Letters from a Madman

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mhh
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Joined: Apr 7 2006

Hi,

This is my first post, so by way of introduction I have attached a short 3 minute thriller that I made recently using a panasonic GS400. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

http://www.savefile.com/files/2205723

branny
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Joined: Nov 6 2001

I'm guessing there's not much response, due to the download time, but it's worth the wait! Great filming angles, cuts and soundtrack. The tension build was also well constructed. Worth a watch, I looked and learned.

Do not follow, I may not lead. Do not lead . . . I may not follow.

nash
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Joined: Nov 20 2003

Hi Mark,
I thought your short film has some great merits, namely the composition, and editing have been very nicely done.

In my opinion it would have been a more complete piece of work technically with some colour work in post or if it was filmed in progressive scan to give it a more filmic feel.

From a screenplay point of view I would have enjoyed it more if it had a more sinister feel to it. The story is dark but the filming / edit produces a manic feel instead.

Having said all that it is only an opinion and I think it still stands on it's own as a piece of work.

Thanks for posting and hope I haven't offened.

regards.......................Neil

Neil Ashcroft
Fastroc is Media in Motion
http://www.fastroc.co.uk
[EMAIL=info@fastroc.co.uk]info@fastroc.co.uk[/EMAIL]

stuart621
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Joined: Oct 24 2001

Agreed! Very entertaining and an ending to put The Prisoner to shame! :)

One shot which jarred with me slightly was the first POV of the guy reading the letter. To me, it seemed a bit forced and unnatural. I think an over-the-shoulder shot would have worked better.

However, that's just my opinion and others may disagree.

All in all, though, very good. There's certainly a sense of pace and claustrophobia.

The-Video-Compa...
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Joined: Mar 3 2004

Thanks for posting that mhh.

I really enjoyed it from begining to end, and it told the story well. Yes it would have looked better if it had been given a 24p film look in post, but it is still fine as it is at the moment.

The only thing I would have done with the mirror shot is that I would have used a split screen effect, which shows your character on screen twice.

I've raked through some old test footage for a film I worked on to give you a rough idea of what I mean. It's dead simple to do, but really nice to view when done right.

Take a look: [url]http://www.the-video-company.co.uk/brotherly love.wmv[/url] - Pardon the language. :D

Cheers mate & well done,

James - TVC.

Same As It Ever Was! :(

mhh
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Joined: Apr 7 2006

Thanks for all the great comments so far. More feedback, negative and positive, would be truly appreciated to help improvement.

There’s some very perceptive comments here, that for the most part, I agree with. For instance, the original script was about 10 minutes long and was more of a slow burner, cranking up the tension and sense of dementia and paranoia until it exploded into activity. Then I heard of a “Three Minute Thriller” competition. I reworked the script to comply with the time restrictions. It developed into a more energetic, claustrophobic piece. Although I am very pleased with how the three minute thriller turned out, I agree that it would probably play better, longer, concentrating on building up the suspense.

I am very interested in improving the film look in post. I edited “Letters from a Madman” using Pinnacle Studio Plus ver 9 and rendering to wmv. However, the rendering gave no options to deinterlace which I think would improve the film look (although some deinterlacing must have taken place otherwise interlacing artefacts would be evident). I now have Sony Vegas 5. How would I go about improving the film look using this higher end NLE. Will it allow me to deinterlace ? How?

This is the first short that I have done on digital. All aspects of the filming were done by myself. The most difficult part was composing the shots and then stepping in front of the camera to "act", whilst ensuring that I kept within frame boundaries.

I have a second short entitled "Live or Die", which I am in the process of editing. I will post it soon. In the meantime, please continue with the comments.

nash
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Joined: Nov 20 2003

mhh,
I took this from a review of the GS 400 on the web

"Pressing the widescreen / pro-cinema mode button a second time will turn on the Pro Cinema Mode. There was much excitement over the Pro Cinema function when the camcorder was first introduced because Panasonic made it appear as though it was a 30 frames progressive scan mode. While the casual user will notice that the Pro Cinema mode looks like film, it is not true 30P and appears to be the same frame mode as on the PV-DV953. The mode also changes the color cast and contrast of the image slightly, to give it more of a film look. It's a neat feature, but it doesn't replicate true progressive scan recording."

This will give you a move towards a 30P progressive scan look in camera. I don't know Sony Vagas so can't give you chapter and verse but try it in camera first and see what it looks like.

Regards..............Neil

Neil Ashcroft
Fastroc is Media in Motion
http://www.fastroc.co.uk
[EMAIL=info@fastroc.co.uk]info@fastroc.co.uk[/EMAIL]

mhh
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Joined: Apr 7 2006

I have attached an updated version of the film. The original was edited on Pinnacle Studio Plus ver 9 which does not give much flexibility in post. In fact the picture was left untouched, as filmed.

I have since upgraded to Sony Vegas 5. I thought it would be useful to show how a higher end NLE can really improve the look of a project with colour correction and other effects. I therefore imported "Letters from a Madman" into Sony Vegas and applied various filters. I also used a plug in called "Celluloid". It only costs $25 for 21 film look presets, together with other functionalities such as conversion to 24p and 4:3 to 16:9. Amazing value. Who needs Magic Bullet.

