Friday, March 22, 2013

Canon HV20 Feature Film, Part 2

Canon Hv20 Feature Film, Part 2

Ready for round two of our interview with the Director of the movie Throwback?

I Forgot to mention that the interview is being conducted with digital filmmaker Travis Bain. You can find his website at You can find the fan page for the film Throwback at

Most film makers never get enough of technique answers. Robert Rodriguez teaches that even if you are creative you have to learn to be technical if you want to be a modern film maker and it is in that area that I wish to go into with the next few questions. Okay lets talk about editing. What type of computer did you use to edit?

Up until late 2011, I used an off-the-shelf Dell Dimension PC for all my post-production work. It was great for Mini DV editing, but cutting HD on it was sluggish and it crashed a lot. Then, in December 2011, I got hit with a very bad virus which forced me to nuke my entire OS. Rather than reinstall everything on my ageing PC, I decided to upgrade, so I built my own new PC from scratch. I'm running Windows 7 Ultimate with 8GB of RAM, a GTX570 GPU, a Core i7-2600k CPU and a solid state system drive plus a 1TB hard drive which Throwback's 40 hours of rushes are residing on. I can now edit HDV smoothly at full motion, with no stuttering or crashes, even with effects added.

What kind of software did you pick?

I use Adobe Premiere Pro. I've used Premiere since the late 1990s and see no reason to switch to a different NLE. It does everything I want it to do and I'm used to it and comfortable with it, so at this stage I have no desire to jump to Avid or FCP or any other NLE.
Were you happy with the results?

Very happy. Now that I'm using a powerful enough PC, Premiere basically never crashes and I never have any glitches. It edits native HDV as easily as if it was Mini DV. The export options are also great and there are a lot of cool plugins available. Working on a PC instead of a Mac, you also have more codec options available. When I create intermediate files, I use the Lagarith lossless codec so there's no loss of quality whatsoever when you go through multiple generations. In fact, I usually export all my digital negatives as Lagarith .avi files before transcoding them to DVD or Blu-ray or whatever their final distribution format is going to be.

If you are considering an upgrade, to what software would it be?

My next computer will be even more powerful because I'll want it to be able to edit 4K down the track. I know my current PC can't edit 4K because I've tried and it just can't keep up with the frame rate. I'm not looking at jumping into 4K in the next two years at least, but it is something I'm looking at for the long term. I just want to wait for the technology to develop a bit more and for prices to come down. I love the look of the new Sony F55 camera with its global shutter, but it's way outside of my price range at the moment. But hopefully in a couple of years, you'll be able to pick up a decent quality prosumer 4K camera for a couple of grand. If someone brings out something similar to the low-cost JVC handheld one but with a larger sensor, I'm there.

I understand that you directed and edited your film yourself would you recommend that to other film makers?

Definitely. Having to edit footage you've shot yourself is a great way to learn what works and what doesn't, and it helps you shoot better material next time you go out in the field. Knowing what sort of coverage an editor needs to make a scene work is essential for any director, I think. I'm sure there are a lot of Hollywood editors out there who are handed great-looking footage by big-time directors and it just doesn't cut together, because the director has no real understanding of montage. It's great for directors to know how to work with actors or what lenses or lights to use, but without knowing how to "shoot for the edit", as Michael Bay termed it, it's all for naught. Going forward, I may not always edit my own films, but when you're on a low budget, you kind of have to to save money.

From the trailer it looks as if your movie is heavily dependent on standard special effects rather than computer generated effect. I think that the old school approach to visual effects looks better. So many film makers are grabbing what they believe to be as cool piece of software and adding a CGI creature into their film. In a Hollywood style blockbuster these creatures look good, but at the micro budget level they usually come out looking like characters from Wreck It Ralph. Nothing spoils a creature feature faster than a killer bear or T Rex from a playstation game. My favorite movie going experience of all time was when I got to see the US debut of The Descent at out local film festival. I got to see it in a packed theater that rocked from opening scene to last. The creatures in that film are all makeup and lighting with only a small amount of background CGI(the wall climbing scenes).  So the question is would you have gone CGI if your budget was larger?

No. Even if we'd had a huge budget, I wouldn't have wanted a CGI monster. I probably would've commissioned a kickass animatronic costume from Stan Winston Studio or Jim Henson's Creature Shop. I think CGI has been grossly overused in the past decade or so, and we're really seeing a backlash against it, as evidenced by the failures of "John Carter", "Battleship" and "Jack the Giant Slayer." I think the backlash may have started as far back as "The Phantom Menace." Like many, I mourn the lost arts of miniatures, matte paintings and practical effects. Granted, CGI is essential for some types of movies. I don't think Roland Emmerich's "2012" would have been quite as visually impressive if it had relied solely on practical FX. But when I see CGI gophers, scorpions and monkeys in the fourth Indiana Jones movie, I just want to shake my head. So no, I wouldn't have used a CGI monster in "Throwback." There's no substitute for a good old-fashioned man in a costume. If you film him the right way, with careful lighting and camera angles, you can get some great results. We've taken the "Jaws" approach for Throwback in that you only ever really get glimpses of the creature, you never see him full-on in broad daylight. I prefer this approach. It's scarier, because when you can't see the monster properly, your mind fills in the blanks. Even the creature's glowing red eyes in this movie were done practically, using special LED lights. I was determined to avoid CGI as much as possible. There is a little bit of digital FX work in the movie, but it's restricted to gun muzzle flashes and things like that, because we couldn't afford blank-firing guns and all the safety requirements and red tape that go with them. We've done all our gore shots practically, with prosthetics and fake blood. Moviegoers
can tell the difference. Even if I get to work with bigger and bigger budgets, I think I'll keep insisting on doing FX practically, as "old-school" as possible. I have an idea for a pulp adventure story featuring a lost city and dinosaurs, and if I ever get to do it, I want to create the dinosaurs with stop-motion as a tribute to Ray Harryhausen and the animators he inspired like Phil Tippett. I know stop-motion is out of vogue (except for films for the younger crowd like "Paranorman" and "Frankenweenie"), but I'd rather do my dinosaurs with good stop-motion than lousy CGI. I think audiences would respond well to a revival of stop-motion for a retro fantasy adventure. Here's hoping "Throwback" is enough of a success that I can afford to commission Laika to do my dinos for me.

I'm glad you mentioned "The Descent." It's one of the best horror films I've seen in recent years and I'm a big fan of Neil Marshall's. He's clearly inspired by John Carpenter and "The Thing", which for my money is the best horror movie ever made. Marshall even uses the same font for his titles as Carpenter, which is a cool homage.

 The final part of this interview will focus on post and distribution. Please take a moment to stumble us on stumbleupon, bookmark this post and to share it with a friend. Final note for today. For those of you who only use Youtube could you check out Vimeo. The traffic is not as good as Youtube, but the video quality is great. Also if you post your work at Youtube there is no law that says that you can not use Vimeo as well. You will be reaching a larger audience if you use both. Part of being a successful digital filmmaker is to go out and find the audience. Finding the audience for your digital film is sometimes taking advantage of every possible chance to reach them.

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