Archive for November, 2010

time to breathe

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on November 29, 2010 by PoPS blog

i’ve been going crazy about finishing ep4. it’s felt like it was taking forever. but finally…FINALLY …there’s a rough cut.

last night i finished the first rough cut of ep4. it’s a little over 30 minutes long and has 58 effects shots. it has to be color corrected in it’s entirety, suede is composing the score, and a couple scenes need to be tweaked, but all in all…i’m really pleased with it.

i grabbed that right off of our Facebook page.

we went up to the U.P. for a very snowy Thanksgiving, so i didn’t have any time to work on the show over the long weekend. however, we got back Saturday night. i shot a quick–and very sleepy–update, which you see below this entry, and decided to go for broke on Sunday.

i wanted to get up at 7, couldn’t seem to manage it ’til 7:40, and was hard at work by 8. i only stopped to have some dinner with my wife while watching a couple 30 Rock episodes, and got back to it. i finally had a viewable draft of act 3 by 10:50 p.m.

tonight i start re-cutting the dining room scene (too long), replacing a troublesome reaction shot, and start color correcting from the top. eliza told me not to go too crazy with the color correction, but i think the intro is going to get really ramped.

then i have to start meeting with suede more regularly as the score starts taking a less nebulous form.

plenty to do, but i think it’s fair to say we’ll being seeing ep4 around Christmas.

PoPS video update 40-Film vs. Video

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on November 29, 2010 by PoPS blog

More on Looks

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on November 25, 2010 by PoPS blog

One of the most elemental questions in determining the look of your show is if you shoot on sticks or go handheld. Handheld is a very hot look lately. It gives the events of your story a sense of immediacy and an unrehearsed kind of look. Shooting with a tripod, steadicam, dolly, and a techno-crane or two, however, is a much more polished look. A lot of shows switch back and forth between the two, falling back on the handheld look only during action scenes when the craziness explod-eth. But if you’re going for a look, I say go for one or the other and stick to it. If you’re going to transfer between the two it better be very story motivated.

Of course, for episode 2 of The Platoon of Power Squadron, we were switching back and forth due to our shooting format. We weren’t shooting in a high enough resolution to give that handheld look to the multiple Sebastian shots so they had to be locked off on sticks, thereby compromising my concept, but sometimes you have to make do with what you have available to you. For episode 1, everything in the apartment was supposed to be locked off and smooth while everything outside the apartment was supposed to be handheld, establishing that their secret was safe within the walls of their apartment. We stuck close to our guns on that one. Now that they’re venturing out of the apartment more and experimenting with their powers, everything is handheld as they leave their comfort zone, except for when time is frozen. But that’s a concept that’s been built to evolve as well.

You want to see great handheld? Check out Doug Liman’s action movies like the first “Bourne Identity” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” or Len Wiseman’s “Live Free or Die Hard,” everything is shaky as hell and very visceral, but you’re never confused about what’s happening. You want to see the worst kind of handheld? Watch Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” movies. I know it’s “a look” but it sure looks sloppy to me.

Other than that, the biggest hurdle facing a no budget series is production design. Namely, that there’s no one there to do it. You don’t have to take it to the extreme like Wes Anderson, where every facet of the background is meticulously planned from wallpaper to the titles of books on a shelf, but you do have to make sure that the background isn’t barren. If you look at our first episode, you’ll see that we paid WAY too little attention to production design. It’s mostly floating heads in front of completely blank walls. Not very involving. But it did teach us a valuable lesson. From that point on, the backgrounds of scenes are far more interesting. Just hang some pictures, add some clutter, and make sure the space you’re shooting looks lived in. I think it ended up working out okay for our first episode as a mini-visual metaphor for the characters’ sense of purposelessness, but it does look a little too low-budg for my liking.

Next week we’ll tackle the brand new, age-old debate: Film versus video.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them.

I hope you all have some wonderful time with your families this weekend.

Jarvi out.

