Monthly Archives: August 2011
Music Video – “Broken Glass” was written and performed by Brett Davies. Filmed and edited by Aaron Williams.
About the song: “It’s a song about my life; following my heart, following my dreams and not giving up.” Brett.
Shot on a Canon EOS 7D in South Wales, this film was first edited in FCP7 as a rough cut. It was then transfered to Premiere Pro via XML to take advantage of the programes dynamic link with After Effects. The trimming, colouring and final cut were then all done in Premiere and After Effects (for stabilizing). Colouring was helped by Red Giants Magic Bullet Looks plugin.
Singer/Songwriter: Brett Davies
Actress: Kelsi Farrington
Camera and Editor: Aaron Williams
(Taken from the Guardian) JJ Abrams ? ‘Now it’s a point of pride to be a geek.’ Photograph: Jeff Minton/Corbis Outline
Much has been made over the connection between JJ Abrams, director of Super 8, and his hero – and Super 8 producer – Steven Spielberg. Both view the world like wide-eyed, overgrown boys, and in their most beloved work (Abrams’s Lost, Alias and Star Trek; Spielberg’s ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind) blend the wonder of the supernatural with the tender harvest of the human heart. Coincidentally, both also kicked off their film careers at the age of 12 by making 8mm home movies. Spielberg was after a Boy Scout photography merit badge, while Abrams’s focus was his lifelong obsession with special effects.
“What I loved about special effects was the magic of it,” Abrams tells me. We’re sitting in the soft-focus, mumsy luxury of a beachside hotel suite in Santa Monica, French doors thrown open to the late afternoon Pacific breeze. The 45-year-old director-writer-musician (he has composed the themes for many of his TV shows, including Lost, Felicity and Fringe) is dressed casually in jeans and wearing black intellectual-nerd glasses, his wavy black hair a skybound thicket, as if perpetually charged by the intensity of its owner’s convictions.
“When I was a little kid – and even still – I loved magic tricks. When I saw how movies got made – at least had a glimpse when I went on the Universal Studios tour with my grandfather, I remember feeling like this was another means by which I could do magic. It wasn’t the guy with the top hat and the rabbits, it was a way of creating illusions that something was real that wasn’t. It could be a time and a place, it could be a weather system, it could be an aeroplane flying through the air, it could be a creature that wasn’t really there, a fight scene, blood splattering, window breaking, fire – it could be anything. All these things were little magic tricks, and the idea that they could all add up to create the illusion that something was real, so that people would have an emotional reaction to the relationship, a circumstance, an event – that was very exciting to me.
“It was almost like creating my own assignments: ‘I want to see if I can make that thing look real; like that spaceship’s really flying, like that person has a twin and they’re in the same frame.’ And then I would go about doing it. Frankly, I use some of those ideas far more now than I ever did when I was a kid.”
I can see Abrams getting lost in the question – in every question during our conversation – furrowing his brow and looking down into a middle space as he formulates his response, his answers picking up steam after an initial hesitant launch, until his words spill out in a salvo of emphatic zeal. He’s a fast talker.
“What I love, and what Steven Spielberg has in his work, is a sense of unlimited possibility, the sense that life could bring you anything, that around every corner could be something amazing … extraordinary. And that’s not to say glorious and good. It could be terrifying, it could be confusing, it could be disturbing, or it could be wonderful and funny and transportive.”
Terrifying, funny and transportive are apt descriptors for Super 8, Abrams’s first film as both director and writer. Using his adolescent auteur experiences as the jumping-off point, the story follows a group of children in the summer of 1979 as they set about making an 8mm zombie film. Our hero is Joe, a 13-year-old struggling with his mother’s sudden death in a factory accident, while he assists his friends’ film by designing monster makeup and exploding model trains.
Make-believe careens into chilling reality one night during the youngsters’ shoot at an old train depot, when they witness a horrifyingly violent crash, followed by what seems to be the escape of a malevolent presence from one of the mutilated carriages. In the aftermath, eerie phenomena occur, the military descend, people start to disappear and Joe fights to save the ones he loves.
“When I called Steven, it was an instinct to work with someone who was a hero of mine since I was a kid, and I had no idea what the movie was,” admits Abrams. “All I had was the title, and knew this could be a movie about a group of kids making movies, and he was the one person I knew who had done this the way I had, who could help a movie like that get made. So I called him, and he said yes.”
