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A Talk with Camera Operator Georgia Packard

Veteran camera operator Georgia Packard began her life behind the camera as a child taking summer classes with Ansel Adams. Yes, the Ansel Adams.

“Ansel Adams was such a wonderful mentor,” Packard says, “teaching me pre-visualization in his still photography. We would go out with a pin-hole ‘camera’ shoebox with only one exposure. I knew I had to get it right the first time! I walked around my subject looking high and low, moving far left and right before releasing the cap.”

The lessons stayed with Packard. “I still do that on my film sets, watching where the actors move and often from where the director is watching the scene. This works really well when there are two cameras shooting the scene together so I can offer up my camera's position.”

Packard now has a long list of film and television credits, including Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, The Avengers, Valentine’s Day, MacGruber and Seinfeld.


Posted by: Bob Gillen on Dec 19, 2012 at 4:58:20 pm

Justin Walker on ADR

We talked to ADR pro Justin Walker about how the ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) process works in film and television. Specifically, we asked if the use of ADR was dictated largely by the work itself, or by the director’s preference. “The need for ADR recording,” he says, “is split between technical and creative purposes, and there are many possible factors that would determine why ADR would be used.”

Walker says that “Since ninety nine percent of my work with dialogue and ADR editing is technical, I almost exclusively look for those types of lines to prep for ADR sessions.”

In an ADR project, Walker looks for dialogue lines that are:

• too low-level
• scratchy-sounding from cloth movement on lavaliere mikes hidden under wardrobe
• off mic or off axis sounding
• buried in noise from loud locations or production effects
• ruined by crew noise from creaky dolly shots, footsteps from Steadicam shots, or a crew member bumping into a C-stand

“On the creative side,” Walker says, “it is common for the picture editor to record his or her voice as temporary ADR that is intended to be recorded later in the ADR process. They do this often when there is a need to change or add a line of off screen dialogue.

“A typical example would be a scene where there is a phone conversation and we hear the person talking through the phone receiver.

“There may also be the occasion where the director isn't satisfied with the way the actor delivered a line. I add those performance ADR cues to my list only if the director explicitly mentions that they want to re-record it.  The director plays a major role in approving ADR, both in deciding which takes to use and whether or not they prefer the original lines over the ADR.”
We observed that some made-for-cable TV movies have audio that sounds almost artificial, as though all of it was recorded on ADR. Walker says, “Those types of programs often have very tight budgets with even tighter sound budgets. It's possible that the sound edit and mix was rushed due to lack of resources, but it's hard to say exactly without knowing specifics.  I know of several reality shows that are formatted for an hour in length, but due to lack of budget, the re-recording mixers are only allowed one day to mix. That is not enough time to mix an hour-long show in my opinion.”


Justin Walker on ADR Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Sep 13, 2012 at 9:36:42 am

Doug Honorof on Dialect Coaching

We talked to linguist and dialect coach Doug Honorof about the use of accents and dialects in film. Honorof coaches actors and performers for film and television, commercials, voiceovers, and broadcast journalism.

Illusionists Extraordinaire
When it comes to the use of foreign language in an American film, Honorof says, “Actors do not need a language teacher at all. They are not learning a foreign language; they are just creating the illusion that they have learned one. What they need is an illusionist. Dialect coaches are illusionists extraordinaire.”

He goes on to say, “With accents of English, when time permits, I try to get the actor speaking as the character in accent improvisationally, before working the dialogue and getting off book.” When coaching an actor to act in a language unknown to the actor, Honorof says, “… obviously, we can’t approach the problem that way. The actor would not even know how to use the melody of the voice to express an emotion the way a native-speaker would. In such cases, we have to work phonetically.

“I have all sorts of tricks for writing up the dialogue in eye dialect or phonetic transcription, for preparing recordings for the actor to practice with, for helping the actor remember the sounds, and for prompting via earwig or nearby on set and, ultimately, for ‘fixing it in post’.

“But ultimately, I am not teaching the actor a language. They don’t have to speak the language. They just have to look like they do. It is all smoke and mirrors with foreign language work.”


