t f u l R y v b p s r
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The Blog

Crafted 2

On my recent trip to Atlanta, I identified the follow up to Crafted dubbed right now, Crafted 2. It involves ties and Haiti and, like All Souls Ale, is headed up by a microbrewery. I think these stories are really cool. They hearken back to the philosophy made large by Guinness of not simply using beer to facilitate community, but to give back and enable community through goodwill efforts. I’m stoked about it but I’ll be holding off about a year before moving forward on the project.

In a perfect world, Crafted will have had a chance to percolate, get watched and generate a small following. At this point, I think I’ll Kickstart Crafted 2. Sure, these projects are good passion projects and all, but the calling in favors and getting pushed to the back of the line in post-production because you’re not paying a fair wage just sucks and drags these things out a long time. It’d be even better if I could find a sponsor for these. I’d like to continue highlighting these community, non-profit efforts by microbreweries over the long-term but as with anything, it costs money to make movies.

Anyway, I’m stoked. The photo above is a wall at Monday Night Brewing.

Crafted Official Trailer:

Time Inbetween

Since moving from basically a full-time, below-the-line position to my producer/exec role on projects, I have more downtime than anticipated. So much of making any new project happen- commercial or original- is dependent on other people that there’s a lot of waiting time. Doors are opening everywhere on both Capstan Visual as well as Red Futon Films fronts but a lot of time passes between knocking on the opportunity and that first meeting. Even more time passes between getting the pitch out and waiting to hear back on it.

In my head, I tend to refer to it as the time inbetween- this mystical place where you’re at the mercy of God or luck or whatever worldview you hold. I’ve also noticed it’s the time when I tend to doubt, question, and wonder if I’m just crazy for doing all this. It’s tough to maintain the drive when you’re just waiting. Sure, I can rest on the fact a sovereign God is in control of all things and nothing he does is random an without purpose, but on a normal level, I’m just don’t have that much faith.

Seeing it’s my first year in this particular role full-time, I’m still figuring out what to do with my hands during the time inbetween. Sure, there are plenty of times I sit working on creative ideas and pursuing new opportunities, but you can only do that consistently before you go crazy. Given the nature of any sort of film production where it can span days or months (and when I travel, I’m on from eye open to eye close), it might be good for me NOT to spend all day every day back home working as well.

In the meantime, I’m booking meetings for the next trip to LA. #work

Platform Building: A More Important Question

It’s inevitable that to make your way in the world you have to build your platform. As a full-time producer, I’ve been having a lot of discussion around this recently. It was precipitated by a blog post that was written by a major publisher (I forget who it was now, several weeks ago). I appreciated the article as it addressed the issue by an irate guy who stated, “so what you’re saying is that you won’t take me unless I’m already famous” to which the publisher said, “yeah, pretty much.” The publisher then went on to explain that into today’s highly noisy culture and the ease with which you can publish your own content, it’s makes it far more difficult for a publisher to make their content rise above the rest if that person doesn’t bring some fans a long with them.

You might be wondering why in the world I’m writing about this. Platform building is equally applicable to any media production efforts. I liken to to bands. Bands spend years writing music, picking up fans at little shows on the weekends and working their butts off to get that bigger fan-base, sell more records, have better shows, etc. Say I was a record label exec and I had the option of signing one of two bands. The first is being the band who’d worked their butts off for seven years and the second a band that just got together and recorded a demo. All else being equal, I’d probably sign the band that and established fan base. I would do this not because they deserve it after all their hard work, but because as an exec, it makes my job easier and the chances of success much greater. The have a built-in, core audience already established and a proven track record of working as hard I would for their success.

But that’s not the point of my post. The point of my post is that building a platform as a Christian is a tenuous thing. Because as a Christian, you’re not out there to ultimately build your platform, but you’re out there to build Christ’s platform. The tension there is that, yes, you have to build your name or your platform to get heard but you’re also at it for a greater purpose. This point is where I think the publisher’s post fell short.

But before you can even approach that conversation, you need to wrestle with whether or not what you have to say is important or unique enough to warrant platform building. The only way to determine that in my opinion is in the same way a Christian should live out his or her life, in community. The input of individuals from outside ourselves is what will validate or invalidate our work and help us decided whether or not to take that next step of platform-building.

 

 

Dead Reckoning Season 3 Tech

Pre-Production

This season of Dead Reckoning TV was a bit of a change brought about by two things: the first was moving the studio to another suite in the same building, turning the former into a dedicated set. The second catalyst was the move from my MacPro tower to my HP Zbook. Brian and I also did a little target audience readjusting based on feedback from season 2 which was a big step up content-wise compared to season 1 so we expected some changes.

I won’t get into the platform switch except to say that MacPro was dying and because I was moving back and forth between set and studio once a week, I needed something mobile. At the time, I was readjusting Red Futon Films’ project focus as well so that played a role in the choice of the Zbook.

