Tag Archives: Dagon

Making the Lovecraft Short Film – Post Production

Although we haven’t finished all our shooting yet, post production is well underway.  That might seem counter intuitive but when making a short independent film without a big crew, you do whatever you can to keep the project moving forward.  Since many of the scenes are already shot, I can edit them together now, and add in the remaining scenes when they are finished.

The editing is being done with the Adobe Creative Suite.  Adobe CC is the editor used, After Effects for special effects and titles, Audition for audio work, and probably Speedgrade for the color grading (so far Magic Bullet Looks has been used to create the temporary color grading to give an idea of the final atmosphere of the different shots.).  I vastly, vastly prefer the current Creative Suite over Final Cut, and if you do editing every day for a living, you probably feel the same way.  Without going into huge detail, the ability of even a slower computer to play back high quality video in real time with no rendering is a big selling point for people starting out (less of an issue when you have super powered editing computers).  I can easily drop in any resolution footage, throw on effects and transitions, and play through it with no rendering at all.  The integration with AE is another huge selling point – no rendering the project then exporting it out to a huge lossless format (to keep resolution) which takes forever, import into composting program (you will probably be using AE anyway since it is much better than Final Cut’s offering), make your changes, export it out again to lossless format, and finally re-import back into your editor. None of that nonsense – in Premiere I can click on my clip, select import as AE Comp, and there it is in After Effects.  Any changes I make show up on the Premiere timeline as I make them.  There’s a host of other reasons, but suffice to say that it isn’t the Adobe suite of the old days, and with a decade of experience using both suites, my choice was very easy to make.  On to a quick overview of my post production process!

First you have to organize your media, which in most cases will involve naming of clips, marking of in and out points, etc.  I think everyone has a different way of doing this, but if you work with a team you’ll all need to be on the same page.  Since I’m doing the editing myself, I can be messy and inefficient if I want to.  Since some of our scenes are shot in the RAW format of the Canon 5d Mark III, special work was needed to get them into our editor.  These clips are made possible by the creators of Magic Lantern, and are not supported fully by Premiere or anyone else.  A few tricks, such as turning the files into a DNG sequence and creating proxies to preview the footage with in your editor make working with RAW files easier.  Definitely check out the Magic Lantern forums if you plan on working with RAW footage, because the post process workflow is much much harder than simply dropping files into your editor.

If the scene has speaking, I do the syncing of the audio first.  We used a boom mic hooked up to a Tascam with XLR input to record the sound.  Syncing up the high quality audio was easy with the help of the slate, making the loud “clap” sound that we all know from the movies.

Since each shot has multiple takes, I spent a great deal of time going through each one and finding the best.  This part is a lot of fun, since you also get to see the outtakes.  Here is where you mix and match the shots to start creating the scene you storyboarded out long ago.

Although we have multiple cameras, we shot each scene with just one.  It’s easy to spend countless hours re-editing and adjusting a scene, trying to find the perfect balance of time between shots, the perfect place to cut, trying to trim a little off here and little off there.  I’ll revisit a scene and make adjustments after some time has passed, looking at it with fresh eyes and trying to get the very most out of each scene.

At this point I did some preliminary work on the music, although this is not my specialty.  We are hoping to hire someone to do the score (that will depend on funding from Kickstarter) but in the meantime, this helps set the tone and pacing of the scenes.  I also added sound effects where necessary, i.e. gunshots, doors opening, footsteps – these things are all recorded separately from the video in order to get them in high quality.  That means they need to be added in during post production to make sure the scene feels alive.

Moving on from there, I did some preliminary color grading.  As mentioned above I used Magic Bullet Looks, primarily the 3 color wheel, to adjust the highlights, midtones, and shadows, creating the atmosphere and look of the scenes as a rough guideline.  This helps me in the editing as I can get a feel for the final look of the film, and will also provide a starting point when I begin the final color grading with Speedgrade.  Magic Bullet is a great tool for color grading and probably more than adequate enough, but I’ve never used Speedgrade before and I want to see what it offers, being a tailor made application just for color grading.

