Archive for March, 2014
Before I rundown the last two shoot days of episode 8, let me once again mention how AMAZING it is to have people loyally support our work. In the last video update I asked people to go to the NexTV website and vote for me in the director’s competition. About a quarter of the people who watched the update obliged me and got me more than 500 votes so far. That’s almost 10 times more than anyone else has. Plus, 25 percent click-through is REALLY good. Usually you can expect about 10 percent of a viewership to help you out, on a good day. And lately, with the YouTube community kind of waffling and mildly imploding, one would expect less than 10 percent follow through. Our peoples are the best peoples, people!
Also in the last update I asked everyone how they were doing and I got a bunch of replies. Quite a few people feeling good, quite a few people feeling stressed as finals approach, a few people feeling poorly, and a couple people really going through some hard stuff. Having asked everyone how they were doing and telling them I was genuinely interested, I made it my business to read and respond to every comment that came in. I wanted them to know that I wasn’t just messing around, that I was genuinely interested. It took awhile, but I got through everyone and I’m keeping an eye on it to make sure I respond to all the stragglers still coming in. I heard from a lot of creative folks planning a lot of different projects. Music, novels, web series, vlogs, all over the place. Everybody was determined to make good on their aspirations. I loved it. I also got to offer some advice to people feeling overwhelmed, and I hope my comments were useful to the people going through really heavy stuff. But just the in-depth conversation on the boards felt like old school YouTube community stuff. Even though the creator-viewer conversation has continued the entire time we’ve been cultivating our little plot of the internet, this week it felt real and personal. Person to person to person, people commenting on other people’s comments, commiserating and connecting. A real community space, and I was a part of it. It felt really cool.
Now, about our last two shoot days:
Day 24-Monday, March 17. After work, we assembled at our house to start knocking out the last nine pages of episode 8. After a full month away from shooting, it felt good to get back to it. On my lunch break I had reconfigured the living room to PoPS appearance (the Squadron can’t afford the big TV that Eliza and I have, so every time we shoot in the living room I have to wheel out the big TV—which is an old rear-projection deal that only fits through the doorway to its hiding space in the bedroom if we take the door off it’s hinges—and bring the old 80’s model television in from our bedroom) and then I referred to all the footage we shot back in January to match the lived-in apartment clutter and the hands of the clocks. Once everyone got there we were shooting within the hour and worked through until 11pm. No major complications. We didn’t have orange gels to make the kitchen fluorescents match the living room, so we had to change all the living room bulbs and camera lighting to better match the kitchen blue. Everything looked good and we got some really funny performances. As it was St. Patrick’s Day, we celebrated wrapping with some Guinness. We’d bought it to steam potatoes with for a corned beef meal the night before and had plenty of bottles left over. Really delicious.
Day 25-Tuesday, March 18. We started the night by heading outside. In a stupendous miracle, most of the snow had temporarily melted to the point where we could shoot our two remaining exterior shots—as long as we carefully aimed our camera to exclude the patches where the snow still remained. I hadn’t even allowed myself to HOPE that we’d get to shoot these shots until mid-April with the way the weather’s been this year. So, we started the night with those and ended up getting to our scheduled shooting about an hour and a half late. Despite that, we slammed our way through the pages and wrapped a half hour early at 10:30pm. With EVERYTHING. I’d scheduled a third night, to be on the safe side, but we completely wrapped episode 8 that night. I still kind of can’t believe we’ve got everything. We’ve been shooting since the beginning of October. But it’s all done. We had some chips and salsa and introduced everyone to the first episode of The IT Crowd.
I realize that I always skip over all the filming bits in these production day blog posts unless there’s some kind of complication, but that’s because shooting something is very piece meal and boring. You set up a shot and shoot it until all the dialogue, blocking, and camera elements line up right. Sometimes that means shooting a shot once, sometimes it means shooting it 30 times. Then you get your next angle and wait for all the elements to align the way you want them to, then the next, then the next, for hours. Author John Green said it best when he visited the set as his novel The Fault in Our Stars was being made into a movie. “I thought a movie set would be glamorous, but it’s just a construction site.” He nailed it. It’s a construction site with a lot of boredom and technical moving pieces. It’s a construction site obsessed with emotional nuance. It can be really involving and exciting when you’re in front of the camera, or if your a camera op or the director, but for a lot of the others it’s exceedingly time consuming and boring and there’s a lot of time spent sitting around. That’s why I tend to jump from the start of the night to the end. The rest is just a work day.
Thanks for reading.
Accurate closed captioning is something that I’d never given much thought to, which is strange, because my wife and I watch pretty much everything with subtitles on. She prefers it for the sake of clarity, she’s not the greatest at hearing the TV and we watch a lot of things where people have accents. If we hadn’t watched Attack the Block with the subtitles on I never would have caught a single word. Whagwan, Moses? At least with the subtitles we had a fighting chance.