Anyway, I hope this will be useful for anyone wondering whether it is worthwhile upgrading their system. I think it gives a convincing film look and I'm sure I could have improved the quality even more with further experimentation.

http://www.savefile.com/files/1026772

The-Video-Compa...
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Joined: Mar 3 2004

I see a big difference in the picture quality, but I'm not completely sure that it looks that much better.

Although, I would like to see this effect applied to footage with a better use of DOF. An example might be a close up of the phone in focus, with everything else blurred. I could be wrong, but I have a sneeky suspicion that this might look pretty good.

Same As It Ever Was! :(

mhh
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Joined: Apr 7 2006

Thanks for the comments. I agree with your view on the picture quality. I originally intended posting a version which was substantially different. It had a desaturated soft, dreamy look, that I liked, but I went for a version that was closer to my first post, but better.

What I've found very quickly is that you can lose hours and hours colour correcting and adding filters to change the look and never really be sure that you've achieved what you wanted. This will come with experience I guess.

nash
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Joined: Nov 20 2003

mhh,
I concur with James, in reality 24p look is only part of it. DOF and camera angles etc all all to the film look. I do think however the cine look you have applied has added to the piece. I would like to see the other desaturated softer look you mention.

..............Neil

Neil Ashcroft
Fastroc is Media in Motion
http://www.fastroc.co.uk
[EMAIL=info@fastroc.co.uk]info@fastroc.co.uk[/EMAIL]

mhh
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Joined: Apr 7 2006

As requested, here's the desaturated, soft version. I'd be interested in your views compared to the previous look.

http://www.savefile.com/files/3077689

nash
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Joined: Nov 20 2003

Hi Mark,
Having watched all three versions now I am going to refer back to my original post. I think (and I'm offering this up as a suggestion based on gut feel, rather then certainty) that to acheive the "sinister" feel I described previously it needs to go darker?!

The desaturation has blown out some areas of light and the shots that "feel" (look) better IMO are the darker ones. How about making the whole piece darker with a gradient filter? It may bring in the sinister feel and add to the claustraphobia? Keep the soft feel though I like that better.

Only an opinion...........Neil

Neil Ashcroft
Fastroc is Media in Motion
http://www.fastroc.co.uk
[EMAIL=info@fastroc.co.uk]info@fastroc.co.uk[/EMAIL]

shellgrip
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Joined: Dec 5 2005

Mark, I've only just watched the original - I can't watch the others at the moment, kit busy.

I think this is a very nice short work, well edited, shot and put together with the music.

As has already been mentioned, achieving a more 'filmic' look is much more about the choice of shot, the depth of field usage, lighting and so on than it is about applying a filter or two in post. To that end I'd be inclined to wonder whether it's worth attempting to make this look like something it isn't. It's shot on video, so do the best you can with video. In my opinion it's very easy to make things worse by trying too hard in this direction.

On the subject of the 'art' itself I'd agree with the earlier comment that it seems more manic than menacing. I think I'd have included some more 'downtime' in the pace and tension. I can't recall exactly where I read (or was taught) this but someone once said that to have moments of high tension you've got to have times of calm otherwise there's nowhere for the emotions to go. A loud scream is much more effective if it happens during a quiet conversation than if it's in the middle of noisy action.

It'll make the movie longer but I'd include some 'normality'; making tea or coffee, reading a book, etc. Make the delivery of the letters and/or the phone calls surprising, make them punctuation marks, as it were rather than having a progression of events at the same 'level'.

I'm picking holes because it's easy to do. It's easy to tell someone what they're doing wrong when they've put the work in and produced something to watch. I'd repeat that this is a very nice piece of work. There's plenty of people around who talk and don't do (not on this board I hasten to add). You've done.

Jon

mhh
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Joined: Apr 7 2006

Thanks for the comments Jon. Feedback is so important to foster improvement.

I completely agree with your views. As I pointed out earlier, the original concept very much embraced the idea of the quiet before the storm. Unfortunately I couldn't figure out how to incorporate this in a three minute time frame and therefore the slow build up was lost in favour of the action. Maybe I'll return to the theme sometime in the future and film the build up, for the purpose of a complete edit.

With regards to the "film look", I do appreciate that there is more to achieving this than applying a filter in post but most of the techniques would have been unavailable to me during filming (except for psuedo 25p with the panasonic GS400). For instance, moving camera and shallow depth of field would have been impossible as I was the only one involved in the production (behind and in front of the camera). I did however attempt to add interest with camera angles and the one lighting source I had. I hope I did a good job with all these limitations. Doing absolutely everything yourself is a tricky game.

Would a 35mm adaptor be a worthwhile purchase to improve the look ?

shellgrip
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Joined: Dec 5 2005

Mark - no need to defend what you've produced, the shots are all fine and well made, I just sometimes climb on a very small soap box about the desperate need to 'film look' everything as though it'll be unacceptable to an audience as video.

But that's just me :)

Was there a particular reason for keeping it down to 3 minutes? I'd say a longer version could run 7-10 without too many problems.

