Category:souvenir (january 2003)

Clocking in at a not-dragging 11'16"; with balanced sound; a few sound effects, even (you'd never notice if I didn't mention it); a dramatically pared down soundtrack (just one song, with LP3 vinyl effects I wrote about Friday); some actually beautiful images; rhythm, edits and transitions I'm quite happy with; titles and credits made simple (through too much time and effort); and narrative and emotional elements I'm not sick of watching, Souvenir (January 2003) is DONE.

Now it's off to the post, before the deadline leniency graciously extended by the Film Society of Lincoln Center runs out.

Stay tuned for stills and a little more discussion when I get back.

January 13, 2003

S(J03) Stills

Finally, some screen grabs from Souvenir (January 2003).

Watching Joe spot a pair of pants, Souvenir (Jan. 03) dir. by Gregory Allen

Want to see more? click here

The clock radio's out of the script, but music's still going in. In a piece about memory and attempting to connect with the past in a self-aware way, I want to use old-time music, my square-dancing-every-saturday, stack-of-78's-on-the-shelf, singin-cowboy, a-one-and-a-two kind of music (clearances pending, of course). And I want it to sound old.

It seems I'm not alone. Randy Lewis just wrote for the LA Times about artists adding vinyl effects to create "a frame of reference that suddenly orients you toward another time." Hey, that's my idea: music that sounds like my grandparents' hi-fi or the AM country station in their old Buick.

But a couple of the tracks I want aren't readily available on CD (some aren't readily available at all, especially in the Big City), and I don't have pro audio software, so for the moment (i.e., the submission deadline, remember?), I'm left with mp3. If logic, not Google prevailed, an LP-sounding mp3, then, should be an LP3: Here's how to make them, then get them ready to use in Final Cut:

  • Use Izotope's Vinyl Plugin for Winamp, which rocks. (You'll notice, if you switch, that winamp doesn't follow you.)
  • Output at CD-quality using Nullsoft Diskwriter, which generates a big WAV file, complete with vinyl effects.
  • Rip mp3's from the WAV's to ftp them to the Powerbook (I guess if I knew more about my wireless router, I could just network the two laptops and transfer them as WAV's... update: Yes, Australia, I could've used an iPod, but I don't have a Windows adapter for it.)
  • Use Quicktime Pro to convert the lp3.mp3's back into 44.1khz etc MOV files for use in Final Cut (this is needed to eliminate the popping and squelches mp3 introduces. I'm not evoking the Napster era here.)

    Friday night is now officially Audio Editing Dork Night. TGIAEDN!

  • "I had a professor once who said that as Chekhov got older he lopped off the eventful beginnings and twist endings of his early works and that quivering middle was the mature short story." -David Edelstein, Slate
    Here's to you, David Edelstein. Geez, I love you more than you could know. This sentence (the phrase "quivering middle," actually), in a movie discussion I'd already posted about, convinced me to some changes in S(J03). Ch-ch-ch-changes? Well, I lopped off the ending, for starters. And there was that schmaltzy, obviously un-quivering scene with the clock radio. Gone. At first I was afraid, I was petrified. But when I heard Chekhov'd done it, well, ain't no stoppin' me now. [I have stopped the...cheap trick...of making insipid oldies music references, though. Boston, Chicago, you may proceed.]

    Chekov, image:nybooks.com
    So while I must confess to not having read much Chekhov, I have read several articles about Chekhov, and they have alternately inspired/influenced/condemned me. There's John Bayley's NY Review of Books. Review. And those previously untranslated short stories in Harper's, the ones where a friend I'd lost track of turned up in the translated byline. And a few more here and there. Cart, Horse. Horse, Cart, I know, but if I'm going to continue making naturalistic short films, I think I'd better study Chekhov a little more carefully. And I hear he wrote scripts, too. (image: nybooks.com)


    Sound editing tip: Keyframes are your best friend. Actually, The LA Final Cut Pro Users Group website is your best friend.

    Where'd you hear that? 2-pop discussion boards, you know you're my best friend.

    Of course, using keyframes to adjust your audio levels and effects doesn't make you a sound designer, any more than snapping pictures makes you a photographer.

    [Note to self: Last time you had to do this, you linked to freakin' Charlie's Angels. This time, put it on your own damn website so you don't have to ferret around for (seems like) hours trying to find the settings again.]
    FCP settings for a telephone effect filter
    There are two things that characterize a telephone sound: limited frequency range and harmonic distorion.

    For frequency, apply high pass filter (about 300 Hz cutoff, high Q), low pass filter (about 3000 Hz cutoff, high Q), and maybe a notch filter at about 1000 Hz. Play with the cutoff frequencies...

    I don't think FCP has any audio distortion filters. If you're not satisfied with frequency filters alone, apply distortion in a different audio program... Or play a clip and record it with a crappy microphone :-)

    JM (Thanks, JM!)

    Another note: I balanced half the audio levels last night (2AM), and finished this morning (11AM). As I listened to the whole piece through, the first half averaged about 3-4 dB lower than the second. The difference? No traffic or street noise last night. To a New Yorker, that's interesting. To anyone else, annoying. (Which thought did you have?)

