The frustrations of postponing film productions

I’m sure I’ve written about this before. I seem to remember writing a blog post about having to cancel a music video shoot because of crappy weather.

It is Monday, at 6:40 in the evening, and Hurricane Sandy is pummeling the island of Manhattan. We still have power and internet. I shot this quick timelapse earlier, when you could still see Jersey:

Flags Down from John Painz on Vimeo.

Silly.

On Friday I was supposed to shoot the first of two spec Doritos commercials. We had to cancel due to some unforeseen family issues for one of the actors the day before. We were supposed to reschedule for Tuesday. Somehow I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Saturday was the second Doritos commercial. We lost two actors the day before, and woke up to overcast skies that would have produced a nice flat shitty image. Then we lost our second principle actress. Sigh.

Sunday, we all got out of our comfy houses and went to Society Billiards to film episode 5 of the second season of 8 for Vegas. It was windy out, and it looked like it was on the verge of raining but, hell, what’s a little rain?

Get inside, get ready to set up, and we find out that they’re doing construction. Loud enough that we would not be able to film. That was about the last goddamn straw, so I decided to get drunk. What sucked was that everyone looked like they were in a really good mood, and looking forward to shooting. It would have been a fun day.

Then, lastly, my friends Crystal, Michelle, and I were supposed to start production on a new web series this morning that Crystal and I came up with. That fell through, too. What a pisser. We’ll get to it next week, I hope.

Sometimes you just have no control over your productions, even though you think you do. It happens, and you have to roll with it. So, we have yet to lock down a reschedule on both Doritos commercials, and we postponed our 8 for Vegas shoot for the 11th of November, because the marathon is in town next Sunday, and getting around the city is a bitch.

That’s about all I’ve got today. 10 minutes later and we still have power. Let’s hope it lasts.

John Painz

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Writing, being inspired, future projects

I’ve been outlining a new web series that shoot and, god forbid, act in with my new friend Crystal. We have an outline, and she wrote the three pages of what was supposed to be the first episode, but is now the second.

We’ll be starting production on Monday the 28th. Haven’t come up with a title yet, but it should be fun!

We have four episodes of 8 for Vegas finished… I have to shoot some b-roll, I think, but all in all, should be a fun season.

Came from a shoot today of episode 7 of Off Off. Went well, got some very nice shots and good performances out of the cast.

Let’s see. We pick up on episode 4 of The Thing on November 4th.

The fourth episode of Internet Affairs has just been released, and it’s the funniest one yet:

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYOG%2BCcC.x?p=1 width=”720″ height=”433″]

What else… I think that’s it for now. I’m working on two spec Doritos commercials for the Doritos Superbowl contest. Should be fun.

I’ve been writing episodes of 8 for Vegas S2 as they come. I’m writing episodes of the new web series. I have a feature I’d like to get working on, again… I have the new short film I am blocking scenes on now…

And, amidst all of this, I feel uninspired. Work is not coming in fast enough. Opportunities are falling by the wayside, and I’m slowly going insane with money worries.

I know I have to stay busy. These things happen. But it’s not an easy road.

I’d like to show you all two videos on the new BlackMagic Camera. It’s a brand new 2k camera that has exploded on the market, and I hope will be a future purchase. Reviews are steadily coming in, and the response has been very positive.

Blackmagic Camera Dynamic Range Stress Test from Frank Glencairn on Vimeo.

and:

Comparing the Cinema Camera & 5D Mk III from OneRiver Media on Vimeo.

Finally, a wonderful timelapse that should inspire most everyone, including myself:

Natural Phenomena – VideoSapien from Reid Gower on Vimeo.

Have a wonderful weekend.

John

The day of, the day after

I would not be awake, if not for the scourge that is freelance graphic design work. I woke up at 8am to see if I was scheduled for work today. It’s 10:30. Safe to say, I’m not working.

Yesterday started out as a clusterfuck of worry, little sleep, and more worry.

