Marc Lougee

Visual Effects Supervisor, CW's The Flash

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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Color & Story

moviesincolor

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, 2009
Cinematography: Nicola Pecorini

I stumbled onto the coolest blog a little while back; graphic artist Roxy Radulescu has been dechipering the essential color palettes of films.

The result is an amazing reference tool for visual folks, as color is so very important to telling stories. Roxy’s blog, Movies in Color, has become a go- to spot as I work out conceptual stuff in some projects. I love the stuff she’s been doing over there, and as visual storytellers, I think you may too. Here’s a bit on how she gets things going:

The Process
“Research is first. I search for stills that are compositionally interesting as well as rich in color. I use the help of a color generator to get a very basic range of swatches. Then I piece together the general palette from that and other colors I think are prominent or worth including from the still. It’s all done in Photoshop to keep layout and swatch sizes consistent and to facilitate color sampling from the image.
– Roxy Radulescu (RoxyMakesThings)

Swing by Roxy’s portfolio site roxymakesthing.com  You’ll be inspired to do something cool yourself.

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Happy Birthday, Jan Svankmajer!

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“To me, animation is like magic…”

“It’s not about making things move, but making things live. This is the domain of magic. And that is what I have always tried to achieve in my films—not just to move objects, but to breathe life into them and explore their inner being.”

Jan Švankmajer
Born September 4, 1934

(source: strangewood)

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Moby Gratis: Free Music for Your Film

Moby is just awesome.

I loved the guy before, and over the years I’ve grown to love him even more. Reason is, he’s a generous soul, and a brilliant music maker to boot. Of course it would be just such a guy as Moby to pull off one of the coolest things to happen to indie filmmakers in the last few years; Moby Gratis.com

It’s been like a closely held secret for a long while, but things are busting loose. Here’s the hype:

Yes, THAT MobyIf you’re a non-profit filmmaker (working in the non-commercial end of the film pool), and you haven’t got the good fortune of having a composer on board, Moby Gratis is one hot spot to head off to right now. Moby’s planted over 150 pieces of music on his site, for free use (free for non-commercial use, mind you). Lots of great stuff; this is no dumpster full of noise, oh no– this is the stuff culled from albums, unreleased work, etc, etc. Literally, a full on library of professionally produced brilliance for you to use. How’s that for cool?

Two things:

First, you have to apply online for permission for the music you’re keen to use – which will take 24 hours, and as Moby says,”they haven’t said no to anyone yet”. Of course, if you’re planning to sell your film project to a distributor with a full-on Moby produced soundtrack; you’ll need to read the next part–

Second, Films made for commercial purpose will have to pay for the music use in the traditional manner (licensing the rights). If you’re selling your film with his music, Moby gets a license fee, fair and square. All proceeds from the licensing goes to the Humane Society. Moby is a generous guy.

Head on over to mobygratis.com and peruse the tunes.

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Avoiding Disaster

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(source: Stillmotion)

Here’s the picture: You’re on location at your clients office for a film/ video shoot (lucky you!), everyone’s working to get things rolling — when the primary lens is declared Missing in Action. It’s not where you need it now; it’s been left behind at the office.  Another lens is on hand, but it requires a re-light, and the camera needs to be repositioned. Your client (and the subject of your interview) is pressed for time; but your schedule is screwed. Apparently, the shot list and breakdown are in the car, which is enroute back to the office to pick up the lens… sound like a horror show? It is is, but it doesn’t have to be. There is an app for that…

Stillmotion’s SMAPP is the iOS balm to keep you rash-free from pre-production to post. Fantastically useful, built by filmmakers FOR filmmakers – I don’t leave the house without. Of course, there are a bazillion app’s on iTunes for use on-set to aid in wrangling your creative endeavors into reality… but this one has alot going for it, and you can’t beat the price; it’s FREE. Here’s the skinny on SMAPP (from the Stillmotion blog); It’s got all this & more:

Lens Selection Tool

Lens selection can make for break your shot, so getting it right is crucial. The LST ingeniously suggests a lens for the job, be it dramatic, comedic, etc. Great little tool for pre-production plans.

