Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Oscar Pool Ballot, 91st Academy Awards

It's time for the Awesomest Oscar Pool Ballot In The History Of Oscar Pool Ballots.

Every year I create a special ballot based on a typical Academy Awards printable ballot -- but on my ballot, each category has a different point value. The highest valued category is "Best Picture," while the mainstream films' categories are valued at two points. The non-mainstream categories (like the documentary and short film categories) are valued at one point.

This way, in a tight race for the winner of the pool, the winner most likely would not be determined by the non-mainstream films (in other words, blind guesses).

Download the ballot here for the 91st Academy Awards and use it at your Oscar party.



And if you're wondering why Tom Cruise is on my ballot... he's been on every one of my Oscar ballots. Because he's soooooooooo cool.



Monday, February 04, 2019

Scenes From Movies with Music From Other Movies


The amazing armored car chase from "The Dark Knight" (2008) was presented without any musical score from Hans Zimmer, so I always wondered how the sequence would play if it had other music underneath.

So I put a track from "Dunkirk" (also directed by Christopher Nolan and scored by Zimmer) underneath the chase sequence on Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago.

direct YouTube link

And then I wondered what the sequence would feel like if it had music from the truck chase in "Raiders of the Lost Ark", so here it is. The track is "Desert Chase".

direct YouTube link

Another one of my favorite car chases of all-time is the San Francisco chase in "Bullitt" (1968), which also doesn't have any musical score. So I again took the "Dunkirk" track ("Supermarine") and put it underneath the chase sequence.

direct YouTube link

I did all of these edits in near-real-time, meaning, I basically threw together the sequence and the track, did a tiny bit of editing and levels correction, then rendered the sequence (I spent only a little more time working on it than the sequence itself).

Original tweet.




Saturday, February 02, 2019

Who is the Mystery Person Behind Han Solo? SOLVED!


It’s time for another edition of your favorite movie game show, “Wait, That Was Always There? No, Way!”

Here’s a scene from “Star Wars”.

direct YouTube link

You see it, right?




I never noticed this person behind Han. And it’s been there the entire time. And it doesn’t matter there’s a crew member clearing the edge of the set—in the editing room Marcia/Hirsch/Chew/George probably liked the pacing of this shot with this particular in-point.

There are so many lessons about cinema and filmmaking to be made with this example.

[I blame Auralnauts for pointing this out to me, since I never knew about this before yesterday. ]

Okay, so I cut together a shot from later in the sequence (just before the jump to hyperspace) with our “mystery crew member” shot. It sure looks like it’s Alec Guinness and the “mystery” shot is the tail of a take from the earlier shot. Pretty cool.

direct YouTube link

Original tweet.






Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"Jaws" De-Dioptered

direct YouTube link

Over on Twitter, we have fun pointing out split diopter shots in movies; shots that contain two fields of focus, allowing an extreme foreground object and a background object to simultaneously be sharp. Filmmakers like Brian DePalma and Steven Spielberg use the split diopter as a way of visually connecting foregrounds and backgrounds. It's supposed to be jarring, a little disorienting, and off-putting.

But some people absolutely hate the effect for that reason. (Monsters, all of them.) So I thought it would be fun to start removing the split diopter lens effects from movies, just to see how the scenes would play with more traditional depth-of-field. I started with "Jaws" (1975).

After finding all the split diopter shots in the film, I took each shot into Adobe After Effects and split up the frame into a foreground and a background by rotoscoping certain foreground shapes, and applied focus effects to simulate traditional depth of field. In some cases I had to do some background restoration (painting additional bits of background) to help sell the effect. In most shots I applied a rack focus in the shot from foreground to background (or vice-versa), based on the timing of the dialogue. Since the film was shot with anamorphic lenses, I made sure to use anamorphic-shaped bokehs, and also added the irregular lens breathing associated with these lenses that you see with dramatic focus changes.

This was a fun exercise. It's always a blast to see one of your favorite films from a slightly tweaked perspective.

