Monday, December 1, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Though there were many brilliant gems of audio wisdom which Dave shared with his students, one in particular which stands out in my mind was something Dave referred to as "Kentucky Voicing".
In theory, every recording or audio mix should be performed in an ideal acoustical environment... one which allows you to hear the sound as it was originally captured during recording. But in the real world, there really is no "ideal" environment. The acoustic quality of rooms can vary from studio to studio and even from day to day, speakers can alter the sound of a recording, and budgets often necessitate using less than perfect equipment which can add noise or worse into the environment. All of these factors can influence your mix.
Kentucky Voicing is a technique which can help you compensate for these factors and create consistent audio mixes by minimizing the effect of the equipment and environment on your decision making process during a mix. In essence, you use familiar recordings to create a "baseline" by which to judge your own mixes.
Here's how Dave Moulton describes the process of applying Kentucky Voicing to your own work:
"First adopt a monitor that you can live with. This means (a) that you can afford it, (b) you can stand listening to it for extended periods of time, and (c) you find that you actually enjoy listening to your favorite recordings on it.
Second, thoroughly 'learn' at least five or six of your favorite recordings (at least) on this speaker system. Choose well-known and successful recordings (Steely Dan, for instance). Memorize 'the way they sound.' When mixing your own work, work towards emulating 'the way they sound' on your speaker system. This will give your recordings the best chance of sounding good over many different loudspeakers.
Third, when working on monitors other than your own, take along your 'reference' recordings and play them first, before you work on your own material. Get 'the way they sound' in your ears, and, to repeat, mix toward that sound quality. If your reference recordings sound bass-heavy, for instance, mix your own work bass-heavy. This will tend to neutralize the effect of the colorations of the different monitors on your work."
Applying the concepts of Kentucky Voicing to Images
When I first began working in film and video, I found that many of the tips and tricks I'd learned in the audio field could be applied to visual arts as well with a bit of adaptation and Kentucky Voicing was one of the first concepts I carried over.
In both film and video, footage is often color corrected as the last step in the production process before the project is distributed and/or broadcast. It's during this phase of production where the final contrast and brightness of the footage is determined, blacks are made black, whites are made white, and images are tweaked to create the perfect natural or stylized look.
Ask any colorist or television engineer and they'll tell you to NEVER attempt to color correct or balance images without using a calibrated broadcast monitor and video scope. But what if you can't afford to purchase a nice expensive calibrated broadcast monitor and video scope which can run well over ten thousand dollars? If you have to make do with a consumer television or computer monitor as your primary color correction monitor, why not apply the same techniques used in Kentucky Voicing to your images as well? Keeping with our theme, let's call it "Kentucky Viewing".
(Incidentally, I have no idea what any of these techniques have to do with Kentucky. The term was originally coined by Dave Moulton, and if I remember correctly, the technique just needed a name for descriptive purposes and it seemed as good a name as any. It does have a nice ring to it, doesn't it?)
First I would try to get your selected monitor as close to "calibrated" as possible. Some monitors and televisions have more controls than others, but at a minimum, you should be able to set the brightness, contrast, and hue to get the image in the ball park. I would strongly recommend using color bars to make your adjustments, but at the very least, find footage of something you know to be pure white and use that image to remove any color casts in the image.
Then, before you begin correcting any footage, pull out a few of your favorite movies or television shows and spend some time watching them on the monitor you've chosen. Notice the details in the image. How black are the blacks? How bright are the whites? Are white objects really pure white, or do they have a slight color cast?
Once you have a good idea what your favorite images look like on your work monitor, take a shot at color correcting your own footage using the same monitor. Try and make your images look like your reference footage. If you can, grab a still frame from your reference footage and keep it handy to use as a comparison.
On more than one occasion I've used this technique on my own projects and have had excellent results. Just keep in mind that if you're planning on broadcasting your project, you'll still need to view the final product on a scope to make sure your black levels and white levels are broadcast legal. This method is not designed to replace a calibrated monitor and scope, just like Kentucky Voicing is not designed to replace a well designed studio listening environment. It's just an extra tool you can use to help get the job done in a pinch.
If you'd like to read some of Dave Moulton's other gems of wisdom, you can do so at his company website at http://www.moultonlabs.com/
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
As with any successful film, Bumping off Burt only exists because of the hard work and dedication of the talented cast and crew, many of whom will be able to claim the film as their first feature length project.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I am constantly surprised at how many filmmakers fail to have their subjects fill out release forms before filming begins figuring they'll just "get it later." In many cases, the release forms are eventually acquired and the production continues to it's successful end. No harm, no foul. But every once in a while, this seemingly minor element can bring a production to a sudden screaming halt.
Several years ago a fellow filmmaker and good friend, who I'll call "Bob" to protect his identity, began work on a documentary film investigating reported sightings of the legendary "Skunk-ape", a South Florida Everglades version of Big Foot. The central figure in Bob's documentary was a extremely colorful self-proclaimed Skunk-ape expert that dedicated his life to tracking and validating the Skunk Ape's existence. Bob and I call him "Skunk-ape guy."
