Marc Lougee

Animation / On Set Vfx

Posts by Marc Lougee

Production Sound Mini-Masterclass

Boom In the Surf

(source: Bafta Guru)

Simon Hayes, Production Sound Mixer, shares 15 minutes of his day to share some keen insights into his job, and his team, as they record audio for feature film production on -set. The result of his chat is a great primer for anyone keen to grab pro-quality audio for thier own films (or your next pro gig).

Simon goes in depth on boom operator specifics (the how’s and why’s), capturing clean, high- quality dialogue, and capturing pro audio for working with later in post production. Boom Op’s are key players– and I super appreciate Simon’s take on clarifying just how important having a great boom operator with you is for capturing clean dialogue. Take a look:

Mr. Hayes spills on his experience recording sound for the 2012 film version of Les Miserables– very cool insight from behind the scenes. One great take away is the importance of having a great team with whom to work; spending your time wisely in assembling the best folks you can find to work with you on-the-day. Get your team right, and you’re well on your way to getting the sound you want– seems obvious, but so often, audio gets blown as secondary thought to the visuals. Do your sound team up right, and you’ll have awesome stuff to work with in the edit!

Have a look / listen, and learn something from a master.

Cheers!  -M

Simon Hayes_Sound Van

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Mad Men finally get to work

Mad Men

Graphic artist extraordinaire Paul Rogers hammered this out a while ago, but I still find it a great inspiration. Click the image to catch the groovy video.

Simple, effective graphic treatment, great use of color, and dead-on for the feel of Mad Men. Awesome storytelling in a short time. I’m dying to get something like this up of my own, soon as I wrap a bazillion other projects I’ve already fired up — fun shall be had! I’ll keep you posted, as always. Stay tuned.

While holding your breath for me to come up with something, check out Paul’s other work here. He’s got alot of coolness going on.

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The Path to Demo Reel Awesomeness

Wall*E, image credit: Pixar

Demo reels are the Rubik’s Cube of filmmaking; comprised of brilliant, albeit oft-times disparate images, a wondrous collection of all that’s right in the world of filmmaking brought to the world though your efforts as the  ( insert director/ cinematographer, animator, etc, here ). This multi-faceted cube represents your Particular Brand of Awesome.

Beyond all it takes to get make great content to populate your reel, you’ve got to edit and present your best work in a way that’s engaging, informative, shows your range, your style, your ability and keeps the viewer’s attention from beginning to the end. It’s like making a great film from footage you’ve found, only it’s all your footage, YOUR work. Here’s a few tried and true pointers to help you get from zero to hero in the demo reel department.

Start Strong.

Stack all the very best of your stuff on the front end of the reel, the first half. If your potential client/ employer see’s only ten seconds of your reel, be sure they’ve seen the best 10 seconds you’ve got. Not surprisingly, that first few seconds is going to decide wether they stick around for the whole thing, or even a minute more. Make a bombastically amazing first impression with your best stuff, right off the top.

Tell a story.

This reel is brilliant in that it shows Mike’s skill as a storyteller, demonstrating that he gets ‘the whole picture’ as a Director of Photography. Nicely done– music, images, stories all come together, engaging the viewer. I wound up watching this one several times. Have a look-

Make Every Single Shot Count.

Every shot on your reel should be reflective of your skill/ work capacity in which you seek to be employed; director, animator, cinematographer, etc. Every shot should show off your ability and professionalism unquestionably. Experience is great, but if you’re short there, push hard on what you have done; show, don’t tell. Be ready to back up every thing on your reel– your thought process, your role in achieving the shot/ scene, etc. Good idea not to borrow someone else’s stuff here. Stick to your own stuff, even if there’s little. Just make it great.

Analyze every shot.

Once you’ve got a reel assembled, but not finalized, try this: turn off the sound and watch from head to tail. No music, no narrative, etc. Get a feel look and feel without the sound? Music can make or break your reel– carefully select that which won’t turn off your potential employer, or client; your reel is for them, in the end. Personalize your reel (as it reflects you), as a professional. In that, choose suitable musical tracks for your intended audience. It’s not good to have the viewer diving for the remote during your reel intro, they’re not being a fan of thrash metal… (seen it happen too often, not pretty).

