Sunday, November 6, 2011

Episode 3: Know when to hold 'em

After the long battle of editing, Episode 3 is here!


c/o Shelley

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Episode 2 is up!

Episode 2, "sticks and stones" is up!

Cass argues with Dougulon, the Hobo wipe's Daniel's memory a few more times, and stuff explodes!


Friday, December 31, 2010

Episode 1 is up!

While it's on the Episodes page for posterity, I can't help but post it here as well!

Cass Divine hears voices, but for her, they're real. They're supernatural entities using her as a test subject, granting her super powers, and observing the results.
Struggling to deal with the reality of her situation, Cass meets someone else who might be able to understand. However, he's a lunatic hobo, and they accidentally drag an innocent bystander into their world.
Thanks to everyone who's worked so hard on this project.  Expect to see Episode 2 next Saturday!

Cheers, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Countdown to 2011, and Episode 1

In case you hadn't heard, Episode 1 goes live at midnight!  I'm working on the last minute finishing touches between now and then, and then it's out of the bag.

I hope you all are having fun, and enjoy the show.  Happy new year!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Two Episodes Drafted...

I've finished the first drafts of the first two episodes, and am gearing up for the third.

The second was probably the trickiest, as we were filming IN the creek, and there was a concert nearby, so I spent a lot more time editing audio than I've ever done before.  I'm looking forward to editing the third episode, though, as it was filmed in the nice, controlled environment of the studio.

Oh, you thought 'film studio'?  Ha ha, no.  More like studio apartment.
While editing, I see every shot dozens and dozens of times, and it's kind of hard to tell if it was ever funny once you've done that.  There are shots in episode three that I still can't watch without laughing.  This is going to be a good one.  Hang in there, January's coming faster than you'll realize... or at least faster than I'd like.

On schedule, and in high spirits.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Long Anticipated Behind the Scenes Photos

With most shows, they release the episodes, and then trickle out bonus material over time to try to prolong the buzz for the show. That's just good marketing, and it completely prevents spoilers.

Yeah, well, too bad! With the number of friends and friends of friends interested in seeing the behind the scenes stuff before we release a single episode, I figured I'd better give the masses something to chew on to buy myself time to work on editing the first season.  This will be a bit auto-biographical, written from my perspective, so there are still plenty of other people's views to cover in future bonus material.  No spoilers, though, so enjoy.

Before we could shoot, there was quite a bit of stuff to take care of.   For one, there were pieces of perfectly good furniture that needed to be destroyed!  Ok, to be honest, I was just walking along, minding my own business, carrying my jigsaw, when out of no where, BLAM!  This oak coffee table tries to rob me!  There was only one thing to do, so I found an extension cord, a little fan to blow the sawdust out of the way, and proceeded to teach that coffee table some manners.

It was self-defense, really.  I'm just glad it's not out on the street ready to assault anyone else.

Soon, the cast and crew started to arrive for the first night's read-through.  This was the first time they'd seen parts of the script at all, so it was our best opportunity to work out the rough spots.  It was fantastic to hear that the material that Richard and I had worked so hard on had most of the right beats we were looking for when actually performed aloud.

In addition, there were funny spots that only came to light during the read-through.  There are some things that you just don't see till you have the actual actor try the lines out.  Maybe it's as simple as reading a question as a statement, maybe it's changing the verbiage so that they can actually pronounce the words in the right order.  All in all, it looked like it might actually work.

The final scripts and first gathering of the full cast wasn't the only exciting aspect of the evening.  Spencer presented me with his working steadicam rig!  He's a bit of a mad genius, and considering that we knew our cameras were all in the sub-one-pound weight class, this little contraption had all of the features you could hope for.  In a single evening, he'd built a three-axis gimbal and arm rig!  

Generally, you'd like to have a camera operator with years of experience, who knows their rig inside and out.  We had me playing with this thing for twenty minutes the night before.  Good enough!

Even so, it gave us the ability to quickly capture shots that would have taken twice as long repeatedly repositioning stationary tripods.  The wiggle due to the amateur camera operator can luckily be reduced in post-production, using the same sorts of tricks that your point-and-shoot camera uses in its camera stabilization feature.