As a bonus, here is a side-by-side comparison of the original split diopter shots, next to my traditional depth-of-field versions of those same shots.

direct YouTube link

If you want to learn more about the technique, read Cheating Depth: The Magic of Split Diopter Shots by my buddy Tad Leckman.





Tuesday, January 22, 2019

91st Academy Award Nominees for Visual Effects

The nominees for the 91st Academy Awards have been announced. As always, the nominees were determined by the visual effects branch of the Academy after attending a bake-off of 10 films.  The full Academy membership will vote on the winners of each category.  The awards ceremony will take place on February 24, 2019.

Here are the nominees for Achievement in Visual Effects for the 91st Academy Awards. Congratulations to everyone involved in the creation of these amazing images.


AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl, Dan Sudick

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN
Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones, Chris Corbould

FIRST MAN
Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles, J.D. Schwalm

READY PLAYER ONE
Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Mattew E. Butler, David Shirk

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY
Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, Dominic Tuohy


Monday, January 21, 2019

Visual Effects Bake-Off for the 91st Academy Awards

Visual Effects Branch Academy Governors John Knoll, Craig Barron and Richard Edlund talk to the “Solo” visual effects leadership team Pat Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Rob Bredow (Dominic Tuohy not pictured) at the Academy VFX Bake-Off. 

Some quick thoughts about the visual effects Academy Bake-Off which took place on January 5, 2019.

First and foremost, it was a super fun night and the work that was presented was jaw-dropping. The work being done by our industry is astounding. Films that didn't even make the Bake-Off might have won the Oscar just a few years ago.

As a reminder, here were the list of 20 films that qualified to be in the Bake-Off, as chose by the VFX Academy branch's executive committee: Ant-Man 2, Aquaman, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Bumblebee, Chistopher Robin, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, First Man, Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Mary Poppins Returns, Mission: Impossible - Fallout, Mortal Engines, Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Paddington 2, A Quiet Place, Ready Player One, Solo and Welcome to Marwen.

Going to the bake-off (again, determined by the executive committee) was Ant-Man 2, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Chistopher Robin, First Man, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Mary Poppins Returns, Ready Player One, Solo and Welcome to Marwen.

The new format changes are great. The first presenter can introduce their work while a reel of 'breakdown' or before/afters plays on the screen behind them. Then the 10-minute reel of finished work (with audio), then the three governors (Barron, Knoll, Edlund) ask questions of the four presenters per-film, and take questions from the Academy branch members. It's much more casual and fun than previous formats, and the inclusion of before/after material is vitally important and a huge improvement.

Finally, instead of Academy members voting in-person moments after the event, voting now takes place online. The event was also live-streamed to San Francisco, London and Wellington. These are also great improvements.

I'm going to quickly go through the films that presented at the Bake-Off, which presented in alphabetical order, none in 3-D.

πŸŽ₯ Ant-Man 2: The work is incredibly well-done and consistent-the reel played very well. The youth work on Michelle Pfeiffer is remarkable.
πŸŽ₯ Avengers Infinity: Crazy reel, everyone was wowed by Thanos work. Only 80 shots in the film were not touched by visual effects.
πŸŽ₯ Black Panther: Emphasis on the beautiful Wakanda environments, every single shot in the movie touched by visual effects.
πŸŽ₯ ChristopherRobin: super subtle, effective animation, great integration of first-unit camera work. Very impressive.
πŸŽ₯ First Man: Leaned hard on miniatures and the wonderful projection work. Restoration/re-working of real launch footage was cool.
πŸŽ₯ Jurassic World FK: Dinos look so good, different approach with stand-in dinos on set, practical roller coaster is so cool.
πŸŽ₯ Mary Poppins R: Integration of live-action/CG/traditional animation was huge, director eschewed digital doubles, heavy wire-work.,
πŸŽ₯ ReadyPlayerOne: The volume of work is astounding, audible gasps for The Shining presentation.
πŸŽ₯ Solo: Emphasis on the rear projection work providing imagery and lighting in extensive cockpit sequences, reel was super fun.
πŸŽ₯ Welcome to Marwen: Greatly benefited from before/after introduction, helped us understand the very difficult design/execution process, fun self-aware presentation.

