Life After Nanowrimo – what now?

So I finished Nanowrimo, and then like the survivors of great battles and those that complete marathon races, I had a very bad case of fatigue and I was overcome with a serious case of ‘What the f$%k do I do now?’

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 12.09.03

 

I made sure of course that I backed up all of my files; multiple times (in Drop box, One Drive, USB, External backup) and – as I was using Scrivener, made sure I took a snapshot of the work, before I ever go back and then sat there, twiddling my thumbs. There as lots of twiddling. Lots of doubt. Lot’s of house cleaning and social engagements to fill up my time predominantly, but when in front of a computer – and starting at a blank screen – still faced with the same question: What to do?

I very much wanted to rest MUTAGENE – my Nano novel – and wait a while before revisiting it for editing / rewriting purposes. There are some plotting / planning activities and exercises I can still do on it, if I get desperate. But I wanted a break from it. After all, things had grown stagnant and we both needed to see other people. Or at least I needed some fun.

So I trawled back through my folders, trying to work out which of my other legacy projects was in need of love – as I didn’t have any burning new ideas to work on at that moment. That’s when I realised that I not only had one candidate, a short story I’d forgotten about (called ADRIFT), I also stumbled across a feature script I’d completely forgotten that I’d written (for a Script Frenzy competition a few years back)! Such a shambles. Such disorganised folders and files! And entrusting my faulty memory to guiding me clearly wasn’t working all that well. I decided that I needed to come up with a more appropriate plan to manage my writing projects.

After some soul searching, and some web searching, I realised that I needed a tool, like a database to track / catalogue every single idea, and I then needed to track which ideas then get worked on and when they become ready for circulation or publication.

I had three options:

  • an online writing database tool, such as writersdb and QueryTracker.
  • using Ulysses or Scrivener to track all of my projects; or
  • building my own tool to track all of my ideas and projects.

It wouldn’t be fun building such a tool, or populating it. But afterwards I would be in a much better position to track each idea through to completed project, and track my career more professionally – e.g. evaluate how much money I’d paid for editing surfaces, or been paid for successful story submissions, or for contest submission fees for scripts etc. I’d then have enough data to take stock of how things were progressing and make a judgement as to whether, like any business, it was still worth pursuing; or if torn between taking different roads, I’d have more than a gut feel to direct my decisions.

I didn’t really feel a need to track my writing each day, as that data would sit within Scrivener, or could easily be tracked in each project if I wanted to. And I was wary of my data being online, and being restricted to someone else’s design. And although I saw how someone else was using Scrivener to do their project management, it didn’t resonate with me. Seemed overly bloated and cumbersome. I wanted something small and portable. So I turned to what I know – I know spreadsheets. I know Excel.

So here’s what I built:

An excel sheet that has a project tracker tab: that tracks the name, type of project, genre (for film and prose), what stage it is in and what draft no and what is the latest file version.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 11.52.43

 

It also has a second tab for tracking submissions – once you’ve ushered a project through to completion on the first tab, you go to the tab called ‘Manuscript Script Submissions’ – for screenplays you submit to competitions or production companies, or manuscripts you submit to publishing companies or literary markets – and the feedback or decisions you get on that work, that may help you shape how you later go back to the rewrite / edit stage.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 11.53.17

 

The drop downs are populated on a third tab – so you can edit the field to your heart’s content and customise it to fit.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 11.53.32

 

DOWNLOAD THE FILE HERE: 

PROJECT TRACKER V1.0 Alpha 

Please do download it. Give it a whirl. It’s nothing fancy. But it works for me. 

Feel free to try it out, if you think that it might be useful for you also. If you change it, I’d love to know why and how, in case it may be useful to put it into a new version to share with others. And also, if you think it’s flawed – please let me know and I’d gladly consider any amends. I’m especially curious to know if there’s anyone else out there in the same boat, with more ideas than organisation.