All you need is to be shooting at a higher resolution than you intend to publish to.  Basically, the correction zooms in slightly, and then tracks back and forth with the wobble, resulting in a slightly tighter, more stable version of the shot. 

After being up late for the read-through, everyone had to get up early for the first day of shooting.  We were operating under the assumption that we had more material than was possible to cover, so we started out at a sprint.
...coming up to a sprint any moment now...

After another quick read-through to refresh what we'd covered the night before, we set out to the first set.  It was a cool morning, but we knew it could get hot quickly as the sun got higher in the Chico sky, so we were out as early as we could stand.

I'm calling my agent right now.  This is madness.
With a team about three times the size of our Episode 0 crew, I geared up to try to steer the ship.  It took only a few minutes for me to realize that the team was going to work perfectly together.  With a schedule as tight as ours, I couldn't afford any friction or hesitation, and even on that first set, everyone was working like clockwork.  I can't overstate how much easier this makes the director's job.

Pointing at stuff, and other important directing skills, in my next book!
The steadicam was working splendidly, too.  When you compare this rig, topped with the mighty $33 Fry's special camera to a professional rig, we had several advantages.  Sure, the picture wasn't nearly as nice as a Canon 7D, but I could stick this tiny rig into the weirdest spots, and I was never paranoid about damaging it.  For example, there were entire scenes where the only way to get the shots we needed was for me to wade out into the water with the steadicam and two tripods, set up in the water, and shoot back at the shore.  

This worked fine, as the sound crew stayed high and dry, as there was no reason they needed to be next to the camera--they needed to be near the actors, not me.

he hides in closets when startled
By the end of the first day, we'd blasted through shot after shot, and I found myself in the entirely unexpected situation of being ahead of schedule.  It was surreal.  I had been penciling out in my mind which episodes and scenes were going to be the first to get dropped, but rather, I was suddenly regretting rushing through scenes early in the day.  My urgency had been entirely unfounded due to a complete underestimation of the efficiency of having a large enough crew of enthusiastic and professional people.  They were an asset I'd never had before, and it took some getting used to.

During the formative stages of creating the show's premise, there had been a lot of constructive debate and discussion over various aspects of the show.  But when the camera came out, everyone just got right down to business.  Some great suggestions were made, and I was more than happy to use their ideas, and I never felt like I needed to maintain an iron grip on the process.  

...but, Roy, she'd been working on her Pacino impression all morning!
After getting through an entire extra shot the previous day, we finished several hours early on the second day, allowing us to re-shoot some of the rough patches from day one.  It was fantastic!  Everyone got to go home at a reasonable hour, and having successfully shot an entire five episode arc in about two days, everyone was pretty happy with the experience.  If you can boss people around for two full, long days, and they tell you they'd love to do it again for the next set of episodes, you know you've struck on something special.

I'm in the back so I can pick their pockets.  Don't tell them.
About a month later, Andrew and I got together to record the voice over material for the supernatural characters, and I'm off and running.  Look for episode one around the new year!


Supernaturals recorded!

After scraping together some minor equipment upgrades, we've finished recording the voice over dialog for the supernatural characters!

Our high-tech equipment upgrades involved a new sound card for the computer, mic stand, a new power adapter for my pre-amp, and sound dampening our recording studio. Now, when I say "sound dampening our recording studio" what I really mean is "throwing blankets all over the spare bedroom we use as an office."

This is a tricky task, as there is plenty of noise around here. Just outside my window is the cleaning system for the complex's pool, which runs 24/7. Once I closed the windows, which are double-pane, that knocked it back enough that it wasn't the loudest noise source. Next is my three year old computer. Luckily, it runs fairly cool, so I was able to wrap it in three layers of fleece blankets, and turn on the temperature gauge program to keep an eye on things. When it would creep its way up over 50C, I'd open the front and back of the fleece cocoon, and use the no-heat setting on a hair dryer to blow the heat out the back. It's perfectly normal for the processors to run at 47C, but when it's wrapped up like that, and the processor's reading 47C, it means the whole case is 47C. It was a little worrying to feel my whole computer actually hot to the touch, but everything really was within safe operating ranges.