Production

Figuring out how to do web TV with guests on the budget has been difficult. In season 2, I was Skyping screen capturing via Screenflow from my Macbook Air. Primary audio was being fed from the MBA to the MacPro via the Apollo Duo with the host mic going directly the Apollo. I could control each track independently  This season with the Zbook, creating secondary audio records, mix minus’ and sending the full screen to the plasma has proven to be a bit of an issue.

We’re shooting to a single BMD Pocket Cam with a Ziess ZF.2 21mm at F/4 and F/2.8 through a Letus Anamorphx. Lighting is a single daylight balanced 85w through a silk china ball with color matched LED rim lights. The audio is all done via Blue Bluebirds except for the Commentary which is a Sennheiser MKH 8060. All audio is direct to the Focusrite AD/DA (hopefully soon back to the Apollo).

Our solution so far is an app called XSplit. It’ll let me capture the full screen output of the Plasma and monitor what’s actually being recorded at the same time via my laptop screen. I can also monitor my audio mixer for the Focusrite. A perk of taking myself mostly out of the interview segments means I can send Brian’s mic directly to Skype now because I’m not on the show (single vs. multi channel). I have no way of mixing channels independently yet. I plan to attempt to record Brian simultaneously to Audition. XSplit unfortunately doesn’t let me split the audio record or record two independent channels for the call but XSplit by far surpasses other options I’ve tried thus far. There just isn’t anything available that does what I want.

Moving forward, I hoping to make are ditching this Focusrite and bringing the Apollo back into play on the record end because I can use live compression plugins on input like the DBX 160 for better control of our on show antics which can be fairly dynamic. I need to test the thunderbolt option card for the Apollo Duo though since isn’t qualified by Universal Audio on TB-equipped PCs yet. Until then, if I’m not observant (hard during the Spindle where I’m hosting as well) we can clip the audio badly.

I copy all the footage from the camera to a 4TB Thunderbolt G-RAID. I then copy the Audition audio record back to the card, lock the card and use a fresh card for the next segment.

Post-Production

On the post side, I’m using Adobe for everything. Everything comes into Premiere where I replace the audio in the vid files, throw them into the timeline and edit. I’ve built looks already in Speedgrade so that process is drag and drop. I mix the audio in Audition and place the new tracks in the timeline. The sequences get dropped into Media Encoder where I create two output modules: one for the MXF masters and the other for the WAV audio files for the podcast. Then I create a watch folder for the MXF outputs which render to H.264 for the web deliveries. Once all that is done, I’ll typically convert the MXFs to Cineform MOVs because the files are 25-50% smaller and when you’re talking 25-50GB master files, I need to take advantage of that.

So that’s our little WebTV show. If we film early enough in the day, I can have the whole show done by the afternoon and get the renders going on my way out the door at the end of the day. This all Adobe workflow makes things so fast and fluid.

Rhythm & Hues: Life After Pi (Trailer)

I hear a lot about the poor treatment of VFX facilities and artists in my industry. This should be interesting.

Speedgrade Stuff

So the Premiere to Speedgrade Dynamic Direct Link functionality is pretty rad. So rad, I’m grading the entire doc in Speedgrade. So far, I’m extremely happy with the results I’m getting on everything except two shots. In the real word, it’s only two clips but three shots in the edit. So in my adventures of fixing those shots today, I’ve now learned a few things about this workflow:

  1. Dynamic Direct Link does not give you any options to adjust RAW properties of a clip in Speedgrade.
  2. Not that number 1 matters a whole lot since Sg doesn’t give me any worthwhile adjustments for DNG anyway- oddly enough.
  3. I find irony in number 2 because DNG is an Adobe format (yes, I know Sg wasn’t an Adobe app natively, but it’s still funny).
  4. I can’t control how Premiere interprets my RAW footage. It seems to arbitrarily pick a matrix out of thin air.
  5. If that decoding matrix happens to bring in the footage overexposed then…
  6. …that footage will be clipped in Speedgrade if accessed via DL.

I think after trying a variety of different ways to fix the overexposed shots, I’ve settled on converting those clips to Cineform RAW and replacing them in the timeline. Then I can adjust the RAW settings of the clip as I’m in Speedgrade. So far, the least time-consuming approach.

2014: Crafted, Capstan, Screenplays & Lecture Projects

I really want to start blogging again, but most of the time I think to myself, what do I have to offer? Why would people listen to me?  Most of that is likely true so like, my screenplay writing forays, they’re mostly for my own personal enjoyment and exercise I guess. So I’ll start with a catch-up of things I’m working on while looking ahead through 2014.

 

Crafted: Beer + Faith + Community

My new short doc is about how the limited run beer, All Souls Ale by Big Sky Brewing came into being. It’s getting some great coverage and regular plays thanks to Reelhouse for throwing us on the front page. It’s about 20 minutes long and the finishing work should be done end of this month so release is next month. I plan to submit it to a couple of festivals this year just to get some more eyes an fans with the hopes that this becomes the seeds for a crowd-sourced feature doc with the same themes. Watch the trailer here.