    Cinema Paradiso was better shorter, even if Giuseppe Tornatore sleeps better at night knowing his version was finally released last year. (I wrote about this when I saw the Director's Cut last May.)

    According to David Edelstein's closing post to the Slate Movie Club (Just as they get crankin' they end the series), Harvey Weinstein--the same evil producer whose 45-minute cuts made Paradiso-- wanted to hack 20 minutes off the end of In the Bedroom. "If he were to take an ax to (the Dardenne brothers') The Sonówhich is like the last act of In the Bedroom minus the conclusive violenceóit would be about five minutes long.

    After walking through the 13-minute cut of S(J03), my producer made the tough calls and gave me the spine I need to cut shots and scenes I love. For some tasty scenes, you'll just have to wait for the DVD.

    Apple is certainly on my mind, if not on my head. While Jobs is off announcing the next great toy, I'm here newly switched, on deadline, and the damn Powerbook keeps freezing up and opening in recovery mode-OS9.2. How many hard powerdowns and reboots does it take to get somewhere I can change the preferences? Oh, and am I not supposed to be doing touch-ups on audio and outputting at this point instead? I'm posting this from my Thinkpad, BTW.

    based on the earliest known illustration of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.  DMCA THAT, Mr. Valenti...
    Long story short, even if I do get done in time, I don't know if I'll be psychologically ready to go to the Apple SoHo store tomorrow night (Thursday, Dec. 9, 6:30PM) to hear directors Louis Pepe and Keith Fulton's war stories from Lost in La Mancha, their hi-larious-looking documentary about Terry Gilliam's Don Quixote (a phrase as redundant as they come), but it sure sounds like fun. [Some of you may already know my production company is called First Sally, so I know from errant adventures and self-delusion. Trivia: First Sally's logo is derived from the earliest known Quixote illustration, from a 1618 Paris edition of the novel. DMCA that, Mr Valenti...]

    January 8, 2003

    ugh. rough cut done

    S(J03) is done. at least the first cut is. 12'30" is a little long. I watched it all the way through once, and there's definitely a minute I can trim. The rest, though, it'll be tougher. Maybe 10 minutes isn't so bad after all. Wed AM is trimming, audio levels (just for the rough cut; I've got to get it to the real sound editor before locking it) and output. There may be a Quicktime version available for a while online. If you're interested in seeing a rough cut, gimme a holler.

    I gotta go to bed. Weblogs weren't even invented the last time I stayed up this late for so many nights in a row...

    January 7, 2003

    S(J03) Editing, Day 1.5

    Day 1.5 is complete, and the first cut is about half done. Never mind that it's five minutes long, which is about what I'd imagined the finished cut to be. I got the first act laid down and that was about three minutes. With that pace set, I blocked out the rest of the film; comes to around 10 minutes (10:20 with credits).

    The first cut of S(N01) was about twice as long, but with that one, the target length (15 min.) was less flexible (it was the requirement for Cannes, which I knew would show it, even though it wasn't quite done). Let's see if this one settles in around 8 min.

    Here is a quick html version of the outline I blocked out on paper this afternoon.

    January 5, 2003

    Editing, or Not

    Editing, here I come. I finished logging and capturing all the footage I'll use in S(J03); it seems like it'll be tough to get it down to 5-6 minutes. The last tape I captured was all the ironing (three white dress shirts' worth). As I mentioned before, the third shirt has such great, engaged shots, it almost doesn't make sense to use anything else. The result: I'm going to try two different editing "tones." For the ironing scenes, there'll be long, continuous takes, maybe with a few dissolves; the car and cleaners scenes will have quicker cuts, jump cuts, a slightly more dynamic feel. That's the plan, anyway. I start tomorrow (Sunday). ND/NF deadline is four days away.

    Russian Ark, dir. Aleksandr Sokurov, image:guardian.co.uk Russian Ark, dir. by Aleksandr Sokurov image: guardian.co.uk

    We just got home from seeing Russian Ark, the single-take epic poem of Russian history directed by Aleksandr Sokurov. It was quite stunning for a while, then normal, then stunning again at the end. The Hermitage itself is the real star. Even without the tour de force (or gimmick, depending on your cynicism) of shooting with no edits, the film's exploration of the centuries of momentous people and events witnessed by the building would be worth seeing. The insane staging (the credits list six stage managers and twenty assistants) required to pull the thing off in one 96-minute shot is just a layer of gold leaf on the film. And as the Hermitage demonstrates, everything's better with gold leaf.

    The impact and resonance of the continuous Steadicam/tracking shot seems to be changing, though. I have a theory, which I'll try to expand on later, that the emergence of first-person shooter (FPS) video games is changing the meaning of the visual vocabulary for both film and games. When I play a Vice City for an hour, it's a continuous take, visually, even if it's not as bravura as Sokurov's, Welles', or Scorsese's.

    Comparing the edits in classic movie musicals (3 or 4 per number) to, say, Moulin Rouge (120 per minute in some songs), it's clear that the meaning/significance of the long take has changed before. Technology is changing it once again.

    Some links I'd start with: Machinima.com, turning "first person shooter" into "first person cinematographer." A broad article at Polygonweb about cinema-game influences. Game Research briefly discusses point-of-view in games and film.

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    Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

    Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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