Bob arranged for Skunk-ape guy to spend a few days with his film crew hunting the Skunk Ape and conducting interviews at his remote cabin in the Everglades. During that time, Bob recorded hours of interviews with the him and alleged eyewitnesses, countless reels of b-roll footage of the everglades, and even filmed a series of "re-enactments" complete with an actor in a Skunk-ape costume.
When the project was nearly complete, Bob was gracious enough to let me sit with him in the editing room to preview a rough cut of the film. My immediate impression was that it was a cross between a Discovery Channel documentary, and something you might see on Comedy Central. It was pure video gold.
When I asked Bob if he had all of his paperwork in order, he replied that he still hadn't gotten around to getting a release form from Skunk-ape guy. According to Bob, he was a rather eccentric man, and the last few times he had tried to call, he had been assaulted with an alternating barrage of excitement about completing the film, and threats of bodily harm.
"Threats?", I asked him not quite following.
"Yea." he said. "He threatened to disembowel me or something like that the last time we spoke. The guys a bit insane."
I reminded Bob that unless Skunk-ape guy signed a release form, his documentary was destined to become a very expensive paperweight.
"Let's give him a call right now," I suggested.
Bob shrugged, pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number.
After a few moments, Skunk-ape guy answered the phone and Bob introduced himself. Almost immediately, the screaming began and a string of obscenities and various death threats emanated from the other end of the line. A moment later the conversation ended as Skunk-ape guy slammed down his receiver.
Now, Bob is the kind of guy that doesn't get intimidated very easily and tends to find humor in situations like these, which in and of itself is a bit disturbing, and he burst out laughing.
"See. I told you!" he howled as tears ran down his face.
"That's messed up" I replied.
Bob regained his composure. "Watch, in about another minute he'll call back like nothing ever happened." Sure enough, before he even finished his sentence, Bob's cell phone rang and he held it up to show me who was calling. "Like clockwork" is all he said.
Bob answered his phone and held it way from his ear so I could hear the conversation better this time. From the other end came the voice of Skunk-ape guy, calm and composed as if nothing had ever happened.
"Hey Bob! It's good to hear from you! Hey man, sorry about that. I'm just a little stressed over here."
I tried to silently coach Bob on how to convince Skunk-ape guy to sign the release forms.
We thought it was going well, when suddenly Skunk-ape guy declared that he had been giving this whole "film thing" a lot of thought and decided he wanted something more out of the deal. He was standing firm and wouldn't sign the forms until his "demands" were met.
Bracing himself for the worst, Bob gathered his courage and asked what Skunk-ape guy's demands were. After a brief pause, Bob put his hand over the phone and mouthed the words "This guy is absolutely insane."
Rather than reiterating Skunk-ape guy's words in graphic detail, let's just say that a single man in his mid 40's who spends his life skulking around the Everglades in search of a fictitious man-ape doesn't have much time to build relationships with members of the opposite sex. Enough said.
Very calmly, Bob attempted to explain to Skunk-ape guy that he was a filmmaker and not the owner of an escort service, but it was falling on deaf ears. Eventually he gave up and ended the call. Bob put his phone away, looked up at me and just shrugged. To this day, he still hasn't completed his documentary or collected a release from Skunk-ape guy.
Now obviously the Skunk Ape story, as it's come to be known, is not your typical scenario. But the point of the story is still valid: If Bob had collected a release form before filming while Skunk-ape guy was excitement about the project, he would have been able to finish his documentary, release it, and possibly even win a few awards to boot. Instead, it just sits on a shelf and serves as a reminder of what can happen if you don't have all your paperwork in order before you start filming.
The moral of the story: Get ALL your paperwork in order BEFORE you start filming.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Check out our latest project at http://www.bumpingoffburt.com
Monday, October 27, 2008
The poster measures 27" x 40" and is suitable for framing and display. It's the perfect addition to any home theater and will make you the envy of your friends! You can view the poster here.
To be eligible for this giveaway, become a follower or subscriber of this blog. Each follower will automatically receive one entry for the giveaway. Subscribers will need to comment this post to let us know you are now one of our subscribers in order to be eligible for entries.
Additional entries will be awarded for performing any of the following actions:
-- Post a comment on any article on our blog (1 entry)
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-- Watch the trailer on YouTube and post a comment (3 entries)
-- Write about us or the film on your Blog (5 entries)
After completing an item in the list above, be sure to comment this post to let us know which item you completed, providing any information we would need for verification (web site address where you posted a link, Digg or Stumble user name, MySpace or Facebook name, etc.) Note: Please post a separate comment for each item. This allows us to easily track each additional entry to ensure you get all the entries you've earned.
The winner will be randomly selected from all entries on December 1st, 2008 and the winning name will be posted on this blog. The winner will need to contact us via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to provide a shipping address no later than December 15th. The poster will be shipped first class mail once shipping information is received.
Best of Luck to Everyone!
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Sunday, October 26, 2008
When we first started pre-production on Bumping off Burt, we decided to plan for a theatrical release, even though we knew that the odds against finding a theatrical distributor were heavily stacked against us. It's fairly common knowledge that unless you have at least one well-known star in a leading role you don't stand much of a chance of securing a theatrical release from a traditional distributor.
Hello, and welcome to the blog!