Next up is the effects – although this could also be done earlier in the process.  In AE I did things such as motion tracking the shot, adding masks to effect lighting and color, creating the special effects (I can’t go into detail without giving anything away) and more.  There is a lot of time to be spent in this part of the process, and it of course varies tremendously depending on what type of effect I am creating for the scene.  There is a scene where I used camera tracking and added in stars and mist and you wouldn’t have any idea that it wasn’t really there, thanks to lots of careful masking, feathering, and some great video of mist keyed in over the shot.  After the film is released I’ll go into much more detail on how I made the different effects, some of which are extremely involved.

This is just a brief overview of the post production process.  As the film is finalized, I may do specialized versions of this guide – a step by step to color grading, for example, or a guide to removing background noise from your audio.  The best part of this process is that you get to re-make the film for the final time (remember that old quote that a film is made 3 times, well the final time is in editing).  When you bring those shots into your editor, you begin to rearrange them, you begin to work around some things that may be different from your original vision, and before you know it, things come together in a new way that you didn’t originally picture.  It’s an exciting process and I personally am enjoying watching The Crawling Chaos come to life.


Making the Lovecraft Film – Eldritch Equipment

When it comes to making an independent film, equipment often gets the short stick.  Since budget is usually a big concern, and anything involving film making is expensive, it can be tough to get exactly the stuff you want.  I see a lot of aspiring filmmakers save up and spend all their money on a nice camera, but in my opinion that is a mistake.  While the latest in DSLR cameras will be replaced with a newer model frequently, a good set of lenses will last you for decades.  A good set of sticks and lighting gear could last you a lifetime.

In our case, my goal from the beginning had been to amass as much professional gear as possible through my day job of running a video/photo production company.  By working full time doing commercials, events, etc I was able to justify purchasing the best gear out there, and when it came time to work on our film, I already had much of what I needed.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a list of equipment I want that reads like a rough draft of the never-ending story, but I’ve got a good base to build from.

Camera gear – Most of the film is shot on the Canon 5d Mark III, with some scenes shot in RAW format using Magic Lantern, and the others shot in 1920×1080 at 24fps with a custom neutral picture setting.  I’ll talk more about this when I get to post production discussions, but basically you want to shoot neutral so you can color grade the scene later on, preserving the most dynamic range with the original image.  Shooting RAW is amazing and gives you not only insane dynamic range, but tons of information for color grading and an extremely sharp image.  RAW with Magic Lantern gives many Canon cameras a massive upgrade when it comes to video quality.  There’s also HDR for video and a bunch of other stuff like being able to use zebras to check exposure, being able to monitor your sound, etc.  If you have a Canon 5d Mark III, 5d Mark II, 7D, 6D, 60D, and probably others – definitely do a search for Magic Lantern and check it out.

Lenses – Before I get into what lenses we are using, let me give the budget conscious some money saving tips.  If you are shooting a Canon DSLR like me, you can pick up some of the older, high quality manual focus lenses and use adapters (available all over, check out ebay) to attach them to your camera.  Do your research to make sure the mount you are looking at works, but the best place to start is with the Takumar or old Nikon 50mm 1.4 lenses.  For modern photography these may have drawbacks since they don’t autofocus, but for film we are manual focusing anyway – and these come with big smooth metal focus rings!  They also have a lot of character, and were among the sharpest and best lenses in their day.  I still shoot with several of these because I love the look.  You can find a lot of older lenses for cheap on ebay that will give your film a unique look and won’t break the bank.

