Making the Movie

Filmmaking tips, resources, reviews, news and links.

Your Wednesday Links: European Film Model Under Threat Edition

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

Variety: European Film Industry Focuses on Twin Threats: Netflix and Digital Single Market

Two Minute Papers: Deep Neural Network Learns Van Gogh’s Art (YouTube video) – Some filmmaker is going to figure out how to add motion to this technique and makes something visually mindblowing.

The Guardian profiles legendary movie sound guru Skip Lievsay – A nice long exploration of the craft of movie sound. Highly recommended reading!

The Karate Kid: Daniel is the REAL Bully (YouTube video essay)

Your Weekly Listening: The Poster Boys (9: The Criterion Collection) and Peter Bogdanovich interviewed on WTF

FilmDrunk: Regal Cinemas Will Now Search Your Bag When You See A Movie And People Have Mixed Feelings

AskReddit: What’s your favorite movie that most of us wouldn’t have ever heard of? – Similarly, here’s a r/movies thread quantifying unknown and underestimated films by cross-referencing IMdB and Rotten Tomato scores.

Movie Review: Mission: Impossible 5: Rogue Nation

The Mission: Impossible franchise has managed not to wear out its welcome over nearly 20 years. How? I’m not sure. It may just be by spacing them so far apart. (1996, 2000, 2006, 2011, 2015.)

Perhaps realizing that we care more about the actors than the characters, this latest installment provides nearly nothing in the way of character development. Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is maybe attracted to sexy double agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson in a strong debut) or maybe he’s closer to computer nerd Benji (Simon Pegg). Just to keep you guessing, writer/director Christopher McQuarrie is constantly imperiling both.

But since I don’t have a big investment (or strong memory) of the characters in this franchise, I don’t really mind if we never learn much about them. I do care that the villain in this chapter, Solomon Lane, is under-heated. Despite a snarling, creepy performance by Sean Harris, his motives are inscrutable. He wants to destroy the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) because why exactly? But then he also needs the IMF’s top agent Hunt to help him get access to some bank accounts. Even though he already has the resources to commit terrorist acts all over the world.

It’s best you never think about it. If the villain had actually been shown to be the master strategist everyone in the film keeps saying he is, then his defeat might’ve been satisfying.

As it is, you’ll have to content yourself with some very nicely-shot and edited set-pieces. Tom Cruise strapped to a plane. Tom Cruise holding his breath for a long time. Tom Cruise riding a motor cycle — WITHOUT! A! HELMET!

It’s funny how no-CG is the new impressive form of action. Between this and Mad Max: Fury Road, it’s crazy to see how popular old-fashioned action has become lately. Most of the set-pieces in the film have good builds – the plane, the opera, the underwater heist. The motorcycle chase, however, while expertly done, doesn’t have the same build to a climax that the other sequences do. It also suffers from Infinite Henchmen Syndrome. I’m pretty sure Hunt takes out more cyclists than there were at the beginning of the scene.

Alec Baldwin is here in the perfunctory uptight government functionary role. Or maybe that was all just a ruse so that he could be given a wildly out-of-left-field speech which rhapsodizes Ethan Hunt as “the embodiment of Destiny itself”. It’s a great moment when that destiny manifests, but like so much else in the film, devoid of meaning on a larger scale.

If a summer blockbuster entertains without condescending to the audience, as this one does, it’s already met a high bar. So I won’t complain. But I do wish there was more to the villain, and more stakes to the characters and the world. What might it be like to live a life where you are never certain if you are seeing your closest friend or your worst enemy in a mask? And what is the metaphorical mask you must don each day just to get by? A franchise isn’t mandated to grow and deepen as it goes along, but it is a mission they can choose to accept.

Avid Error of the Day: Blue Playhead Line and Render Effect Icons Disappear

When I encounter an odd error message and its solution, I make a note. This is one of those notes. I want solutions to turn up better in searches for other Avid users (and myself). As with all error posts on the site, the casual reader can just skip ahead to other less-technical content.

There’s no error message to screenshot, just a bug in the program.

On Media Composer 7.0.4.3, I was getting the blue playhead line that marks the current frame disappearing completely. Also, render icons were disappearing. This was a major issue, since I was trying to make audio mixdowns of all Time Compression Expansion / Time Shift Effects.

I can’t say for sure what causes it to happen, but it was happening regularly after I changed the clip colors on audio mixdowns using the option+right-click color pallette menu.

It could be tied to the waveforms being turned on, although it happened one time after I turned the waveforms off.

The only “fix” I’ve been able to find is to quit Media Composer and relaunch. (No need for a full system reboot.)

No idea of the 7.0.4.4 “disappearing locators” fix patch also addresses this bug.

Work for Avid? Know more about what’s going on? Know a better solution? Leave a comment below.

Vimeo Discontinues Tip Jar

From my email inbox:

On July 29, we will discontinue Tip Jar and no longer collect tips on your Tip Jar-enabled videos. Any tips you’ve received up until then will be paid out in accordance with our Payment Addendum. You don’t need to take any action to make this happen.

While we’re sad to say goodbye to our old friend, this change will allow us to focus on tools like Vimeo On Demand to help creators like you earn money from your videos.

Thanks for your understanding, and for making the most of our creator tools! We really appreciate you sticking with us as we continue to make Vimeo as awesome as possible.

LOVE,
Vimeo

This is a shame, and just another sign of Vimeo’s new direction. I’m not sure what it was costing Vimeo to offer a tip jar option, other than perhaps encouraging filmmakers not to use their direct sales model instead.

I think there should be room for many models out there for filmmakers to share their work – from free, to micro-payments (Patreon keeps threatening to catch on), to subscriptions, to rentals, to downloads, to add supported and yes, the PBS model, which is represented by the Tip Jar.