Lose everything but the very best you have to show.

No kidding. Be brutally honest; your potential employer will be (even if they don’t say so). If you’re reel is :30 seconds long, show off the best :30 seconds you’ve got.  Best foot forward always, without hesitation. If you’re on-the-post about a clip, opt out of including the piece. You have to believe without a doubt what you’re showing off is the best stuff you’ve produced. Not much to show? Get to work! don’t stop filling up your reel until you’ve got a couple minutes of great stuff, wether it was a job or your own projects. Make them all count.

Show Off Your Individuality.

Be yourself! We’ve all heard this and it rings true in creative endeavors like nowhere else. Be creative but market savvy. Be different by making your reel truly yours. Be inspired with the best of what other’s have done, and go off on your own path. You’ll get noticed.

Demo reels reflect the type of work you seek. 

Cater to the clientelle you want to do work for– your demo should aim at particular niches you want to be working in– ‘one size does not fit all’. Used to be, the idea of a Generalist was the trick to employment Nirvana. Then all the rage was to be a Specialist in some arcane niche… to get the jobs. In the end, who knows what the situation will be, as it’s really subjective to time, studio, location, community, etc. One way to get into a job is to focus on your strengths. Become a specialist in the area you really rock it, and you’ll pick up work doing that stuff, eventually. Learn other stuff that supports your niche. your specialty– never stop learning. As your other stuff gets better, add those things to your reel and resume, as well. The more you know, the more your skill set broadens, the more of the market you’re able to land in. That’s always good for business.

In that, hone your demo reel to the particular needs of your potential client/ employer; they’re interested in what you can do for them, based on their needs at the moment- it’s all about how you may help them accomplish their goals. Demonstrate how your work fits their particular niche, and blow ‘em away with your super best stuff! It’s all about the clients. Aim your stuff with laser focus at their targets. Remember, they need to hire folks they won’t need to train– so be up to speed when you land a spot at the table. When opportunity knocks, be ready to launch.

Keep your demo reel short.

Really. People are busy, they don’t have much time, and your reel may be one of hundreds (as in the case of Pixar, thousands) to be screened. Think of your demo as an ‘elevator pitch’ for yourself–  a quick, impressive introduction to your talents. Best stuff at the front, keep it within 2-3 minutes, tops. Lengthy intro’s not so handy, unless it’s truly awesome and relevant to your skills– get right to the work, but keep your contact info easily found on the package, email, web link, etc.

Don’t even think of using someone else’s work in YOUR reel.

This is A Big Deal: If you worked with a team on a shot/ sequence/ film, be explicit about your role in the process. Show off ONLY what YOU were responsible for, if at all possible. If you can’t readily recreate the work because you’ve not actually created it in the first place, don’t add it because you think you can create it  (given time, money, etc). This is the place for what you have accomplished, not what you think you can accomplish when you’re being paid.

Aside from that, using another person’s work is just bad juju. Happened with me on several occasion’s; the other folks lost out every time, that stuff hounding them still. Don’t be the one to get busted selling someone else’s work as your own. Word will get around, and will likely impact your opportunities.

gentlemanghostSeek Out Honest Feedback.

Get your reel in front of someone whom you respect as an artist, or identifier of good work. Ideally, someone in the industry who you respect, and with whom you may have a relationship. Ask that person for an unadulterated, honest review of your reel. Constructive criticism is the aim, here. Don’t defend your babies / shots; if it’s not getting a good response, use what you’ve learned from the feedback, incorporate that into a better shot. Be careful not to find yourself defending mediocre work.

Keep your Reel Fresh. 

