Wednesday, October 31, 2007

So there.

We use Blender and AfterEffects in our cg "house". And that's that. And we're using Blender's internal render engine (until further notice.) Here's a comparison of the open-source Blender to the other big 3d animation programs.
The one thing I'm having trouble with is getting Blender, using it's node-based compositor, to render DoF blur properly (that is, without blowing huge holes in certain materials' alpha channels.) Now apparently YafRay will also do DoF, but without motion blur. We need motion blur. We'll fake DoF blur with masks and box blur in AfterEffects. So there.
I'm just writing all this down in case I forget. Also, because I've spent the last 7 days fighting with these issues and that's the determination I've made based on the emotional computer-scars I have developed in the process and I need to just "get it out". Whew. I feel so much better.

More on Mixing

Chance Shirley points out a couple books in the comments section regarding the "Are there any &%$ books on mixing?" question. OK, so I gotta say, everything Jay Rose says is true and correct. His books are much higher end than the titles (with the words "digital video") might suggest. And he does give some actual advice about mixing -- although it's primarily for television rather than theatrical.
There's another book called The Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound by David Yewdall. The author is a bit pompous and likes to regale the reader with tales of how much smarter he is than the directors and picture editors he's worked for - which isn't a problem except that his technical understanding of digital audio is woefully inaccurate and he says things which are simply dead wrong. Looking at the listing I see that this is the second edition of his book. Perhaps an editor has gone through and fixed the dumb things he says. On the good/interesting side of things however, this book is the only one I know of which attempts to explain the M&E tracks used for overseas deliverables as well as P-FX and X-FX tracks.

Today's issues -- still fighting with the Depth of Focus node in Blender. At this point I've given up and all I want is to render this dang robot stuff out and I'll draw freakin mattes around the parts I want out of focus. The depth of focus node seems to blow holes in the Alpha channel of certain textures. A cool looking effect if that's what I wanted but it doesn't work for this movie. And no, unlike with audio, with all this 3d/compositing/nodal stuff, I have no idea what I'm talking about. . .

Hey. Happy Halloween! And today's the first day of the AFM. You know what I want? An AFM catalog. And here I am in New York. I wonder how I'm gonna get one. I also wonder what the teaser to Solar Vengeance looks like...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You are Wrong

Chance asks "Is there a good book on audio mixing for cinema?"

The answer is "no." And this has been a source of frustration to me for some time now.

Although it might be that writing about mixing is like dancing about architecture. Or some such thing.

Getting back to my problems of yesterday, this post makes me think that the malarky levels are very high, especially this part:

"2 - Measuring dialnorm is subjective.
Proper dialnorm measurement requires choosing a suitable portion of dialog within the program. It leaves the setting for music programs up to the discretion of the operator."
In the meantime I'm in z-buffer and alpha channel hell. I don't know what to do.

Oh, and remember that teaser? Well it turns out that it's due tonight and the editor was having trouble with his edit system dealing with the HD files so he's asked for me to send him a copy of my cut of the teaser. How much you wanna bet the final teaser is just the one I already cut? Take it up with your favorite bookie...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hurting my Brain

So, we're getting ready for the AFM. The rep has a hard drive filled with camera footage from the movie and their editor is working on making a new teaser.

In the meantime I'm in a crash-course on 3d animation and compositing. There is a lot of knowledge involved. Frequently I just stare at the computer in complete confusion.

I have a hitlist of robot shots I must animate and render. I'm working on number one right now. 28 more to go.

My dual-core pentium is working on a render which is taking about an hour and a half per frame. That includes rendering the motion blur and the "bokeh" blur from simulated depth-0f-field of the "camera".

And soon I'll have to learn what/how "baking" "actions" into "IPO curves" in Blender is. My guess is that to make the walk cycle of the robot work I'll need to understand that.

I used to just be a sound guy. But I don't understand sound at all. For instance, what is/are "dialog normal" (dialnorm) levels and how on earth do you measure them? Don't talk to me about average levels. I wanna know if that means RMS. I wanna know that's an average over what period of time? Is that the RMS on a Durrough meter? With reference to -31dB FS? So that's what, 0 = a theatrical 74dB SPL or something? Obviously, I'm very confused.

