Archive for May, 2014

The Daunting Disciplines

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on May 29, 2014 by PoPS blog

     For some of the bigger aspects of filmmaking, things are pretty self explanatory to DIYers. If you want to shoot a scene, you need actors and a camera. If you want to mic a scene, you get a microphone and a sound recording device, point the microphone at the actors mouths and try and keep the levels high without having them redline. If you want to edit a scene, you get an editing program, and put certain sections of shots next to certain parts of other shots, then it looks like a movie. If you want to composite two shots together or add muzzle flares or explosions or have people shoot lightning from their hands, there are plenty of tutorials available online to walk you through that process. If you need the sound of a punch landing, you get access to a sound library and you drop one into the timeline. But the deeper you go into the DIY world, and the more you start hungering for better quality on all levels, the more daunting and impossible it seems.

     Especially for disciplines like color correction, additional dialogue recording, sound equalization, and sound mixing. Those disciplines rely so much on developing technical proficiency within a system and then training yourself to either see things or hear things that most people don’t through intense focus and deliberation. They are very very VERY specific and exacting crafts that are too esoteric and not glamorous enough to have a gajillion online tutorials. Color correction has quite a few tutorials for each program, but no matter how many I watch, I can’t seem to make things look good without relying on presets. God bless presets, I tells ya.

      We’ve once again hit the ADR point in post on PoPS episode 8. Lucky, one thing we’ve gotten better at over the course of the 8 episodes is getting better location sound. We’re using a better mic, we’re recording on-set audio-only takes of problematic sections of dialogue if it sounds like we’re not getting them during takes (they tend to sink up pretty well since the actors have just done the scene), and we’re recording on-set foley too (footsteps, punch noises, etc.), which makes a HUGE difference for making them feel organic and environment specific. We’ve also gotten better at ADR. Back in episode 4 our ADR focus too much on sync and not enough on vocal performance. Eliza was the best at it then. Craig and I sound a little too much like we’re parroting our past performances. It’s obviously important to get everything to sync up, that’s the whole point. But it took me a long time to realize that you really have to act it during ADR. Even if the inflection of the spoken line is different, if you try to act the emotion instead of mimic the inflection, the final ADR sound SO MUCH BETTER.

     As for DIY technique, we’ve been all over the place. We’ve used an actual recording studio and a booth mic. I didn’t like it. I’ve put people on the roof right outside my home office so the sound would have that outdoor quality:

      It was pretty good, but there were to many variables to get consistently good sound, which is kind of the point of ADR. This time we went with a closed windows, controlled environment, and it worked out pretty well. We’ve tried recording while watching the clip with no sound. The tried and true, listen to it, listen to it, speak your line over it, and then mute while recording. This time, what seemed to work best was getting into a rhythm by speaking the lines on top of the old line over and over again and then recording it while listening to the old performance and watching the screen. We try everything. It worked out.

     As for the nuts and bolts aspect of it, we use a usb interface with xlr inputs so we can record with the same microphone we use on set. The one we use belongs to my dad. We had to by him a new one when we wore out the old one and it cost about $180 bucks at Guitar Center with the 2-year warranty included.

     I’ve gotten pretty good at the various disciplines over the last 8 episodes, enough to where PoPS looks like it’s got the crew and departmental division of a festival indie flick. But in order to look actually professional, you need true departments and craftsmen who are dedicated to sculpting their personal department into the best looking or sounding thing possible. I just watched a short doc on cinematography and on DP said, “As for what particular camera you use, it’s getting to the point where it doesn’t really matter, because most cameras over a couple grand can shoot a movie quality image. (Paraphrased)” That means, it all comes down to how well someone knows how to shoot. And that just means dedicating yourself to that one discipline completely. If you’re an all-departments DIYer, there’s no time for the kind of dedication it takes to really elevate a craft. There’s only time to tell your story. But I’ll take it!

Thanks for reading, you guys.

