A Peak behind the Curtain

I didn’t have time to make a comic yesterday, which means I failed my weekly social media commitment. Truth be told I ran out of time. I work graveyard shift Wednesday through Saturday and fell asleep straight when I arrived home.

The above still is the east parking lot to the hospital. I thought it would be interesting to breakdown why this animated episode has taken me so long.

Each and every creation takes time – obviously. But I believe in this undertaking because the process will become more efficient in the future.

Lets start with the background. It was designed together and exported as 6 separate layers. The layers are placed together in order of dominant perspective. The layers are as follows:

  • 1.)Front streetlight
  • 2.) Brick Wall
  • 3.) Rear Wall
  • 4.) Rear street lights
  • 5.) Pavement
  • 6.) Street, shops, and skyline

Most photography programs interpret layer order as dominance. For instance, if you have two boxes of the same size, one green and one blue, the layer on top will be the only one that is seen. Place the blue layer on top and you will see a blue box.

Now we move on to the other images. We have background characters and vehicles. These were also designed and exported as PNGs. These PNGs are placed among the background layers before the scene is rendered. For instance, I can see from the image above that the background characters were likely placed on top of every scenery layer. The vehicles vary. If I wanted to have a car moving behind the rear wall, I would simply place it between the rear wall and the street and shop layer. As long as it appears above the street & shop layer, but below the wall layer, I can make it appear to move behind the wall and on the street.

By keeping images separate I am able to reuse the same assets in different scenes. If I need a sidewalk and street in a new background I can simply drag and drop the isolated layer into a new scene. The same goes for the background characters.

Because of my strong belief that efficiency will improve with my asset library I have devoted more time to this episode than I am otherwise comfortable with. When I know an asset is being designed with the intent of reproduction, I spend extra time to design it in order to meet all future requirements. That means each 2d image includes a front, side, and rear profile. For each vehicle I also have a bright, illuminated layer specific for activated brakelights. Each character has a minimum of a front and rear profile. The main characters also have a left and right profile.

Hope this was informative in some way and you find joy in your day.

Brief Update – Film Casting

Mountain Cult Episode 5 is well on its way to development. Last week I reserved a date with the local antique shop that we will film the majority of the episode at. I have selected the date and location for a few scenes in the beginning of the film. I have an idea of where I want the one other location to be.

Casting began last week. Today I have to go through about 1000 different demo reels and select the actors and actresses who will move forward to the auditioning process. After that I must return to the script, find a single page, and send it out for them to perform a monologue. I must hammer down the script one final time and begin to analyze my needs and angles. I will be making a shot list. I must order any additional equipment and props I need well ahead of time.

This part of the process requires me to comb through the script and address all obstacles. For example, there is a creature from another dimension in the final scene. I have to figure out how I will distinguish this character from being human. Rather than focusing on how I want the character to appear, I must pursue the most effective portrayal that I will be capable of. One option is to use makeup and costume, another is to use compositing in after effects to alter the characters appearance digitally. Most likely I’ll be combining both methods. With digital effects I will need to know the lighting and shot type required. If attach 3d elements to the character I should film his scene on a tripod in order for the software to have an easier time tracking his movements (imagine attaching an object to an object moving within the frame. If the frame is moving simultaneously it adds another layer of movement that must be interpreted).

I spent far too long this week working on the graphic for T-shirts. I’d like to launch a kickstarter page and offer T-shirts for any person who helps to fund the film. I’ve come across a website called “Dafont” where individuals post creative fonts for other users to download. Most fonts are available for personal use. I need one that can be used for commercial use so that I can stick with it for the long term. For this reason I am currently using a stock font, but am highly interested in learning how to create my own. A great way to sidestep copyright issues (for music, graphic design, and general production) is to learn a new skill and do it yourself. My youtube videos lately have been featuring background music that I created in Ableton.

I would love to post here more, but I feel like I’m working 2 full time jobs. Gone are the good old days of getting blasted and playing RDR2 for 3 hours. This entire month is going to be a never ending shift. I’m really hoping to launch a kickstarter pre-launch today, but don’t know the first thing about it yet. Will write here again when I can. I should attach a picture of the current MC graphic and T-shirt but I don’t have the files on this computer.

Hope you have a great day.

Pre-Production of the Pre-Production

Episode 5 is in the works, and by that I mean I’m routinely thinking about the story that it will be. A sharp contrast for this episode is the preparatory steps I am taking before the script is even written. Following this episode I want to begin pushing out new short films more rapidly.

Currently I am developing a basic familiarity with Pro Tools. This software is the “industry standard” for sound mixing on Hollywood films. The biggest criticism I’ve received regarding my films is the audio quality. I have repeated recorded dialogue with too low of a gain setting and spent way too much time trying to fix it in post production. But in order to really make this upcoming episode something special, I want to piece together professional sounding audio. Not only will this give viewers an opportunity to hear the film in surround sound, but a proper understanding of audio mixing will prepare me for publishing to different platforms. Many have different recommendations for audio levels.

Another major goal for my future productions is to publish the video to different platforms, possibly even streaming services. I want to move toward monetization of some sort this year. As I’ve discussed previously, I am extremely limited in where I can publish my videos if I do not own the rights to the music, score, and sound effects.

Beyond the audio issue is the gear issue. I intend to purchase a second camera, a new microphone, and possibly some acoustic pads or something that will help improve the audio of my recordings. But this stuff is boring and not a major road block.

The part that I am most uncertain about is the location. I already know I would like episode 5 to take place inside a large-scale building. Possibly a warehouse or something like an old hotel. I envision the plot will revolve around my character attending something similar to an AA meeting where he attempts to move beyond his fascination with a cult that supposedly doesn’t exist.