Don't be THIS guy.Shot List Tool

The trusty Shot List is akin to a school bus; not fancy, but it’ll get you to school in one piece. Input your shots, lenses, gear, locations, etc and you’ll have a laundry list of all the info you’ll need in one place. Handy.

Movement Tool

You’ve got fancypants moves to make, but which rig to use? If the Motion Tool is peanut butter, the Shot List is jelly. PB & J = awesome.

Packing List

Packing your gear without a checklist is like packing a cannon without gun powder– everything seems OK until you light the fuse. With the SMAPP Packing List, customize your gear inventory for each shoot, check off what you’ve got in the bags, upload your list to Dropbox & share with your crew. Nothing left behind. Isn’t that a great feeling?

Tutorials

Handy for the advanced user or the neophyte, SMAPP is loaded with tutorials– over 30 of ’em in all.

Thanks to the fantastically talented (and most generous) folks at Stillmotion, who give freely of their knowledge, generosity and passion for the craft. Check out the site– packed with good stuff & get yourself the SMAPP.

Got a film production APP to share? Add your comment!

– M

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10 Rules for Doc filmmaking

Displair

Documentary filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky is a creative force to be reckoned with; he’s won mountains of awards, broadcast his films internationally and screened his work at the most fancypants festivals on the planet. The man knows exactly what he’s doing.

In that, here’s a handful of know-how from the master himself: 10 tips to tilt things your way in making your documentary film. Here we go- (parentheses mine);

1 ) Don’t film if you can’t live without filming.

(No sense in shooting if you -likely- won’t use the footage. Coverage is one thing, waste is another).

2 ) Don’t film if you want to say something – just say it or write it.

(Shoot when you want to show the viewer something, to let the viewer see something; think both macro and micro, the entire film and every shot within it).

3 ) Don’t film if you already knew your message before filming – just become a teacher.

(Let your film experience change you; let the experience be one of discovery for bot yourself & the word in which you’re filming).

4 ) Don’t film something you just hate. Don’t film something you just love.

Film when you aren’t sure if you hate it or love it. Doubts are crucial for making art. Film when you hate and love at the same time.

5 ) You need your brain both before and after filming, but don’t use your brain during filming.

Just film using your instinct and intuition.

6 ) Try to not force people to repeat an action or words.

Life is unrepeatable and unpredictable. Wait, look, feel and be ready to film using your own way of filming. Remember that the very best shots capture unrepeatable moments of life with an unrepeatable way of filming.

7 ) Shots are the basis of cinema.

Remember that cinema was invented as one single shot – documentary, by the way – without any story. Story was just inside that shot. Shots must first and foremost provide the viewers with new impressions that they never had before.

8 ) Story is important for documentary, but perception is even more important.

Think, first, what the viewers will feel while seeing your shots. Then, form a dramatic structure of your film using the changes to their feelings.

9. Documentary is the only art, where every aesthetical element almost always has ethical aspects and every ethical aspect can be used esthetically.

Try to remain human, especially whilst editing your films.

10 ) Don’t follow my rules. Find your own rules. There is always something that only you can film and nobody else.

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Director Steven Soderbergh: The State of Cinema

“When I was coming up, making an independent film and trying to reach an audience was like, trying to hit a thrown baseball. This is like trying to hit a thrown baseball but with another thrown baseball.

That’s why I’m spending so much time talking to you about the business and the money, because this is the force that is pushing cinema out of mainstream movies. I’ve been in meetings where I can feel it slipping away, where I can feel that the ideas I’m tossing out, they’re too scary or too weird, and I can feel the thing—I can tell: it’s not going to happen, I’m not going to be able to convince them to do this the way I think it should be done. I want to jump up on the table and scream: “Do you know how lucky we are to be doing this? Do you understand that the only way to repay that karmic debt is to make something good, is to make something ambitious, something beautiful, something memorable?”

But I didn’t do that. [laughter] I just sat there, and I smiled.”

Get the full transcript here:
http://blog.sffs.org/home/2013/4/steven-soderbergh-the-state-of-cinema-video-transcripthtml

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Ray Harryhausen has Passed Away.