Jon

nash
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Joined: Nov 20 2003

Jon,
You make a very valid point in your posts above re film look and you sight some good examples of slowing the pace down to excentuate the menace rather then use post effects and looks. That's worthy of filing in the knowledge base for future use.

mhh,
Keeping all that inside 3 minutes is a skill in itself. I'd love to see that piece as i think it could be really effective.

....Neil

Neil Ashcroft
Fastroc is Media in Motion
http://www.fastroc.co.uk
[EMAIL=info@fastroc.co.uk]info@fastroc.co.uk[/EMAIL]

mhh
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Joined: Apr 7 2006

Jon

The film was made for a three minute thriller competition.

As for the film look, it's funny how things come full circle. The only reason why I attempted to alter the look of the piece is because of comments made in this thread, rather than some desire to emulate film.

Bob Aldis
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Joined: Mar 7 2001

I watched all versions and thought the untreated one was best. I don't see myself as anything like an authority, just someone who fiddles with family videos.

I can understand the use of soft focus and other tricks but don't really understand the film look thing. Is it nostalgia or am I missing something. I thought that film and video have their strengths and weaknesses and trying to make one from the other would only produce the weaknesses of both? This is a question and not an argument.

Will we be trying to recreate the VHS look in years to come;)

BobA

Bob Aldis

shellgrip
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Joined: Dec 5 2005

Why the film look thing? Phew, there's a question. I'm not sure it has a simple answer but I can put forward some theories...

Firstly, I think it's all about the question 'Why doesn't my movie look like the films?'.

Someone new to making movies looks at what they've shot and wonders why it looks, well, crap. So, they show it to other people and ask questions on boards. Unfortunately, many of the replies they receive seem to jump straight to the physical nature of the medium leading down the path of progressive scanning, colour grading, filters, etc. The impression that it's all about the picture you see on the screen, the physical nature of the image, is enhanced by the popularity (and names!) of plug-ins such as Magic Bullet's 'Film Look'.

So, they apply these filters and it does look better (or at least different) and perhaps a little more like film and they're happy. If any replies come in that start talking about difficult stuff like shot choice and framing, lighting, depth of field, editing, lens quality and, heaven help us, the acting, then they're difficult and expensive so it's much easier to stick with the good old 'Film Look' filter. Especially since these questions are mostly asked long after the shooting has finished.

That the difference between film and video does include physical aspects of the medium doesn't help to dispel the impression that it's ALL about the medium. I also wonder whether there are simple linguistic issues in that a 'film' is taken as being 'shot on film' so there's some kind of subconscious urge to copy that medium.

In the particular work we're discussing here, Mark has clearly got a very good handle on the difficult aspects of shooting. He's made interesting shot choices and is at least aware of the other issues even if time, crew and budget don't make them available to him so I feel that changing the look of the piece is like saying 'It doesn't matter what you do with the camera, it'll always be crap until you shoot on film', which patently isn't true.

Having said all this, there are processes you could run it through that may enhance the look and feel - some colour work might be interesting for example - but these don't have to have the aim of making it look like film. The target you're after is making it look good for the medium used which isn't necessarily the same thing.

Jon

mhh
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Joined: Apr 7 2006

I'm sorry, I'm starting to feel a little picked on and patronised here.

I might have used the wrong terminology in referring to a film look when all I intended was to enhance the look of the piece with colour correcting tools, which weren't available in my original editing software. I have tried to explain this point but my voice is being drowned out by people venting their opinions on a film look, as if it's a crusade. It has obviously struck a raw nerve. Being new to this hobby, with emphasis on hobby, I am quite overwhelmed by these passionate views. To a newcomer it comes across as quite aggressive and unwelcoming, especially when I have reiterated on several occasions that I agree with the views. I apologise if the views expressed by the members were intended as talking points but it all seems very personal and directed at me.

shellgrip
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Joined: Dec 5 2005

Sorry Mark, that wasn't the intention at all. In fact, I only mentioned you and your piece in my last post because I was trying to keep the thread on topic - we're supposed to be discussing your work after all! Looking through the post I can see how easily it looks like I'm aiming the comments about people new to film at you - I wasn't and I should have read it through more carefully before posting.

I appreciate my comments could come across as patronising - it's a fault of mine I try hard to keep under control, though in my defence I think it's also a common problem in a text based community where you're only getting the words and not the meaning, as it were. I claim no authority or greater knowledge than anyone on this forum and my pompous approach and outspoken views should be lampooned as often as possible to keep me in my place :)

My views on film look approaches certainly are a soapbox for me and it wasn't directed at you (or anyone else on this forum for that matter) and were indeed really intended as a reply to Bob's posting where he raised the question.

I'm sorry if it felt like it was personal, that wasn't my intention at all.

Jon

nash
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Joined: Nov 20 2003

mhh,
I also hope I haven't offended! I have learnt from this thread (as I stated earlier) and I hope I haven't patronised you either?

..........Neil

Neil Ashcroft
Fastroc is Media in Motion
http://www.fastroc.co.uk
[EMAIL=info@fastroc.co.uk]info@fastroc.co.uk[/EMAIL]