Monday, November 23, 2009

Wholesome Harry - No Good Very Bad Day

Earlier today I worked with my team to edit and finalize our short movie for Comm Lab class. I am excited to report that Arturo, Eric, Tamar, and I have a finished our short movie – Wholesome Harry No Good Very Bad Day.

We have been working on this project for the past three weeks. During the first week we focused on coming up with an idea, developing a storyline and creating storyboards (regarding this part of the process). On our second week we produced and shot the footage at my wife’s school. Finally, this past week we focused on editing the footage into a short movie.

My focus in this post will be the activities from the past two weeks – the production of the shoot and the editing process.

Producing the Shoot
Once we finished the storyboards and shot list our focus shifted to finding a location, enlisting actors, and getting the on- and off-screen materials for the shoot. We started working right away because we did not know when we would be able to shoot, so we wanted to be ready at a moment’s notice.

The original location that we scouted for our movie was the TV studio on the 12th floor of the Tisch building at NYU. Unfortunately, we were not able to get the studio so we shifted to plan b – using my wife’s classroom at Grace Church School for the shoot. We felt this location was a good choice because a local access TV show for children could easily be filmed in a public school.

The props for the shoot were mostly easy to come by. Arturo has a large selection of costumes from his own performance works. Most of the other props were from ITP (the crew’s equipment) or found on location at the school.

From an equipment perspective, we experienced quite a few challenges. First we arrived at the Equipment Room to find all of the non-HD Panasonic DV cameras with broken firewire connections. As a consequence we used HD cameras instead. This is not a bad thing per se, however, none of us were familiar with these cameras and they had fewer manually controllable features.

Our second challenge occurred during the shoot. The M-Audio recorded that we were using was not working properly. Therefore, we had one less audio source to work with. This could have been a much bigger issue. Fortunately, for the most part we were able to get good audio from the cameras.

Here is our full equipment list – as you can see it is quite long and extremely heavy (the equipment, that is).
  • 2 cameras (DVX)
  • 2 DTE
  • Extra battery and/or plug-in for DTE
  • 2 firewires
  • 2 boom mics
  • shock mount
  • XLR cables
  • 2 tapes
  • 1 M-Audio
  • 1 bi-directional
  • 1 tri-pods
  • 1 lighting kit (3 lights, 3 tripods, 2-3 umbrellas, cables)
  • Headphone
  • Extension chords
The shoot lasted for about 5 hours. We arrived at the location around 4:30; it took us about an hour to prepare the room by moving furniture, hang the billboard and set-up the lights. The shoot itself lasted about 3 hours and then it took us 45 minutes to clean up. At the end of it all we had captured over an hour and fifteen minutes of footage. The quality of video was pretty good, though we noticed some continuity pitfalls that we needed to watch for during the editing process.

Eric and Tamar took the lead on the camera (though we all shot for at least a few minutes). Arturo and I took the lead in front of the camera. Arturo’s experience working with video came in handy. He has a good intuition for capturing small and unique shots that I would not have thought of until the editing phase (when it is too damn late).

Editing the Footage
The day after the shoot Arturo, Tamar and I transferred and logged the footage. We also took this opportunity to set-up a project in Final Cut in preparation for the work ahead of us. Since we had been forced to use the HD camera (and since we had an HD-philiac in our group) we decided to make an HD video.

During the week Arturo and Tamar put together a rough cut of the initial scenes. Then we all met on Sunday to finalize the rough cut and take out sandpaper to smoothen it out. The process of working in Final Cut with Arturo and Eric was great. They are both very knowledgeable about this tool and were eager to provide tips. I am currently working on another project in Final Cut and look forward to applying my new knowledge (soon to be transformed into skills).

Having worked with Final Cut 7 over the past two weeks I am impressed (negatively) at how complex it is to use. I guess I’ve become too accustomed to the ease of use offered by iMovie. The file import process and the difficulties associated to working with movie files with different formats have been quite frustrating. I understand the additional power that Final Cut provides – I am finally starting to be able to take advantage of it. That said, I think this tool could be simplified.

[Regarding Final Cut – I am currently working on a post regarding using Final Cut Pro, I’ll update this blog post with a link once it is ready.]

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