For now, I’ve got some data to populate into this thing. I’ve got one short story to write. And then I need to plan how I intend to start my Nano novel editing / rewrite process; come January I want a proper plan in place.

Transcoding DSLR footage and Radial Dolly

Great article video on using FCP Studio’s Compressor app to Transcode footage for your editing workflow. Obviously the same principles apply to working with iPhone 4 footage etc.

The article: http://filmmakeriq.com/2010/01/the-dslr-filmmakers-workflow/ – and check out all the other articles on the site. There’s some really useful material on there.

The video:

Here’s a great example of what can be shot on the 550D – if you know how – and combined with CG to create a stunning final product:

The 3rd Letter (aka “36 stairs”) trailer from grzegorz jonkajtys on Vimeo.

Nice.

Here’s another great video to show the kind of audio setup you can use to record separate audio and when to use software like Plural Eyes to sync it up later on your timeline for post:

How-to: Shooting ENG style with Dual System Audio on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II from Createasphere on Vimeo.

Yes, my brief encounter with a Canon 550D DSLR has inspired me. I am geeking out on the kind of footage that can be acquired. Especially when you factor in this cunning design for a tabletop Radial / Micro Dolly!

here’s the video to show you how they made it, with example footage:

Of iPhone 4 film shoots and more

Zombie Mints - Litter

Yes, I’ve been a busy film geek of late. Not only have we attempted to shoot a short film entirely on the iPhone 4, but I’ve been getting to grips with FCP Studio and learning how to edit the footage; as I am sick of trying to do it in the totally unintuitive and limited iMovie 09 or iMovie app.

It has not been the easiest of times. But as with each of my shoots I have learnt from it.

The main objective was to shoot a spoof commercial / short horror comedy film in 1 day, with mainly found objects / objects I already had, amateur actors, natural light and do it all on the iPhone 4 – and for £50 including food. It did not go to plan.

The End result – was shot in 4 hours, on the iPhone 4, is not edited on it though as that was doing my frickin’ head in, features the usage of one red head light as the weather was not with us on the day, I had to buy makeup and marigolds as props. Total budget – including feeding the crew was about £60.

Firstly, always check your makeup prior to prepping your shoot. I found that the latex and powdered makeup I intended to use for my zombie makeup had gone off, since I bought it after a special FX course that I took. Cue hurried calls and a mad dash by one of the crew to go and pick up some replacement makeup; only to find that it was vastly substandard, but by then we had to crack on and make a go of it. Not ideal. Periodically check your makeup, just like you would any piece of equipment.

Secondly, I must say that if you’re going to attempt to shoot anything meaningful featuring actors, that requires intricate zooms or moving the camera, don’t bother using the iPhone 4 unless you really want to keep retaking your shots to get them right. It’s difficult enough to shoot anything with actors and enabling them to hit their marks without having to ensure that you capture the shot. All it takes is the focus to suddenly become unresponsive or a slight knock to the camera itself or the tripod you’re using and the shot is ruined. This happened often. It’s fine if the shoot is simple or just shooting live action as it happens – after all that it what it was designed for.

I have noticed also that the compressed format of the iPhone 4 AVCHD footage doesn’t hold up well in blocks of colour, especially on blacks of shadows. It often looks blocky or patchy, even when the scene has plenty of light. My main actor brought a Canon 550D and I have heard amazing things about the video capability of this camera. If he had known how to use it and I could have quickly learned, I would have been sorely tempted to ditch the iPhone and do it right. However, the object was to have a fun shoot, using the iPhone 4 and not falling back to any of my other cameras – not even the fully charged Semi Pro DV cam I had upstairs; no matter how tempting it was!

Zombie Karl

The real point of contention for me has been the edit. iMovie just doesn’t cut it as an editing app, not when you’re shooting multiple viewpoints / angles and intercutting them. A 30 second sequence took me 4 times longer to edit in iMovie and it was far from polished at the rough cut stage compared to the same edit in FCP. That is the point though isn’t it. Although you may want to shoot a fun movie – fun is relative and if you approach it with a Semi Pro sensibility then you must use Semi Pro tools.