Updating your reel is a great idea! Some folks I know do this once a year, other’s quarterly… whatever feels best to you. Of course, it takes new work to update your reel, so collect the best stuff you’ve been doing (archiving the highest quality versions you can get your hands on) and pile it into your next reel edit. Don’t wait for paid gigs to supply you with new stuff! If you’re not working, make something to add to your demo!  Find a way to create new work, pushing your skills and keep growing.

Vimeo. Word.

Vimeo is  is great place to find inspiration. Behance is another hot spot for amazing demo reels. There are hubs all over– Google the term, specifically for the area of your interest, and see what other’s have done, how they present themselves. Go off on your own tangent from there!

Here a a few other places to get Demo Reel Know How from some top folks in the film biz:

Shane Hurlbut – Hurlbut Visuals

10 Must See Demo Reels- PremiumBeat.com

Pixar.ca- Creating a Demo Reel

Ken Stone: Notes on a Demo Reel

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Batch Rename DSLR footage w Adobe Bridge

Adobe Bridge

(source: Richard Keating, screenlight.tv)

I’ve been shooting a bunch of mini-docs the last year, all with my handy DSLR set up or with my buddy DOP Jan Pester’s, (when he’s not shooting around the globe). Aside from all the gushing I could do on why the DSLR is a game changer in oh-so-many-ways for Yours Truly, I thought I’d share a Golden Nugget of Awesomeness that’s become a veritable must have in my humble-but-handy post production process using Premiere Pro on my Macbook Pro.

Behold, The Bridge!

That’s Adobe Bridge, for most of us not at my desk currently. Absolutely balls-on a great addition to the toolbox that’s part of the magical creative juggernaut that is Adobe CS6. Here’s why it’s magical;

courtesy of Screenlight.tv

courtesy of Screenlight.tv

You’ve shot  bunch of stuff, and it’s scattered over several cards from your camera’s. That’s fine, until you ingest all those fine shots into your system, and you realize; a number of those shots have the same file name, despite coming from different cards. Damn. Reason being, essentially, the cameras don’t sequentially number files across multiple cards. Ouch.

This is where my newest BFF comes to the rescue, sporting the ever-amazing Batch Rename Function. I love this. I use it a lot. You should too. Here’s the full on article with the step by step to finding Adobe Bridge Nirvana (or at least sorting out your file naming woes) in the short term– my friends  (and soon to be yours) at Screenlight have done a great job of sorting out the details, making it plain as day for everyone to follow along. Have a look, over here.

Swing on over to Screenlight’s blog, get some knowledge and change your own life with DSLR file-handling Know How. Worth the cost of admission, which is absolutely free (to read).

Excelsior!

- M

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Filmmaking: Insight from the front

Flying Scot

“There is never enough time.”

“The schedules are insanely tough, harder and harder to do; and it’s a run, an absolute marathon run on any job you do and you’re always trying to do your best. You always feel, at the end of the day,  I could have done better. I wish I’d had a little more time to finesse things.

But, the producers and director gave the camera team enough, as much time as they could to do this difficult work because it is time consuming the way we’re filming this than the way you might film a standard drama but you also have to, you know, we can’t hog it all. You have to give the floor to the actors because without them, without the storytelling, you haven’t got anything so there’s not point wasting time on one fancy shot if you’ve missed the scene. So everyone has their part to play and everyone needs their time.”

- Gaving Finney, Cinematographer

(source: BAFTA Podcast #10)

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Creativity & Collaboration

Filmmaking is all about teamwork.

No two ways about it; get a bunch of like-minded folks shooting for the same goal, and there will be significant forward progress. In pre-production, production and thru to the post production process, it’s all about teams; small to large and often times, back to small again. It’s embedded in the filmmaking DNA, collaborative teams. Of course there are folks doing everything on their own, for one reason or another; finances, vision, they run solo cause they like to/ need to, but there are a great many more in need of some help from their friends and/ or professionals (who often become friends). Or at least friendlier.

I’m a big believer that creativity & collaboration go hand in hand; with every great creative endeavour, each creative success story, you’ll find a group of folks working passionately, raising each other’s game. Just so happens that the fine folks at 99U think so too, and they’ve knocked it out of the park with a great article on just how to achieve a creative, collaborative team to create a successful creative project.