I currently have no connections or prospects for the filming location I am imagining. I’m start to chat with different people and explore different ways of how I can approach a business owner about using their location for 2 days. I am engaging in my second ever zoom meeting with my local film group this morning and will ask them for their insights/ideas.

I am very excited about episode 5. I know it is taking long for me to get started but that’s not without good reason. If I have to choose between producing fast and producing quality I will always choose quality. There is a time when it’s most important to get something out there, but I feel as though I’m beyond that. I plan to improve each time I put something together. By learning how to navigate through Premiere Pro, After Effects, and soon Pro Tools, I don’t see why I won’t be able to create short films that are good enough to entertain viewers, rather than simply amuse them.

Hope you all enjoy your Sunday. With each day comes the opportunity to learn something new – and the joy of improvement will always outlast the vanity of fulfillment.

Approaching Completion – 11-7-20

The first take I stood at a slouch to remain eye level. This was a mistake, as I had to repeat the posture for all 20 subsequent takes.

I’m going to keep this short and sweet. I am not far away from having episode 4 completed. I’ve put together the first working draft of the entire film, start to finish. I’ve gone through the audio and brought the levels up. The pictures are all color graded.

The only items I have yet to edit are:

2 scenes in which I need to adjust the pacing

Creating a blood spatter animation

That’s pretty much it. But I’m trying to go about completion the right way. I am confident that the episode I’ve created is my best work yet and can help propel me to the next level, whatever that is. I plan to send the film to a couple contests, I’m just not sure which ones yet.

I want to get 10,000 views on this video. I know it’s a long shot as episode 3 only amassed 300+. I know that on my own I can get it to 1000. But I’m aiming for 10,000. I had a small cast of 6 people help me with this. They have family members and family who will undoubtedly check the video out. That’s not something I’ve been able to say before.

Beyond the contests, my two other obstacles are

  1. Create a method for future supporters to assist in financing the next episode. If I can secure financing of any means, I will be able to create films more frequently. The greatest challenge I presently face is working a shit ton of over time to pay for things. On top of that, I haven’t been able to spend as much time with my girlfriend as I’d like to (I love you babe).
  2. Learning after effects. I can’t understate how excited I am that I’ve been able to create 2 shitty animations this week. The program felt like hieroglyphics for me 2 weeks ago.
  3. Marketing. I’m going to create a couple of trailers for the film. I’m going to blog regularly. I might even create a twitter account for the web series and invest in advertising.

Ok fan base of 2-10 people. That brings this post to an end. I hope you are all having a good week.

Obstacles Ahead – 11-2-20

russell no color

Original, untouched footage in S-Log3

I’m close to finishing the edits on episode 4, and I’m very proud of what I have. There have been more than a few bumps in the road –

1. The 1st day of filming I used bizarre color settings and shot in S-log3, which has made color editing a huge challenge.

2. The 1st day of filming I recorded audio at Medium gain, which has forced me to add a lot of gain in post which can cause some distortion in a few places.

Russell no painting

Same frame with color correction applied

3. The day I filmed with my brother (day 5) we were constrained with time and decided to do the entire scene in one take. It came out pretty well, but unfortunately significant portions are not in focus and I have been unable to find a good way to cut those out. I have close ups (like, lips and eyes close) of myself that I recorded right after he left. I’m leaning towards sticking to 1 take even if that means we’re both temporarily out of focus.

out of focus 1

At least in this frame it focuses on my brother rather than the latch.

For the above 3 problems, I have decisions to make. Ultimately, however, I am limited in what I can do to fix these issues. I have accepted that, and am also grateful I’ve improved my filmmaking ability so that I did not consistently repeat these errors on the following days of recording. It’s a harsh lesson but an important one – get it right during filming, and your days of editing will be SIGNIFICANTLY easier. Beyond that, I have these obstacles ahead of me:

  1. For the outdoor shoots, I attached a lav mic to each character and turned the gain on “HIGH” for my microphone. Consequently I have 3-4 audio tracks for each line of dialogue. From what I’ve gathered, my best choice is to use only one track, so I’ve got to locate that for each line. Not too difficult.
  2. Digital blood – There are 2 instances where I would like to edit in digital blood. I’ve been learning Adobe After Effects for the past week and have made 1 animation for blood. It is not ready yet but I do believe I will continue to progress and make the blood squirt appear authentic.
  3. Digital intro – I want to have “Mountain Cult” appear in 3-dimensional space in the beginning of the film. This can be done through after effects. It will be a challenge, but it is also one of the easier type of animations you can make.
  4. Adding in digital paintings – This is a bit of an OCD thing, but there are a couple of shots filmed in my apartment that have WAY too much white wall in the frame. I am determined to add objects – e.g., a painting, into the background. This can be done so it appears seamless. I’m in the process of learning how to do it right.
  5. Find a contest! I’ve been searching online and there are several contests I can enter the film into. Once it is completed, however, I would like to upload the video to youtube. I want to create shirts for “Mountain Cult” and ask for any person who supports the series to show support with a donation. That donation will give me a production budget for the next episode. In return for a donation, supporters will receive a T-shirt with the series logo on it.
with painting 1

Same frame with the painting (object) I’d like to add in.

Anyways, this is what I’ve been up to. If I am diligent I can cross most of the items off my list in one weeks time. The only hang-up I have is that I will be working 72 hours this week beginning tomorrow, which means I have to make the most of my off time. I can tell you I’m very excited, and am also obsessed with the ending my film – as it is the best sequence I’ve ever shot, written, and directed. Looking forward to posting the episode here soon.