Monday, 23 August 2010

Short film diary - Week 16...

So there's not exactly nothing to report, but not loads of activity either. I have started editing again though so we are making progress.

There is now fifteen minutes of roughly edited footage. The page-a-minute rule is actually working out to be pretty accurate, so based on that there should only be another ten minutes to go. We're well over halfway and what we've got so far is looking really good.

Rather than just saying, ' We did some editing...and then some more editing' I thought I'd go into it in a bit more detail this time. It may be quite dull if you have no interest in post-production (and I keep forgetting to get more stills so there aren't even any pretty pictures to liven it up).

Anyway the three major scenes we edited on Saturday all had their own unique problems. I'm focussing on the problems, rather being all 'We did some awesome editing on this one scene...We edited it in a particularly awesome fashion...most of the cuts are just too awesome to describe...I am the God Emperor of Editors' - I'm guessing no one wants to read that. So here is some stuff I got wrong in production that is now causing me problems.

The problem with the first scene was that it involved all four actors in a really tiny space. I'd encountered this problem before with an earlier scene - it's really the problem with shooting in an actual flat rather than a studio (or maybe just a problem with shooting in my flat). The reason it causes problems is that you can't get a wide shot of the whole scene. Even going as wide as we could we still couldn't get all four actors in the same shot.

This only really became an issue at the moment when the fourth actor enters the scene, because not really thinking ahead at the time I'd asked her to come in on a particular line of dialogue. And it's a line of dialogue where you really need to see that actor saying it. And because we haven't got a wide shot we have to cut away from that actor while he says that line to show the fourth actor entering. And that's rubbish.

In the end we managed to cheat it and cutaway to the fourth actor entering much earlier in the scene than she actually did. Which works fine, it was just a bit of a headache getting there. Lots of staring at the same sequence over and over again and saying things like 'What if we put it half a second earlier?' and then, 'No, back to where it was before...'

The other issue with the footage from this scene is that we were clearly figuring out the shots as wewent along. This didn't happen as much as I thought it would overall - most of the time I did have an idea of what I wanted and it was just a case of figuring out how to get it. So there was always an element of working it out as we went along but that's to be expected to some extent. Watching the footage from this scene it looked like I was literally working it out shot by shot, with each one being a slight improvement on the last because of something that's been tweaked each time.

For example, there's a shot of the main character, Jenny, talking to another two characters. She's in front of the camera, they are behind the camera. There are a few takes of this which are pretty good. One has someone's elbow creeping into the back of the shot, but otherwise it's fine. Then in the next shot it's the same again but with the second actor in the foreground on the right, out of focus - he has his arm across the bottom of the frame so he's kind of framing the shot. This works even better and there are a couple of good takes of this. Then in the last shot the third actor is also in the frame, in the foreground on the left. This is even better still and would've been perfect, but it wasn't the best take and for some reason we only got one of these. If I'd decided that this composition was what I wanted to do in the first place we might've been able to use the best shot.

So we had to use the second version, and it works okay. All this is fine, and obviously we experimented like this all the time when filming, but every shot in the scene was like this - a process of gradual improvement meaning only the last takes were usable. We could've saved a lot of time and made it much easier to edit if I'd been better prepared.

Second scene we had a problem with was a montage. I am a fan of montages and this is a classic. It's a 'looking for something in all kinds of crazy places' montage. Not quite as classic as a training montage perhaps but still up there in the top five montages of all time list.

So on the last full day of filming we shot a bunch of short scenes in which the two main characters are looking for something. I didn't really plan this - in the script it was just referred to as 'Searching Montage'. In the storyboard there was one panel for the whole thing with 'Searching Montage' written underneath. In the shot list I'd at least estimated how many shots we'd need. Ten seemed like a good number. This wasn't really based on anything in particular. When it came to shooting we just grabbed a few shots wherever we could. We did a couple in town, near to the pier which was incredibly busy. Then we retreated to Hove and got a few more when we were finishing off the seafront scenes. In the end there were about seven. The problem was cutting them together.

I thought it would be easy. People are always going on about how great Final Cut Pro is - surely it has a montage button? A montage app maybe? You know, just load in all the clips, press a button and it mixes them up for you, maybe even adds some appropriate music. This doesn't exist yet, apparently. Fine, we'll just manually grab bits of each shot, jumble them up and that will be it. The music will make it work, I told myself. Once we have music.

We started with this technique and it quickly became clear that there is more to it than that. Luckily one of the sequences was quite long, so we ended up using that as a base and cutting back to it between the other sequences. And it works great, almost like I planned it that way. Except I totally didn't.

Third scene we edited was the very first thing we shot - the scene on the seafront that you can see a tiny bit of at the start of the outtakes video (which is here). For a first shoot the footage is pretty awesome. The colour is a bit off because we were still figuring out the settings on the camera, but the shots are great and the actors did a great job - all this despite it being really hot and crowded and being interrupted by a bicycle crash (detailed here). So what was the problem?

We shot too much. There are 3-5 takes of every angle, and unlike much of the rest of the shoot the majority of those takes are good. But we shot way too many angles and most of them we can't use. Despite all this, there's one angle we didn't get that I wish we had - a medium shot of the whole scene. This time it wasn't really a lack of preparation, more like just bad preparation. And partly a lack of confidence on my part as I probably could have been finished with that particular shoot a lot earlier if I'd just said, 'You know what, we've totally got enough footage for this scene'. Still, I am learning a lot from all this.

On a smaller point, we also ended up cutting a few lines of dialogue because the scenes worked better without them. I haven't told the writer yet. I'm hoping he won't notice.

This week we are hopefully editing the musical sequence. I am not looking forward to editing the musical sequence. There are more individual clips for this sequence than any other we've worked on and cutting them together is going to be a nightmare. Also, it was shot over two days with completely different weather, and on the second day we were missing a dancer. Plus we never got a wide shot of the whole thing. This is going to be tough. I will let you know how it goes.

Oh, and I'm sure I haven't mentioned it before but I set up a Facebook page for the film...

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