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Milk Update

Millie, our one woman filmic powerhouse, has been working on a third edit of ‘Milk’, and I have been there to advise and offer input.

One clear new direction was the involvement of a new composer and sound director who reached out via a mass email looking for projects to work on. I met Guillermo, showed him the film as it stood and we discussed where we wanted to go from here and what was needed to be done.

Yesterday, he came back with his first edit (not yet finished). It was fantastic – a huge elevation in the overall tone and storytelling potential of the film. Through music composition, some foley, new overlaid ambient sound and a few other tricks, the film now stands on a whole new level.

There is still work to be done, and I’m meeting him this afternoon to give him some notes, however they are really minor tweaks here and there – with the exception of the long conversation (scene 6); I think it’s missing something that I just can’t put my finger on.

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‘How English sounds to non-English speakers’

‘Skwerl’ is, according to the description attached to the YouTube upload, “a short film in fake English”.

The gag here is that everything else about this piece has the trappings of a short, highly charged drama exert, the only thing missing is recognisable English vocabulary. It has been exchanged for English phonics, the actual constructed sounds that make up word, delivered with conviction and in character, so that the audience can infer everything that you may be able to infer from watching a foreign language film without subtitles or dubbing – the setting, the atmosphere, the interpersonal tension and the swings of mood, as well as broadly from this context – the “meaning” of the dialogue.

Screen Shot 2017-11-03 at 12.13.12This whole grand delusion is designed to give an insight into what it would be like to watch an English Foreign Language film, if you had no grasp of the English language itself – the strict ties of vocabulary and meaning are pulled out from under you, leaving you with noises that are tantalisingly familiar sounding, but whose precise meaning is impenetrable.

This particular experiment has strong cultural undertones – with the prevalence of English across the world as a stable of cultural expression, recasting English as a foreign language that native English speakers are not familiar with allows.a degree of insight into another world – the wealth of English culture not being directly accessible to you.

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As well, Sociologically (the YouTube rule of ‘never read the comments’ aside) there are some occasional attestations as to the truth of this rendering of “How English sounds to non-English speakers” from honest-to-god ESOL (English as a second or other language) speakers from the days before their fluency. This is a testament to the thorough research or prior understanding of English phonics, or perhaps merely an intuitive ability of the presumably English native speaking screenwriters to create English sounding non-English words.

Excessive Knowledge and Serendipity

In my experience, there is absolutely no such thing as too much, wasted, or unnecessary knowledge. Everything connects, through metaphorical explanations of one topic using instances from another (think squares and rectangles; a square fulfills all the criteria to be a rectangle, but the opposite is not true), to more holistic and imaginative links, everything is connected.

I cannot for the life of me remember where I read it, but I recently found out that ‘speculative job applications’ are a common and accepted practice in France. A mere few days later, a half french girl came to the desk of the LZ and asked me for what you might call it if you send a company your CV without them officially posting a position. I then not only knew the word – speculative – but also the cultural context to be able to tell her that is a far less common practice in the UK.

As an aside, there is also knowledge in the form of sheer number of encounters with the particular issue at hand, perhaps succinctly known as experience, or expertise. I fitted a pair of new wheels to my bike the other day, with the help of a friend and only one small injury. The next day when I was in a bike shop for an unrelated purpose, and just about to leave, the guy said “just before you go” and came and switched the quick release lever to the other side, as, he said, on the side I had it it could get in the way of the rear derailleur. It was an excellent point, but of course if you see dozens of bikes go through your shop every day, it becomes easier to spot irregularities and correct them, because you have more experience of the variety of ‘correct’ ways different bikes can be assembled

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The greatest enemy of clear language is insecerity – George Orwell

There is a scene in Dreamland (the Australian title is Utopia) a satirical, “bureaucracy comedy” – think Twenty Twelve or W1A, in which Tony, the boss of the National Building Authority is trying to explain to the head of a Spanish contractor company they’ve hired why there have been delays to the project.

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There is a translator between the two, who keeps clearly breaking what would be the normal flow of conversation and either over or under translating things, until at one point he stops entirely as the Australian boss waffles niceties and clichés, hiding behind corporate-speak. The Aussie boss asks: “You’re not gonna translate this”and the translator replies: “I do not know what you are saying”.

 

 

The Art of the Workaround

Working at the Learning Zone I have also been able to deploy and improve my problem solving skills, especially workarounds.

From a recent example:

  • Student comes with a PDF file that will not print on the computers and the ‘media is not supported’.
  • I open the file in Adobe Acrobat and lo and behold it is entirely blank.
  • Open the same file in Photoshop and the assets are all there, but in front of a transparent background.
  • I create a new plain white layer underneath for both files, save as PDFs
  • open in Acrobat to combine the two and save the final, two page PDF with all the elements correctly showing in Acrobat
  • place this file on the USB stick and send the student on his way

There may have been other ways to do this, but this seemed the most logical to me, and I go by the theory of ‘If it works, it works’.

Workarounds are an invaluable approach to problems, as it often involves approaching the issue from a whole new perspective and trying very unconventional routes to try and get things to work. And, well, if it works, it works.

 

 

[Similarly, I was once working on a Premiere Pro File where the soundtrack that  someone in the group had painstakingly created and matched with the video clips across multiple channels, suddenly was not making any sound. The eventual technique that worked, select every single video and audio clip in the timeline with cmd+a and copy and paste them into a new project file. It worked a charm]