Of the ten films that presented at the:
🍿7/10 are sequels or part of cinematic universes
🍿1/10 based on classic Disney character
🍿1/10 based on real events
🍿1/10 based on documentary

πŸ§‘πŸ½Special effects supervisor Dan Sudick is a potential nominee for THREE films this year (Ant Man 2, Avengers IW, Black Panther)
πŸ§‘πŸ½Creature effects supervisor Neal Scanlan is a potential nominee for TWO films this year (Jurassic World FK, Solo)

Finally, and frustratingly, 35 out of the 36 people on stage were white males [3 branch governors and 33 potential visual effects Oscar nominees presented]. We have an enormous inclusion problem and we have so much work to do.

Great writeup from AWN of the Bake-Off, including tons of breakdown reels from each film (these are *not* the breakdown/clip reels shown at the Academy event, FYI): 2019 Academy VFX Bake-Off: Celebrating A Year of Excellence in Visual Effects.

Original Twitter Thread



VES Announces Nominations for 17th VES Awards


The nominees for the 17th Visual Effects Society Awards were announced, and the two biggest feature film nomination earners were "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Ready Player One".

The two films earned six and five nominations, respectively. Coming up next with three nominations each were "Solo", "Welcome to Marwen" and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom". "Christopher Robin," "First Man" and "Aquaman" earned two nominations each.

Nabbing a single nomination was "12 Strong", "Bird Box", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Outlaw King", "Ant-Man and the Wasp", "Mortal Engines", "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald", and "Venom".

Of the ten films that were in the Academy Bake-Off, the two films that didn't earn any VES Awards nominations are "Black Panther" and "Mary Poppins Returns".



Listed below are all of the categories for which live-action feature films were eligible. To see all the nominees, visit The Hollywood Reporter's coverage.  The nominees for the VES Awards are chosen by an Awards nomination process for qualified applications. The full VES membership votes for the winners of the awards, which will be announced at a banquet on February 5, 2019. To learn more about the Visual Effects Society, visit their web site.


Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature 
Avengers: Infinity War
Daniel DeLeeuw, Jen Underdahl, Kelly Port, Matt Aitken, Daniel Sudick

Christopher Robin
Chris Lawrence, Steve Gaub, Michael Eames, Glenn Melenhorst, Chris Corbould

Ready Player One
Roger Guyett, Jennifer Meislohn, David Shirk, Matthew Butler, Neil Corbould

Solo: A Star Wars Story
Rob Bredow, Erin Dusseault, Matt Shumway, Patrick Tubach, Dominic Tuohy

Welcome to Marwen
Kevin Baillie, Sandra Scott, Seth Hill, Marc Chu, James Paradis

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature
12 Strong
Roger Nall, Robert Weaver, Mike Meinardus

Bird Box
Marcus Taormina, David Robinson, Mark Bakowski, Sophie Dawes, Mike Meinardus

Bohemian Rhapsody
Paul Norris, Tim Field, May Leung, Andrew Simmonds

First Man
Paul Lambert, Kevin Elam, Tristan Myles, Ian Hunter, JD Schwalm

Outlaw King
Alex Bicknell, Dan Bethell, Greg O'Connor, Stefano Pepin

Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature
Avengers: Infinity War; Thanos
Jan Philip Cramer, Darren Hendler, Paul Story, Sidney Kombo-Kintombo

Christopher Robin; Tigger
Arslan Elver, Kayn Garcia, Laurent Laban, Mariano Mendiburu

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Indoraptor
Jance Rubinchik, Ted Lister, Yannick Gillain, Keith Ribbons