I’ll summarize a few of the points below.

People being present pushes your performance!

It’s no wonder creative, productive people like to work in busy cafe’s– it’s proven that a bunch of people working independently, but in the presence of one another (think small space, long table, etc), prove more industrious than working in isolation. I know I feel that way, as do my writing friends. It’s called ‘social facilitation‘; just having people around us engaged in similar tasks (say, writing) will boost our own productivity. How cool is that? I’ve seen this in action to great extent with a friend running a company out of her home/ office; every day, there will be upwards of 8-10 people working on differing tasks for the company, all seated around a very large, oblong dining table in the center of the house just a few feet away from the kitchen. Brilliant. Folks busy working on their laptops, fielding Skype calls, sending emails-  all happening at the table. Coffee, snacks, water, etc just a few feet away. Productivity is full on. I loved that environment over my own home office, where just it’s me and a sleepy cat. I got far more done in the presence of the group, working on wholly differing aspects of the job, than on my own. Amazing. Try it for yourself.

Build your team and stick with them.

Part of what makes landing film/ tv production gigs is the fact many, many producers, directors, and on-set department leads have a roster of folks they like to draw on as needed. Some are key hires, on each and every gig, others are working their way deeper into the fold as they go. For the newer folks on the scene, this makes landing gigs a very tough, competitive and often frustrating experience. Many wonder just why the hell this is happening, why the crews feel so clique-ish? Well, one reason is, they are. Closely knit, working teams are The Way. For the folks who want in from the outside, I offer an insight.

Producers and department leads work repeatedly with the same film/ tv production crews because they know them; I’m not saying nepotism rules the roost (thought it does happen), but working with folks -repeatedly- makes for familiarity. Familiarity means you get to know each member of your team’s strengths and weaknesses; you share experiences, develop unspoken processes, tasks and habits; the team members develop a mutual understanding. Getting into the first draft picks for a team is a game, of sorts; you need to know somebody- some one- who can put in a good word for you, based on your skill set, motivation, work ethic and of course, personality.

See this in action with a tight-knit camera crew; the Director of Photography, Camera Assistant, Camera Operator and Dolly Grip working as a single organism, reading each other’s subtle gestures, movements, glances, etc. Stuff gets done fluidly, all while the camera is rolling. It’s a ballet, rehearsed over lots of time spent working together, hanging around, getting to know one another thru experiences, good and bad. Of course the DOP hires the same folks (The Team) every time he/she goes out! You would to, so try to do just that.

If you’re on the outside getting in- 99.5% of the time– you have to be a hard worker (proven), know what you’re doing (to the best of your ability/ research/ learning on your own), be absolutely dependable (you are always early, ready, and prepped), and a pleasure to have around. You don’t have to be funny, suave, or even charming; just be a solidly good person to have on hand for 12+ hours a day, without whining, complaining, gossip or too much talking. Do the job, be cool, and pay attention to the details.  Get to know folks on the job– work hard, know your craft inside and out, be wide-eyed and intently aware of all that’s happening with the team.  Practice the process, and make yourself indispensable– the good word will get around. Great teams are built on consistently great performance.

Grabbing a coffee break to chat is a good thing.

Engaging with one another off the job, or in less formal situations than being on set, increases energy and opens communication among the team members. This might seem a bit obvious, or maybe no, depending on your personal perspective. In a rigid hierarchal chain of command, this is less of a good idea– but then, we’re not talking about military operations. Creative folks getting together to share ideas, insights, perspectives on how to up their game is what all we’re doing. Wrap a gig and go for a beer, coffee, etc. Talk it over, what could be done better, differently, more streamlined? Have a laugh– mistakes will be made, so move on and do it better next time. Applaud yourselves of a job well done! You’re among compatriots– this has an amazing power to bring folks together, welding a disparate bunch of freelancers into a well-organized team. Hey, you’ll likely make a bunch o great new friends by the end of a gig.

