Saturday, July 28, 2007

#37 Filmmaking Manifesto #2

This episode is the second in a series about the current state of filmmaking education, specifically certain concepts which are already a part of the filmmaking landscape, but which are not on the map of most schools.

I'm using Mike Jones' Filmmaking Manifesto as the model for measuring how well schools are keeping current with evolving trends in the real world. Specifically, I'm using the school I'm attending, Center for Digital Imagining Arts at Boson University as a stand in for every school.

Check out Mike's blog, Digital Basin, for lots information about a wide range of topics regarding the production filmmaking world. You should check out the Manifesto on his site, since I'm not going through it in as much detail as him. He also has a number of mp3 files of presentations he's made on subjects covered in the Manifesto.

Finally, check out the comment he left following the previous podcast.

Production note: I'm aware that there is a distinct difference between my introductory section commenting on the last episode and the remainder of the podcast covering the three points below.
  • 4-Multi-platform scalable delivery
  • 5-Ownership of end to end process
  • 6-Software Agnosticism and independent skills

Obviously I recorded them at different times using different devices, different locations. A professional, or even someone relatively knowledge about in audio post production would be able to reconcile the tool and hide, or at least equalize the different sounds. That's not me, not right now. I don't even have the time to rerecord this and post it in time, so I'm settling for the fact that you can at least hear what I'm saying.

I make a few passing comments regarding Danny Kaye, Kahlil Gibran and The Prophet in order to make a point or two, Doesn't that combination make you even a little curious?

#36 Wk26 - Production Audio

Production audio, hands on, boot camp like. Lots of opportunity to run and trip, and learn.

Frank DeAngelis is the instructor. Providing us with real world experience with a run and gun edge. Just another example of the variety of resources the school provides for our benefit.

So relieved, I'm really tapped, energy wise. Not afraid to work at learning, but between stress and tight deadlines I needed to use a different part of my brain. It was like someone knew we needed a breather.

In this module we get practical information about handling equipment, bringing to the set what you need to get the job done and working with what you got (not always the same) to get the job done. Often during class we came up short when we went through the kits. Something was missing, batteries, clips, connectors were bad. The motto of the class was "pack your own parachute" because if you only find out on set that something is missing, it's too late and no one gets the blame but you.

The focus was on using a boom and wireless mics (Sennheiser eW100 G2 wireless) and a mixer (Sound Devices 320) to control the audio from 3 sources going into the camera.

Another mantra was"treat the equipment with respect". As students it's easy to treat any of the equipment as casually as Stretch Armstrong, but you have to remember to develop good habits now, because there’s more important things to do when preparing for a paying gig than cursing yourself for breaking a wire connection or dropping a wireless transmitter, for the fifth time. How often do you expect you'll get rehired.

I don’t mean to sound like your mom, but you know, students are the worst and it gets old faster than finding your roommate's underwear in the freezer, again.

For those of you interested or with enough patience I've added a little detail about how a mixer fits in the production workflow, what it's used for, how it operates. I've tried my best to simplify things, it's still a very involved process.

Monday, July 23, 2007

#35 Filmmaking Manifesto #1

I recently discovered a blog about filmmaking and filmmaking education called Digital Basin. The author, Mike Jones has written a number of posts about 13 issues that he feels are critical to the success of a film student in today's world, but which aren't getting the attention they deserve in the curriculum at most film schools. He calls it his Filmmaking Manifesto.

Read the posts, he makes a lot of valid points. I've always felt that CDIA was quite progressive and I thought it would be interesting to measure my school using his ruler.

I'm not interested in bashing the school, or promoting anyone’s agenda, but I feel his blogs have given me an external perspective on how well CDIA is preparing me for my future.

I'll continue my weekly journal shows, these will run alongside as a special topic.

I hope your find the ideas interesting and more importantly, it gives you your own ideas.

Submit a comment or drop me a line at

Thursday, July 19, 2007

#34 Wk25 - Non Fiction Narrative

And in the End...

This week it all ends, at least for the current film project. I'm talking about last minute deadlines and the mixed feelings that result. There's always some vague unsatisfied feeling when you finish an all consuming project, as this one was. For me, I'm so glad to get this off my back, but also I realize that even though my mind an nerves are refilling with a sense of ease, there's still a sense of lack. Just putting a name to it is difficult, I still can't articulate it.