Ready Player One; Art3mis
David Shirk, Brian Cantwell, Jung-Seung Hong, Kim Ooi

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature
Ant-Man and the Wasp; Journey to the Quantum Realm
Florian Witzel, Harsh Mistri, Yuri Serizawa, Can Yuksel

Aquaman; Atlantis
Quentin Marmier, Aaron Barr, Jeffrey De Guzman, Ziad Shureih

Ready Player One; The Shining, Overlook Hotel
Mert Yamak, Stanley Wong, Joana Garrido, Daniel Gagiu

Solo: A Star Wars Story; Vandor Planet
Julian Foddy, Christoph Ammann, Clement Gerard, Pontus Albrecht

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Photoreal Project
Aquaman; Third Act Battle
Claus Pedersen, Mohammad Rastkar, Cedric Lo, Ryan McCoy

Echo; Time Displacement
Victor Perez, Tomas Tjernberg, Tomas Wall, Marcus Dineen

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Gyrosphere Escape
Pawl Fulker, Matt Perrin, Oscar Faura, David Vickery

Ready Player One; New York Race
Daniele Bigi, Edmund Kolloen, Mathieu Vig, Jean-Baptiste Noyau

Welcome to Marwen; Town of Marwen
C. Kim Miles, Matthew Ward, Ryan Beagan, Marc Chu

Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project
Avengers: Infinity War; Nidavellir Forge Megastructure
Chad Roen, Ryan Rogers, Jeff Tetzlaff, Ming Pan

Incredibles 2; Underminer Vehicle
Neil Blevins, Philip Metschan, Kevin Singleton

Mortal Engines; London
Matthew Sandoval, James Ogle, Nick Keller, Sam Tack

Ready Player One; DeLorean DMC-12
Giuseppe Laterza, Kim Lindqvist, Mauro Giacomazzo, William Gallyot

Solo: A Star Wars Story; Millennium Falcon
Masa Narita, Steve Walton, David Meny, James Clyne

Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature
Avengers: Infinity War; Titan
Gerardo Aguilera, Ashraf Ghoniem, Vasilis Pazionis, Hartwell Durfor

Avengers: Infinity War; Wakanda
Florian Witzel, Adam Lee, Miguel Perez Senent, Francisco Rodriguez

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Dominik Kirouac, Chloe Ostiguy, Christian Gaumond

Venom
Aharon Bourland, Jordan Walsh, Aleksandar Chalyovski, Federico Frassinelli

Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Feature
Avengers: Infinity War; Titan
Sabine Laimer, Tim Walker, Tobias Wiesner, Massimo Pasquetti

First Man
Joel Delle-Vergin, Peter Farkas, Miles Lauridsen, Francesco Dell'Anna

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
John Galloway, Enrik Pavdeja, David Nolan, Juan Espigares Enriquez

Welcome to Marwen
Woei Lee, Saul Galbiati, Max Besner, Thai-Son Doan



Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Some Brief Thoughts on "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"


A series of tweets, over a series of days, bloggified here for posterity, about the wonderful "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" (2018).

πŸ•·️  O H  M Y  G O D  πŸ•·️

"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is for real. It is amazing. See it on the biggest screen you can. Crazy congratulations to Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman and everyone that worked on this monumental movie.

I hope Persichetti, Ramsey and Rothman are prepping a short intro video for the home release of "Spider-Verse" asking viewers to turn off motion smoothing. I can only imagine how the "feature" will affect the film.

There isn’t a lazy shot in this entire movie. Okay, I seriously cannot remember the last time I saw a new movie three times in two weeks. “Spider-Verse” is a masterpiece.

πŸ•·πŸ•·πŸ•·πŸ•·πŸ•·

A quick examination of a single shot from "Spider-Verse" follows.