Where do you put your dialog levels?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Various and Suchlies

I count 29 shots of the robot are needed. Many of those shots, however, are the same angle -- just later on in the scene. So there are about 20 "camera setups" with the robot.

Right this minute that seems doable. The robot is getting better and better all the time. With Blender I've figured out how to incorporate depth of field using compositing nodes (by estimating the fstop we were at out in the field -- usually it was up there at around f8).

I really wish I didn't know anything about compositing nodes. My brain hurts.

Since we've given up on our version of the teaser, I decided to take some time to do some color-correction and letterboxing. So think of this as the "director's cut" of the teaser.

Disapproving Rabbit... Disapproves

Jef Betz has taken a gazillion really nice hi-rez photographs of our shoot. So which one do I post first? The one where I look terrible after no sleep, either on or near the last day of shooting, where Laura is vehemently disapproving of whatever it is I'm doing.

This is a panoramic shot of the rehearsal room at Manhattan Theatre Source where we shot some key scenes.

I think this picture of Athena would be a good start to some cover art.

I felt like I directed half the picture from atop a mountain.

Sarah Doudna is full-ought badass mode.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Oh Well

So after all that work on a teaser, the rep decided that none of the work was what they wanted and gave us a brand - new script. This is, of course, a different script than the last script they gave us.
And as it is, I'm the last person who should be editing the teaser.
So I've sent off a backup drive with 300GB of original camera data for them to make a teaser with using their editor(s) in California to make a deadline of 5 days from now when the AFM begins in Santa Monica.
And I've lost two weeks working on this stupid teaser which is time that would have been much better spent actually making the movie.
Our last picture was a bear to get started, but once we started shooting it went relatively smoothly. This movie, on the other hand, was relatively easy to start, but I've not been enjoying it since we started. And this fiasco with the teaser is just one more danged thing.
But that being said I'm afeared that we'll put this picture out there at the AFM and it won't look nearly as good and as cool as the movie really is. Or at least the movie in my head really is. The movie which I think we shot (but who knows? I certainly haven't seen it yet) is somewhat close to what theatrical pictures look like. Indeed, if it were a horror picture I would feel pretty good about the possibility of a theatrical release. But I am afeard that the "first impressions" of the picture at the biggest US film market will hurt the commercial prospects of the movie because it's unfinished. We'll find out.
Next time: nobody gets a hold of the picture before we're finished with it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's Not "Solar Indifference"

But I do think the second sun needs to be a bit smaller.
Here's the Google Video version:

Monday, October 22, 2007

Neu Teaser

The movie seems to be called "Solar Vengeance" now. But the file is still Angry Planet. This is our new teaser. We still have to re-comp the robot but the render from which we can start the composite is still 18 hours away from now. So here's the teaser as it is so far.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mutant Children Devour Cub

Today we shot mutant children devouring Greg Bodine. There was a time when I said this couldn't be done. And of course, it couldn't -- so we simplified it.

But it still looks very nice.

Hallie and Sofia menace Cub...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

New Vista

I bought my third computer this year. My third Vista computer. But at least now I can turn off that obnoxious permissions thing. And I deleted Norton antivirus and put on AVG free antivirus. I put in Blender and have it running some renders. The quad-core 2.33 GHz is a bit faster than my old dual-core Pentium D. I'll know tomorrow but it seems to be rendering a frame in about 30 minutes or less, whereas the other computer rendered 34 frames in 24 hours.
I hate wireless mice. I hated them on my Mac Mini. I hate them on this new Gateway. They're always slow and inaccurate. Yuk. The keyboard works fine. I plugged in a real USB mouse which actually works.
Tonight I missed Anthony Litton's housewarming party. I feel bad.
But ooh -- this is post number 400 on this blog!

Director's statement, logline, synopsis

The producer wrote this. But remember, it's the director's statement. (I hate director's statements.)

Solar Vengeance explores themes of love and hate, redemption and betrayal, through a classic story of revenge set in an alien world. We see caring, guilt, and loyalty in unexpected places -- in our criminals, in our androids, and in our victims.

When we approached the script for Solar Vengeance, we were excited about combining an alien sci-fi world with the look and feel of a classic spaghetti Western. We worked with the actors, costumes, and locations to create a post-apocalyptic world ruled by guns and technology. The alien technology has given the society a technique for creating a false sense of security, by simultaneously inventing outside enemies and creating artificial barriers against them. This precarious balance is inevitably upset and swept away.