PoPS video update 39-Looks

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on November 21, 2010 by PoPS blog

NexTV Blog Talks Color Correction

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on November 18, 2010 by PoPS blog

The day I uploaded the below video to Youtube I rented “Jonah Hex” on blu-ray and, man alive, that movie is color correction gone crazy. They used it to make the sky crazy dream colors, they used it to shift flesh tones so corpses come back from the dead, and they over-used it to soften Megan Fox’s skin tone. They actually overdid it on her, she had kind of a “Vaseline on the lens” glow softly emanating from her face about 2 pixels deep. It’s a perfect example of the extreme lengths to which you can take color correction.

The Apple program Color is really complex and the interface is laid out for professional colorists, so the average Mac user will pretty much take one look at it and go, “Ooooooo-kay,”and click back into Final Cut for the familiar 3-way Color Corrector. But if you take some time to familiarize yourself with it, this program is a powerful weapon in your battle against unprofessional, cheap looking content. If you want to take that step, there are dvd tutorials that cost around fifty bucks a pop. You can also cobble together a working knowledge of the program by watching the various free Color tutorials online, which is what I did over a 6-hour internet search. You can find helpful videos at (scroll to the bottom of the page,) or (he has a Color playlist,) or (dude’s name is Manny Edwards–has two very helpful tutorials.) And if that doesn’t do it for you, just search for Apple Color Primary Tab. That should get you some good results.

Other cool effects that you can fabricate can be seen all over the place. Every music video, commercial, and intense, desaturated drama is using blurring and shading vignettes. Very handy. Very cool.

And it’s a very specific look, but if you want to desaturate everything in a frame except for a specific color—“Schindler’s List”, “Sin City”—that’s easily accomplished in Color too.

Color correction isn’t just being used to balance anymore. The more that professional content tweaks the extremes of saturation, blacks crushing, and very cool, tonal image manipulation, the farther your show is falling behind in comparison. Time to get on board if you still want to play.

Makes you wish you had some money to pay specialists and divvy the work out a little bit, doesn’t it? We’re all there with you.

Jarvi out.

i’d love to stay and chat, but i’m at work right now and have an on-the-street Thanksgiving video to assemble.

PoPS video update 38 – Color Correction

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on November 15, 2010 by PoPS blog

More on acting

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on November 12, 2010 by PoPS blog

whoa, gang, whoa! too many sites on which to post things. i got so busy working on act 3 of the actual show that i forgot to post these things here.

In the video I said that if you want to be an actor you need to get yourself an agent. Easier said than done right? Maybe? No. You just have to be willing to do the thankless stuff. Like showcases and acting classes.

That’s where you meet people. People have connections to other people. People like agents.
I got one of my agents by going to an open call when I was a kid and cold-reading some copy from a cereal commercial. Boom. Done. I got my agent in L.A. because I was a tester at a video game company and always yelled my head off about wanting to go out on auditions until my manager set me up for an audition with his acting agency. I did a monologue and they signed me. Boom. So the bottom line is that you have to meet people to know people who know people. Yeah, that’s what I said, read it again. Then you have to ask for things and exploit the connections of the people who are now your friends. It sounds pretty grimy, but it’s actually very low-key and cool. It’s not so much exploitation as it is helping friends out, and then you have to be ready to return the favor for someone else should the opportunity arise.

But back to directing no-budget actors, aka, not professional actors, aka, your close friends. As I wrote in one of my earliest entries, you should have befriended some good-looking people because they’re more fun to look at on screen. And then you’ve written characters for them that are kind of similar to their own personalities. Half the work is done.

When you’re not working with professionals, you can aim for greatness, but if you push them too hard before they’re ready, you’re looking down the barrel of a hissy fit and a really good chance that they won’t come back the next time you ask them to shoot. So above all else, aim for consistency. Look at “Clerks”: Randall and Dante weren’t the greatest actors but they were consistent, therefore, you believed in them. So just make sure that your actors performances are consistent with what they’ve been doing.

Then there are a few things you’re going to have to keep an eye on, the first of which is your actor over-playing it. If it gets too “theater-y” that’s when you tell them, “conversational” or “How would you say it?” That’s another thing. If the lines sound too much like their reading it off a script, it’s because the line, as written, just isn’t comfortable in their mouth. Rewrite it on the spot. Talk it out with the actor, collaborate, and give them ownership over the line they help create. It’s going to come out much better.