Things to notice in this one shot:
 • Both Miles and Peter are animated on 2's (12 poses/sec), while the scene was rendered on 1's (24 frames/sec). So even though they're frozen for two frames, they are moving within the frame.
 • They are on animated 2's, but offset from each other.
 • Bagel!!!
 • Scenes in the film were not rendered with traditional motion blur--nothing within the frame is smeared (just like comics). To simulate smoother motion in this shot, pieces of echoey geometry appear trailing Peter's screen left arm on certain frames, filling in "gaps".


 A closer, slower look. Check out Miles' hand as he releases the bagel, for another way artists simulated motion blur without rendering motion blur.


A fun thing to look for in "Spider-Verse" are moments where a character shifts from 2's to 1's within a single shot. For extra credit: look for shots where parts of a character's body are animated on 2's and other parts of the body are on 1's!

The “Bagel!!!” shot discussed in this thread was animated by Andrew Perez at Sony Pictures Imageworks. Lighting by Kathy Chi and compositing by Jeremy Kin.

Original Tweet




Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Blackout Shot from "Hulk"



"Hulk" (2003). Visual effects by ILM. Visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, compositing supervisor Marshall Krasser. Matte painting and compositing by Todd Vaziri.

This shot began with some pre-dawn helicopter footage that slowly panned across the San Francisco skyline, showing the city losing power. I stabilized and degrained the footage, and created a few key frames on which to build my single, large painting. The city's lights were hardly visible in the footage.


To animate from lights to no-lights, I had to paint out all the lights of the city, which took a while. Then, I had to repaint every single light on the skyline as a separate layer (to animate later). Even after repainting the entirety of San Francisco's lit skyline, it wasn't visually impressive nor dramatic enough. So I basically tripled the amount of buildings and lights that are actually on the skyline. I think the original idea was to replicate the pan but starting tight on the hangar (the cause of the energy drain) then zooming out to show the skyline seemed like a better idea. I added a lot of heat lightning in the sky, and for extra credit created and animated planes in the sky and ships in the bay.


Director Ang Lee specifically wanted this shot to start at 1.85, then end in a super-wide aspect ratio, which was tricky to nail. I did the entire shot in Photoshop and After Effects on a single Mac (with two other Macs to help with rendering).




Saturday, December 22, 2018

Interpreting a Performance Through The Years


An actor's subtle, spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment decision during take 16 becomes forever immortalized on film creating cinema history. For example...

1977 interpretation of this micro-moment: Obi-Wan is emotionally preparing himself to tell a boy how his father was murdered.


1983 interpretation of this micro-moment: Obi-Wan is emotionally preparing to obfuscate the truth about a boy's father's turn to evil.



2005 interpretation of this micro-moment: Obi-Wan, remembering how he left the boy's father for dead, readies himself to obfuscate the past.



(a potential reality: Marcia/Hirsch/Chew/George chose a take with AG hesitating. AG hesitated because he momentarily forgot his line.)

Original Tweet

The Amazing Borg Queen Shot from "Star Trek: First Contact": Visual Effects Hall of Fame


If I were in charge of the universe, I’d create a Visual Effects Hall of Fame, an inductee would be this shot from "Star Trek: First Contact" (1996), directed by Jonathan Frakes. In a movie filled with spectacle, it's a quiet, jaw-dropping moment.


The introduction of the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) shows off the hybrid robot/humanoid nature of the Borg, with her seemingly humanoid head and shoulders (delivering dialogue!) being lowered and attached to a robotic body.

The first part of the shot is a challenge unto itself: a severed human torso being lowered by cables onto a body. The extra added challenge is that the body needs to be assembled and walk toward camera in an uninterrupted shot.


Alice Krige was photographed while mounted onto a motion control crane in makeup and appliances. The rest of her body is angled backwards, plainly visible to camera. Her head and shoulders, blending with the makeup effects, sells the effect. You don't notice her real-life head tilt. Krige's first performance was shot with a motion control camera sync'd with the crane (so the camera move and Krige's arc can be replicated precisely take after take). Later, Krige in full head-to-toe makeup and costume acted out the 2nd half of the shot, walking toward Data, also mo-con.


