A Filmmaking Blog | VashiVisuals Blog
John Williams has scored some of the most famous films of all-time. Nominated for 41 Oscars he has won 5 times for Best Score. The five wins were for: Fiddler on the Roof, Jaws, Star Wars, E.T. and Schindler’s List. The role of the composer is a challenging one as sometimes they write the music sight unseen before the film is shot and other times they start their work after the final edit is complete. A 1980 BBC documentary chronicled William’s experience scoring The Empire Strikes Back with George Lucas, producer Gary Kurtz, director Irvin Kershner and the London Symphonic Orchestra.
The most amazing part of the documentary is watching Williams, Lucas, Kershner and Kurtz watch the Carbonite Freezing scene where Princess Leia says “I love you” to Han Solo. Not only is it one of the most emotional moments in the Star Wars saga (with the best response a rogue like Han could ever give) but it also shows the scene with no music, temp sound, hissing compressors obscuring actors lines and the on-set dialog of David Prowse playing Darth Vader which would later be replaced.
The unfinished scene is audibly distracting, sonically jarring and although picture locked for the edit…almost indistinguishable from the final film as we know it. Williams had to block out the distractions, listen through the audio chaos and create a score that elevates this scene to show-stopping status. He understood the emotion of the scene and amplified the moment with his music…something he has done time and time again to great result.
Filtering out the noise to clearly see what the story needs is a lesson every great filmmaker has learned.
Here’s a closer look at this magic musical moment:
Film Editor Margaret Sixel was given over 480 hours of footage to create MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. The final edit ran 120 minutes and consisted of 2700 individual shots. That’s 2700 consecutive decisions that must flow smoothly and immerse the viewer. 2700 decisions that must guide and reveal the story in a clear and concise manner. One bad cut can ruin a moment, a scene or the whole film. No pressure!
The most popular editing tendency for action scenes and films over the last 10 years has been the “Chaos Cinema” approach. A barrage of non-congruent and seemingly random shots that overwhelm the viewer with a false sense of kinetic energy and power. It can be effective in smaller doses, but exhausting and confusing when absorbed for 2 hours. If the story is incomprehensible due to editing…you are doing it wrong. So how do you keep action scenes energetic and fresh without shaky cameras and hypersonic editing? Read more…
The film editor can most often be found in a dark cave, crafting a story as deadlines loom. Sometimes we emerge out into the light and get to interact with other human beings. At NAB 2015 in Las Vegas this year, I was invited to speak at the Adobe booth to discuss 3 projects I recently edited.
The 24-minute video below breaks down my technical and creative process for feature films, documentaries and music videos. Hopefully you will find some good nuggets in my babbling!
Links to in-depth articles on the 3 projects I edited with Premiere Pro:
Quick interview on my favorite new features in Premiere Pro CC from NAB 2015:
Until next time…
I just got home from an enthralling 2-hour interview with the musician / photographer / alien known as MOBY. Hundreds of people attended the interview at the Annenberg Theater within the Palm Springs Art Museum hosted by Brad Dunning. Moby drove in from Los Angeles just for this event and discussed his love of architecture, semiotics, city planning and he also revealed the name of his new album coming out in September 2015.
One of the most post popular posts on VashiVisuals over the last 2 years is
The Ultimate Aspect Ratio Guide which shows 70 film frame sizes covering the history of cinema. It also includes 70 FREE widescreen templates in 1080 and 720 resolutions for filmmakers. HERE’s THE 2015 UPDATE…
In the past few years, 2K / 3K / 4K / 5K / 6K cameras have surged onto the filmmaking scene, so I have created 56 FREE templates (available to download below) to cover all these new frame sizes and resolutions. They are all PNG files (with transparencies) that can be imported into any NLE/VFX software and then dropped onto your full resolution footage to create cinematic framings.
Here are the 8 aspect ratios I’ve chosen: Read more…
The San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm is one of the windiest places in Southern California. That’s why 3218 wind turbines are strewn across the desert outside of Palm Springs. Everyone driving past on interstate 10 instinctively starts wildly snapping photos with their phone at 70mph. The results are often unsatisfactory. My Instagram account proves me guilty of this too many times!
Yesterday, I decided to take my time, drive around and let my eye find some pleasing angles and dramatic views to capture. It was late in the afternoon and the sun was dropping behind the 10,834 feet high San Jacinto Mountains.
Here are the results… (CLICK TO ENLARGE PHOTOS)
Sometimes the composition of a static frame can overwhelm you. The power of a carefully crafted image can be staggering.The Polish film IDA was just nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar by The Academy.
90% of the film is shot on a locked off tripod. With so many tools (dollies, sliders, cranes, drones, steadicams, Movis…) available to filmmakers, it is refreshing to experience a movie that chose so many exquisite and deliberate static frames to best tell the story.
Each new shot reveals something about the lead character. Emotions, state of mind and the story’s drama are expressed by the use of camera placement and lighting…not by spoken words. Do yourself a favor and track down this stunning film to experience the power of the static camera.
Here are 52 of my favorite shots from IDA (click image to enlarge)
Shot on Arri ALEXA in 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Zeiss Ultra Primes. In post production, the color footage was converted to black and white with Nucoda.
IDA recalls for me, the classic cinema of the 1940’s, evoking visual elements of both film noir and Italian Neo-realism.
3 minutes of IDA
DP Ryszard Lenczewski took 3000 photographs to previz and storyboard the film.
Lighting diagram of kitchen scene
Learn more about the cinematography of IDA from the DPs
SOURCE: LENSCULTURE article written by Alexander Strecker
“Ida: Sketches” – photos by Ryszard Lenczewski
Until next time…
Cinematic insanity and Verdi’s Requiem (Dies irae) make MAD MAX: Fury Road one of the most viscerally assaulting and effective trailers I’ve ever seen.
Kudos to the editor and creative team that crafted this masterpiece.
Clear and understandable action with classically framed shots pushed to the limit using saturated colors…mixed with a sonic barrage of classical music elevates this trailer to bombastic heights. The pacing is also epic with a slow start and long dramatic shots which lead into a frantic second half that cascades shot after shot upon the viewer. It is controlled chaos…kinetic yet beautiful.
The trailer is 140 seconds long. (1.57 seconds per shot)
23 shots in the first 80 seconds. (3.48 seconds per shot)
66 in the final 54 seconds. (.82 seconds per shot)
This trailer achieves the rare feat of showing what looks like most of the major action scenes yet leaves the narrative untouched so the viewer still has the desire to go see the film. Tough to pull off but in my opinion they totally nailed it.
Coming to theaters Summer of 2015.
Until next time…
Sam O’Steen has edited some of the most memorable films in Cinema history. CHINATOWN, ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE GRADUATE and COOL HAND LUKE are just some of the classic films he crafted shot by shot. Both Sam and I follow the practice that there is a hierarchy of importance that should be followed when editing a film. A single, great edit that calls attention to itself, does not help tell the story. It calls attention to the film editor in a masturbatory way…LOOK AT ME! LOOK WHAT I DID! The invisible art of film editing must carry the audience on a journey for the length of the film like a leaf on the wind. It should feel effortless and not reveal the manipulations and decisions made shot by shot to achieve the final film.
The first week of November, director Laura Merians asked me to edit and color grade a music video. I had a week available in-between projects so I jumped in with both feet. 6 days later I finished post production and we put it on YouTube.
It had 26 million views in the first month. It struck a nerve with people all over the planet and went viral. Here is PENTATONIX’s ‘Mary Did You Know?’