But curiously, Super 8 is not the first time Abrams has worked for his hero. When he was a teenager, he was profiled in a newspaper article about his participation in a young film-makers’ festival in Los Angeles. In a coincidence straight out of a movie, Spielberg read the article and hired Abrams and a friend to repair some 8mm reels that he had knocking around from his own teenage movie-making days.
Abrams’s mother Carol has described her horror at finding the spaghetti pile of Spielberg’s unspooled films blanketing the floor of her son’s bedroom. “What have you done?!?” she’s reported to have screamed. “He’s going to sue us! We’re going to lose our house! We’re going to lose our cars!” Fortunately for both the Spielberg archives and Abrams’s future in Hollywood, young JJ finished the job and split the $300 fee with his partner, though he had yet to actually meet the famous director.
Even the casual cineaste will be able to connect the dots between Super 8 and Spielberg classics ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jurassic Park, even The Goonies. I wondered if Abrams had struggled to avoid quoting Spielberg on the master’s turf of emotional, child-oriented sci-fi, or if it was a deliberate homage.
“The initial conceit was not ‘do a Spielbergian movie,’” Abrams says. “I didn’t think: ‘Oh, let’s start ripping off other Spielberg films.’ It was just: ‘This is a story that could be cool.’
“I’d called a guy who had a production company called Amblin, who made a bunch of movies that I loved [when I was] growing up and still love now, and when you’re working with someone who inspires you in a certain way, that’s part of the fun of it.
“Super 8 is about kids in 1979 who are the age that I was at that time, and I was massively influenced by Steven’s films. What made perfect sense was not: ‘OK, let’s ape his movies and start copying things,’ but let’s make a movie that feels like it belongs on a shelf with other Amblin movies.
“It was a spirit, not a scene, that I was trying to emulate. It felt like: ‘This is what the movie wants to be.’ I would actually say that because I was doing it with Steven, I felt entirely liberated to embrace that kind of stuff. I never would have made this movie this way, I’m certain, had he not been a producer.”
What about the decision to set Super 8 in 1979, before the onset of the internet and instant YouTube stars?
“The idea of doing a story about a bunch of kids now making a movie on an iPhone has no interest for me whatsoever,” Abrams declares. “Part of this was about an era where, if you were that age, making movies, you were an oddball. Not every kid had a camera the way they do now, on their phone. It meant effort, because you had to consider: ‘Well, I only have so much film, so what am I gonna film?’ You couldn’t just record over it. You had to make a choice.
“I’m obsessed with things that are distinctly analogue. We have a letterpress in our office. There’s an absolute wonderful imperfection that you get when you do a letterpress, and that is the beauty of it. The time that is put in setting the type and running the press, inking the rollers, all that stuff – that kind of thing is clearly an extreme example. But it’s the beauty of the actual investment of time, and the amount of time that goes by lets you consider things that somehow, in a kind of weird osmosis or spiritual way, is somehow implicit in the final product. And that seems to not exist much any more.”
Was there pressure to come up with a terrifying monster for Super 8, given Abrams’s early focus on special effects?
“It was a challenge,” he acknowledges. “I needed the creature to be intimidating, scary, but also be emotive and not just be empathetic, but sympathetic. Which means eyes. Which means a mouth. Well, how many eyes? How many mouths? The idea of the movie being that you have to face the thing that is the most frightening to you, the most devastating to you, to get past it. Ultimately, it wasn’t that we see the creature, but it was what happens with the creature.”
The talk shifts to Lost, and Abrams’s continued fascination with magic – in this case, the magic that occurs when an audience’s engagement with a show turns it into something bigger than originally conceived.
“[Lost] was very much about faith versus science, and the notion of who has had a profound impact on your life and how these characters form a kind of tapestry,” Abrams muses. “When you do a show that has that kind of ongoing conversation, the audience not only invests in the show in ways that you could never anticipate, but also makes connections to things that you may not have even considered. When you work on something that combines both the spectacular and the relatable, the hyperreal and the real, it suddenly can become supernatural. The hypothetical and the theoretical can become literal. And that is part of the genius of science-fiction or fantasy writing, which is that it suddenly lets you go, ‘Ooh – what if?’ which the straight drama almost never lets you do.”
Do woebegone Losties give Abrams an earful about the finale?
“Oh my God, yes,” he groans. “For years, I had people praising Lost to death, and now they say: ‘I’m so pissed at you for the end of Lost.’ I think a lot of people who were upset with the ending, were just upset that it ended. And I’ve not yet heard the pitch of what the ending should have been. I’ve just heard: ‘That sucked.’”
