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The Making of Family: Part 2

Editing, Post Production and successfully navigating the HD pipeline By Frank Moldstad

Renee Humphrey as Jean.
When last we left our hero, independent director JM Logan had sailed through on-location shooting for his feature film Family [see Part 1]. The workflow was going according to plan, thanks to a music video project he had undertaken previously to test the feasibility of shooting the film at 24pa (16x9 anamorphic squeeze) on a Panasonic DVX 100a and up-rezzing from 720 to 1440 for output to HD.

So now it's onto editing and post production. But this is where things get a little more complicated, since the film pushed the boundaries far more than the music video had. In Part Two of "The Making of Family," we delve into the editing, color timing, post production and scoring decisions Logan faced. And getting the film through the HD pipeline involved some truly creative brainstorming, as Logan relates in a fascinating sidebar below.

It sounds like editing was the easiest part of the whole process, is that true?

Well, technically editing was incredibly easy because I cut the whole thing on DV into reel and then uprezzed the reel. So by the time everything got uprezzed, it had already been edited.

But I edited the film for almost eight months, just trying to get everything to work, trying to get the story right and doing screenings. I knew that once I locked the reels, there was no going back. So I tried to screen it for as many people as possible just to make the story work. And I cut out a good bit, Ive got quite a few deleted scenes. Every movie does. Its that process of finding out what the movie is and the story that you shot.

So I took a lot of time with that because I knew that once I locked the reels and started the uprezzing process, I still had another month or two of post production and just uprezzing and rendering and degraining and regraining and all those other processes I had to run it through.

The Secret Formula
Going from DV to HDSR final master

By JM Logan
I cut the movie into five reels for ease of film-out in the event that became a requirement, and also because its easier for sound to deal with reels than with one big movie. I added film leaders to the beginning and end of the reels with 2-pops at the HEAD and TAIL so that once the sound went to OMF, from that point on we would always be able to tell if the sound was in sync in any form boy did this pay off (when I accidentally rendered out a reel at 23.98 instead of 23.976 I knew immediately that I had screwed up somewhere because the tail pop was 5 frames late). So I exported OMFs of the sound and Quicktimes of the picture (Motion JPEG codec) for the sound guys and the composer, and off they went. I singled out the Visual Effects plates, duplicated them in a video track 2 above the feature timeline (so they were easy to locate again), marked them with the VFX numbers and exported them as plates for the VFX guys. I decided to have VFX work on the DV rez footage instead of the uprezzed footage (which might have yielded cleaner composites) because I needed the film to look uniform and I didnt want some edges to be TOO clean where others werent. I wanted to uprez the VFX just like I originally acquired them on the DVX or at least as closely as I could duplicate that.

With the help of some of my VFX buddies, Roger Nall at 11:11 Mediaworks and one of my business partners, VFX Supervisor Michael Shelton, we did a number of tests to figure out the best output codecs for the DV and what uprezzed the best. While the ?Animation codec is supposed to be lossless and was recommended, I discovered on the music video project that there was a remarkable compression difference between exporting DV using Animation and using the Uncompressed 4:2:2 codec, and a histogram revealed that there was much more information in the blacks at Uncompressed than with animation. I wanted to have the cleanest image possible when exporting from the DV original to give Algolith the greatest possible amount of data to chew on, so the reels went out of Final Cut at Uncompressed 4:2:2 and said goodbye to DV. Then it was time to uprez and again I had to choose a compression codec.

Continued at bottom of page 2

You used an interesting technique in a couple of scenes, with repeating jump cuts to emphasize certain moments. How did that idea come about?

Well, that was an idea that never really panned out. I wanted to do more with it, but I just didnt have the time to work with it. The idea was that because these characters are such conflicted people, they have so much going on inside them. There are things they know they should do, and there are the things they actually do. Then they beat themselves up for it, for trying to act the way they think is normal. But then they realize the actions they are taking are not normal, and get upset with themselves and try to bring themselves back down. Theyre both just really conflicted people. As we all know in human emotion, everyones conflicted, and sometimes when youre really angry at something, you might also be really sad about it.

So you have those two different conflicting emotions that people will say are the stages of grief. But I think a lot of times you experience them at the same time. You dont know whether to laugh or cry, or yell or laugh, and so I wanted to pick a few of the more intensely emotional scenes in the movie and try and show those two sides at the same time.

Boyd Kestner as Eldon.
Sort of like an interior monologue.

Yeah. To have someone scream a line, and then to say it really softly and intensely under their breath. Its kind of a similar emotion, but its a totally different kind of delivery. So what I wanted to try and do was to show those two conflicting sides or complementary sides from different angles through jump cuts.

I really should probably bounce out the first phone scene, where she calls her mom on the telephone. I should locate my original cut of that, because its probably three times as long, and it just didnt work. I kept narrowing it down and narrowing it down until it was something I thought was pretty cool and experimental. And then Id show it to a bunch of people and theyd say, Oh, I hated that, I hate it!

So you think, well, at least it got to a point where I liked it. But in the end, its not going to work for the movie. So I cut it down a lot, and continued to cut it down. Now I think its a nice highlight, and its not quite what I wanted it to do, but its probably where it works best. I dont know that what I actually wanted it to do would have ever worked.

What were your screening audiences like, and where did you show the movie to get feedback?

I mostly just brought in friends, and friends of friends. I brought in a lot of people who Ive worked with in the past, whose movie opinion I really trust. And I just started getting some first reactions, and seeing where the movie dragged.

I did one big formal screening where we had about 30 people watch the movie and then fill out forms. Im really very grateful to those people, because we sat in this room for about three hours while they told me how the movie sucked. That was a difficult thing to get through, but it was through those kinds of experiences that just made the movie the movie better.

Yeah, thank you for your honesty.

Exactly. You're just sitting there and just having all those people yell, and they dont know the 10 months of agony that youve been through to get it to that point. But theyre being honest by it, and if you can fight through it and pull the useful bits of information, it just makes the movie better. And it really did.

I had a couple of screenings after that, and then a week where I did four screenings in a row with different groups of people. I got a bunch of different feedback and saw where things were going to go. As an artist, dealing with that kind of thing is always interesting. 

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Related Keywords:independent filmmaker, JM Logan, Panasonic, DVX 100a, cameras, HD, Algolith, post production, After Effects


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