Sunday, January 27, 2008

Now playing.

I've seen three of this year's five Oscar contenders for Best Picture: No Country For Old Men, Juno, and, earlier tonight, There Will Be Blood. No Country is (still) probably my favorite, but I'm happy to say that they're all worth watching. Heck, the cinematography alone in Blood is worth the ticket price.

I wonder if I might actually catch the other two Best Picture nominees before awards night. Don't know if I've ever managed that before.

Ebert's There Will Be Blood review.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Things..." episode 020.

020: Don't fear the ADR.

Of all the lessons I learned working on Hide and Creep, "Don't be afraid of ADR," might be the most important.

"ADR" is short for "automated dialogue replacement" or "additional dialogue recording." I prefer the latter definition, as there is nothing "automated" about ADR in the low-budget world.

I spent many hours trying to fix Hide and Creep problem audio -- dialogue recorded on set marred by traffic noise, airplane noise, and/or poor choice of microphone placement. It would have been easier (and, in the end, better-sounding) to just rerecord any problem dialogue.

There is one cardinal rule of do-it-yourself ADR: record the sound as "dry" as possible, with no natural reverb. Have the actor get close to the microphone and record the sound in a small room with carpeted or padded walls. The reason for the dry approach is simple -- you can easily add reverb to dialogue in post-production, to make it match the sound of the original room, but you cannot remove reverb.

I've been working on a new setup for Interplanetary ADR. I'll post details after I've had the opportunity to try it out with an actor (hopefully sometime next week).

EDIT: Looks like I opened up a can of worms with this topic. Please read the comments for more ADR info.

Now playing.

If the box office numbers are any indication, you probably caught Cloverfield this past weekend and already have an opinion of it. I'll just add that Stacey and I enjoyed it. It's a giant-monster-attacks-a-major-city movie that is actually scary -- of course we enjoyed it.

I'm hoping the flick's financial windfall (biggest January opening ever) means the end of the so-called torture porn trend and the beginning of a monster movie trend. I mean, Hostel was pretty good, but if we get a good creature feature in theaters five or six times a year, I'll be a happy camper.

Stacey and I also caught Monster House on Dish Network. Even as a hard core Pixar man, I must admit that Monster House is a rockin' little CG-animated flick. Steven Spielberg is one of the movie's exec producers, and Monster House definitely has a bit of that classic Spielberg vibe.

Devin Faraci's Cloverfield review at

Monster House review at

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 019.

019: Hulu.

Hulu is a web portal for viewing video content, including episodes of current and classic television shows from NBC, CBS, and FOX. Hulu is, also, both legal and free -- a combination often difficult to come by in the world of web video. I've heard people opine that the web will one day be the principal delivery method for video content. Is that day here? Is Hulu the new TV?

I doubt it. Hulu is still in "beta," and it's little buggy -- playback is sometimes choppy. And, maybe this is just me, but I don't think the cable company has anything to worry about until there's a simple and effecient way to play web video on a real TV (Hulu is strictly a through-your-web-browser deal).

Still, I'd recommend that any television junkies (or television creators) out there sign up for a Hulu beta account. The site is easy to navigate, and I like the variety of content, everything from classic cheese (like the original Battlestar Galactica) to modern classics (like the new Battlestar Galactica). I also like how they keep the service free -- old-school commercial breaks (which are much shorter than the breaks on network television).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hitler loses high def disc war.

This is brilliant. And R-rated. And maybe a little too inside baseball for folks who haven't been following the high def disc format war (HD DVD vs. Blu-ray).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Things..." episode 019.

019: Make your own space helmet.

To paraphrase my friend Andrew, when you're making a space suit for a sci-fi movie, "the helmet is the trick."

If you're looking for materials for a "bubble-style" helmet, please allow me to save you a bit of time. Go to and place your order. Complex Plastics, Inc., manufactures clear acrylic spheres in a variety of sizes. For Interplanetary, we're using spheres with a 14" diameter, pre-cut with a 10" hole at the bottom.

I believe we paid around $95 per sphere. One caveat -- ordering from Complex ain't like ordering from Amazon -- expect a few weeks turnaround time from order 'til delivery.

One more helmet tip -- if you want it tinted, sunglasses-style, spray the inside of the sphere with a couple of cans of "clear transparent black" model paint. Our tinted helmet doesn't look super smooth on the inside (and it's not as easy to see through as a pair of Ray-Bans), but it looks pretty dang cool from the outside.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 018.

018: The Digital Bits.

If you're in the low-budget horror (or sci-fi or action) movie business, you're in the DVD business. Unless you have a time machine that can take you back to an era when low-budget flicks were a staple of drive-in and grindhouse theaters.

My favorite source for DVD info is The site's writers do a good job of covering industry news and trends (their coverage of the current high def disc format war (HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray) is really heating up lately), plus they crank out plenty of disc reviews (and previews) for folks more interested in watching movies than making them.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Things..." episode 018.

018: Shine a light.

When it comes to horror movie props, I'd guess flashlights are as popular with the good guys as machetes are with the killers. The cinematographer in me thinks they look pretty cool on camera, too.

Having done a few flashlight scenes for Interplanetary, I've come up with some tips that might help you release your inner Mulder or Scully.

  • Brighter is better. We've been using Mag-Lites, which are okay, but I'd like to find something even brighter. Any suggestions?

  • Keep plenty of fresh batteries on hand. That'll keep whatever lights you're using as bright as possible.

  • A little party fog will break up the light and give your beam(s) more definition. Don't overdo it (unless you're going for a Sherlock Holmes thing or something).

  • No matter how bright your flashlights, you're probably going to need some supplemental lighting (unless you have many flashlights or are shooting in a very confined space).

Now playing.

It's a scary, funny, action-packed, goofy, heartbreaking monster movie from Korea. It's The Host, and it's awesome. Director Joon-ho Bong is my new hero.

Check out the review at

Sunday, January 6, 2008

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 017.

017: DIY follow focus.

I haven't tried to build this yet, but I'm going to...

Very reasonable-looking plans for a $100 follow focus.

"Things..." episode 017.

017: Edit while you shoot.

If you're on one of those crazy ten or twelve-day feature-film shooting schedules, you probably aren't going to have much time for editing during principal photography. As I'm on the every-other-weekend-forever shooting schedule for Interplanetary, I don't have much of an excuse for waiting almost a year to get seriously into editing. Well, I'll count as excuses the day job and all the pre-production that goes on the 26 days a month we're not filming.

So, I guess the real trick would be to have an editor for your movie who isn't involved in day-to-day production. On a low-budget project, this would be difficult, but not impossible.