That said, since my day job is photography and videography, and we have a team that needs top end gear, we own a lot of lenses.  For this film, we used primarily 2 lenses for the close ups: Canon 70-200 mk II with image stabilization and the 85mm 1.2 mk II.  Both amazing lenses, and you can hand hold the 70-200 thanks to the great image stabilization, although we didn’t need that so far for our film.  The 85 1.2 allows incredible bokeh (blurred background) and can shoot in even the darkest conditions.  For wider shots, the Canon 24 1.4 and 35 1.4 were the main lenses used, and the above mentioned manual Takumar 50mm 1.4 was in the mix too.  Any shots where we used the stabilizer to track a shot, it was most likely the 24 1.4 sitting up there.

Stuff to attach the camera to – Yeah, there’s a lot of different things you can sit your camera on, and they all serve different purposes.  A Blackbird Stabilizer got our smooth steadicam style shots. We used several different fluid head tripods including a huge Manfrotto (fluid head is the key here, if you can get smooth pans on a cheaper tripod then get it for now, and upgrade later).  A slider was used with a fluid head attached to it for a couple of interesting shots.  Initially we used a rig to hold the camera, with follow focus, monitor, rails, matte box, and all kinds of adjustable goodies.  While this is an amazing setup when you have a crew, it was a bit much to work with for just me doing the camerawork and pulling focus myself, but I hope to use this setup more for the remaining shots in the film.  We have a bunch of ND and Polarizer filters for the matte box, but since this is a pretty dark film we didn’t really get to use them so far.

Lighting Gear – I won’t get too far into this, but suffice to say we have a ton of lighting and grip stuff.  C-stands, air-cushioned stands, gobos, diffusion of all kinds, open face lights, soft boxes, reflectors, white and black boards, clamps, all kinds of ways to attach small lights to ceilings and other random surfaces – basically a giant box of tricks.  I’d say the majority of that stuff didn’t get used just because there wasn’t time to play around with it, since I was also doing the lighting – getting the lighting set up just right can take forever, and when you are also getting the camera set up and directing the scene, well that’s a lot of time spread around.  Hopefully with some funding we can solve that problem by hiring some crew members so I can concentrate on the directing for future shots and films.  For the actual lights, we used everything – 1000w fresnel, 800w redhead, tons of smaller lights, even some LED goodies.  We’ve got so many lights that I won’t try to go through them specifically, but basically the 1000w was our biggest.  When we needed bigger and brighter, with stands that could go up 30 feet, I hit the rental place and picked up everything else.  I also had to rent a generator to go with those lights, so we could plug our equipment in when out in the forest, and I believe the model generator I got was a Honda 2000i.

Do you really need all this crap??  Surprisingly, we don’t even have all the stuff we need to finish the movie.  We need a dolly and dolly tracks, as well as a small jib. Not to mention more lighting gear, which I’ll probably have to rent.  There’s a million other things that every filmmaker would love to have.  Hopefully we can get enough support on Kickstarter to get what we need for the film, pay the crew members we need, rent what we can’t buy, and secure the locations necessary.  The good news is, any equipment we amass during this filming process we’ll already have when it’s time for the next film!


Check Out These Super Cool Lovecraft Inspired Monster Illustrations!!!

This artist is amazing…great to see so many creatures brought to life, even more obscure ones. Definitely take a look!

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Yesterday was the birthday of legendary author H. P. Lovecraft, but we here at Morbid Enterprises aren’t done celebrating. Today we bring you an artist who four years ago decided to undertake a project to illustrate all of Lovecraft’s monsters named Michael Bukowski. His blog, Yog-Blogsoth, is filled with colorful images that contain relevant quotes and descriptions of the pieces. Though most of the horror these monsters bring is through the fact that some of them occupy more than just three dimensions – and are therefore inconceivable and impossible to draw – the images are quite impressive and should be checked out by any Lovecraft fan!

“This blog will be an attempt to draw all the creatures Lovecraft ever wrote about or mentioned. In some cases his descriptions are very detailed and precise and in other cases he simply names creatures but all require a level of interpretation and imagination.”

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