–Jake

PoPS video update 208-The Audience Experience

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on May 25, 2014 by PoPS blog

The Dead End of Story Endgame

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on May 22, 2014 by PoPS blog

My problem is that all I’ve ever been interested in is telling the story. I want to play with characters, plot, sequence, device, and expectation in service of entertainment and maybe a little something more. That’s not the real problem. The real problem is that I never took the time to develop the skills to do this in a large scale way. Every week I spout my indie-life diatribe here; I talk about “doing it” because that is what I know how to do. What I don’t know how to do is develop it, package it, pitch it, and sell it. That’s how large-scale storytellers “do it.” Maybe they started out doing it themselves, but in a way that proved they could handle the medium. A full feature film that looked great or was particularly relevant to a moment in time. A rough sketch with proof of a voice or an eye. Seems like most voices come from character-based indies, most eyes come from commercials. All a web series is going to do for you is give you full creative control to tell your story on the smallest scale around. Maybe I’ll get some reel elements out of it, but that’s probably it from a professional perspective.

On a personal level, it checks off a lot of my storytelling goals-wishlist, and that’s why I’m so passionate about it. But that’s been what’s weighing on my mind lately. When I started, the PoPS endgame was “getting discovered.” That’s been my philosophy forever. If I just keep making these things, upping the quality, upping the scale, eventually someone will just open a door and invite me in. That’s never how it’s been. If Hollywood is a party, I’m standing on the front lawn screening PoPS on my iPhone. Holding it up in the direction of the house in case somebody’s bored and looking out the window. So, it’s really the test of whether the story itself is enough. The idea of the initial endgame doesn’t play anymore. It’s not an industry conveyor belt. Is finishing the story enough of an endgame? Does a completed story arc have enough intrinsic value to merit it’s completion? Another 18 to 24 months of my life for the two remaining episodes? I’d have to say so. It’s all I know how to do.

People are putting insane things online. This guy devinsupertramp is one of the biggest YouTubers and this week he put out an extended video game commercial using parkour and actually shutting down major intersections in downtown Chicago. Check it:

That’s huge! That’s the stretch of road where they flipped the semi in The Dark Knight! There are network TV shows that don’t have that kind of scope. Dude does most of his action on the glide cam and makes everything feel really intense. He’s the king of the YouTube chase scene. It’s awesome. And that’s Craig from our show playing the only cop with lines.

Josh Hartnett has been doing a lot of thinking about opportunity versus desire lately too:

What’s the goal and how do you make it happen? Josh Hartnett is going to fund his passion projects with high profile studio stuff. devinsupertramp is going to use his glide cam action shooting skills to move from parkour talent show videos into more narrative-based action content for brands that can pay for it. What am I going to do? Is the endgame simply telling my stories? ‘Cause if it is, I’m there already. If the endgame is working in the bigs, than I have to backburner the storytelling and build the pitch-package skills.

Thanks for reading.

-Jake

 

PoPS video update 207-Doing It

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on May 18, 2014 by PoPS blog

The Internet Revived the Carnival Barker

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on May 15, 2014 by PoPS blog

     As a part of winning Best Series at GenCon last year, we won a free booth in the convention hall. Having walked through the convention hall for hours last year, I know what an amazing value that is, and it presents us with the potential to connect with tens of thousands of attendees, face to face. So, for the past few months, we’ve been trying to come up with a decent booth concept. Mine was VERY low impact. Walking around the convention center, playing games, watching cosplayers was absolutely exhausting. I was thinking about just giving people a place to sit for a little bit as long as they watched our trailer, but the real draw of that booth only arrives pretty late in the day. Many people and organizations have booths there to sell their wares. We initially thought of having some t-shirts to sell, by our merch is very PoPS brand-based and only of interest to people who already love our show; most of the folks we’ll be interacting with will be hearing about us for the first time, so the incentive to buy anything will be nil.

     This is the problem with internet content. The people who make content tend to have a specific skill set. Be it making sketches, vlogs, shorts, or a web series, just because a person knows how to make a thing, doesn’t mean they know how to sell a thing. Marketing and producing are two very different ideas, but on the internet, if you want to get yourself out there, you have to do both. You have to constantly be throwing your product in front of people and forcing them to engage with you. No one else is going to do it. This booth is a very literal representation of that. We’ll have to be out there trying to flag people down, carnival barking at them.