The massive shot required assembling two different pieces of performance (Krige on crane/Krige walks toward Data), blended with morphs and secondary animation (check out the hooks that pull the skin on her chest into place). Also the massive paintout of the camera and Krige's body.

And there's nowhere to hide the transitions. No lightning flashes, no smoke, no camera shake, no characters walking in front of camera (to hide a transition). It's all right there, in front of you.


Up to this point in film history, the accumulated cinematic vocabulary of a shot like this instructed audiences to expect a cut just as she's lowered into her body, since a shot like this had never really been done before. NO CUT. Then she walks toward camera. Awesome.

The Borg Queen shot: visual effects by Industrial Light & Magic, visual effects supervisor John Knoll, visual effects art director Alex Jaeger, makeup effects by Todd Masters. Read more about the making of the film's effects in Cinefex 69.


Here's John and Alex talking about the shot in an 11-minute featurette.

Direct YouTube link

original Tweet

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Shot from "True Lies": Visual Effects Hall of Fame


If I were in charge, I’d create a Visual Effects Hall of Fame, an early inductee would be this shot from “True Lies” (1994). The denouement of an enormous, spectacle-filled action scene is deceptively simple—a classic ‘you think you know what you’re seeing but you don’t.’

In context: we’ve just been through an outrageous action sequence involving a Harrier jet, a crane at the top of a skyscraper and missiles. Lots of quick cutting, action and chaos. After all the havoc, a 19 second long shot of our heroes landing on the ground is a welcome relief.

The shot design: a fancy fighter jet is landing with the camera at a safe distance, slowly dollying forward. The camera move is modest. There’s nothing obvious to subconsciously telegraph to the audience that there are any camera tricks or visual effects used in the shot.

The shot continues: the heat ripple and flying debris feel natural and not over the top. The police car in the foreground physically shields us from the jet, giving us a slight sense of security, even when the jet bumps into it. Again, the camera is being conservative… until the jet lands. The audience is fully expecting a cut to a closeup of Schwarzenegger emerging from the cockpit (rather than revealing the real pilot), but it doesn’t cut. The camera moves closer to reveal Schwarzenegger was in the cockpit the whole time.

Arnold sat in the cockpit of a 7,000 lb fake Harrier jet constructed by the production, which was lowered via a single cable attached to a crane. That’s really Schwarzenegger and Eliza Dushku in the shot. The bump of the police car adds fantastic verisimilitude.


The wire was erased digitally, and the spinning turbines are *not* CG, but are tracked footage of a real Harrier intake. If you’re interested in the SFX & VFX of “True Lies”, you’ve got to buy Cinefex 59 or just buy it for the Cinefex iPad Edition.

“True Lies”, visual effects supervisor John Bruno, physical effects supervisor Tomas L. Fisher. The visual effects for this shot were produced by Digital Domain. DD’s digital effects supervisor was Jacques Stroweis.

Original Tweet. 


Thursday, December 06, 2018

Two Views of "Noises Off..."


As a rabid admirer of “Noises Off...”, the irreverent 1992 film adaptation of the hit stage play, I always wondered how precisely the first act of the film (which depicts the first act rehearsal of a play) would synchronize with the second act of the film (which depicts a performance of that first act, but from the backstage perspective). So I did my best to synchronize the two sections of the film, so here it is: a single 19 and a half minute take of act one of 'Nothing On.'

Two Views of "Noises Off..." on Vimeo.

The stage play of “Noises Off...” is performed first with the ‘Nothing On’ (the play-within-the-play) set facing the audience, and then with the set spun 180 degrees so the audience can see all of the backstage antics. Film director Peter Bogdanovich took the same approach with the movie, with the camera largely remaining on the ‘audience’ side of the set during act one of the movie. For act two of the film, the camera largely remained backstage, with only occasional audience-perspective cutaways.