 

Capstan Visual

My creative partner and I, Chris Fenner (@fenner403) who’s based in Atlanta have launched a new production agency. We’re still feeling our way around but we’ve got a great roster of core directors covering a variety of different styles and genres so we can match clients to particular directors for better creative fit. You can check out work here.

 

Screenplays & Stories

Like, blogging, I’m still trying to write regularly for my own sake. I do enjoy it. It’s fun entering another world and seeing your characters come alive. I have the contacts to actually pitch some stuff too, so I’d like to attempt that as a bucket list item or something Smile with tongue out I have several stories I’m developing (the long-winded paragraph ones that happen prior to screenplays) and trashed the first screenplay I did on my sister’s story (the one adopted after meeting her future parent on an airplane, the featured in People and on Oprah)and gone back to paragraph story development stage.

The second screenplay is  a seed my wife dropped in my brain called The Age of Love and Loathing. It centers around a couple with three kids under four attempting to go on an 5 anniversary trip to Mexico. The trip was unwisely booked by dad, without the consultation of mom in an effort to jumpstart the slogging relationship. Needless to say it’s full of all the great and painful moments of parenthood when it seems like those little people you love so much are actually there to ruin your life.

 

Red Futon FIlms

Well, we have Dead Reckoning TV and that’s self-explanatory, but Brian and I are also embarking on a lecture series on the Apostle’s Creed. He’s already been teaching a 16 week Sunday School series on that so we’re going to get down and film it. I’m still identifying the best distribution method for that. He also has a lecture series on the Lord’s Prayer we’re going to follow up with perhaps later this year.

I’m also working on another project I’m excited about, a child sexual abuse prevention course being spearheaded by a team at our church. We already have initial interest from the FBI, and a couple local school districts. The church is giving me full ownership of an derivative works based on the initial core training. So I’ve go some big plans for this. I think it’s desperately needed.

 

I did update the Red Futon Films webpage but haven’t yet included the above projects. You can check it out and some of the other work I’ve done here.

 

And that’s it for now. See on on the webs.

All Souls Ale: BTS Photos

We wrapped. Lots I could talk about but I’ll leave it for the final film. In the meantime, here’s some BTS photos from the last two days. Some have been posted via social media, others are fresh- Click the pic below for the full set on Flickr.

Filming some bottling.

 

All Souls Ale Production

It sort of snuck up on us. We planned to shoot the doc around the same time all the volunteers come in to bottle the beer. Historically, that’s been middle to end of November. Bjorn, head of Big Sky Brewing told me LAST WEEK that they’re bottling Thursday. So Chris (@fenner403) and I started intaking made coffee and getting things ready. We made it…we think. I’ll be updating over the next couple days as I have time with BTS (behind the scenes) shots and stuff of the doc production at Big Sky Brewing. My biggest fear is that my story won’t keep up with some of the tech we’re using :) I have a few folks that have said it’s a great story so that’s good. It’s a short doc (sub 15minutes) about beer, community and faith. Chris is going for a total breaking bad feel feel. Here’s a few shots of tonight’s set up and final walk through of our plans- as much as docs can be planned.

The Blackmagic Cinema Camera rig
Setting up the fresh-off-the-production-line Letus35 Helix with a Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera
Checking out the "Tool Cam" config for seriously unconventional shots
Mmm...stuff. Final gear check.

With CC, Premier Is Finally Great

I’ve spent tlast week and the better part of the week prior posting the first episode of Dead Reckoning, season 2. Namely because I was learning my way around CC. This season marks quite a change for now, we’re formatted as a web TV talk show. Consequently, we’re filming and posting four 10-20 minute vids each week which constitute a single episode. And my work has led me to a single conclusion about Adobe CC: it’s awesome. To follow that up, Premiere CC is finally everything I’ve always wanted it to be. Here’s why in 4 reasons:

  1. Multicam with audio sync. This feature seems to have been completely rearranged for CC. It’s now wildly easy to sync up multiple assets. In my case, 2 separate audio sources and two cameras. You can sync them using audio (just like Plural Eyes). So for the record, that’s 4 streams of audio and 2 cameras. There are some odd things going on with audio source and outputting once things are sync’d that I’ve yet to figure out- but it works successfully, accurately and without headache or frustration (workflow notes coming in a separate post).
  2. Flatten. This single feature allows me to EASILY go between Premiere and Resolve (or any other app for that matter) because when you select it after your timeline edit, you essentially de-nest your mulitcam timeline. Same thing you do did in Avid but in a single step vs. multiple (at least last version I used).
  3. Audition (loosely related to Premiere). I ran into some odd sync issues when going to Nuendo 6 via OMF. While I could work around them, it was a bit obnoxious to even have to deal with. So on a whim I decided to see about improvements with Audition. Not only can I use all my Universal Audio Apollo Duo DSP plugins (which are processed via the Duo!) but it’s actually FASTER to go between Premiere and Audition vs. Premiere and Nuendo.
  4. EuCon!!! I can use my Euphonix panels (pre Avid) to mix, shuttle, edit and other things.

Now if October’s update included Euphonix control in Speedgrade, I’d never leave adobe :P