On the prison planet Necrosis 6, the inhabitants are fitted with alien implants that control their feelings, cause hallucinations, and force them to obey Galloway, the warden. Then a mysterious man arrives, our take on the Man with No Name, and right away things begin to change. He and a dangerous combat android set out to avenge the wrong that ruined his life many years before. But while the crime of years past has turned him into a heartless avenger, he discovers that the criminals have spent the intervening years atoning for their acts in different ways. Out of love and loyalty, his android companion joins his revenge plot, even though her impartial analysis tells her that no good outcome will result. She lifts the illusions the civilians have been living under, but the acts of revenge have killed off something inside her as well.

Here's an alternate last paragraph:

On the prison planet Necrosis 6, the inhabitants are controlled by alien technology. We needed to conjure a unique, post-apocalyptic "wild west" world. Our locations, costumes, and art direction started us on the path to that world. The sun never sets on this planet, so everything from battles to love scenes happens in bright natural light. To that we added a hint of sepia throughout, which gives the whole world a parched, gritty look. In this world it's easy to feel the unrelenting eye of the alien controllers, which leaves the characters' emotions as dry and empty as the desert planet.


A criminal serving a life sentence on a prison planet reveals his true purpose to wreak revenge on the people who murdered his wife and daughter.

Angry Planet


On Necrosis 6, the distant planet serving as the galaxy’s prison, a space pod lands unannounced.

Inside the pod, Athena, a fierce combat android, serves as guard over the transfer of Elias West, a prisoner with a life sentence.

The wardens and the prisoners are all controlled by "pharmas", devices which control the mind's response, delivered through a spinal implant. The dosages are set by Babish, the prison’s official Dispenser. Galloway, the prison’s unscrupulous administrator, employs Babish in a sadistic sideline: Galloway wants the young, beautiful Maleyna to fall in love with him. Since Maleyna loves someone else, Galloway and Babish resort to pharmas to force her into a synthetic love for him. It's crude and only partly effective; the best Babish can do is make her lover Kyle appear as a revolting mutant.

After West arrives, things start to change. Mysteriously, the pharma doses start to go wrong, and Babish is unable to control the hallucinations. West turns out to be a trained Dispenser, and he steps in to replace Babish. Under Galloway’s orders, West must now take over the efforts to dose Maleyna into falling in love with Galloway. The process is brutal, invasive, and dehumanizing to Maleyna, but West steels himself to inflict this damage on her.

West gets the prisoners to tell him their crimes. They explain that many years ago, they conspired with Galloway on a ruthless spree of rape and murder.

Years ago, cruelly, violently, the men immobilized Jonas Case and violated his wife, Charlotte, right in front of him. Under the power of an early version of the pharmas, Jonas was helpless and unable to save her. Charlotte committed suicide when she saw her husband as a terribly deformed mutant. After that, the men took their young daughter to the river to be drowned.

When Galloway and the other prisoners finally realize that the new prisoner, West, is really Jonas Case, it’s too late to save themselves from his revenge. But is it too late for West to realize what’s become of his daughter?

Friday, October 19, 2007


I've been writing to Dr. Uwe Boll. Quite exciting.

Big wrap party at the Zombie Hut last night. Still recovering.

We're starting to have our teaser put together:

And a more coherent place to keep pictures:

0701 Angry Planet Best Of Timeline

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Inmates at the Asylum

Here's an interesting post by Bill Martell. I think he's talking about the company which distributed our movie Pandora Machine, the Asylum.

The "Pandora Machine" page on their website is just an error code. Great.

I'm enjoying limoncello recently. Vinnie Morano has been aiding and abetting my taste in Italian liquors. I'd really like to try some of the home-made stuff.

What's Your Vista?

I now, unfortunately, own two computers with Vista on them. To make life more exciting, there's a problem copying large numbers of files with Vista.


Vista “Out of Memory” errors by ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes -- You just can't seem to throw enough memory at Vista.


Maybe that's why I used up two days last week trying to make a backup. And now that I think about it, it didn't work until I made the backup on an XP machine.