But a couple months ago I did an interview for the blog Snobby Robot (http://snobbyrobot.com/2014/01/23/platoon-of-power-squadron-average-people-but-with-way-above-average-superpowers/) and the interviewer, Chris Hadley, made a big deal about captioning. The piece is really long and great, but he ended the whole thing with: (Note: The series is not currently closed captioned, but Jarvi hopes that it will be at some point.) And I was like—Huh. That’s weird.
Then I got tweeted at by Jamie Berke of a blogspot site called captionedwebtv. She started laying out the options for paying someone to caption the show on YouTube. There are a few companies that caption for a fee. I literally had less than 20 dollars in my checking account at that point and I made that known to her.
At first I was pretty annoyed. Great. Another thing I have to spend hours doing myself on my free content or I’m being exclusionary. But I started to look into it and it’s recommended on several levels. In addition to opening it up to the hearing impaired audience, it also acts as a second set of tags used by search engines.
YouTube has an auto caption program that does its best to automatically caption everything on YouTube. It’s so bad at accurately captioning that popular YouTubers Rhett and Link did a series of videos replaying sketches using the words as dictated by YouTube’s automatic captioning:
However, a content creator can use the inaccurate captions created by YouTube, go into their settings and create a new English track by correcting the automatic ones. You can also change the timing and add other captions as well. The whole process is doable right within YouTube.
So over the last couple months, whenever I had a few minutes between projects at work, I’d pop into YouTube and correct a few captions. I’ve now done all seven episodes and the channel trailer. I didn’t realize it until Jamie Berke got back to me and added us to captionedwebtv that, with them all broken into YouTube parts, that’s 43 videos.
Going through every episode again and correcting the captions was an interesting way to revisit the show though. I paid much closer attention to the dialogue than I have since I first wrote it and it was nice to find that I still liked it all. The dialogue style of the show has remained consistent and the character voices all have a nice through line.
It also made me realize how crazy it is to have someone else do the captions for your content. It took forever, so I don’t expect professional directors to sit there and do their own captions, but giving someone else control of the pacing of the dialogue in the show makes very little sense. Determining the pacing and placement of the captions very much determines the pacing of the character conversations. Dialogue reveals and comedic pacing can be thrown off if the captions are too on top of each other. Someone who only cares about transcribing dialogue might leave out the appearance of important off-screen sounds that motivate characters into action or clarify scenes. Sometimes, in scenes with multiple people in wide shots you have to specify the name of who’s speaking each line to preserve conversational clarity and characterization. If the captions are enabling new people to watch the show, it’s important to preserve all of that, or the whole thing could fall flat.
It was interesting to re-examine the episodes so closely, preserve the dialogue pacing, and determine what noises were important enough to transcribe. Sometimes it was a huge pain, but that kind of scrutiny made me experience our show in what felt like a new way, and I liked it.
I recommend that anyone undertaking it save often. A couple times I’d have to redo whole episode parts if the window got accidentally closed or the internet connection got compromised. For real, save often.
You can get a feel for all the captioning I did in the Intro to PoPS in 90 Seconds. Trigger the captions by clicking on the little cc underneath the video. It appears once you’ve pressed play.
Thanks for reading.
Having fanboy’ed over the prospect of Wes Craven possibly watching …Jack in the last update, you can imagine my feelings when he released his top picks for the contest and we were on it. Not only that. He added personal comments and thoughts for each video on his list. I’d gotten an email from Studio 360 saying that we were on the list and as soon as I saw that he was commenting on everyone’s video I forced myself not to jump ahead to see what he said about us. I wanted to get a feel for what he was saying about everybody else and the tone of his comments, so that his commentary on …Jack would have a context among our competition. On each entry he would talk about what made it stand out, the good aspects, and what could be improved. When I got to us, I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t have asked for anything better:
“…Jack — by Jake in Chicago, Illinois
It combined a tight narrative with excellent technical elements of action, camera movement, lighting and acting. Even the special EFX shot of the eye was well done and strong. My suspicion was that whoever made this was either professional, or should be.” –Wes Craven
Can you… Is that… From the guy who… Well, you can just imagine how loudly I sang along to the music on my drive home from work. Some might say I’m overreacting, but that is genuinely the greatest praise I’ve ever gotten from an industry insider, and I’ve been waiting for anything like it for 33 years. Okay, I guess I didn’t want to make movies on the day I was born, but I’ve been waiting for it for at least 23 years.
I wasn’t just spouting flattery in the update. Wes Craven is legitimately one of my favorite directors. Ever since I saw Scream in the movie theater in ’96. It was the first slasher movie I’d ever seen and it lit a fire under my love of horror movies that I’ve carried ever since. It was afterward that I got into his Nightmare stuff and I only recently saw the original Last House on the Left, which was flat-out crazy. Red Eye was awesome too. So, someone that I’ve looked up to for years watched something that I made, gave it a great review, and finished by saying that I should have a shot sitting at the grownups table. I went home, did some work on the episode, and kicked back watching Scream 4, my second favorite in the series. It was just one of the best days.
What a week, you guys. Just the best.
Here’s a link to Craven’s finalist picks: http://www.studio360.org/story/wes-cravens-favorite-scary-short-films-top-10/
Thanks for reading.