What is the PBS model? In the United States, public broadcasters are supported by both government money and private donations. They run “pledge drives” on a regular basis to get some portion of the audience to chip in for the content.

Some portion of the audience doesn’t chip in. They are classic “free riders.” And yet the system keeps working. How? Because those who do chip in happily cover the cost. They may have been free riders at one time. But now they have some money and want to keep the system going. It’s kind of a beautiful thing.

RIP Vimeo Tip.

Your Weekend Viewing: The Craft of Sound

The Craft of Sound from Contra on Vimeo.

Six months in the workshop of expert luthier Alex Bishop.

Watch the 4K version here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r9r3_xGWGI

Continue reading

Your Weekend Viewing: 4K Slow-mo at a Water Park

This promo video for a Texas water park caused a worldwide sensation. Aside from the obvious reasons for it’s popularity (hot people, swim suits, water, BMX bikes), I wanted to break down the filmmaking aspects behind it.

The piece was filmed and edited by AJ Aguirre and Ben Hamner. According to Thrillist, “Aguirre and Hammer used GoPros and a Phantom 3 drone to get incredible shots of the action.”

There’s more about the making of the video on this Reddit thread, including AJ’s admission that:

Oh and we accidentally hit the girl in the American flag bikini in the face with the drone that day… She was a good sport though!

But even if you don’t have access to drones or wearable cameras, you can still take away a lot from this video in terms of composition & editing. It’s not a hard job to sell a water park as fun, but it’s amazing when you make it look so exciting that the whole world wants to visit!

Wednesday Links: Filmmaking Grants A-gogo

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

No Film School: A Massive List of Summer 2015 Grants All Filmmakers Should Know About

Vox: Inside Out emotion overlap chart

Reddit: What is a fantastic movie that not a lot of people know about? – Top comment is currently recommending Australian comedy The Dish

Michael E. Miller in the Washington Post: Adam Sandler is awful and it’s our fault

YouTube: Composer James Horner on the score for Aliens

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:

JOSEPH TURNER WHITE
What’s an associate producer credit?

BILL SMITH
It’s what you give to your secretary instead of a raise.

State & Main
(written by David Mamet)

OLD POSTS UPDATED:
A Guide to Lenses for DSLR Filmmaking

Your Weekend Viewing: Turning a Cheap Tripod into a Stabilized Camera Rig

Call it a Steadicam or Glidecam or Flycam or SteadyCam or what have you, stabilized camera rigs give you that smooth, free camera motion that’s just plain cool. To do it on a truly professional level, you need a very fit, well-trained operator with a vest-mounted rig that has a gimbal. Oh, and he or she needs an assistant to hold the heavy rig when it is not being deployed.

Fortunately, you can approximate these pro camera rig results yourself with a little bit of practice and some way to lower the center of gravity for your camera. The good folks at Mike’s Production Corner have a quick video that shows one way to do this, simply by inverting a cheap tripod and fanning out the legs.

Happy filming!

Avid Error of the Day: Filmscribe Crashes Making Audio Change Note

When I encounter an odd error message and its solution, I make a note. This is one of those notes. I want solutions to turn up better in searches for other Avid users (and myself). As with all error posts on the site, the casual reader can just skip ahead to other less-technical content.

After trying many solutions, the problem boiled down to Avid FilmScribe not being able to work with stereo tracks. Duplicate your sequence, ctrl-click (right click) on the track and split it to mono. Do the same for your comparison sequence. Now it “works”.

Work for Avid? Know more about what’s going on? Know a better solution? Leave a comment below.

Movie Review: Jurassic World (IMAX 3D)

Jurassic World is a remake of Jurassic Park in a world where John Hammond’s dream has curdled. It’s twenty years later, and the dino theme park on Isla Nublar is bigger and better than ever. But to keep attendance numbers up, Hammond’s successor Simon Masrani (Irfan Khan) and his corporate minions have to keep introducing “attractions” that will goose public interest.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, one of the corporate types. She’s just secured sponsorship by Verizon of the new I-Rex, a genetically-modified T-Rex. Guess who escapes and wreaks havoc in this film?

For an inexperienced director, Colin Trevorrow has a sure hand. The movie delivers all the dino action you could want, and it has some decent banter and performances to boot. There’s a story about a family crisis in the background of the plot, but it is woven in deftly. (Of special note, the always excellent Judy Greer shines as the mom.)

Chris Pratt continues his rise as the second coming of Harrison Ford. He cracks wise while making Indiana Jones-style last-second escapes. His character is sort of a combination of Dr. Grant and Ian Malcolm. He understands dinosaurs but he also understands that nature is a powerful force not to be hubristically underestimated.

Michael Giacchino provides the score, which samples from the famous John Williams theme from time to time — enough to make you miss it. I love Giacchino, but besides the losing battle of following in John Williams’ footsteps, I thought his score several times tipped the story’s hand, letting you know the characters were safe when there was still more suspense to be had. I hope Trevorrow will grow into more confidence and know when to let Skywalker’s sound design take the lead over music.

I saw the film in IMAX 3D. The sound was great. The 3D conversion, however, showed tons of artifacts in all the foliage. I presume dimensionalising a bough full of leaves is a difficult task, but the rough edges were distracting. Also distracting was how the characters sometimes appeared to be the wrong size in relation to each other, and how Jake Johnson’s nose geometry was comically extruded. There were no “3D moments” per se, except maybe the trailer shot where the mosasaur launches itself at the camera. I conclude the film was not shot with 3D at all in mind, so I recommend just seeing it in 2D, with a crowd of dino fans.

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