Now I'm thinking about getting yet another machine and it will likely come pre-loaded with Vista.

If only Adobe would develop for Linux. Oh, and if audio DirectX plugins would work in Linux too.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I loves the Internets

Sometimes (many times) the comments on Gawker are the best thing about Gawker:

"I used my 98th percentile score on the SAT & ACT to acquire a Mensa membership then combined that with my 97th percentile G.P.A. to go on to a five star collegiate program."

And then later that day I invented gravity and dogs.

Mac Rogers asked me if I was going home to troll the Internet for pictures of bunnies. I said "No, I have them sent to me."

I don't, of course, the delicious kittens over at Cute Overload do all my work for me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dearth of DVD (part more)

Today seems to be Amateur Porn on the Web day.

I got an email for XTube asking if I wanted to be an amateur porn model. Of course, I'd get paid, so I'm afraid I'd lose my amateur status and they'd take my gold medals away.

Then there's the Conde Nast article on

Apparently the porn companies have been hit even harder by the decline in DVD sales than the rest of the industry.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mars Needs Women, Drew Needs Pancakes

It's been a long week, but now we can welcome Emi Macuaga to the post-production team! Emi is editing Angry Planet. I know most directors seem to enjoy editing. I absolutely hate looking at the same footage over and over again. Hate. It. And I've edited four features and it's my least-favorite thing to do. Thanks goodness for Emi. Yay!

We delivered a new computer to her yesterday with a 500GB hard drive marked "0701 Emi Edit". I have a drive with identical data marked "0701 Drew Edit". All we must needs do is update projects and any new footage on both machines and off we go!

And that frees me to work on the teaser. Today is October 14 and the American Film Market starts on the 31st and Halcyon needs a teaser by then. Sheesh!

Wrap party on Thursday. Many Zombies will be had at the Zombie hut. Have I mentioned my pledge that "Never again shall I shoot a feature in 10 days"?

As far as I can tell the only advantage to Vista is that there's a little screen capture cut and paste application which comes with it which can be amusing. In other words, even with the extra RAM my big brother* bought for me, it's still not too great. The computer we got for Emi has Vista and Premiere isn't entirely happy with it. The scroll bars don't work well and the check boxes to show you only exactly named files in the "find" dialog have to be toggled off and then back on when finding multiple items.

And don't get me started about folder and file permissions. Oy vey. I finally figured out how to turn that off. I hate it when Microsoft tries to emulate the things that Apple does which suck (like file permissions). I guess the advantage with MS is that it is in fact possible to globally turn that crap off. (OK, here's a weird thing -- blogger won't let my make a link to: -- it would be funny to say that's because it won't like to msdn blogs but I think it's because of the .aspx).

I am amused by this war-like rabbit. I don't remember where I got it but likely

* David -- what is up with your website dude? You have no default index page?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

To Do or Not to Do

I feel like I've spent the last two days formatting drives and transferring data and not really getting anything done.

Oh, that's right. It's because I've spent the last two days formatting drives and transferring data and not really getting anything done.

Here's a bit of a conversation with Ian Hubert regarding Blender and sending files back and forth with all the associated files which go along with it. He tells it like it is:

"Surprisingly "packing" the data doesn't work (although that's what I thought). At least, it's never worked for me.

What I've found DOES work though is packing the data, re saving the blender file to it's own separate folder, then UNpakcing the data into that folder (I don't recall the options it gives you when you try to unpack the data, but they're pretty self-obvious).

Then you take that folder, zip the whole thing, and send it over. With any luck that will work."

Another exciting thing I found out is that if you do a motion-track with Voodoo and import the Python file into Blender, the actual tracking will begin at whatever frame number your first frame was in the render you used to do your track. So if you make a .tga sequence in Adobe After Effects it will likely be frame 1 freakin' thousand.

Luckily there's this rabbit here.

Oh look, the computer says it'll be done transferring this data in 1 day and 12 hours. Hopefully it'll speed up some when the other transfer is done at what's estimated to be 5:15am.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Can Has Script?

So here's the deal. I've been harassing writers for scripts. Why? Well, because we need to make some movies after this one is done. But I keep getting static like: "Aren't you working on a movie now?" Yes, I'm working on a movie right now. But I won't be working on a movie in about 5 months and then what? Should I sit around for half a year while we think of an idea for a movie, come up with a treatment, and then write a script?

