would likely recognize. An obvious one to all generations is Yoda from Star Wars—he falls under the category of SFX. The magic that floods out of Harry Potter’s wand is a recognizable video effect (VFX).

With many film production companies turning to CGI for their unique and high action scenes, VFX are being used more than ever and the trend seems to rely on SFX less and less. Yet, CGI is a highly advanced aspect of video production that is usually done at major studios. For videos on YouTube or company websites, SFX still plays a large role.

Whether you were simply curious about the two abbreviations or you are looking for something more, to reiterate, VFX are added effects created digitally in post-production and SFX are used on the actual set.

For any other video production related question or inquiry, check out Big Door for more information. 

Source: https://bigdoorvideo.com/the-difference-between-sfx-and-vfx/

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I personally think VFX is the death of classic cinema. Its cheaper now to sit at a laptop now and add explosions etc rather than setting up squips and controlled real time explosions (as an example) The problem is on lower budget works it really shows when its done badly. However when done right you get the Avengers movies, Jurassic Park etc so obviously has its place. 

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1 hour ago, Geoff said:

I personally think VFX is the death of classic cinema. Its cheaper now to sit at a laptop now and add explosions etc rather than setting up squips and controlled real time explosions (as an example) The problem is on lower budget works it really shows when its done badly. However when done right you get the Avengers movies, Jurassic Park etc so obviously has its place. 

So what’s Tom’s preference (as much as I love The Expanse please tell me he’s old school!)

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45 minutes ago, Gail Bentley said:

So what’s Tom’s preference (as much as I love The Expanse please tell me he’s old school!)

Always. However for example with Dark Country Tom was championing the 3D tech which is VFX through and through so it will all depend on the project I guess. 

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34 minutes ago, Geoff said:

Always. However for example with Dark Country Tom was championing the 3D tech which is VFX through and through so it will all depend on the project I guess. 

Good man!  Totally get it with the 3D though, would be pretty hard to do without VFX, and as you said it has its place if it’s done well.

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Dears,

I found this great article about the technical aspects of shooting Dark Country in 3D, posted by Thomas himself. There are no spoilers, just plenty of information about the difficulties linked to the fact that the equipment was a prototype and the cameras had cables to link them to two laptops. I learned that TJ can very well be cross-eyed and efficient if he wants to.

I enjoyed reading it very much and maybe putting it here with a "2019" post will allow people to rediscover it without having to search deep down into the forum.

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And the cool thing is, I had no idea that Hitchcock gave a try at 3D himself. I googled it to know more. It puts a whole new light on Dial M for Murder. Building on the shoulders of giants...

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On 6/26/2019 at 7:07 AM, Geoff said:

I personally think VFX is the death of classic cinema. Its cheaper now to sit at a laptop now and add explosions etc rather than setting up squips and controlled real time explosions (as an example) The problem is on lower budget works it really shows when its done badly. However when done right you get the Avengers movies, Jurassic Park etc so obviously has its place. 

I wouldn't be so sure about it being cheaper - at least not always!

When I worked in videogames, for example, it was always better value to get an actor into the mo-cap studio than it was to build and animate a character from scratch. One of my nephews works in the movie industry (key grip), and has said that while expensive, real explosions (for example) are cheaper than CGI. Although nowhere near as much fun to set up and execute!

One of my friends is an animatronics designer for some really big Hollywood properties (e.g. Harry Potter, Star Wars), and he bemoans the fact that despite the huge increase in cost, CGI is generally now preferred to animatronics. I can see why; no matter how great they look in the flesh, as it were (Fawkes in Chamber of Secrets being a really good case in point), on screen, they can look a bit... well, dated.

Of course, having never worked BTS in movies, I'm only going on what I've been told - I have no first-hand experience of any of this (other than for games).

