Friday, September 21, 2018

Robert Patrick, "T2" and Blinking

For "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991), Robert Patrick learned how to fire a gun without blinking, to prepare for his role as the T-1000, a killer robot.

πŸŽ₯ 4 shots
πŸ€– 16 rounds
πŸ‘ 1 blink

The GIF at the top of this post is real-time, as it was seen in the film. If It Were Made Today™: would still have Patrick train to fire the weapon without blinking; the one blink in this sequence could be digitally painted out by a talented paint artist.

Original tweet. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Cold Open for "Better Call Saul"

The cold open montage from “Better Call Saul” S4E07 is one for the ages. A narrative and technical masterpiece.

✂️ Edited by Skip Macdonald
⌨️ Written by Alison Tatlock
πŸŽ₯ Directed by Deborah Chow

original tweet

Apple Event Film 2018 vs. "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol"

While the music was from “Fallout”, the inspiration for Apple’s terrific opening film for the iPhone event was clearly “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol”.

direct YouTube link

Monday, September 17, 2018

Twitter and Quote Tweets

Seems to me that Twitter should allow users to easily be able to view all "Quote Tweets", just like users can easily list a Tweet's Likes and Retweets.

My quick and dirty mockup of how Twitter could implement Quote Tweet tracking. Clicking on the "Quote Tweets" gives you all the instances, which is just a Twitter search for the URL of the original Tweet. This seems like low-hanging fruit.

My original tweet.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Birth of Sandman

For my money, one of the great visual effects shots of all time. "Spider-Man 3" (2007), with visual effects by Sony Pictures Imageworks.

direct YouTube link

Thursday, September 13, 2018

When You "Buy" a Movie on iTunes

There's been a lot of chatter about what exactly does it mean to "buy" a movie from iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, or any of the other online movie services.

Rene Ritchie says that when iTunes severs a licensing agreement for a particular film, the film disappears from the iTunes Store. You can no longer stream the film from Apple servers, even if you "bought" it. (However, if at some point you had downloaded the movie to your Mac/iPhone, you would still be able to watch that movie, even after it leaves the store, apparently.)

If Apple (and Amazon Prime Video, Comcast, etc.) were a little more honest about what it meant to "Buy" a movie on their service, I think the user interface buttons would look a little different.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

An Editing Trick in "Terminator 2" and "The Road Warrior"

To add impact to a shocking moment of extreme violence, director Jim Cameron and the editors of "Terminator 2" used a very old-fashioned, low-tech editing trick.

A single frame of solid white was added into the edit precisely at the moment of impact. Nestled within a predominantly dark sequence, the quick 1/24th-of-a-second flash of bright light shocks the audience and makes the moment that much more striking.

"Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" (1982): another example of adding a single bright frame in the middle of the edit to intensify a moment of personal violence.

Unlike the "T2" example, the frame is a single frame of overexposure (rather than a white solid color).

There's also jump cut to a different take a just before the head butt, which is hardly noticeable in real-time, especially with the added subsequent flash frame.

Another example from "The Road Warrior", again with a single frame of overexposure to punctuate the impact.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Myth of the "Jaws" Shooting Star

The GIFs below were part of a Tweetstorm where I attempted to debunk the whole "the Jaws shooting stars were real and actually happened on camera" mythology. These read better as tweets than as a blog post, so see the thread here, if you want.

All these "Jaws" tweets reminds me to dig up my half-finished project files debunking the whole "those shooting stars were real" myth.

A'ight , I'm just going to post these in their current state, w/no context. I planned to talk day-for-night, fast lenses, film stock, exposure of stars, depth of field, motion blur, tracking, hand-drawn animation composited into live-action... but nobody's got time for that.

In summary, contrary to what the mythology might be, there is no way those two shooting stars you see in "Jaws" were real-life shooting stars photographed in-camera during filming. Those shots contain animated effects work to simulate shooting stars.

/fin 🦈

For more reactions, visit the original Twitter thread.

Update, 10/24/2021, from Paul Hirsh's fantastic book "A Long Time Ago in a Cutting Room Far, Far Away: My Fifty Years Editing Hollywood Hits":

As I watched [Jaws], I noticed something odd in one of the later reels. In a low-angle close-up of Roy Scheider showing the early evening sky behind him, I saw what looked like a brief fiery streak in the sky. Later the evening at a party at Steven's hotel to celebrate the opening, I asked him about it. "Hey," he called out, "Paul Hirsch saw it! He saw the UFO!" As I had suspected, that streak was deliberate; it was a little foretaste of Steven's next picture, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Motion Smoothing is Bad

Just about every single TV sold in the U.S. has ‘motion smoothing’ switched on by default.

The TV attempts to create additional temporal frames, to make the motion feel “smoother” and less jerky. This makes movies (shot and projected at 24fps) appear smeary and wrong.

Films seen on a TV with motion smoothing on are not being presented properly. The “new” look changes the emotional impact of every single scene. This is not how the film was intended to be seen; this is similar to the appalling process of colorizing black & white films.

Check out the Twitter hashtag #tvninja - a TV ninja is someone who stealthily turns off motion smoothing on a TV owned by friends, relatives, or Airbnb.

Directors who have publicly fought motion smoothing include Reed Morano and Rian Johnson, who, as far as I know, came up with the hashtag #tvninja.

More, please.

Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson Battling TV Motion Smoothing

Motion smoothing goes by many different names (Auto Motion Plus, TruMotion, etc.). Turn it off. Here's a great blog post by Stu Maschwitz from 2011 properly titled, "Your New TV Ruins Movies".

