Archive for February, 2012

Media Industries: Roles and Practice (FXHome)

Posted in Uncategorized on February 26, 2012 by trettfilms

Media Industries: Roles and Practice

FXHome are a visual effects software developing company situated in Norfolk. Their software is aimed at film makers wanting to produce visual effects for their productions. They also produce short films and sequences to coincide with their software. FXHome started when managing director Joshua Davies created visual effects software for his step-brother who was studying Film and English at UEA. FXHome has been going for more than ten years now. HitFilm is their latest piece of software.

Joshua explained that even though there are reasons they should be located somewhere else such as London or  Los Angeles, they stayed in Norwich is mainly due to most of the company consisting of UEA graduates, who generally like to stay and work in Norwich. Also, Norwich is a cheaper place to run a company. Joshua expressed how he thinks that FXHome would have died if they started in London. ­­­­­Travelling overseas is still import for the company, as managing director Joshua has to travel to the United States  to network with companies such as Sony who bundle their software and Corridor Digital who have produced short films to coincide with HitFilm. With the power of the internet  they can network with companies online; although time difference is sometimes an issue. Simon Jones, communications manager who deals with the social network side of the company and general marketing expressed how even though they are based in Norfolk they are not perceived as a local company as none of their business is in Norfolk and mainly based in the States.

The community that use their software is very important to the FXHome team. Simon explained how when the company first started a lot of their users were young teenager film makers who are now in their twenties and have made a place for themselves in the film industry. FXHome have kept in contact with them and have now have their own network of filmmakers who they can work with on their own projects. Independent film makers can show their work on the FXHome forums and get feedback on their films and network with other film makers all over the world. An example of this is Corridor Digital, now well-known film makers on YouTube. The two guys of Corridor Digital started off using FXHome software when they were thirteen years old and have significantly progressed. They recently did a film to coincide with HitFilm called Prism, executively produced by Joshua Davies. Prism promotes the HitFilm software and currently has over 1,500,000 views on YouTube.

The team at HitFilm have shot films in Norfolk to coincide with software as well. This is their way of marketing the software as their marketing budget is quite low compared to some other software companies. In the summer of 2011 they shot a short Batman-inspired fan film titled Knightfall directed by Joshua Davies­­. The film was not well received on YouTube comments, mostly from angry fans of the source material. Despite having a lot of hits the video was the least liked film from the company by viewers. The film did not finish as planned due to scheduling conflicts and lighting issues on the day of shooting. It was made on a low budget and filmed all in one day but was made with software tutorials in mind and was used to show users how to use HitFilm and what the software’s visual effects were capable of and to drive people towards the product.

In early 2012 they released a Deus-Ex film based on the video game called Extraction Protocol directed by Simon Jones. Production was a lot more successful this time around and so was the feedback. Simon explained that it was going out to a different crowd than Knightfall and that films based on this particular game are rare so it was an original production.

­Joshua Davies explained that when they were first producing content on a low budget it was a lot easier to get locations. It was as simple as going to the UEA and asking to shoot in certain rooms and areas but now, ten years on, issues such as  permissions, insurance, health and safety, times and dates is a lot more strict making it hard for any zero budget film maker. It is also difficult to shoot with anything that looks like a weapon as there are very strict laws on this in the United Kingdom.

For their short film Fracture they had to put people in hotels, had catering on set, a professional cast and crew and it all cost the company between ten and twenty thousand pounds. A lot of their budget is not shown on screen and goes into the backend, administration part of the production.  But crews of their films are normally made up of their established contacts who are all local. Their films are produced using DSLR or Sony FS100 cameras with several lenses and camera dollies, tripods etc..

Joshua explained that working on the films is a brilliant experience. Although stressful because the films are normally ambitious and time is short. He often finds himself sleeping in the corner of sets.  Simon expressed how he loved how intense a set can be because of the time restrictions but this makes it essential to have good people working on the film.  Joshua and Simon both want the production to be a pleasant experience and fun for the crew.  When developing the software or producing a film they want there to be a sense of ownership in the company; so that everybody has bit of the product that they worked on and can be proud of.

The team are quite open to talk about competition. Often asked how their product compares to Adobe after Effects they will discuss the advantages of their product compared to their competition but will happily admit that there competition has advantages too.

Joshua and Simon explained that in a few years time they see that their software will have grown but want to resist becoming a massive, faceless company. They want the view count on their films to grow massively on YouTube and stay honest to their customers and audience. For their productions they want to continue working with local people and commission them to produce content for their software. They feel they are still learning as a small team of film makers and enjoy every minute of it.