Another thing is eye contact. If you were raised right, it’s very uncomfortable to look someone in the eyes when you’re lying to them. That’s kind of what acting is. If you can get non-actors into the habit of looking each other in the eyes when they’re acting, the scenes will immediately play a million times better. They’re connected. They’re in the moment. It becomes communication.

Lastly, if you’re really going for the big emotions and you need someone to cry, it can get pretty tough. But bad fake crying is one of the worst things to watch aside from bad fake laughing. Here’s a trick I learned from Vince Vaughn on ‘Old School”: If you cough hard enough and long enough it makes your eyes water, your cheeks flush, and your throat raw and raspy. Now just put some sorrow on your face and deliver the lines. Very effective and no one has to get hit in the face.

Next week we’re going to take a look at color correction.

Jarvi out.

also we hit 20,000 subscribers this week on our Youtube account! people that subscribe to us are the coolest!

also, i finally got a twitter account for myself/PoPS real-time updates. someone at work convinced me that i was being less than responsible not having a twitter account as someone who wants my show to get bigger.


gotta get back to the show. talk to you soon.

PoPS video update 37-Acting

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on November 7, 2010 by PoPS blog

Let’s talk about Sound Effects

Posted in Hypothesis the 4th on November 3, 2010 by PoPS blog

So sound effects. They haven’t been a big deal for very long if we’re talking about the history of film. I mean, check out Charlie Chaplin. Dude didn’t even have to bother with the whole dialogue thing. I watched the 1958 version of “The Blob” with Steve McQueen for Halloween and it was kind of an out of body experience. There were sequences where people would walk without footsteps foleyed in. It felt unnaturally silent. Of course the act of foley has been around since radio plays, so it’s not exactly a new thing either.

Movies are so soundscaped now that it’s become an unbelievably powerful art form. Also on the Halloween weekend I watched “Underworld”. It was like going from one extreme to another. Kate Beckinsale picked a crushed bullet up off of the ground and the resulting sound effect rang for 7 seconds before dwindling to nothing. Every subtle movement that appeared on screen in that movie was issued a sound effect and it was awesome.

Hyper-real, over-the-top soundscaping used to exist strictly in fantasy and sci-fi movies, but not anymore. Any enthusiastic movie-goer in the last fifteen years can tell you that that a dramatic footstep sounds less like a shoe hitting pavement and more like cannon fire. Sound effects have become such a powerhouse department in the industry that you’ll find quite a few action sequences completely forego music in favor of giving the sound editing a place front and center. They’ve really become the punctuation of modern visual storytelling. That’s part of the reason a lot of recent independent films feel like run-on sentences.

In my opinion, if you want your show to look professional, it has to be a well-orchestrated cacophony of sounds. Soundtrack Pro is a part of the Final Cut Studio package and it has a glorious cache of sound effects. And if there isn’t a sound effect specifically made for the sound you’re looking for, you can usually find something that approximates it. For instance, I’ve already soundscaped portions of episode 4 of the Platoon of Power Squadron and so far I’ve used the sound of a record needle landing on a record to be the quiet crackle of a candle being lit, and I’ve used the sound of ambient dinner plate noise to be the creaking of an antique lantern. A professional sound effects editor would probably cringe listening to the array of widely known sound effects being used in the episode, but the average audience member wouldn’t give it another thought.

Also, audiences are used to hearing things sound BIG. So if you drop the sound effect of a handgun over a handgun firing, people will think it sounds wrong. For a movie audience, a handgun should sound like a shotgun, a shotgun should sound like a cannon with a little more treble, and a cannon should render you deaf. Similarly, none of the punch sound effects in Soundtrack Pro seem to have enough PUNCH to them. I always take at least two different punch sound effects and drop them on top of each other. It gives it a little more resonance.

If you don’t have Soundtrack Pro, there are tons of libraries of sound effects that you can get on CD or download. I haven’t used these so I can’t speak to the quality, but I know they exist.

The ideal way to do it would be to go like the pros and create the sounds from scratch, but what no-budget web series creator has that kind of time? That’s hardcore right there.

Next week we’ll talk a little about acting. But if you want to see some sound effects editing at it’s best (in my opinion) watch “Sherlock Holmes” or the final wizard battle at the end of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

until next week, you’ve just been jarvi-ed.

Jarvi out.