Doug Honorof on Dialect Coaching Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Sep 6, 2012 at 10:36:59 am

Filmmaker Builds His Own Film Ranch

Filmmaker Tim Cash, owner of FarfromEarth Films, built his own two and a half acre film ranch in Bend, Oregon. Located in the center of the state, his ranch offers studio facilities as well as the scenic beauty of the Oregon landscape. “We’ve managed to bring clients to Bend from all over the globe,” Cash says, “including Korea, Canada and the Caribbean. Bend, Oregon is an easy place to sell to people. Just send them a few pics of the Sisters, Smith Rock and neighboring waterfalls, and they are sold.”

Music Videos
Recently Cash has been focusing his creative efforts almost entirely on music videos. “I love the process of music videos: the chance to be artistic and the need to come up with new and creative ideas with every project, and never do the same thing twice. I found other gigs a bit more monotonous.” Cash says that the TV shows and business promos he had been working on became pretty formulaic. “Music videos,” he says, “give me the chance to experiment with lighting, angles, color, art, direction. I feel like I learn more with every music video than I did in all the years before.”

Cash came to focus on music videomaking gradually. “At a certain point in my career about three years ago I had done quite a few music videos, but it was still just a third of the business. I was working for a TV show on the Outdoor Channel called Adventure Guides and got to travel the world and shoot and edit the series.” Cash decided to move on. “Right as the music videos were taking off I decided to quit the show and start branding myself as a music video maker.”


Filmmaker Builds His Own Film Ranch Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Aug 22, 2012 at 9:34:34 am

Creative Collaboration in the Edit Process

When Baz Luhrmann shot the epic film Australia, he also put together a series of video documentaries on the process of making the film. All ten of the videos are available as free downloads on the Apple iTunes site. The series, called Set to Screen, is a superb walk-through from original concept, through location, production, sound and costume design, to shooting, to editing and music.

Baz Luhrmann on editing: “The real act of making the movie happens when you bring together all those disparate pieces: the film; how you will use music; the sound; how you will structure it; how scenes you absolutely thought would work, don’t; how scenes that don’t, absolutely do work.”

And Australia editor Mike McCusker: “An editor, in the best case scenario, has the potential to be part of almost a writing collaboration.” He calls it a “creative collaboration.”

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Aug 16, 2012 at 2:16:44 pm

Script Supervising and Storytelling

Script supervisor and writer/storyteller Gillian Felix is producing a one-hour television drama titled Family Portrait. She talked to us about her experiences on set and in story creation.

Script Supervision
A script supervisor has several key responsibilities, according to Felix. “Continuity! In addition to matching make-up, props and wardrobe, we are responsible for paying close attention to the way actors exit and leave a scene, whether there is dialogue in the scene, do they exit camera left or right and who is closest to the camera.”

She goes on to say, “Script supervisors’ notes are the editor’s bible. We are the ones on set who see how it all goes down, and our notes help the editor paste the film together.”

She says that breaking down the script is another of her responsibilities. “It is without a doubt that we have to know the script backwards and upside down to be effective at our job.”

Script Supervising and Storytelling Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Aug 8, 2012 at 11:57:21 am

The Magic of Storytelling in Film

Writer/director/producer Shawna Baca is a self-taught filmmaker, with experience in short films, spec commercials, and webisode development. She leveraged that experience into wider exposure and success, ultimately putting together her own production company.

We asked Baca what an emerging writer needs in order to become an effective storyteller. “When I became a filmmaker,” Baca says, “I considered myself as a storyteller, not necessarily a writer. Even though I wrote my own material, what I gravitated to more than the material was the intention or purpose of the story and how we were all emotionally influenced by that story. I didn’t go to school for screenwriting but what I was good at was strumming up the creative imagination to sit around, make up stories in front of small audiences, mostly family and friends, that would engage and hook them in.”

Baca’s appreciation for storytelling has deep roots. “I was raised by my Yaqui/Apache grandmother for the first four years of my life before going to live with my mother. Storytelling was always an important way for me to learn about our history, or things going on in the world around me. I used to love sitting around waiting for my mother or grandmother to tell me a great story. It always whisked my imagination to a wonderful place of make believe and that place is where I felt emotionally invested, fulfilled, happy or aware.

“Since I am a filmmaker I consider the overall process as a way of creating magic to make your story come to life. I believe that my grandmother’s early influence helped me shape my life. I had no idea that I was so culturally downloaded with her indigenous richness, which later my mother helped solidify.”

