Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Craigs list and Flagging

This is only tangentially related to sound...

Craig's list is a decent resource for the low/ no budget category films. BUT there is a group that flags everything that is non paying. Now first off "Gig" does not nec. mean it's a "Paying gig" so chill out. Some of these are scam artists but a lot of them just don't have any money. Now I see the indignation 'we should be paid". But in fact a real credit for some one with none IS a payment.

So two things.
For the posters, include some contact info in the "body" of the post so that news reader folks can contact you, even IF your post is flagged.

For you flaggers, Gig does NOT nec. mean paying. This is why you do hear things like "unpaid gig", and "paid gig". So get over it. We are all adults and can decide for our selves if we want to work for no money.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cheating your audience, and why a lot indi's fail the rump test

I was asked the other day about Formulas for Dialog EQ, to make it sound professional.

There are no "formulas" for dialog EQ.  As a general rule there isn't much EQ on dialog other than rolling off areas you don't use, generally the high end and probably everything below 120 or so.  It depends a bit on what your delivering for, some formats can't handle bass (16 mm for instance).  Dialog is usually compressed a bit but much of that is done manually with fader moves.  The whole goal of the dialog edit is to get as clean a track as possible (you asked about the "Hollywood" sound) so everything but actual dialog will be cleaned out.  If it's an FX that might be of use in the mix it's put on PFX (production FX) tracks.  Room tone is used to fill the wholes made by all the cleaning.  Old school those tracks get sent to the mix where the mixer does any processing (EQ, compression etc).  New school the Dialog editors may be doing some of the processing.  It really depends on the post workflow and who is mixing and supervising.  The mixers will also use reverb etc to place the dialog in the space if it doesn't fit naturally (sometimes the set doesn't sound anything like what the camera sees) and to get the ADR to blend with the production sound.  Serious noise reduction and dialog surgery is more and more done in editorial because the tools have gotten cheap enough and time in editorial is cheaper than in the mix.

BUT that is only a small part of the "Hollywood" sound, though it certainly helps.  In the ideal post everything you hear in a big film has been thought out and put there for a reason.  Other than indi directors/ producers generally not thinking about sound past intelligibility they also tend to be not into "sound".  They generally have an aversion to anything that deviates from the picture edit.  They often essentially want you to clean up what the picture editor has done.  So even when there are the skills to do a better job a lot of times it is hamstrung by a director who is married to the track they have been hearing for months in the picture edit.  Sometimes it's because they spent a bunch of time "fixing" (working around" a problem that they should have left for sound to do.  Now they are so invested in the "fix" that they can't live with out it.  And sometime they are just super conservative in a strange way.  With most "big time" directors, well the few I have worked with and the many that friends have worked with, if you have some little subtle complexity going on in the track.  Say some TV or crying baby bleeding through the wall from the apartment next door.  Not loud or in the way but just something that shows we are in a real apartment and not a set.  They will be happy and in fact would probably be pissed that nobody had thought to fill in the environment if you didn't do it.  A lot of indi directors will go "there was no baby on the set, it's the city, it's silent".  I actually had a director give me the "silent city" thing because I had put some traffic out the window of this downtown apt.  I live on the outskirts of San Francisco so I asked him to follow me out side for a minute.  I'm about ? 4-5 miles from the heart of Downtown and the traffic was very clear.  I usually try to point out that it is THEIR film and what ever they want I'll try to do but they should do it for a reason because the "that's what it sounds like" is A almost always wrong (most peoples perception of what things sound like is very far off) and B, it's the weakest reason to do something in a film (that is not a doc.).  A film is not a "real" place.  Everything is designed and if it isn't then your failing your audience (unless you doing some Dogma style thing).  A film makes a pact with the audience.  You promise that if they will suspend their disbelief you will take them to a world where your film lives and take them on a journey.  They have put their trust in you to look out for their interests.  It might be a scary world or a warm and fuzzy world but it needs to have an internal logic and you MUST honor the rules of this world.  If you cheat or short change the audience they will feel betrayed and not be happy they saw your film.  This is not a Disney argument.  You can scare the crap out of them, fool them amaze them make them feel good or make them terribly sad.  What you can't do is make them sad and then laugh at them.  You can trick them but you can't cheat them.