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Final touches/Project coming to an end.

Posted in Uncategorized on February 24, 2012 by trettfilms

In the sound lab I managed to level out all the sounds successfully, making sure no sounds fell below 2dB or went higher than 6dB. I then synced in sounds that were suggested from the group critique. I played it through a few more times and then watched again with some headphones and as I was happy with the mix, I rendered it.

With the non-narrative film I had been working intently the last few days to build a beat. Some areas almost feel as if there is some kind of percussion beat to it but I found it quite difficult to edit. The video still has a charm to it, and celebrates the variety of sounds created by a VCR and captures that noisy feel which appears on Hi8 footage. If I were to go back and do this film again I would have shot little clips of the films seen on the table in film. This would have probably been excellent to almost work as a vocals on the mix.

Overall I’m quite happy with how this unit has gone. I tried to be creative as possible when approaching both the narrative and non-narrative, even though I feel I may have been a little ambitious with the narrative, I am still happy with how it came out and had fun experimenting with an older format of camera.

For the media roles and responsibilities report I got a very interesting interview with a company I had previously worked for; FXHome who said I could return to work for them again this summer and perhaps be a beta tester on their future software!

Editing and Critique

Posted in Uncategorized on February 21, 2012 by trettfilms

I began editing my non-narrative piece today. Capturing the footage took a bit of playing around with the analogue-digital device but I got there in the end. I started off just playing with different snippets together seeing if I could create some sort of beat. I kept refereeing back to flight of the concords numbers which had done a similar thing, seeing how they separated different sounds and how it was layered up.  At the moment it is not really looking like much but hopefully it will get there!

I’m currently still tweaking and making adjustments to my narrative piece. I find taking a break for a day or two and coming back with a fresh mind will help me notice things that need adjustment.

Today we had a group critique and it was very interesting to see everybody else’s work and get feedback on my own. Unfortunately I was not able to render my non-narrative to present (as I only had it as a final cut project) but I showed my narrative piece and got some good feedback. Some things needed to be higher or lower in the mix (bongo drum beat) and it was also pointed out to me how some parts were out of sync or needed a sound where I had missed.

One of the main issues (which seemed to be the same with other people) was that low frequency sounds were not picking up on the television speakers we were watching things on. In my case, I realised that it was not because certain sounds were too quiet but others (crashes, dinosaur roars) were too loud, meaning the television had to be turned down and lost the more subtle sounds. I plan to fix this in using one of the sound labs and playing it through a set of speakers.

Project so far…

Posted in Uncategorized on February 15, 2012 by trettfilms

I have now recorded all my sounds for the narrative project and I am in final stages of this part of the  project, I’m currently adding in space designer effects. I ended up having to record a lot more than I originally planned as most of the sounds had to be created through layers.

Dinosaur sounds I simply recorded a dinosaur roar vocally and altered the speed and pitch in SoundTrack Pro. For the dinosaurs biting into each other’s flesh I had to layer up a few sounds. These included the sound of eating an apple, eating cake and peeling orange skin. Gun loading sounds were done by loading a bb gun. Everything else was a bit more simple like splashing water, walking on grass and mud etc. The human vocal sounds were obviously easiest to recreate (gasping, breathing etc.) I had some beats I had recorded with a friend who plays the drums and used this as the music, giving a mysterious island/temple of doom feel. I also through in some reverse symbols to build tension.

The hardest sound to recreate was the dinosaur corpse falling down dead. To do this I dropped a concrete garden ornament onto a patio floor and altered the pitch and space design slightly in SoundTrack pro.

For the non-narrative project I have filmed everything onto the Hi8 camcorder but I still have to capture it and begin editing it into a 2 minute beat video. Filming went well, I just shot and made as much noise as I could with a VHS player. There should be enough footage and variety to work with in post, I’ll probably be wishing I had more further down the line. I also recorded the sounds onto a zoom mic as I may end up using those over the video as it has a lot more clarity over the in-built mic on the camera.

The main problem that occurred was that the camera was dated and the battery had worn and kept dying. In the end I just ran it through the mains to shoot the whole thing. The other issue was with older camcorders they have no lcd screen. They just have a small, black and white view finder; wasn’t really ideal to see the image I was shooting so using the av-out cable, I plugged it into a 16inch television and ran it through that to use that as a monitor.