For Baca, “… writing a good story is key but then knowing how to make that story breathe life is the magical part that makes each filmmaker unique in his or her own right. You can give ten filmmakers the same script and I guarantee you they will all have their own artistic value and uniqueness. No two films will be exactly alike when you add in color palettes, tones, editing, score, etc.”


The Magic of Storytelling in Film Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Jun 19, 2012 at 11:51:26 pm

Seducing Your Film Audience with Sound

In Part One, audio post-production pro Greg Malcangi talked to us about optimizing audio in filmmaking, and about hiring a Production Audio Manager (PSM).

Here Malcangi discusses the potential force of sound in film, its “ability to seduce.”

There’s a statement on your website, a quote from Randy Thom, known for his work on, among others, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Incredibles: “Sound may be the most powerful tool in the filmmaker’s arsenal in terms of its ability to seduce. That’s because ‘sound,’ as the great sound editor Alan Splet once said, ‘is a heart thing.’ We, the audience, interpret sound with our emotions, not our intellect.”

This is something which “…in my opinion cuts to the heart of high quality audio post.”

Malcangi says, “Many directors and producers make the effort to convince me of how important they believe sound to be but often their actions contradict their words. It would appear they're either lying or fooling themselves. To be brutally honest, I believe it's the latter.”

“This attitude is entirely understandable if you fully appreciate the meaning behind Randy's and Alan's words. When we watch a film, even a relatively slow paced film, the brain is presented with far more information than it is able to process consciously. Eyesight is the dominant sense so we consciously process a high percentage of the picture. Likewise the dialogue is usually essential to our understanding, so most of that is consciously processed. So too are the most obvious sound effect (SFX).”

“However,” Malcangi says, “there's another layer to the dialogue and obvious SFX, plus at least one or more layers of additional SFX (room tone, background and ambient SFX) which are processed by the brain but of which we are not consciously aware and that's where their power lies!”

Seducing Your Film Audience with Sound Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Jun 11, 2012 at 1:58:53 pm

Greg Malcangi on Good Audio for Your Film

Audio post-production pro Greg Malcangi talked to us about optimizing audio in filmmaking. London born and trained, Malcangi now owns Darkside Audio, based in Macedonia. Depending on budget, filmmakers can hire a Production Audio Manager (PSM) to deal with audio on set, or do the audio management themselves.

Working with a Dedicated PSM
What steps can be taken on set during filmmaking to avoid problems later in post-production? Malcangi replies, “In a word, ‘consideration’! Many filmmakers, at all levels, seem fixated on the image until they get to post-production, when it's already too late.”

He goes on to say, “Most audio problems can be fixed in audio post but almost without exception, the fix results in more cost and compromised quality. So ‘consideration’ of audio is needed throughout the filmmaking process.”

“For instance,” Malcangi says, “as soon as you've completed the shooting script go through it with the Production Sound Mixer (PSM). The PSM should be able to identify many potential problems and suggest a range of possible solutions before you get anywhere near the set. For example, an extreme solution may be to change the filming location, a potentially viable option if proffered at an early stage of pre-production but much less viable if you're already on set.”

There’s another aspect to Malcangi’s “consideration.” “Give your PSM the respect and authority he/she deserves on set as a department head and which he/she needs to help you make the best film possible.”

Malcangi stresses, “It's such a shame to see a good acting performance captured on film, only to be destroyed by lifeless ADR.”


Posted by: Bob Gillen on Jun 5, 2012 at 12:49:40 pm

Ammena Din on Budget and Production Controls

Production Control for Filmmakers
We talked to finance/production expert Ameena Din about filmmakers taking on outside resources to control their productions.

With luck, every emerging filmmaker reaches the point where the next project involves more than a handful of crew and actors working to build their portfolio. We asked Ameena Din if there is a specific budget amount above which filmmakers should definitely bring in outside help, such as cost analysts and production coordinators, to develop an effective structure for their projects.

“This really depends on a filmmaker’s level of experience,” says Din. “After years of experience in the business I know that a production cannot run without an army of seasoned professionals. There are so many important details that need to be attended to in the course of business, and even more in the course of a production. Having a solid, experienced staff is the only way to ensure a smooth and well-organized production.”


Posted by: Bob Gillen on May 1, 2012 at 12:40:52 pm

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