"Darth Vader Being a Jerk", HD Restoration

I made a Special Edition High Definition restoration of Doomblake's video, "Darth Vader being a Jerk."

direct link to YouTube

I used an HD source of "The Empire Strikes Back" and did a frame-by-frame restoration of Doomblake's edit. Later, I realized I messed up one of the edits (a second cut to Piett), but I liked my cutaway to Veers more, so I kept it. Making arbitrary changes to source material is a Star Wars Special Edition trademark, so why not continue that tradition. I also added titles, and an actual introduction and conclusion. The audio of the new sequences is mine, but the audio from Doomblake's amazing editing is pure Doomblake.

Update: Doomblake deleted her/his YouTube account, but the good news is that I kept an archive copy of the clip.

A Low-Tech Effects Shot from "Mission: Impossible III"

This is one of director J.J. Abrams' favorite visual effects shots from his film, "Mission: Impossible III". Rather than have actor Eddie Marsan forcibly shove the prop into Tom Cruise's nose, J.J. came up with a different idea on how to accomplish the shot.

direct link to YouTube

Watch his full TED talk from March 2007 here.

Interview with "Rogue One" Animation Supervisor Hal Hickel

Hal Hickel, promoting "Rogue One" on home video, with Alan Tudyk (voice of K-2SO)

If you want to hear a fun interview with ILM animation supervisor Hal Hickel, check out his appearance on the podcast Talking Bay 94, episode 15. Hal talks about his career, how we made Tarkin and Leia for "Rogue One", and about those amazing Yoda “Empire” tests that I’ve seen with my own eyes.

Overcast link:

iTunes link:

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Cinematography of "Jaws"

I read this somewhere.

In an attempt to answer the question "What is great cinematography?", a solid answer is "if you can jump to any random frame of the movie and it looks *good*, THAT'S great cinematography." 

So I tried that with "Jaws" (1975):

"Jaws" cinematographer Bill Butler was nominated for an Oscar for his work on "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" that same year (1975). He shared the Oscar nomination with Haskell Wexler.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Comparing the Color of Two "Halloween" Blu-ray Editions

Whenever there’s a chance to do an apples-to-apples comparison of something related to the art and science of filmmaking, I’ll jump on it.

“Halloween” (1978) has seen approximately 70,000 different home video releases, including multiple iterations on DVD and Blu-ray. I personally own two versions of the movie on Blu-ray: a 2007 release, and a 2013 release, which touts a new HD transfer supervised and approved by the film’s original cinematographer, Dean Cundey.

Rarely do studios use the name of a crewmember to help sell a new pressing of a library film. Intrigued, I wondered exactly how different could the color grading would look, with an apples-to-apples comparison to the 2007 Blu-ray release of the film. I randomly chose frames from the film to compare; I didn’t specifically seek out dramatically different color grades.

Usually when a film-to-digital transfer is completed without the involvement of the original filmmakers, educated guesses (based on the cinematic memory of whoever is behind the controls, the best film prints available, old transfers, etc.) must dictate the exposure and color choices that are required to be made. Color grading (and film-to-digital transfers) are completely subjective; in the end, “what should the film look like?” dictates how saturated, bright or contrasty the movie appears. These are creative decisions.

Even though the discrepancies between the transfers are, at times, inconsistent, the general look and feel of of the 2007 release is much brighter, warmer and saturated. If this 2013 release is truly Cundey’s original vision for the film, he always intended the print to be much darker, cooler and more muted than the 2007 release.

There is no single “correct” way to process and grade a film. Just as a filmmaker chooses the colors and textures of the film’s costumes, the filmmaker chooses the look and feel of the color grade. There are an infinite number of possibilities, and, in a perfect world, new film-to-digital transfers should be supervised by the original filmmakers. As you can see in this comparison, the 2007 “unsupervised” transfer is bright and colorful, which was not the intent of the cinematographer. For some context, take a look at this blog post from Stu Maschwitz, which shows some feature film comparisons of "before creative color grading" and "after creative color grading".

I tried to do more research and hear directly from Cundey himself, but I couldn’t find any interviews with Cundey about his involvement with the 2013 Blu-ray release. At one point, apparently hosted this photo of Cundey working on the transfer (the link is now dead, and I was unable to find an Internet Archive version).

The Other Marty McFly, HD Analysis

Back in July of 1986, Starlog Magazine printed an article by Bruce Gordon about "Back to the Future", in which Gordon ponders the idea of the alternate universe created in the Robert Zemeckis time-travel film. Gordon talks about the opening of the film, as we see Marty and Doc get ambushed by terrorists. Gordon speaks of a mysterious figure in the background of this opening scene, which takes place at Twin Pines Mall.

At the very instant that Doc tosses his pistol to the ground (and all eyes in the audience are following its path across the pavement), a silhouetted figure steps into that light. Less than a second later, the figure is gone, Doc has been shot and the chase is on.

I thought it would be fun to look at the artifact that Gordon supposes is "Marty II" in HD.

Clearly, it's "Marty II" back there. Or Bigfoot. Gordon wrote follow-up articles after "Back to the Future Part II" and "III" were released. They're available online via the Internet Archive.

“The Other Marty McFly” by Bruce Gordon, Starlog #108, July 1986

“The Return of the Other Marty McFly” by Bruce Gordon, Starlog #54, May 1990

“The Other Marty McFly Rides West” by Bruce Gordon, Starlog #170, Sept. 1991