Also, earlier this week I visited two guys at FXHome and recorded a 45 minute interview for the media jobs and roles essay which I am yet to write up into a report.

Project Ideas and Group Critique

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7, 2012 by trettfilms

Narrative Project

I have chosen to work on the silent 1925 The Lost World (not to be confused with the Jurassic Park movie) I have watched this film a couple of times prior to this project so I had it in mind as soon as I read the brief. I thought through designing sound for it I could give it almost modern/blockbuster feel. Hollywood blockbusters are made with cinema surround sounds in mind so I would like to use a lot of bass and layered sounds.

I watched through the film to decide which scene I would work on. I found a scene that appealed me (around 34 minutes in) as it had a variety of sounds I could recreate, the only thing that scared me about choosing this film and that particular scene was recreating the dinosaur roaring sounds.

When I pitched this in the group critique it was suggested that because of the dated stop motion effects of the film I could possibly take a comedy route to the sound design, however creating the more realistic effects is what I had in mind from the get go.

I went through the two minute clip with a pen and paper and noted down all the sounds I need to design for the film. These are:

  • Wind
  • Ambience
  • Footsteps on mud ground
  • Clothes rustles (hugging)
  • Weapon handling
  • Dinosaur footsteps
  • Dinosaur roaring
  • Flesh impact
  • Bones breaking
  • Whooshing
  • Teeth/biting
  • Gasps
  • Heavy breathing
  • Weapon load
  • Rocks tumbling
  • Tail movement
  • Dinosaur fall
  • Water splash
  • Bush rustle
  • Plant eat
  • Scurrying on mud

At this point in time I have not actually recorded any official sounds, just a few tests. A test I did for the dinosaur sound effect was simply saying the word “go” into the microphone and slowing it down by 76% it sounds like a dinosaur roar.

Will start recording proper Foley in the next couple of days and hopefully end up with a decent piece of sound design!

 

Non-narrative

I was stuck on this one for a good amount of time before an idea struck to me.  I put in an old vhs of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and hit rewind, it made such an odd, classic rewind sound. I forgot the ridiculously loud volume vcr’s. It came to mind that I could make a sort of remix out of the variety of different sounds a vcr makes. I will create a beat and mix up the sounds that is similarly done in the ‘we buy any car’ advert:

A similar thing is done with office supplies at around 2:25 in this Flight of the Concords track:

and this opening scene from a Scrubs episode:

I’ve decided to shoot the film on a Hi8 camcorder as a nod back to nostalgia and compliment that vhs look. During the group critique I proposed the question if I should shoot on an older format or simply alter dslr footage in post. I was told to shoot on Hi8 to get the true vintage, de-saturated feel as altering DSLR footage often looks tacky.

I was going to use the sound just picked up on the in-built mic but during a group critique Dan suggested that quality would not be brilliant and I should record sounds on the zoom mic also. I’ll record both and see what works best in post.

I’m also considering recreating straight-to-vhs style movie clips such as old 70’s kung fu flicks and violet exploitation movies. However, this may distract from the original concept of the video.

Foley

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1, 2012 by trettfilms

Phil sent out an email of a video he suggested we watched on soundworkscollection.com. It was about Gary Hecker, an award winning foley artist. The video was very interesting in how sounds are recreated and the creative ways foley artists go about it. I was surprised to see him recreating a horse sound himself instead of recording a horse. I guess this way he can make the right sound at the right time and it sounds more like a horse whilst running (which might be hard to record for real).

We  have now had two sessions of foley work in the sound lab. Concentrating on the a scene from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. We watched through the scene and worked out the sounds we needed to recreate. Sounds such as keys rattling, footsteps, door creaks, baton impacts, floor scrapes etc. We had to come up with ways to recreate these sounds realistically but also effectively, and since we only had a selection of props available in the sound lab we had to be creative to make the desired sounds.

The key rattle and footsteps sound were simple enough to recreate, some took more thought. For door creaks we had use the hinge on a foot rest from a wheel chair (there were no creaky doors nearby). Baton impacts were recreated by several  layers; hitting a piece of clay covered in duck tape, breaking celery and the swishing of a thin stick. For the body being dragged we rubbed a piece of foam along a plank of wood and Elliott also performed an Oscar-worthy grunt.

Phil also went through how to work the Logic sound software. A lot of it was simple enough but a few things were a need to know basis such as how to set the microphone input and putting the footage on the external screen.

These made me a lot more comfortable and excited for the sound design projects and I look forward to powering on with them.