In addition to the premiere of Super 8, Abrams has a full platter of projects: the Mission: Impossible film he’s producing; the upcoming TV shows, Alcatraz and Person of Interest, which he is consulting on; Fringe, the ongoing supernatural thriller series; as well as a comedy series he is developing – a new direction for him. And then there’s the next Star Trek film, which he’s keen to direct (“The idea of someone else saying ‘action’ to those actors in those characters on that set makes me jealous,” he says), though nothing is decided.
As man who continues to frolic on his boyhood playing fields of magic and movies, Abrams represents the outsider who lives in his head. Does he feel responsible for perpetrating the new supremacy of the geek?
“No.” Abrams shifts impatiently in his armchair. “First of all, the definition of geek has changed. When I started, a geek was an undeniable loser: long-necked, trips over his own feet, a complete outcast. And now geek means someone who likes science-fiction. When I was a kid, it was a huge insult to be a geek. Now it’s a point of pride in a weird way. I feel very lucky to be working in a business and to be part of stories that are embraced by people who fit the current definition of geek. And also maybe the occasional athlete.”
(Taken from HD Magazine)
When Apple called a hurried press conference at this year’s NAB Broadcasting Conference in Las Vegas there was the usual feeling of excitement over an Apple announcement but also a question over the impromptu style of a major editing product launch – the announcement had to be to do with the next version of Final Cut Pro. When FCP X was finally shipped a couple of months later and received so badly by so many professional editors Apple’s editing competitors must have felt that their moment had arrived.
Competitors like Adobe and AVID who both very quickly conjured up ‘unheard of before’ conversion discount deals from FCP to their editors Premiere Pro and Media Composer. They also both made comments directly referencing the FCP X product release. Canny and charming Adobe General Manager Jim Guerard was perhaps making a slight reference to the unhappiness with FCP X from the industry when he said, “We are hearing from video professionals that they want pro level tools that address cutting edge work but also allow them to use legacy footage and workflows”.
The Adobe deal is that if anyone wanted to switch from any version of FCP they would be eligible for a 50% saving on CS5.5 Production Premium or Premiere 5.5. The UK price of Premiere Pro 5.5 is around £700 against £199 for FCP X and Avid Media Composer 5.5 at around £1800. Making Premiere Pro 5.5 with discount in reaching distance of Apple FCP X.
AVID were more picky and only offered a deal if you hadn’t bought FCP X. But the discount was much more. You were and still are able to buy Media Composer 5.5, with the Production suite and free online training for £699! About 60% discount. Paul Foeckler, vice president, creative professionals products and solutions for Avid commented, again referencing the Apple release. “Users who may be facing uncertainty now also have access to a Mac OS native industry-leading editing solution from Avid – a company that is dedicated to listening to their needs through our commitment to openness, collaboration and innovation in professional editing workflows.” Ouch!
If you read Adam Garstone’s review of FCP X you can see what is missing from the software from an experienced film editor’s point of view. But Apple aside, is this the moment Adobe’s Premiere Pro migrates in to the number one editor for professionals? There’s no doubt in Adobe’s mind that this is the case. Their supremacy in the editing field has been planned as long as five years ago, Bill Roberts is video product manager for Adobe, “A lot of people started out with Media Composer and went to FCP and are now wondering what to do next. Basically with FCP X they have forced upon the industry a re-learning. Even if you wanted to stay with Apple the paradigm is different enough to make people think of jumping ship. We see this as a good opportunity for us, not that it’s a ‘flash in the pan’ moment, the guy driving our division, Jim Guerard, set the course for Premiere to be number one five years ago. There was a lot of work to do with the product to get the feature set but we think with 5.0 we have got to the point when we can ask Hollywood to look at this stuff. That process started at the end of 2009.”
Adobe already have a shoe-in big budget feature film to use as further evidence of their ascendancy with the new Godzilla film directed by one man band film maker Gareth Edwards who used the entire Adobe suite of programmes to make the hit Monsters and will again with the new adaptation of the classic monster film.