Let me take you through the editing process of episode 3.

Parts of 3 were the first stuff we shot, in Tudor City in NYC. Outdoor footage, where we got chased out by a co-op board and some threats of police action. I would say that was a story for another time, but that’s about the long and the short of it.

The other part of 3 was shot a couple of days later, and takes place in a bathroom. Now, unless you’ve built a bathroom set, and have some nice open spaces, so sound can travel, you’re going to get a nice and awful echo.

So, we have outdoor footage, and bathroom footage. Both with their own sound issues. An entire episode of sound issues.

Oh, and two characters talk on a phone call, and so there’s another abnormal sound element.

But, they were challenges, and you solve those problems.

After listening to the footage… I had no idea how to solve the echo bathroom problem. The outdoor footage, out sound guy did a good job. There were things we could have done differently, like used lav mics, or what-have-you, but we had what we had.

I found a guy on Reddit who said something to the effect of ‘I do post-production sound mixing, let me know if you need any work done, I’ll do it for free!’

Now, of course, you never know what you’re going to get for free, but this guy helped me with a clip from Internet Affairs about a month or so ago, so I said ‘hey, I’ve got this echo problem, can you help?’

And help he did.

I won’t get into it all, but I had to send him a… shit, I’m going to get into it all.

I had to send him a file called an OGM file. I think. Or a… let me look it up.

OMF file. I was going to write OMG file, but that just didn’t look right.

From the recording.org forum, a member defined the file as: OMF files are generated by video editors that work on the Avid platforms or Final Cut Pro software. (There might be others) It gives them the opportunity to send the audio editing they made to Pro Tools user in a convenient 1 file package.

So, ok. It’s a file that has the entire sound mix. Great. I send it and he doesn’t just work on the bathroom stuff, he works on all of the sound, including the outdoor scene. Too much street noise in that scene, but we were just going to let it go because it didn’t sound awful. It sounded like a street scene.

Well, here’s the thing. Dialog from one of the characters had to be re-recorded. So, the actor came over to my place, we set up our DIY recording studio and he let fly. Great. I placed it, added some ambient street noise foley I had, and it sounded good.

Well, when I got the final mix back from the reddit guy, he’d tried to fiddle with that VO and foley part… and it sounded off. Way off.

So I had to go back and re-sync the footage and then massage the VO with street noise and the final mix he sent. It was time consuming, and it was 11 in the morning, the day of the screening. I got it done, watched the episode for the first time that day and saw that I hadn’t color corrected 60% of the episode.

Holy shit.

So I do that.

It’s noon.

I place e3 into the collected episode sequence, about 35 minutes or so of footage. So many things, I’m thinking, can go wrong.

Now, I didn’t sleep well the night before because I knew I was going to have to burn a DVD of the footage. Well, past experience with DVD burning did not go well. I have two DVD burning software programs, and they both gave me DVDs, in the past, that players were not compatible with. So I posted a thread on Reddit, in the editors section.

Then I went to sleep.

So, I was nervous when I woke up. I did the audio work, I did the color correcting, I have all of the footage. It’s ready to go… and I don’t know what to do next.

I read the Reddit thread, the advice there, and I say to myself “I recognize some of these words…”

The top voted comment, I went that route. I exported a quicktime movie of the entire sequence, all three episodes in a row.

I open Compressor. Now, if you have any experience with Compressor, then you might have been able to figure out what to do to create an MPEG-2 file from your Quicktime movie.

Me, I was very much like this:

So, I did a google search and I found a Baltimore TV station who had MPEG-2 specs up for Compressor. Fantastic.

I set it up. I’m a bit crazed at this point so I’m glossing over all the important points, and I export the file. The Quicktime file is 20gb, so it’s going to take 40 minutes or so for Compressor to do it’s thing.

I panic.

For no good reason, mind you, except my mind is running through scenarios. See, I have to be at the theater at 5:30 to screen the footage and make sure there’s nothing so overtly wrong, it ruins the entire evening. No problem. No pressure. For some reason I think “I wonder if throwing up will make me feel better.”