Ray-Harryhausen_BBC

Mr. Ray Harryhausen was (and forever will be) a source of life-changing inspiration and motivation for many, many of us on the planet today. In response to the sad news of his passing, he will be sorely missed. The post below is from the The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation Facebook Page. I’m posting this notice below in honour of Ray and his memory.

Not long ago, I had the awesome opportunity to involve Ray on a very special personal stop motion film project, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum. I had the very distinct honor and privilege to have worked with Ray at the helm as Executive Producer. It was a marvelous time for all of us on the cast and crew– all of whom, in some way, was inspired by Ray’s work and personal demeanour as a gentleman. I was blessed with the privilege to have known Ray as I did, and having had the wonderful opportunity to have spent time with him on numerous occassions.  We merry few involved closely with film will forever hold dear the memory of working with the man that had inspired so many with his fantastical creatures. And so, the chapter closes. Rest in Peace, good sir, you will be sorely missed.

From The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation:

Raymond Frederick Harryhausen
Born: Los Angeles 29th June 1920
Died: London 7th May 2013.

The Harryhausen family regret to announce the death of Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects pioneer and stop-motion model animator. He was a multi-award winner which includes a special Oscar and BAFTA. Ray’s influence on today’s film makers was enormous, with luminaries; Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and the UK’s own Nick Park have cited Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations.

ray_harryhausen-1Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O’Brien’s creations in KING KONG with his boyhood friend, the author Ray Bradbury in 1933, and he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1935 with home-movies that featured his youthful attempts at model animation. Over the period of the next 46 years, he made some of the genres best known movies – MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955), 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957), MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961), ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966), THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969), three films based on the adventures of SINBAD and CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981). He is perhaps best remembered for his extraordinary animation of seven skeletons in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) which took him three months to film.

Harryhausen’s genius was in being able to bring his models alive. Whether they were prehistoric dinosaurs or mythological creatures, in Ray’s hands they were no longer puppets but became instead characters in their own right, just as important as the actors they played against and in most cases even more so.

Today The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, a charitable Trust set up by Ray on the 10th April 1986, is devoted to the protection of Ray’s name and body of work as well as archiving, preserving and restoring Ray’s extensive Collection.

Tributes have been heaped upon Harryhausen for his work by his peers in recent years.

“Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.” “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS”
George Lucas.

“THE LORD OF THE RINGS is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie’. Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least”
Peter Jackson

“In my mind he will always be the king of stop-motion animation”
Nick Park

“His legacy of course is in good hands
Because it’s carried in the DNA of so many film fans.”
Randy Cook

“You know I’m always saying to the guys that I work with now on computer graphics “do it like Ray Harryhausen”
Phil Tippett

“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.”
Terry Gilliam.

“His patience, his endurance have inspired so many of us.”
Peter Jackson

“Ray, your inspiration goes with us forever.”
Steven Spielberg

“I think all of us who are practitioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant.
If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.”
James Cameron

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Give Rejection a Smackdown

rejection sucks

Rejection sucks.

But like all grey clouds promising nothing but rainy days on your parade, there IS a silver lining in there for those brave souls willing to plumb for it. So, having to deal with a healthy dose of the stuff myself, I thought I’d share a fe insightful tips I’d dug up to turn my frown upside down.

Think of Rejection as chicken crap; stinky, nasty and zero fun to be had with it. On the other hand, with proper handling,  those same turds can provide fuel to propel you forward in life. Think of Rejection as a potential alternative fuel source for yourself. Here’s a few things you can do to fly in the face of rejection, and get your life back on.

It’s Likely Not Personal (most of the time). 
Rejection is like a pointy object straight to the heart when taken personally. The good news is, it’s a part of Life, and often times it won’t be about you personally. Of course there are lots of times it is, but likely you’re not wandering this earth in a state of perpetual rejection, though it may feel like that’s not true. Not every idea will be a great one, your relationships may not all work out fantastically, your Business Startup may not succeed. Hell not everybody will be nice to you. It’s just how things are, and knowing it’s not You Personally may help in getting around the hurdles as they appear.
 The thing to do?  Get over it. Pole vault the hurdle, but do so quickly so you can get on with your life. Lose the need for other people’s approval, and have more fun with your life.
 