Anybody who has bought Adobe software knows that their pricing encourages you to buy the suite of software and not just the individual software products. This is where Adobe might have missed a trick as many post production creatives feel that a copy of After Effects is a pre-requisite for working in the industry and so they buy the video package which includes AE and Premiere Pro, but they never open up the editor. Adobe has recently had an event in Hollywood called ‘Dances With Films’ where Premiere Pro was the editing platform of choice where FCP had always been favourite before. Out of the 13 editors that were taking part in the event eight of them had Premiere Pro on their machines but had never opened it, apparently these editors were very impressed with what they found. Perhaps since the Apple announcements there has been more virgin launching of an editor that up until now hadn’t been used at all.
If you talk to Adobe about AVID’s Media Composer they will say that it perhaps is behind the times as far as where editing is happening right now, Bill again: “AVID’s model was built in the day when editing was a specific room in the media enterprise, today just look at how many more devices capture video. If you look at that as a macro-economic driver, editing has to be pervasive and more and more editing will be done on content which isn’t professionally captured and you’re going to have to have a whole suite of tools to solve the problems.”
But it seems as if AVID are listening as well, a recent user group in LA showed a sneak peek of a new user interface. Avid’s Paul Foeckler also showed off the DNxHD codec working in 4:4:4 RGB. They also announced 64-bit support; the ability to work in larger than HD frame sizes, such as 2K, 4K and higher; and more third-party support video I/O from AJA, Blackmagic, Bluefish 4:4:4 and others for I/O solutions. Showing your hand with a new UI too must have been in response to the damp response FCP X got from the industry.
So where do editors go from here, well there is another option, the open source route. Everyone knows that Lightworks, the original NLE, is now owned by EditShare and is now a free open sourced product. Check their web site for their roadmap and progress which includes porting to OSX sometime this year. Their platform had a huge boost last year with the Oscar winning film The King’s Speech being cut by Tariq Anwar on Lightworks. The platform should gain hugely from that, but there is another open source editor that you may not have heard of, that is Novacut.
Novacut has already been in development for a year and has been part of the Kickstarter project which attracts investors to fund further development. Tara Oldfield explains where Novacut is coming from: “We’re developing for pro video editors. During the next phase of development will be the UI design and implementation. We’re all about identifying how video editors naturally want to organise the stories they want to tell, as well as the unnecessary steps that their editing software of choice forces them to take. Once time suckages are identified, we’ll delve into iterating different designs for the same problem, employing usability testing throughout this process to find the most intuitive, user friendly design in the bunch.
“Our first development iteration will concentrate solely on finding the most time-efficient design for cutting and organizing clips, and then implementing this design into a cohesive, usable product. Multi-cam editing will come soon after the cutting iteration, mainly because we see multi-cam shooting as an absolute imperative in saving directors and actors time on the set; plus shooting from multiple perspectives makes for a much more visually rich story. Shooting from the hip in terms of a time estimate for release, we hope to have a working beta in about six months and a smooth working, market-ready product in one year. In the future, we’d also like to integrate with Blender (the free 3D animation software option).”
Novacut’s video editing software will be free of charge. Their business model is based on its distribution platform, not its editing software. Along with the video editor, they’re creating a central hub where artists can distribute their full length narrative features, web serials, animated shorts, documentaries, etc., while simultaneously crowd funding their work. Novacut will take a cut of the revenue artists make to pay developers, maintain their cloud, etc.
“Right now, we’re developing for HDSLR users, mainly because they seem to be the artists making the type of direct-artist-to-fan productions we want to see flourish on our distribution platform. Down the road, we hope to support other cameras. But for now, we’re keeping our development focus narrow so that we can better serve the needs of independent artists making quality entertainment with HDSLRs, on a shoestring budget. “
From Novacut’s own research it seems like a large portion of the independent filmmaking community and university film students use Final Cut Studio 3. “FCP X isn’t backward compatible to Studio 3 and Apple is no longer selling Studio 3. So what do all of these artists do when they need a new workstation in the middle of a project? They’re pretty much up a creek without a paddle! Editors need more software choice! More to the point, they need software choice that’s shaped by their needs, as opposed to the ‘needs’ of a publicly traded company’s share-holders.”
Of course publicly traded companies allow continuous funding for editing products but Novacut with it’s ‘cloud computing’ philosophy may have turned up at the right time especially when so many people feel let down by their editor of choice.
Because most people aren’t going to jump on to another editing platform in the middle of a job the shock waves from this turn in the editor’s story might not be felt until next year. But that is maybe forgetting that Apple might be stung in to action and turn this product around and put in all the things that they have taken out.
Vincent Laforet and Richard Harrington Show a Complete Adobe Workflow