Rants of a Digital Bard

OMG! Who gave this idiot a blog?

Queen of Diamonds – Day 1

We left the bar and headed over to UMKC.  Kyle, the writer, was working fast and furious.  After we got there, Jess informed us about the basic “gist” of the story and gave us an idea of where primary filming would need to be done.

The goal was to have Kyle finish the main draft of the script by midnight which would be emailed to the entire team.  A final draft would be sent out at 2am.  The actors would meet at 7am Saturday morning to get instructions from Jess and do their initial read through, etc..  At 11am we’d start initial filming at our primary location with one planned 3 hour break and hopefully complete all filming by midnight.  At midnight the editing team would start putting it altogether for an initial screening of the final draft by 2pm and then delivery of the final project to the contest people around 6:30pm (the hard deadline was 7:30pm).

As I had mentioned, originally, I was just gonna do the motion graphics work and some light effects.  And I was hoping to be around to do some behind the scenes filming now and again.  Over all, I expected I’d have to do a few hours of actual work, a few hours of watching the process unfold and I’d get more than a couple hours of sleep… Life is funny…

I stayed with the group at UMKC while Kyle wrote the script.  We left briefly for a half hour to check out the primary filming location, a nice old house where the sound editor lived.  At a few minutes past midnight, Jess and Tanya had the main draft of the script and emailed it to everyone in the group.  The film team and I discussed the basic plan of attack and ironed out some of the editing questions.  Merlin, the sound editor, was familiar with Sony Vegas as he used an old version in a lot of his work.  So it was decided that the editing team would download and use the Vegas 9 trial version to edit the whole film.  Zach and his buddy Noel, who were the primary editors, had downloaded it a few days before the festival and edited together a HILARIOUS 2 minute viral film.

At around 2:30am I headed home to get a few hours sleep before principal shooting began at 11am.  There was a bad storm, so my 90 minute drive home took a little over 2 hours.  I was still pumping with adrenaline when I went to bed, so by the time I got up at 8:30am I had only slept for about 2 hours.  I was a little late getting out of the house and I got a little lost in Kansas City, so I didn’t get to the shoot location until a few minutes before 11am.

Things were a little chaotic when I got there and we didn’t actually start shooting anything until almost 11:30, but once the ball got rolling, most things started to fall into place.  I mentioned earlier that Jess and Tanya are very organized people and thank goodness.  Had I been in charge of shooting instead of Zach and Jess, we’d still be shooting today, a full day after the contest period was over.  I kept wanting to shoot at different angles, in different light, etc…  Some of the actors worked on the weekend, so we had them for a limited time.  So it was important to get just 2 or 3 takes per scene and move on.  Especially given the time limit of the whole project.

Jess and Zach had a pretty clear vision for the film, and like I said before, Zach has a “photographer’s eye”.  While I did do a little bit of the filming, when I look at shots of the same scene that Zach did versus what I did, I am amazed at what I don’t know about how things look on camera versus the naked eye.  I learned a lot from Zach about that.

I mentioned earlier that the entire cast were fantastic, you can definitely tell that they are indeed “professional actors” and not people who act (or overact) occasionally.  But I have to single out Stephanie, the lady who played the main character, as one of the most amazing actors I have ever had the pleasure to meet.  Having only known her during the shooting process, I find it extremely difficult to seperate her from Abigail, the main character in the film.  She was just so convincing with not even a hint of overacting in any of the scenes.

It’s funny because when I first met the group, there was a lot of talk of “if nothing else goes right, we’ll still have the best actors of any film at the festival” which I took at the time as bragging and over-confidence.  But now, after we’re finished with filming, I can see that it wasn’t “over-confidence” at all.  Indeed, they were all fantastic.  And incredibly well prepared.  When we were ready to shoot every scene, they knew the lines and because they had worked together so many times before, they “ad-libbed” smoothly.  It was just like eavesdropping on a real conversation.

Shooting went pretty well.  We kept running into time issues, mostly from shooting too many takes in some cases (mostly my fault) and from how long it took to set up for each shot.   In retrospect, given the time crunch of the contest, the whole thing should have been shot hand-held.  Setting up the tripod and changing angles took longer than just walking a few feet or crouching/standing up and we could have got a few more takes in (my preference).

After shooting most of the group scenes where we needed the main group of actors together, we started on some of the smaller individual scenes.  Several of the actors had day jobs they had to do, so we only had them for limited amounts of time.  But Jess and Tanya had worked out a shooting schedule.  We moved from the house to the second location to film a lobby scene… then a third location for a doctor’s office scene… then a high school football field for a bleachers scene.

While we broke for a late lunch/early dinner, I went back to UMKC and backed up the footage we shot and started the preprocessing of the AVCHD video from my camera into editable H.264 footage.  The final product had to be delivered as SD, so I downconverted the resolution from 1920×1080 to 960×540.  Merlin, our sound guy, recorded the sound seperately on some professional sound equipment.  My camera records stereo sound, but I don’t have a mic for it and Merlin didn’t have anything to hook up his boom mic’s to my 1/8th inch jack.  And he got much better sound from his own equipment.

After the break, it was back to the house to do the final shooting.  The original schedule was to finish shooting by midnight, but we actually finished at 11:15pm.  So I headed back to UMKC to process the rest of the footage while they cleaned up Merlin’s house. (Once again, Dave manages to avoid house work.)

August 3, 2009 - Posted by | Touchy feely..., Videography | , , , ,

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