I watched an interesting documentary a few years ago - the name of which escapes me - about VFX/CGI, and it made me realise just how much is in today's movies without us even realising. One example was the smoke from someone's cigarette, another was some very subtle snow effects. The one I remember the most was the scene in Goblet of Fire when Krum is exercising by the lake... all green screen! I would never have known it! Now of course, I expect that everything is the movie equivalent of Photoshop! Ha ha! I suspect that in such cases as that lake scene though, CGI probably is more cost-effective than having to source locations, clear them, make sure they look exactly right, and get all the actors, crew, support staff, equipment, etc. there. 

The big problem with CGI, I feel, is that it doesn't tend to age well. Going back to Harry Potter, watch Philosopher's Stone, and see how dated the quidditch match looks. There's a scene with Hedwig flying over the rooftops of Hogwarts that's a bit iffy too. Because tech moves so fast, it's constantly setting new benchmarks, so when we revisit older material, even when it's not that old, we can see that sometimes it looks a bit... well, off. Like Disney pics on an ice cream van!

'Tis a great shame. 

However, this is something classic cinema will never suffer from!  Sure, sometimes the acting may be a little stiff, and the music ear-bleeding (yes, Hammer films, I'm looking at you!) but from a technical standpoint, I don't think they age at all badly. My all-time favourite film, It's A Wonderful Life, for example, will never make me wince at the bad mattes, whereas Star Wars does. I was blown away by its FX when I first saw it back in '77! 

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On 7/22/2019 at 11:18 AM, Enaira said:

Dears,

I found this great article about the technical aspects of shooting Dark Country in 3D, posted by Thomas himself. There are no spoilers, just plenty of information about the difficulties linked to the fact that the equipment was a prototype and the cameras had cables to link them to two laptops. I learned that TJ can very well be cross-eyed and efficient if he wants to.

I enjoyed reading it very much and maybe putting it here with a "2019" post will allow people to rediscover it without having to search deep down into the forum.

That was very interesting, thanks for posting it, Enaira. I must admit that reading Tom's account of free-viewing was a bit ouchy... I just couldn't do that without causing myself immense pain! Watching 3D anything at the cinema is instant migraine for me (ditto strobes), so I am very thankful to still have 2D options - I'll leave the 3D to those who can appreciate its coolness!

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The use of colors and scale in movie posters

Our latest discussions about the (RAWsome) poster done by Geoff for Crown Vic reminded me of an episode of "Contre-Champ" I saw a few years back. Contre-Champ is french and means Reverse shot or Reverse angle. It was (😥) a very short video emission from the newspaper Le Monde about movie making techniques. Here's the french link for posterity but you can skip it... it's in french.

https://www.lemonde.fr/culture/video/2012/12/05/la-couleur-d-une-affiche-devoile-t-elle-tout-d-un-film_1800045_3246.html

Luckily, I searched the World Wide Thingy and I found this video, which might be the origin of the french video. I don't know. But who cares, both are great. So here it is, in english:

https://nofilmschool.com/Movie-Poster-Color-Schemes

Enjoy!

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The Wilhelm scream

Now that I started talking about Contre-Champ... here's another episode that you will understand even without speaking french (skip the first minute of the video).

https://www.lemonde.fr/culture/video/2012/10/24/contrechamp-episode-1-le-cri-de-wilhelm_1779855_3246.html

And by the way I checked and rewatched the beginning of "Give 'em hell Malone" (poor me ! 😉). No Wilhelm scream there, I was mistaken.

Good night!

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OMGoodness, I have just realised that my nephew (whom I mentioned earlier) was Key Grip on Mutant Chronicles. How freaky is that? 🤯

(Sorry, Enaira - not trying to detract from your two excellent posts above, which I shall return to, and properly digest, a bit later. xx)

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3 minutes ago, The Goktor said:

OMGoodness, I have just realised that my nephew (whom I mentioned earlier) was Key Grip on Mutant Chronicles. How freaky is that? 🤯

(Sorry, Enaira - not trying to detract from your two excellent posts above, which I shall return to, and properly digest, a bit later. xx)

Yes this is awesome news! Interview him! Any recollection, anecdotes, pictures, technical information? 

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Key grip

From Wikipedia...