40 minutes down, I watch the video… and it’s in the wrong aspect ratio. It’s at 4:3, not 16:9.

Great.

I re-compress, after fixing the settings.

40 minutes.

I watch a minute of it, looks great. I figure out how to burn the DVD. Great. 20 minutes.

I pop the DVD into my player and I watch it.

And something is wrong. The image is saturated. It’s yellow and a bit more blown out than it should be. That’s funny, I think, while I’m punching the wall and screaming at my cat to go pet himself.

Then… I figure it out.

See, I filmed at 24fps. I compressed at 30, and it changed the look.

Ok, not a big dea… WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?

For a second. Not even a second, because I counted on the timeline the file was in… there’s a moment where everything, the music, ambient room tone, dialog, ramps up to a deafening roar.

Shit. But, hey, I have to fix the frames per second issue, so, no big deal.

I go into the file. I find the moment… and it’s not happening.

Strange.

I fix the compressor settings a third time. I re-export the Quicktime file from FCP, after examining the explosion of noise.

20 minutes.

Check the file. Same problem.

Fuck.

I go back into FCP. I listen to the sequence. Nothing.

I put an IN and OUT in the timeline, right around the suspected area. No issue.

I export again.

Well, I think, maybe it’s just one of those things that magically GODDAMMIT.

Happens again.

Here’s a screen cap of the suspect:

Now, that little circle represents a half second of dialog spoken by someone off screen. What you can see there is that there’s a little empty section next to it. That was where the volume was spiking. All those green lines under the circle, that’s all layered music. That, and the green line above the circle, all that was spiking right at that empty section.

So, I filled it in and made a fade, like so:

Waited another twenty minutes, and viola, no spike.

It was 2:30pm.

I export, again. 20 minutes. Look for the spot on the file, no problem.

I compress, again, 40 minutes.

I burn another DVD – 15 minutes.

It’s 3:45, and I sit down, again, to watch the show.

From the get, I could tell it looked better than the 30fps dvd, which made me very happy.

You know, in horror movies, you kind of sit there with your knees up and your hands by your face? That was me for thirty minutes, and it wasn’t the only time that day I was like that.

I got through the DVD, and it was just fine. Looked nice, sounded nice.

I burn 3 more, just in case, and I bring the native files with me. Again, just in case.

I get to the theater and give them the DVD. I tell them my back up plans. They say ok.

I get to see 30 seconds of footage on the big screen, that’s it. The sound was good, the picture quality was quite good… but, see, the 30 seconds I watched was from the beginning of the series. It’s warm, rich imagery, and has stark comparisons throughout the rest of the show.

But, it’s what I’ve got to work with, so I say ok.

Then I wait 4 hours.

People pour in around 8:40 or so. By 9:40, there are close to 100 people there, all friends and family of those involved. They’re lined down the stairs, that’s how many people are there.

I have my first anxiety attack about that time.

The night before, Karen was trying to figure out why I wasn’t going to be sitting next to her. I said, there is no way I’m sitting down in that theater. No way. I’ll be pacing in the lobby, or at the back… but I’m not watching it in the seats, because all I’ll be doing is complaining about this or that, and if something goes wrong, I’ll freeze, instead of fix it.

At the back of the room, Marc, James and I stood and watched and listened when the lights went down… and it went really well.

That sound issue from before, the car sound… a nightmare, when it came up on screen. The stark contrasted images of the characters… washed out, desaturated.

These issues were all just fine on my home TV. They were fine on my mac. But there, with an uncalibrated showing… man, let me tell you. What a difference. And not terrible, to be honest, just different. It’s the kind of situation you wish you had a couple of hours to devote to, so that everything is perfect. Of course, we weren’t the only screening there, and there was only so much time we could get.