But the iPhone 4 footage is still relatively new. Few programmes automatically come with the codecs / settings as standard, so I found that FCP did not have suitable setting for me to use, which would retain the audio on the timeline. That is, until I stumbled across the article “Topic : Iphone4 video to Final Cut pro – giving away a droplet to help you out.” – which came with a link to download a droplet. This droplet converted over 62 clips in an hour – into better quality ProRes 422 LT footage that FCP could understand and could play back the audio. Nice! Thanks Jeff Greenberg!

Anyway, it will be while yet before the finished movie is ready for derision and mockery. But I am in the middle of editing it right now, and must stop procastinating. Let’s hope it’s worth the wait.

iPhone 4 filming

So a while back I got hold of an iPhone 4 deliberately to play with its HD filming capabilities; because I was dismayed at the utter lack of filming over the last 15 months of hell in my old job and also wanted to negate any excuses that I might have for the future: such as, I haven’t time to charge my video cameras up; I’ve run out of tape; I haven’t got my camera on me and am unable to capture this marvellous event happening in front of my eyes etc. Especially now that I’ve changed jobs for the better and am in a much more saner plane of existence, my excuse pool is very much shallower. ;0)

I know that the quality of footage will never hold up next to a Semi-pro HDV Camcorder when you’re needing to be able to push the footage in post, as there’s so little visual information to play with in comparison. I also knew that there wasn’t going to be even half as much control over what I shot or the quality of the sound. However, for quick ‘making of’s’ on set, for doing possible video blogs / podcasts, or capturing something worth sharing on the net that didn’t require the post polish, it was going to be a damn sight better than a Flip type camera.

It was the fact that you can now install the iMovie video editing app on it, and unlike any other phone out there [to my knowledge] you can film and edit and upload all from your mobile phone, that swung it for me and made me sign up to an exorbitant contract for pitiful data rates. But like any cynical sod, I firstly wanted to fully research the workflow and conduct a few misguided experiments. I wasn’t going to rush out there like many did, just to be the first iPhone movie (shot and edited on the iPhone exclusively) on the net; although the day I picked up the phone I was instantly inspired to write a very easy to shoot low budget comedy horror short – more news on that soon.

READ MORE…(see link bottom right)

Continue reading “iPhone 4 filming”

Adobe Production suite incorporates STORY into its workflow

CS5 Production premium box art

Adobe have finally released STORY – a collaborative tool for writing scripts and screenplays that is part of the new CS Live online services.

Check out the promotional video, that explains how STORY fully integrates into the entire production process, but beware the annoying NVidea Advert that you can’t opt out of: http://tv.adobe.com/go/4917?trackingid=GYHZE – I suggest you turn the sound down immediately and then put it on when the product tour starts; but then I hate advertising.

Check out the production workflow (PDF) info HERE.

I covered Adobe STORY in a previous post – HERE.

It’s an exciting time for low budget film production – and by that I mean in classic film production classification parlance as those productions with a 2ok to 20m budget, as such tools are usually out of the budgets of private individuals such as you and I; especially when I barely pay the mortgage, let alone have the funds to spunk 2k on software on a whim – as such production workflows, with the correct application of planning and knowledge enable low budget productions to efficiently plan and produce a holistic and consistent offering; right up to the point when you sell the rights to your film and deliver the music and effects version for subtitling, complete with a full transcript of the finished edit, which is already timestamped to the edit. Nice.

14 FREE & 14 paid FCP tools – for the FCP editor

FCP

After a week in the sun I am back and ready to resume posting activities. And thanks to the Edit Blog – I’ve just learned about some good new tools that I think fellow FCP editors may be interested in. But rather than rehash the two excellent articles, I’ve posted the original links below.

As any good editor knows, you can never have enough plugins…. the trick is knowing how to use them.

Enjoy and may you find something really useful to accelerate your workflow and improve the end results of your edits!