Of course expectations also play into things.  If I go to a no budget screening my expectations are totally different from going to a big budget film.  If this were not the case everyone would hate most indi's.  So you can get away with a lot but you still can't cheat.  And most low budget films cheat their audience in terms of sound.

*** “The Rump test” was a term my mother used for when the audience starts squirming in their seats, a sure sign you have lost them and they know they are back in the theatre and have been sitting too long.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sound Dogs - not the online site

Well I was looking at past entries and in mentioning the passing of my long time partner I failed to mention a new partner. He's just learning and he only had a year and a half apprenticing to the old master but he's coming along. He's kind of busy digging holes and looking for gofers at the moment...

But he does make some interesting sounds and he does have his quieter moments. He also makes one go out for walks and he wants REAL walks not the leisurely strolls that Bently could manage the last few years.

Anyway thought I would include him since I don't want him to feel neglected ;~) and he stepped up to the plate and took up residence under my desk. I think he felt he needed to "assume the duties". We'll see how much sound I get to squeeze out of him but for now he warms the feet. I guess the point is for the two people (counting me) that actually read this blog, having something that gets you out of the studio and into the open is a good thing. So go get something that does that. I like dogs and cats but a hobby might work?

Oh and his name is Monty.

Isn't sound 50% of a film (with good sound)?

I should post these slowly over a few days but I found some time and there are a slew of bits I've been collecting that I needed to post so it's a flood O' Blog!

This is a question that keeps coming up and gets argued over a LOT. There are lots of famous quotes all with different numbers, what does it all mean? Pretty much nothing.
Since there is no scale you can point to that will tell you which film has "good sound" nobody can really answer the question in a meaningful way. And say we did? What difference does it make? Sound gets 5%-10% of the budget on a decent film. Are you going to give it 50%? If so where do I sign up! If your sound centered then it's more important to you. If your a visual person then it's not. People keep saying bad sound will pull you right out of the picture. Well it certainly can. But it can be pretty OK and still be fine if the story and the visuals are good. If the visuals suck your lost also. Part of the reason this question gets the reaction it does is that low budget films have disproportionately crappy sound. They often have acceptable visuals and god awful sound. If most indi's put sound at say 10% it would be a mile of a difference. But they spend as little as possible on production. Imagine having for your DP someone who has never seen a camera before? Now how many indi's have volunteer PA's do the boom work? And sometimes they are the ONLY sound person. Then they get to post and someone with experience is going to cost a bit. So they go with some guy who "does music". I put that in quotes because I don't want to throw folks who actually do music in with the "dude who does music" who generally wants to do your post in garage band because it came free with the computer. What comes out is AWFUL. It's not even 1%. It's often garbage at best. So sound folks will say 75% because if you 1/2 believe them maybe you'll budget 3% and then they have a chance. My advice, don't use a %. Read your script. Know what it needs and feed the machine. If it needs 99% visuals then give it 99%. But on that scene where it needs 80% sound give it that also. In the end it depends on the film and the scene, and maybe the word. Give every shot what it needs and you will have a great film. It still may not make your career/ money/ etc. But it will be a great film that was the best that it could be. And that is all you can really hope for. If you do that AND do it at the right time AND have some luck... Bob's your uncle, as a friend of mine like to say.

OK that's all for awhile!

Doesn't Hollywood just ADR everything?

It's an assumption based on?
Hollywood probably on average does (well uses) less dubbing that low budget indi's do. A lot of the legends of Hollywood ADR are what was recorded, not what was used. Titanic, a film I know, recorded around 95% ADR, but used less that 40% maybe as low as 20%. And the reason we used that much was because FOX was building a studio around the ship so there was a LOT of construction sounds in that "big ocean". Many films end up using just a line or two. Hollywood as a rule HATES ADR. Italian films of a certain age were entirely ADR'd. Though that is a bit of a misnomer since many of those films were shooting a story and the actual words came during the edit so it was not actually ADR it was "original post dialog".

