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Sunday, November 7, 2004

Post Production starts, Nov. 7, 2004

Sometimes I am a do-it-yourself-er and sometimes I’m not. If it’s household repairs that requite a big chunk of my time and effort… not so much. I’d rather get a professional to do it right and just write the check. When it comes to editing however, I’m a firm believer in “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” So, I spent just about every waking minute last Halloween weekend at the office loading my film transfer tapes and audio tapes into Final Cut Pro.

Now’s a good time to go completely dorky on technical specs on editing Stomp! Shout! Scream! We shot short end 35mm film (Kodak 5245, 52…I don’t really know), which was developed and transferred to recycled Digibeta tape by Cinefilm, Atlanta (a perk of working for Turner Broadcasting is you can easily find slightly used tape stock waiting to be dumped). Of course, the ultimate objective is to have a film print that can be shown in theaters, but that requires a negative cut or a digital intermediate--- both very expensive propositions. I’m going to start the editing process with that plan in mind, but I can always switch to a video finish using the film transfers I already have. The determining factor there being… money.

Cinefilm provided me with Flex files, which are databases that track the film’s edge numbers and their relationship to the timecode on the film transfer tapes. I’ve never used Cinema Tools (Apple’s film database software), so I spent the last two weeks reading the help file and everything I can find on-line about this process. First, I imported the flex files into Cinema Tools and then exported a batch digitize list for Final Cut Pro. The batch capture worked perfectly, all my clips loaded in a scant 10-hour Saturday. At Cartoon Network, we use the Black Magic Decklink Pro video cards which can digitize 29.97 frames-per-second NTSC video into 23.98 fps QT movies, eliminating the need to use Cinema Tools’ reverse telecine function. I loaded the film with the Black Magic’s 10-bit uncompressed codec, but I’ll be editing on a DV–based Final Cut Pro system in my basement, so I used Final Cut’s media manager to export all my footage into DV. Cinema Tools reconnected all the digitized clips to the database, so I think I’m ready to start cutting and the computer will keep track of the timecode/edge numbers in the background.

And then there’s the footage itself. Thanks to the expertise and very hard work of cinematographer Evan Lieberman, Gaffer John Swindall and all the rest of the crew, the film looks absolutely BEAUTIFUL. It was always our intention to make a fun, beach party, b-movie, horror film, but do it with an acute attention to craft-- believable characters, a good story, professional actors working with real emotions and a professional film crew making beautiful pictures. From the very start, Evan and I wanted to make the film like those '60s Frankie & Annette Beach Party movies. From the look of the film transfers, we’ve definitely succeed in the crafting of beautiful images.

Now preparing audio for edit is a whole other process. Sound mixer Aaron Siegel and boom operators Zeke and Thomas did excellent work in less than optimal conditions. Extra special thanks goes to Mike Filosa and Adam Jones who supplied the extensive audio equipment. Aaron delivered time-coded DAT tapes which sound excellent. We tried to use a smart slate (an electronic version of the traditional film clapper with rolling timecode numbers), but it was a less than perfect model and we ended up using the ‘old-fashion’ slate methods most of the time. Often during shooting, just trying to reset the camera frame and focus to actually read the timecode numbers on the slate was too difficult for our sprinter’s pace of film making. All totaled, I have about 8 hours of film transfer and about 9 hours of audio. Next I sit in front of my computer and sync the two together. I don’t know how long that’s going to take. Traditionally, syncing is considered film maker’s drudgery, but I plan to relish every minute. I am working on a beach party rock and roll monster movie of my own creation.

I’ve heard film makers say that making a bad movie is just as hard as making a good one and it’s impossible to know if your film is good or bad while your in the middle of it. I can certainly understand that statement now more than ever. I’m just going to keep plowing through until it’s done, doing everything I can to make it the best I can.

Here’s another recap of the shoot:
DAY THREE (Wednesday, October 6)
Location: Fabric Warehouse / The Doctor’s Office

Special thanks goes to Matt Hyman, assistant to Art Director Lisa Yeiser, who found and secured our Doctor’s office and the police station interior locations—some spare offices at a fabric manufacturer’s warehouse. These are two of the four interiors for the entire production and the art ‘department’ (Lisa, Matt, and Scott Dupree) did wonderful work. For the Doctor’s office scenes, we took an empty, white-wall business office and dressed it up to be our exam room. Lisa dug up fantastic set dressing, but some of the props came from an old doctor’s house call bag my mom found at an antique store several years ago. We used an existing waiting room to be the doctor’s business office, which was very nicely dressed to begin with (as in, it hadn’t changed a bit since the early '60s). Running a little behind schedule while shooting our exam room scenes, we decided to switch the set dressing, rather than flip all the lights to the other side of the room. In theory, we just had to turn the exam table around, flip our characters positions and put new props behind them. But when you’re dealing with camera placement, character eye-lines and crossing the 180-degree line… everything gets complicated. I think we did everything right, but I won’t really know until I start cutting those shots right next to each other. It’s another example of just trusting the crew to do the right thing.

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