My approach for my synchronization edit was fairly straightforward. My first task was to create an uninterrupted “take” of the dress rehearsal performance, photographed from the audience view. This meant editing out all of the interruptions from act one of the film, mostly consisting of the director Lloyd Fellows (Michael Caine) bellowing to his actors about sardines continuity, providing motivation for his actors, and looking for Brooke’s lost contact lens.

Once that uninterrupted performance was edited together, I took the backstage-perspective (act two of the film) and cut it so it would be in sync with that audience-perspective performance. This proved to be the bigger challenge, since the backstage antics revolve around the characters’ mischief that nearly sabotages the play many times.


For the backstage edit, I did a few retimes (both speedups and slowdowns) and did my best to synchronize the lines of dialogue. Remarkably, the backstage portion of the film is fairly true to the rehearsal, with a few large gaps where moments of the script were simply not represented. For these giant gaps, I decided to fill the backstage edit with “clean” shots - backstage shots without any characters in frame. I got away with a few choice still frames, but had to create three “clean” plates, painting out John Ritter, Marilu Henner and Carol Burnett out of three different shots. I didn’t want to over use the backstage security guard reactions, gloriously portrayed by J. Christopher Sullivan, since it would quickly appear repetitive.

As the second act rolls on, the backstabbing and sabotage becomes much more disruptive to the performance of “Nothing On”, which was hard to obscure in the edit. Near the end of the edit, I had no choice but to show the massive discontinuities between the near-perfect rehearsal and the mayhem of the performance. I kept the main timing of the major beats (entrances, exits, sound cues) intact, however, as much as I could.


My editing process was quite straightforward. The play within the movie is a farce which luckily contains several slamming doors—the perfect synchronization device. After I edited the dress rehearsal footage into an uninterrupted version of the play, I grabbed the backstage footage and started synching door slams. Once I bracketed a section of footage, bookended by door slams, I looked at the clip and gently retimed or edited the chunk so that the lines of dialogue overlapped. Frequently I’d have a version of the “backstage” dialogue at a low gain, so you can hear a bit of an echo. I ended up with around 140 cuts.


The film (and the play on which it’s based) is remarkable at how it weaves the lines and actions of ’Nothing On’ with the back. I particularly love the synchronized backstage and in-play “Oh my God!” outburst from Christopher Reeve.

Another nice moment is John Ritter’s in-play line “He’s searching for something!” which synchronizes nicely with Michael Caine searching Denholm Elliot for the missing bottle of booze.


Editing all of this "Noises Off..." footage together gave me even more respect for the technical craftmanship of the screenplay, choreography and performances of the film. Not nearly enough platitudes can be given to Ritter, Henner, Burnett, Caine, Elliott, Julie Hagerty, Mark Linn-Baker, Reeve and Nicollette Sheridan for their remarkable, distinctive performances and dedication to these highly technical roles.






Friday, November 23, 2018

"The Fugitive" Behind Bars


This little business from "The Fugitive" (1993) of Dr. Richard Kimble sneaking around a hospital hiding ‘behind bars’ during his escape. Those bars are probably part of the location and not art directed and built by the production. Either way, a classy, understated bit of visual flair.


I can imagine a scenario where the crew started blocking the scene on location and someone had the idea of Kimble taking a moment behind those bars, and the subsequent discussion. Is it too “on the nose”? Is it too stylish for a movie like this? Shoot it two ways, for safety?

Another great example of this, from Walter Chaw from "Strangers on a Train" (1951).





Original Tweet.



Thursday, November 22, 2018

"Terminator 2" and Explosions


I'm thankful for "Terminator 2" (1991), the only action movie I can think of that took the time to show us how a fiery explosion could plausibly occur after a major vehicular collision: two, quick closeup shots of a battery lead sparking, igniting the leaking fuel behind it.


As an aside: I've been looking at T2, frame by frame, ever since its CAV LaserDisc release and this is the first time I ever noticed the first shot of this GIF has added (digital) camera shake, to help with the edit and better tie it in with the chaos of the preceding crash shots.)

original tweet