They can get away with it because almost all of their market is non Italian speaking so it is going to be dubbed anyway for almost all the viewers. And dubbing is not the same as ADR, especially done the way the europeans do it.

The point is you the low budget filmmaker should stay as far away from ADR as possible. So get a production sound person who has done it before and knows which end of the mic needs to point at your actors. LISTEN to the sound when you shoot. REDO takes that get drowned out by planes and traffic etc.

The long awaited follow up to 5D VS FCP

OK a follow up on my original post on the FCP bug (feature) that is causing problems for so many working with the Cannon 5D mrk II.

Last time I mentioned Sebsky tools
well here is the work flow.

1. Export as .WAV (yes .WAV)

2. Open Sebsky Tools (click to downloadhere)

3. Choose bwf2QT under tools. Check your settings, esp. that Timecode standard is set to 24fps.

4. Convert.

5. Give to FCP Editor.

(this is copied from a post on the DUC, thanks!)

Incase the above link doesn’t work I have also archived this important tool on my site. (click to download here)

BUT, it doesn't always work. I did four shorts with the D5 mrkII and two we re did with a special Quick setup in FCP that works perfectly, one the sebsky tools fixed and the first one which was finished before we found out there was an issue sebsky tools didn't solve and we had to do all the laybacks in ProTools. Others have had 100% luck with Sebsky tools so the failure may have been do to operator error but?

I’ve played around a bunch with this issue and it's tricky. FCP is restamping your files with the wrong sample rate in the mistaken assumption that you have been working at video speed and your files need to be pulled up to match the film speed that FCP is running at. The normal "fix" for this kind of thing is to pull down your files so when they get pulled up your in sync again. BUT Apple will "fix" you sample rate and THEN pull them up so the only hope is to fool FCP into thinking that you are already at film speed and the only way to do that is to fool FCP into thinking that you are sending it a film speed video clip. That is what wrapping it in a .mov file does.

It is also reported and confirmed by a few that FCP no longer permanently stamps your files (this was the case with early versions of FCP6) so that is good news.

The bad news is that this issue is still alive and well in FCP7.
Possible good news is that Cannon has seen the silliness of 30.0 as a frame rate and will “soon” be sending out a firmware update for the D5 Mrk II that will give it (supposedly) the same frame rates as the D7, ie standard film and NTSC and PAL frame rates.

The best workaround for the Cannon is to convert the footage to 29.97 before you edit. Or shoot in a non x.0 frame rate.
But The next best or first best depending... is to use the right quick setup in FCP.
I have linked to one that has been created specifically for working with the D5. When starting off with this quick Setup we had zero problems in post.

(to download click on this LINK)

Also there is an implication (not tested by me) that now that FCP no longer permanently stamps your files it might be possible to correct your settings in FCP and reimport and have it work. This would be GREAT if it works because it would be an after the fact fix. It didn’t work when we originally tried this but there may have been some operator error on the editors part.

Below is a quote from the DUC thread on this that implies you can post fix the FCP session and get the import to work, at least for PAL VS NTSC. And that should mean between any X.0 frame rates and non x.) frame rates but?

“Yes you are correct... FCP treats ANY integer Frame Rate this way, this includes 30 fps and PAL 25fps sequences as well... and of course, it works the other way as well - If you're capture settings are PAL and your sequence is 29.97 then it will pull up to try and match. Oh and according to Apple, this really isn't a bug, it's a feature! Seriously... according to the Apple folks I've talked to - this is the way they think it's supposed to work.”

<< updated to correct my referring to the 5D as the D5 - thanks Alex I'm sure I would remember if I actually owned one... Canon are you listening? >>

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