As I said in the last video update, I’ve added another step in the post production process and this one takes a lot of time. It involves a lovely little third-party plug-in called The Magic Bullet Denoiser and it’s super badass hyper-mega-awesomeness. Please follow me as I backtrack a skosh…
Zack Snyder. I will now elaborate. Zack Snyder is like second on the list of movie directors who specialize in effects-heavy, character soft, blockbuster spectacle-pictures, ranked—to my thinking anyway—directly underneath Michael Bay. His movies are chock full of gorgeous imagery, about 30%-50% of which was shot at ridiculously high frame rates to get that super slow—Phantom camera style—slow motion. And all of his movies—with the exception of Dawn of the Dead—also have this Photoshop-ed look to them. It’s like a general softening that makes everything look really great and polished without any definition loss. Now I’m sure he’s using something with a bunch more control and processing power, as well as having a team of NASA-grade technicians to implement it, but I stumbled onto his look when using the Denoiser. And I had been curious about it for a long-ass time. I had googled “Zack Snyder look” a whole bunch of times to no avail, instead getting several quasi-sepia-toned, tweaked saturation, 300-style, color grading tutorials. The look can be achieved by just pushing the Denoiser too far.
“That’s great, Jake. What the hell is a denoiser?” Excellent question, critical inner voice. Shooting low-budget often means shooting without enough light. If you don’t reach an adequate exposure level for the camera you’re shooting with, noise is introduced into the shot. Noise looks like tiny colored particles that skitter over the top of images and it’s distracting as hell; also referred to a “grain.” If you think a shot is grainy, you’ve entered noise land. I heard a guy in an online tutorial the other day call it “mosquito-ing,” which is perfect. If you’ve ever been to a marshy area or you go out in the woods during a pretty moist summer, you’ll see clouds of mosquitos swarming together in concentrated areas. That’s what background noise in an under-lit shot looks like. So a Denoiser basically searches a shot for what it thinks is noise and smoothes it out, probably with mild blurring, but I don’t know the specifics of it. You can adjust the settings to make sure you aren’t blurring too much or too little and try and get as much noise out of the shot as you can. It makes things look sooooooooo much better. Instead of looking cheap, digital, and grainy the footage looks expensive, digital, and smooth. Zack Snyder just pushes it further to where it recognizes the pores on actors’ faces as noise and smoothes it out. Seriously, have you seen the complexions of the girls in Suckerpunch? Flawless. They practically glow.
The downside of the program is that it takes FOREVER for each shot to render, so I work on a shot, set it rendering, read a little of The Stand, review the shot, and move on. It uses so much processing power that I can’t use the computer for anything else while it’s rendering. And it also likes to get confused and crash. So I’m constantly having to quit out and re-open Final Cut in order to proceed. I do all of this because it makes the footage look really great. Just another step toward a better show.
Having talked about spectacle-movies so much in this post, I want to leave you with something wonderful that I found yesterday.
I think that about says it all. Have a happy 4th, Americans. I know I will. I‘m going to the DRIVE-IN!