After putting the door back on its hinges (it's a spare room, we never needed it), hanging some more fleece blankets on hard surfaces (nearby walls, mostly), and testing out Audacity's noise removal versus the inevitable -30db of noise, we were ready to rock.

Unfortunately, my poor old XP box couldn't run the Audacity beta very well on a project file that was approaching a half-gig. I've ordered Win7, and soon I'll get a second SATA drive. I'll run my current SATA drive as an OS and data drive, backing up to my old IDE drive for now. When the new SATA comes in, I'll move my primary data storage to that, the current SATA drive will remain the OS drive and data backup, and the IDE drive can be redundant backup, or simply retired if my poor little 450 watt powersupply starts to smell funny with all these new goodies shoved in there. Then, I'll actually be able to use my 64-bit processor and more than 3.25 gigs of RAM for the first time... it almost brings a tear to my eye.

Well, enough techno-babble! Once the above is in place, I'll be able to clean up and sort the audio into the episodes, like I did the video and on-set sound. Then it's a matter of starting at one end, and working continuously till I emerge on the other side, a hilarious web series in hand.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

That's a wrap!

Well, we did it!  It's impossible to shoot five episodes in a single weekend, but that wasn't going to stop us.  I have over 25 gigs of media to sift through, and we still need to record the voice overs for the super natural characters!  That's a colossal amount of output for such a small team, especially as this is the first project we've worked on together.

Check it out, everyone was still standing after the whirlwind shooting was done!

Click on it to see the full-sized version. [shameless plug for a web comic I like] Shelley is sporting the "Baking is Science for Hungry People" shirt by Jeph Jacques, author of Questionable Content, which she picked up from the Topatoco booth at Comic-con! [/plug]

The script was 38 pages, there were hundreds of shots, three cameras, a half dozen locations, and the schedule ran from 7:30am to 10:00pm, basically both days. For a team that's paid in baked goods, that's an amazing effort.

Now begins the editing! It's a process... but I should have it all wrapped in a shiny bow for new years! In the meantime, I'm prepping a ton of content updates for the site, and sorting through which bits of behind-the-scenes material and preview stuff I want to share!

Stay tuned!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

T-minus 1 week

I just spent the weekend scouting locations for the shoot, and brainstorming options for shots, and working out kinks in the scripts.  Things are really coming together nicely.

There are a lot of things that have to happen to make all of this work.  In addition to the obvious script and camera work, we have to make sure things like coffee happen when they're needed.  An un-caffeinated, unpaid crew is an unhappy crew.  I might as well make sure there's coffee.  There are hotels to book, costumes to buy/make, sets to paint, creeks to play in, cameras to test...

While I work on last minute tweaks to the scripts and update the website, I have someone else rolling coins from my coin jar to cover our lighting rigs.  Seriously.  If you'd like to alleviate their mundane suffering, there's a Paypal button to the right. Subtle hint, no?

And now, I'll be comparing the test footage I took from the $33 JVC from Fry's Electronics to the test footage from the $80 Flip MinoHD from!  Fry's and Woot are dear friends of the indie web series, I'm learning.  If I find the need for a fourth camera (as we have two Flips), Fry's even had a 60fps Kodak for $80, which would allow me to slow to half-speed in post, as we're shooting for 30fps!  It's amazing what you can do with two digits of money these days.

Long live the shoestring!


Monday, August 23, 2010

We have a script!

Muahahaha!  We have a script for Episode 1!  It's quite good.  I laughed twice just reading the draft, a testament to the talents of Mr. Houchin.  He always manages to surprise me.

Well, what good would a project blog be if I didn't give you little teasers?  It's a short-form show, so I can't give you too much, but here's a line from Hobokenobe I rather like:
"Yer not the only mouse in the maze with the key to the cheese!"
Now my work begins!