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March 22, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Why Do We Fall, Bruce?

By Dayton from SLN More Blogs by This Author

This last week I was put in my place. Like, hardcore. We submitted a very short film (a minute) to the SxSW film festival in Austin, and we thought we were doin' pretty good. 24 hours after we submitted, we were shortlisted. That means that out of all the videos that were submitted, ours was grouped with all the other films that would be considered for placement and sent to the brand for review. Unfortunately for us though, this guy named David Carstens sort of had the exact same idea as us, only way better! So, that sucks. Because I think that even if we brought production value that was higher than 2nd place thru 5th place, we never would of had a shot unless we did better than David. The reason being that the idea behind the 2 pieces were nearly indistinguishable. In this blog I'm going to break down our failures as a team (and mine as a director) and show you why our competition basically blew us straight out of the water like a russian torpedo hitting a 17th century frigate.

Why a Russian Torpedo?

First off, HERE is our film.

And now HERE is the film that I aspire to create, and tear up a little bit from sheer awesomeness when I watch it. 

So, now that we have reviewed both films and have seen one suck and one be awesome, I am going to show you why one sucks and the other is awesome!

Things we did way wrong, bro

I am going to rank these from the worst offenders to the little things that I didn't like. Let's tear it apart :D!

1. I hate Daylight Savings Time.

This is a symptom of poor pre-production, or just poor time management. Probably both. The picture below shows exactly what I mean. This entire film was suppose to take place in over a few days, but after the musician hands the random guy (who may or may not be me filling in) the demo at night, he is then putting up a poster that says "Shane Bliss Tonight Only," which is also at night. From a normal viewers perspective, it looks like all that happened in the same night, and it wasn't suppose to. In reality it was all suppose to be shot during the day. 

Notice too, our attempt to make it seem "dayish" out. The 2nd and 3rd frames have been lightened dramatically, but you can still see the shadowy contrast that darkness mixed with artificial light creates. Along with that, the street lamps of Grand Rapids cast a very orange glow that we couldn't fully eradicate. You can notice it even more in frame 4, where we shamelessly inserted another Chevy Sonic for product placement. The snow in front of it is a weird brown-orange color and everything is obviously lit like it is night (because it is). The 5th frame makes me a little giggly on the inside. As you may notice, we did a sky replacement. What that gives us is a nice blue sky with clouds, neatly matching the blur level of the infinite background. But, the buildings are glowing orange, something that doesn't happen during the day. In addition to that, the contrast again screams night time and there is an atrocious shadow on our subject of a flag in the wind behind us.

Then, to cap everything all off, the next scene is a stark contrast, because it was really shot during the day. Funny because the poster says "tonight only" but it looks like a different day entirely. All of this creates some pretty crippling continuity issues.

2. We shot on a camera with a small, low quality sensor.

In the defense of the camera, it is a quality instrument for what it does. What it does is take pictures really well. The sensor on our camera has an APS-C crop, which means that it has less than stellar low light sensitivity and a cropped image. This can really destroy our production quality, especially in comparison to these guys that are shooting on REDs and Black Magic cine cams (which has a cropped sensor, but is an excellent camera). Even when we are compared to the filmmakers that are shooting on DSLRs, they are beating us because they are using Canon 5d mkIIIs and Nikon D800s.

This brings us to our lovely ISO noise issue. ISO is basically how sensitive the sensor (or in the old days, film) is and how quickly it responds to light. If the ISO is cranked up super high the image will be brighter, but if the sensor is of a lower quality it will produce a smeary moving grain known as ISO noise. We were plagued with this problem due to the lack of light and our small sensor size. 

See how the image looks grainy and has strange color variations on it? It is even worse when you are seeing it played because it is constantly moving around the screen. Unfortunately even when we were opened up at an aperture (the hole that lets light in) of f1.4, we could not get a proper shot.

3. He started with a silver CD and it ended up being purple somehow. Magic I guess.

This is us just not being the thinking type.

4. It straight up didn't make any freaking sense.

As much as I love filmmaking, I realize that my skill set is still in its early stages. This can be seen across the board. What got us in this festival was completely poor execution, because the base idea is what won 1st place! Our film seemed to sorta make sense, but the story wasn't nearly as concise as it should have been. To add to all of that, I felt that it was just a boring piece and the music mismatched it. Live and learn I suppose.

Looking Forward

Under no circumstance do I think that because an artist produces a crappy piece means that he should quit. With that in mind I take this as a learning experience and more motivation to improve in my scripting, pre production, and production. Our next film that we are making is for Purina Dog Chow! Hopefully it goes better. I will post when the results come in!

Meanwhile, thanks for reading, and happy filming! :D!

Also, to answer the previous question, it's because Russian torpedoes do the most damage, duh. Now get your best Sean Connery voice on and say it with me! 1 ping only...okay, you may now go.

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  • The CD was being burned. He printed a label for it, so now it is purple. Who hands out unlabeled CDs and hopes people to remember who they are? I agree that the day/nigh incongruity probably didn't help you any. 1 ping only... epic.

  • I feel like there was more focus on the car in your competitors version, but it didn't overtake the story. It was a solid balance throughout.

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