Responsibilities

Before filming begins, the key grip attends location scouts and meets the director of photography to determine what additional tools (location-specific motor vehicles, dollies, cranes, mounts, etc.) will be needed, orders and prepares required equipment, and transports equipment to the filming location. Once on set, the key grip coordinates with the electric and camera departments alongside the director of photography to control lighting and camera movement and setup. As a supervisor, the key grip directs the crew of grips, many with specialized skills such as dolly grips, crane operators, or special equipment operators. The key grip is sometimes credited as the "first company grip."

Safety

The key grip is frequently asked to be the safety monitor of the film set. Changes in the film and television worlds have created lasting change in crew responsibilities. Any union production crews working under the "Hollywood" umbrella are required to take Occupational Safety and Health Administration-style certified courses in safety. The first AD (first assistant director) is responsible for the safe operation of the set. The key grip no longer has that distinction in newer Hollywood policy.

 
In other countries

In the United Kingdom the "grips" are part of the camera department exclusively and are not generally responsible for regular grip duties as they are in the United States.[6] In Australia and New Zealand the key grip generally owns the grip equipment, often consisting of dollies, track, cranes, camera cars, and insert trailers.

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2 minutes ago, Enaira said:

Yes this is awesome news! Interview him! Any recollection, anecdotes, pictures, technical information? 

By 'interview', do you actually mean 'interrogate'? Ha ha!

He's really busy filming in Fiji at the moment, and then I guess he'll be going back home to South Africa for a bit to spend time with his family. If I get the chance though, I may well ask him a bit about it. Be cool if he has some pics. He thinks it's really funny that out of all the big budget stuff he's worked on (Star Wars, Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Bourne...), the only film I've ever asked him about is Evil Aliens. I frelling love that film! It was his favourite to work on too. 🥰

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3 minutes ago, Enaira said:

<snip>

Key grip

From Wikipedia...

 

Ha! I see what you did there! 

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20 minutes ago, The Goktor said:

He'll be going back home to South Africa for a bit to spend time with his family. If I get the chance though, I may well ask him a bit about it.

So maybe he was working on Stander as well?

What are the odds? 

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9 hours ago, The Goktor said:

By 'interview', do you actually mean 'interrogate'? Ha ha!

He's really busy filming in Fiji at the moment, and then I guess he'll be going back home to South Africa for a bit to spend time with his family. If I get the chance though, I may well ask him a bit about it. Be cool if he has some pics. He thinks it's really funny that out of all the big budget stuff he's worked on (Star Wars, Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Bourne...), the only film I've ever asked him about is Evil Aliens. I frelling love that film! It was his favourite to work on too. 🥰

Evil Aliens kicked ass! Loved that film I wanna hear about that.

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11 hours ago, Enaira said:

So maybe he was working on Stander as well?

What are the odds? 

I just checked his IMDB page, and it's not listed. His current project isn't either, so I'll ask him when we next chat.

2 hours ago, Geoff said:

Evil Aliens kicked ass! Loved that film I wanna hear about that.

OMFG - someone else who's actually seen that film - yesss! The bit with the cassette tape... 🤣 🤣 🤣 

Have you seen Black Sheep? It's genius! Unlike Zombeavers, which very much isn't. I'll never get those 77 minutes of my life back. **le sigh**

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23 minutes ago, The Goktor said:

I just checked his IMDB page, and it's not listed. His current project isn't either, so I'll ask him when we next chat.

OMFG - someone else who's actually seen that film - yesss! The bit with the cassette tape... 🤣 🤣 🤣 

Have you seen Black Sheep? It's genius! Unlike Zombeavers, which very much isn't. I'll never get those 77 minutes of my life back. **le sigh**

Seen both, loved Black Sheep, Feel asleep through Zombeavers. You need to watch "Grabbers" film about a small Irish Island invaded by Aliens who are allergic to alcohol so all the residents get pissed and fight back. Brilliant!

Totally off Ariane's topic tho so back on track, maybe create a new thread for really bad B movie horrors & comedies. 

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