Millie, our one-woman film 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, Guillermo, 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.
What I got from this:
- The importance of background noise and ambient noise is integral to making any scene feel “real”. Without these extra effects, the sound felt flat. I could utilise this in my own work, removing the ambient noise to make something feel otherworldly and outside the normal parameters of audio.
- I need to increase my knowledge of sound production in order to have a better idea of what’s missing, experimenting with different levels to achieve something close to what’s right this time will mean next time I come across this problem, I’ll know what I need to do to fix it.
According to Millie and Lorene’s schedule, it sometimes seems that they think the only thing that needs doing with sound is just syncing it with the footage and then dusting your hands for a job finished.
I guess this is a vaguely understandable belief to have if you’ve not worked with sound files or editing sound files before. However, I made sure that they do have access to exactly the same sound files as me. I know they are very focused on the visuals of the film and esp. the colour grading – which is fab, I love colour grading – but I wish they would stop treating sound as an afterthought.
This is very annoying. Especially when I had to fight so hard on set to capture decent sounds thanks to locals still being in the pub, and I had to pour so much work into Roll 6 (the main scene) in order to get the sound as crisp as possible with a controllable amount of background noise. To do this for every take will be a whole load of time thrown at it, which is something I don’t have while I still don’t have a cut of the film.
I’m sure they will realise once they hear the film synced with just the raw sound files, most of them completely untouched.
What I got from this:
- Working for someone else’s project can be much harder work than working alone, as the other people might not have a full appreciation as to the work involved and convincing then of it is hard and labour-filled. Perseverance and open communication at the beginning of the project as to what is be expected of each individual roles would save time and frustration later on and is a key aspect I’m going to remember for future projects.
I asked Lorene and Millie for a cut of the film as it stood so far.
I knew they were working on colour grading, but if the film needs the sound done sooner rather than later for the 1st cut, I needed to start before they finished colour grading.
I, therefore, asked Lorene for a full cut of the film as it was so far.
I asked what a “10 bit one” was. I then told her the stills would probably work, as it seems like it was causing her difficulties to sent them a render of the whole film.
This, as I learned later, was a mistake on my part.
She sent me a list of the shots:
so I made corresponding folders ready to receive the stills and dump the relevant sound files in the folder. It was labour intensive – for no real reason, and that labour could have been saved. That was a little frustrating.
As well, the stills were in DNG format! Large and unfriendly. I could turn them into jpegs, but that’s incredibly labour intensive.
The stills turned out to be a little useful, but only really for reference as to whether the sound was for the right shot, which it should have been, but as stills, they were not hugely useful even for this simple task.
I could not get to work.
This is why ‘Data Wrangler’ is a job, to separate the grunt simple file processing with the actual creative process of editing and mastering files.
What I learnt from this:
- A well worked timeline at the beginning for how long each job takes and who needs what when would have avoided these complications. Working more efficiently would allow for more time on the actual editing rather than working hard on very little behind the scenes.
How I’ll shoot my film, based on first-hand experiences of others’ fucking up theirs:
- Concept Art – not only to get people excited and interested in the premise of the story, but also suggestive of the look, style and place of the film – useful for cast and crew AND the audience
- Storyboard – something physical to refer to when conversing with the crew, esp. the cinematographer, DOP, first AC etc. also helps to externalise the mush that’s in your head
- Live Reads – you watch an actor’s showreal, and think they’re perfect for your role – great! Get them in, and reading the script in a room with you and potentially the other actors. It helps kickstart your working relationship with them, as well as remove the mediators of editing, camera etc.
- Screen tests – similar premise; you won’t know what your actors will look like on screen until you shoot them and put them on a screen.
- SOUND – cannot stress enough. Two man crew, at least. Consult with the head of sound regarding creative and technical decisions. Don’t let it be an afterthought.
- Realistic Schedule – schedule the shoot days with allowances for all of the technicalities and prep work that needs to be done before and during shooting. This varies, and includes, but is not limited to; costume, make up, miking up, rehearsals, blocking, weather, environmental noise, blunders, forgotten lines, corpses etc etc.
- BTS Photography
- Extra hands – I seriously don’t think it’s wise to turn down a willing pair of hands to be on set because
- Capture the sound live – unless there is a very real and definite reason not to capture sound live, do. It will be a ball ache to do wild tracks, ADR or Foley. Avoid it if possible.
- Share your vision with the creative crew – but at crunch time, get them to give you two or three distinct options to choose between.
- Sweat the small stuff, or get someone else to sweat it for you
- 1st ADs are your best friend. Don’t lie to them, but perhaps get them to bend to truth to keep morale up.
- Analyse other movies. Really break them down, and all of their individual elements, and how and how successfully they contribute to the overall effect of the movie.
– Create a document listing shot names and then keep it up to date with takes shot, any comments the director or anyone else had at the time of the shooting and which take was preferred. This will become an incredibly useful working my document when it comes to post-production and you sit there at staring at gigabytes and gigabytes of often unprocessed film footage. Save yourself some pain.