I know that I'm looking for a response, feedback, realization, something that I wasn't looking for when I started. Not affirmation, not the satisfaction of a job well done. All those things are welcome, for sure. I think it has something to do with purpose. Either the purpose of this project wasn't realized in the finished project, or it was too small a goal.

I'm just going to sound stupid trying to figure this out in a blog, so just leave it at this, that gnawing unfulfilled feeling you get when you're full, but you're still hungry.

So this episode is about meeting the deadline, the client meeting and review of the finished project. I add a little commentary at the end about gleaning meaning out of the experience.

Lastly I add a brief how to regarding multi-track audio editing between FCP and Soundtrack.

Below are the steps I go through in the podcast:

Select the File menu
Select Send To
Soundtrack Pro Multitrack Project

Make sure both options, Open in Sountrack Pro Multitrack Editor and Include Background Video are checked and click Save.

When you work with the audio in Soundtrack you’re going to be shuffling files between the two programs quite often, so I like to name my files to indicate what program they were saved from and what program they’re to be editing in. So when I export it from FCP I might call it FilmName, then add from Final Cut Pro to Soundtrack Pro. I usually abbreviate it, like FCP-SP, or simply F-S. Exporting it from Soundtrack Pro to FCP would be the reverse, FilmName S-F.

Following the export, Soundtrack Pro launches and opens the file in the Multitrack view. The stereo track from Final Cut displays as a single track in Soundtrack Pro. In Soundtrack Pro you can add additional tracks, such as sound effects, loops and other dialog.

By default there’s only one track for audio. You can add more tracks by right clicking in an audio track and selecting Insert Track Before, or After.

Add your audio and then Export the file, it’s an audio file, it has a .aif extension. Choose File/Export/Export Mix.

Import the audio file into Final cut. It appears as a single track.
Place in the video sequence. If you want to edit it, right click on the audio track and choose Open in Editor.

Soundtrack Pro comes to the front and tells you that the aif file is linked to a .stmp file, a Soundtrack project and asks you if you want to open the audio file or the project file.
Choose the project file to edit the individual tracks

The file opens with each audio element in independent tracks.

Make further changes to the different tracks, or add new tracks, then, as before, Choose File/Export/Export Mix and save it with the name you saved it as in the previous export, it supplies the same name by default.

When you go back to FCP you’ll see the changes are updated.

In this manner you can work between the two programs to keep you audio modifications in sync and still be able to work with each track separately. Without having to deal with a large number of separate tracks in FCP.

Monday, July 9, 2007

#33 Wk24 - Non-Fiction Narrative

I've played around with a different recording device, the Mbox 2 plus a Sennheiser mic. I think the quality is vastly improved, but now I have to deal with keeping my head in one position so that you don't get dizzy listening to my voice move back and forth. Isn't learning fun?

This week is the middle of the module on creating a non-fiction 2 minute film. I've tried to describe how we organized ourselves, developed the story and set up the shots. I think the biggest issue during our shoot was the pressure of trying to get the shooting done in time. Also still a big concern is the confidence of knowing how much coverage was necessary. Our footage ratio was 1:25, which is 25 minutes of footage for every minute of the final cut. I think that's acceptable.

The best part is how well we all worked together. It was a real pleasure to be part of a focused, dynamic team. Considering how little time we had, it was a necessity.

Friday, July 6, 2007

#32 Wk23 - Non-Fiction Narrative

I'm back after a week on the road and on vacation.

In the musing department I reflect briefly on the differences between the highways in the US and Canada and the filmic charms of upstate New York.

It's the beginning of a new module, this time I'm working with some guys on a 2 minute film that would be used as a warm up for a live presenter. The client is a film distribution company called Enterprise Media. You can see more examples of what we're trying to accomplish at John Cleese's video training site. There's 3 weeks to complete this, so there's lots to cover in a short amount of time.

Not in this episode, but coming soon, I'm going to talk about a site that has sparked my imagination and prompted me to create a series podcasts about the future of filmmaking education. Mike J0nes at Digital Basin created a manifesto for filmmaking educators a few weeks ago. I thought he was on target regarding the changes that dynamic media schools will have to make in order to adequately prepare their students for the rapidly evolving media production marketplace. I've always considered CDIA to be in the lead of adopting new technology, with a healthy sense of pragmatism, so I was interested in how my school measured up to Mike's idea's. Take a look at his manifesto and stay tuned, the series begins in a few weeks.
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