core / life master / 2008 / july / july 23 (07-23-08)
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7-21-08 Brooklyn

Ok so this week I’m diving into rotoscoping. That means isolating moving things from the background so that they can be independently manipulated. It’s the red hallway effort, that is changing the lights in the hall between cabins to a red submarine type color. Here’s why…

1) red lights were used to indicate night time aboard submarines, to maintain dark adaption and for running on batteries (before nukes). red light is hard to see from a distance. The halls in the DOG boat are darkish even in daytime so they would need to have lights on 24 hours. The engineer has only energized the emergency circuit to conserve power, which uses red lights.

2) red is a swell color for our first look at joe, and for gerry’s visit from christina. it suggests the red smokey wombs of low birth which hooks into buddhism somewhere. it suggest blood and crisis. it’s sexy!

3) red helps the speedup of c’s knocking at g’s door.

There are about 18 scenes that include the hall, 8 that need heavy frame by frame roto work, 6 that need a simple doorframe mask and 4 that need an animated mask to cover the grid of screen door.

here’s c meeting j at the door. Notice the colored lines, those are masks defining which part of the image is transparent. As the characters move, the masks have to move too, sometimes frame by frame (24 frames for each second of video).

As I was laying out roto splines in After Effects sunday, I started thinking about color correction and how to get my 3 way color correctors from FCP into AE. I have completely color corrected the entire movie in FCP, but the motion graphic work requires that I bring clips into AE over and handle the color correction there. Yesterday I cranked on research and discovered a couple of things. FCP 3 way color correctors can’t be translated to AE. So I am going to have to redo some color correction (perhaps all of it – yikes!) There’s a well reviewed corrector that works in AE and FCP, called Colorista from Red Giant ($200). Apple’s color is also an option, but the learning curve is not one I am willing to deal with at the moment. One thing also seems apparent, before I go to any farther with color correction, I had better get an accurate monitor solution. Last spring I was thinking about Matrox’s MXO which allows an Apple Cinema Display to display HD accurately ($900). I already own two ACDs, and the new Panasonic monitor that I like is around $5k, a budget breaker in these low income times. The Matrox has great reviews, so that’s what I picked up yesterday at BH. I also stopped off at Barnes and Noble and picked up a copy of Stu Maschwitz’s hilarious DV Rebel Guide. I burst out laughing a couple times reading Stu’s book while waiting for the author of Shock Doctrine Neomi Kline to speak, but by 7:30 I realized that I had read the date wrong and she had already been there a week prior.

Anyway a good day of discovery all in all. Stu’s book rocks but his movie “Last Birthday Card” which is included on a DVD with the book is awful – except for the amazingly great special effects. No matter, his ideas are sharp and techniques super useful, he even has another option for my color correction dilemma.

I fired up the Matrox box this morning and it seems to be working. Not a moment to soon… If I set this sucker up correctly, then my earlier color treatments are way dark. So it’s all good! Betterer and betterer.

fuzzy shot of the new gear. The mxo is the box on the table with the blue light.

07-22-08 Brooklyn

It’s actually 7/23 today, but I want to make a entry for 7/22, so here it is.

I got up and jumped into re-calibrating the matrox mxo so i could count on the color. as a bonus, I am able to downconvert the HD so I can see it on my little JVC ntsc field monitor at the same time. After tweaks and tweaks, the color on these two reference monitors is close-ish, so i feel prepared to move forward with effects and color.

The monitors. On top right is Apple Cinema Display (ACD) and top left is the JVC field monitor, both running off the Matrox MXO. Notice the difference in color between the (hopefully) accurate top monitors and the laptop screen on the bottom. $1000 well spent!

Now cue the DV Rebel book. I can’t say enough good things about it, however it’s pulled all the wind from my sails.

Here’s a bit of background. There’s offline editing and online editing. offline means cutting the picture and sound to the point where it’s about right. Mock-ups are used where more complicated motion graphic effects are going to go and there’s some initial color correction. online is finishing – mixing the sound (often with professional ears to help), finalizing all effects, turbo charging the color correction to get the look desired and then rendering out a master finished movie.

I wrapped my offline in the spring or thereabouts, I found a email to Jonathan who’s doing some 3D FX work for the project that I locked picture on March 21. I had thought that I had done some of the online work as well. I started going for sound lock, recording foley and generally getting ready for the effects work by giving myself a crash course in After Effects. I was also doing my usual editing and production to pay the bills, imagine that.

Fast forward to yesterday. The DV Rebel book has some sage advice about onlining in AE and not FCP to maintain the fidelity of the original footage (files). I’m trying to figure out if it applies this project, but if so it means a significant retooling effort. I am pretty fluent with FCP as one would expect after 6 years with it. If AE were an airplane and I were attempting a landing, I might not survive. I can fly it sort of but don’t expect me to pull any barnstorming just yet. So the prospect of moving the entire project to AE is a little scary, seeing as I am already 45 years old and DOG has taken up the last two. So I’ve got to think about this more, yes indeed. Specifically my HVX footage was shot direct to disk as Quicktime through FCP and as MXF files to P2 cards. Did FCP ding the image at recording time? Does the codec of my files DVCPRO HD get compressed on rendering in FCP?

If you are still reading this, congrats! I am sorting out the geeky issues here because I have to be clear when I post questions to the 4 or 5 on-line communities who deal with this esoterica. It should be clear by now that making a movie is more than having great ideas. It’s work! A frothy soup of diverse disciplines. Persistence. Madness even.

So that was yesterday and a little bit of today. I have framed the questions and now it’s time to find the answers. I just want to get back to the rotoscoping I started monday. With luck I’ll be there this afternoon.

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