Why are we insisting on not making movies?

The fact is that all the big studios have stopped hiring feature writers and have stockpiled films in anticipation of a variety of strikes. That means that there should be less product out there starting in maybe 6 months to 1 year.

And you will just be thinking about a movie you want to make.

I want to be finishing it.

And starting the next one.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Killing Blair

Just killing Blair Johnson a bit here. We got this alien robot and it's kinda pissed off at humans. Of all the robots in the movie, it's not the most pissed off at humans, but it's dangerous nonetheless.

This is a modified Wilkapunk by Ian Hubert. I took off its head.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Solar Vengeance

Two days after wrapping principal photography on Angry Planet and the title is already changed to Solar Vengeance. The reps hate "planet" in the title because it seems too 50's B-movie. I kinda like the archaic-ness of the title, but I don't market these things.

A funny thing happened on the last day of photography. We managed to not bring the lead actor's wardrobe from New Jersey to New York where we were shooting. So we had no costume for Daryl. So he went across the street to the Salvation Army and found almost the identical shirt (black, with Nehru collar) and pants, for $7 a piece. I would have never noticed that they were different.

That's almost as lucky as we got with the weather. Every day has been perfect and sunny. If the exterior days we scheduled at the beginning of the shoot had been cloudy we'd have been screwed.

Laura reminded me that we didn't shoot a series of West's side of a "telephone call" in the movie. Oops. We were to have shot that last week but we ran out of time. And Daryl shaved his beard within minutes of us wrapping on Sunday. And I'm returning the Sound Devices 702 tomorrow. I think we'll just record the audio and have Daryl stand in front of a window all blown out and blurry.

Today is the last day of the Audio Engineering Society show in New York. I'm a-gonna run down and look at expensive stuff I can't afford and then get to:
1. Make additional backup of camera original material (we have a backup in New Jersey and in Brooklyn)
2. Edit the robot fight
3. Nap

Not necessarily in that order.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Wrap Day!

Alana Jackler.

Ben Thomas gets whacked.

Jef Betz, Daryl Boling, Diana Ferrante.

Kathleen Kwan.


Today we wrapped Angry Planet. (Our rep wants to change the name to Colony 6. I'm not sure I like that name too well, it's kinda static ain't it?)
We shot in 10 days.

114 page script.

That was hard.

Today we killed Daryl and Ben Thomas and Jef Betz and Maduka Steady.

My whole body aches.

The stage was littered with bodies like the end of a Shakespeare tragedy. Not quite like Titus Andronicus, but more like Hamlet.

And we had the writer Mac Rogers on set. Which was good, because we cut a sequence which was unnecessary after killing Ben Thomas.

Jef Betz and Daryl Boling.

Diana Ferrante.

Ben Thomas threatens Daryl while Jef Betz looks on.

Jef Betz with Daryl Boling (again).

Maduka takes a squib hit to the chest.

Friday, October 05, 2007

What My Daddy Does at the Factory

OK, so I'm plagiarising my brother David with my blog title. He'll get over it. Furthermore, I'm stealing his bandwidth by posting this link to an article about my (our) dad.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What Done Now/Logline

Paul Cooper gave us this logline a while back:

"A criminal serving a life sentence on a prison planet reveals his true
purpose: to wreak revenge on the people who murdered his wife and

Well, all the syncing of takes is up-to-date (again). We shot two hours and three minutes of footage (including a couple minutes where I just let the dang camera run after apparently hitting 'record' while moving it -- that footage is mostly black from my putting the lens cap on.)
Someone (read: "I") will have to paint out some microphones and other things in the top of the frame.
And we're going to have to motion - track the force-field. Who doesn't love that?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Day 9 Continued

Lindsey Roberts. I just love direct natural sunlight in this picture.

Athena shows the survivors the truth.

Dragging Kandinski out to the forcefield.

Too much blood, Kandinski can't live out in the wasteland.

And yet more!

Alana Jackler and Lindsey Roberts watch as the forcefield has gone down.

Barbara Mundy.

Ben Thomas, Don Arrup, and Jeff Plunkett.

Ben Thomas out of character gets real happy.

Don Arrup with the tag he pulled from his spine.