Archive for June, 2011

The Denoiser

Posted in Hypothesis the 5th on June 29, 2011 by PoPS blog

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!

Jarvi out.

PoPS video update 69-Back to the Salt Mines

Posted in Hypothesis the 5th on June 26, 2011 by PoPS blog

Blowing Off Steam

Posted in Hypothesis the 5th on June 22, 2011 by PoPS blog

The last update was a result of genuine restlessness on my part. After sitting around for months, working solely on Ep5, I needed to work on something fast, fun, and not PoPS related. In fact, I haven’t worked on a non-PoPS project for myself in the last three years. That’s the longest amount of time I’ve ever devoted to one project. So, Chris and I headed down to Ryan’s place in the city and shot that in about 4 hours. I had the rough outline of events in my head and we just hashed out the specifics as we shot it. The effects, even as rough as they are, still took about 40 hours of my time away from working on Ep5, but it felt completely different. It was shiny and new enough that I had that “always want to be working on it” feeling. I still get that from PoPS, but we’re aiming for a much higher level of quality now, so things move a lot slower. We were just flying fast and loose for the update, so even though we wanted that 500 shutter speed look to it and we didn’t have enough light to get rid of the grain we were like, “Eh, it’s just an update,” and had fun with it. It was awesome, and it provided me with just enough of a break to recharge my Ep5 batteries.

Even though we pretended that Ryan was shirking his effects duties for 4 weeks, he was actually working on one of the most difficult effects sequences in the history of our show and it turned out really badass. Seeing that sequence finally come together, mixed with the fun of the update really lit a fire under me and I can’t wait to get the rest of the episode put together. I’m having my first scoring meeting with our composer tomorrow night, and more effects shots have been coming in from Ryan every day.

Another funny thing came to pass as a result of the update. When we were pretending that I couldn’t get a hold of Ryan, one of our viewers from Germany contacted me about helping out with some effects. I’ve received a few of these offers before. Most of the time the people end up backing out when they realize the scope of the work, or they’re work examples aren’t up to the job. But this dude, Leo, is an actual CG-capable VFX guy. His reel is hyper-badass and when I gave him the footage of a very pivotal Ep5 scene, he came at me with all kinds of cool ideas and techniques that I–not a real effects person–had never envisioned. It’s really awesome working with a dude who’s not inventing workflow off the top of his head. He even asked me to define the set as a 3D space in terms of measurements from the lens. My wife and I walked around the apartment with her sewing measuring tape shouting the measurements to him over Skype. It was awesome. Our conversation about that sequence and his plans for it got me really wired. So things are coming along, slower than ever as more people get involved, but better than ever as well. Good times.

Thanks for reading, guys.

Jarvi out.

PoPS video update 68-Channel Battle

Posted in Hypothesis the 5th on June 19, 2011 by PoPS blog

The “Get it Right” Realization

Posted in Hypothesis the 5th on June 15, 2011 by PoPS blog

Part of the internet mentality is that you get to a point where you have something watchable and you think—-THE AUDIENCE HAS WAITED LONG ENOUGH! or I’VE LOGGED MORE THAN ENOUGH COMPUTER HOURS FOR THIS EPISODE!! Which is one of the drawbacks to doing it all yourself. You might just tap out because it’s easier and you want to watch TV with your wife. I recently had a realization though that affected the way I think about the finished episodes and led to us doing that night of re-shoots. Why get so close to something outstanding and then just settle for passable. By doing that, you’re devaluing all of your hours of writing, planning, shot-listing, editing, effects-ing, everything, not to mention all of the hours of hard work and efforts of your cast and crew of friends. They’re counting on you to see this thing through to the VERY BEST of your ability, and saying that something is “good enough” is like borrowing their clothes on a hot day and then not washing them before you give them back. It’s the complete opposite of appreciation. But the real short and simple realization I had is this:

A few more hours at the computer may seem to last forever when you’re tired of working on something, but it’s only a few hours. It’s the finished episode that’s going to last forever. Get it right.

It’s a little too long for a bumper sticker, but there it is.

We did the reshoots on Monday and it was awesome. We got the shot exactly as I wanted it. As well as a little pickup that was never scripted, but should have been in there from the beginning. I mean, if a character runs around in public doing something for a few weeks, there HAS to be some kind of security camera footage of him, right? Everything is getting taped these days.

One more thing about this last update, it brings to mind the good part about doing everything yourself: You know it’s getting worked on. You don’t have to sit around wondering when some shots are going to come back, how are they going, is it getting done? At a certain point though, I feel like you have to let go of a little control in order to step into the larger world. The effects will be better if someone more talented than I is at the helm, and I certainly want them to be better. I also just want them to be done. I don’t know how long they’re going to take. A little communication sure would be nice.

Thanks for reading, guys.

Jarvi out.

PoPS update 67-Shoulda Reshot

Posted in Hypothesis the 5th on June 12, 2011 by PoPS blog

The Alamo Drafthouse is my Mecca

Posted in Hypothesis the 5th on June 9, 2011 by PoPS blog

As for the question Eliza posed in the last update: “Who inspires you?” There were a few clear winners that rose to the top. No surprise here—they’re vloggers. The top response was WheezyWaiter, otherwise known as Craig, who acts in our show. I understand that. Craig makes a ton of videos, all very creative, he also uses his vlogs to build a constantly evolving mythos around himself which is really awesome. Plus, he’s making a living producing his own content and he loves it. That’s clearly an enviable position to be in. The second highest rated was the Vlogbrothers. They are John and Hank Green. They hold the crown and scepter for one of the largest YouTube “communities” known as “Nerdfighters.” Counter-intuitively, nerdfighters don’t fight nerds, they proudly wear the mantel as they love all things that can be considered “nerdy.” The also have a pretty successful record label through YouTube, have created a YouTube day of charitable giving, and have several offshoot channels including the most recognized game show on Youtube. So the top 2 slots go to vloggers. The boards didn’t let me down though, because the third most inspiring was Joss Whedon. I’m going to go ahead and agree with that. Then I’m going to give my next vote to J.J. Abrams. Or maybe I’m just overcome with Super 8 anticipation. J.J. can fight it out with Edgar Wright, for my second most inspiring figure slot. That’d be a fight filled with a hell of a lot of lens flares and amazing transitions.

As for the summer movie rant portion of this, I did a little Googling to see what other people had to say on the topic. Miraculously, The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas released this on their blog this week. (Warning for the language sensitive, there’s more than enough cussing in this little gem)

They’re running that in front of all of their upcoming R-rated movies. Everything I hear about the Alamo Drafthouse just keeps solidifying it in my mind as the greatest place ever. The year my family lived in Austin, I was too young to go. I’ve seen it in the behind-the-scenes of a few different dvds, among them the likes of Hot Fuzz. I need to get back there and experience it in person.

But movie theater disruption can turn really dark too. I found two articles, one on either side of the spectrum that prove how strongly some people can feel about this. One man got mad enough at a family that wouldn’t stop talking during a screening of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that he pulled a gun a shot the father in the arm. Fact. Conversely, at a screening of Shutter Island an irritated moviegoer asked a woman to get off of her cell phone. The cell phone woman and her boyfriend walked out of the theater. Cell phone woman’s boyfriend then returned to the theater and stabbed the moviegoer in the neck with a meat thermometer. A meat thermometer. Nope, typing it a second time didn’t make it easier to understand. The moviegoer lived, but was probably too distracted to enjoy the movie after that.

Thanks for reading, folks.

Jarvi out.