Certainly there were things I probably could have done. Maybe. I don’t know, but, in the end, no one really noticed except for Marc and I. Maybe a couple of other people. But the story pushed it through, and everyone laughed when we expected, and it did not seem like 35 minutes, which is great.

We all got a lot of very nice compliments… and it was a great success. A big boost for future episodes, to be sure.

I’m exhausted. It’s now noon, and I have to eat lunch and maybe take a nap or something I don’t know, but I feel like death and I’m sure this blog post is a big jumbled up, so forgive me. Here’s a summary.

I was freaked out. Things worked out. We had a premiere at a great venue, and over a hundred people came and supported our screening. I was very happy to be a part of it.

Thanks for reading. Goodnight.

The night before

So, here I am. It’s 1:30 in the morning on Thursday, a scant 20 or so hours away from the premiere of the web series The Thing, and I can’t sleep.

Not so much I can’t sleep, as much as it’s ‘I’ve still got work to do.’

I just finished the final sound edit on episode 3. 1 and 2 are locked, thank god. I still have color correcting to do on 3, but I can do that in the morning.

See, my big problem, the one that’s keeping me up, is that I export for web. From Final Cut Pro to web is pretty easy, all things considered. But, we’re showing on a big screen, and exporting for that is a might be more complicated.

So, I’m freaking out. A bit. Not, you know, pulling my hair out, but enough that my brain is fighting my eyelids for control of how much rest I get this morning.

Worse comes to worst, I’ll stand in front of the audience and puppet show the entire three episodes… in all of the voices, no less.

There have been a lot of firsts in this gig. I learned a lot of lessons, too. But, aside from learning and experimenting, I got to know a great group of people, and I’m thankful.

Speaking of firsts, tonight I engineered my first music score. That was fun. A couple of weeks ago, Marc, the director, and James, who is one of the Producers who doubles as an orchestral violinist laid down some tracks based upon… well, let me set the scene.

We pieced together episode 2. While watching it, I had the distinct feeling that the music that was in There Will Be Blood would suit the episode perfectly. Johnny Greenwood was the composer on that, and really did a brilliant job.

Well, I hung out with Marc and James and mentioned it and James said he’d had the same notion. I came to find out that James is a huge Radiohead fan, and so we laid in one of the tracks, and it sounded awesome. This track:

Of course, we couldn’t use that track, so we all went out one night and James played some individual tracks and gave me an assortment to work on. Well, it was a lot of fun. A lot of hit and miss, but it all came together quite nicely.

OK, my lids are slowly winning this battle. Here are a couple of fun things, the first of which was a quick test for a short film I wrote, will direct, act and shoot all by my lonesome. Should be fun:

Should be fun from John Painz on Vimeo.

The next is a link, because I cannot embed the player. It’s called The Maker and it’s an incredible animated tale.

And finally, I know I’m late in sharing this, since it’s been out for months, but here is the Punisher fan film Dirty Laundry, starring the incredible Thomas Jane. Warning, it’s violent:

That’s what I’ve got to share tonight. I’m off to sleep. Fingers crossed tomorrow. Should be awesome.

John

The Thing – Web Series

I’m sitting in front of two cameras, being interviewed for my work on the web series The Thing.

I’ve been up nights, because I’m nervous about being interviewed. I don’t know why. For the first time in my life, I’m not too intimidated with being on screen.

“So, state your name and what your job was on the project.”

Ok, ok, I’ve got this.

“Hi, my name is John Painz, and I’m the DP and the editor for The Thing.” Yeah… keep going. “You know, ever since I was a kid, it’s been a dream of mine to work with John Carpenter.”

Silence.

SILENCE. What the shit? That was funny, guys, come on.

It all went downhill from there.

So, on Thursday, October 11th, we’ll have the premiere of the first three episodes of The Thing at New Filmmakers in NYC. 9pm.

You can see more information on the series web site: ThePlayIs.com.

And here is a teaser video to whet your whistle:

Check out our Facebook event page and join us this Thursday!

John