Gleen the full monty- swing by 99U to have a look. Enjoy!

- M

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After Effects 101; 39 basics tutorials — Free!

thenewboston.org

I have a soft spot for folks who have the inclination and passion, to share what they know and learn with as many folks as possible… for free.

No money exchanging hands, not birthday cards, no flowers. Just sharing ’cause it’s what they do.

Bucky Roberts is one of those guys. A regular guy sharing what he knows with whomever cares to watch,  listen & learn. Bucky’s been studying After Effects, Photoshop, etc for a while, and decided somewhere along his trajectory of software know-how to share all he’s got with the rest of us. This video is just one of a pile covering the very basics of After Effects, it’s core tools, processes, etc. Basic is the key word here, as he starts literally from the beginning; aiming squarely at folks just opening the magical Pandora’s Box that is Adobe After Effects. Check this vid-

(Link courtesy of Filmmaker IQ, another awesome place to get get learn-ed).

Looking for the whole enchilada? Head right this way, pilgrim– there’s alot more where this came from at thenewboston.org Bucky and his buds run a wide gamut in what all they supply– for free, of course– by way of learning new skillz; computer programming, web design, Adobe stuff (AE, Photoshop, Flash, Premiere Pro, Dreamweaver), algebra, math, chemistry(!), even how to make beer or build a computer to run all this awesome stuff. (With legal licenses, of course, as needed).

Swing by his site at TheNewBoston.org, and have a look around!  FYI- Bucky’s in Raleigh, NC., not Boston. Word.

- M

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Making Monsters

image: PIXOMONDO

HBO’s Game of Thrones continues to blow my mind, and I can’t get enough of the winged balls of awesome that are Deanery’s dragons.

I for one think the next best thing to being there is watching them be there– courtesy of some seriously high-end visual effects. Fxguide co-founder Mike Seymour is here to feed your imagination further with a glance behind the Wizard’s curtain, sharing some of the cool work that went into the dragon’s development, animation and integration to the live action plate photography in Game of Thrones. Check this, and be amazed:

I’m especially appreciative of the R & D that goes into developing the dragon’s characters & personalities; ‘teenage’ awkwardness, semi-dependence on Deanerys as thier ‘mother’ figure, etc. Brilliant stuff, indeed. Digital wind tunnel simulations, water simulations and of course, referencing real-world creatures help imbue a sense of believability to the digital creatures. All that, and I totally dig flipping a fish into the air and giving it a flaming BBQ before swallowing it, mid-air. Awesome. Sign me up for more with flying blast furnaces, any time.

Dragons?  Pshaw.It’s the little stuff that makes the larger picture work so well, isn’t it? Enjoy, and be sure to drop in at fxguide for more visual effects know-how.

Excelsior!

- M

Linkage:  http://www.fxguide.com

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Storyboards, redux.

654321

(Source: strangewood)

Storyboards for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds

Planning & pre-visualization is everything. Director Alfred Hitchcock knew well the value of pre-planning and pre-visualization, before he got on set to shoot. These great shot comparisons prove the point clearly; good ‘boards will help the director communicate clearly his/her ideas for shots and scenes to the rest of the crew. Priceless.

Enjoy!  - M

Additional Links for storyboards:

Hitchcock Liked Storyboards: Who Knew?

Prometheus Director Ridley Scott on Storyboards

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Guillermo gets real with digital filmmaking

Del Toro

“I remember when James Cameron was shooting T2, in the supplements of the [LaserDisc], I remember him saying the reason why the T-1000 chase in the patrol car works is because he added flares.”

That changed my life, because in one single instance I understood that the one thing you have to integrate into digital stuff is mistakes — water hits the lens, a drop of mud, an obscured spot on the image. If a monster hits the ground and the camera doesn’t shake, that’s telling you there’s no operator, there’s no camera, there’s no physicality.”

- Guillermo Del Toro, Director, Pacific Rim

(source: stayforthecredits)

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