OK, So This Time It’s Personal
Good News: You have the power to do something positive about it. Your boss thinks your not talented, motivated, etc. A friend opted to bail on your relationship because of a characteristic or habit you possess they find… unflattering. Ok, so it’s personal this time. The chemistry just isn’t what you’d hoped for. Sort the minor stuff from the major – the important stuff to consider seriously, from the passing asides tossed your way. Be wary of what judgement’s other’s are making that really amount to nothing much -honestly- and if it’s really not heavy, brush it off. Life’s too short to be worried about how people judge your clothes, your laugh, movies you’ve seen. Time to move on.
Serious consideration is best reserved for other important stuff, both personal and professional. Not pulling your weight at work, doing the best you can personally/ professionally with all your capabilities? Slacking off a bit and seeing both relationships and clients expressing dissatisfaction with your handling of things? Time to stop making excuses and getting defensive. Be responsible. Process the feedback and spin that stuff into something useful! Listen to criticism. Discern what’s accurate, and what’s not. Now invest some of that power I mentioned earlier, start changing things to what you want them to be. Get your stuff together– do the work on yourself, so you’ll be ready for great opportunities.
—-
Get Motivated to Realize Your Potential.
Each of us has opportunity (and responsibility) to make a difference while on this planet. Wether you impact one other person’s life, or you have meteoric impact on a million lives… you have the power to impact lives in a positive fashion. What you pursue in your own life, the stuff that makes you get out of bed in the morning, the stuff that makes you alive, that drives you to do more, be better– that’s the same stuff that makes the world come alive, too.
Passion has tremendous power. Wielding it for good- your own and others – makes things so much better.
When you’re doing what makes you happiest, most productive, feeling alive– you’re setting an example for others to follow. Living at the intersection of your passion, talent and skill makes you the best you can be, a joy to be around, a source of courage for others in following their hearts in pursuit of their own passions. When you’re a candle, you have the ability to light other candles. The cool thing is, with candle lighting– it’s free. When  doing what you love, rejection won’t mean much at all; and that’s free-ing. Know who you are, what matters most to you, what you stand for-  that’s the powerful stuff, and it opens doors for all manner of amazing things to unfurl for you. The decision rests with you and you alone in how you’ll move thru life, regardless of situation and circumstance. Be positive, continue to gain momentum and things will tilt your way, now or later. The key is persistence.
 
Stay Ready, So you Don’t Have To Get Ready
Will_Smith_Wallpaper_39921Will Smith, actor (and sometimes singer), has a profoundly simple formula for his personal success. Mr. Smith on his approach:
“The only thing that is distinctly different about me is that I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be outworked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me. But if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things that can happen: either you’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple.
So let’s go back to what I do when people reject me: I’m either going to get back in, or I’m going to die. The majority of people who aren’t getting the things they want, or aren’t achieving the things they want, is strictly based on hustle. It’s strictly based on being outworked, on missing crucial opportunities. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.
Simple, but not easy. Rejection is simply not enough to stop Mr. Smith from attaining his goals. He has to die before rejection will stop him. ‘No’ is not NO to Will Smith- so how about you? Far too often we let rejection flatten our tires, bringing us to a standstill. You, me – happens to a lot of people. This does not have to be so.
Will Smith doesn’t let this stuff stop him. Instead, he works harder to find the right route/ opportunity/ persons to get to ‘Yes’. He’s totally committed, not stopping until he reaches his goal or dies trying. Smith becomes a force of nature, and in that, attains his goals. Fire, Water, and Will Smith. Works for him, why not the rest of us? Get medieval on rejection, and get past GO.
Here’s the deal, and I’ve been fortunate to see this in action many times in my life; When you commit 100% to making something happen ( by this I mean full-on, no doubt in your mind, not-stopping-for-nothing sort of commitment), the universe gets out of the way. Hey, the universe even helps out. Things start rolling your way, people appear with the right tools/ skills/ info and advice when you need it, etc.  It’s a classic Hero’s Journey; commitment to a goal opens the doors for all manner of things to help attain your goals. You just have to say NO to No, and keep pressing ever forward. Work your ass off to get to Yes when it matters most to you.
Don’t stop until you do.
-M
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