     Thankfully, my sister Emi has a better mind for this type of thing and she came up with a really fun interactive possibility for our booth. It’s a work heavy idea with the potential to keep me busy at the computer the whole day, but it could be a lot of fun for people, give them something tangible, and introduce them to our show. Basically, setting up a green screen on the back wall of the booth, and having them get electrocuted by our Donald character after a quick interaction. We just need a five second clip with Craig who plays Donald, I can pre-render the effects and layer them on tracks, we can plug in attendee after attendee, and email them a link of their video clip from a YouTube page we set up for the event. Easy as that. Have a clip of our super hero electrocuting you. We just need to figure out the layout of everything and make sure they stand on the X.

     Despite the booth being free—which is a $1500 value—we’ll have to put ourselves up for three nights, buy convention insurance, pay for electricity and wi-fi hookups, feed ourselves, and maintain our sanity for four full days of trying to get people to pay attention to us. I predict that we’ll be flat out exhausted. But I think it could also be a lot of fun.

      It’s just an aspect of making a show that I never thought I’d be spending so much time and money on. I guess the alternative is pouring a lot of time and energy into a series you love and then not caring if anyone ever sees it. That seems even less satisfying.

Thanks for reading, you guys.

–Jake

 

Successful Failures

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on May 11, 2014 by PoPS blog

The Simple Beauty of Hobby Filmmaking

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on May 8, 2014 by PoPS blog

I’ve been thinking a lot about the realities of making visual entertainment over the last week, listening to a lot of podcasts having some good conversations. I keep thinking of what we do as separate from “the industry.” It’s a YouTube show, self produced, community-financed, which is all wonderful, but I don’t think of it as existing within the context of the professional film industry. But after thinking about a lot of it and listening to the pros talk about it, what we’re currently doing is so much more about self expression than a lot of the industry.

I listened to an amazing call-in interview that NexTV did with producer Matt Bass, and much of it was centered around finding the outlet who’s content philosophy matches the story you’re trying to tell, and how every institution packages its stories in a very definable and consistent manner. It’s how everything can be justified for production. A proven track record of success telling a certain type of story. So if you want to be on a certain outlet, you have to learn to write the kind of story they want to tell. Fair enough. Makes perfect sense. That’s how financiers can justify injecting so much money into a project and feel a modicum of safety about return on investment.

Then I was listening to an episode of the Nerdist Writer’s Panel with a bunch of TV writers. In addition to it being hilarious, mostly because of Dan Harmon’s (creator of Community) snarkiness and tendency to self destruct anytime someone puts a microphone if front of him, it was also very interesting to hear the writers talk about the toll it takes. Four of the writers in the room had just gotten engaged as their shows went into hiatus. And one of them said, “It feels like you have to, doesn’t it? Like, ‘Please, don’t leave me; let’s get married.’” Meaning, when you’re part of a TV writers room, especially if the group is having a tough time breaking episodes, your whole life is work. You could be living in the same house with your significant other and it’ll still feel like a long distance relationship. It doesn’t take much imagination to think that’ll start taking its toll.

Then I was listening to the Movie Crypt podcast and they always talk about getting boxed into one specific thing. Not just “this is your genre,” but “this is your sub-genre.” Not “you’re a horror director,” but “you’re a franchise gore director, we don’t think you can do a supernatural thriller.”

And all of this is industry stuff. That’s the deal, y’all. A lot of it feels like it’s in direct opposition to inspiration or the creative process, but it seems to be the rules of the game.

As a hobby filmmaker, I get to tell exactly the story I feel like telling. I’ll get some push or pull from the people I’m collaborating with, and make changes accordingly, but that just makes the show stronger and injects it with diverging perspectives. I do it in the time I make for it. I have to manage it while balancing a day-job and an occasionally active social life, so it constantly gets shuffled around, but it’s not taking too much of a toll on my relationships. At most, it works on my guilt-center, because I feel like I’m not spending ENOUGH time on it and things are taking too long. If I feel like taking a break from my comedy-drama superpower series, I can make a horror short or two, engage another aspect of my genre interests without anyone telling me “no.” The downside is I have to do it all on a shoestring and the audience is smaller. But it’s very centered around my personal drive and excitement for the stories that are interesting to me in the moment.

I may have made myself a little too comfortable in this format, and never made the effort to package myself as a salable writer or director. I just keep following my interests, crafting stories instead of crafting a pitch-able portfolio of slick looking sizzle reels or writing samples. That’s on me. It’s made for a great few years though.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake