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Stills Versus Storyboard

This weekend marks the completion of my applications to both UCLA’s and USC’s film programs. The reason I’m posting is because for USC, a visual sample was required and I chose the video option. After spending a few weeks tampering with unsuccessful ideas, I finally just stuck with the most applicable one and went through with it.

The story is short and sweet, but this project, although visually simple, gave me the opportunity to hone in on my other production skills.

For this project I again worked with the 5D Mk II, and as most most who have used it know, the mic is garbage. It’s essentially the equivalent of a built-in laptop microphone in terms of usability. What I wrote for my project involved dialogue, so that was a bit of an intimidating thought.

Thankfully I’ve had some experience with mics, and currently I happened to have Blue’s Snowball available to me (the world’s first professional usb mic). I’ve recorded some acoustic guitar tracks with it (which I actually used to put some tutorials together for students on how to use Garageband as a tool and not a toy), but I’ve never done vocals.

To run a test I first had to become a little bit more familiar with Final Cut Studio’s audio-specific program — Soundtrack Pro. It took a little getting used to, but after about twenty minutes it became apparent that it was just a hybrid between Final Cut and Garageband/Logic. I did a quick dub of my own voice to video, using the very easy and practical Multitake Recording feature and was surprised to see and hear what came out of my speakers. I was impressed by the both the quality and the ease of dubbing my voice over in STP — it literally took minutes.

I finished storyboarding and location scouting a couple weeks ago and soon after I began to shoot.


First Obstacle: Weather

There was a tornado warning in my area on day one of shooting. I have never heard of such blasphemy in San Diego. Moving from point A to point B without getting anything wet became some sort of twisted strategy game.


Second Obstacle: Time

I had a couple hours to shoot my dialogue scenes because I was actually using my local library’s study room…which I had only visited the night before…for fifteen minutes; it was being use for a meeting for most of the day. Naturally, I was minimally prepared.


Third Obstacle: Lack of Equipment

I really really wish I had some sort of cheap camera dolly. A couple friends on set (thanks Harveen and Eric) helped roll a table that had wheels as smoothly as possible for a couple of the shots. Needless to say, a table is not a dolly. Even after twenty tries or so (we tried different weight distributions, different ways of rolling it, sitting on the table with the camera, etc) the footage was still very very shaky. Final Cut’s Smooth Cam Filter was able to salvage the footage.


Fourth Obstacle: Sound

Even though learning to dub was overwhelmingly simple, the sound design for everything else took a while to get right. Fortunately, STP has a huge royalty free library of sounds that I could sift through for whatever I needed — the trick however was using the right keyword in the library search bar…they should really consider implementing some Google software into their search engine or something because apparently phone and telephone are not the same thing. Anyways, absolutely none of the final sound mix came from the camera. Everything you hear, besides the environmental and ambient sounds (which came from STP), were recorded with the Blue Snowball and edited in after the video was taken, including squeaking chairs, hands touching the desk, glasses, etc.


Fifth Obstacle: Color

Final Cut’s 3-way color corrector is only so flexible. I tried sending my project file to Apple’s Color, but Color is a bit overkill for the purposes of this project. The interface although straightforward is still tough for me to get the hang of. I ended up using Photoshop oddly enough, yes PS CS4 handles video. It was much easier to get what I wanted with a combination of Curves, Hues & Saturations, and Contrast layers but that maybe because that’s what I’m familiar with. I did however encounter a little extra noise upon export from Photoshop — unfortunate but not mind-shateringly terrible.


Success

To sum it up, everything turned out ok but the highlight of this video is truly the audio. Every click of Mr. Hughes glasses, every sound his hand makes on the desk, along with both characters’ lines were recorded with a $100 mic in my bedroom. I think that’s pretty cool to say the least.

Just in case you missed the link at the top, the finished video can be found here. I wish the sound was as nice on Vimeo as it is on my computer but regardless, I think you’ll get the idea.


Thanks

Mr. Hughes and the Hughes family

Derek Farrington

Harveen Panesar

Adam Lee

& the Mac Lab

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One Comment

  1. Brilliant! Like Adam, one day I’ll say, “I knew him when…”


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By Giving Apathy the Boot (Week 19) - The Mac Lab on 03 Feb 2010 at 4:16 am

    […] blocked at school) to accompany his application to the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Here’s the behind the scenes story if you’re interested. Adam Lee, one of Steven’s partners in Solitude and an LMU […]

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